After the disappointing outing DR3 was, DR4 opens to an encouraging back to basics approach. We’re back in a prison (albeit a different one – a city walled off) and Frankenstein is back to a brutal race. We get a quick recap with shots from the Statham film, to set the stage.Death Race still exists, but has been made illegal and gone underground, broadcast on the dark web from the walled off prison city (for a prison city though, they seem to be pretty well off with plenty of gas, bullets and booze. It’s not the wasteland Escape From New York was).
I’m not sure what Danny Glover is doing slumming in this film, but Danny Trejo makes a welcome appearance as Goldberg, now a bookie in Mexico and our real link to the outside world. He funnels supplies into the prison and takes bets on the race. We really get to see the race through his eyes. Frankenstein looks more terrifying than ever. The entire affair has more of a Mad Max feel to it, possibly stemming from the success of Fury road (released a year prior), and the opening treats us to gore at horror movie levels. Chainsaws, beheadings, this new Frankenstein is out of control, to the extent that the government is ready to move in and take over. Our hero this time around is Conner, a ringer snuck in to take out Frank in the race. He’s also about as charismatic s a block of wood, with a somewhat bored expression perpetually plastered on his face.
Of course it’s a new director so it’s a new vision for the series. The more stylized violence is a departure from the series. The fights are far more martial arts based, not the brutal street brawling that Statham was directed to do in Death Race. Also a departure is that Frankenstein is brought in as the straight up villain. Finally, the running time is a big departure, clocking in at nearly two hours. I’m not sold on the longer run time, I tend to think these things should stick to 90 minuets. It dosen’t quite pass the watch test, but there’s enough blood and antics to keep me amused.
It’s interesting to look at the cars. They’re evolving; not just guns, but fins and more spikes – you can see how they are growing into the cars we will see in DR2000. It’s ramshackle, something you can even see it in the tombstone on the back of Connor’s car. It feels welded and patched together, not the solid block of steel we’re used to. Still, it lends us a brilliant sequence where they are building the car and getting things ready. It’s good stuff, bonding the characters without lengthy exposition. And it makes me absolutely fall in love with the sassy, punky navigator for this movie. She still gorgeous, but it’s different kind of pretty. Not the glamorous street girls we’ve gotten used to in the past. Interestingly enough, she’s not the love interest for Connor, she’s really just there to help him with the car.
Of course, before you get a car, you have to fight. The gladiatorial bits are even more prevalent here, with both a dirt bike challenge and a hand to hand one, each streamed in all their bloody glory.
They get out of the cars a lot. Even though the race is really only the last half hour of the film, it seems like they are constantly finding reasons to get out of the cars and shoot at each other.
It’s not a bad film, certainly a step up from three and the twist at the end was actually well done. It’s worth a look, but be careful who you watch it with. There’s so much nudity in this thing that there’s characters who spend more time with their clothes off than on.
A week or two ago I was working on printing out the house from Nightmare on Elm Street. I found a model on Thingverse called “the puritan” that was really close, so I downloaded it to make some alterations. That’s when I realized the house was actually in pieces, like a model… there were over a dozen STL files. After altering the front so then I had the windows I needed, and extending the porch awning a little, I virtually assembled all the pieces in Microsoft 3D Builder. I’ve been dabbling in Builder here and there, mostly using it as a print engine rather than a design space because it’s so limited. However, when somebody suggested I should do the Evil Dead cabin next it got me thinking about the way I had assembled the Elm Street house.
Typically I use Bryce 7 to do basic 3D modeling. It’s good for organics and basic things, like the nerds candy mascot or a simple spaceship, and is really good for rendering with the way that it puts mapped textures on the models. However creating an object like a cabin, with the physical textures of the slats in the shingles on the roof would be incredibly difficult. Each tile, each board would have to be created individually and there’s no way to shortcut that in Bryce. There might be a way though, in 3D Builder!
