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: Tango & Cash (1989)

Release Date: December 22nd, 1989
Directed by: Andrei Konchalovsky, Peter MacDonald (uncredited), Albert Magnoli (uncredited), Stuart Baird (uncredited)
Written by: Randy Feldman, Jeffrey Boam (rewrites)
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Jack Palance, Teri Hatcher, Brion James, Geoffrey Lewis, Eddie Bunker, James Hong, Marc Alaimo, Michael J. Pollard, Robert Z’Dar, Lewis Arquette, Roy Brocksmith, Clint Howard

The Guber-Peters Company, Warner Bros., 101 Minutes

Review:

“Rambo? Rambo’s a pussy.” – Ray Tango

I used to really like Tango & Cash when I was in fifth and sixth grade. I hadn’t really seen it since then. Having seen it now, though, I can state that this movie did not age well. It probably wasn’t very good, even for 1989 standards, but it is incredibly cheesy and hokey but not in any way that is endearing.

Sure, I love Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell but the two of them deserved a better vehicle for a team-up movie. The plot was weak and a big chunk of the movie was spent in prison, where Stallone just escaped from in his previous film, also from 1989, Lock Up. However, Stallone was also entering a bad period for his career, as this film was followed up by Rocky V (most people hate it, I don’t), Oliver and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

At least we got to see these two in the same film again in 2017 with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, even though they didn’t share any scenes together. But I did find it strange that Russell was not in any Expendables picture.

The film also gives us the legendary Jack Palance, Brion James (a fantastic 80s villain player), James Hong (most beloved as Lo Pan from Big Trouble In Little China, another Kurt Russell film), Marc Alaimo (another great villain character actor and Gul Dukat from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Robert Z’Dar (the Maniac Cop himself), as well as a young Teri Hatcher, the always weird Clint Howard and Michael J. Pollard, a guy I’ve always enjoyed in his small roles.

However, even with all the great people in this film, it is still a total dud. Maybe that has something to do with script rewrites. Maybe it is because this film went through four directors. Yes… four!

Whatever the reasons, Tango & Cash is a film that is much less than the some of its pretty great parts. It is really disappointing, actually. It could have worked, it should have worked but it was a total bust in every way.

Yes, there are some fun moments in the film but nowhere near enough to make this thing worth anyone’s time. It isn’t necessarily horrible but it shows how bad the “buddy cop” formula can be, if everything in the movie misses its mark.

Does it deserve to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer? I’d say that it does but just barely. So what we have here is a Type 1 stool, which is defined as “Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Film Review: Young Rebels (1989)

Release Date: November 1989
Directed by: Amir Shervan
Written by: Amir Shervan
Music by: Alan DerMarderosian
Cast: John Greene, Tadashi Yamashita, Robert Z’Dar, Aldo Ray, Joselito Rescober

Rex Films, Cinema Epoch, 93 Minutes

Review:

Amir Shervan created magic, probably unintentionally, when he made Samurai Cop. Another one of his films, Killing American Style, was perfect for all the wrong reasons. As I am working through as much of his filmography as I can, I have gotten to Young Rebels. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the awesomeness of the aforementioned motion pictures.

This doesn’t mean it is bad. Well, it is bad but it is fantastic bad. But not as fantastic bad as the others.

In this movie, a guy owes some mobsters some money. He gets his bad ass brother involved. The deadbeat non-payer gets murdered. Brother then gets really angry and with his friends, decides it’s time to take the mobsters down.

The style and tone of the film is really consistent with Shervan’s Killing American Style. It also features Robert Z’Dar, which is always a plus. Now the movie is humorous but not as much as the later released and way more famous Samurai Cop.

If you are a fan of other Shervan flicks, you will probably enjoy this one enough to give it a watch. It just doesn’t have the magic of the other Shervan pictures I’ve seen before this.

I’m hoping the few that I still have to watch are closer to Killing American Style and Samurai Cop. So far, I’ve been happy with his pictures, even if this one was a bit weak by comparison.

*Unfortunately, there isn’t even a trailer for this online. This is the best I could find to give you a taste of the movie.

