The TSL’s Grindhouse: Private Wars (dir by John Weidner)


The 1993 action film, Private Wars, tells the story of a neighborhood, a big evil businessman, and one drunk private investigator who likes to shoot things.

The big evil businessman is Alexander Winters (played by Stuart Whitman).  Winters is so evil that he probably spends at least three hours every night practicing his smirk.  He’s the type who will plot someone’s death and then laugh about it just to make sure that it’s understood that he’s totally evil.  Winters wants to build a new business complex but there’s a neighborhood sitting on the land that he wants to use and no one’s willing to move.

However, Winters has a plan to bring about change.  If the people in the neighborhood won’t move voluntarily, he’ll just make them flee for their lives.  Winters pays off some local gangs to create trouble in the neighborhood.  Soon, stores are exploding and windows are getting broken and obscene graffiti is showing up on walls.  Everyone in the neighborhood keeps going to the community center and debating what to do.  You have to wonder why the gangs are wasting their time vandalizing storefronts when they could have just blown up the community center and taken out every who was in their way.

Eventually, the community decides to hire someone to teach them how to defend themselves.  After auditioning a series of ninjas and other wannabe soldiers of fortune, the community hires Jack Manning (Steve Railsback).  Why do they hire Jack Manning?  Well, he’s a friend of one of the community leaders.  He’s also an alcoholic who shoots his car whenever the engine starts giving him trouble.  How exactly anyone could look at Jack — who is not only almost always drunk but also a bit on the short and scrawny side — and think that he could protect the neighborhood is an interesting question that the film doesn’t really explore.

Anyway, the community is soon fighting back, which turns out to be a lot easier than anyone imagined.  Eventually, Jack ends up in jail as a result of Winters’s corruption but fortunately, it’s while in jail that Jack meets a few guys who all have mullets and who all come back to the neighborhood to help Jack out when a bunch of ninjas try to take over the streets.  Winters may have ninjas but Jack has a bunch of petty criminals who look they’re all heading to a hockey game in Toronto.  It’s a fair fight.

To be honest, the main thing that I will always remember about Private Wars was just how unnecessary Jack eventually turned out to be.  For all the money that he was apparently being paid, he really doesn’t do much.  I guess he does teach people in the neighborhood the techniques of self-defense but the film is so haphazardly edited that it’s hard to be sure of that.  It’s entirely possible that everyone already knew how to fight but they were just hoping Jack would do it for them.  Watching the film, it’s easy to get the feeling that the folks in the community center took one look at Jack and said, “Well, shit …. I guess we gotta do this ourselves.”  Even the final confrontation between Jack and Winters is resolved by a third character.  Imagine Roadhouse if Patrick Swayze spent the whole movie sitting at the bar and you have an idea what Private Wars is like.

Private Wars is really silly but, possibly for that very reason, it’s also occasionally fun in its own stupid way.  If nothing else, Stuart Whitman and Steve Railsback appeared to be enjoying themselves.  The movie’s on YouTube.  I watched it last Monday as a part of the #MondayActionMovie live tweet and I enjoyed myself.

6 Trailers For Halloween


Happy Halloween!

Well, the big day is finally here and that means that it’s time for a special Halloween edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers!  Below you’ll find the trailers for some of my favorite horror films!  Let’s take a look!

  1. Suspiria (1977)

That I picked this trailer to start off this special edition should come as a surprise to no one.  While I don’t think the trailer really does the film justice, Suspiria is still one of my favorite movies of all time.  Don’t talk to me about the remake and we’ll get along just fine.

2. Zombi 2 (1979)

Also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters!  This is the Lucio Fulci-directed classic that launched the Italian zombie boom!

3. The Beyond (1981)

And, as long as we’re talking about Fulci, there’s no way that I could possibly leave The Beyond‘s trailer out of this post.

4. Martin (1978)

Some people, undoubtedly, will say, “Martin but no Night of the Living Dead?”  Well, we’ll be featuring Night of the Living Dead later today.  Martin is one of George Romero’s best films and it’s still criminally unknown.  Check out the trailer but definitely be sure to track down the film as well.

