October Positivity: Second Glance (dir by Rich Christiano)

“Hey Scotty! Jesus, man!”

This 1992 film tells the story of Dan Burgess (played by David A. R. White, who, years later, would be the center of the God’s Not Dead franchise).  Dan is a high school student who fears that, because he spends all of his time going to church, he’s missing out on all the fun that he should be having.  Dan’s probably right.

Consider this:

The other kids are going to a big party.  Not Dan!

The other kids get to stay out as late as they want.  Not Dan!

The other kids don’t have to deal with two parents and a bratty sister.  Not Dan!

The other kids don’t have to keep their grades up.  Not Dan!

Dan can’t even get a girlfriend, because he’s just such a nice guy!  Of course, the girl from his youth group likes him but Dan wants to date Tamara (Denise Weatherly) and she only goes out with the type of guys who enjoy bullying Dan for being such a do-gooder.

One night, Dan prays that he wishes he had never become “a believer,” which would seem to defeat the purpose of not believing but anyway…. The next morning, Dan wakes up to discover that his bedroom is full of empty beer cans, the neighbors refuse to talk to him, and he now wears a backwards baseball cap.  As well, all of the high school bullies are now his best friends and he’s dating Tamara!  Plus, he’s been invited to Randy’s party!  Who is Randy?  Who cares?  It’s a party.

There’s also a weird guy named Muriel (Blaine Pickett) hanging out in Dan’s backyard.  Muriel explains that he is Dan’s guardian angel.  Everyone in Heaven was really upset by Dan’s prayer so they sent Muriel down to do a little bit of that It’s A Wonderful Life magic and show Dan what the world would be like if he wasn’t a believer.  Muriel also explains that only Dan can see and hear him.  That doesn’t stop Dan from arguing with Muriel and it also doesn’t stop people from seeing Dan apparently talking to himself.  But no one cares because Dan is now one of the popular kids.

In fact, Dan has everything that he ever wanted except …. well, his father seems to be missing.  And so is his little sister.  In fact, it turns out that he doesn’t even have a little sister because his parents got divorced when Dan was younger.  When Dan quite rightfully wonders how it could be his fault that his parents got a divorce, Muriel explains that it’s because non-believer Dan wasn’t praying for them when they were having trouble.  Ouch!  That’s harsh!  That’s also actually pretty messed up and a huge burden to put on the shoulders of those of us who grew up as children of divorce.  I know that when my parents got divorced, I kind of blamed myself and the message of this film is that apparently it was my fault.  Seriously, that’s a terrible message.  If you’re reading this and if your parents are divorced or are in the process of getting divorced, it’s not your fault!

Anyway, Dan learns an important lesson about faith and being impulsive in his prayers.  Soon, Dan is back to greeting his best friend by saying, “Hey, Scotty!  Jesus, man!”  Apparently, enough 90s kids were traumatized by this film that Dan’s greeting has become a minor meme.  That’s the power of film!

Insomnia File #56: Exterminators of the Year 3000 (dir by Giuliano Carmineo)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep tonight, you might want to try going to over to YouTube and doing a search for a 1983 Italian film called Exterminators of the Year 3000.  It won’t cure your insomnia.  In fact, it’s such a peculiar film that it will probably keep you awake for the rest of the night.  However, you will be having fun.  Seriously, if you can’t sleep, you might as well have fun.

The film’s plot will be familiar to anyone who has seen The Road Warrior or Mad Max: Fury Road.  Due to a series of nuclear wars, society has collapsed.  The world is an arid wasteland.  Some survivors live in tiny communities.  Others drive motorcycles across the desert and prey on anyone that they can find.  Water is the most valuable commodity in this world.  The second most important thing to have is a good car.  Your car can be the difference between life and death.

