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Star Angel (1986)
Cecil Howard's last great 35mm film, a mesmerizing classic
19 November 2008
Warning: 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.
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Reunion (2005–2006)
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".
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The Roommates (1973)
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.
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Nocturna (1979)
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!
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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.
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Abby (1974)
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.
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My Louisiana Sky (2001 TV Movie)
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.
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Queer as Folk (2000–2005)
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.
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Fame (1980)
Flawed musical, but worth seeing once (spoilers)
16 May 2002
Warning: 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.
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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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She sha shou (1974)
Pretty great Asian horror film with its share of sleaze
23 November 2000
For those looking for a good example of Asian horror that isn't too over-the-top to start with, KILLER SNAKES is probably the best one to seek out. Available on video from Something Weird and letterboxed to boot, KILLER SNAKES is pretty memorable.

A pathetic man who overhears his mother's sadistic affairs as a child grows up with snakes as his only friends. He is beaten up by pimps and prostitutes, has his heart broken by the girl of his dreams, and loses his job. He finally gets sick of the humiliation and torment and sets his king cobras on his enemies.

KILLER SNAKES has a great plot, despite being similar to both WILLARD and STANLEY. I actually preferred this to both of those films, as it has a great Hong Kong atmosphere and better acting by the entire cast. The snakes are used to better advantage and the city of Hong Kong is a wonderfully sleazy setting for such an effective film. Sleaze fans take note of one scene in particular: the man ties up a prostitute in an S&M sling and sets snakes loose on her naked body after feeling her up. REALLY sick stuff! But amazingly effective.

KILLER SNAKES is highly recommended by me, as it is highly entertaining and is a great introduction to the world of outrageous Asian horror. Next on your list should be BLACK MAGIC 1 & 2, CENTIPEDE HORROR, or SEEDING OF A GHOST.
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This movie was taken seriously by its cast and crew?
23 November 2000
Raquel Welch usually delivers great eye candy in her films, sometimes giving great performances, making most of them at least memorable due to her appearance. MYRA BRECKENRIDGE, despite having Welch star in the title role, is not saved by anything. Despite having a cool cast and some interesting oddball antics, BRECKENRIDGE is embarrassing for the viewer, the cast, the crew, even the VCR that is playing it!

Rex Reed (good-looking, but horrible) is Myron, a gay guy who gets a sex change from doctor John Carradine (terrible) and becomes Myra (Raquel Welch, who is good). Myra worms her way into her uncle Buck Loner (pathetic John Huston)'s acting academy, teaching a class on the history of motion pictures. She sodomizes a sexy southern stud and then steals his girlfriend (Farrah Fawcett!). Thrown into the mix is top-billed Mae West, who contributes what amounts to a cameo as a hideous embalmed agent who has sex with her exclusively male clients. Tom Selleck (minus mustache, but still recognizable) is one of her first studs. Add to this mess clips from old films to help "narrate" the action, two songs by West, ludicrous dialogue, Rex Reed masturbating, and a pretty dumb ending and MYRA BRECKENRIDGE may be worth seeing for fans of extremely horrible films.

Despite my love for so-bad-it's-good films (i.e., VALLEY OF THE DOLLS), BRECKENRIDGE didn't do it for me. It was just too jumbled, unlikable, and boring. Yes, boring! In-between the outrageous and tasteless sexual innuendo, there is boring dialogue and attempted humor that falls flat. Slow viewers will no doubt be confused throughout the entire film and those looking for cheap thrills will feel cheated. While women will feel fulfilled with all the hunks floating throughout the film, men will be disappointed in the lack of any female nudity. Welch does not do nude scenes, unfortunately, and Fawcett does not bare any flesh. Thank God West didn't volunteer her ample endowments!!!

