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Archive for December, 2020

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Closed for Christmas

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100

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

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98

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

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Xmas Avengers!

Costume

 

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essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

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The Demon Lover Diaries

jacksonindexTo end this series, we go back to the place where it all began; The Demon Lover.

The Demon Lover Diaries is NOT a Jackson film, but rather a fly-on-the-wall documentary, shot by the camera crew on  the film. And when I say the camera crew, what I mean is the dude who actually owns the camera and was therefore the one shooting most of the film. This crew came in expecting a more polished and structured production. What they got was a first time filmmaker and his admittedly on-the-fly filmmaking style.

Because the movie was being shot in Michigan, this out-of-town crew ended up staying with Jackson’s mother. While not approving of his film aspirations, she was humoring him and supporting the shoot. However, being a traditional evangelical  Christian, they were afraid of offending her, so the camera operator and his girlfriend presented themselves as man and wife as well as avoiding any mention of what the film index4was about other than “detective mystery”.

It’s so strange to see Jackson so young. I’m very used to seeing him middle aged and beyond. There’s an earnestness about him, but you can also see the fast talker that Scott Shaw would describe. He’d say anything to get the shot, promise anything to keep people working one more day, even if no one knew what that next day would entail. There’s a moment in the film where a couple of the girls start flinging whipped cream at each other. Jackson’s direction had been to improv the scene and it infuriated the camera operator. Some of the creme got on the camera and the absolute absurdity on top of the constant improved nature of the shoot was almost the last straw for him. Jackson talked the man down by offering the index3.jpgpreviously pro bono cameraman a thousand dollars to finish.

Yet the cameraman and his crew come in with their own problems and preconcieved notions as well. They trash the space they are staying in, much to the dismay of Jackson’s mother who complains about filth and cigarette butts everywhere. They throw a fit when they arrive at Ted Nugent’s house to film. They object not only to the use of real guns in the shot, but to the house and Nugent itself, acting appalled that he hunts. They talk about him as being crazy because he has game heads mounted on the wall, deer and rabbit and such (Not because he’s doing his crazy Ted Nugent thing – he’s actually quite subdued here. No, they think he’s crazy and bad because he hunts. Really interesting that those particular left wing talking points really haven’t changed that much in all this time).

It all ends badly. Someone gets mad and throws a rock at their car. Mistaking it for a gunshot, the camera crew flees, all the time looking over their shoulder in mortal terror to make sure Jackson isn’t coming after them to kill them. it’s a strange overreaction and I can’t help but wonder how much of it may be staged to give the documentary a more exciting ending. It certainly cements it as a bit of a hit piece to me. Not completely unjustified, but index2.jpgdefinitely overblown. If it existed in a vacuum, you might perhaps view Jackson and his team as dangerously unhinged maniacs that would never make another film. History has since proven them wrong.

I’m glad I found this at the end of this journey. I’m glad I watched it last, because I can see Jackson’s foibles on full display here. I can also see where the filmmakers opinion is overriding and perhaps unreasonable. But it’s a marvelous time capsule. All of those legends we hear about; Jackson taking sick leave to film the movie, His friend’s fingers getting cut off to fund it, the gurella film making aspects, it all comes to life and I get a very clear picture of the filmmaker Jackson would later become.

 


Robotman in the lab

Costume

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96

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

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Jackey Neyman Jones

Autographs

Jackey Neyman Jones is the last survivor of the making of Manos! She signed her memoir for me.

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95

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

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Legend of the Dead Boyz

jacksonindex4.jpgDeacon Tripwell’s mission is to protect Abel (he’s listed as Adam in the credits, but they constantly refer to him as Abe or Abel.), so Abe doesn’t become one of the dead boys.

There is scripture scattered around with references to the master of light – and Deacon pleads with a ghost (we don’t know he’s a ghost yet, but trust me on this) to bring Abel back. The time for a showdown is coming.

