Film Review: Hellhole (1985)

Also known as: Hell Hole (alternate spelling)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Pierre De Moro
Written by: Aaron Butler (as Vincent Mongol), Lance Dickson, Mark Evan Schwartz
Music by: Jeff Sturges
Cast: Ray Sharkey, Judy Landers, Marjoe Gortner, Edy Williams, Mary Woronov, Terry Moore, Robert Z’Dar

Arkoff International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

This is a film that I didn’t even know existed until recently. Somehow it evaded me in countless pillages of mom and pop video stores throughout the ’80s and ’90s. But it does have some people I like in it, so why not check it out?

The film sees a woman murdered by some crazed madman that looks like a middle aged punk rock mobster hybrid. Kind of hard to describe him but it’s the ’80s and this isn’t even a B-movie it’s more like a D-movie. Anyway, the woman’s daughter sees the murder, is then pursued and chased until she falls about ten feet and gets amnesia. She is then locked up in an insane asylum where they do crazy experiments that turn female patients into killer zombies. Also, the man that murdered her mother is there, working as an orderly.

In a lot of ways, this is an absolutely awful movie. However, it isn’t all a waste because it’s got some great character actors in it and frankly, it’s full of so much ’80s horror cheese that it should satisfy you, if that’s your thing.

The film has Mary Woronov, who was great in Death Race 2000Eating RaoulRock ‘n’ Roll High SchoolNight of the Comet and so many other B-movies. We also get Marjoe Gortner, who I enjoyed in Starcrash and as the villain in American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. Then you have the “Maniac Cop” himself, Robert Z’Dar in an early role before he’d star in a slew of B-pictures, usually as a psycho killer… okay, always as a psycho killer. But he’s a guy with serious gravitas, a good presence and a chin that would make Bruce Campbell’s take a month off.

I’ll be honest though, there isn’t a whole lot here, apart from the cast, that is all that great. However, I was a bit surprised with how well it played out for what it is. At its core, it is a women in prison movie with a horror twist. There are boobs, lesbian stuff and whatnot. Sadly, there isn’t as much of it as you’d expect from this type of film. But hey, we get killer women prison zombies, so things balance out.

Hellhole isn’t a complete waste of time and it is only ninety minutes. If you didn’t get your fill of Woronov being a psycho in an operating room in Night of the Comet, then this should be up your alley.

Film Review: American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989)

Release Date: February 24th, 1989
Directed by: Cedric Sundstrom
Written by: Gary Conway
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: David Bradley, Steve James, Michele Chan, Calvin Jung, Marjoe Gortner

Cannon Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

“But I am glad that I can tell you that there will be no more inefficient hijackings, no more bungled kidnappings or mistimed bombings, because you see now terrorism can be scientifically focused to be totally effective!” – The Cobra

American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt is where this series went into a steep decline. While one and two are far from masterpieces, they are really enjoyable 80s action flicks featuring a gazillion ninjas and the utter coolness that is Michael Dudikoff. Plus they were directed by the greatest ninja movie director of the 1980s, Sam Firstenberg.

Well, Dudikoff and Firstenberg didn’t return for the third chapter in the series. Many people do not know why Dudikoff bowed out and I didn’t for years until researching it recently. Apparently, after the second film was released, Dudikoff got a mountain of shit from the do-gooders in Hollywood because the movie was made in South Africa during Apartheid. Dudikoff only agreed to return briefly in part four, after convincing the producers to film it in Lesotho, that small independent country surrounded by South Africa. I’m not sure if this is why Firstenberg also left but the filmmakers did not even mention shooting location in the credits of American Ninja 3, which was still filmed in South Africa.

In this chapter, we meet Sean Davidson (David Bradley). As a kid, his father was murdered during a robbery at a karate tournament because why wouldn’t a movie like this start out that way? He is then raised by a ninja, because why wouldn’t he be? When Sean gets older, he’s a bad ass ninja and fights in karate tournaments like his dead daddy. At the 1989 Island Games Karate Tournament, Sean meets Curtis Jackson (Steve James) from the first two American Ninja films but unfortunately, this was his last.