While I can’t create complex shapes or use Boolean objects in 3D Builder, it does have a feature that’s incredibly useful. You can transfer two dimensional objects into three dimensional ones. That doesn’t mean that you can put in a photo of something and it’ll create a model of that, but if you take a black and white image, say something like a flag where you change the red stripes and the blue field to black and left the white parts white, 3-D builder will read the two different colors, and import the white elements, and give them some mass. It’ll treat the black elements is negative space and leave those flat. If you look up on Thingverse you’ll see a number of lithopanes done in this manner. I thought, “well what if I apply this to making the cabin?” I started off with a base, the walls have to be about the same size. On that base I drew stripes where the slats would be, and then added two squares for the windows, and one additional one for the door. I also added two black squares beside each window where the shutters would be. After creating the main part, I added a flat base for it to lay on, then created one more picture… The door frame and the details on the shutters (represented in green for the illustration) . I imported these three images into 3D Builder, then layered them one on top of another, each creating just a little extra upraised detail on top of the previous one. Once those three layers were created, I merged them into one object. This gave me my complete wall with wooden slats, and upraised frames and shutters. I repeated this process three times, creating each wall in the shape and detail that I wanted. Once I had all four objects created, I was able to assemble them, much the same way I assembled the Elm Street house.
That just left the roof.
Instead of creating individual shingles, the way I would’ve had to in Bryce, I instead drew a profile of the roof. It’s basically a big arrow, with jagged edges going up and down I drew this shape three times, altering the edges each time so that if you were lay those three images on top of each other, you would see some of those edges poke out from underneath each layer. That’s not too far from what I was planning to do in the first place here. I imported each of these images in the 3D Builder, and gave them a little bit of width, then stacked them on top of each other, creating a small portion of roof. I merged, copied, and then pasted. Now I have six sections of roof. I merged again, copied and paste it. Now I have 12 sections. I kept doing this until I had enough length to cover the top of the cabin, and ended up with a nice, rickety looking shingled roof that was uneven and detailed, perfect for what I’m trying to create.
There’s a few extra touches, adding the floor of the porch, and the four wooden supports in front of the cabin, adding the chimney and even the electric meter for kicks. But all the work this time around was done in 3-D builder. I ended up printing it out without any supports, just for the heck of it… I figured I’d have to go back and try and do the roof separately, but the way these shingles were designed, it actually ended up supporting itself, doing each tile individually, which gave it enough time to cool and set in place.
The end result is one of the 3-D builds I’m most proud of. Not just because of how nicely it came out, but because it’s something new, something different, done in a completely different program in format than what I’ve done before. 3D Builder is not replacing Bryce anytime soon, I still need to be able to do organic shapes and more complex objects then 3D Builder can handle, but I can definitely see myself leaning more and more into this app. It’s great to have another tool in my repertoire.
I don’t in fact, use that word. I’ve never under stood this “that’s our word” thing, and I have heard guys use that phrase with the term “Geek”. I don’t agree with that. I think it’s offensive in other situations as well, there are words that African Americans that’s apparently okay for them, but not if it’s used in a historical manner in Jango Unchained…Sorry, no. It’s just as vulgar and offensive coming from either mouth. You haven’t robbed a word of it’s p0wer, it hasn’t gotten watered down. It’s still used with hate from the people who look down on you.
If you want me to fix your computer (I went to school for that. It’s not a passion or hobby) then I suggest you don’t refer to me as a geek. Just because I read and write comics doesn’t make me like the term geek. If you’re calling me that I suspect I’m better read than you, because I can think of a dozen less offensive alternatives (and just as many unacceptable ones). I HATE the term “geek Culture” and the way we’ve tried to integrate it into our lexicon. I’m sorry, but I have no interest in salving the conscious of the cheerleaders, jocks, homecomnig queens and preps that now think the rows of consumer electronics are cool, like superhero movies now because they are blockbusters and suddenly want tech support.
Even as we tell ourselves that the idea of “the Geek” is becoming mainstream, we’re still laughing at them, not with them. Just watch the Big Bang Theory. I’m not sure exactly why it has such a big fanboy following. You’re the butt of those jokes guys. You really are. The alcholic, promiscuious aspiring blinde actress is the one they portray as “normal”. Everyone else is just a joke.
My point is simple. Stop accepting it. Wether you’re into comics, electronics, science, ect. don’t call yourself a geek and don’t let others call you it. It’s not a badge of pride, it’s just a surrender to a society that has tried to drag you down, probably your entire life.
Those are in fact, my actual all time top five favorite movies – though OZ Great and Powerful may have just bumped High Fidelity off the list. Moreover, I’ve actually gotten to see more than half of them on the big screen. Both Falcon and Tiffany’s were screening last year at different festivals in Cleveland!
