Sunday, September 23, 2012


The framework of "Terminator" has been replicated ad nauseam. The bulk of these clones turn out to be technically inferior. But some, like "R.O.T.O.R.," more than make up for this shortcoming with a winning combination of cheap action and idiotic fun. Director, producer, and idea man Cullen Blaine stands up to James Cameron admirably with the kind of hopeless positivity about the challenge that one might find in a ten year old who proclaims that they will one day be president. "R.O.T.O.R." moves forward on slim rails of its shoestring budget and its shoestring plot. It’s core elements being wonderfully odd reinterpretations of several 80’s blockbusters. The result is a fun, wildly-spraying hose of leaking thoughts on "Robocop," "Dirty Harry," and "Beverly Hills Cop."

The story centers around Dr. Coldyron (pronounced, “cold-iron”), a police scientist charged with the task of building the perfect, automated police officer. Unfortunately all funding allocated for the ROBOTIC OFFICER TACTICAL OPERATION RESEARCH has been picked clean by a descending ladder of corrupt officials. They’ve left only crumbs of the pie for Dr. Coldyron to work with. A clever piece of writing when used to explain away the under-developed R.O.T.O.R. technology that's prematurely animated by sex-deprived janitor “Shoeboogie”; he does this by sticking his switchblade-comb into an electrical field, which should give you some idea of the level of in-joking present. At least a Mona Lisa smile is occurring here. Now I understand that when you skim from the R.O.T.O.R. fund, your product isn’t going to come out looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the William H. Macy look-a-like that emerges from the plexiglass chamber is an unexpectedly perfect casting of "failure." It works perfectly as an undermining, non-force to be reckoned with that resonates hilariously throughout scene after non-threatening scene. The R.O.T.O.R. is left with little more than a stiff walk and “the ability to see things that already happened," a technology just one step up from the Casio watch. With this, he is supposed to stalk a third rate Linda Hamilton through the movie, not on the premise of destroying her unborn son, but because she was speeding. In my book, these things are successes. Look, it’s a silly, but fun film. Richard Gesswein is so fucking fun to watch in this. Any time this guy talks it is worth my time. A tenth-rung Marlboro Man type with a queasy Dirty Harry delivery that would be more appropriate for a NyQuil commercial, he takes the part of sub-Clint Eastwood badass to soaring new heights of  action-hero absurdity as Dr. Coldyron. Coming in at a close second is Dr. Steele, a female scientist with body-builder frame that comes in handy while running interference with the power of the R.O.T.O.R. Her skunk-striped mullet-perm tops off muscles bursting from a black tank-top and huge cargo pants.

The first twenty minutes of the film are the absolute best, featuring a deliriously surreal board meeting where the R.O.T.O.R. technology is introduced. The ambition of the filmmakers is held out on their sleeve here, take it or leave it. Please, take it! Take everything about it! Dr. Coldyron explains in great detail why complicated (see “expensive to put in a movie”) robotics are unnecessary thanks to Dr. Steele’s design. The crammed table of curious officials endlessly rub their chins. Meanwhile, a shitty looking dime store robot demonstrates its ability to salute, bend over and kung-fu kick! The choppy stop motion display is interspersed with an AMAZING Q&A session from which everyone's answering machine deserves a clip. The esteemed panel offers priceless dialogue juxtaposed against the cheesy effects expounding on the philosophy of crime and punishment in the overall context of a film called "R.O.T.O.R." for God's sake! This is the shit dreams are made of! The film can often be felt bursting out of the seams of its tiny budget like this, and the viewer benefits in SPADES!