“His training wasn’t for this earth alone, but also in a higher court”

Legend of the Dead Boyz was described as a story about a spiritual awakening in South-Central LA, and I was half expecting a pseudodocumentary like “U.F.O. Secret Video” or “I Like to Hurt People”. We get moments like the one where a penitent is talking about laying down his sin and how he wishes he had made a difference in this world – but such genuine emotion is undermined by other goofy scenes, like a man praying for God to give him strength against the “hell dog”. Because of the spiritual context, I found myself imagining a demonic dog specter. It’s not made clear until later that “Hell Dog” (also sometimes referred to as “Big Dog”) is actually the name of the local ganglord, holding down this section of south-central L.A.

Legend of the Dead Boyz is an interesting departure from Jackson’s previous films. It’s not just the focus on a largely African American cast, though that’s the most obvious change. It means a diversion from his usual pool of stock players and it’s interesting to see him pulling some real talent here. Our lead, Don Richardson, was a regular at the World Famous Comedy Store and did a number of films before and after this. Carey Westbrook, our Deacon Tripwell, kicked off his movie career in Dee Snider’s “Strangeland”, and has had a long film career that lasts to this day shooting over a dozen films since “Legend of the Dead Boyz”. But the different cast isn’t even the most notable dissimilarity from Jackson’s usual modus operandi. No, it’s the very style in which the story is told. Jackson’s storytelling is characteristically pulp fiction. It’s human superheroes in fantastic situations. This is instead an urban exploration with some pop spirituality involved. Indeed, the messianic overtones surrounding the main characters feel more like a Neel Breen movie than a Donald Jackson production. It’s not until the last five to ten minutes that Jackson lapses back into ninja laden superhero antics, and it feels very disconnected to the rest of the film. More on that later.

The spirituality itself is fragmented. Donald Jackson was steeped in western Judeo Christian faith, whereas his collaborator Scott Shaw was a student of Buddhist and eastern philosophies. Legend of the Dead Boyz mixes them together, adding in a dash of African American religious exuberance. Combined, it creates an off-kilter sense of spirituality. An intellectual like Shaw might suggest that was an intentional aspect of the art, but knowing how protective Jackson was of his faith at this point in his life, I’m not convinced that’s the case. I watch the scenes of Tyrone and Abel riding in the back seat of a car, talking about grabbing corned beef sandwiches and pickles at Church and Tyrone tempting Abel to go see Reverend Donaldo because of the raffle for a DVD player and I’d be more convinced of it being a commentary on empty religion versus faith if not for the improv nature of the whole affair. Jackson never really spoke about this film as “Legend of the Dead Boyz” was released after his death.

In the background, we get a Casio powered soundtrack – drum machines and tinny keyboard sounds, very reminiscent of Chester Thompson’s tales from the Quadead Zone and Black Devil Doll from Hell. We’d get this kind of music occasionally peppered throughout the film. Jay Rucker, who would later be introduced as subversive gang lieutenant “Lil’ Dog” also provided the music for this picture.

“What do you mean, I am the one?” Abel ponders as he wanders through the subway. One almost wonders if he’s coming back from the dead or just returning from prison (The opening suggests the former, but the rest of the film seems to go with the latter). You get a long stream of consciousness monologue before a quick insert of Abel at a revival meeting. The clips continue as we cut to Abel settling back into his seat. He’s in a car with his brother who is I was happy to see him out of jail. They warn him of the Proms playing the community, props I can be traced back to hell dog. We get more quick flashes, inserts of two well-dressed people, standing on Jackson’s favorite overpass above the L.A. 170 freeway – the one he calls “The bridge of broken dreams”. I spent some time trying to figure out who these people were supposed to be. They look very like co-pastors at a black charismatic Church of God type place. The kind who would refer to themselves as “apostles” or “prophets”. I was kind of thinking they were perhaps the ministers at the Church the film keeps referring to. It wasn’t until I scrolled through the end credits that I spotted them listed as guardian angels. We cut to another flash, this one of a large black man holding a samurai sword. This is Big Dog or Hell Dog. He’s the ganglord everyone keeps talking about. (Good thing he’s got that sword. after all, we need to be reminded that this is indeed a Jackson film. The fact that Abel is being herded off to see “Reverend Donaldo” at “The Master of Light Institute” is a tip-off too.)

