Mar 27 2015

Nazithon: Decadence and Destruction (2013)

nazithonWTFFollowing close on the stiletto heels of 2013’s Blood of 1000 Virgins, GrindhouseFlix’s first original feature, the jackbooted Nazithon: Decadence and Destruction emerges as the second. It, too, is a trailer collection brimming with no-frills fun and it, too, is directed by company head Charles Band, if hitting the “REC” button for host segments can be called direction. While Virgins wallowed in sexploitation, Nazithon naturally casts its eye on that most odious of psychotronic-film movements: Nazisploitation!

While we’re on the subject of odious, Nazithon is hosted in monotone by Michelle “Bombshell” McGee, a pseudo-celebrity known for her gnarly face tattoos, but only because she’s known for breaking up Sandra Bullock’s marriage. Having previously played an SS soldier in Band’s Puppet Master X: Axis Rising, Ian Roberts stands silently behind the heavily inked McGee, who appears all too comfortable in Nazi garb as she introduces each themed grouping of vintage previews. Many of the coming attractions sport interchangeable titles: SS Experiment Love Camp, SS Camp 5: Women’s Hell, Love Camp 7. The latter, per its trailer’s narrator, is “where women were used like cattle!”

nazithon1Popular in the 1970s, such flicks prove tough sits, partly because of their subject matter, partly because they seem to incite audience pleasure in the torture of females, and partly because they’re just so damned boring. However, their hyperbolic ads show so much — including enough showering to dry one’s epidermis to Sahara levels — you’re left with no need to suffer through the actual experience. The exception may be the Ilsa saga (all four chapters of which are represented here), partly because they’re aware of their cheesy center, partly because of the eye-popping Dyanne Thorne and — with my 37-22-35-track mind, it merits repeating — partly because of the eye-popping Dyanne Thorne.

Showcasing more variety, Nazithon’s back half is better, starting with a section on neo-Nazis, which basically allows for the cross-pollination of the genre into the likes of blaxploitation (The Black Gestapo) and biker films (The Tormentors). The program’s pinnacle arrives at the home stretch, devoted to the goose-steps-meet-goose-bumps realm of supernatural Nazis, as exemplified by Ken Wiederhorn’s Shock Waves, Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake and Jess Franco’s Oasis of the Zombies. —Rod Lott

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Mar 26 2015

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

AVPRAliens vs. Predator: Requiem begins where 2004’s Alien vs. Predator left off: with the miracle of birth! To be precise, an Alien-style chestburster rises from the womb-like corpse of a Predator — behold, the PredAlien! (Seriously, that’s what they 20th Century Fox calls it.) This milestone occurs in space, aboard a Predator ship (PredShip?), which the newborn causes to crash-land on Earth, thereby loosing the Predators’ jarred collection of live Alien facehuggers on the quaint, quiet town of Gunnison, Colo.

Following the spacecraft’s distress signal to our planet is a clean-up Predator (Ian Whyte, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power) whose figurative job is to mop up the mess left behind using explosives and a beaker of blue acid. He makes that damned clicking sound while going about his business. Skirmishes occur amid the great outdoors, but also in the town’s sewer system, nuclear power plant, high school pool and hospital — woe be to the visibly already-pregnant women who gets mouth-raped by the PredAlien.

AVPR1VFX wunderkinds Colin and Greg Strause (Skyline) spend the first act of their feature-directing debut setting up members of their expendable human cast — an ex-con, a pizza delivery boy, an Iraq War vet, the customary cop and so on — and the next two acts knockin’ ’em down. To my surprise, they do a much better job establishing those earlier stages than in dishing out Requiem’s supposed meat. That the characters are introduced with so little personality should tell all about the degree to which the brothers’ film disappoints, especially in the only area in which their target audience gives a damn. They’re no Paul W.S. Anderson.

Requiem might be a fanboy’s dream if we could see the sequences that justify the “vs.” portion of the title. For whatever reason — perhaps to mask some digital seams? — these scenes appear unforgivably dark on disc just as they did in theaters; they’re even trickier for the eye to decipher than the movie’s “what is that?” one-sheet. The Strauses work from a through-the-motions script by Shane Salerno (2000’s Shaft remake), whose coda sets up a never-made third film. Neither Anderson’s original nor the Strauses’ sequel were able to meet the inherent potential of this spin-off franchise, but the Strause boys really squandered it. —Rod Lott

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Mar 25 2015

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

adventuressherlockExcepting 1939’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, perhaps the most famous installment of the 14-film Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone is its second, also from that year: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Not based directly on any one particular story from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon, the movie does a great job of culling from Holmes’ overall world, to the point where it seems like it could’ve preceded Hound in theaters.