MYRA BRECKENRIDGE could be fun viewing for some cult film fans, but it just didn't work for me. While some scenes do stand out (the sodomy scene, West's musical numbers), BRECKENRIDGE just was too boring for me. I actually fell asleep in the middle of it! Not highly recommended, but those who are curious owe it to themselves to at least say that they've seen it!
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Robert Findlay sickie that certainly is odd
20 November 2000
Roberta and Mike Findlay made over a dozen nudie/sickie/roughies in the 60s and early 70s, culminating with SNUFF in the late 70s. Of all those films, the FLESH trilogy is the most memorable. TOUCH OF HER FLESH, CURSE OF HER FLESH, and KISS OF HER FLESH were three sickie classics starring Robert West as Richard Jennings, a one-eyed psycho who kills strippers in sadistic ways. This was his beginning and is a tad boring, but pays off.

Richard Jennings witnesses his wife having sex with another man and runs into traffic. Losing one eye and temporarily paralyzed from the waist down, Richard vows his vengeance and vents his frustration while searching for his wife by killing strippers in inventive ways. He sends one a rose with thorns dipped in poison, shoots a poison dart into the stomach of another, and by the finale, a dagger, a buzzsaw, and a crossbow fit into the whole mess.

TOUCH OF HER FLESH is really sick. First the audience is treated to coy sex scenes and stripping/go-go scenes, followed immediately by scenes of death and gore. I guess that's why they call them sickies. All the acting is bad, but most of the women would fit right in a Russ Meyer film! Top-heavy tarts make up most of the nudity here, which is pleasing to the eye and sort of differentiates this from other films of its kind. There are some good instances of cinematography and editing that are above par in an exploitation film as well.

TOUCH OF HER FLESH is not for everyone and will probably offend those looking for a softcore sex film from the 60s. The version I saw was cut, as the film only ran an hour (original running time is 70 minutes), but the sex was not graphic; it's the gore that should draw audiences. Sadistic viewers should enjoy it, but I'm surprised cries of misogyny haven't plagued this film from its release! Not heartily recommended, but is worth a look if you're curious. And you should be if you're reading a review of this!
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Heat (1972)
Lesser Morrissey film, but still great
18 November 2000
Paul Morrissey's FLESH, TRASH, and WOMEN IN REVOLT are classics of underground cinema. While I prefer TRASH and WOMEN to FLESH, all of them have a certain appeal (wether it be Joe Dallesandro or the Factory transvestites) that keeps a legion of fans happy. HEAT, while a technically superior film to the above-mentioned, has less of that appeal, but is still enjoyable.

Joe Dallesandro is Joey Davis, a former child star who is trying to revive his career. He takes up residence in a sleazy motel run by Pat Ast and also occupied by Andrea Feldman, an odd lesbian whose mother, Sylvia Miles, is a has-been actress. Miles and Dallesandro have a brief affair that cuts itself short when Joe begins having sexual encounters with every person he runs into!

As usual, Morrissey's film relies on great acting by the cast. Joe Dallesandro is good, as usual, but was much better in TRASH. Sylvia Miles is excellent in what could be an extension of her role in MIDNIGHT COWBOY. The two actors who really steal the film are Pat Ast and Andrea Feldman. Ast is pretty outrageous with huge frizzy hair and ugly costumes highlighting her obesity, but has great dialogue ("Is that so believe?") and commands quite a presence in every scene of hers. Feldman, who is memorable from TRASH as the acidhead, proves herself as an actress. While many believe she is basically playing her crazy self, I think she manages to create a wild, yet sympathetic character and making this performance even more believable is the fact that Feldman killed herself shortly before the film was released. I wonder if her career would have continued had she lived?

HEAT has a Hollywood feel to it, despite being filmed in the standard cheap way by Morrissey, which makes it a bit less realistic to some viewers. I liked it, not as much as Morrissey's other works, but it still was saved by the outstanding cast. I would recommend this over any other Morrissey work for those who have yet to venture into the world of Andy Warhol's films, as this is easily accessible and is a bit easier to view (FLESH has bad sound and editing, TRASH has unflinching realism) for the mainstream film viewer.
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Possibly the worst film of the 90s
16 November 2000
THE DOOM GENERATION is sick, twisted, unfunny, and pointless. It rambles from one scene of supposed comedy (profanity is funny, right?!)to another. I can't even believe I am wasting my time reviewing this film, but I feel I should warn people of how truly horrible this film is.

