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166 reviews in total 
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Star Angel (1986)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Cecil Howard's last great 35mm film, a mesmerizing classic, 19 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

1985 found Cecil Howard producing exceptional films on film (SNAKE EYES) and video (DANGEROUS STUFF) mediums. He would continue pressing forth mixing the two mediums throughout the rest of the decade, but Howard's one film of 1986 is a 35mm offering, and it's perhaps his strongest dramatic work outside of the FIRESTORM series. The alluring poster and video campaign of a smiling Angel gives no hint at the dark, psychological power of STAR ANGEL, the last great film to emerge from the East Coast before the industry migrated almost completely to California.

Lola Rain (Chelsea Manchester, aka "Tigr", Sharon Mitchell's real-life lover) is the world's biggest female rock singer, but her frequent boozing and sex with groupies reflects a deep unhappiness with her fame and fortune. Her manager husband, Luke Frame (Jerry Butler delivering a typically intense characterization), fears the destruction of his business because of her unprofessional behavior, and has no choice but to murder her with a mix of booze and pills. Successfully fooling the public, press, and courts into believing she committed suicide, he becomes the music industry's hottest talent manager, raking in the clients and the cash, but finds himself persistently haunted by nightmares and visions of Lola wherever he goes. His assistant-turned-lover Kate Fredericks (Colleen Brennan in perhaps her greatest adult performance, and on her way out of the biz to boot) struggles to understand why his conscience continues to play tricks on his mind. Shapely hitchhiker Terry (beautiful Angel, given a chance to kinda act) hitches a ride with Luke, and ingratiates herself into the lives of Luke and Kate, hoping to become a superstar with Luke's help. But Luke sees in her the spirit of Lola, eventually sending him spiraling over the deep end. In an almost unnecessary subplot that provides for several sex scenes, Luke's chauffeur Mario (Ron Jeremy) ponders pursuing a commitment with his loud-mouthed girlfriend Franny (always endearing Taija Rae) while he desires a few more evenings with whore Phoebe (Bambi, as Tammy Lamb). {Note: The Jeremy-Bambi footage is padding created by scenes from Howard's 1983 masterpiece SCOUNDRELS}

Anchored by a solid script by Howard's muse Anne Randall (with a story provided by adult magazine writer/SEXCAPADES and GLITTER scribe R. Allen Leider), STAR ANGEL's one fault is that it's too short! At 73 minutes, the viewer is drawn into the drama easily and while the sex indeed sizzles, one wishes there was more time spent focusing on the fascinating characters and their individual neuroses. However, even with the short running time, this is an impossible to forget viewing experience. Shot in a high scale neighborhood in New Jersey, the film, as with many Howard films, establishes an unnerving atmosphere through the eyes of its main character, Luke Frame: isolated, haunted, schizophrenic, in danger of losing his mind and his soul. Even more unique about Luke is that he's really an anti-hero. He's unlikable from the get-go. His ambitious drive for success has destroyed the one woman he has ever loved, in mind, body, and soul. Luke isn't haunted by the crime he committed, he's haunted by the love he obliterated from existence, essentially losing his soul and ensuring he will never love again. As he so eloquently puts it, "You stick one finger in Hell…and it sticks to you". The hero of the movie is really Kate. All she wants is to be loved. She even pursues a lesbian encounter to fulfill her craving for affection. But it is Luke she really wants, who she will do anything for, and who she will stick by even though there is no chance he will ever return her allegiance. In the film's especially potent finale, as Kate sits with her arms around an emotionally broken Luke, there is no hope promised for any of the characters. Lola gets the last laugh.

As Luke, Jerry Butler is given a great monologue detailing his struggles to become a success in the music business. He sits by an incoherent Lola and tells her the story of a young punk kid going after his dreams, but as he looks at the star he helped to create, he realizes she will in turn become his professional destruction. Butler won acclaim and awards for his turn in Howard's SNAKE EYES the previous year, and would receive equally deserved attention for his work in STAR ANGEL. On the flip side, Colleen Brennan, in her 16th year in the film industry, really nails a rare dramatic performance in a career made up primarily of comic roles. She handles the dialog beautifully here, portraying a complex character with apparent ease, and while she is perfect in her trademark sexually insatiable moments, she also conveys a vulnerable pain as she tries to understand the love of her life. Her heartbroken facial expressions as Butler berates her and she realizes there is no hope to save him proves that in addition to being a top-notch sexual performer who delivered the goods, she was an actress who was rarely given this kind of role to exercise her thespian prowess. It's no wonder she would retire from the industry within a couple of years. She probably realized it wouldn't get much better than this.