5. Halloween (1978)

Naturally.

6. The Shining (1980)

Stephen King might not like it but Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining remains one of the best horror films ever made.  It’s one of the few films that continues to scare me after multiple viewings.  (It’s those two little girls in the hallway.  They freak me out every time!)

Happy Halloween!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Dead Night (dir by Brad Baruh)


Hey, I’ve got an idea!  It’s Spring Break so why don’t we spend it in a cabin in the middle of a snow storm!?

Great idea!

Let’s go!

Oh, look — we’re at the cabin now and there’s some strange woman passed out front.  What should we do!?

Hey, let’s bring her inside!

Good idea!

Uh-oh, the woman’s inside and she’s alive but she’s acting kind of weird!

Hey, let’s eat dinner!

Now, in all fairness to the characters in 2018’s Dead Night, things are a bit more complex than that.  It’s not just that they decided to go up to a snowy cabin for Spring Break.  The cabin is actually supposed to be a therapeutic location.  James Pollack (AJ Bowen) is dying of cancer and it’s felt that the cabin will not only ease his pain but perhaps increase his life.  If nothing else, the wilderness will bring some sort of inner peace.  Accompanying James are his wife, Casey (Brea Grant) and their two teenage children, Jessica (Sophie Dalah) and Jason (Joshua Hoffman), and Jessica’s best friend, Becky (Elsie Luthman).

As for the mysterious woman who shows up out front of the cabin, they’re just trying to be nice when they invite Leslie Bison (Barbara Crampton) to stay in the cabin with them.  Even though Leslie can’t tell them how she ended up at their cabin, the Pollacks are not the type to just allow someone to die in the snow.  Really, we should all be more like the Pollacks, I guess.

Still, Leslie does turn out to be really obnoxious.  She makes inappropriate jokes.  She rudely asks which member of the family is dying.  She blows kisses at Jason and smirks when Jessica announces that they can’t eat until they’ve said grace.  In fact, the family is on the verge of kicking Leslie out when …. well, things happen.

What things?  We get some hints from a terrifically over the top true crime show, segments of which appear throughout the movie.  Hosted by Jack Sterling (Daniel Roebuck), the show deals with the question of how a perfect wife and mother like Casey Pollack could eventually go insane and chop up her family and friends with an ax.  Sterling tells us that, even though Casey called several people and told them that she had found a strange woman outside the cabin, the police were convinced that this was all just a part of an elaborate lie.

Hmmm….so, I guess we know what’s going to happen, right?

Well, no,  Not quite.  It turns out that the true story is a little bit different from what we might have seen on television.  For instance, Jack Steling’s show says nothing about the weird incident that happened in the early 60s, when a young woman got lost in the wood and was apparently impregnated with a piece of a tree….

If you go over to this movie’s imdb page, you’ll find a lot of angry reviews from people who felt that this movie didn’t have a real plot and that it was too gory but I don’t know.  I kind of liked it.  I mean, it’s a horror movie about people stuck in the middle of the woods.  What exactly are you expecting to get other than some nonsensical ax murders?  I mean, yes, the film doesn’t make complete sense but the cabin and the woods are both wonderfully creepy locations and the film also featured the great Barbara Crampton playing a …. well, I won’t spoil it.  Plus, I watch a lot of true crime television and I can tell you that this film’s satire of the particular genre is spot-on!

So, what can I say?  Suck it, imdb.  I kinda liked Dead Night.

6 Trailers Designed To Bring Out The Beast In Your


St. Larry, patron of werewolves

For today’s special Devil’s Night edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers, we pay tribute to the werewolves!

Sadly, werewolves have been kind of overshadowed lately.  Everyone loves the zombies.  Everyone loves the vampires.  Everyone loves the weird little creatures that secretly control the Dark Web.  But, werewolves — those brave lycanthropes — have not been getting the respect that they deserve.

So, to correct that, here are 6 trailers for the wolves!

  1. The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Oliver Reed as a werewolf?  Hey, it makes sense.  This classic Hammer film brought new fame to the werewolves of London.