Fortunately, Alien (Robert Iannucci) has a good car.  Unfortunately, Alien keeps losing it.  Alien is a wasteland drifter who spends half of the film looking for his car and the other half of the film helping a kid named Tommy (Luca Venantini) search for water for his community.  Tommy has a bionic arm.  When he’s captured by a group of evil bikers led by Crazy Bull (Fred Harris), his bionic arm gets ripped off.  In one of the strangest scenes that I’ve ever seen, Alien use duct tape to reattach the arm.  If that’s not odd enough, it also appears that he accidentally attached the arm upside down.

That’s just one of the many weird details that sets Exterminators of the Year 3000 apart from all of the other Italian Mad Max rip-offs.  There’s also the fact that Alien eventually and somewhat randomly runs into his ex-girlfriend, who looks like a model and, for some reason, is named Trash (Alicia Moro).  Alien and Trash agree to help Tommy but, the entire time, Alien keeps casually suggesting that maybe they should just abandon Tommy and take all the water for themselves.  This isn’t one of those things where Alien is just pretending to be a cynic, either.  The film leaves little doubt that Alien would have no problem just abandoning Tommy and taking the water for himself.  Even if Trash can convince Alien not to sell out the kid, they’re still going to have to fight a group of people who are all dressed like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  While Alien and Trash travel to get the water, Tommy gets a new arm that’s so strong that he can literally throw a piece of metal into someone’s forehead even while standing a few yards away.  Tommy also has a gerbil, which is not only cute but, in something of a rarity for an Italian exploitation film from the 80s, manages to survive the entire film.  (Seriously, I instinctively cringe whenever I see a cute animal in an Italian film from the 80s because I’ve seen enough of them to know what’s probably going to end up happening.)

Of course, Crazy Bull and his bikers continually show up and cause trouble.  Fred Harris gives such an enjoyably over-the-top performance that not even the usual bad dubbing can hurt it.  For whatever reason, Crazy Bull refers to his gang as the Mothergrabbers.  How can you not love a film that featured the main villain shouting, “Into battle, my merry band of Mothergrabbers!?”

Exterminators of the Year 3000 is a fun movie.  The action moves quickly.  There are lot of explosions.  The villains all snarl with panache.  There are plenty of slow motion shots of cars crashing.  And there’s enough odd moments to keep things interesting.  The film even ends with a sudden miracle.  How could anyone resist?  This is Italian exploitation as it most entertaining.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby
  52. The Next Karate Kid
  53. A Nightmare on Drug Street
  54. Jud
  55. FTA

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 9/25/22 — 10/1/22

Not only did I spend this week preparing for Horrorthon, I also ended up watching quite a bit of television.  Here’s some thoughts on what I watched.

Abbott Elementary (Wednesday Night, ABC)

This week, Janine tried to get Abbott a computer and Ava got to host a Shark Tank-style competition.  Ava is such a great character.  This episode may not have matched the premiere but it was still pretty funny and a good example of how Abbott Elementary is able to deal with the realities of public education without losing sight of the comedy.

The Amazing Race (Wednesday Night, CBS)

I wrote about the latest episode of The Amazing Race here!

Atlanta (Thursday Night, FX)

This week’s episode of Atlanta took a break from the surreal with a straight-forward but very funny episode about Earn and Al’s family.  Earn’s mother “kidnapped” Grandpa while Earn’s father made the mistake of buying a hat and allowing himself to get delayed in the mall.  While Aunt Jeanine called the police and demanded that her sister by criminally charged, Earn and Al looked for a way to escape the studio.  It was funny and enjoyably cringey.  Give Isiah Whitlock, Jr. an Emmy.

Bachelor in Paradise (Monday Night, ABC)

It’s a new season of Bachelor in Paradise!  All of the people who couldn’t find love on the main show get to hang out on the beach.  Bachelor in Paradise is actually more fun than The Bachelor because it’s honest about being a totally and completely shallow production.  Nobody is there for the right reasons and it’s great.