Little Lost Serpent is obviously Jackson’s attempt at a kids film. He’d do a few of these, financed by a company that was looking for family fare. It’s written by collaborator Mark Williams based on a script by Jackson.
The film begins with saccharine sweet music and a comically nonthreatening middle-aged man wearing a stupid hat and driving through the streets of LA, interspersed with random shots of the ocean.
He’s revealed to be an investigative reporter and meets up with his equally goofy looking partner, Conrad Brooks, and they head out in a beat up old car with obnoxious polka music playing in the background.
After a discussion about how no one ever sees any space aliens or Bigfoot’s, they head down to the seafront to see if there was anything weird on the beach. Once there, they check their equipment – stakes instead just in case of vampires, silver bullets in case of werewolves.
“But what if we find Frankenstein?”
“If you find Frankenstein you do just one thing, run!”
On the beach, a couple of kids discover the lost little sea serpent in a bubble. The detectives observe this from a distance. The sea monster is another one of Donald Jackson’s beloveds hand puppets, probably inspired from Mark Williams FX work, but executed without the budget or skill of a conventional production. It’s cute from the correct angles, but static with limited motion. The kids decide to take him home.
The titular little lost sea serpent objects to be calling a sea monster, and prefers the term “Sea Serpent”. The yippy little dog of the house doesn’t like the sea serpent. This makes it harder t okeep him hidden and the kids start wondering what to do with him.
They ask dad, played with relish by the ever present Joe Estevez, this time portraying a sleezy tabloid reporter. According to Estevez, If anybody ever found out that someone had discovered a sea monster, the government will probably take it and cut it up. After hearing this the kids are more determined than ever to keep it a secret until they can find a home for him. First order of business is to wash him in the bathtub. He escapes course and eats the mom’s goldfish. Honestly, this would be really cute and funny if the puppet wasn’t so ridiculously bad.
The kids have to flee with the sea serpent when his tabloid reporter father comes home, racing on bikes back to the beach with dad in the hot pursuit. There at the beach, they discover the little lost sea serpent’s giant (and even less convincing FX) mother in the water, searching for her baby and they reunite mother and child.
This film has all the production value f you local church puppet video, with cheesy sweetness that would make Full House look positively dystopian. It’s bizarre nightmare fuel for any child who may have laid eyes on it.
Somehow, Jackson would continue to make kids movies for another year until the money ran out.
I headed out to the Toyhio show this weekend. It’s one that I’ve heard it before, but never actually made it out to because it’s so far out… past Akron, past Warren, past Youngstown, so close to the border that if you sneeze really hard, you’ll find yourself in Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, Toyhio is the first show since the Covid scare to gird it’s loins and say “Yes, I’m going ahead with my event”. I absolutely want to be there to support them, because somebody has to go first.
It’s not what I call a full-fledged convention, there is no programing. Much like the Harper shows, it’s a swap meet, a one day flea market, a wide ocean of toy vendors. I only saw one attendee in a costume, other than the local chapter Starfleet, which had a table with costumed characters and even a tribble throw game, all raising money for charity.
Don’t let that description under sell you though. While it’s all just one vast dealer’s room, it’s one of the biggest ones I’ve been in. The tables stretch on endlessly, wrapping around corners, through the foyer, through doors and hallways or doors… It’s exactly that sort of labyrinthian maze that really appeals to me, with the promise of secret treasures hidden in the furthest depths of the maze. I noted that the promoters had requested vendors to limit dump bins of loose figures, and was pleased to see that they had disregarded that request. I dove in and dug endlessly.
To be clear though, this is really a collector focused show. If you’re the kind of guy who is searching for that one specific transformer where they painted the stripes black instead of white, or that one action figure that they only made 3 1/2 copies of, this is a place for you. Lots of figures behind glass, tons of vintage things that are still sealed in the box. A collector could walk into this room with $1000 of cash in his pocket, and walk out broke. I, on the other hand, am one of those guys always searching for deals. Those are harder to find here, but they do exist. I manage to score some battered he-man vehicles cheap, and wrecked the quarter bins of comics I found, as well as finding the loose Ghostbusters figure I need to customize into a Tracy. By the way, what’s going on with the Real Ghostbusters? They all suddenly shot up in price, both here and online! I’m seeing vintage ones still in the box EVERYWHERE now, and the loose, beat-up figures with no accessories that I was paying 3 to 5 dollars for a year and a half ago or suddenly now are going for 10 to 15!
