6 Classic Trailers For May 13th, 2022 (RIP, Fred Ward)


Originally, I was going to devote this latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers to all of the Friday the 13th films but then I heard the sad news that the great character actor Fred Ward had passed away at the age of 79.  Needless to say, I changed my plans.  There will be many Friday the 13ths but there was only one Fred Ward.

Fred Ward lived a life that could have been a movie.  He ran away from home at a young age.  He spent three years in the Air Force.  He spent some time as a boxer.  He worked as a lumberjack in Alaska.  He worked as a cook.  He worked as a janitor.  He spent some time in Rome, dubbing Italian films for the American market.  Much like Lance Henriksen, someone from Fred Ward’s tough background may have seemed like an unlikely actor but he proved himself to be one of our most memorable.  Ward brought an authenticity to even the wildest of parts.  He was a smart actor who could play dumb and, by most accounts, a down-to-Earth nice guy who could be totally intimidating on screen.  He was one of the best.  Here are 6 Fred Ward trailers.

  1. Time Rider (1983)

After appearing in a few supporting roles (most memorably as a trigger-happy redneck in Southern Comfort), Fred Ward had his first starring role in Time Rider.  In this film, Ward plays a dirt bike rider who travels through time.

2. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

After playing tragic astronaut Gus Grissom in 1983’s The Right Stuff, Ward was cast as Remo Williams in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  Ward performed all of his own stunts and, if the film had been a success, he would have had a chance to be an American James Bond.  Unfortunately, Remo Williams bombed at the box office and was only later appreciated by fans of action cinema.

3. Tremors (1990)

Perhaps the most beloved of all of Fred Ward’s films, this horror comedy featured Ward, Kevin Bacon, and a bunch of killer worms.  What could have been a standard B-movie was elevated by a witty script, energetic direction, and Bacon and Ward’s playful performances.  The way that Ward and Bacon bounced dialogue off of each other was almost as fun as all the monster mayhem.

4. Miami Blues (1990)

The same year that Tremors came out, Ward co-starred with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Miami Blues, a film that showed all three of those performers at their best.

5. Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

In this film, which was made for HBO, Fred Ward plays a role that was perfect for him.  He’s a tough, hard-boiled P.I. working the mean streets of Los Angeles in 1948.  The catch?  In this version of 1948, everyone uses magic!  This is a fun movie and I recommend it to everyone.

6.  Full Disclosure (2001)

Even though Ward’s career as a leading man slowed down a bit in recent years, he still appeared in movies and often, he was the best (any maybe only) reason to watch them.  I’ve never seen Full Disclosure but if I ever do track it down, it will be because of Fred Ward.

Fred Ward, R.I.P.

 

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Avengement (dir by Jesse V. Johnson)


I’m not really sure if “Avengement” is actually a word but, regardless, that’s what Cain Burgess is determined to get.  AVENGEMENT!

Martial artist Scott Adkins plays Cain in this 2019 British film.  When we first meet Cain, he’s in prison but that quickly changes once he manages to escape.  Cain heads to a pub, one that’s owned by his brother, Lincoln (Craig Faibrass).  After he’s taken everyone in the pub hostage, we learn about how Cain not only came to be a prisoner but also how he ended up with some rather prominent facial scars.  It turns out that Cain likes to tell a story and, for whatever reason, the gangsters are willing to sit around and listen.  Through the use of flashbacks, we see how Cain went from being an innocent martial artist to being the most feared man in prison.  We see how he learned to kill and how not even getting acid thrown in his face could slow him down.  Cain’s a scary dude and he’s out for revenge!  Or avengement!

Of course, we also can’t help but notice that a lot of Cain’s adventures feel as if they’ve been lifted from other British crime films.  The talkative gangsters bring to mind the films of Guy Ritchie.  A lengthy chase scene owes more than a little to the opening on Trainspotting.  Even the fight in the pub owes a bit to the finale of Shaun of the Dead.  It’s all a bit familiar but then again, that’s part of the appeal of the modern British crime thriller.  We watch these films specifically for the posh villains and the pub fights and the often indecipherable dialogue.  The familiarity is often exactly what the viewer is looking for.  (That said, I was a little bit surprised by the lack of Russian mobsters wearing track suits.  That was a missed opportunity.)  I think the other reason why Americans, in particular, like British gangster films is the novelty of seeing that British gangsters can be just as unnecessarily violent as American gangsters.  It’s nice to be reminded that America isn’t the only country that breeds violence.