Seek out this rare Cecil Howard film without hesitation! It's a career highlight for sure.

"Reunion" (2005)
8 out of 51 people found the following review useful:
Fox's mix of "24", "Cold Case" and "The O.C." doesn't fly, 10 September 2005

Good God almighty! A great concept for a show (every episode is a new year in the life of a group of high school best friends), and it's dumbed down by a completely predictable pilot script and a cast of pretty, white people who somehow landed parts on a major network show. Will Estes, Sean Faris and Dave Annable are all stud-muffins, but this doesn't work when Annable is supposed to be the geeky guy all the girls ignore. Same goes for the girls: Alexa Davalos, Amanda Righetti, and Chyler Leigh are all gorgeous, but Leigh is the wallflower who longs for the geeky guy who ignores her for Davalos. Wow, that's an original story arch! Chyler Leigh has been aching for good material forever! I was impressed with her in NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE, but she seems destined to tank every major chance at a career move (i.e., TV series) she finds: "That 80s Show", "Girls Club", and now this one. She is the best actress of the sextet but she is still way below standards of a network TV show; after parodying the fact that she is pretty yet considered "ugly" in TEEN MOVIE, she basically plays the same character but with deathly seriousness on this show!! Including her, no one acts on this show, they recite dialogue like a shopping list. Faris (who I remember most from David DeCoteau's softcore homoerotic BROTHERHOOD II) seems to think he's an actor, when really he's another pretty face on TV. His role in "life or something like it" parodied this (like Leigh's scenario) and he's basically playing the role of pretty-boy-who-gets-everything-he-wants that he was going AGAINST in his previous show! Righetti is painfully bad, Davalos seems right at home playing the vacant sexpot, Annable falls over himself trying to convince the audience he's NOT hot and IS dorky, and Estes, like Faris, seems painfully aware how good-looking he is and shows no more than two facial expressions.

I can't imagine tuning in every week to watch a new year, following these vapid uninteresting characters and watching every predictable plot point unfold. A complete waste of time for all involved; "Six Feet Under"s Mathew St. Patrick deserves a better career change than to end up on this tripe.

Another word of warning to the producers: we don't need a new 80s song and pop culture reference every five minutes to remember, "Oh yeah, they're in 1986." WE GET IT! Do yourselves a favor and write REALISTIC dialogue, see these as REAL characters, and hire REAL actors. For the time being, this is like watching department store mannequins acting out a game of "Clue".

13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining mix of social commentary, girls and murder, 17 August 2005

It's a shame that Arthur Marks' THE ROOMMATES is for the most part verrrrry hard to come by because it's one of his best! It's a hell of a lot better than CENTERFOLD GIRLS, that's for sure, and while it's no BONNIE'S KIDS, it is a unique blend of beautiful girls and 70s drive-in elements. While the four leading ladies only share one or two scenes together, this is typical of the four-independent-and-beautiful-twentysomethings subgenre of the drive-in. New World's NURSES and TEACHERS films, as well as THE STEWARDESSES and Al Adamson's rip-offs, featured beautiful girls who were friends, but their individual stories were followed more closely. The social politics of the time (the sexual revolution, women's lib) also play heavily in character development, as in the aforementioned films.

Marki Bey, who would soon become SUGAR HILL before becoming a featured player on "Starsky and Hutch", gives probably her finest performance as a smirking librarian who makes no apologies when she jumps from one man to another who catches her fancy. Pat Woodell, besides contributing a little nudity in a shower scene, is given little to do despite her star billing. She was the only established star of the cast, yet she's obviously not the character Marks was most interested in. Laurie Rose had the most varied career of the girls, from David Friedman skinflicks (ADULT VERSION OF JEKYLL AND HIDE) to Lee Frost sleaze (POLICEWOMEN) to Filipino action pics (THE HOT BOX). Here she is given probably her most interesting and sensitive character. Today she is a professional bellydancer and doesn't look on her past too highly, but she should at least be proud of her work in this film. Roberta Collins is the most vivacious of the quartet, and as evident in most of her films, is an adept comedienne who totally endears herself to the audience. How could anyone watching her films NOT fall in love with her? One of the strongest actresses of the 70s drive-in, she also handles dramatic scenes astonishingly well. Unbelievably, she never graduated to the bigger and better Hollywood roles she so richly deserved.