Apparently, Jesse Palmer is going to be the host for the entire season so I guess last season’s rotating host gimmick has been retired.  That’s probably for the best.  I actually like Jesse as the overall franchise host.  He doesn’t bring a lot of extra drama with him like Tayshia and Kaitlyn did and he seems to understand that his job isn’t exactly the same as being a brain surgeon.

That said …. where’s Meatball!?

Big Brother (Sunday Night, CBS)

Big Brother 24 finally came to a close on Sunday night.  Taylor Hale not only won the game but she also won America’s Favorite Player.  Considering the way that Taylor was bullied by the other houseguests at the start of the season, her victory was popular with the show’s fans.  Personally, I think both Monte and Turner played a better game but knowing that Taylor’s victory upset some of the worst people to ever appear on the show was still a satisfying feeling.  Knowing that Ameerah, Nicole, and Daniel were probably upset made the past few months worth it.

I wrote about this season over at the Big Brother Blog.

Bubblegum Crisis (NightFlight+)

80s cyberpunk!  Man vs machine!  The Sabre Knights vs a pack of robots known as the Boomers!  The main character, Priss, is also a rock star!  I had no idea what was going on when I watched this show early on Saturday morning but the animation was interesting to look at and Priss was undeniably cool.

CHiPs (Weekday Afternoons, Get TV)

I watched one episode of this old motorcycle cop show on Tuesday.  The cops kept the peace at an anti-nuke rally and Erik Estrada provided counseling to a child who was being abused by his parents.  I can’t say that I really paid that much attention.  I did like the bass-heavy theme song however.

Concentration (Weekday Afternoons, BUZZR)

This was an old gameshow from the 70s and the 80s.  I watched an episode on Friday while I was doing some work around the office.  The most interesting thing about it was that it was hosted by Alex Trebyk, who came across as being far more relaxed and casual about things than when he hosted Jeopardy.

Full House (Sunday Evening, MeTV)

Uncle Joey (you know, the one with the mullet) tried to teach Michelle how to ride a bike but he wasn’t very good at it and Michelle was humiliated when she fell off her bike at the park.  At first, Michelle blamed Joey but eventually she got over it.  What a brat.

This was followed by an episode in which poor DJ (who, really, deserves to nominated for sainthood for putting up with her family) has to take her two obnoxious sisters with her on a date.  Everyone learned an important lesson about sneaking into the movie and lying.  Don’t do either of them but, if you do sneak into the movie, don’t get caught.

Ghosts (Thursday Night, CBS)

The second season premiere of Ghosts was as charming as ever, with the ghosts spying on the B&B’s first guests and Jay discovering that, despite his near death experience, he still cannot see the ghosts.  I felt bad for Sam, as most of the stuff that the guests complained about when it came to her was the same stuff that people tend to complain about when it comes to me.  I cheered a little when she stood up to them.  The whole “Our yelp account was hacked!” ending was perfect.

Hell’s Kitchen (Thursday Night, FOX)

Hell’s Kitchen is back!  This season is going to be 40-something chefs vs 20-something chef.  To be honest, the gimmick doesn’t matter.  I’m just looking forward to Chef Ramsay yelling at people and losing his temper at the potentially lethal incompetence around him.  Who will be the first to try to send out raw chicken?  Sadly, the premiere episode did not feature a dinner service but, according to the previews, it’s coming up next week!

Law & Order (Thursday Night, NBC)

Last week’s Law & Order was pretty good.  This week, sadly, was one of those middling, lefty political episodes that the franchise often does in an attempt to remain in the good graces of those who would otherwise dismiss the whole thing as being copaganda.  It’s always funny to me how the Law & Order franchise is full of blue collar, Catholic cops who sound like they spend all of their time watching Joy Reid and Chris Hayes as soon as their shift is over.