The normally good Rose McGowan is Amy, a goth chick who, with her dumb boyfriend in tow, encounters a psycho who commits murders and involves them. That's basically it. No attempt at characterization is ever taken, these are thoroughly unlikable characters and what happens to them I felt glad about, especially if it was negative, as they deserve it. The only redeeming factor about the film is a series of cameos by famed actors (why would they stoop this low?): Parker Posey as a hooker (the only funny thing about the entire film), Christopher Knight (Peter from "The Brady Bunch"), and porn star Zak Spears (hardly recognizable, but nice to see in a mainstream film).

THE DOOM GENERATION is completely stupid and is a waste of time for everyone involved, including the viewer. I saw the cut version, but I doubt the edited sex and violence could save what is otherwise a wholly negative viewing experience.
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Oh my God! What the hell have I just witnessed?
16 November 2000
Herschell Gordon Lewis, father of the gore movie, made a few kiddie movies between gore spectacles. I have had the fortune to see one of these and am utterly flabbergasted! JIMMY THE BOY WONDER is a wonder, all right, from start to finish. You will not believe what you are seeing!

Jimmy Jay is a little brat who wishes time would stop on the first day of school. Mr. Figg, a weirdo with ugly eyebrows and an Adam Sandler voice, stops the universal clock and we are treated to shots of people unconvincingly freezing (sometimes people still move in the background!). A frantic wizard bedecked in a hideous cape and pointy hat summons his daughter Aurora (like a breasty young Kathy Bates) to aid Jimmy in his quest to the end of the world in order to start the clock again. And so it begins, possibly the most unpredictable, unbelievable, and amazing adventure any child could ever view! I can't imagine what a kiddie matinee thought of this! First SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, now this?!

JIMMY THE BOY WONDER is 100% entertaining. I didn't get bored once through the entire thing, I just sat totally mystified, bewildered, and in utter disbelief. Features a lake of laughing potion, a badly dubbed European cartoon about a magic globe, horrible songs like "Beans", "Mr. Figg", and "Think Big" sung totally off-key and lip-synched terribly, a band of green Indians, Slow Motion Land (!), and of course, turning the whole world red and blue (don't even ask). The ending is also ridiculous, but fun. JIMMY THE BOY WONDER comes highly recommended by me for those who are looking for a good time and something out of the ordinary. This is definitely up your alley if that's you!
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Fun H.G. Lewis expose on the seamy side of the music business
13 November 2000
By 1967, H.G. Lewis had stopped his gore career short with THE GRUESOME TWOSOME a year earlier. He directed a campy send-up of a rock group being used and humiliated by the music business called THE BLAST-OFF GIRLS that remained lost for years. Eventually, Something Weird Video unearthed it and released it. While it's all good campy fun, it could hardly be called essential Lewis.

The Faded Blue (a real-life Chicago garage band) star as The Big Blast, a Florida garage band who are conned into a business deal (without a contract) by big-time manager Boojie Baker (played disgustingly well by Dan Conway). Boojie uses beautiful women to con record executives and concert hall owners into letting the Blast play there and eventually makes them famous with a record on the Billboard Hot 100 called "Noise". When the group decides that Boojie isn't giving them enough money, they promptly drop him and he avenges himself by setting up a drug bust. But the group isn't finished with Boojie yet.

THE BLAST-OFF GIRLS suffers from one thing: the group isn't that good. When many of the "bad guy" executives say, "This group is just like any other", the audience can't help but agree with them! A multitude of garage bands erupted in the late 60s and it's hard to tell them apart. The Big Blast, if there ever were such a group, would have melted into the garage band sound without making much of a dent. Some of the songs heard are pretty good (like "Noise"), but others are overpowered by the annoying organ work. Of special note is the keyboard player, who is set up to be the comic relief and is pretty likable. As a matter of fact, the whole band are not bad actors and any viewer can identify with them. I was surprised to see Col. Sanders appear as himself, offering free fried chicken to the group in exchange for a performance outside his restaurant for dancing kids! Pretty cool stuff. Imagine anyone doing such a thing today for a low budget filmmaker! Besides The Big Blast is an unnamed garage band heard during the opening sequence that features the chief delinquent in JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT as the lead singer! They do a pretty good job, too, and I would have preferred the whole movie to be about them instead.