2. The Werewolf of Washington (1973)

The movie has its issues but that is a great title!

3. Werewolf Woman (1976)

This is an Italian film, starring Annik Borel as a woman who thinks that she’s a werewolf.  And, depending on which version of this film that you see, she might be right.

4. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Meanwhile, back in London, a young American backpacker discovers why American tourists are not universally beloved in Europe.  They have a bad habit of wandering out to the moors on nights when there is a full moon.  This classic film features perhaps the best scene to ever take place in a sleazy porno theater.

5. The Howling (1981)

1981 was a good year for werewolf films.

6. An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)

It’s not a very good film but …. hey!  Look!  Paris!

Have a howlingly good Halloween, everyone!

6 Trailers For The Sunday Before Halloween


It’s a holiday and you know what that means!

Or maybe you don’t.  Sometimes, I forget that not everyone can read my mind.  Anyway, I used to do a weekly post of my favorite grindhouse trailers.  Eventually, it went from being a weekly thing to being an occasional thing, largely due to the fact that there’s only so many trailers available on YouTube.  Now, Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers is something that I usually only bring out on a holiday.

Like today!

So, here are 6 trailers for the last week of October!

  1. Last House On The Left (1972)

“Two girls from the suburbs.  Going to the city to have …. good time….”  Wow, thanks for explaining that, Mr. Creepy Narrator Dude.  That classic tag line about how to avoid fainting would be imitated time and again for …. well, actually, it’s still being imitated.  This was Wes Craven’s 1st film and also one of the most influential horror films of all time.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Speaking of influential horror movies, the trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is almost scarier than the film itself!

3. Lisa Lisa (1977)

I  have actually never watched this film but I love the trailer.  Can you guess why?

4. Ruby (1977)

Ruby, starring Piper Laurie!  I’m going to assume this was after Piper Laurie played Margaret White in Carrie.  Don’t take your love to town, Ruby.

5. Jennifer (1978)

Jennifer was another film that pretty obviously inspired by Carrie.  In this one, Jennifer has psychic control over snakes.  So, don’t mess with Jennifer.

6. The Visitor (1979)

Finally, this Italian Omen rip-off features Franco Nero as Jesus, so it’s automatically the greatest film ever made.

Happy Weekend Before Halloween!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Day of the Dead: Bloodline (dir by Hèctor Hernández Vicens)


Hey, it’s another zombie film!

Eh, who cares?

At this point, there’s been so many zombie films that I’m a bit burned out on the whole genre.  I can still get enthusiastic for zombie films that attempt to put a new spin on the material and I still love the classic zombie films of the past.  But, for the most part, new zombie films just leave me bored.

2018’s Day Of The Dead: Bloodline is technically a remake of George Romero’s Day of the Dead but, then again, almost every American zombie film that’s come out over the past twenty or so years has been a remake of something that Romero did earlier.  The whole idea of an isolated military compound where soldiers plot to kill zombies (or rotters, as they’re called here) while scientists try to understand and maybe cure them has been done to death.  Once again, we’ve got a fascist army guy (Jeff Gum) and, once again, we’ve got a dedicated scientist who doesn’t like taking orders from the military.  The scientist is named Zoe (Sophie Skelton).  She was a medical student when the zombie apocalypse began.  Now, five years later, she’s trying to find a way to end it and blah blah blah, wake me when it’s over.

A good deal of the film centers around Max (Jonathon Schaech).  In life, Max was a pervy stalker who was so obsessed with Zoe that he craved her name into his arm.  In death, he’s a rotter who has retained some of his personality and bits of memory.  For instance, he’s still obsessed with Zoe and spends a lot of time saying, “You are mine, you are mine….”  However, Max’s blood potentially holds the cure for the zombie plague.  And, to be honest, that’s kind of an interesting premise.  In life, Max was the worst that humanity had to offer.  In death, he might hold the secret for saving the world.  Even as a rotter, he remains obsessed with Zoe and Zoe has to decide whether or not to destroy the man who tried to rape her or to keep him functional for the good of the world.

