Film Review: The New Barbarians (1983)

Also known as: Warriors of the Wasteland (alternate), Metropolis 2000 (West Germany)
Release Date: June 10th, 1983 (West Germany)
Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari
Written by: Tito Capri, Enzo G. Castellari
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Cast: Fred Williamson, Giancarlo Prete, George Eastman

Deaf International, 91 Minutes

Review:

“The world is dead. It raped itself. But I’ll purify it with blood! No one is innocent! But only we, the Templars, are the ministers of revenge!” – One

Between 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape From the Bronx, Enzo G. Castellari made this terrifically badass flick. And like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, this film stars Fred Williamson in a supporting but show stealing role.

This is one of ten dozen Mad Max ripoffs but the post-apocalyptic genre of film was at its height in the ’80s thanks to the surprise success of Mad Max. There were ripoffs galore, some good, some atrocious, but some of them at least brought something new to the table. I can’t call this a good film but I like it a lot because it takes an oversaturated formula and gives it some sweet style.

The Italians could have really taken what they did with spaghetti westerns and started a whole spaghetti apocalypse trend. While they made films like this, as this is one of them, they never quite took off like the spaghetti western trend in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Enzo G. Castellari really made his mark in spaghetti westerns and dabbled in some horror. The two really prepared him for making post-apocalyptic movies, as they share similar qualities: barren wastelands, gunslingers, violence and terror. And hell, trade out the horses for motorcycles and you’ve got a spaghetti apocalypse movie, as I call these pictures.

The New Barbarians or Warriors of the Wasteland, as it is also called, is an energetic and engaging picture for what it is. It wasn’t intended to be a game changer or exceptional, it was just made to cash in on a genre craze but still had enough of its own originality and style to stand apart from its primary influences.

Castellari was the master of these sort of films and The New Barbarians just solidifies that. It is well executed with awesomely shoddy effects and surreal action. It has weird dialogue, weird characters and weird costumes. It’s like some sort of bizarre European post-apocalyptic themed fashion show from the ’80s. I don’t really know how else to sum it up in a single sentence.

This film, along with Castellari’s Bronx movies sort of form an unofficial trilogy in my mind. They have similar themes, similar style and are cool to experience. This is a better film than the two Bronx movies: slightly beating out the first and completely surpassing the second, which actually isn’t very good.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape From the Bronx. It also has a lot of similarities to the more modern film Turbo Kid.

Film Review: The Mad Monster (1942)

Release Date: May 8th, 1942 (premiere)
Directed by: Sam Newfield
Written by: Fred Myton
Music by: David Chudnow
Cast: Johnny Downs, George Zucco, Anne Nagel, Reginald Barlow

Producers Releasing Corporation, 77 Minutes

Review:

“Gentlemen, I wish you were here to see the proof of my claim that the transfusion of blood between different species is possible. Perhaps you will change your mind one day soon when Petro tears at your throat.” – Dr. Lorenzo Cameron

More often than not a studio from Poverty Row would remind the world why they were a studio on Poverty Row. It’s not to say that they were incapable of quality, they made some good stuff now and again, but when you don’t have the finances or the nice studio to compete with the big dogs in the old Hollywood era, every project was an attempt to make chicken salad with chicken shit.

The Mad Monster looks and feels like a Poverty Row film. It’s poorly filmed with bad sound, bad camera work, bad acting and a script that didn’t need refinement, it just needed to be thrown out.

I’d imagine that this gem of awfulness would have been completely forgotten by this point, had it not been featured in the first nationally televised season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Because of that, it found new life and will always exist, as that show’s die hard fans won’t let anything die.

It should go without saying that the effects are terrible, the acting is dog shit and the monster is cheesier than a Philly steak sandwich buried under Velveeta nachos. But there is an endearing quality to it because of those things.

Sadly, the film is pretty damn boring for the most part and relies on the same small swamp set over and over. The film feels confined, cheap and barely has any redeeming qualities other than the fact that a monster was created by a transfusion of a dog’s blood into a man’s body.