The real find of the day for me though, was a loose Joker figure from wave one of the superpowers collection. I passed on a ridiculously low priced one several years ago at Great Lakes Comicon, and for me to find him here at that same price… Well I didn’t hesitate this time. He’s one of those figures that fetch ridiculous amounts of money, alongside Batman figures from that line and I never thought I’d actually managed to complete the collection with him on a bill. His suit’s discolored a little, and there’s some paint worn off that I can restore, but all in all, I’m thrilled to have him sitting up there on the shelf with the other figures, right next to the penguin.
Toyhio is a really fun show. I’m pleased to say it was well attended, drawing well over a thousand people with lots of parents bringing kids to browse through the wares. I wish it were closer, because I suspect that it would be a regular afternoon stop once or twice a year, but considering I’m spending as much time driving to and from it as I am lurking through the halls, it’ll probably be a while until I return. Nevertheless, if you’re in eastern Ohio, this should definitely be on your event list!
The Green Hornet has some great talent working on it since the Dynamite relaunch…
Death Race 2 ended with the creation of Frankenstein. DR3 opens with Frankenstein having won his fourth race. One more and he goes free. There’s just one small problem. The race has changed hands and the new owner isn’t as keen on keeping that bargain.
Between the films, it appears the pit crew never knew that Frankenstein was actually Lucas – their fallen comrade. His identity is revealed in the opening minuets of this entry though, along with the fact that he’s been getting some reconstructive surgery to fix his face (so Luke Goss doesn’t have to wear makeup or a mask for this whole film)
All of this feels very episodic. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was filmed back to back with DR2 because of how easily the characters slip back into their relationships. I suppose we can chalk that up to this film being made by Roel Reiné, the director of the previous film. We’re still following his vision, which is pretty close to what Anderson wanted when he made Death Race. The continuity makes this comfort food. Still, there’s some new faces with Dougray Scott taking over for Laurie Cohan as the villain. After he wrests control of Ving Rhames’ company and acquires the Death Race, he takes a very hands on approach to administration, chewing the scenery every chance he gets.
The Death Race has a new twist. The navigators have to fight for their positions, echoing the Death match of the previous film. It’s an interesting twist to let us know that all bets are off and the rules don’t matter anymore. The team is shipped off to Africa to race against new prisoners in a desert track. Its a different kind of race, that takes us through a village. The residents and the warlords are none to happy to see them and It gives us a glimpse of what the race will eventually becoming Death Race 2000.
It also presents us with a problem. At this point in the sequels, you have to do things that are new and innovative, things we’ve never seen before. This is just a step down from “Death Race in space!”. The problem is that we’re still in prequel mode, with this taking place before the Statham Death Race or the Corman DR2000. Innovation feels out of place. The scriptwriters have just about given up too, simply content to drop Rob Zombie levels of f-bombs instead of crafting actual dialogue and cramming as much sex as they can into the halftime intermission. Moreover the bigger wrecks and explosions come at the cost of the racing action. The desert track not only completely changes the color palette, but it also slows things down.
The ending feels very contrived. It’s an attempt to get things in line with the continuity established in the Statham Death Race while attempting to give us a satisfying conclusion with this crew. It’s certainly not what I expected, with a voice over recapping and explaining how everything fits together (kind of like the end of Oceans 11 or a Sherlock Holmes story) but it doesn’t drag the film down too much.
I have to give this film a bit of a break, with each installment the budget has been slashed (I don’t get how that works anyhow. Seems like you should get more money for a sequel, not less) and the move overseas was likely budgetary rather than aesthetic. Still, it’s one of the weakest films in this run, and that watered down feeling from DR2 is even more keenly felt here. This one is a safe skip, and I would have bet it was the end of the road for this series. In fact, it was, but only for a little while.
I’m sitting here, trying to think of what to say about the late Denny O’Neil, who passed away last week. Certainly there’s no one besides Batman’s creators that had more of an impact on the stories of the Dark Knight than Denny. It’s not just that he wrote the Batman stories that dragged Batman away from the camp and back into the dark, it’s also his decades as editor for the Batman line, providing a steady hand and unified vision for the character.