But …. eh.  I mean, it’s intriguing but the film doesn’t really do much with it.  It just becomes another zombie movie with a bunch of hardass soldiers and some scientists who don’t understand why the soldiers keep shooting everything.  Who cares?  We’ve already seen all of this in a hundred other movies, not to mention on shows like The Walking Dead.  Neither the script nor the characters in this film are interesting enough to really justify seeing it again.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Puppet Master (dir by David Schmoeller)


Since there’s been like 200 Puppet Master films made over the past 30 years — goddamn, 30 years of killer puppets! — I figured that maybe I should finally sit down and actually watch one of them.  I decided to go with the original film that started the entire franchise, 1989’s Puppet Master!

So, basically, this is a movie about little puppets that kill full-sized people.  Obviously, there’s a bit more to the plot but let’s be honest.  No one who watches this movie is going to be watching it for the specifics of the plot.  They’re going to be watching it because they want to see tiny puppets go on a rampage.  I have to say that the puppets themselves are pretty cute.  I mean, they’re murderous and a little bit pervy but they’re still really cute.  I understand that all of the puppets have their own specific names but, while watching the film, I just made up names of my own.

For instance, there’s Hooky, who has a hook for one hand and a knife for the other and looks like he should be the lead singer of an aging Prog Rock band.  And then there’s Drilly, who has a drill on his head.  He can be really dangerous, especially if you’re stupid enough to crawl around on the floor and just stay there, on all fours, while he’s running straight at you.  I mean, if you just stood up, you probably wouldn’t get that badly injured but …. well, what do I know, right?  And then there’s Leechy, who is a female puppet who spits up leeches.  What’s interesting is that she never runs out of leeches but I have to wonder, if you have that many leeches, why not just send them out on their own instead of stuffing them all into some poor little puppet?  I felt bad for Leechy.  She seemed kinda sad.  And then there’s Handy, who has big hands and Facey, who can assume several different facial expressions at once.  They’re all really adorable, to be honest.

Anyway, Puppet Master is about a bunch of psychics who all spend the night in a California hotel that was once home to the “last alchemist,” Andre Toulon (William Hickey).  Toulon had the power to bring inanimate creatures — like puppets! — too life but, when the Nazi spies were closes in on him, Toulon killed himself.  Many years later, a psychic named Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) discovered Toulon’s hiding place in the hotel but then shot himself as well.  So now, Neil’s former colleagues are all trying to get Toulon’s power for themselves.  Or something.  As I said, following the plot is not always easy.  The main appeal here is watching the cute puppets do really bad things.

That said, who knew that a group of psychics and witches would prove to be so stupid?  I mean, you would think that — when all of you are having constant premonitions of death and destruction — you would be smart enough to take extra precautions or maybe just leave the hotel all together.  For instance, Dana (Irene Miracle) casts a protection spell over someone else but not on herself.  Meanwhile, Frank (Matt Roe) and Clarissa (Kathryn O’Reilly) make the rookie mistake of having sex in a horror film while our nominal hero, Alex (Paul Le Mat, looking like he’s trying to figure out how he went from American Graffiti to this), wanders around in a daze.

And yet, watching the film, I could see why it became so popular.  The puppets are memorable and well-designed and the backstory, with Toulon and all the rest, is actually pretty interesting.  Puppet Master is one of those films that defines “stupid but fun.”  No wonder the puppets came back!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Lisa (dir by Gary Sherman)


 

So, here’s the thing about Lisa, a horror-thriller from 1990 that shows up occasionally on This TV.

It’s got a great title.

Seriously, this film has got one of the greatest titles of all time. I would almost say that you really don’t even have to pay attention to the movie because the title itself is so perfect that the plot doesn’t even matter.  The only thing that would make this title even better would be if they had added a “Marie” to the end of it but oh well.  You can’t have everything.