On last night’s Law & Order, the victim was the daughter of the governor of Texas so, of course, we got this whole big thing about how the governor is always criticizing New York City as being crime-ridden.  “Why does the governor of Texas care about New York?” one of the detectives demanded and that’s when I started to tune this episode out.  One could just as legitimately ask why people in California and New York always feel the need to comment on what’s happening in Texas.  Law & Order always errs on the side of going overboard when it attempts to deal with politics.  This was especially true this week, as Law & Order waded into the abortion debate and came up with an ending that was both so heavy-handed and so predictable that I felt embarrassed for the show’s writers.

Law & Order: Organized Crime (Thursday Night, NBC)

With the start of a new season, Stabler got a new partner and a new crooked family to investigate.  From what I’ve seen, Organized Crime is the least interesting of the Law & Order shows and often feels more like it should be a part of NCIS franchise than Law & Order.  It was difficult for me to watch because Stabler really does seem like he’s going to give himself a heart attack if he doesn’t figure out a way to relax.

Law & Order: SVU (Thursday Night, NBC)

This week’s episode of SVU opened with an extremely disturbing scene in which a teenage girl was gang-raped on a subway while, just a few feet away, the rest of her family was hacked to death with machetes.  This scene reminded me of why I don’t regularly watch this show.  It’s undeniably well-acted and usually well-written, except for when it tries to be overly political.  But Good Lord, are the cases ever disturbing!

Mike (Hulu)

I wrote about Hulu’s disappointing Mike Tyson miniseries here.

Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head (Paramount Plus)

Inspired by a holy nacho chip, Beavis went on a spiritual journey and learned nothing.  This was a unique episode in that it told one story instead of the usual two.  It’s become obvious that Beavis, with his odd moments of clarity and his desire to actually be something more than just a sidekick, is a far more compelling character than Butt-Head.

Monarch (Tuesday Night, FOX)

This show gets sillier and sillier with each episode but it’s kind of worth it for the scenes of Trace Adkins glowering in the shadows while holding a gun.  I don’t really care much about which Roman daughter is crowned the next queen of country music but I definitely do what to know who Trace has been burying for the past three episodes.

Night Flight (NightFlight+)

From the 80s, it was a look at women in rock, from Janis Joplin and Grace Slick to Stevie Nicks.  I watched on Friday night.  The music was good.

Password (Weekday Afternoons, BUZZR)

I watched two episodes of this old game show on Tuesday.  Apparently, the aim was to try to guess a word and win money.  The episodes I saw were from the mid-70s and the most interesting thing about them was how cheap and run-down the show’s set looked.  One got the feeling that the whole studio probably reeked of cigarettes and spilled beer.

Saving Grace (Weekday Nights, Start TV)

On this show, which apparently ran for three seasons, Holly Hunter played an Oklahoma detective who, after she accidentally ran over a pedestrian after a night of drinking, was told by a fallen angel named Earl that she was going to go to Hell unless she changed her ways.  So, apparently, the rest of the show was about Grace solving crimes and talking to Earl.  How have I never heard of this show before?  It aired from 2007 to 2010 and Hunter was even nominated for two Emmy awards for playing Grace.

Anyway, the episode that I watched on Wednesday night featured Grace trying to solve a murder while another angel (F. Murray Abraham) tried to convince her to abandon Earl and work with him.  It was odd but Holly Hunter is always good and the show took place in Oklahoma so, as someone who spent some time in Oklahoma while she was growing up, I felt like I could relate to most of the characters.

Super Password (Weekday Afternoons, BUZZR)

I watched two episodes of this show on Tuesday.  It was just like Password, except the set looked cleaner.

Survivor (Wednesday Night, CBS)

I wrote about the latest episode of Survivor here!

AMV of the Day: Horror Movies (Satsuriku no Tenshi)

It’s the first day of October and this amv just seems appropriate for the day.