Some other notable highlights include the good doctor exploding dead trees on his ranch using lassos of dynamite, more equally juicy dialogue between Dr. Coldyron and his boss, the token black cop named “Detective John Mango”, and the R.O.T.O.R. waiting in the bushes to issue speeding tickets like any good police technology of the future would. My only complaint involves the missed opportunity to use the shot of Gesswein feeding coffee to his horse from a massive “TEXAS COFFEE CUP” for the back of the box art.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I’ve seen a lot of people compare “Slime City” to films like “Basket Case” and “Street Trash,” but there’s just absolutely no fucking way it comes anywhere near being as great as either of those two films. In fact, it’s not really great at all. It’s merely okay. Granted, it has some fun gore and neat scenes, but the stuff that strings it all together is mediocre. The films people often compare this to have all the good parts, but they also have characters you feel invested in, and the stories are beyond bizarre. On the other hand, director/writer Gregory Lamberson’s “Slime City” is a very basic possession tale in a goopy casing. We’ve seen this story done before, and way better.

Basic premise is this: Alex moves into an apartment building. Alex’s neighbors consist of some Nick Cave looking vegetarian poet by the name of Roman and an over-sexed metal groupie named Nicole. Nicole is almost a selling point for Alex since his girlfriend Lori is a total virgin prude. Soon Alex is fraternizing with his co-habitants, and he’s turned onto some odd green goop via Roman, who passes it off as Himalayan yogurt. He also imbibes a green alcoholic elixir from Nicole, which was brewed by some warlock relative. Soon, Alex is leaking plasma and feeling not so well. The only thing that seems to stabilize “the slimening” is visceral, splattery homicide.

Alex, being the college type that he is, quickly puts two and two together, and dogs Nicole into a reveal. The apartment building was in fact the sight of some mass death pact orchestrated by cult leader Zachary. The Himalayan yogurt he’s been addicted to is actually ectoplasm containing the essence of the spirits that died in the building – and this is probably the only thing in the movie I really loved. The more he consumes, the more possessed he becomes. From here, the movie meanders toward its conclusion with a few cool gross-out spots.

First off, Robert C Sabin, who plays Alex, is fucking horribly cast here. I’m not saying he’s untalented, but he’s an unlikable type that should only be playing villainous nerds, or the annoying fag hag that cock blocks his hot female friends, or maybe a homicidal hairdresser. He exudes a smarminess that makes you want to punch the guy in the throat repeatedly. There’s no way that anyone could possibly want to root for this guy, and I certain had a hard time believing he was sexually frustrated from lack of heterosexual action. He’s just a totally unlikable personality. In fact, he’s down right bratty, which is not something you want to see in your male lead.

So-so Mary Huner plays both Lori and Nicole. Not sure why, as it serves absolutely no creative purpose. Whenever she plays Nicole, she dawns a horrible Cher wig that smothers her already limited sex appeal.

And then there’s the location. While the movie was shot in New York City, you just never get the feel that we are IN New York City. In fact, it feels like more Dayton, Ohio. 

I think by 1988, writer/director Greg Lamberson had a very clear idea as to what kind of movie he wanted to make, which was a cult film. As a result, the whole thing has a very disingenuous feel to it. I DO think he was very passionate about the film, and the enthusiasm is there, but “Slime City” attempts to fit a mold rather than create one of its own. It aspires toward a cheap aesthetic already defined by a host of other films that were honestly struggling to be free of their budgetary constraints. There’s just little that feels natural about “Slime City,” though I do think the enthusiasm with which it is executed is entirely genuine and rooted in a true appreciation for the kind of films it aspires to be like. I just can’t call this a cult classic as it lacks a real independent spirit that you see in movies like “Street Trash” and “Basket Case.” They not only went for the throat, but they weren’t trying to be anything other than what they were. They were and still are odd ducks in spite of the fact that a lot of people strive to emulate them.

Still, Lamberson is to be commended for a showing a lot of heart. Unfortunately, it takes more than passion to make something entirely worthwhile. This is a very nice tribute, but heart and soul are not necessarily the same thing. 

Lamberson returned in 2010 with a sequel titled, “Slime City Massacre.” It looks both interesting and horrible.


 First of all:

Goddamn right.