 

Film Review: Killing American Style (1990)

Release Date: 1990
Directed by: Amir Shervan
Written by: Amir Shervan
Music by: Alan DerMarderosian
Cast: Jim Brown, Robert Z’Dar, Harold Diamond, Joselito Rescober, John Lynch, Veronica Paul, Jimmy Williams

Rex Films, Cinema Epoch, 90 Minutes

Review:

After having revisited Samurai Cop and seeing its sequel Samurai Cop 2, as well as recently revisiting Miami Connection and a lot of Cannon Films’ action pictures, I wanted to keep that vibe alive. So I figured I would check out one of Amir Shervan’s (director of the first Samurai Cop) other pictures.

Considering that Killing American Style featured both Robert Z’Dar and Jim Brown had me interesting in watching this movie first. It also features Joselito Rescober (the gay waiter in Samurai Cop) in a much larger role as a Japanese doctor. The film also stars Harold Diamond, who I guess was a regular in Shervan’s bizarre yet fun pictures.

Let me start by saying that this film is no Samurai Cop. That being said, I still loved it for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is Robert Z’Dar. I love him in just about everything but never has he been this great. He was damn committed to the role of Tony Stone and he sold it hard. Maybe too hard but he knew what kind of film this was and it called for some over the top insanity. Z’Dar delivered in every conceivable way and this may be his magnum opus. It is refreshing seeing him really come alive and push the envelope, especially as his character here is the complete opposite of his most famous role, the title character in the Maniac Cop film series. He isn’t a silent hulking giant any longer. Here, he is a loud and brash criminal douchebag.

Another thing I love about this is seeing Joselito Rescober be more than a funny bit character with a cameo. While he isn’t as funny as the waiter in Samurai Cop he is still enjoyable as Dr. Fuji and he had some good moments.

I also really liked Harold Diamond. He was a good hero for this sort of film and even though he is immobilized, for a brief stint in the movie, he isn’t some pussy even with his family’s lives in danger. He never stops trying to defeat his home invaders. His son is also awesomely hilarious.

The rest of the cast between the family members living in the house and the criminals who invaded their home, are all pretty good. Yes, this is a poorly acted ham and cheese festival but all of these people nail their roles in just the right way.

While this isn’t as great as Samurai Cop and certainly doesn’t have its cult following, it exists in the same vein as that film. It is another superb outing from Amir Shervan but his movies aren’t for everyone. You have to be a big fan of over the top, mostly insane, cheesy yet testosterone-filled 80s action flicks.

In fact, it is great that these movies remained mostly undiscovered until now. It is like reliving the feeling of seeing something like this for the first time back when I was a kid bin-diving in mom and pop video stores in the 80s and 90s.

Film Review: Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993)

Release Date: July 7th, 1993
Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: Larry Cohen
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Robert Z’Dar, Robert Davi, Caitlin Dulany, Gretchen Becker, Paul Gleason, Doug Savant, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Julius Harris

First Look Studios, NEO Motion Pictures, HBO, Academy Home Entertainment, 85 Minutes

Review:

Well, despite Manic Cop II being better than the first film, the trend of improving through the sequels ended there. Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence is mostly, pretty damn awful.

So Roberet Z’Dar is still the Maniac Cop. Robert Davi also returns and is cool and bad ass. You also have Jackie Earle Haley as Drug Addicted Douchebag, Paul Gleason as Secret Murder Douchebag, Robert Forster as Dr. Douchebag and Doug Savant as Horn Dog Douchebag.

In this chapter, the Maniac Cop gets a crush on a female cop who was shot in the line of duty and is possibly going to die in the hospital. The city bureaucrats and crooked cops, who didn’t learn anything from the Maniac Cop’s quest for revenge over the first two films, decide to kill the lady cop to avoid bad press or something. Maniac Cop doesn’t like this and he sets out to murder all those evil douchebags that have hurt his crush. Of course, other people aren’t safe, either.

Overall, this film in the series is pretty boring when compared to the two pictures before it. It is really just drab in almost every way. It also employs a voodoo story line which was being done to death in this era of horror. We already saw it in the Child’s Play series, Candyman and The Serpent and the Rainbow but it was in a ton of movies in the mid-80s through mid-90s.

There is one really cool and memorable sequence, and that is when our heroes are in an ambulance and Maniac Cop, body on fire, pulls up alongside them driving a cop car. This sequence goes on for far too long but seeing a man on fire, driving a squad car in a lengthy car chase was really impressive.

Before that scene, Maniac Cop caught on fire in a church and it felt like a poor rehash of the “Maniac Cop on fire” scene from the prison in Manic Cop 2. However, carrying it over into a car chase redeemed its recycling and upped the ante quite a bit.