Anime: Satsuriku no Tenshi

Song: Horror Movies (by Neoni)

Creator: Nameless_Anime_Freak (please subscribe to this creator’s channel)

Past AMVs of the Day

Horror on TV: Ghost Story 1.1 “The Dead We Leave Behind” (dir by Paul Stanley)

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

However, there is some good news!  Twilight Zone may be gone but there are other horror shows on YouTube!  For instance, I’ve discovered that, in 1972, there was a horror anthology series that was originally called Ghost Story.  It was produced by William Castle and each episode featured a different guest star having to deal with the supernatural.

The show made its debut on September 15th, 1972.  In this episode, Sebastian Cabot (playing the role of the mysterious Winston Essex) introduces a story about the mortality and technology.  Jason Robards and Stella Stevens are a married couple who discover that their television cannot only predict the future but that also one of them is going to die!

Enjoy the first episode of Ghost Story!

Bela Lugosi As Henry Frankenstein?

When it comes to the 1931 film version of Frankenstein, the piece of trivia that everyone seems to know is that Bela Lugosi was the original choice to play the Monster.

As the story goes, Lugosi had just finished filming Dracula and Universal’s Carl Laemmle felt that it would only make sense for Lugosi to play the lead role in Universal’s second horror adaptation.  Not only would Lugosi be firmly established as Universal’s favorite monster but it would also reunite him with Edward van Sloan and Dwight Frye, both of whom played prominent supporting roles in Dracula.  However, the story continues, Lugosi turned down the part when he saw that the monster wouldn’t have any dialogue.

Well, the story is partially right.

The truth of the matter is that Frankenstein was one of several books to which Universal had the rights.  And when Lugosi learned that one of the studio’s directors, Robert Florey, was interested in directing a film based on Mary Shelley’s novel, he did meet with Florey to say that he was intrigued by the idea of playing the monster.  Lugosi even did a makeup test, one in which the proposed look of Lugosi’s monster reportedly owed much to 1920’s The Golem.  As a director, Florey was heavily influenced by German expressionism so it makes sense that he would look to The Golem for inspiration.

The Golem (1920, dir by Paul Wegner and Carl Boese)

Lugosi eventually lost interest in the role, not because of the lack of dialogue but because he felt that he wouldn’t be able to give a good performance while made up to look like the Monster.  His face would be barely visible and, as an actor, Lugosi naturally wanted to be recognized.  Lugosi had no objections to the script because the script itself hadn’t been written.  When Lugosi lost interest, so did Florey.

Instead, the project was taken on by director James Whale, who specifically asked for the project because he felt it would be a change-of-pace from the war movies that he had been directing.  Universal suggested John Carradine for the role of the Monster.  Whale, however, spotted Boris Karloff sitting in the studio’s cafeteria and specifically asked him to test for the role.  Karloff, with his imposing frame but gentle manner, more aligned with Whale’s version of the Monster as essentially being a child who is easily angered but ultimately more of a victim than a victimizer.

From the start, Whale also wanted Colin Clive to play Henry Frankenstein and Mae Clarke to play Elizabeth.  The studio, who wanted at least one star in the film, tried to convince him to go with Leslie Howard as Henry and Bette Davis (who, at that time, was just starting her career) as Elizabeth.  While the studio was willing to substitute the more glamorous Clarke for Davis, they were a bit less enthusiastic about Colin Clive as Henry.  If Whale was that opposed to Leslie Howard, the studio suggested, how about Bela Lugosi instead?

As we all know, Whale held firm and he eventually got Colin Clive.  Still, it’s interesting to imagine Frankenstein with Bela Lugosi, in the role of Henry, bringing Karloff’s Monster to life.  Personally, I think Whale made the right decision.  Lugosi would have been a bit too obviously sinister for the role of Henry Frankenstein whereas Colin Clive really nailed the characterization of Henry being an essentially good man who allowed his own obsessions to get the better of him.  Still, it’s interesting to imagine a Frankenstein that not only reunited the stars of Dracula but which included Boris Karloff as well!  Not only would it have been Lugosi and Karloff’s first film together but who knows?  Perhaps if a Lugosi-Karloff version of Frankenstein had been as successful as the Clive-Karloff version, Lugosi and Karloff would never have started their rivalry and Lugosi could have escaped the Dracula typecasting that hampered the rest of his career.

