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Posts tagged “Conrad Brooks

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.


How to make a Donald G. Jackson film

jacksonI gotta take a breather from these things for a minuet. I’ve watched enough of these movies that they may just have broken my brain…but I think I’ve cracked the code (feel free to turn this into a drinking game). Take any four or more of these elements, and spend $3000.

Make a sequel to Roller Blade or Hell Comes to Frogtown.

Hire Joe Estevez. If it’s too close to porn, hire Robert Z’Dar instead.

Put at least one character on wheels. Roller skates are preferred, but a skateboard will do in a pinch.

Shoot at the Los Angeles observatory, a junkyard or the overpass above the L.A. 170 freeway. (Bonus points for all three)

Make sure there’s a role for Conrad Brooks.

Include a Samurai sword.

Make one of the main characters a mostly immobile hand puppet. (Bonus points if it’s got a libido)

Hire Julie Strain or Jill Kelly.

Scott Shaw stars and/or produces while speaking as few lines as possible in his suit, t-shirt and amazing shades.

Mix Christian and Eastern mysticism. Quote liberally from one of Shaw’s books.

 

That’s it. You’ve now made a film indistinguishable from Donald G. Jackson! I’m sorely tempted to do my own comic or novel version. Joe Estevez has kidnapped Julie Strain and is holding her hostage until someone brings him the ashes of Donald Jackson! Scott Shaw straps on his roller skates and brandishes his katana. Off he goes and battles through Ninjas, Toad Warriors and Invisible Chuacabras but  gets wounded. He is healed by the sisterhood from The Master of Light Institute and they present him with a rocket pack to continue his journey. He finds himself at the Junkyard where the ashes are stored. There’s a sign on the gate that reads “If you lived here, you’d be home now”. He finds the ashes in a secret room, covered in sheets and guarded by the ghost of Robert Z’Dar.

This has been a public service announcement. We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

 

 


Rollergator

jacksonindex.jpgUnlike his previous family oriented films, Roller Gator is pure Donald Jackson production. You can feel the difference with Mark Williams not being on this project. It’s around this time that Scott Shaw’s influence is creeping in, but there’s more Jackson here than anyone else.

Roller Gator starts off with Joe Estevez yelling at people at a carnival. It may actually be the perfect metaphor for Donald Jackson films.

We cut to P.J. Smith, played by Sandra Shuker (who would go on to make no other movie ever) in a bikini at the beach being spied and by the local beach ninja. I’m not entirely certain how the ninja is supposed to blend in at the beach in broad daylight but he manages to do a pretty good job.

From afar inside a cave, a squeaky voice cries out “Hey somebody!”. Bikini girl tentatively searches, exploring the cave for the source of the voice. It simultaneously guides and taunts her – “this way! ““You’re getting warmer! “. It’s almost as if the voice belongs to the most annoying monster ever… and you know what? It does. The Roller Gator is revealed to be a small purple alligator hand puppet.

“You can talk!”

index2.jpg“So what, so can Barney!”

That’s right, in the first 10 minutes Rollergator has managed to out weird “Roller Blade” and all the “Hell comes to Frogtown” sequels.

The ninja is there to try and find the Rollergator – and according to Rollergator the ninja knows kung fu, tae kwon do, and Chef boy Are Dee. P.J. sneaks Rollergator away crossing overpass bridge above the 170 freeway (there’s Jackson’s stock bridge!) with her rollerblades. The ninja follows them on a skateboard.

They arrive back at the carnival which seems like an odd destination to take your talking alligator to – especially since Joe Estevez and his ponytail are complaining about how the carnival is about to go under. Beach ninja feels quite at home at the carnival.

“I don’t believe it! a talking alligator!”

“I don’t believe it, a walking Nimrod!”

Our baby gator nearly falls into the hands of the greedy carnival owner, but is able to escape with P.J. when the carnival owner suffers what appears to be a heart attack. They hide in a hidden part of the carnival and Rollergator explains that all he wants is to index3.jpggo back and find its owner… Swamp farmer Conrad Brooks, of Ed Wood fame.

Baby gator then launches into his best impressions of various movie stars.

Elsewhere, Conrad searches for his lost alligator. Baby gator and his girl decide they better go search  too, so she tosses him a backpack and puts her rollerblades on and they head out. The carnival owner sends out the ninja, and a karate instructor after poor baby Gator.

Occasionally, Baby Gator raps.

They trick the ninja into stealing a decoy backpack full of vegetables. Ninjas hate vegetables. They then steal a baby carriage from another lady on rollerblades (did she escape from the Wheelzone of Jackson’s Roller Blade? Or was everyone in 1996 just wearing rollerblades all the time?), and make their way down because way with Roller gator now cozily riding in the carriage.

index.jpgIt really only gets stranger from here. There’s a karate instructor who trains P.J. in some martial arts. There’s also a slingshot skater girl (actually named “Slingshot”) who teams up with them as P.J.’s sometimes sidekick to save Baby Gator and get him back to Conrad Brooks. Baby Gator and Conrad would return in Toad Warrior (Hell Comes to Frogtown part three)

This was one of Jackson’s final attempts at hitting  the family video market (and reminds me a lot of Graydon Clark would attempt with Stargames in 1998). It’s a simpler stroy than his previous outings, with a touch of zen filmmaking fluttering around it, and it shows. Believe it or not, there’s actually a Rifftrax version of this. If you’re going to watch this film, get it. It’s the absolute best way to experience this.


Little Lost Sea Serpent

jacksonindex.jpgLittle 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!”

index3On 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 index2.jpgfind 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.


The films of Maximo T. Bird

jacksonIt 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? mv5bmtcwntu2njiymf5bml5banbnxkftztcwmjeymduymq@@._v1_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 preindextty 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 strip_club_nights.jpgRobert 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”. MV5BYTgzNTgwNDktMmM3Zi00MGQwLTlhZmYtNTQ4YmJmOTRhZDUyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzkyMzkyMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR12,0,182,268_AL_.jpg 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”.

big_sister_2000.jpgWith 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.