But for me, it was his monthly column “From the Den”, that appeared at the end of the letters page across the Batman titles. It was there that O’Neil would muse about random things, subway pickpockets in New York, whether he was too old to keep going by the nickname “Denny”, or if television was really the key to everlasting life. As a kid living in the middle of nowhere, there were no comic conventions for me to go and meet the professionals, and peek behind the curtain so to speak. There was no facebook to friend them, no internet interviews posted on the company webpages. But through this sort of column, I felt like I was able to get a glimpse of that life, making comics in the big apple…and I’m glad I took the time to tell him this face to face.
One of the obits I read referred to Denny as “Legendary DC editor”. Denny never saw himself as legendary. He was just a guy doing a job. But nevertheless, I feel entirely justified in saying we have lost a giant.
Guest Starring Troma’s Lloyd Kauffman!
It makes sense to take a quick diversion here into the films of Maximo T. Bird – that is to say, the pseudonym of Donald Jackson. As the 90’s began, Jackson, disillusioned from his experiences at Roger Corman’s New World pictures had exited the studio system completely, exclusively raising money and shooting independently. It would be during this time that he would eventually take on “Zen Filmmaking” as his standard. However, before he’d refocus on Sci-Fi fantasy zen films he found himself mired in exploitation.
While quite smutty, I struggle with what exactly to call these films. Are they porn? Jackson is certainly using porn actresses. During the production of “Guns of El Chupacabra” Don came up with the idea of going to the major adult film casting agency in L.A., where he was sure he’d easily be able to get some female talent who were willing to work in the nude. As there was no on-screen sex involved in that film, something that these girls did for a living, he was certain this would be a far easier sell. Jackson paid the two-hundred dollar casting fee, looked through their books, chose some girls, and got their numbers. He’d be making good use of that list of phone numbers for the rest of his career to provide ample nudity and the occasional sex scene for his films.
The thing is, is that enough to make it qualify for Porn? Would you call for instance, Paul Verhoven’s “Showgirls” porn? It also has copious amounts of nudity and sex scenes FAR more graphic (enough to get them slapped with a “NC-17” rating rather than a “R”) than anything we ever got from Jackson. But it also has more story and intent than a lot of these halfhearted attempts by Jackson under the Bird name. The main sort of titillation seems to come from girls walking around and various stages of undress and the vacuous looks of pleasure on their faces.
Many of them feel almost as if someone hired Jackson to make a porn film, and he set out to do as poor job of it as possible (and let’s face it. It’s HARD to screw up porn). It makes me think of Ed Wood’s later films, things like Orgy of the Dead, where the subject matter is definitely meant to be pornographic, but the filmmaker still clings to this fantasy of making real films and injecting some sort of genre plot. This isn’t like something from say, Jim Wynorski – who, when he makes porn… He lets you KNOW it’s porn. These films seem to be trying very hard to straddle the fence between those two worlds; an uncomfortable position to say the least, especially in an animal print thong.
The other thing is, I can’t understand exactly to whom this was marketed. It’s too racy and amateur from mainstream video stores, but not racy enough for an adult bookstore. It would’ve been perfectly normal to see this in one of the grindhouses of the 70s and 80s. “The Devil’s Pet” for instance was released in 1994, the year Rudy Giuliani was elected so it may have made it in as a last gasp before he cleaned up New York. A great deal of Jackson’s work would also end up overseas. He was a regular at The American Film Market, which would attract buyers from all over the world. Also it was still in the thick of late-night Cinemax, and when other filmmakers like Jim Wynorski would make this kind of stuff, that’s where it would end up.
And this is where I’m conflicted. We don’t review or promote porn here. But this is still a pretty integral illustration of Jackson as a filmmaker. So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to pick four of these movies that best illustrate the Bird films, and basically give you some descriptions so hopefully you can know enough to avoid them. Let’s start with “It’s Showtime.”
For a moment “It’s Showtime” feels like a return to Donald Jackson’s original documentary roots. Actually, a straight documentary would have been a much better film. Interesting that in this case he uses the bird pseudonym as a film editor, but his real name appears as a director. It’s one of those tricks to pad the crew list and make it look like more people actually worked on this movie than actually did. What’s notable though that it foreshadows the way he’d soon start using it as a pseudonym to fully separate his smut work from the family films he’d start trying to push around this same time.