Though they didn’t share the screen in Frankenstein, Karloff and Lugosi would go on to appear in several films together.  Unfortunately, unlike the universally beloved Karloff, Lugosi’s career would be sabotaged by his own addictions and personal demons.  Lugosi would eventually get his chance to play Frankenstein’s Monster in 1943’s Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.  Unfortunately, that film is considered to be one of the weaker of the Universal horror films and Bela really didn’t get much of a chance to make a huge impression as the monster.  (He was right about the difficulty of being recognized under all that makeup.)

Bela Lugosi would die in 1956, at the age of 73.

Boris Karloff passed away 13 years later, at the age of 81.

Boris and Bela

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Embrace of the Vampire (dir by Anne Goursaud)

In this incredibly silly film from 1995, Martin Kemp plays The Vampire.  He doesn’t get a name but he does get a backstory.  Back when he was mortal, the Vampire pursued a secret and forbidden affair with a princess.  One day, after making love, the man who would became the Vampire was laying down next to a stream when he was approached by three naked women who proceeded to bite his neck and vampirize him.

Centuries later, the Vampire is sickly and approaching the end of his existence.  He only has three days to convince the reincarnation of his former lover to allow him to drink her blood so that he can continue to exist.  And apparently it won’t work unless she’s a virgin and unless she rejects all others and loves only him.  That sounds like a lot of rules to me and, to be honest, most of them seem to be kind of arbitrary.  Not only does The Vampire have to find the reincarnation of the Princess but he has to find her before she loses her virginity or otherwise, what?  She’ll cease to be the reincarnation?  Her love will somehow be devalued?  Her blood will no longer be worth drinking?  If this vampire has had to spend centuries only drinking blood from virgins who were in love with him, no wonder he looks so sickly.  I really think that maybe the other vampires were playing a practical joke when they explained the rules to him.  Hazing the new guy, it has consequences!

Anyway, the princess has been reincarnated as Charlotte (a young Alyssa Milano).  Fortunately, for the Vampire, Charlotte was raised in a convent and, even though she is now a college student, she’s still a virgin who blushes when she even hears the word sex.  Unfortunately, Charlotte has a boyfriend named Chris (Harrison Pruett) and she’s thinking about losing her virginity if she can convince herself that she loves Chris more than any other person that she will ever possibly meet.  So, the Vampire not only has to convince Charlotte to fall in love with him but he also has to make sure that she doesn’t have sex beforehand.  It’s going to be difficult because everyone on campus is determined to get Charlotte laid.  This has all the makings of Italian sex comedy but Embrace of the Vampire instead takes its plot very seriously.

The Vampire starts to appear in Charlotte’s dreams.  He gives her an ankh to replace the cross that Chris gave her.  Because the Ankh is a symbol of desire, just wearing it makes Charlotte more sexually aggressive and soon, she’s wearing short skirts, low-cut tops, and white stockings.  She’s also making out with Sarah (Charlotte Lewis), the photographer who lives in the dorm room next to hers.  (As played by Charlotte Lewis, Sarah is actually an interesting character and it’s a shame that the film pretty much just uses her for titillation.)  But since the Vampire’s whole thing is keeping Charlotte from losing her virginity, why would he give her something that would make her more open to sexual experiences?  Again, it’s hard not to think that the Vampire is just the victim of an elaborate practical joke.

As I said at the start of the review, Embrace of the Vampire is incredibly silly.  It’s also a film that seems to be a bit popular with viewers of a certain age.  I’m assuming that’s because of the frequent Alyssa Milano nudity and that one scene with Charlotte Lewis.  For the most part, Alyssa Milano gives a bland performance in Embrace of the Vampire.  It’s not so much that she’s bad as everything about her performance is on the surface.  One gets the feeling that there’s really not much going on with Charlotte’s inner life, both before and after she starts dreaming about The Vampire.  As The Vampire, Martin Kemp appears to be absolutely miserable.  He comes across as if he’d rather be anywhere than appearing in this movie.