Also at the tournament, Sean and Curtis with their annoying friend Dex, discover that something strange is afoot. There is a criminal madman, as there always is at karate tournaments, that is developing some sort of killer virus. While meddling in the bad guy’s affairs, Sean is captured and given the virus. A bunch of ninja fights happen, Sean meditates the virus out of him and the good guys win.

I didn’t spoil the whole movie but there isn’t a whole lot of plot. Just lots of bad fight choreography and other random stunt stuff. And yes, the fight choreography is almost excruciatingly bad. All the scenes where Michele Chan throws down are horribly executed. She looked like a fish out of water and completely awkward.

When Sean and Curtis were fighting, it was mostly okay but there was nothing to really make you pump your fist like when you see Dudikoff in the first film take on the evil Black Star Ninja. Speaking of which, after two good big boss ninjas in the two previous films, this chapter in the series lacked that. The final fight was Sean against the criminal madman, who really wasn’t a fighter. Well, Sean also had to bat away a couple mid-grade ninja henchmen but they aren’t even worthy of being level one bosses in a 80s Data East game.

I don’t hate American Ninja 3 but it does make me weep at the possibility of what could have happened, had Dudikoff and Firstenberg stayed in the series. Don’t get me wrong, David Bradley was not a bad replacement but it was hard to see him achieve his best in a poorly directed, written and choreographed mess like this.

Film Review: Starcrash (1979)

Release Date: March 7th, 1979 (USA)
Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
Written by: Nat Wachsberger, Patrick Wachsberger
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Judd Hamilton, Robert Tessier, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, Joe Spinell

Columbia, American International Pictures, New World Pictures, 94 Minutes

9c17a67296586aa6c2d153e13395f1deReview:

Starcrash is an Italian science fiction fantasy film that came out during the height of low budget Italian ripoffs of successful American films. The copyright laws in Italy of the 1970s were pretty chill and they produced a slew of films that would’ve had filmmakers lawsuit crazy in the United States.

It is pretty obvious that this movie is a ripoff of Star Wars. From the use of lightsabers, a giant planet destroying super weapon and pretty much everything else in this movie, it is pretty clear what the Italians were trying to tap into.

Of course, being that it is an Italian film, it is sexy as hell. The movie stars a scantily clad Caroline Munro. Still to this day, she is everything I want in a woman. Okay, maybe not everything but she was my first crush as a kid and out of all my childhood crushes, is the one I still find stunning and absolutely perfect, whether it was in this film, Dracula A.D. 1972, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, The Spy Who Loved Me, Maniac, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Slaughter High, The Last Horror Film, At Earth’s Core or as a beautiful deceased corpse in the Dr. Phibes movies. But this isn’t about me perving over the stunning Ms. Munro.

Starcrash is a really bad film. So bad that it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But it is one of those bad films that is quite good for its faults.

The dialogue and situations are unintentionally funny. The characters are over the top and too bizarre to believe. And then there is the dubbing. Caroline Munro is an English speaking actress, being that she is from England, but she got a bizarre American accent dub from another actress. It just makes this film feel even more surreal than it already does.

We also get to see a very young David Hasselhoff show up in the film as a prince who needs rescuing but is actually a pretty heroic character in his own right. Joe Spinell, who would go on to work with Munro in several films and is most known as Gazzo in the first two Rocky films, plays the evil Count Zarth Arn.

The one thing that stands out above all else in this film, is the fact that it looks like 70s pop art. The bad effects and space battles are beautiful in their simplicity and color. The set design looks like something Roger Corman would’ve done twenty years prior but they work and make this film one of the best campy sci-fi movies in history.

This film has a 4.0 on IMDb, I get it. As a piece of filmmaking it is a 4.0 film. However, as far as being fun and unintentionally awesome for all its flaws, it is a much better watch than a 4.0 film.

And it has Caroline Munro in it.