The movie starts off with a bunch of talking head clips of different strippers, describing what it’s like to work in the industry before heading into the club itself to show the atmosphere. The documentary opening may have been a mistake though. The film itself is a traditional narrative and this highlights how staged it is. We’ve got a familiar face in Robert Z’Dar behind the bar. He’s not around for long though (likely only worked one day on this one) after propositioning one of the dancers to “get ahead “. That proposition gets him fired by the manager/den mom, but as he leaves He threatens them – “I’ll be back” (He makes up on this promise a few minutes later in the alleyway with a knife)
In the meantime, the strippers discuss your lives and one falls on stage, twisting her ankle. Backstage, they examined her heels and find that one has been damaged… Sabotaged! We also
the Mafia type owners who are pigs of course, trying to get favors from the girls. For about ninety seconds it becomes a study of who will and who won’t. It almost wants to be a cautionary tale, but like a kid with ADHD the movie immediately loses focus and goes back to more scenes of the dancers. The monotony of random dancing is broken up when the partner of one of the dancers shows up and goes nuts. This lasts for about three minutes before heading back to dancing and random dialogue. We then get a quickie love affair for the manager that’s made up of a three minute sex scene then two more minutes of the happy couple riding rapturously on horseback. Before it’s time to jump scenes again.
A poolside birthday party is up next, where the girls dance like strippers even when not at work. Another bartender is fired with a cake to the face. Finally we hit the Halloween party at the club. The cops come in, shut it down and arrest the owner so we have some semblance of plot and closure.
Ultimately this seems to want to be just a slice of life – a week in the life of a strip club. Imagine if “Showgirls” had no plot and never got out of that first strip club? That’s what this film is. There are no character arcs, no pathos, no relationships, no goals… Just ordinary life, but in this seedy setting with its almost cartoonish owners and hapless den mother/manager. If you were to pull all of the dancing inserts, the run time would likely drop by half.
On to the next one. “Queen of the Lost Island” also goes by the name “The Devil’s Pet”. Like “It’s Showtime”, the camerawork actually looks decent despite the fact that the sound quality is muddy. We also get the occasional directors trademark where the corners of the screen are periodically cut off from not removing the lens cap properly. It begins with a man dreaming of topless cavewoman and Robert Z’Dar.
Reporters hound him outside a Beverly Hills hotel, asking about people who died on the mysterious island. It seems he is a sole survivor of a trip, and there to tell his story to a magazine writer.
Flash back to Z’Dar, doing a photo shoot in the woods (I can’t help but notice how small the camera is by the way – no special lenses, just a kind of average to high and snapshot camera) . They make an appointment to head to the island for the next shoot. While there, the model starts to have flashes of sinister natives (Possibly a goddess or the spirit of the island, depending on which source you go with). She and her boyfriend find a mysterious bottle filled with a drug that triggers off a series of dire foreshadowing quick cuts. The drug seems addictive though, and inflames passions. They leave the bottle behind where it turns Julie Strain into a topless, native, wild woman. We’ll see quite a bit of her wandering and swinging her sword as filler inserts, designed to stretch this to feature length.
We cut back to our main character, talking about moving onto his next job – shooting girls by the pool. The girls fall into the typical stereotypes, the brain, the slut, and the nice girl. A phone call comes in, and the photographer is off to the island with the three girls. Their arrival is observed by the previous visitors to the island, now mentally changed by the bottled drug.
More topless sword swinging.
The photographer begins work with one of the models (He’s got the same plain camera as Z’Dar), while the other two are discovered by the survivors on the island. Sword girl begins a ritual that seems to be felt by the other survivors. It also seems to summon other native girls on the island to come and chase our helpless models. Our good girl model is forced to drink the strange elixir and everything that entails.
Jackson also resorted to another one of his trademarks, when in doubt go for the quick cuts. The final 15 minutes are almost all quick flashes from scene to image to seeing to image. He even manages a twist ending of sorts. It’s the sort of things that don’t make it feel like it wants to be more than just smut. Indeed, it’s listed on IMDb a “horror” rather than “adult” or even just “independent”. Whatever it is, this film is garbage and even at seventy five minutes this is too long. I watched this on 1.4x speed, and updated that to full double time for the last twenty minutes. Even reduced to 47 minutes it’s too long. I’m a little surprised it didn’t end Jackson’s career. It didn’t though and it moves us on to “Big Sister 2000”.