That said, the film’s director got her start working with Francis Ford Coppola and she has a good eye for gothic scenery and atmosphere.  A scene where Charlotte imagines a frat party turning into a Hellish orgy is effectively done.  Jennifer Tilly has a small role as a vampire and she has said that Quentin Tarantino approached her at the Oscars to tell her that he enjoyed the movie.  It’s a silly movie (yes, third time I’ve used that specific term and that should tell you just how silly it is) but, for better or worse, it epitomizes an era.

Evil Toons (1992, directed by Fred Olen Ray)

Evil Toons opens, disturbingly enough, with David Carradine hanging himself.  Carradine is playing Gideon Fisk, the owner of both a run-down mansion and an ancient book that appears to be bound in human skin.  Though Fisk kills himself, he still appears several years later so that he can deliver a copy of the book to the four girls who have been hired to clean his home.

The girls are all students at Miskatonic University, a name that will be familiar to any fans of the work of H.P. Lovecraft.  (Those same fans will also have figured out that the book is the Necronomicon.)  Jan (Barbara Dare) and Terry (Suzanne Auger) want to get the house cleaned so they can get paid.  Roxanne (Madison Stone) wants to party overnight with her idiot boyfriend, Biff (Don Dowe).  Shy and intellectual Megan (Monique Gabrielle) is mostly just worried about surviving until morning.  After the girls open the book, they get Megan to translate the Latin writing within.  This brings to life a cartoon monster, one who looks much like a combination of the Big Bad Wolf and the Tasmanian Devil but which is far more bloodthirsty and horny than either of them.  After killing one of the girls and possessing her body, the Monster stalks the other inhabitants of the house.

Not meant to be taken seriously in any way shape or form, Evil Toons was made by Fred Olen Ray for $150,000.  That probably explains why, despite the title, there’s only one evil toon and it only gets a minute and a half of screen time before possessing its first victim.  Most of the dialogue is deliberately obtuse, with none of the girls showing any alarm upon realizing that forcing Megan to translate the book has condemned everyone to an eternity of torment.  The good thing is that there are enough funny lines to hold your interest and the cast is game (and frequently undressed, which is probably why this film still has a cult following).  Monique Gabrielle proves that she can scream with the best of them while Madison Stone is genuinely funny as Roxanne, delivering her lines with a playful quirkiness and even indulging in a little physical comedy with a hard-to-open wine bottle.

Fans of B-horror will be happy to see Dick Miller in the role of Burt, the man who hires the girls to clean up the house.  After leaving the girls at the house, Burt goes home and watches Bucket of Blood (starring Dick Miller, of course) on television.  “How come that guy never won an Academy Award?” Burt asks.  Burt’s wife is played by scream queen Michelle Bauer, who gets a guest starring credit for a two-minute role that consists of her reminding Burt what Friday night is supposed to be for.

Evil Toons is undeniably dumb but I laughed more than I was expecting too.  I think it helps that the movie confirmed what anyone who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons has always suspected.  Most cartoon characters aren’t that innocent, especially the ones that are drawn in the margins of the Necronomicon.

I Watched Facing Nolan (2022, dir. by Bradley Jackson)

Yesterday, I was feeling down about the Texas Rangers and their 66-89 record so I watched Facing Nolan on Netflix.