So as is customary with movies like this, I have to run it through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 3 Stool: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface.”

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: The Monster MakerThe Corpse Vanishes and The Vampire Bat

Book Review: ‘The Sea-Wolf’ by Jack London

The Sea-Wolf might not get as much respect and acclaim as Jack London’s better known works White Fang and The Call of the Wild but it is on the same level and in some ways exceeds them.

Like The Call of the Wild, this book’s main character is a force of pure good who is pulled into a world of evil and the story shows what happens when these two polar opposites come into contact with one another. In The Sea-Wolf however, the main character is not a wolf but a young man. A man who has been stranded at sea and picked up by a ship, captained by an evil and vile person.

The story goes into the relationship between these two characters, the good guy never compromising and always being true to himself and the evil guy who even though he at times treats the good guy like a son and believes that he is just trying to toughen him up, constantly reminds us that he is nonredeemable and beyond help.

The book goes through many twists and turns, adventures, an attempt at a mutiny, revenge and ultimately like every great story – love. This is one of London’s most complex books as far as plot, as he explores a lot in such a small space with this not being a very long book.

Out of everything I have read, this is my favorite Jack London book. It takes the best elements of his other work and then puts them at sea and turns them into somewhat of a swashbuckling tale with more at stake. The human only element adds an extra level of intensity. Granted, I love reading about his wolf characters, but this just shows the power of good within the human spirit itself and I think makes it much more relatable.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Jack London’s other work.

Film Review: House Party 2 (1991)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1991
Directed by: Doug McHenry, George Jackson
Written by: Daryl G. Nickens, Rusty Cundieff
Based on: characters by Reginald Hudlin
Music by: Vassal Benford
Cast: Kid ‘n Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin), Full Force (“Paul Anthony” George, Lucien “Bowlegged Lou” George Jr., Brian “B-Fine” George), Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Kamron, Iman, Louie Louie, Queen Latifah, George Stanford Brown, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Ralph Tresvant, Tony Burton, Helen Martin, Whoopi Goldberg (cameo), Groove B. Chill (Gene “Groove” Allen, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell) (cameo), Robin Harris (archive footage)

New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Man, that Kid would forget his dick if it wasn’t screwed on tight.” – Play

House Party was a favorite film of mine when I was around middle school age. At the time, I though this film, the first sequel, was also really damn good and in some regards, I liked it better than the first movie even though I consider the first one to be a better film.

This chapter in the film series takes Kid ‘n Play and pushes them into new territory. This is still a coming of age story but now we see Kid go to college and Play have to adapt to things changing around him. Ultimately, this is about growing up and learning to take on adult responsibilities.

Full Force is also back to be the great thorn in the sides of Kid ‘n Play that they were in the first movie. Luckily, they don’t try to burn everyone alive in this film. That was a little dark and bizarre in the first movie.

We also see Tisha Campbell and Martin Lawrence return and this is before they would both go on to star on the sitcom Martin, not too long after this. Robin Harris unfortunately passed away between films and he only appears in this through archive footage from the first movie. Still, it is nice seeing him in it and knowing that his spirit is still a strong presence in Kid’s life.

The film’s new setting adds in some new characters. There is Jamal, played by Kamron from the rap group Young Black Teenagers (they were all white kids, actually), as well as Zora, who was played by Queen Latifah, just as she was breaking out into becoming a big star. Iman and Louie Louie appear as the villains of the story. We also get Tony Burton (of Rocky fame), as a mentor character to kid. Whoopi Goldberg has a cameo too.

The story sees Kid get screwed over by Play and one of his schemes. He loses his college money and the film leads to Kid ‘n Play throwing a big pajama party at the college in order to raise money for Kid’s tuition. It’s not the best plot but this is a college comedy from the early ’90s and you have to suspend disbelief. The film is still funny, effective and ultimately, carries a good message and does so with heart.

Besides, the film is full of rappers and new jack swing artists of the time. Music is a driving force within the picture and it really captures the magic of the time.