You ever have one of those out of town trips where absolutely everything that could possibly go wrong does, but then several months down the line you’re looking back and see the humor in the absurdity of your awful luck? Well, “The Party Animal” is kind of like that. I totally enjoyed my initial viewing of the movie, but it's become hysterical in retrospect. I'll replay the scenarios from the film in my head and realize I missed some minor detail that augments the entire mess and makes it that much funnier.  It is so packed with nuance that things are bound to slip by you the first time. At its core, it’s a typical boner comedy, featuring a level of stupidity that is so ornate that it must have required a level of genius to construct. It is sophisticated yet it never aspires to SEEM sophisticated, and therein lies its genius. 

The story follows Pondo Sinatra, a hopelessly horny redneck doofus who literally falls off the turnip truck at a university that’s brimming with amply endowed co-eds. Unfortunately, Pondo is so exuberant in his attempts to get laid that most of the girls want absolutely nothing to do with him. Enter Pondo’s best friend, Studly (Timothy Carhart), a guy who seems to have all the luck with the ladies. Studly runs Pondo through a ringer of advice on how to score, but nothing really pans out. In fact, our protagonist winds up virtually mutilated anytime he listens to Studly.

The events of the film itself are relayed through a mockumentary wrap-around, with Studly recollecting Pondo’s pathetic attempts to get laid while a bevy of beautiful women rue the day they met this confederate chump. We also learn that Pondo has somehow achieved cult celebrity status, which they don't fully explain til the final quarter of the film, when Pondo unwittingly invents a chemical that inspires uncontrollable nymphomania in women and SOME men.  I won’t go any further into detail since that would actually spoil things for the uninitiated, but the conclusion is really quite surprising.

While a lot of the gags are clever, one still gets the impression that the filmmakers did not achieve everything they had intended in terms of story. In particular, the mysterious blond woman who seems to act as mere watcher over Pondo and his struggles with the opposite sex may or may not have a payoff. Who she is or what her purpose may be is really left up to the viewer's interpretation.

Matthew Causey was blessed with tremendous physical comedic sensibility. The film entirely succeeds because of Causey, whose performance is the centerpiece of the film. Pondo is a lecherous creep, but also incredibly likable and sweet at the same time - a rare and difficult mashup of qualities to pull off. Causey has since gone on to teach drama at several universities, and sadly he has disowned the film. It's really a shame he didn't go on to do more work in this specific vein, as he is truly something special to behold here. This is duel shrine and grave marker dedicated to the career of a truly charismatic talent.

A major contributing factor to this film’s greatness also has to be its soundtrack, the bulk of which is provided by the Buzzcocks. The film also features the track “Rain” by Dream6, who later went on to become Concrete Blond.

Seriously, there's very little that this movie doesn't get right. Even its faults somehow enhance the whole thing. The soundtrack rips, the humor is without any sort of racial or sexual sensitivity, and the nudity is both high in quality and merciless in its abundance. It’s really a shame they don’t let people make fun movies anymore. 

Friday, September 7, 2012


By special guest reviewer Gerard Cosloy of Can't Stop The Bleeding

A cultured, worldly type like Max has no patience for something as pathetic as football. I, however, am not nearly as sophisticated.  Though I am  fully aware the game is brutally exploitative at the amateur level and far more rigged than professional wrestling , I've been a near religious viewer since a very young age.  Whether it's my taste for intense competition or a latent desire to see burly dudes playing grabass is for others to decide.  Either way, few teams offered nearly as much entertainment value as the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders of the 1970's and '80's. 

Led by the anti-establishment icon Al Davis, the Raiders' rosters featured a dizzying array of reprobates, social misfits and borderline criminals.  Jack "The Asssasin" Tatum crippled one of my childhood heroes, WR Darryl Stingley, in a meaningless exhibition game.  Though remembered by film fans for his tiny roles in "The Goonies" and "Caveman", John Matuszak, aka  "The Tooz", consumed quantities of booze and pharmaceuticals at a rate so rapid, Oliver Reed and Keith Moon come off like Ian MacKaye. But no Raider embodied the club's renegade commitment to ass-kicking nearly as much as Lyle Alzado.