With Maximo T. Bird and Julie Strain in the credits, I’ve already got a pretty good idea what Big Sister 2000 is going to be like. If that weren’t enough, then opening with a girl in a cage pretty much seals the deal. She is guarded by a man clad in black and decked out in hockey armor, a bandanna, and a top hat. He has a katana. Very much a Donald Jackson-looking character. She escapes and makes a run for it, and the men pursue her. The credits end and we switch to A girl at the shrinks office. He thinks she’s delusional, but she attempts to convince him that what she believes is real, and that there’s a threat “out there”.
Jackson is filming in his office again, and we’re back to the old standard of hanging up curtains to create different sets. There is a fine visual gag in the bedroom set though, a number of Jacksons films such as Frogtown, Kill Kill Overkill, and a copy of “the anarchists joke book”. If anything, the movie is worth it just for that!
A girl is kidnapped from her bed and taken to a dark location where she collapses and wakes up in a prison with three other women.
She’s brought to the theater of pain to be interrogated about her sex life. The questions are interspersed by the torment of other scantily clad prisoners.
Around the half hour mark she is visited by a ghost – the spirit of someone who came to this prison and never left. The ghost reassures her there is a way to escape but only if she tells them nothing. The interrogator can only be defeated if she doesn’t break her (The interrogator has superiors as well who will punish her for failure). We see all of this play out minutes after the ghost’s warning – the interrogator lies, fails and is dragged off by another torturer. Then it’s back to the quick cuts to distract us while the film tries to think of a new direction for the plot.
It’s around this halfway point that the film starts to change, shifting from a lesbian dominatrix fantasy to something more philosophical,l with the ghost making repeated visits and the girls considering the ramifications of being held prisoner. She’s given a new interrogator. this time it’s a man who seems more serious about the job and is looking for a book from her collection. She uses interrogators and weaknesses against him to escape.
Using newly acquired guns, they attempt to navigate the surrounding junkyard (a standard Jackson outdoor set) fleeing armed guards, bullets, and the betrayal on one of their own according to the ghost’s prophecy. Our heroine escapes alone, with the ghosts benediction of “Be strong, go on the light”.
Finally, we discover her boyfriend is one of them and he explains what it’s all about – the men are searching for the anarchists jokebook because if people start making fun of the government, it will do what the government tells them to do! She shoots him and makes good her escape. This brings us back to the beginning where she is telling the shrink about the secret prisons. The problem is, the psychiatrist is in on it too and now, it’s time to escape again.
The weird thing about this is that despite all the garbage in this film, there really is an interesting story here. It almost feels as if Jackson had enough material for half a movie and needed an extra 40 minutes of filler – this is where the smut comes in. It’s a little disappointing, because it feels like he could’ve developed this into something bigger, better, if he’d taken some time to craft a good script. A good scriptwriter can overcome the shortcomings of the meagre cast. Instead, it looks like Jackson charged in with a story and half a script, leveraging his connections with various porn stars to create something quick, rather than taking time to create something good. It’s a problem we’d see time and again from Jackson. Scott Shaw once observed “He had great creative ideas but he couldn’t get anything done.” Don always needed someone to collaborate with, someone who could push him and keep him moving instead of just meandering off task. It’s why I think he tended to produce so much better work under the studio system. However, instead of heading back to the studios, Jackson would move either farther away from them.
Out of nowhere, Maddie asked me to redo her Iron Sapphire armor! I’ve always been leased with it, but we had to completely remake the midplate expand the legs because she’s grown so much since the last time she wore it!
Every Wednesday and Friday
It starts off well enough, production values are professional and the locale is slightly wet – Hard to tell if it’s Flordia or Louisiana (It’s supposed to be Louisianan) But description promised voodoo and it’s not apparent immediately despite the lovely young African-American Lauren who leads our hero to a remarkably sterile house of ill repute. The joint remind me of the stark hallways we see in the projects of “Candyman” and the KEEP OUT sign on one of the doors is a little too on the nose. Instead of being obvious it just looks cheap. There is definitely something eerie going on behind that door though. When, from the depths of the cathouse a flying hand appears out of nowhere, I definitely feel like I’m in Charles Band territory. We have blood within the first 10 minutes and a nice intro as we switch into the story property in matters mystic and a nice 80s synth score.