Elsewhere, the Decon Tripwell is walking around with the ghost. They had over to the Hell Dog’s main operating street.
“You see this alleyway? This is where I was murdered. See the blood on the wall? That is my blood”
“If that’s your blood and you were murdered right here, what are you bringing ME here for???” Decon Tripwell protests to the ghost, exasperated. The area obviously makes him nervous. The Ghost insists that Tripwell’s destiny is to clean up the area and take it back from the Hell Dog.

We cut to a hotel room where a different gangster, lil dog, is on the phone, arraigning something when his Chandra comes in (We’ll discover shortly that she is Hell Dog’s girlfriend, but she’s been stepping out on him). Lil’ Dog is plotting to take over Big Dogs territory. Chandra keeps asked questions about that, frustrating Lil’ Dog who is trying to get his mack on. Down the way, Abel is stashed in another room. And yet another room (It’d probably be less obvious that these segments are all shot in the same motel room, minimally redressed, if they hadn’t put all of these scenes back to back in the edit), Big Dog lays with his girl of the night, grumbling about Lil’ Dog and Chandra’s betrayal.

“My name is Hell Dog, I’m Hell Dog! From hell!”

For a mob boss, Big Dog is awfully neurotic, spurning the affections of the woman in his bed and instead whining about how no one likes him except unless he’s showering them with gifts or getting high on his drugs and booze.

Abel is visited in prison by Deacon Tripwell in what I assume is a flashback?

“Pray for resurrection brother, because when you rise you can raise the rest of the dead”
“No brother, when I rise, there’s going to be a lot MORE dead.”

Back on the streets, Hell Dog shakes Abel down for $1 million that Abel was supposed to use to bring in drugs. With a gun to his head, Abel ties explain what happened to the money, he claims to have invested it. Big Dog gets even angrier and tells him he better has money tonight – by midnight or Abel’s a dead man.

Back to the car with Able and his brother and nephew running around. During the ride, we keep flashing back to his deal with Hell Dog. Abel is skeptical of the Church, accusing them fleecing the poor. His attitude is juxtaposed by the seductiveness of Hell Dogs deal. Even the nephew in the car is seduced by Hell Dog’s legend – Big Dog is presented in the community as a sort of Robin Hood, taking from the giving back to the poor.

Suddenly, they notice there’s a car following them.

“It might be the police, it might be the devil, it might be the evil… But I bet it’s Hell Dog!”

It may well be, because Hell Dog is angry about Deacon Tripwell’s growing influence in the community, as shown in a quick flashback.

“If you’re going to worship anybody but me, I’ll kill you!” Hell Dog tells one young associate.

Gunmen jump out of the car pulling Abel, the kid and Tyrone out. Abel pulls his gun in a standoff as the gunmen convince the kid to come with him.

We cut back to Hell Dog in bed doing more of his grumbling about people taking advantage of him – but this time, his bedmate is Chandra, fresh out of Lil’ Dog’s hotel room.

Big Dog remarks “Money is the root of all evil, but I got all the money so I must be the devil “

Chandra asks Hell Dog if he trusts the short dog. Hell Dog he says no, but he needs him right now.

“I don’t trust anyone. I trust my pistol, that’s who I trust”

This scene could actually be ominous if it had the right music behind it but comes up as flat with no background track.

Back in the car, Tyrone is still trying to convince Abel to come see the reverend Donaldo at the master of light Institute.  Abel resists saying he’s got to go out tonight

“Don’t seem like the kind of night to go outside.”

“It’s a perfect day to go outside. There’s something out there, you can feel it – something is not right. Well, that’s what I got to see to.”

“God gives us a little help if we listen to him, after that it’s on us”

“God’s got a purpose for us all. And tonight’s my purpose”

Abel gets out by a strip club, then heads over to a pay phone and calls up Lil’ Dog to set up a meeting. Up on top of a parking structure, Lil’ Dog demands information from Abel, who refuses and then suddenly turns into a green-clad ninja and attacks Lil’ Dog (I suspect that Scott Shaw is the one actually executing those kicks and punches under all that military green and goggles). Tyrone’s car swerves into the frame and rescues Abel at the last second.

“So what now?”

“We will defeat Hell Dog with the power of the light!”