Hailing from Brooklyn and holding a collegiate resume from lightly regarded Yankton College (South Dakota), Alzado terrorized opposing quarterbacks as much as any defensive end of his generation. By the time of his first retirement in 1985, he'd become an unlikely mainstream celebrity. A 1988 Canadian TV sitcom featured Alzado as a prep school vice principal by day, professional wrestler by night ; despite a litany of cameos from the likes of Ric Flair, Jimmy Garvin and The Road Warriors, "LearningThe Ropes" was mercifully cancelled after 26 episodes. 

Alzado died of brain cancer in 1992, but not before publicly attributing his illness to years of steroid use.  "Learning The Ropes" would've been the high-water mark of Alzado's acting career were it not for his titular role in the 1988 feature, "Destroyer".  Alzado plays the hulking, mega-ripped serial killer Ivan Mozer, whose botched execution by electrocution is somehow covered up by a prison riot that happens right after the stoney lonesome suffers a power failure.  Credited with "the rape, torture and murder of 23 people" before the big zap ("24", corrects Mozer, who insists on watching a poorly disguised version of "Wheel Of Fortune" with his final moments on this mortal coil), Mozer is thought to have perished in the riot, but that would make for a rather short film

Fast forward a few years later and the abandoned penitentiary is being used as the set for "Death House Dollies", a rather undistinguished women-in-prison saga with a phoning-it-in Anthony Perkins calling the directorial shots.  As you've probably already guessed, it's a perfect opportunity for Mozer to resume his killing spree, this time with his dear old dad (a security guard on the premises) acting as an accomplice. It's not exactly mind-blowing stuff, except the humongous Alzado chomps into the task with malevolent glee. Sweating, cackling, stomping, Alzado acquits himself nicely as a psychotic killing machine, albeit one who isn't on screen nearly long enough.  Too much of the film concerns the relationship between David Harris (Clayton Rohner) and Susan Malone (Deborah Foreman).  The former has dived headfirst into Mozer's case-file; the latter (only referred to as "Malone", either lovingly by her boyfriend or far less romantically by a gasping or bellowing Alzado) is one of the "Death House Dollies" stunt persons (and as such, soon becomes a candidate for rape-torture-murder at the hands of Mozer).

There's a somewhat murky look to much of Mozer's murderous rampage, and only one moment in the film where Alzado is allowed to employ the awesome jackhammer he's shown brandishing on "Destroyer"'s  VHS box.  It's not exactly a case of false advertising, but you'd be excused from thinking the jackhammer got a little more play in the film.  Perhaps it was a rental (much like some of the lighting gear) and it had to be returned before the film was completed.  You're probably not gonna see a Criterion Collection edition with much background into, so my guess is as good as any. 

All complaints aside, the filmmakers might not have gotten the most out of Alzado, but he had a real physical presence/knack for playing the uber-monster. No interest/appreciation for his athletic exploits --- however chemically-enhanced  they may have been --- is required to enjoy his not-so-nuanced take on mass murder (followed by more mass murder).


Editor’s note: The film also features a JimTurner in a small role as burnout special effects guru Rewire. Not much of a stretch for Turner, who is best known as one of MTV’s original mascots, Randee of the Redwoods.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