Speaking of violence, Avengement is a very violent film and it’s also often a very bloody film.  When you consider how much of the film takes place in prison, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of stabbings.  (What is somewhat surprising is that there are also a lot of stabbings outside of prison, even when there are guns nearby.)  I’m usually not a fan of gratuitous violence but Avengement handles it all with a certain wit.  The violence is so over-the-top that it’s hard not to suspect that the filmmakers are commenting on the excessive nature of other British gangster films.  There’s a lengthy montage of Cain just fighting anyone who comes near him and it goes on for so long that it actually becomes somewhat humorous.  It’s hard not to feel at least a little admiration for Cain’s determination to start a fight with every single person that he sees.  He certainly doesn’t give up.  Scott Adkins is a gymnast, along with being a martial artist, and there’s a grace to his movements that comes through even when the film is at its most brutal.  Early on, I joked that the film would only work if its ultraviolent protagonist turned out to be likable and strangely enough, that’s exactly what happened.  Scott Adkins, to my surprise, turned out to be not only an exciting fighter but also a pretty good actor.  He shows enough screen presence in Avengement to make viewers hope that he’ll someday get a major action role.

Avengement is a ferocious but entertaining and unpretentious action film.  Watch it.  Experience it.  Just don’t worry about trying to understand what everyone’s talking about.  Just assume that everyone has a reason to want Cain dead and Cain has a reason to want the same for everyone else and there should not be any trouble at all.

6 Classic Trailers For March 25th, 2022


Since it’s Oscar week, it seems like a good idea to devote the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers to 6 classic films that received not a single Oscar nomination. That’s the way the Oscars are unfortunately. Sometimes, the best films are totally ignored.

For instance….

  1. Chappaqua (1967)

1967 was a great year for the movie so perhaps it’s understandable that the Academy somehow overlooked Chappaqua.  Still, this film was far more deserving a nomination than Doctor Doolittle.

2. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1971)

Valley of the Dolls received an Oscar nominations for its score.  However, it’s unofficial sequel didn’t even receive that.  Not a single nomination went to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, not even Best Original Song.  In 1970, the Academy just wasn’t ready.

3. Coffy (1973)

Ellen Burstyn certainly deserved the Oscar for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore but still, how could the Academy not nominate Pam Grier for her work in Coffy?

4. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The Academy will probably never embrace the zombie genre.  They certainly weren’t prepared to do so in 1978.  That said, it’s way past time to give Tom Savini an honorary award.

5. The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors is another classic that went unnominated.  Not even the music got a nomination.  David Patrick Kelly was totally snubbed.  The Baseball Furies should have been sitting in front row on Oscar night.  It’s a true shame.

6. Death Wish 3 (1985)

Give the Giggler an Oscar!

The TSL’s Grindhouse: The Scary on Sixty-First (dir by Dasha Nekrasova)


Now streaming on Shudder, The Scary of Sixty-First is a weird little movie.

Two friends who don’t really seem to like each other that much, Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown), move into a fully furnished Manhattan apartment.  The apartment, they are told, has been uninhabited for a few years.  The realtor asks them not to play the piano.  One of the mattresses is stained with blood.  Hidden amongst the surprisingly ornate furniture are mystical books and mysterious cards.  It’s kind of a creepy place but it’s also in Manhattan and it’s affordable.

Addie, we’re told, has a history of mental instability and a difficult relationship with her family.  (Noelle, at one point, refers to Addie’s father as being a pedophile.)  Addie also has an idiot boyfriend named Gary (Mark Rapaport, who also produced the film).  Gary may be a little bit slow but he has his standards and when Addie starts to speak in a strange voice and ask him to take part in some truly perverse role play, he freaks out.

Meanwhile, Noelle meets a mysterious person who is only referred to as being The Girl (played by the film’s director, Dasha Nekrasova).  The Girl is hooked on speed and conspiracy theories.  The Girl explains that Noelle and Addie’s apartment was once used by Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.  The Girl says that she’s investigating their crimes but her investigation mostly seems to consist of watching YouTube videos and walking around New York.  Within hours of meeting each other, Noelle and the Girl are lovers but when The Girl tries to demonstrate why Epstein couldn’t possibly have hanged himself, Noelle appears to deliberately hesitate before saving the Girl’s life.  Later, as they walk around New York, the Girl spots a woman who she claims is Ghislaine Maxwell.