The film ends with quick cuts and inserts of a penitent Abel praying, The guardian angels stretching their hands out (as if to display the city in front of them), Tyrone and Abel talking in the backseat of that car, the sisters of mercy (Church ladies, not the gothic metal band) talking, and shots of ninja Abel with his Rambo knife battling Hell Dog and his samurai sword. We fade out into credits as Deacon Tripwell dances with the Sisters of Mercy.


Robotman and records

Costume

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94

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

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The Backyard Zombie Movie part 13

filmography

 


93

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and FridayNew_093


Shotgun Blvd

jacksonindex.jpgAll films have outtakes. Some films never even get made, their footage is just left there to rot on the cutting room floor. What do you do when that happens? If you’re Scott Shaw and Donald G. Jackson, you just gather up all that footage from three disparate movies and roll it into one feature. That’s how we get the strange patchwork quilt that we call “Shotgun Blvd.”

“Shotgun Blvd.” takes the footage from two unfinished films; “Armageddon Blvd.”, “Naked Avenger” and mashes them up with Jackson and Shaw’s short film “Yin Yang Insane” featuring Robert Z’Dar. Shaw would later go on to fully edit “Naked Avenger”, featuring porn star Jill Kelly as well as fleshing out “Armageddon Blvd.” into a feature length film. But before any of that would happen, we got “Shotgun Blvd.”.It’s important to understand this. We’re watching an anthology. This is three separate films, three separate stories. The fact that we cut back and forth between them is largely to accommodate the runtime and to keep the music consistent. It wasn’t unusual for Jackson to keep switching back and forth between dual narratives in a film (Legend of the Lost Boyz does this constantly), but this is the epitome of that technique. With the lack of a wraparound container to link the stories, this can get confusing. As long as you keep in mind you’re watching three unrelated short films, you’ll be fine.

index3.jpgShotgun Boulevard begins with credits that list the usual suspects – Scott Shaw, Roberts Z’Dar, Conrad Brooks and Jill Kelly.  It’s interesting to note this film boasts a CD soundtrack and plugs it in the opening credits rather than the end ones. It makes sense though, since the soundtrack is almost a character itself here, tying the three narratives together.

The music pulses over the opening credits and opening scene. We’ve got Lorielle New (billed only as “The Model”), getting dressed in seductive underwear (could be a swimsuit, but that sheer camisole makes it look like lingerie) and then pulling out a small Walther pistol – the kind James Bond would carry.

She exits the bathroom and heads to a pool (It’s a familiar one, located in Kevin Eastman and Julie Strain’s backyard) that she dips her toes into before immersing herself completely, pistol and all. She swims over to the edge and creeps close to the wall, pistol at the ready until she comes upon a man sleeping in a chair.

Underneath that greasy long hair and dark hat pulled over his face, we can see it’s Roger Ellis. He grabbed the gun and tosses the model (Who it turns out is his wife) on his lap then turns, and firing at an assassin behind her. The dead gunman tumbles into the pool.

We have a slow fade into the lights of nighttime LA downtown. As we gear up for an atmosphere montage. We follow a hooker from a strip club as she walks on the Hollywood walk of fame, then a quick cut to a girl in a photo session against a blue screen.

We cut back to Roger Ellis, whose character of Jacob is having an ominous conversation with Conrad Brooks as Mr. Rinaldi (but not the same one from “Rock n’ Roll Cops” It’s just that in the Jacksonverse, all mafia dons are named Rinaldi). Brooks is doing his best godfather impression and threatening Jacob.

“You’ve worked for me and against me. I understand it’s all part of the game.”
“What we have now is king against king – in a stalemate.”
“I think it’s time we end the game”

We cut to an office hallway where a cartwheeling vampire attacks the model from the photo shoot. We then cut to a pretty girl in pigtails staggering across the bridge of broken dreams, then down stairs and an escalator into the waiting arms of Scott Shaw (I assumed she was on drugs or dazed from an attack, but what we’ll discover later on is that her name is “Rag Doll” and she thinks she’s a human marionette. There’s no explanation as to why, that’s just who she is). Shaw’s name in this incarnation is Jack B. Quick. He’s not the space Sherriff of the same name from the Guns of El Chupacabra though. Nor is he the violence happy street cop from “Rock n’ Roll Cops” (though there are similarities to both). He’s just you’re average toothpick chomping gumshoe in this film.