The market for a Bruceploitation encyclopedia is probably the size of a pinhole, but the films which make up the subgenre are such a huge component of the real Bruce Lee’s legacy that it would be a terrible thing if it never happened. Most of the imitators that popped up in the wake of Bruce’s death were poor substitutes, sure, but the cascade of productions that were churned out to sate the leftover demand kept Bruce’s likeness in the public’s awareness for a generous period after his final film was released. After the real Bruce died in the Summer of 73, a slew of Asian studios spent the next decade churning out loving tributes and bio pics which used strained variations of his name and likeness. Most of these films were unwittingly in poor taste, though a small handful deliberately took a seedier rout by expanding on gossip. Some speculate the genre that came to be known as Bruceploitation may even predate Lee’s actual death, with several fake Bruce films said to have been produced in Taiwan in 71 or 72. Really, though, no matter what you think of the slew of Bruce imitators or their films, there is no denying that they have some historical value in the context of martial arts cinema and also with respect to embellishing Lee’s legacy. Despite all this, there really isn’t any one great source of information when it comes to these films. Instead, you’re lucky to find a vague thread or review here or there that is usually woefully inaccurate or may not even have anything to do with the film you’re researching in the first place. Such was the case when I sought out more information on the Unicorn Video title “Golden Sun.” I found a lot of disparaging reviews, but none of them really matched the description of the film I saw. IMDb even lists Bruce Le as the star of this particular film, and adding to the confusion connects Ho Chung-Tao to Le’s page. That’s gotta suck slightly since they are not the same actor, and Le was actually convicted of fraud in China at some point. What I can be certain of is this: “Golden Sun” is not an alternate title for this movie.

Nor is it a Bruce Lee biopic either. Instead, it’s in the same vein as another Li film, “Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger.”

In “Golden Sun,” Li plays a martial arts enthusiast who takes the news of Lee’s passing pretty hard and hits the bars to drink his sorrows away. During the ensuing blackout, a vision of Bruce Lee appears before him. Somehow this rings ominously, and Li decides he has to get to the bottom of his idol’s true cause of death. I don’t really know why or how he comes to the conclusion that something rogueish went down, because Bruce’s “ghost” doesn’t say a damn thing. So, Li makes way to a Buddhist temple, where he is put to the test by the monks to determine if he is ready to avenge Bruce’s death. He passes with flying colors, and has another vision of Bruce, and this time he sees his hero getting his ass whipped by some dude. Shortly after, Betty Ting is introduced as a character, and it’s not long before a shady bunch of hooligans start to get nervous about Li’s inquiries into his hero's death. The whole thing gets muddy from here on out, with a lot of running back and forth and a handful of ploddingly paced, lackluster fight scenes.

Eventually Li discovers that Bruce was bumped off by a bunch of East Asian gangsters who were trying to convince the film star to join their fight promotion. And of course, when Lee declined, they had their goons fatally kick his ass, which makes no fucking sense at all. If you have a guy on your pay roll that can kick the shit out of Bruce Lee, why don’t you just get THAT guy to fight for your promotion?

However, there is one scene that justifies the film’s abundance of mind numbing fight scenes and mangled logic, and that is the re-enactment of Bruce Lee’s actual death. One thing I liked about this is that they actually just let Ho play Bruce Lee instead of getting some other guy for the part. This makes sense mainly because virtually every character in the movie shouts, “Hey, you look just like the real Bruce” whenever they see Li. Even if they just did this to save a couple bucks, it’s ultimately rational from a creative point of view. Anyway, the death scene features Ho as Bruce retreating back to Betty Ting’s apartment after receiving a death blow from one of the heavies, where he proceeds to writhe around like Dick Van Dyke on poppers, doing back flops on the bed, jumping up and down on the mattress, and spitting up alcohol before eventually dying. It is hilarious in its white hot intensity.

Despite the gonzo nature of the film, it still manages to have some fairly dull stretches throughout. Still, it ought to be judged on its own merits instead of being confused for a number of other similar films. Hopefully, someday a tome dedicated to this wild subgenre breaks the surface and clears up a lot of misconceptions and offers a more objective appraisal of a lot of these films. Not to mention, there have got to be some really amazing stories regarding how these films got made. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from an interview with Ho Chung-Tao, a.k.a. Bruce Li. There are three other parts available on YouTube, and I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone check them out.