H.G. Lewis does what he can with a pretty slapshod storyline, but the film slows down too much when the band is off the screen. The background music really irks me, too. But BLAST-OFF GIRLS is kitschy fun that is worth seeing at least once. Lewis fans will die happy after seeing The Big Blast's stoned performance on live TV as only Lewis could do it! Recommended for one-time viewing and to anyone who ever was in a band or is now! Modern-day garage bands should really enjoy this! For a much better film on the same topic, though, seek out BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, which I enjoyed much more.
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The Mummy (1959)
Hammer strikes again with a superior remake of the Universal classic
13 November 2000
THE MUMMY was one of the three classic Hammer remakes I saw when I was 9 years old. The others were HORROR OF DRACULA and CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. All got me hooked on horror and I still love them to this day. I strongly recommend watching them all, but if you choose to watch this first, it is a good choice.

Christopher Lee is an Egyptian priest who has his tongue cut out and buried alive for performing a ritual of life on the dead Pharoah's wife. Hundreds of years later, an English expedition unearths the tombs of the dead and unleashes the priest's mummy by reading the scroll of life. The mummy is exported to England, where he escapes and kills the men who unearthed him from his slumber.

THE MUMMY is filled with vivid visuals and brilliant use of bloodshed which still proves startling and effective. Alongside Christopher Lee is Peter Cushing, another leading men of the Hammer films, and both are wonderful here. Yvonne Forneaux provides for a beautiful damsel in distress. The music, which was just recently released on CD, is appropriately gripping. Hammer's brilliant use of color photography makes this a dream to watch. But impatient viewers will not enjoy the gaps between mummy action filled with talk. On another topic, some viewers find the Mummy too athletic, but that is a personal preference. I myself like that the mummy is more athletic than in his other films, yet it is also pretty illogical.

THE MUMMY is a great place to start for the beginning of a curious Hammer fan's search. While I would recommend HORROR OF DRACULA over MUMMY, I still think you can't go wrong with this film either. Strongly recommended, even to those who are not horror fans.
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Not the best German silent film, but comes pretty damn close
13 November 2000
I was hesitant to view THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI for a long time for fear that I would be disappointed in it. Having seen METROPOLIS, NOSFERATU, and THE GOLEM, I sensed that CABINET would not stand up well to those, all classics of German cinema. Well, I was right, CABINET is not as good as any of those, but is still a very well-made film and is as stunning as it was in 1920.

A man sitting in a park tells the story of Dr. Caligari and how he visited a small German village with the fair and terrorized the citizens of the city by sending out his somnambulist, Cesare, to kill people. As a German Expressionist work, CABINET delivers the goods when it comes to set design and plot. The set design for the film features flattened jagged buildings and weird angles galore. The plot, which isn't much, has a spectacular twist by the final 5 minutes and drives home the aura of insanity the movie contains.

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI does slow down to a crawl during the middle section of the film, but picks up during the final half is as breath-taking to look at the entire running time. Modern-day filmmakers should take a few hints from this film. I can only compare the work of Tim Burton to this film and even he is not as creative as CABINET. Recommended for those who are patient and appreciate the visual technique of filmmaking.
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Pretty entertaining despite being Russ Meyer's weakest film
12 November 2000
After Russ Meyer hit it big with BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for 20th Century Fox, he directed his second movie for the studio's two-picture deal with him. THE SEVEN MINUTES was a box office flop and ruined any chances Meyer may have had to continue with Fox. But I actually found myself liking this movie and while it's not as fantastic as his comedies or action flicks, MINUTES is still unique in its own way.

"The Seven Minutes" is a book that has been charged with obscenity and is blamed for leading a young boy to rape a girl. The film revolves around the court case against the book. That's pretty much it. Regular Meyer fans will be disappointed in this film, no doubt. While it does feature Edy Williams, Charles Napier, Stuart Lancaster, a young Tom Selleck, the actor who plays Martin Bormann, and the black boxer from BVD, these cast members appear in what amount to cameos and disappear very quickly. Yvonne de Carlo is great as an old-time Hollywood actress, though. The major problem with the film is that it is a serious film, not a slapstick comedy, a real turning point for Meyer. I wonder if he even wanted to make this film, as it is such a departure from his regular content.