Facing Nolan is a documentary about Nolan Ryan, the Texas icon who played in the Major Leagues for 27 seasons and who proved himself to be the greatest pitcher who ever played the game.  He started his career with the Mets, working as a relief pitcher until he saved the Mets from losing Game 3 of the 1969 World Series.  (Somehow, it would be his only World Series appearance as a player.)  He was traded to the Angels, where he finally worked with a coach who was able to get wild pitching style under control.  After his son was nearly killed in a car accident, Ryan returned to Texas and played first for the Astros and then for the Rangers.  After he finally retired from baseball, Ryan became a businessman and a rancher.  He was President and CEO of the Rangers during the two seasons that we made it to the World Series.  I can remember Ryan being interviewed during those exciting playoff games as the Rangers made their way to their first two World Series appearances.  I’ll always associate Nolan Ryan with my two favorites seasons of baseball.

Ryan holds a total of 52 MLB records, including:

5,714 career strikeouts
215 career double-digit strikeout games
7 career no-hitters
12 career 1-hitters, tied with Bob Feller
18 career 2-hitters
31 career 3-hitters
15 200-strikeout seasons
6 300-strikeout seasons
6.555 career hits per nine innings
5.26 single-season hits per nine innings (1972)
Lowest batting average allowed, career (minimum 1500 innings) .204
26 seasons with at least one win
2,795 career walks
10 grand slams allowed (tied)
757 career stolen bases allowed

How did Nolan Ryan set all those records?  According to Facing Nolan, he did it by just being naturally better than every other pitcher in the game.  From his childhood on, Nolan Ryan was a powerful pitcher and a natural leader.  At first, he didn’t even realize how good he was.  When he was drafted into the Mets after high school, Ryan thought he would just play for four seasons, get his pension, and then return to his hometown of Alvin, Texas and work as a vet.  It took the Mets a while to realize how good he was too.  Up until his World Series performance, he was considered to just be a relief pitcher who was as likely to hit the batter as to get the ball over the plate.  When he was with the Mets, he got paid $7,000 a season and, after the Mets won the world series, Ryan still had to get a job installing air conditioning units to support himself during the off-season.  Ryan kept playing as he moved from team to team and, by the time he threw his second no hitter in 1973, everyone knew how good he was.  Ryan also knew how good he was and made sure he got paid a salary that reflected it.  There would be no more installing air conditioners to make ends meet!

Facing Nolan features interviews with Ryan’s family, his former teammates, and his former managers.  George W. Bush is interviewed and it’s obvious that Nolan Ryan’s time with the Rangers is one of his favorite things to talk about.  Facing Nolan was made by a fan for the fans and watching it, I was transported back to those days when the Rangers were winning every game and it seemed like our first World Series victory was just one strikeout away.  Hopefully, all of us fans will get to reexperience that feeling someday soon and, when the Rangers do finally win a Series, Nolan Ryan will sitting in the stands watching.

Game Review: Deep in The Spooky, Scary Woods (2022, Healy)

The full title of this piece of Interactive Fiction is: I Was Too Lazy to Get Started on My EctoComp Entry at a Reasonable Time But I Still Wanted to Enter So I Crapped Out This Masterpiece Or: Deep in the Spooky, Scary Woods.

Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself!  It’s better than anything that I’ve come up with recently.  In this Choose Your Own Adventure style game, you’re in the woods, the spooky, scary woods!  You can cry if you want.  You can build a fire.  You can try to text a friend.  But what you have to be prepared for is that eventually, a witch is going to want to join you and you might very well find your way to Dracula’s castle.  How will you handle it?  How will you interact with the supernatural?  What choices will you make?  Will you get the good or the bad ending?  Play to find out!

Even thought the author states that this game was just something that was put together in an hour, I always enjoy games like Deep In The Spooky Scary Woods.  That’s because I’ve played enough pompous and self-important Interactive Fiction games that I can not help but enjoy one where the whole point is to get the player to laugh and poke fun at the whole genre.  Sometimes, you’re in the mood for Interactive Fiction that is big and complex and full of subtext.  Sometimes, you just want to play something that’s fun, that’ll keep you amused, and which will take less than 15 minutes to complete.

Play Deep In The Spooky Scary Woods!