After we’ve had some time to get used to our characters we are sent into a dream sequence which reminds me a great deal of the serpent and the rainbow. I like abstract dream sequences and for the sake of art and pure freakiness. It’s a bit of an attempt to elevate them a tad higher than it deserves, but it’s fun. We spent the first act talking a lot about the main characters father and how he believed he had discovered a method for raising the dead – it’s all good backstory, but it makes me really long to get the second act started in earnest. BTW, these people are far too pretty to be voodoo masters, but man, I can’t argue with that 80s spiral perm.
When the third act arrives, it doesn’t disappoint – though it does seem like this is an attempt to be more intellectual than we are used to in a Full Moon Film. It’s very traditional supernatural horror, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just I was hoping for a little bit more proper voodoo. Nevertheless, it’s inventive enough to remain entertaining andengaging, with a parting shot that’s a proper sendoff. Full Moon rarely dissapoints. Indeed, I’m not even sure what is doing on this collection – I checked there is no more from that studio but it was worth it just for this one.
Every Wednesday and Friday
Death Race 2, the sequel to Death Race, is actually the prequel to Death Race which is the prequel to Death Race 2000. …Okay. I think I have that straight.
Opening this thing on Danny Trejo is a good sign. And is that Sean Bean in the credit listing? I didn’t realize he was in this!
The film begins with a riot – basically trying for that bit of deleted story Paul Anderson talked about in the commentary for one. I can’t help but notice that the prison’s owner, unnamed in the previous film is now being referred to as the Wayland corporation. It looks like someone is trying to place this in the Aliens universe.
Our driver for this film is Lucas, a Jason Statham lookalike who goes down for armed robbery and murder. Inside prison he discovers the Death Matches going on – televised gladiator fights between randomly selected prisoners. It’s interesting to see the elements in the death matches that carry over to the death race. Power ups exist here too. Hit the panel, grab the weapon. The matches have the same slick TV productions and sports announcers. It’s easy to see how it evolved.
The mastermind of this is Laurie Cohen in her pre-Walking Dead days. Almost strange to see her glamored out with makeup and that full long hair. I didn’t even recognize her until I skimmed the credits. She sees Luke driving and hatches the idea of creating the Death Race.
We don’t get to the race (in it’s prototypical state) until nearly an hour in, but once we do, you’ll find the cars look familiar. There’s less explanation and they seem less personalized to the driver, but once we hit the track, we’re back on familiar territory, with racing that is just as frenetic as ever.
Don’t expect to see much of Frakenstien here. We get a bit at the very end when they show the origin of the character. It’s rushed, not quite what I expected, but it works.
In general, the film feels a tad watered down from the previous. The new cast feel like replacements, they’re fun, but lack the gravitas of Staham and Ian McShane. Nevertheless, it’s just as entertaining as it’s predecessor, and makes for a good sequel. It promises a good series.
The Tailor of Panama much wants to exploit the James Bond image of Pierce Brosnan. We open at MI6 where Brosnan, a disgraced agent is being retired to Panama.
I do wish these credits weren’t in comic sans. There’s some great names here, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geoffrey Rush, even Jon Pilato… But all that expensive talent looks cheap when written up in Comic Sans! Geoffrey Rush is the titular Tailor of Panama, married to Curtis and very much the subject of Brosnan’s attentions. Rush is actually an old con who learned tailoring in prison and fled to Panama start a new life. Unfortunately he’s in debt and all this knowledge makes him prime material for Brosnan to be able to leverage. It’s actually a really fun role for Rush, a nervous gentleman, in thrall to Brosnan’s bully, as he helps us make connections into the intrigue of the area surrounding a back channel sale of the Panama canal.
Brosnan’s got an interesting character this time around, he feels like a grizzled old New York detective, smoking and blunt, but it’s really Geoffrey Rush’s movie. He gives a fascinating preformance, and even though I’ve seen him in such different and varying roles before, I never doubt him.
The entire plot keeps you on your toes, wondering what is real and what is not, culminating in and clever ending that totally manages to satisfy. Despite being a little on the long side, the film is still a good recommend, but pick a night that you are committed to watching this – it’s not background noise or for casual viewing.