As for Addie, she’s having nightmares and when she’s not dreaming, she’s sleepwalking and doing even more.  She’s also becoming obsessed with the British Royal Family.  She’s especially interested in Prince Andrew….

“Epstein didn’t kill himself,” as the saying goes and one reason why people are still saying that years after Jeffrey Epstein’s death is because it’s obvious that, whether he killed himself or not, he still took a lot of secrets with him to the grave.  I’m a student of conspiracy theories but I wouldn’t call myself a believer.  I tend to assume that most of what happens in the world is due to random fate as opposed to the unseen hand of some secret organization.  That said, I totally accept that there’s a very good chance that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered on the orders of the rich and powerful people who he previously flew to his private island.  One reason why The Scary of Sixty-First works is because, as bizarre as the film gets, it’s still dealing with a conspiracy theory that even most skeptics find to be plausible.

And indeed, it’s a bizarre film, one that plays out like a filmed dream.  Little about the film makes sense and, at the end of it, you’re still left with a lot of unanswered questions but then again, that’s a feeling that will be familiar to anyone who has ever gone down a conspiracy rabbit hole.  Are Noelle and Addie truly being possessed by evil auras of Epstein and Maxwell or are they just allowing their own paranoia to drive them mad?  Much like a dream, the answers are there but they’re hidden.  It’s a film that many people will find to be distasteful but, at its best, it captures the speed-fueled logic of the modern conspiracy theorist.  It’s a jolt of psychosis captured on a film.  The apartment becomes a metaphor for both the sins of the past and the uncertainty of the present.

Understandably, many will find the film to be distasteful and it often is.  But, at the same time, The Scary on Sixty-First captures the atmosphere and the paranoia of our current cultural moment.  After all, Epstein didn’t kill himself.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: C.C. and Company (dir by Seymour Robbie)


As our long-time readers know, I’ve seen my share of bad movies but it’s been a while since I’ve seen one as bad as 1970’s C.C. and Company.

C.C. and Company is about a drifter named C.C. Ryder (played by Joe Namath, who was a pro football quarterback at the time).  Ryder rides through the desert on his dorky motorcycle.  He doesn’t have a job.  He doesn’t have much money.  He does have a lot of hair and he also has a lot of teeth.  We know that because it’s rare that there’s ever moment when C.C. isn’t smiling.  C.C. is perhaps the most cheerful amateur criminal that I’ve ever seen.  Even when C.C. really shouldn’t be smiling, he’s smiling.  There are moments when people try to kill C.C. and he responds with a smile.  This could be a sign of C.C.’s devil-may-care-attitude but I think it has more to do with Joe Namath being a really bad actor.

C.C. is apparently a member of a motorcycle gang.  I say apparently because no one in the gang seems to like him and they’re constantly beating up on him.  The leader of the gang is Moon (William Smith) and among the members of the gang is an intimidating figure named Crow (Sid Haig).  Smith and Haig were both professional actors and genuine tough guys.  They not only knew how to act on camera but they also knew how to throw a punch without faking it.  Having them act opposite Namath doesn’t really accomplish much beyond emphasizing just how terrible an actor Namath was.  Even though Moon is a Mansonesque creep, you still find yourself rooting for him whenever he and C.C. get into a fight because Smith creates an actual character whereas Namath…. well, he doesn’t.  I sat through this entire film and never once did I find myself wondering what C.C.’s initials stood for.  That’s how uninterested I was in C.C.’s life.

Anyway, C.C. meets the wealthy and chic Ann McCalley (Ann-Margaret) after Ann’s limo breaks down in the middle of the desert.  C.C. not only fixes the limo but he also saves Ann from Crow and Lizard (Greg Mullaney).  It’s love at first sight but, unfortunately, Ann has places to go so she drives off and C.C. returns to the biker camp and watches as Moon sends his girlfriend, Pom Pom (Jennifer Billingsley), out to make money on the highway.  As I watched all of this, I found myself wondering how everyone else in the gang got stuck with names like Moon, Lizard, Crow, Rabbit, Pom Pom, and Zit-Zit (my favorite) but somehow C.C. was able to keep his innocent initials.  The movie never explained the ritual behind receiving motorcycle gang names and I think that was a missed opportunity.