This is a movie about a girl named Lisa and, speaking as a girl named Lisa, I have to say that it’s incredibly true to life.  Lisa (Staci Keanan) is a smart and amazingly talented 14 years old and not alllowed to date by her incredibly overprotective mother, Katherine (Cheyl Holland).  So, instead of dating, Lisa spends her time stalking a serial killer.  See, Katherine thought she was protecting her daughter but instead, she’s only inspired her to take an even greater risk.  That’s why you need to let the Lisas in your life do what they want.

Admittedly, Lisa doesn’t know that Richard (D.W. Moffett) is a serial killer.  She doesn’t even know that he owns a successful restaurant.  All she knows is that he looks like a model and he drives a nice car and it’s fun to follow him around Venice Beach.  When she jots down his license plate numbers, she hacks the DMV to get his name, address, and phone number.  Soon, Lisa is calling him up and having flirtatious conversations with him.

 

It’s all good fun, except for the fact that Richard is also known as The Candelight Killer and he’s got a thing about calling people and leaving them messages right before he kills them.  It’s all very ritualized.  For instance, it’s very important that his victims be in the process of listening to his message when he kills them.  To be honest, though, that sounds like he’s taking a lot of risks.  I mean, what if someone came home and didn’t immediately check their messages?  Would Richard just have to hide behind the drapes for hours until the did?  Of course, Richard would be even more out of luck if this movie were made today because who has an answering machine anymore?

Anyway, Richard is obsessed with discovering who is stalking him and Katherine is obsessed with keeping Lisa out of danger and Lisa just wants to actually be allowed to full celebrate having the greatest name ever.  Did you know, for instance, that Lisa may have started out as a shortened form of Elizabeth but that it became so popular on its own that it was one of the most popular names in both the United States and the United Kingdom for several decades?  And, even though it’s no longer in the top ten as far as names are concerned, being named Lisa is still one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed upon anyone?  Lisa means God’s Promise by the way.  And….

 

What?  Oh yeah, the movie.

Well, anyway, it all leads to pretty much what you’re expecting it to lead to.  Plotwise, the movie may be predictable but the Staci Keanan, Cheryl Ladd, and D.W. Moffett all gives good performances and director Gary Sherman keeps the action moving at a steady pace.  It’s dumb but entertaining, kinda like cinematic junk food.  Plus, it has a great title.  What more do you need?

 

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Unspeakable (dir by Thomas J. Wright)


So, here’s a few good things about the 2002 film, Unspeakable.

First off, Jeff Fahey plays the governor of New Mexico.  Any film that presents us with a world where Jeff Fahey can be elected governor of an actual state has to be worth something.  Seriously, I’ve long thought that the country would be more interesting if actors were elected to run each state.  Here in Texas, for instance, there was a movement to draft Tommy Lee Jones a few years ago.  (Personally, I’d rather live under Governor McConaughey.)  Steven Seagal (agck!) apparently wanted to run for governor of Arizona and, of course, Cynthia Nixon actually ran up in New York.  There’s always a chance of Alec Baldwin running for something and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger actually did govern California for two terms.  Val Kilmer, I should add, came close to running for governor of New Mexico, where this film is set!  Personally, I’d vote for Jeff Fahey over Val Kilmer,  It’s the eyes.

Another good thing about Unspeakable is that it features Dennis Hopper playing a crazed prison warden who rambles about how much he enjoys sending people to the electric chair.  “I am God!” Hopper says at one point and you have to enjoy any scene that features Dennis Hopper saying, “I am God!” in a southwestern accent.

Another fun thing about Unspeakable is that it features Dina Meyer and Lance Henriksen as scientists!  Meyer invents this weird little headband thing that allows her to look into your mind and see your thoughts.  Let me repeat this for those of you who might have missed the significance: DINA MEYER HAS INVENTED A MACHINE THAT ALLOW HER TO SEE EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING IN SOMEONE’S MIND!  If that wasn’t amazing enough, there’s also the fact that no one seems to be that impressed.  In fact, no one really cares.  Everyone just kind of shrugs it off.

