Mar 27 2017

Salsa (1988)

WTFSalsa, sadly, isn’t a film about the ins-and-outs of the breakneck world of competitive hot sauce divining — for that, Hollywood producers, please email me to take a look at my unproduced screenplay, Días de Salsa Caliente, Noches de Salsa Más Calientes — but instead a semi-musical based around the steamy art of competitive salsa dancing, made years before this beloved activity became co-opted by middle-aged gringos in an attempt to inject some hot Latin flava into their limp Caucasian marriages.

Former Menudo heartthrob Draco “Robby” Rosa — who always looks like he’s about one step away from turning into a werewolf — stars as Rico, a Puerto Rican mechanic in East L.A. with a burning, salsa-based fire in his Latino loins that, in the first five minutes of film, are thrusted directly in our faces, not only via an awkward, opening-credits dance in his neon-lit, DayGlo garage, but later and even more awkwardly, while he is fresh out of the shower performing Elvis’ “Blue Suede Shoes” clad only in a washcloth. It’s more queso than salsa, but still delicious!

Of course, Rico loves to salsa dance and spends most of his time in a hot nightclub that regularly is host to such big-name, big-ticket guests as Celia Cruz, Willie Colon and Tito Puente. Aye Dios mio! Either way, once you get past the hour and a half’s worth of concert footage and dance numbers, we’re left with about five minutes’ worth of a simplistic-enough plot lifted from any random telenovela, one where Rico’s loyalty to his friends and family is tested when his ego overtakes him in an effort to win the big dance-off (a plot thread left strangely unanswered, mind you) when the sultry cougar club owner Luna (Miranda Garrison, The Forbidden Dance) uses his skills as her attempt to reclaim her throne as the Queen of Salsa.

Subtitled “It’s Hot!” — and boy is it! — the barely remembered Salsa was directed by Boaz Davidson (The Last American Virgin), choreographed by Kenny Ortega (that video that ruined Billy Squire’s career) and made on the muy barato by the Cannon Group. It was also another entry into the action mavens’ niche of jumping on any ethnic dance craze that came their way, including Breakin’ (Break it to make it!), Lambada (Set the night on fire!) and Kinjite (Forbidden subjects!) — something which I appreciated in the ’80s and still appreciate today.

And by the way: If anyone can find a copy of the soundtrack, please send it and a bag of Tostitos my way! ¡Cómpralo ya! —Louis Fowler 

Get it at Amazon.

Feb 15 2017

Colour Correct My Cock 2 Can Fuck Off! (2017)

WTFThose “kings of Canadian grind house trash” are at it again in Colour Correct My Cock 2 Can Fuck Off!, Vagrant Video’s follow-up to the 2013 party-ready, potty-mouthed trailer compilation. Following a markedly improved intro that find our hosts luxuriating in the heart-shaped bubble bath of a tacky motor inn with hourly room rates, James Bialkowski and Jacob Windatt expunge their latest load of 35mm-film finds, many of which already have succumbed to the dreaded vinegar syndrome, and are all the better for it. Because I don’t want to see a drive-in ad for Schneider’s red hots in high-def (even if it is scored by the resplendent “Love Is Blue“) — among, um, other things that, er, “pop up” here and there.

Like that idiotic quote from Forrest Gump about the unpredictability of the goddamn candy oozing with all sorts of factory-injected filling, you never know what CCMC2CFO! will hurl your way. It does so at whiplash speed, often not even warning you to “Think fast!” a split-second before your retinas are exposed to … to … well, a clip from an Asian film that forever has altered my stance on peacock feathers and baby powder, and footage of hobos chowing down on bread topped with caviar. And by “caviar,” I mean sizable glops of black shoe polish.

But mostly, as with the original Colour Correct collection, movie trailers are the menu item du jour. Whether consciously or not, sequels are well-represented, with Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (under its Canuck title of Breakdance), Porky’s II: The Next Day and The Return of Swamp Thing. Pairings figure even more prominent, as you get double dips of:
• Fred Savage (The Wizard and Vice Versa),
• killer thrillers (Relentless and Overexposed),
• illicit relations (The Sister-in-Law and The Step Daughter),
• animal stars (Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood and Namu, the Killer Whale),
• star-spangled heroes (Evel Knievel and 1990’s Captain America),
• endowed-and-empowered vixens (The Working Girls and Ginger),
• the massive breasts of a career-nadir Angelique Pettyjohn (left and right)
• and spots for sugar water (Sprite and Pepsi).