Eventually, C.C. trades in his dorky motorcycle for a Kawasaki, largely because Kawasaki apparently paid the film’s producers a lot of money.  C.C. enters a race and wins.  Ann sees him win and falls even more in love with him.  C.C. gets into a fight with the gang and then he and Ann head to …. well, it looked a lot like Reno but honestly, who knows for sure?  Eventually, Moon and the gang track C.C. and Ann down and it all leads to one last fight.  We never do find out if the “company” of the title referred to Ann and her rich friends or Moon and the gang.  Not even C.C. seems to know for sure.

So, there’s a lot of reasons why C.C. and Company doesn’t really work but mostly it all comes down to the lead non-performance of Joe Namath as C.C.  There’s nothing tough or intimidating or rebellious about Namath.  C.C. is the biker you can bring home to meet your parents.  William Smith and Sid Haig are a lot more fun but they’re playing totally disreputable characters.  Namath and Ann-Margaret have zero romantic chemistry and the entire film has the look of a cheap made-for-TV movie.  Between C.C. and Company and Altamont, 1970 was not a good year to be a biker groupie.

That said, there is one good scene in C.C. and Company, where C.C. and Ann go out dancing.  While Joe Namath awkwardly shakes his shoulders while flashing that ever-present grin, Ann-Margaret dances as if the fate of the world depended upon her.  One year after the release of this movie, she would prove herself as dramatic actress and receive her first Oscar nomination for Carnal Knowledge.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Blind Fury (dir by Philip Noyce)


Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer) may have lost his sight in Vietnam but he gained something else.  With the help of surprisingly friendly villagers, Nick learned how to master his other senses.  He also became a proficient and deadly swordsmen.  Why would the villagers go out of their way to help an American soldier who, in all probability, they viewed as an intruder?

Does it matter?

Of course not!  All that matters is that 1990’s Blind Fury features Rutger Hauer as a blind swordsman who, 20 years after returning home from Vietnam, decides to to go to Florida to pay a visit on his old service buddy, Frank (Terry O’Quinn).  Frank, however, has developed a gambling problem and is currently in Reno, Nevada.  While Nick is getting to know Frank’s ex-wife, Lynne (Meg Foster), and Frank’s bratty son, Billy (Brandon Call), Slag (Randall “Tex” Cobb) shows up with two corrupt cops.  As you can probably guess from his name, Slag is a bad guy.  He’s looking for Frank.  Nick manages to kill the cops and run off Slag but, in the process, Lynne is killed.  With her dying breath, Lynne asks Nick to take Billy to his father.  Nick, of course, agrees.

The rest of this fast-paced film follows Nick and Billy as they head across the country.  Following them along the way is Slag and his men.  Frank has obviously made some pretty big mistakes and gotten on the bad side of some pretty dangerous people and it’s now up to Nick to save Frank, if just so Billy doesn’t end up an orphan.  At first, Billy is resentful and does things like demanding a window seat on the bus that they’re taking to Nevada.  (As Billy rather rudely puts it, it’s not like Nick has any use for the window.)  Billy also laughs when Nick trips in a puddle and then tries to trick Nick into eating a rock.  However, Nick soon proves himself to be more than capable of defending both himself and Billy.  Soon, Billy is calling him “Uncle Nick” and Nick …. well, Nick still seems to be wondering what he ever did that was so wrong that a part of his punishment was to get stuck with such a little brat.  But, that is a part of Nick’s charm.

And, indeed, Nick has a lot of charm.  That’s not particularly surprising, given that he’s played by the charismatic Rutger Hauer.  Hauer is convincing as both a blind man and a fighter and he bring a lot of sly humor to the role.  Nick may be a warrior but he’s definitely a warrior with a certain joie de vivre.  Beyond his own talents as an actor, Hauer was just one of those performers who had enough natural athleticism to look totally credible while swinging a sword at his enemies. One of the things that makes Blind Fury so enjoyable is that you never doubt that Hauer could actually do all of the things that we see him do.

