Feeling the Burn: Death Spa (1989, directed by Michael Fischa)


Michael (William Bumiller) owns the hottest health club in Los Angeles but that may not stay true if he can’t do something about all the guests dying.  Members get baked alive in the sauna.  Another is killed when a malfunctioning workout machine pulls back his arms and causes a rib to burst out of one side of his body.  Shower tiles fly off the wall and panic a bunch of naked women.  A woman loses her arm in a blender and a man is somehow killed by a frozen fish.  Strangely, all of the deaths don’t seem to hurt business as people still keep coming to the gym.  Surely, there are other, safer health clubs in Los Angeles.

Michael suspects that his brother-in-law, David (Merritt Butrick), might be to blame for all of the trouble.  David is good with computers and since this movie is from 1989, that means that he can do anything.  (David is described as being a “hacker,” which may be the first time that overused term was used in a film.)  Michael feels that David has never forgiven him for the suicide of his sister.  Two useless cops show up to investigate the murders while the spa gets ready for Mardi Gras night.

This incredibly cheesy horror movie used to be a mainstay on HBO, where young viewers like me appreciated all of the gore and slightly older viewers appreciated all of the nudity.  Viewed today, Death Spa is a real nostalgia trip.  From the leg warmers to the bulky computers to the choreographed workout routines, this is a movie that could only have been made in the 80s.  The plot is beyond stupid but some of the gore effects were well-executed and that scene where the frozen fish comes to life continues to amaze.  Sadly, this was Merritt Butrick’s last film.  The actor, who was best known for playing Captain’s Kirk’s son in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, died the same year that Death Spa was released.

Film Review: Do or Die (dir by Andy Sidaris)


So, imagine this.

You and your BFF are at a luau in Hawaii.  Fires are being spun.  People are dancing.  Drums are being beaten.  It’s almost time to eat the pig and suddenly, you discover that a mysterious old man wants to speak to you.  The man is surrounded by armed guards but you’re used to that.  Both you and your BFF work for the government.  You blow things up and save the world for a living!

Anyway, the old man informs you that he is a master criminal named Kane.  He’s one of those “I’m going to take over the world” types but apparently, you keep thwarting his plans.  He’s a little bit upset about that and why not?  It’s hard enough trying to conquer the world without having somebody continually blowing up all of your friends.  He says that he’s going to have you killed.

Uh-oh!

But fear not!  Kane isn’t going to kill you right there and then.  It turns out that Kane has a code of honor that he lives by.  He may be evil but he believes in fair play.  So, Kane says that he’s going to kill you later.  Apparently, he’s hired six different teams of assassins.  Over the next couple of days, they’re going to try to kill you.  Fortunately, the team’s aren’t going to work together or anything intelligent like that.  That wouldn’t be fair.  Instead, they’re going to come at you one at a time.  Once one teams fails to kill you, they’re out of the hunt.

How would you react?  What would be the first thing that you and your BFF would do?

Would you make sure your guns were loaded, lock the doors, and then wait for the first team to make their move?

Would you try to make the first move, maybe trying to take out Kane right then and there?

Or maybe you would leave the country and try to start a whole new life under a new identity?

I’d probably go with the third option but that’s not what Donna (Dona Speir) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) do when Kane (Pat Morita) tells them that they’ve been targeted.  Instead, they get topless and relax in the hut tub while discussing how much it sucks that someone wants to kill them.

Honestly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  The 1991 film, Do or Die, was directed by Andy Sidaris.  In a Sidaris film, a topless hot tub party plays much the same role as the family get togethers that often end the Fast and the Furious movies.  Still, it’s hard not to be a little bit disappointed by their sudden passivity.  After all, Donna is the same agent who previously used a rocket launcher to blow up Erik Estrada at the end of Guns.

Speaking of Erik Estrada, he’s back.  However, he’s playing a different character than he played in Guns.  Now, he’s a heroic agent named Rico.  When Donna and Nicole finally get around to letting their boss, Lucas (William Bumiller), know what’s going on, Lucas recruits Rico to help protect them.  Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) and Shane Abilene (Michael Shane) are also brought in as well.  Shane still has terrible aim.  I know that’s a running joke in all of the Sidaris films but you really do have to wonder why the government continues to employ someone who sucks at a huge part of his job.

Anyway, Donna and Nicole eventually head for the mainland but that doesn’t do much good because Kane put a tracking device on her watch and Donna apparently lost several IQ points between the end of Guns and the start of this movie.  At first, they go to Vegas but eventually, they end up in Louisiana.  This leads to the usual remote-controlled boats and helicopters, the same ones that appear in nearly every Sidaris film.  Needless to say, a lot of stuff gets blown up.

And it’s all pretty boring, to be honest.  It sounds like it should be fun, what with all the different assassins showing up and Kane getting more and more frustrated as Donna and Nicole continue to survive.  But, unfortunately, none of the assassins are that interesting.  Most of the film takes place in Caddo Parish.  My family lived in Shreveport for a year and a half.  I like Caddo Parish.  But it really can’t compare to Hawaii as far as photogenic locations are concerned.

