Horror on the Lens: Without Warning (dir by Greydon Clark)


For today’s horror on the Shattered Lens, we have 1980’s Without Warning.  

In this horror/sci-fi hybrid, humans are hunted by an alien hunter who uses a variety of weapons and … what was that?  No, we’re not watching Predator.  We’re watching Without Warning.  For the record, Without Warning and Predator may have almost exactly the same plot but Without Warning came out long before Predator.

(Interestingly enough, Kevin Peter Hall played the intergalactic hunter in both films.)

Anyway, Without Warning is probably the best film that Greydon Clark ever directed.  Some would say that’s not saying much but seriously, Without Warning is a surprisingly effective film.  It also has a large cast of guest stars, the majority of whom are killed off within minutes of their first appearance.  That alien takes no prisoners!  (I especially feel sorry for the cub scouts.)

Of course, the main characters are four teenagers.  One of them is played by David Caruso, which I have to admit amuses me to no end.

Enjoy!

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Horror on the Lens: Dracula vs. Frankenstein (dir by Al Adamson)


Zandor Vorkov is Dracula!

John Blood is Frankenstein’s monster!

Together … THEY SOLVE CRIMES!

No, actually, they don’t.  If anything, they cause crimes to happen.

First released in 1971 and directed by Al Adamson, Dracula vs. Frankenstein may not be a good film but it’s definitely an unforgettable film.  Yes, it may be thoroughly inept but it’s also perhaps the strangest take on the Dracula/Frankenstein rivalry that you’ll ever see.

Plus, it’s one of the final films of Lon Chaney, Jr.  Unfortunately, Lon doesn’t exactly look his best in Dracula vs Frankenstein...

Speaking of slumming celebrities, long before he played Dr. Jacoby and inspired America to shout, “Dig yourself out of the shit!,” Russ Tamblyn played a biker named Rico in this movie.

Also, like every other exploitation film made in 1971, Dracula vs. Frankenstein features hippies, leading to the age old question: who needs the supernatural when you’ve got LSD-crazed hippies running around?

Another age old question: Is Dracula vs. Frankenstein merely inept or is it a classic of bad filmmaking?

Watch below and decide for yourself.

Enjoy!

A Movie A Day #186: Joysticks (1983, directed by Greydon Clark)


It’s Porky’s in an arcade!

Every gamer knows how accurate this is.

Jeff Bailey (Scott McGinnis) is the manager of the hottest (and only) arcade in town.  His grandfather owns the place and Jeff is everyone’s friend but he does not play any of the games.  When he was younger, he was caught getting it on with his girlfriend in an arcade.  She was sent out of town and Jeff was left so traumatized that he swore he would never touch another joystick.  However, he may have to go back on his pledge because the local evil businessman (Joe Don Baker) is determined to take over the arcade and he has recruited King Vidiot (Jon Gries) to help him do it.  In between Jeff getting laid and King Vidiot scheming, there are all the usual teen sex comedy hijinks.  Just like in real life, the arcade is perpetually full of hot, single girls wearing bikinis.  A hot dog gets stuck between a pair of breasts.   Pacman is played by a topless video game groupie.  Inevitably it all leads to a training montage and a showdown between Jeff and King Vidiot, with whoever gets the highest score at Super Pacman winning control of the arcade.

King Vidiot was the height of 80s fashion.

Joysticks is as dumb as it sounds but it is also a lot of fun, especially if you want to see what life was like before everyone had internet access and their own home gaming console.  The movie is full of classic games, from Pac-Man to Satan’s Hollow.  The best thing about the arcade is that the final video game duel is played with giant, floor-mounted joysticks.  I’m not sure they would work well in real life but they look extremely cool.

Check out those joysticks!

For those wondering, at no point does Joe Don Baker play Pacman during Joysticks.  If he had, the end result would have been a classic for all time.

Grab that joystick, Joe Don. You know you want to.

Joysticks?  I wonder if that title was supposed to have a double meaning.

Arcade Life, 1983

A Movie A Day #124: Mad Dog Coll (1992, directed by Greydon Clark and Ken Stein)


New York.  The prohibition era.  The Coll Brothers, Vincent (Christopher Bradley) and Peter (Jeff Griggs), are sick of working for the Irish gangster, O’Malley (William Anthony La Valle).  They want to hang out at the Cotton Club with big time gangsters like Lucky Luciano (Matt Servitto), Legs Diamond (Will Kempe), and Dutch Schultz (Bruce Nozick).  Vincent has fallen in love with Lotte (Rachel York), a singer at the club but the club’s owner, Owney Madden (Jack Conley), makes it clear that Lotte is too good for a low-rent thug.  After killing O’Malley, Vincent and Peter go to work for Dutch Schultz but soon, they grew tired of the low wages that Schultz pays them.  The Colls decide to strike out on their own, leading to all out war with New York’s organized crime establishment.