Blind Fury is a fast-paced and entertaining film.  Director Philip Noyce keeps the action moving quickly and he’s smart enough to avoid getting bogged down with trying to convince the audience that film’s plot makes any more sense than it does.  Blind Fury is a B-action movie that’s proud to be a B-action movie and, as a result, it’s a lot of fun.  The film ends with a battle between Hauer and Sho Kosugi that is genuinely exciting to watch.  It also ends with the promise of a sequel, one that was sadly never made.

As I watched the film tonight (and, with the temperature currently being below freezing and a good deal of ice still being on the ground outside, I definitely enjoyed the escape that the film provided), it occurred to me that I’ve recently viewed many Rutger Hauer films.  I’ve seen a few bad films starring Rutger Hauer but I have never seen a bad Rutger Hauer performance.  Hauer always gave 100%, regardless of what else might be going on with the movie.  That’s why he was a great actor and one who is definitely missed today.

Blind Fury is definitely a very good Rutger Hauer film.  Watch it the next time you need to see that, with a little determination, anything is possible.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Revenge of the Ninja (dir by Sam Firstenberg)


After his wife and most his family is murdered by a rival clan, ninja Cho Osaki (Sho Kosugi) leaves Japan for the United States.  Not only is he leaving his home country but he’s also abandoning his ninja heritage.  As he explains to his mother (Grace Oshita), he no longer has any use for the violent old ways.  From now on, he just wants to sell dolls!

In America, Cho prospers and his mother continues to teach Cho’s young son, Kane (Kane Kosugi), how to defend himself.  When Kane is confronted by a bunch of bullies while walking home from school, he kicks their asses while his grandmother watches approvingly.  GO, KANE!  Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with a movie that opens with a bunch of obnoxious 11 year-olds getting beaten up by a 9 year-old.

Cho has found success opening art galleries and selling dolls.  He’s proven that he doesn’t need to be an elite assassin in order to be happy.  However, Cho’s mother doesn’t trust Cho’s business partner, Braden (Arthur Roberts).  She says that there’s something obviously evil about Braden but Cho doesn’t agree.  Well, it turns out that mom’s right!  Braden is evil.  He’s using the dolls to smuggle heroin into the country!  When the local mob boss (Mario Gallo) refuses to agree to Braden’s terms, Braden decides to wage war on the Mafia. It turns out that Braden is a ninja himself!

When members of the Mafia turning up dead in weird ways, the police bring in a local martial arts instructor named Dave (Keith Vitali).  Confused by the murders, Dave decides to consult with a friend of his to determine whether or not a ninja could be responsible.  That friend just happens to turn out to be Cho, who confirms that there is obviously a ninja in America but who also refuses to fight that ninja because Cho has abandoned the violence of the past and, as he explains it, he’s got a new art gallery opening soon.  Of course, what Cho doesn’t know is that the ninja is his own business partner….

The 1983 film Revenge of the Ninja has an overly complicated plot but the story that it tells is relatively simple.  Cho is done being a ninja.  Then, his family and his girlfriend Cathy (Ashley Ferrare) end up getting caught in the middle of a turf war between Braden and the Mafia and Cho is forced to break his pledge to lead a life of non-violence.  Revenge of the Ninja was produced by Cannon films.  It was preceded by Enter the Ninja, which featured Kosugi as a villain who fought Franco Nero, and it was followed by Ninja III: The Domination, in which Kosugi played a ninja assassin whose spirit ended up possessing a young aerobics instructor.  Of the three Cannon Ninja films, Revenge of the Ninja is the least interesting, as it doesn’t feature a star as charismatic as Franco Nero or a plot twist as wild as an aerobics instructor getting possessed.  Revenge of the Ninja does, however, feature several exciting fight scenes and Sho Kosugi’s athletic prowess goes a long way to making up for the fact that he’s not a particularly expressive actor.  Fans of low-budget but kinetic martial arts action should get a kick and a punch out of Revenge of the Ninja.

Finally, Revenge of the Ninja may not be the best ninja film ever made but it is a Cannon Film and therefore, it’s worth watching.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Space Mutiny (dir by David Winters)


“Arggggh!”

— Dave Ryder (Reb Brown) in Space Mutinty (1988)

Space Mutiny, a sci-fi epic from 1988, is full of dialogue about all sorts of political and philosophical concerns but none of it is quite as memorable as the quote above.  Dave Ryder says, “Argggggh!” a lot over the course of Space Mutiny.  He’s the newly appointed head of security for the Southern Sun, a gigantic spaceship that has spent the last 260 years traveling from Earth to a new planet.  Being head of security is important because there are some people on the Southern Sun who are plotting a mutiny.  Dave Ryder decides that the most effective way to battle the mutineers is to yell loudly and frequetly.  “ARGGGGGH!’ Ryder yells whenever he’s being shot at.  “ARGGGGGGGH!” he screams when he finds himself on a very slow and gradual collision course with the head of the mutineers.

