It must have been very easy and very difficult to make a science fiction movie in the late 70s. It was easy because after the success of “Star Wars,” studios were throwing money at anything with robots in it. But it was difficult because the genre was in a very weird place. Before “Star Wars,” big-budget sci-fi movies generally were thoughtful, philosophical works. But after “Star Wars,” the A-list sci-fi movie transformed into something more visceral. Movies with a message gave way to pure spectacle. “Logan’s Run” was pushed aside for “Flash Gordon.” “Saturn 3” tries to have it both ways. It wants to split the difference between “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Alien.” That’s how we get a movie in which Harvey Keitel accidentally teaches a robot how to be horny. Continue reading
“Metamorphosis” is an Italian-made variation on the classic mad scientist tale of a brilliant man cursed by his own hubris to turn himself into a Halloween costume. Seemingly made with ample inspiration taken from David Cronenberg’s remake of “The Fly,” “Metamorphosis” ratchets up the mindless violence but tones down the tragedy. Unlike Jeff Goldblum’s doomed Seth Brundle, the main character of “Metamorphosis” only succeeds in making himself as physically ugly as he is spiritually. Continue reading
“The Vindicator” is a movie about a man transformed into a cyborg killing machine, and yet the longest action sequence in the movie involves a pudgy loser manhandling and later attempting to rape a pregnant woman. But that’s the kind of movie “The Vindicator” is – it’s the cinematic equivalent of one of those “grim and gritty” superhero comics. There’s a man who’s half-robot who can lift a car over his head, but there’s also a lot of swearing and sexual assault to let you know that this isn’t for little kids or anything like that. Looking past the attempts at gruesome violence and “mature” subject matter, there isn’t anything in “The Vindicator” that’s any deeper than the average episode of “Power Rangers.” Continue reading
The first line of spoken dialogue in “Creepozoids,” said within the first two minutes of the movie, is this: “Is somebody out there?” Within two minutes of that, a giant cockroach bursts into the room. That’s efficient. I appreciate a movie that doesn’t waste time like that. I’ve seen way too many monster movies that labor under the delusion that people watch them for real human drama and character work. “Creepozoids” was made by David DeCoteau, a protégé of Roger Corman and Charles Band, the latter being the mind behind series such as “Puppet Master,” “Gingerdead Man,” and “Evil Bong.” DeCoteau is also a veteran of the porn industry, so as a filmmaker he’s experienced at cutting to the chase. Continue reading
I didn’t realize “Eat and Run” had made any kind of impression on me at all until I saw the picture of its main monster on the VHS box recently. Years ago, when I was a kid and a voracious reader of movie reviews in the newspaper, certain movies just stuck with me because the critics’ plot descriptions made them memorable. That’s why it would be years before I ever worked up the courage to watch “Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” thanks to Gene Siskel’s description of Freddy tearing his way out of the main character’s chest.
The review for “Eat and Run” came complete with a picture of Murray, the movie’s alien maneater. Murray was fatter than any human being I had ever seen in my life up to that point, so much so that I assumed he was some kind of Jim Henson puppet, and his bald head and shark-like mouth made me imagine a movie in which this mountain of flesh and teeth would be tearing people into bloody ribbons. It terrified me for days. So when I found the movie this week, the plot sounded familiar, but the sight of that creature on the box made it official. I had to see this movie at last. Continue reading
“Star Wars” is about as big of a pop cultural phenomenon as you can get, but there are still some areas where its influence is practically non-existent. For example, even though the major characters of “Star Wars” are global icons with name recognition in even the farthest corners of the world, none of them have ever received enough votes to stand on the dais with the leading candidates for British Prime Minister. However, Lord Buckethead, main villain of the 1984 “Star Wars” spoof “Gremloids,” has. This past June, Lord Buckethead received more than 200 votes in the United Kingdom general election, which was enough to get him on a stage with the top vote-getters and the requisite attention from Twitter. So yes, “Star Wars” may have billions in box office revenue, the respect of high-minded critics, and a merchandising empire responsible for more plastic than Dow Chemical, but “Gremloids” has Lord Buckethead. Continue reading
The original “Death Race 2000” isn’t just a nearly perfect slice of drive-in junk food, it’s one of my favorite movies ever. Working off a recipe that balances black comedy, action and sleaze in precise proportions, director Paul Bartel and writers Robert Thom and Charles Griffith created one of the best and most entertaining products to ever come out of Roger Corman’s schlock market. It would take more than another movie to combine road racing with wholesale slaughter to clear the bar set by “Death Race 2000,” and “Death Race 2050” certainly tries. Continue reading