House Party 2 isn’t House Party 1 but it brings us back to these characters that we fell in love with and is still amusing, lighthearted and pretty satisfying.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: House Party 1 and 3, as well as the other Kid ‘n Play film Class Act.

Film Review: Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Also known as: Blacula II, Blacula is Beautiful, Blacula Lives Again!, The Name is Blacula
Release Date: June 27th, 1973
Directed by: Bob Kelljan
Written by: Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig, Maurice Jules
Music by: Bill Marx
Cast: William Marshall, Pam Grier, Don Mitchell, Michael Conrad, Lynne Moody, Richard Lawson

Power Productions, American International Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Your bread, man, all of it! Or are we gonna have to become anti-social and kick your ass?” – Pimp, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any ‘bread’ on me, and as for ‘kicking my ass’ I’d strongly suggest you give it careful consideration before trying.” – Blacula/Mamuwalde

Blacula was a better than decent attempt at merging blaxploitation cinema with classic horror. It also did fairly well for American International, so a sequel was pretty much a no brainer.

William Marshall came back but that was it. But if you need to find someone to replace Vonetta McGee, one of the queens of blaxploitation pictures, you hire the other queen, Pam Grier.

This film also brings in a voodoo twist and its a voodoo ritual that resurrects the bones of Blacula and brings him back into the world once again. Grier also plays a voodoo practitioner that becomes the apple of Blacula’s eye since his beloved African princess isn’t in this tale. All things considered, while I loved Marshall and McGee playing opposite of one another, I really liked Marshall’s chemistry with Grier too.

The gist of the story is about how a voodoo priestess, Lisa Fortier, chooses an apprentice to be her successor that isn’t the man destined to be her true heir. The rejected heir becomes outraged, buys the bones of Blacula and uses his powers to bring the vampire back to life. The evil voodoo heir needs Blacula to help him get revenge but Blacula turns him into a vampire and enslaves his spirit. As the film rolls on, Blacula ends up with a large vampire horde that is hard for him to control and after being smitten with Grier’s Lisa, he must protect her from his own children of the night.

While this isn’t as good as the first Blacula, it isn’t a huge step down either. I liked Grier, a lot. I also liked the voodoo element and the fact that it came with its own twists and powers that could be exploited in this tale of hungry rogue vampires. Plus, William Marshall just looked so comfortable in the role. While he isn’t the traditional Dracula, he brings a certain gravitas and legitimacy to the Dracula mythos and holds his own against some of the greats. He’s certainly better as a Dracula-esque character than the vast majority of actors who stepped into the role of a vampiric aristocrat.

Scream Blacula Scream was good enough to at least warrant another sequel but alas, this was the last film in the short-lived Blacula series. There have been rumors of a remake for years but nothing has ever actually materialized. But I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Blacula as the undead never truly stay dead.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Blacula, of course! I also like watching these paired with those two Count Yorga movies from the same era and also put out by American International.

Film Review: Real Genius (1985)

Release Date: August 7th, 1985
Directed by: Martha Coolidge
Written by: Neal Israel, Pat Proft, Peter Torokvei
Music by: Thomas Newman, The Textones
Cast: Val Kilmer, Gabe Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, William Atherton, Robert Prescott, Jon Gries, Ed Lauter, Patti D’Arbanville

Delphi III Productions, TriStar Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“This? This is ice. This is what happens to water when it gets too cold. This? This is Kent. This is what happens to people when they get too sexually frustrated.” – Chris Knight

Real Genius is one of those comfort movies from my youth. I loved this film when I was a kid but I was always really into tech stuff and my love for G.I. Joe and sci-fi had me really interested in military weapons science. Although, the kids in this film didn’t know that they are building a superweapon until it was too late.

Val Kilmer, who was the “king of cool” for quite some time between the ’80s and ’90s, felt authentic in his role as Chris Knight, a super genius that was a bit burnt out and just wanted to party and enjoy life. Gabe Jarret was also really good as Mitch, the younger super genius that came to the college at fifteen and roomed with Chris. The rest of the kids also felt real and all of them played their roles to perfection.