When Dave isn’t saying stuff like, “Argggggh!,” he’s saying stuff like, “Go!  Go!  Go!”  When the bad guys open fire on him and his men, it’s time for them to “Go!  Go!  Go!”  When the mutineers are being chased, Dave is quick to tell everyone to “Go!  Go!  Go!”  He’s like the physical fitness trainer from Hell.  He never actually yells “Feel the burn!” but you can be damn well sure that he’s thinking it.  In fact, there’s a point in the movie where “Feel the burn!” actually would have been a good line.  Dave and his girlfriend, Lea (Cissie Cameron), set a mutineer on fire.  It’s actually a bit of a sadistic scene and it doesn’t come across as being the big hero moment that it’s obviously meant to be.  But, then again, Dave isn’t yelling because he’s a nice guy.  He’s yelling because he’s played by Reb Brown.  Reb Brown yelled all the way through Strike Force Commando.  Why wouldn’t he do the same for Space Mutiny?

Of course, Dave isn’t the only person barking out orders on the Southern Sun.  Cameron Mitchell plays the ship’s captain, a wise old man who looks like Santa Claus.  John Phillip Law is Kalgon, the main mutineer.  He laughs a lot.  Cissie Cameron is the captain’s daughter.  She falls for Ryder, despite the fact that she appears to be old enough to be Ryder’s mother.  (In real life, Reb Brown and Cissie Cameron are married and Cissie is only a few years older than Reb.  In Space Mutiny, she’s stuck with an unflattering hair style and is made up to look like an aging cheerleading coach.)  There’s also a woman who works on the ship’s bridge.  She’s killed in one scene, just to mysteriously turn up alive in the scene that follows.  In space, no one can hear the script supervisor.  Finally, there’s a group of alien witches who board the ship and spend the entire movie dancing in front of a ball of electricity.  Since they don’t actually interact with any of the main characters, it’s obvious that they were added to pad out the film’s running time.

One of the more interesting things about Space Mutnity is that Kalgon actually has a point.  It does seem kind of stupid to spend several hundred years traveling to just one planet when there’s other planets nearby that the ship could just as easily reach.  Indeed, the mission of the Southern Sun never makes that much sense and the Captain seems to be delusional in his insistence that it does.  The Captain’s unending faith and his long-flowing beard makes him come across like a minor biblical prophet, the type who always had to ask a major prophet to interpret his visions for hm.  The Captain does not come across like someone who really knows what he’s doing.  I don’t care how much Ryder screams, Kalgon had a point!

Today, Space Mutiny is best known for being featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for later being taken apart by the Rifftrax crew.  Space Mutiny, though, is such an extremely silly movie that you really don’t even need any professionals to help you snark your way through it.  The film offers up such a treasure trove of material then even the most humorless among your friends will be a comedic genius by the time it ends.  It’s a fun movie, made even more so by the fact that the filmmakers apparently meant for the film to be taken seriously.  There’s a lot of talk about important issues like freedom, duty, and faith.  In the end, what you’ll remember is the screaming.

6 Classic Trailers For January 8th, 2022


Since this week started with Sergio Leone’s birthday, it only seems appropriate that today’s edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers should be dedicated to the Western.  Here are 6 classic Spaghetti western trailers!

  1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

It only makes sense that we should start things off with a trailer from a Leone film and it makes further sense that film should be The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  It’s all here, from the classic Ennio Morricone score to the unforgettable staring contest between Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach.

2. Sabata (1969)

While Clint Eastwood was able to use his appearances in Leone’s westerns to restart his American film career, Lee Van Cleef remained in Italy.  After playing the villainous Angel Eyes, Van Cleef played the hero Sabata.  This trailer is very, very 60s.

3. Django (1966)

Franco Nero never appeared in a Sergio Leone film but he was a favorite of the famous “other Sergio,” Sergio Corbucci.  In Corbucci’s Django, Nero played the haunted title character, making his way across the west with a deadly coffin.