Meanwhile, Charles Bronson fronts three trailers — St. Ives, 10 to Midnight and Telefon — because he’s Charles Motherfuckin’ Bronson.

All of the above merely scratch the irritated, possibly infected surface of this feature-length showcase of sleaze. Oddball moments abound, rarely in context, from the handwritten credits for something titled (and gloriously so) Franchesca’s Sexual Whirlpool to the German trailer for Lucio Fulci’s “Der” New York Ripper, whose quacking strikes the ears as even more WTFy surrounded by the world’s ugliest spoken tongue. Don’t miss the theater ad shilling supposedly “sizzling” hamburgers, which, I kid you not, look uncomfortably similar to the shoe-polish sammich. —Ed Donovan

Dec 12 2016

Cry Wilderness (1987)

crywildernessWTFAs a love story between a boy and his Bigfoot, Cry Wilderness is the cryptozoological equivalent to a nerdy teenager’s story about his supposed girlfriend in Canada (you don’t know her). Little Paul (Eric Foster, Death House) attends a boarding school where nobody believes his wild tale of hanging with Bigfoot the previous summer. After they met by a waterfall, Paul apparently introduced the hairy giant to Coca-Cola and rock ’n’ roll; in return, Bigfoot gifted him with a wooden-knot necklace that the kid wears as if he were the Webelos version of Flavor Flav.

One night, Bigfoot (Tom Folkes) appears in a vision to warn the child that his father, a forest ranger, faces grave danger, so Paul escapes the safety of the school and heads for the trees. A more effeminate Grizzly Adams, Dad (Maurice Grandmaison, Savage Journey) is not too happy to see his only child, especially when he hears Paul’s reason. “I wish their was a Bigfoot,” Dad scolds with improper grammar, “so I could strangle him!” Although the two generations differ on the point of sasquatch validity, they do share one thing: bowl haircuts so hideous, they would be unbecoming on the bowl.

crywilderness1But Bigfoot really isn’t the focus of Cry Wilderness, an utterly neutered family-friendly adventure from Night Train to Terror director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen; an escaped tiger is. To locate the carnivorous animal, Paul accompanies his pop, a Native American pal (John Tallman, Class of Nuke ’Em High Part 3: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid) and a swarthy hunter in a net shirt (Griffin Casey); we meet the latter as he grabs and chokes an alarmed raccoon with his bare hands. The PG pic is full of questionable behavior where nature is concerned, suggesting to its young audience that it’s perfectly fine to taunt a bobcat and/or wrestle a bear. There’s also a wolf named Shasta (but no Cragmont to be found).

At the end of this rather tiresome expedition, Paul and Bigfoot are reunited; uncomfortably intimate hugs ensue. Also, Paul’s father becomes trapped between fallen rocks and rafters in a mine, and just when it seems that the seasoned ranger will have to Aron Ralston his way outta this bind, Bigfoot puts his skill of moving heavy things to use. Then, back at school, Paul calls upon the satanic forces contained within his crafts-class amulet to open a portal into a smoky, crimson-hazed zoo.

Cry Wilderness? Cry mercy. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

Aug 9 2016

Guyana: Cult of the Damned (1979)

guyanaWTFStuart Whitman is the Rev. Jim Jones in Guya … wait, what? Okay, if you say so.

Take two.

Stuart Whitman is the Rev. Jim Johnson in Guyana: Cult of the Damned!

Yes, the inch-high-eyebrowed Treasure of the Amazon star plays the real-life deranged and delusional cult leader who convinced nearly 1,000 of his followers to commit mass suicide by drinking poisoned Flavor Aid in 1978. Dubbed “the Jonestown Massacre,” the tragedy quickly beget two screen adaptations. Hollywood went prestigious with the 1980 telefilm Guyana Tragedy, for which Powers Boothe won the Emmy; Mexico, however, struck sooner with 1979’s Cult of the Damned (aka Guyana: Crime of the Century), for which Whitman won … well, nothing, but maybe he got to keep his character’s omnipresent, They Live-style sunglasses? One can dream!