Do or Die had potential but it got lost in the hot tub.

Film Review: Guns (dir by Andy Sidaris)


As you can probably tell by looking at the poster at the top of this review, the 1990 film Guns was Andy Sidaris’s attempt to make a Bond film.  Not only does the poster feature a man in a tuxedo and two gun-wielding women but the tag line even reads, “James Never Had This Kind of Help!”

(Of course, that’s not really true, as anyone who has seen Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, or For Your Eyes Only can tell you.)

Much like a Bond film, Guns features a secret agent fighting to defeat an international conspiracy.  The agent’s efforts lead her and her allies to several different cities in several different … well, really only one country.  Being a Sidaris film, it’s doubtful the Guns really had the budget to film anyplace other than the United States but still, the action does move from Lake Huvasa, Arizona to Hawaii to Las Vegas.  That’s about as close as a Sidaris film ever gets to featuring exotic locations.

(If Lake Havusa sounds familiar, that’s because Jimmy Kimmel gave away at trip to Lake Havusa during the Oscars.)

And like any good Bond film, Guns has a flamboyant and almost comically evil villain.  Juan “Jack of Diamonds” Degas (telenovela star and future reality tv mainstay Erik Estrada) is an international gun dealer and an all-around sociopath.  He’s the type who shoots someone and then smirks about it.  He’s so evil that he’s even got Danny Tejo working as his main henchman!  That’s really evil!  Estrada gives a surprisingly good performance in the role.  Especially when compared to the forgettable villains who appeared in Sidaris’s previous films, Juan Degas feels like a worthy opponent.  It’s not just that he’s evil.  It’s that he’s so damn smug about it.  You can’t wait to see him get taken down.

Degas is planning on smuggling a bunch of Chinese weapons into America through a base on Hawaii.  The only problem is that Donna (Dona Speir) and her new partner, Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez), are based in Hawaii!  Degas knows that he has to get rid of them if he’s going to have any hope of succeeding.  (For whatever reason, it never occurs to Degas to smuggle the weapons through Guam or American Samoa. I mean, there are other islands out there.)  When Degas sends two cross-dressing assassins to kill Nicole, they end up not only shooting the wrong woman but also killing a friend of Dona’s as well.

Now, it’s personal!

Except, it was already personal.  In a typical example of Sidaris’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along style of  plotting, it turns out that Degas previously killed Donna’s father.  And now, it appears that it might get even more personal because Degas has kidnapped the Attorney General of Nevada, who happens to be Donna’s mother!

Obviously, this means that it’s time to gather together another group of misfit agents and take down the bad guys.  That means that Savage Beach‘s Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane) and Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) both show up again.  It also means that a lovable magician named Abe (Chuck McCann) gets to help out as well.  Unfortunately, one member of the team is eventually blown up by a remote control boat.

That’s right!  A remote control boat!  For some reason, remote control vehicles were a Sidaris obsession and it’s not a Sidaris film without someone getting blown by either a remote control boat or helicopter.

Anyway, there’s a lot of explosions to be found in Guns but the good thing is that it’s women blowing stuff up and it’s women who are in charge of the entire operation.  That’s the thing with a Sidaris film like this one.  For all of the nudity and the double entendre-filled dialogue, Guns was an action films where women got to shoot the guns, beat up the bad guys, and ultimately save the world from a smirking misogynist.  When Donna picked up that rocket launcher, it was both ludicrous and empowering at the same time.

Guns is one of Sidaris’s better films.  For once, despite all of the usual Sidaris red herrings, the plot can actually be followed and Estrada is an appropriately hissable villain.  While the film may not be able to compete with the best of the Bond films, it’s still more fun that SPECTRE.

A Movie A Day #52: Overexposed (1990, directed by Larry Brand)


overexposedSomeone is stalking soap opera star, Kristin (Catherine Oxenberg).  She is receiving frightening notes and her coworkers are dying.  Who is after her and what does it have to do with a tragic fire at a birthday party?  Is it one of her jealous co-stars?  Is it her duplicitous boyfriend (David Naughton)?  Is it the stranger (William Bumiller) that she’s having an affair with?  Or is it the obsessed fan (Karen Black)?  Detective Morrison (Larry Brand) is on the case!

The return of Detective Morrison (played, again, by the film’s director) makes Overexposed a sequel to The Drifter.  (Both films were directed by Brand and executive produced by Roger Corman).  Morrison has much more to do in Overexposed than he did in The Drifter so maybe the plan was to launch a low-budget franchise of Detective Morrison movies.  It didn’t happen, because Overexposed is much less interesting than The Drifter.  The spoiled and rich Kristin is never a likable character and the movie’s real star was Oxenberg’s busy body double, Shelley Michelle.

Overexposed does have a few good scenes, including death-by-acidic-facial-cream.  The best thing about movie is Karen Black, who brilliantly delivered a monologue about why she loves television.  It doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the movie but Karen Black knocked it out of the park.  The monologue ends with Karen Black paying homage to The Mod Squad by shouting out, “Solid!”

Overexposed was forgettable but Karen Black?

Karen Black was solid.