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.

Celebrate Life Day With The Star Wars Holiday Special!


Happy Life Day!

The Star Wars Holiday Special was first aired in 1978 and, over the years, it has achieved a certain amount of infamy.  Some people say that it’s the worst thing to ever be made for TV.  To those people, I say that 1) that’s not a good attitude to have on Life Day and 2) have you seen Disco Beaver From Outer Space?

Anyway, this is a musical Star Wars extravaganza.  One thing that makes it interesting is that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher were all ordered to appear in it.  Seeing as how Harrison Ford tends to come across as being grumpy on a good day, I can only imagine how he reacted to filming The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Also, a few years ago, Val reviewed the Hell out of this thing.  Be sure to check out her review.

And now, for those of you looking to experience a dubious piece of pop culture history on this Christmas, we present to you …. The Star Wars Holiday Special!

A Movie A Day #256: Thrashin’ (1986, directed by David Winters)


Cory Webster (a young Josh Brolin, who looks identical to older Josh Brolin) is an amateur skateboarder from the Valley who hopes to win a downhill competition and score some sweet corporate sponsorship.  Chrissy (Pamela Gidley) is an innocent blonde from Indiana who is staying with her brother in Venice Beach.  Cory and Chrissy are in love but there is only one problem.  Chrissy’s brother is Tommy Hook (Robert Rusler), leader of The Daggers, a punk skateboard gang.  There’s no way Hook is going to let his sister go out with someone from the Valley.

Thrashin’ has a plot but it’s just an excuse for almost nonstop, kinetic skateboarding action.  The film is justly famous for the jousting scene, where Cory and Hook battle in Bronson Canyon, seeing who can knock who off his board.  Attentive viewers will be able to spot skateboard greats Tony Alva, Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, and Steve Caballero in the cast.  Fortunately, Gator Rogowski is nowhere to be found.

Best of all, Thrashin‘ features an early performance from Sherilyn Fenn!  She plays Hook’s girlfriend and, though her role may be small, it is easy to see the spark that would make her the breakout star of Twin Peaks.  At the time that she made Thrashin’, Fenn was dating a young actor named Johnny Depp.  The film’s director, David Winters, hoped to cast Depp in the lead role but the producers insisted on Brolin, who does a good job even if he never looks completely comfortable on a board.

With its minimal plot and threadbare character development, Thrashin‘ is dumb but legendary, a film that embodies an era.  It also has a killer soundtrack.  Keep an eye out for an early version of Red Hot Chili Peppers, performing Black-Eyed Blonde in a club scene.

Sci-Fi Review: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978, dir. Steve Binder & David Acomba)


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Here I am, glass of soda in hand and Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) by The Darkness playing while I write about The Star Wars Holiday Special. Didn’t I go to college or something? I have a paper on my wall signed by Schwarzenegger that says I did. Oh, well. Let’s talk about this thing. The special begins and it’s already showing me something sad.

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Instead of airing an episode of The Incredible Hulk or Wonder Woman, they aired The Star Wars Holiday Special. Now we cut to Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon. They are being chased by the Empire while they are trying to reach Chewie’s home planet so he can celebrate Life Day. I’ve watched the whole special and I still don’t know what that means. At first Han is a little hesitant, but they jump to lightspeed anyways. Now we get weird iris shots of people who are in the special including Julia Child if she were a man who was turned into a female plastic doll then given a spray tan.

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Then we cut to this shot of the Swiss Family Robinson house.

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Inside is the main set filled with the main characters such as:

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Papa Wookiee who is here to give all the viewers nightmares.

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Mama Wookiee who we know is a woman because she’s working in the kitchen.

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And Baby Wookiee who we can all thank for introducing the worst animation I’ve seen since that Chinese computer animated movie Agent F.O.X. (2014).

After pointless and meaningless noises from the Wookiees, the special reveals it’s true colors. By that I mean that it’s really a variety show of bad comedy and musical numbers. It’s not everyday you get to see Anton Lavey in a musical number though.

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And this shot makes watching the whole special worth it.

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Now the Wookiees put in a call to Luke Skywalker.

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It’s been awhile since I watched the original Star Wars movies, but I don’t remember Mark Hamill looking like this. He reminds me of Pierre Kirby’s girlfriend in Dressed To Fire (1988).

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After Hamill embarrasses himself, we now go back to the Wookiee household. They place a call to “Trading Post Wookiee Planet C”. I call it we roped Art Carney into this horrible thing to do really unfunny comedy bits.