imagesSo far, we’ve pretty much been following the footage from “Armageddon Blvd”. Next, ee cut to a smarmy guy on a giant 90s car phone as he drives his jeep out to pick up Jill Kelly. This is where the “Naked Avenger” inserts start. It also stands out as the point where the background soundtrack cuts out. The aspect ratio changes ever so slightly as well, black lines appearing on both the left and right of the screen. The soundtrack starts back up as we get to the scene from Naked Avenger where Jill Kelly strips.

Back at Kevin Eastman’s Pool, Jack (Shaw) comes to visit Jacob, asking about the situation he needs taken care of. From off screen Jacobs adopted Cambodian daughter Tanila (played by bouncy blonde Sabrina Duncan) bounds into the scene. Tanila is all over The flabbergasted and clearly uncomfortable Jack B. Quick who still sees her as a kid.

“The last time I saw you, you were knee-high to a water buffalo!” he protests as she glomps onto him.

Jacob stares on disapprovingly, then whips out his gun and fires… another assassin falls in the pool right next to the previous one.

We cut to more footage of Kelly running through the woods, and then back to Jack and Jacob. Jack sits listening to Jacob, holding a shotgun and chewing on a toothpick.

Jacob admits, his problem is Rinaldi – and he needs Jack to take Rinaldi out. Jacob is willing to pay a top dollar and then tie up any loose ends.

“You take out Rinaldi and I’ll take out the rest of the situation.”

We cut to another beautiful overhead shot of LA at night, and then back into the hallway. Rinaldi is heading to his office while his security guard keeps an eye out. We cut back to Jacob, creeping up on his model wife in an attack that quickly shifts from violence into enthusiastic nookie and then ends inexplicably with a quick punch to the face.

We cut back to the hallway, where the security guard blocks Jack B. Quick from seeing Rinaldi. The scene has Jackson’s trademark where the corners are cut off. It looks like the lens is a little loose in this shot.

Jack confronts Rinaldi, trying to talk things out and find out what the problem is between Rinaldi and Jacob, but Rinaldi won’t relent.

“I think it’s too late for us.”

“And I guess it’s every man for himself,” Jack concludes.

index2.jpgWe are a full third of the way through the movie before Robert Z’Dar pulls up to the Texaco plaza, signaling the beginning of the Yin Yang Insane segments.  Is it wrong that the first thing I noticed inside the gas station is the comic book rack?

We switch to Jack, lying asleep on the couch and Jacob’s daughter creeping up on him, doing her best to get in Shaw’s pants. The encounter is interrupted by the son of the hammer on a gun being pulled into position, Jacob effectively cock-blocking Jack from taking his daughters virginity.

Back at the Texaco station Z’Dar is freaking out. He swears he is seeing someone who looks just like him, with a long coat and a gun. Daniel Jackson pops up at his car window and tells him he just needs a cup of coffee. Jackson obviously doesn’t believe Z’Dar’s story, but as soon as he leaves, the trench coat clad clone arrives. He walks straight up to the car and grins into the windshield. It may be the single creepiest scene in the entire film.

After an unrelated fight scene in a random office hallway, we’re back to clips from “Naked Avenger” and then cut to a desert road.

Nervous Z’Dar drives his Jeep out through the desert as he tries to convince himself that he is alone out here.

“There is no one out there”, he insists, panicked. “I’m flipping out, I’m flipping out! You look just like me, he WAS me! Only different, and he kept beckoning to me…”

We move on to the junkyard scene from “Naked Avenger”, the locale and time of day blending it surprisingly well with these shots from “Yin Yang Insane”.

Back at Jacobs house, The Model has a chat with Tanilia (her step daughter).

“Drop the little girl act, I know all about you and Jack!”

“What about Jack? Jack is cool! “

“What do you know about Jack? Jack kills people “

It May well be that The Model is merely jealous, as she makes a somewhat more successful attempt to get Jack to knock boots. It’s a fairly typical love scene for a Jackson film; awkward, fully clothed, and ridiculously unappealing.