Ultimately, this film stinks. It was the first in the series to be almost universally disliked by critics and fans of the series. It is the only one to sit at below 5.0 on IMDb, putting it in the negative half of their rating spectrum. Granted it is currently at 4.9. Regardless, there was never another Maniac Cop after this one. Although there is a remake being developed by Nicholas Winding Refn of Drive fame.

Film Review: Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Release Date: July 18th, 1990 (France)
Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: Larry Cohen
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Robert Z’Dar, Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Laurene Landon, Bruce Campbell, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi, Danny Trejo, Sam Raimi

Fadd Enterprises, Medusa Pictures, The Movie House Sales Company, Overseas FilmGroup, Live Home Video, 88 Minutes

Review:

There is a belief that sequels are never as good as the original. Well, Maniac Cop 2 bucks that trend, as it is better than its great predecessor. While the IMDb rating doesn’t reflect that, most people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, which is why Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all-time.

We’re missing the gravitas of the first in regards to it boasting the acting talents of Tom Atkins and Richard Roundtree. Bruce Campbell comes back, at least, even if it is in a limited capacity. However, we do get Robert Davi and that’s a big plus. Clarence Williams III and Danny Trejo also have small roles in this.

This chapter in the trilogy sees the Maniac Cop return, as he didn’t die in the finale of the first film. His first order of business is to tie up the loose ends from the previous movie, which in a horror picture translates to “kill those damn survivors!”

We also learn more about the situation that sent our title character to prison in the first place. He was a good cop that went to the extreme, at times, but he was set up in a government conspiracy and made to take the fall. All this comes out in this movie and Robert Davi is on a mission to clear the Maniac Cop’s name and hopefully give him peace: ending his spree of violence.

The action in this film is a lot heavier and so much better than the first one. There are a lot of good vehicle sequences and then the big battle between the Maniac Cop and an entire police station is absolutely fantastic. Then there is the finale where he storms the prison, catches on fire and angrily stalks and murders the criminals who initially killed him behind bars, all while he is still on fire!

Maniac Cop 2 is a solid film. It is low budget horror at its finest but it is a film that has so much more than that. It also surpasses the first movie in bad ass intensity. Robert Z’Dar was so good as the monster and this is the monster at his best.

Film Review: Maniac Cop (1988)

Release Date: May 13th, 1988
Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: Larry Cohen
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Richard Roundtree, Robert Z’Dar, Laurene Landon, William Smith, Sheree North

Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment, 85 Minutes

Review:

This is a film that stars four incredible bad asses. First you have Tom Atkins, who kicks the bejesus out of anything in his path even if he doesn’t look like a traditional action star. Then you have Bruce Campbell a.k.a. Ash Williams from Evil Dead and Brisco County Jr. from The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Add in Richard Roundtree, who will always be known as Shaft, and Robert Z’Dar, most famous for his role here, as the Maniac Cop, but who has also been in a slew of bad ass roles over his career.

If that isn’t enough to sell you on this film, I don’t know what is.

In the film, there is a serial killer who seems to be picking random people to murder. It isn’t long before it is discovered that the killer is a cop. Bruce Campbell’s character gets blamed for the killings but he isn’t the guy doing it. Tom Atkins is leading the investigation and has to answer to his boss, Richard Roundtree. The killer is a hulking giant of a man in a police uniform. The Maniac Cop is actually Robert Z’Dar and the story tries to put the pieces together in an effort to discover his identity and why he’s become a murderous maniac.

While this film fits the slasher formula, it is more of a whodunit mystery. This film is also more of a crime thriller, whereas its sequels went the more traditional slasher route.

It is a pretty decent film overall but it isn’t anything exceptional. The cast makes it much better than it should be. The movie is bogged down by poor editing, direction and a shrill and incomprehensible score. The music is fine to a point but there are scenes where the score takes over and is a distraction, most notably in the shower fight scene.

The cinematography is pretty good though. While the film is dark, for the most part, the highlights and subtle lighting work add a depth to the visual side of storytelling. The scene where the Maniac Cop is flashing back to his demise in prison, is a good example of how a really dark shot can have life, as the sliver of light highlighting the character’s eye while his body is a black silhouette adds a sense of humanity to the monster.

Maniac Cop is not so much a classic, as it is just a really cool slasher picture that is different from the norm. It takes itself more seriously and it has a bit more gravitas than your run of the mill 1980s masked killer movie.