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Next we cut to a shot of Zuco from Brazilian Star Wars

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before cutting back to the Wookiees. Just in case the kids weren’t already traumatized for life…

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there’s this scene where they thought it would be funny to dress up Harvey Korman like this. I’d be offended since I’m transgender, but all I can feel is sympathy for poor Korman. Not only is he in this, but this is one of his appearances in the special. That thing is cruel and unusual punishment. Mama Wookiee is watching this on TV.

Now the special cuts back to Han and Chewie to remind us they are still in the special before cutting back to more pointless crap. The only difference is that now Art Carney shows up to deliver some stuff to the family. Carney says the name Han as if he is saying the word “hand”. That would have made for a great name, wouldn’t it? Hand Solo. Goes right along with the single weirdest thing in the special that happens next.

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Papa Wookiee looks at VR porn. Diahann Carroll says things like “Now we can have a good time” and “I’ll tell you a secret. I find you adorable”. Oh, and Papa Wookiee makes drooling noises while pressing a button to have her repeat “I find you adorable” over and over. Then she goes on to sing a reject Bond song. I guess this part could be worse. I’m pretty sure Wookiee’s don’t have genitals and he could have been watching Water Power (1977).

Now the special cuts to Leia and C-3PO to remind us they are in this too before cutting to Chewie and Han. Then Imperials show up at the treehouse to look for Chewbacca and to remind us that people in Dayton, Ohio suffered greatly one night.

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This part goes on forever, and Art Carney gets a brilliant idea. I’ll distract this guy by making him watch Jefferson Starship.

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We built this special on Schlock ‘N Schtick.

Then Baby Wookiee goes to some sort of device while the Imperials are searching the very small set. He calls up the infamous cartoon. This thing is supposed to introduce us to Boba Fett. I could actually talk about this cartoon, but I think this shot sums it up.

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Already missing Harvey Korman doing bad comedy? He now makes a return. Earlier Baby Wookiee opened a present which had the Brain Computer from Brazilian Star Wars in it and now he needs to watch an instructional video on how to use it.

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This part can best be described as Harvey Korman auditioning for Max Headroom about a decade before that show came on the air. Also, it shows us what anyone looking at this special was doing in 1978.

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I don’t know what that was all about, but now we go to the bar scene. This is the only bright point in this special thanks to Bea Arthur.

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Harvey Korman comes into the bar run by Arthur and attempts to hit on her. Korman has a hole in the top of his head that she pours drinks into.

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Didn’t think this character through, did they? If he takes in drink through the top of his head, then what exactly comes in or out of his mouth? Arthur turns him down. Then an announcement is made over the TV that the bar is to be closed by order of the Empire. This is when the scene basically turns into that part from Casablanca where they sing the French National Anthem. Honestly, this scene is not that bad. Granted it’s surrounded by fecal matter, but still. Arthur does a decent job singing and is kind of funny.

Now we cut back to the treehouse where we get a cameo appearance by the Wilhelm scream as Han Solo throws a Stormtrooper off the patio. It’s funny that even during this tiny little scene with Harrison Ford, we can still see why he’s a good actor.

Now the time has finally come to celebrate Life Day where it appears a bunch of people are walking into a star to commit suicide.

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It’s kind of like that overly edited version of the Star Wars commercial with Anna Kendrick that was on YouTube where they cut out enough of her lines that it appears she picks up a knife then kills herself.

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Then we get to see the whole gang together. You know, like I’m sure everyone thought they were going to see when they tuned in to this “Star Wars” special. Carrie Fisher sings here because who cares.

After stock footage from the movie to remind us this thing actually had something to do with Star Wars, we cut to the Wookiees at the dinner table together.

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I’m just going to assume they are conducting a seance to try and contact Obi-Wan. Now the credits roll and according to them we have Bob Mackie to blame for that thing poor Harvey Korman had to wear during the cooking scene. I love that the ending credits don’t include any of the actors names from the Star Wars movie. Apparently, Miki Herman was their “‘Star Wars’ Consultant”. It’s hard to believe that position existed. Oh, and of course David Winters did the choreography. That reminds me, I do need to see Dancin’ It’s On (2015). Heard it’s terrible. Then the 20th Century Fox logo comes up which is nice considering I’ve been watching Godfrey Ho movies that start with a girl standing like the Columbia Pictures lady while the Star Wars theme plays.

And the special goes out like it came in, by reminding us we could have been watching an episode of The Incredible Hulk or Wonder Woman.