The joy here is watching Holmes (Rathbone) try to remain one step ahead of his archenemy, Prof. Moriarty (George Zucco, The Mummy’s Hand), who’s declared not guilty of murder by the courts, but only due to lack of evidence. Holmes possesses such evidence, but arrives a minute too late, leaving Moriarty free, since no man can be tried for the same crime twice. He vows to Holmes that he shall pull “the crime of the century,” and that our hero won’t be able to stop him.

adventuressherlock1A jewel heist is involved, and events culminate in a tussle atop the impressively moody Tower of London. Both Holmes and Moriarty reveal themselves as masters of disguise, suggesting an even match. As with its predecessor, Adventures is a Hollywood classic. It’s not for nothing that Guy Ritchie’s 2009 Sherlock Holmes reboot lifted the amusing scene in which the detective experiments with a fiddle and a glass full of houseflies. —Rod Lott

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Mar 24 2015

WolfCop (2014)

wolfcopLike Snakes on a Plane before it, WolfCop is one of those titles where … well, where all you really need to hear is the title: Either you’re immediately in or forever out. I was so “in,” I was whatever the movie-watching equivalent of “DTF” is.

In a sleepy, snowy Canadian town overtaken by meth, Sgt. Lou Garou (Leo Fafard, until now an unknown entity) works (sometimes) to keep the peace. He’s one of the sheriff’s department’s three members, yet he barely counts since he’s perpetually tardy and decidedly alcoholic. So lazy is Lou that upon waking (hungover) one morning, he initially doesn’t notice the pentagram crudely carved into his upper body. Later, however, he does notice his human penis transform into an animal one, because that’s how you get a guy’s attention nowadays. In short order, Lou’s other parts shape-shift in goopy, gory pain, as a result of whatever the hell happened to him the night before.

wolfcop1Yep, this pig has become a werewolf — a WolfCop, if you will — and with the new way of life come distinct advantages, all the better to fight crime with: super strength, a keener-than-keen sense of smell, a bitchin’ modified police cruiser, a sidekick in the conspiracy-minded gun store owner (Jonathan Cherry, Final Destination 2) and — best of the best — the increased amorous attention of the town’s sex-on-a-stick bartender (Sarah Lind, Severed: Forest of the Dead), who’s not above a little Red Riding Hood role-play.

A big leap up for writer/director Lowell Dean (whose previous film, the 2013 zombie flick 13 Eerie, showed visual promise and not much else), WolfCop belongs to that rare breed of horror-comedy: one that’s truly funny. With game performances and confident control over tone, Dean strikes the proper balance necessary for delivering laughs without spoofing itself. Make no mistake: It’s in on its own joke, but thankfully free of winks to drive that point home. Dean even keeps the insanity restrained until it no longer makes sense to do so; at that point, he loosens his firm grip on the leash and lets the thing run wild. You’ll understand why and thank him for it.

Nearly start-to-finish rollicking, WolfCop is an instant cult classic. —Rod Lott

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Mar 23 2015

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

UltimatewarriorIn 2012 A.D., a plague-ravaged New York City carries the stench of The Omega Man all over it — but in a matte-painting/studio-backlot way — in The Ultimate Warrior. Newsflash: The future is dull and boring, so file this speculative-fiction snoozer under “sigh-fi.”

While cannibalistic street people lurk about, the dozens of survivors form a makeshift community within a city block junk-walled for reinforcement. Under the kindly watch of Baron (Max von Sydow, Flash Gordon), their ersatz mayor, the grime-faced men and women sustain themselves on vegetables grown on a rooftop garden and rations of tinned meat and powdered milk.

ultimatewarrior1The film’s title refers to Carson (Yul Brynner, The Magnificent Seven), a bare-chested and high-waisted fighter invited by Baron to join their quaint neighborhood. Lured not by the offer of extra portions at mealtime, but by the promise of “cee-gars” to get his smoke on, Carson agrees. That’s good, because every post-apocalyptic compound needs an ass-kicker in its employ, particularly with the ever-present threat posed by the ginger-haired giant Carrot (William Smith, 1982’s Conan the Barbarian). Blood is shed, in the color and consistency of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup.

Eventually, Baron sends Carson on an Important Mission, but don’t get your hopes up. That portion — seemingly an afterthought — is even less interesting than everything before it. Then pushing age 55, Brynner is hardly the end-all-be-all tuffie promised — hell, he’s a fraction of the imposing figure he cut just two years earlier as Westworld‘s robo-cowboy — and that alone renders the very premise obsolete. The same could be said of its writer/director, Robert Clouse, continuing his long, slow slide from the (accidental?) heights of the 1973’s kung-fu classic Enter the Dragon to the dregs of DTV action. —Rod Lott

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