THE SEVEN MINUTES is not filled with busty beauties or excellent music or outrageous situations, but features lots of Meyer's trademark lightning-quick editing and enough twists and turns in the plot to get the viewer involved in the story. The surprise ending is totally out of left field. Still, I would only recommend THE SEVEN MINUTES to diehard Meyer fans and even then, very carefully. The film is very hard to find, but I was able to rent it from Video Vault in Alexandria, VA. Even Meyer doesn't offer it on his Bosomania label! So if you spend lots of time searching for it, expecting another BVD or SUPERVIXENS, you will be disappointed when you finally see it. Worth one viewing.
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Boring and overlong adults only "expose"
11 November 2000
Based on the Kenneth Anger book of the same name, HOLLYWOOD BABYLON is over 50% public domain silent movie footage with boring narration over it. I can't believe I'm commenting on this, as it is really nothing to comment on, but there are some good sequences of Uschi Digard as a lesbian Marlene Dietrich and the re-enactment of the Fatty Arbuckle scandal. Otherwise, nothing to shout about and certainly nothing to seek out. Maybe if you're a Hollywood scandal fanatic, but even then, more time is spent on Hollywood history (mostly fictional).
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Ghosthouse (1988)
Pretty dumb Italian supernatural "thriller"
11 November 2000
Director Umberto Lenzi proves that he was a one-hit wonder in the horror genre (CANNIBAL FEROX) with this pathetic attempt at a haunted house story. Released in Italy as HOUSE 3 (sort of like THE HORROR SHOW was released here as HOUSE 3), GHOSTHOUSE is not even worthy of a free rental.

A radio junkie and his girlfriend investigate transmissions from a mysterious house and are helped by four campers spending the weekend on the estate. Take away logical plot, inventive camerawork, good acting, and intelligent dialogue and you have GHOSTHOUSE. Noteworthy for featuring Eurocult favorite Donald O'Brien as a psychotic caretaker (he is horrible here), there is nothing else to recommend. It's like Lenzi watched a bunch of better horror films and injected elements from Fulci's HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (the house even looks the same!), FRIDAY THE 13TH, POLTERGEIST, and THE HAUNTING. None of the attempted scares work, despite one good sequence of blood coming out of a faucet. Some good gore effects are highlights, but are too few and far between. The musical score is horrendous and is the perfect excuse for using the mute button.

GHOSTHOUSE is not even fun for diehard Lenzi fans. Instead, seek out CANNIBAL FEROX for an excellent horror film or one of Lenzi's many awesome cop thrillers. In my opinion, GHOSTHOUSE isn't even good enough to be used as toilet paper for the world's fattest woman. It should be burned, along with a small select group of thoroughly unwatchable films, and its ashes dumped into the deepest ocean never to be seen again.
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Curtains (1983)
Underrated slasher film that deserves another look
11 November 2000
On the surface, CURTAINS is a pretty standard slasher: a group of women in an isolated environment are picked off by a masked killer. Yet CURTAINS has an original storyline, excellent acting, and masterful direction. While a bit hard to find today, it is just recently receiving the attention it deserves.

Samantha Eggar (who is excellent) is Samantha, a talented actress who admits herself to an insane asylum at the insistence of her director (a mediocre John Vernon) in order to research a part she would die for. Instead, she is left to rot in the asylum and the director calls six young actresses to his isolated mansion for a weekend casting call. And the killing begins at the hands of a figure wearing a hideous old woman mask. Scythes, axes, and butcher knives fly and the tension mounts as only a few girls are left.

CURTAINS is saved from being a standard slasher film by outstanding performances by the entire cast. Even though John Vernon isn't as great as he usually is, he is still watchable and makes the director character a great son-of-a-bitch. Stand-out performances include Lesleh Donaldson as the good girl skater and Lynne Griffin (the first victim of BLACK CHRISTMAS and the star of that film's famous poster) as the comedian who wants to turn serious for the role. I especially loved Griffin; I understand how great an actress she is by comparing her role as the goody two-shoes in BLACK CHRISTMAS and her role here, where she smokes pot and curses. Really great actress.