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I’m sure there’s a fascinating backstory to this, but I don’t care. This is one of the most ill-conceived and poorly executed things I have sat through this year. And I watched a parody of Rocky where he gets hit in the face with the Star Of David as well as a children’s Hallmark movie where a little girl refers to beauty squirting out of her body onto the floor.

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Embracing the Melodrama Part II #25: West Side Story (dir by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins)


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Nearly two weeks ago, I started on something that I call Embracing the Melodrama, Part II.  For the next month or so, I will be reviewing, in chronological order, 126 examples of cinematic melodrama.  I started things off by reviewing the 1927 classic Sunrise and now, 24 reviews later, we’re ready to start in on one of my favorite decades, the 1960s!

And what better way to start the 60s than be taking a look at the 1961 best picture winner, West Side Story?

Being a lifelong dancer, I have to admit that I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen West Side Story.  If you love to dance, this is one of those films that you simply have to see.  Of the various musicals that have won best picture, West Side Story is arguably the best.  Based on a hit Broadway show (which was itself rather famously based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), West Side Story was co-directed by the great choreographer Jerome Robbins and it features some of the greatest dance numbers ever filmed.  If you don’t get excited while watching the Sharks and the Shark Girls arguing about America, then there’s really no hope for you.  Tonight Quintet, Somewhere, A Boy Like That, Maria … even Gee, Officer Krupke, has there ever been another musical score that just leaves you wanting to sing as much as West Side Story does?

(I mean, I’ll be the first admit that I absolutely love the theme song from Santa Claus Conquers The Martians but it can’t even compare to West Side Story!)

What’s funny is that, in between viewings of the film, I always seem to forget just how good West Side Story actually is.  (Fortunately, this also means that I’m pleasantly surprised every time I watch the movie.)  In theory, this is an easy film to joke about.  It tells the story of street gangs who are apparently just as good at dancing as they are at fighting.  The all-white Jets snap their fingers and tell us that when you’re a jet, you’re the best.  The Puerto Rican Sharks are moving in on the Jets’s territory.  The two leaders of the gangs — Riff (Russ Tamblyn) and Bernardo (George Chakiris) — want to settle thing with a “rumble.”  And it’s easy for contemporary audiences to laugh because “rumble” is such an old-fashioned way of saying things that it’s now one of those terms that’s only used when one is trying to be ironic or snarky.

(For instance, I was with some friends at the movies and the people sitting behind us kept talking.  One of my friends told them to shut up.  One of the loud people replied that we were the ones who need to shut up.  As the insults escalated, I finally said, “Y’all — do we really have to have a rumble right now?”  Unfortunately, everyone was too busy arguing to appreciate my pitch perfect delivery.)

Riff’s best friend is Tony (Richard Beymer).  Tony was a co-founder of the Jets but now, he wants to move on from the gang.  He meets a girl named Maria (Natalie Wood) and the two of them fall in love.  However, Maria is Bernardo’s younger sister.  Her best friend, Anita (Rita Moreno), is Bernardo’s girlfriend.  Loving Tony, in other words, is prohibido.

And, since West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet, you can probably guess to what type of tragedy all of this leads.

Now, before I heap too much praise of West Side Story, I do need to admit that, in the role of Tony, Richard Beymer does not exactly radiate charisma.  He’s handsome enough but you never quite buy that he was former member of the Jets.  Since Tony’s singing voice was dubbed by Jimmy Bryant, you do believe everything that he sings.  But otherwise, Richard Beymer comes across as being stiff and rather awkward.

And it doesn’t help, of course, that he’s acting opposite Russ Tamblyn who, in the role of Riff, is a whirlwind of unstoppable energy.  Tamblyn is the one who you remember at the end of the film, followed by George Chakiris.  Compared to those two, Richard Beymer’s performance is just dull.

Fortunately, there’s Maria (played by Natalie Wood with Marni Nixon doing the singing).  Natalie Wood is one of my favorite of the classic Hollywood actresses.  She’s certainly one of the actresses with whom I most idenitfy.  With Richard Beymer sleepwalking through the role of Tony, it falls on Natalie to provide some true emotion to the film’s love story and that’s exactly what she does.  Every time I see West Side Story, I want to be Natalie Wood and I want to have a best friend like Rita Moreno and I want to meet someone like Riff…

Sorry, Tony.

West Side Story is one of the best musicals ever made.  If you’re not dancing and then crying and then dancing while crying as you watch West Side Story, then you’re doing it wrong.