Also on-hand are two more popular drive-in beauties. Christina Hart (THE STEWARDESSES, JOHNNY FIRECLOUD) is a seemingly innocent cousin of Woodell's who turns out to be a conniving little sexpot who plans on having the swingingest summer of her life. Connie Strickland, the blonde bombshell from BUMMER!, appears in a small role as a vacationing water-skier who is the killer's first victim. Strickland didn't get to star in too many films, usually in small character roles; Marks would use her again in CENTERFOLD GIRLS. Look fast for Uschi Digart in an orgy scene and Albert Cole (THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT) as a biker!! ROOMMATES is a little slow-going. The first 15 minutes set-up the four best friends, who have lots of dialogue discussing their personal politics and establishing the two goofball comediennes (Marki Bey and Roberta Collins) and the more serious lasses (Pat Woodell and Laurie Rose). Following a wild party where Rose beats a jock in a sit-up contest, the girls take off for their summer vacation at a lovely resort. And all of a sudden, a charming comedy in the vein of SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS becomes a twisted killing-spree-whodunit with beautiful girls falling dead left and right (very much like the Sebastians' THE SINGLE GIRLS from the same year, or New World's NIGHT CALL NURSES and STUDENT TEACHERS). All four gals manage to pair up with respective male partners in-between the murders, and the film successfully jumps back and forth between these two very different parts.

I think The Hoyk's review below is a little off; Tarantino probably never saw this film (which was never available on home video and is still near impossible to find) so its influence on him is zero. Hopefully some DVD company will come along to rescue this one from obscurity and release it with appreciative extras with Marks and the six featured actresses and the tender loving care it deserves. It's not a four-star, solid 10 exploitation feature, but there is still plenty here to keep fans of 70s drive-in fare happy.

Nocturna (1979)
9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
An unsung 70s cult classic which deserves a DVD release soon!, 13 August 2005

I have to echo previous commentators' reviews and proclaim NOCTURNA as one of the best unseen exploitation films of the 70s! Where late-70s flicks like VAMPIRE HOOKERS, LUST AT FIRST BITE and Dracula aren't too hard to find, NOCTURNA has been unavailable for years. Contrary to popular belief, it is not because of music rights issues, but because of other behind-the-scenes issues. Hopefully they can be rectified and this cult-classic-waiting-to-happen can finally be unleashed to a brand-new audience of Midnight Movie lovers!

The Nai Bonet nude scene was shot separately from the rest of the film and tacked on to spice up the movie. Other than this sequence and a sex scene with Tony Hamilton, this could have been rated PG. NOCTURNA is a feel-good vampire comedy with good-natured jokes, almost wall-to-wall disco music and a charming love story. Bonet is a very bad actress, but is simply stunning and definitely has a unique statuesque presence in her many flowing costumes. Sy Richardson, familiar from playing the jive-talking Fairy Godmother in Michael Pataki's Cinderella, is a jive-talking vampire pimp here, and Brother Theodore (whose bloodthirsty voice was lent to Dracula VS. FRANKENSTEIN and the trailer for MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND) hams it up magnificently as Hotel Transylvania's manager. John Carradine seems a little lost, but Yvonne De Carlo acts like she's having a grand time (as she did in the pretty abysmal BLAZING STEWARDESSES) and is given some juicy one-liners here. Look fast for a 42nd Street adult movie marquee advertising the classic A COMING OF ANGELS!

NOCTURNA's double-disc soundtrack LP can still be found pretty easily in cutout bins and eBay auction listings, and I would recommend picking up a copy even if you haven't seen the film! Tracks by Gloria Gaynor, Vicki Sue Robinson, The Moment of Truth, Jay Siegel and The Heaven 'n' Hell Orchestra are wonderful and generally very hard to find elsewhere!

15 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
One of the most powerful adult films ever made, 22 July 2005

Anthony Spinelli is highly-regarded as one of the masters of the golden age of adult film-making, one of few directors who successfully mixed erotic sex acts, solid acting performances, decent production values and intelligent screenplays to create some of the best films of the porno chic movement. Yet THE SEDUCTION OF LYN CARTER remains extremely hard to find. LYN CARTER is reminiscent of his later film, PORTRAIT OF SEDUCTION, but the performances here are so spot-on and the script so well-written that it easily excels over that film.