guyana1Hey, at least Whitman’s film, with Tintorera: Killer Shark’s René Cardona Jr. at the helm, played theaters. It aimed for pure exploitation, which might be why its subject is named Johnson instead of Jones. (Make no mistake: He’s totally playing Jim Jones.) Whatever the reason, Cult of the Damned opens in San Francisco as Jones Johnson preaches fire and brimstone from the pulpit. Clad in all-white, cape included, he hammers and yammers for six minutes before unveiling visual aids: a map of South America, with which his parishioners kinda need to familiarize themselves, since he’s just all but ordered them to ditch their possessions and move there to live and work at the Jonestown Johnsontown compound, as God supposedly has instructed. (Disclaimer: The Lord does not appear in this motion picture. But The Munsters’ Yvonne De Carlo does.)

Ostensibly, Johnsontown is established as a farming community, yet the only crops his highness seems interested in yielding are human slavery and total submission. Disobey and there’s hell to pay … and shock value for viewers. For instance, a man who attempts to leave finds his back whipped to bloody shreds. A little boy who swipes food from the kitchen is tied to the ground and tortured with live snakes, while an accomplice is strapped to a wooden contraption and dunked underwater. A young man caught fornicating with his girlfriend must endure rape by a big, scary black man Johnson hand-picks from his congregation.

guyana2That last bit proves Cardona’s trip to Guyana was charted solely for ruthless purposes. The reverend’s teachable moments might carry more dramatic weight if they happened to people we cared about, much less knew who they were, but every Johnsontown resident who isn’t Johnson is poorly delineated; Cardona and co-scripter Carlos Valdemar (1978’s The Bermuda Triangle) have sketched them so lightly, it’s as if they were created from a dot-to-dot puzzle with four points at best.

Guyana: Cult of the Damned may “just” be a classic case of headlines-torn exploitation, yet the movie is disturbing all the same, particularly in the section focused on the ill-fated exploratory visit/rescue attempt by a congressman (Gene Barry, 1953’s The War of the Worlds). Lucky for us, either no one told Whitman this flick was a cash-grab or he just didn’t care that it was, because the man delivers a performance that goes for broke … and, yes, a plate of ham. There’s kitsch in its grip. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

Jun 13 2016

Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein (2015)

WTFDCterrorfrankNo matter the budget or number of cooks, film sets are a bitch. Think of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo or Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Odds are you haven’t thought of 1977’s Terror of Frankenstein, but oh, how you should. The Swedish/Irish co-production proved to be a highly peculiar farrago, with one of the actors murdering several fellow cast members!

Now, decades later, all is revealed by director Gavin Merrill and screenwriter David Falks — always heard, never seen — through a DVD commentary track, of all things. To hear it is to witness a mind-boggling, historical record of an unfortunate nexus of cinema and crime, talent and tragedy.

DCterrorfrank1Except that it never happened; Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein is bogus. Given that premise, you can be forgiven if you assume the cheap-looking film at its center to be fake as well — otherwise, I’d be a hypocrite — but Terror of Frankenstein is the real deal, albeit rightfully obscure. The merry pranksters behind this put-on, director Tim Kirk and producer Rodney Ascher (collaborators on Ascher’s Room 237 documentary), have taken great pains to preserve the facade, including starting this meta project with the familiar FBI warning of home media, tracking issues and a shoddy menu our omniscient viewer navigates, taking a gander at the special features’ two-bit slideshow before selecting the filmmakers’ commentary.

From then on, speaking for the entirety are the opportunistic Merrill (Clu Gulager, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge) and irascible Falks (Zack Norman, Cadillac Man). At first, we’re in the dark that the ’77 Terror has a tortured backstory, but it doesn’t take long for their conversation to grow contentious, with an uncomfortable Falks blaming Merrill for the deaths, as well as exploiting them for financial gain. Even if Gulager and Norman can’t quite carry the illusion to total legitimacy, they hook you from the start and are a hoot to hear — especially Norman’s sour-puss portrayal of the guilt-stricken scribe. As information is doled out in small chunks, the story builds and builds toward a payoff that Kirk can’t help but fumble because of Commentary’s confining structure. However anticlimactic, Kirk’s unique experiment is as devious as Victor Frankenstein’s in the film within the film. —Rod Lott