Meyer and Henriksen ask for permission to test their invention out on death row inmates.  Sure, why not?  It’s not like Warden Hopper cares what happens to the inmates, right?  Meyer discovers that one of the inmates is innocent!  Unfortunately, no one cares.  Gov. Fahey, who is also Meyer’s former lover, refuses to commute the sentence because he’s got an election coming up and voters love the death penalty.  And so, that innocent man goes off to the electric chair.

But wait!  There’s a new prisoner on death row.  His name is Jesse Mowatt and he’s played by Pavan Grover, the doctor who wrote this film.  It turns out that he is America’s most prolific serial killer!  He’s murdered hundreds of people, all because of some weird issue he has with religion.  Anyway, it’s pretty obvious that this killer has a date with the electric chair but first, Meyer gets to use her amazing-invention-that-nobody-cares-about on him.  What she discovers is that this serial killer might be a demon-possessed monster who can use his mind to drive other people to do things like rip their faces off.  Or maybe he’s just really clever.  He does definitely have super strength and beats up any guard that comes near him.  It never occurs to the guards to use handcuffs on him or anything.  That’s just the type of prison that it is.

Anyway, I appreciated the film’s anti-death penalty theme but the film still got a bit too heavy-handed for my tastes.  Pavan Grover wrote himself a pretty good part but he doesn’t really have the screen presence necessary to do the whole irresistible sociopath thing.  Still, I appreciate any movie that features Jeff Fahey as a governor.

FAHEY 2024!

 

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Flesh and Blood Show (dir by Pete Walker)


I had a few reasons for watching the 1972 slasher film, The Flesh and Blood Show.

First off, the film was directed by Pete Walker.  Though Pete Walker may not be as well-known as some of his contemporaries and his overall cinematic output is dreadfully uneven, he was still responsible for enough memorable films that I will always give him a chance.

Secondly, it’s a British film and the British were responsible for some of the best horror films of the late 60s and early 70s.

Third, speaking as a horror fan, that title is just irresistible.  The Flesh and Blood Show?  Well, there’s nothing subtle about that!  Looking at that title, you find yourself wondering, “How much flesh and how much blood is actually in this film?”

Well, having watched the film, I can tell you that there’s very little blood and a good deal of flesh.  The Flesh and Blood Show was Walker’s first horror film.  Before moving into the horror genre, Walker specialized in making sexploitation movies and it’s kind of obvious that, when he directed this film, he was still more comfortable asking people to undress than asking them to play dead.  As opposed to other slasher films, the majority of the young cast survives and the almost all of the murders occur off-screen.  Every couple of minutes or so, someone else is getting undressed.  The constant nudity actually starts to get pretty funny after a while.  One could very easily use The Flesh and Blood Show to construct a drinking game.

As for the film’s plot, it deals with a group of actors who receive invitations to an abandoned theater.  An unseen producer apparently wants them all to perform an infamous play, perhaps the same play that is rumored to have led to tragedy back in 1945.  If it seems rather odd that the film’s characters would willingly go to an abandoned theater in the middle of nowhere and perform a possibly cursed play, no one is ever going to accuse anyone in this film of being smart.  Why ask why when there’s so much dancing and undressing to do?

There’s also an elderly major (Patrick Barr) hanging out around the theater.  He was actually one of my favorite characters in the movie because he approached everything with this very British, very stiff upper lip attitude.  Of course, the major himself has a secret.  That said, the secret isn’t that surprising.  I figured it out as soon as he showed up.

Naturally, all the murders at the theater are linked back to a tragedy in the past.  The final 15 minutes of the movie are made up of an extensive flashback to that tragedy and I will say this: it’s the best part of the film.  The flashback was originally filmed in 3-D and Walker uses this as an excuse to indulge in some surreal flourishes.

There are a few positive things to be said about The Flesh and Blood Show.  Pete Walker was a talented director and that talent comes through in even his weaker films.  There are a few scenes where Walker manages to maintain a properly ominous atmosphere and the movie’s score is so melodramatic and over the top that it’s kind of hard not to love it.

But, for the most part, The Flesh and Blood Show is a rather forgettable film.  If you want to see a good Pete Walker film, track down Frightmare.