Andrea True, future disco diva, stars as Lyn Carter, a happily-married housewife whose husband travels on business and leaves her alone in their spacious suburban home with their young son (who is never seen). Lyn lost her virginity to her husband and has never been with another man, so she is intrigued by the swarthy good looks and cocksure demeanor of Jamie Gillis as Sean, a dark-haired stranger she meets at her dentist's office. A date for a drink leads to going back to his apartment, where she is roughly raped and defiled by Sean's dark side of his split personality. But much to her horror and disgust, she finds herself continually drawn to return to his apartment and forced to endure every imaginable sex act as a sort of depraved "sex education" course. She finally reaches her breaking point, but when she reveals all to her husband in a tearful confession, she finds that her shoulder to cry on may not be the sensitive caring lover she has enjoyed all these years...

Andrea True, who is rarely given any credit as one of the earliest porno stars and even less credit as an accomplished actress and singer, gives the performance of her career! If adult film awards were being given in 1974, there would be no question she would receive due honors. Even by mainstream film standards, she gives a truly gut-wrenching portrayal and it is truly moving to watch her transform from a smiling fresh-faced wife and mother to a degraded and tortured soul. Jamie Gillis would build a career on both his performances as mean bastards and his uninhibited sex scenes. This is just another day in the life for him, but he's such a cruel, heartless heel of a man in LYN CARTER. The film basically relies on the interplay and talent of True and Gillis, because there are only three other minor characters who act as able support. None of the sex is really that erotic, which is the point of the film. It's not an uplifting film, but the fact that it's so well-made and brilliantly acted keeps it fascinating throughout.

A solid 10, a shining jewel of golden age adult film-making and even without the hardcore scenes, this could have easily been made as a serious melodrama.

Abby (1974)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Obscure blaxploitation EXORCIST rip-off has some interesting moments, 1 February 2005

William Girdler, the king of Kentucky trash film-making, ran into legal hassles when this black version of Warner Brothers' THE EXORCIST hit theaters. Despite making tons of money at the box office, WB had the film withdrawn because of similarities to their Friedkin blockbuster and it's been tough to see ever since. Is it worth tracking down? Well, it has its crazy moments, but is no camp classic.

Carol Speed (THE MACK, THE BIG BIRD CAGE) is Abby, the happy-go-lucky marriage counselor wife of the local preacher. When her father-in-law (William Marshall, BLACULA himself) unearths the remains of a demon in an expedition in Africa, for some reason the spirit of the denizen of Hell transfers itself to Abby's body back in the U.S. At first, Abby just does crazy things like slicing her arm with a butcher knife and coughing hysterically during her husband's sermon, but soon she's speaking in a deep baritone voice, sexually insatiable and spouting obscenities til the sun comes up. Marshall returns after a desperate phone call from his son, leading to a good-vs-evil showdown at the local disco (!).

Girdler's film is one of those films which made the 70s so great. Lots of big Afro's, wacka-wacka musical score and the filmmakers throwing in everything but the kitchen sink to please the drive-in crowd. Yep, there's the typical EXORCIST-influenced puking and deep man's voice throwing out profanity; the quick-shots of the demon's face are even copied with Speed appearing in goofy green make-up. It's a goofy enough rip-off to provide enjoyment to fans of 70s exploitation, but just don't expect it to blow you away. Girdler sets up suspense quite well during the first 20 minutes, but lets it all hang out by the time Abby is possessed.

The cast includes blaxploitation favorites Terry Carter and Austin Stoker, as well as Juanita Moore (IMITATION OF LIFE) as Abby's momma. But this is Carol Speed's movie all the way. She digs her claws into this role with a vengeance, and strangely this would be her last starring role before her early retirement. Did the film do damage to her career or did she call it quits for other reasons? Who knows... Worth tracking down, even on the unauthorized ugly quality DVD from Cinefear Video. The print is very red and splicy, but this is the only place you can get this; all other versions stem from their 35mm print.

My Louisiana Sky (2001) (TV)
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Kelsey Keel makes this movie, 27 June 2002

I might be completely biased because Kelsey Keel is a local girl from my neck of the woods who went to high school across the street from me, but she is superb in this film. After winning two Awards for her work in this film (a Daytime Emmy and a Young Artist Award), I hope she continues to find work in films and ages with grace and maturity on-screen. Juliette Lewis and Shirley Knight provide able support, but the fact that the entire film is shown from Tiger Ann's point of view only provides Keel with some magnificent characterization and plenty of screentime that should have earned her star billing. Magnificent coming of age story that should be seen by audience members of all ages that suffers from being shown on ShowTime and seeing a less than adequate home video release.