4. Django Kill (1967)

Django was such a hit that a number of other films were made about other haunted, amoral gunslingers named Django.  Whether or not they were all the same Django was left to the audience to decide.  In Django Kill, Tomas Milian played the title character and found himself in a surreal hellscape, surrounded by people who were obsessed with gold.

5. The Great Silence (1968)

The Great Silence was one of the greatest of the spaghetti westerns, featuring Klaus Kinski in one of his best and most villainous roles.  Unfortunately, like many of the better spaghetti westerns, it initially did not get a proper release in the States.  Fortunately, it has since been rediscovered.

6. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

And finally, to close things out, here’s one last Sergio Leone trailer.  Sadly underappreciated when first released, Once Upon A Time In The West has since come to be recognized as a masterpiece.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Strike Commando (dir by Bruno Mattei)


“American,” a young Vietnamese refugee says to Sgt. Mike Ransom, “tell me about Disneyland.”

Ransom tells him all about Disneyland, a magical place where, according to Rasom, the trees are made of ice cream and genies pop out of lamps.  Ransom breaks down in tears, sobbing as he realizes that his friend will never get to experience Disneyland firsthand.

Years later, Ransom is in Manila, blowing up a former American military officer who gave aid to the communists.  “DIE!  DIE!” Ransom shrilly yells as the man literally explodes in front of him.  And while the man may not have been one of the good guys and he did a lot of bad things during the Vietnam War, it’s hard not to feel that Ransom’s attitude would get him banned from Disneyland.  Not even the ghost hitchhikers at the Haunted Mansion would want to accept a ride from the “Die!  Die!” guy.

That Mike Ransom, he’s a complicated man.  As played by Reb Brown, he’s also at the center of the 1987 Italian film, Strike Commando.  As you can probably guess from the film’s title, he’s the leader of an elite squad of soldiers, a team of strike commandoes who are determined to lead America to victory during the Vietnam War.  We’re continually told that Ransom is the best, though we don’t see much of evidence of it.  He’s the type of commando who specializes in sneaking behind enemy lines and hitting the communists before they even realize he’s there but he’s so bulky and loud that it’s hard to imagine that he’s ever been able to successful sneak around anywhere.  He has a particularly bad habit of shrilly screaming every word that he says.  Even when he’s not telling people to die, he’s yelling.  He’s like the athletic coach from Hell.

In fact, as I watched Strike Commando, I started to wonder what it would be like to live next door to someone like Mike Ransom.

“Hi, Mike, are you doing okay?”

“I’M DOING GREAT!  GREAT!  GREAT!”

“Any plans for the day?”

“I’M MOWING THE LAWN!  MOWING!  MOWING!  MOWING!”

“I think I’ve got some mail for you that accidentally left in my mailbox….”

“THE POSTAL SERVICE LIED!  LIED!  LIED!  LIED!”

At first, living next door to Mike Ransom would probably be entertaining but I imagine it would get kind of boring after a while.  Yelling can be an effective way to express yourself but it loses its power if that’s the only thing you ever do.  The same can be said for Strike Commando as a film.  It gets off to a good start, with several extremely over-the-top action sequences and, of course, Mike telling a little refugee child about Disneyland.  But the second half of the film, which involves Mike being held in a POW camp and meeting a fearsome Russian torturer named Jakoda, drags a bit because there’s only so much time you can listen to Ransom yell before you start to tune him out.  It doesn’t help that the second half of the film features some particularly nasty torture scenes.  Still, it is somewhat redeemed by a scene where the Viet Cong attempt to force Ransom to broadcast a propaganda message over their radio station.  “KEEP FIGHTING!” Ransom yells into the microphone.  Hell yeah! You tell ’em, Ransom!

Strike Commando was directed by Bruno Mattei, an Italian exploitation filmmaker who was never one to just turn things up to ten when he could turn them up to 11 instead.  Strike Commando was obviously meant to capitalize on the success of the Rambo films.  In typical Mattei fashion, the action is over-the-top, nonstop, and more than a little silly.  Mattei was never shied away from embracing excess and Strike Commando has everything that you would expect from one of his war films: lots of stuff blowing up, heavy-handed use of slow motion, and plenty of grainy stock footage.  You have to admire Mattei’s dedication to always finding something for Reb Brown to yell about.