CURTAINS features many great sequences: the killer skates in slow-motion across a frozen lake to attack the skater; a dream sequence featuring a rainstorm and a doll; and the final stalking sequence in a theatrical warehouse. This final sequence is taken from Mario Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, but is still excellent and may be the high point of the film.

Some horror fans hate the non-ending, but I liked it. The twist ending is greatly appreciated and once again makes CURTAINS seem more original than it really has a right to be. I highly recommend CURTAINS for those looking for a break from the everyday slasher film.
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Friday Foster (1975)
Pam Grier holds her own once again
11 November 2000
I'm sure many fans used to the action-packed Pam Grier flicks must have hated this film when it came out. FRIDAY FOSTER doesn't feature Grier kicking ass or cussing out a criminal, but does have a great cast, excellent acting by Grier, and a funky score.

Grier stars as Friday Foster (real name? who knows?!), a photojournalist who becomes involved in a scheme to kill off all the black leaders of the world. Chasing criminals, sleeping with politicians, and brushing elbows with hired assassins, Friday saves the day and solves the case in the end.

OK, no Pam Grier kicking ass. So what? Here, this is where Grier got her acting chops. While previously in films like BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA, COFFY & FOXY BROWN, Grier was just a vehicle for action, here she is given a vivid character to perform with and does a superb job. Besides Grier, there are plenty of other blaxploitation regulars to savor: Godfrey Cambridge as a gay suspect; Eartha Kitt as Madame Rena, a flamboyant dress designer (always fun to see her); Carl Weathers as a hired assassin; Thalmus Rasulala as the richest black man in the world; Yaphet Kotto as Friday's cop boyfriend (he's great!); Scatman Crothers as a dirty old man preacher (criminally underused); and "Gilligan's Island" regular Jim Backus in a cameo as a sleazy white politician. Also appearing is Tierre Turner, the annoying little kid from BUCKTOWN, as Friday's kid brother.

While FRIDAY FOSTER might not be action-packed and an excellent Grier action vehicle, blaxploitation doesn't get any better than this. I might even say this is Grier's best 70s film besides COFFY, if only because she does her best acting job here. Recommended.
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Bucktown (1975)
Really great blaxploitation action
11 November 2000
I had never seen a Fred Williamson movie before, but BUCKTOWN has converted me into a fan. An incredibly likable hero with intelligence and morals, Williamson is a great actor surrounded by an even better supporting cast.

Duke Johnson (Williamson) returns to bury his brother in his southern town of Buchanan. While there, he encounters corrupt white cops, so he calls his black friends from the city to help him take them out. His only problem: the black gangsters now want control of the town. This plot would later be re-hashed in THE BLACK GESTAPO, by the way.

BUCKTOWN has great action scenes, but even better are the character development scenes and the entire execution of a great storyline. Williamson stands for justice and brotherhood from his entrance; anyone who criticizes his performance in this film is not paying attention. Pam Grier co-stars as Aretha, his sister-in-law turned girlfriend and since this is post-FRIDAY FOSTER, does a superb acting turn here. BLACULA star Thalmus Rasulala (also in FRIDAY FOSTER) is Roy, Duke's friend who takes over the town. Comic relief is provided by Bernie Hamilton as Harley (great, effective character) and Terrie Turner as Aretha's son (annoying, but important character). Carl Weathers makes more of his famous career as a blaxploitation extra as one of Roy's henchmen. At least he speaks here!

BUCKTOWN makes great use of the audience's feelings. At first, the audience empathizes with the black gangsters as they beat the senses out of the corrupt white cops, but then it turns ugly and brutal and the audience then feels bad for the cops. The audience's perceptions of the heroes in the film are constantly corrupted and that is unique for a film of this type. BUCKTOWN is not only recommended to blaxploitation fans, but also for those looking for a film with action, integrity, and intelligence.
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