2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Lame and full of stereotypes, 27 June 2002

Even though "Queer as Folk" is conceived, written, and made by gay men and women, this is the lamest TV show to revolve around the gay community. Sure, it may be the only one besides "Will and Grace" (also stereotypical), but it plays to a certain audience and that's it. Utterly involved with the gay club scene, the oversexed, twinky, and queenie crowd, "Queer as Folk" fails to speak to me. Not all gay men go to clubs, or are sex-crazy, or do ecstasy and have threesomes, or idolize Barbara Streisand. Showtime's US incarnation will appeal to those gay men and women who need an outlet for their community, but it doesn't appeal to my neck of the community. I know more straight women who like it, probably because the men on the show are the type of men they would like to have as friends and confidantes. Yet despite all its shortcomings and unlikable characters, I find it somehow watchable. Reminding me of a gay version of "Sex and the City", there are certain episodes that are funny, but I'm tired of seeing gay men associated with AIDS, broken families, clubs, and bathhouses. Yech! It gets really old really fast.

Fame (1980)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Flawed musical, but worth seeing once (spoilers), 16 May 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Irene Cara and a gaggle of unknown actors and actresses are students in New York's High School for the Performing Arts. They learn dance, music, drama, and the required academic classes. We follow a group of students who all have their own troubles.

While the majority of comments on this film at the IMDB are positive, I have to admit I was expecting a bit more from this film. The soundtrack is superb stuff, and earned a well-deserved Oscar for both the complete score and the theme song "Fame". Irene Cara, Gene Anthony Ray, and Anne Meara turn in memorable performances (the other actors could actually be real-life struggling P.A. students, they are so unsure of themselves in their dramatic scenes).

But the plausibility of the entire film is at stake here: one would think the school's standards are much higher. And if so, then how could untalented people like Doris Finsecker, Lisa Monroe, and Ralph Garci get in? There are too many subplots left incomplete by the big final musical number: how did Coco deal with her little smut film? Did Coco ever hook up with Bruno? Did Leroy make ammends with his English teacher and pass? What happened to Hilary after her abortion? It all comes to a close so fast that I am convinced there was some post-production editing flaws involved. As another reviewer put it, I wouldn't be surprised if there was another 30 minutes out there somewhere in a film vault collecting dust actually tying all the loose ends together, but as FAME exists now, it feels incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying. Not to be condescending, but I expect all the positive reviews are from people who actually want (or wanted) fame just as bad, but haven't (or didn't) tasted it yet and the film gives them hope. That's fine, but judging the film as a piece of cinema, it does not deliver the goods.

22 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
The most depraved film I've ever seen, 11 December 2000

Snuff films have been and forever will be a very powerful urban legend. The idea that underground filmmakers kidnap people and graphically murder them on film, then make profits from selling the tapes through the black market is an intriguing one and would help explain the rash of unexplained disappearances every year. But it is also a wholly unbelievable idea. LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET uses this idea to create its horror, most of which is genuine, but it's also hard to call entertainment at the same time.

Terry Hawkins, a drug dealer, is just out of prison. He decides to make a horror film with the help of two sadistic prostitutes, a porno cameraman, and a bestial pervert. His crew kidnap three people and graphically murder them in an abandoned warehouse. That's about it. There's also some S&M, softcore sex, real footage of cows having their throats cut in a slaughterhouse (gross!), and really bad "adults only" footage.

DEAD END STREET was obviously made to cash in on the success of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which is a much superior film. Yet DEAD END still manages to be as effective as LAST HOUSE in an eerie kind of way. The film itself has a grainy, washed-out look, making it look authentic, has awkward post-dubbing, and a pretty claustrophobic and terrifying set in the old warehouse. Steven Morrison, who plays Terry Hawkins, is also the director under a pseudonym. He does a pretty good job, but nobody else does. The first half of the film is rather dull, but the second half is an endurance test in many ways. There is undying tension in some of the buildup to the gory butchery and the "surgery" scene will no doubt have many viewers turning from the screen in disgust. While the special effects are not top-notch, they are rather believable and the fact that they are overdone on grainy film stock and are badly lit make them all the more effective.

LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET is a film I could never recommend to anyone with a clear conscience. It would be like condemning them to the rack, as this film can be seen as a form of torture. I have no idea why so many people have rated this film a 10 on the IMDB, it's not THAT good, but it something special in the annals of horror. Many people still have not seen it, making it a great triumph for those who managed to survive the viewing. Recommended to those who think they can take it, but believe me, this is really strong, graphic, demented stuff.

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