Vincent Coll was a real-life gangster who actually did go to war with Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano.  After a five-year old boy was fatally caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between Coll and his rivals, Vincent was nicknamed “Mad Dog” by the New York press.  Mad Dog Coll presents a highly fictionalized account of Coll’s life, suggesting that the kid was actually shot by one of Coll’s rivals and presenting Coll as an idealistic rebel who refused to be controlled by Luciano’s organized crime commission.  Luciano, Vincent and Peter agree, has sold out and no longer remembers where he came from.

Mad Dog Coll was one of two gangster movies that Menaham Golan produced, back-to-back, in Russia.  In fact, Mad Dog Coll may be the first American film in which Russia stood in for America instead of the other way around.  Though this film was produced after Golan broke up with his longtime producing partner, Yoram Globus, Mad Dog Coll still has a definite Cannon feel to it.  It is low-budget, fast-paced, unapologetically pulpy, and entertaining as Hell.  For a Golan production, the performances are surprisingly good.  Bruce Nozick steals the entire movie as crazy Dutch Schultz.  None of it is subtle but it is enjoyable in the way that only a Greydon Clark-directed, Menahem Golan-produced gangster film can be.  1920s New York is recreated on Russian soundstages. The threadbare production design and cardboard cityscape brings a Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker-era Dr. Who feel to the movie.  All that is missing is The Master brewing up moonshine and the Daleks exterminating the Chicago Outfit.

In the U.S., Mad Dog Coll was retitled Killer Instinct, probably to cash in on the recent success of Basic Instinct.  The entire cast was featured in the sequel, the Menahem Golan-directed Hit the Dutchman.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #84: The Forbidden Dance (dir by Greydon Clark)


Forbidden_danceDANCE!

I love to dance, I loved to teach others how to dance, and I love watching other people dance.  If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, then you know that I can not resist a film that features a lot of dancing.  It doesn’t matter if the director is inept.  It doesn’t matter if the script makes no sense.  It doesn’t matter if the actors don’t have a bit of acting talent to use to their advantage.  As long as the film features a lot of dancing, I’m happy.

Seriously, people, when in doubt … DANCE!

Let’s take the 1990 film The Forbidden Dance, for instance.  Now, if I wanted to be nit-picky, I could probably find a lot to criticize about this film.  I mean, this film even has a pro-environmental message and you know how annoyed I can get with message films.  And you know what?  You can do a google search and you can find all sorts of insanely negative reviews of this film.

But you know what?

I don’t really care about any of that.  This is, at heart, a dance film.  It features almost non-stop dancing, so I really can’t be too critical of it.  Add to that, it also features memorable performances from Sid Haig and the late Richard Lynch.  Unfortunately, neither Haig nor Lynch get out on the dance floor because, if they had, The Forbidden Dance would have been legendary.

The Forbidden Dance begins in the Brazilian rain forest.  A tribe of Native Brazilians is happily dancing and basically not bothering anyone.  As we learn later on in the film, the dance that they are doing is called the Lambada and apparently, the Brazilian government tried to ban it “because it was too sexy.”

(Amazingly enough and according to Wikipedia, the Lambada apparently was an actual dance craze back in 1990.  The Forbidden Dance came out on the exact same weekend as a competing film about the Lambada.  That film was called, appropriately enough, Lambada.  Strangely enough, two years ago, I randomly reviewed that film for this very site.)

Anyway, all the dancing and the fun is interrupted by the arrival of Benjamin Maxwell (Richard Lynch), a mercenary who works for a Big Evil Corporation.  Maxwell tells the tribe that they might want to stop dancing and leave because the rain forest is going to be destroyed.

Naturally enough, the tribe’s king responds to this by sending his daughter, Nisa (Laura Harring), to America.  Accompanying Nisa is Joa (Sid Haig), a witch doctor.  However, Nisa and Joa’s attempts to invade the headquarters of Big Evil Corporation results in Joa being arrested.

(Incidentally, you might recognize Laura Harring from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, where she played a similarly mysterious character who was lost and hunted in Los Angeles.)

Left to fend for herself, Nisa gets a job working as a maid for a wealthy family.  And while neither Mr. nor Mrs. Anderson has much interest in the backstory of the help, their son Jason (Jeff James) is a different story.  As Jason’s mother complains, Jason doesn’t have much interest in anything other than dancing.  And, when Jason spots Nisa dancing in her bedroom, he becomes intrigued with her.  Ignoring the snobbish reactions of his wealthy friends, Jason asks Nisa to teach him the Lambada!

And hey!  Guess what!  There’s going to be a dance contest and it’s going to be televised!  What better way to get a platform to protest the destruction of the Brazilian Rain Forest then by winning the contest?  Standing in the way of this plan: Benjamin Maxwell (who, in one icky scene, demands that Nisa dance for him), Jason’s parents and friends, and the fact that, through a complicated series of events, Nisa ends up being forced to dance in the sleaziest club in Los Angeles.

So, look — there’s all sorts of things that I could say about The Forbidden Dance but it features a lot of dancing so I’m inclined to be generous towards the film, especially since Laura Harring and Jeff James both know how to move and look really good dancing together.  I mean, the word Dance is right there in the title. The film promises dancing and it delivers.  Plus, it also delivers Sid Haig and Richard Lynch at their demented best.

So, why complain when you can … DANCE!?