While Jack is boning his bosses wife, Rinaldi meets with a hitman to plot Jack’s death. Out of nowhere, a psychic (who bears more than a small resemblance to Raven from Teen Titans), appears to help the hitman locate Jack. A fight ensues, with roundhouse kicks and gunshots. The hitman lies dead in his leather chaps and Jack B. Quick drags the psychic back with him to confront Rinaldi.

Next we find ourselves back at the junkyard in the middle of some more “Naked Avenger” footage as Jill Kelley carefully stalks through the maze of broken down machinery with the Saturday night special cocked and loaded in her hand. She shoots at the rapey guys as they harass one of the new captures. The gunshot serves as a hard cut back to Jacob’s house where he is trying to explain his life to his daughter.

While Jill Kelley engages in a gunfight at the junkyard (interestingly enough, it’s a better edited version than the one that was in the actual movie. The extra cuts, shifting back and forth between the other movies actually helps build tension), the daughter confronts Jack about whether not he actually kills people. Jack goes on an extended monologue about life, death, philosophy and guns… Lots of guns.

It’s back to Roberts Z’Dar then, driving home only to discover is evil twin waiting there for him. The calm, satisfied look on the twin is a beautiful contrast to the frantic manic paranoia Z’Dar displays. It’s beautiful and eerie and Z’Dar himself is the best prop anyone could ask for.

“You! Who are you? Talk to me!” He screams as he pursues his evil twin, a pistol tightly clenched in one hand.

Back in “Armageddon Blvd”, we find ourself high u on the roof of a Hollywood building. Jacobs wife sneaks up on Jack B. Quick, levels a gun and tells him it’s time for him to die. Jack throws her off the roof as Z’Dar’s evil twin just laughs. It’s a horrible whiny sound, almost like the scream of Donald Sutherland at the end of the invasion of the body snatchers remake.

The cuts are coming quicker now, shifting between “Armageddon Blvd”, “Yin Yang Insane”, and “Naked Avenger”.

A hooker is delivered to Conrad Brooks who tells her he has a very special job for her. She listens, skeptical but open. His Godfather impression convinces her.

“You need someone smart! Someone who can use their brain? I’m your lady!” she exclaims in a Harley Quinn accent.  Rinaldi is pleased and sends her off to set up Jack. She starts to have second thoughts though, when she discovers Rinaldi is attempting to start a gang war on the streets. Back in his lair, Rinaldi terrorizes a girl whose face is covered in bandages.

Jacob comes and finds Jack. They stare down each other, guns drawn in a stand-off. It’s unclear whether Jacob is after Jack for killing his wife or deflowering his daughter, but either way he is determined.

“You’ve only got one bullet in that gun,” he tells Jack.

“One bullet is all I need,” Jack responds and pulls the trigger.

Back at the stables, Z’Dar continues to stalk his evil twin. It’s beginning to take a toll though, as he continues to clutch his chest. The clone brandishes his gun with an evil grin that would terrify The Joker himself.

Z’Dar stumbles back into his jeep and finally succumbs to a heart attack.

As the “Naked Avenger” scenes reach a climax, Elsewhere Jack B. Quick climbs back onto the roof of the LA building only to discover Rinaldi holding the marionette girl hostage.

“Drop the gun!” Rinaldi demands…

Jack slowly sets his gun on the ground, then quickly draws a second pistol from his waistband to blow poor Conrad Brooks away. Jack helps marionette girl up as the naked avenger steals a Jeep and rolls away.

Of the three films represented, “Naked Avenger” comes off the worst. It’s a gimmicky concept to begin with and what little story it has gets stripped away in the context of this film stew. It actually fares much better when Shaw would edit it together for a solo release later in 2008. Both “Armageddon Blvd” and “Yin Yang Insane” benefit from the shorter runtime and quicker pace. “Armageddon Blvd” feels complete enough here that I don’t even feel the need to go and find the full version. That’s the trick with Jackson’s films of course, choosing the best version to watch (since there are frequently two or three edits of any Shaw collaborations). For that reason alone, this one is a high recommend. It’s a great way to dip your toe in the madness of Zen filmmaking and the film universe that Jackson created.