William Atherton, quintessential ’80s adult super villain, was up to his old tricks as the authoritative and vindictive heel to the heroes. He was a celebrity scientist with a hit show who was using the university as a means to get super smart kids to create a killer laser for the U.S. military. Atherton’s Professor Hathaway was the Joker to Kilmer’s Batman. Wait… Kilmer would eventually be Batman. Whoa! Imagine an Atherton Joker. And hell, what if Mitch became the Riddler? Okay, I’m distracted… sorry. But now I can’t get the thought of Michelle Meyrink as Catwoman out of my head. Or the Asian kid being Mr. Freeze because he freezes stuff. And Lazlo could be Two-Face… mainly because he’s tall. And well, Kent could be Scarecrow because he’s a jerk and a total pussy. Damn it! Get back on topic!

Anyway, Real Genius is a film that’s a hell of a lot of fun and has a good solid message.

It’s about kids fighting authority and a system they really don’t want to be a part of. A system that exploits them for their talents. And it is a cool movie because the kids fight back and outwit the adults that think they’re smarter than the geniuses they tried to dupe. Ultimately, this is a coming of age movie that deals with the youth’s inability to trust a scary adult world that existed before them and corrupted their parents.

Real Genius is much more than a standard ’80s teen comedy. It is well written with lots of talented young actors that play their parts convincingly. Val Kilmer has done a lot in his long career but this is still my favorite role that he’s ever played.

Can we maybe get a sequel featuring an old, even more burnt out Chris Knight living in Mitch’s basement where Mitch has to deal with “cool uncle” Chris teaching his kids how to have fun because Mitch grew up to be even lamer and more uptight? And Kent could be the district manager over a dozen Radio Barns that are closing down because we live in an Amazon world. And Lazlo could be like a hybrid of Mark Cuban and Bill Gates. I should really just write pointless sequels for a living, I’ve got a lot of unrefined and ambitious ideas, y’all.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: WarGamesD.A.R.Y.L.Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science.

Film Review: Blacula (1972)

Release Date: August 25th, 1972
Directed by: William Crain
Written by: Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig
Music by: Gene Page
Cast: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Gordon Pinsent, Charles Macaulay, Thalmus Rasulala, Elisha Cook Jr.

American International Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“You shall pay, black prince. I shall place a curse of suffering on you that will doom you to a living hell. I curse you with my name. You shall be… Blacula! ” – Dracula

Most people don’t seem to know that William Marshall was a damn good opera singer. However, Blacula is still what he is most known for. That’s cool though, because Blacula is an awesome mashup of blaxploitation and classic horror.

In this film, we see an African prince and his bride go to Dracula’s castle to convince him to help in stopping slavery. Dracula laughs this off and makes jokes about enslaving the prince’s wife. Eventually a scuffle breaks out and Dracula turns the prince into a vampire. A few hundred years later, the prince’s casket is sold to this gay couple from Los Angeles. They bring it home and inadvertently unleash Blacula on the city. It doesn’t take long, however, for Blacula to discover a woman that is the spitting image of his long dead wife. He falls head over heels in love with her and after some time, she feels the same way.

Other than Marshall, the film stars Vonetta McGee as the apple of his eye. McGee was in a ton of blaxploitation films and has had a pretty good career because of how prominent she was in B-movies in the 1970s. There is also Thalmus Rasulala, who plays a doctor that suspects vampiric activity. Rasulala was in other blaxploitation films Cool BreezeWillie DynamiteBucktown and Friday Foster. He also starred alongside Dean Martin in his last leading film role, Mr. Ricco. Rasulala was also in RootsAbove the LawNew Jack City and a few other notable movies.

As a horror film, this fits well within the style of a typical American International offering from the early ’70s. Sure, it’s low budget but it’s the kind of low budget that has some style and substance to it. It’s a really good B-horror film with a decent cast and some hokey fun.

As a blaxploitation picture, the film is a little light. It has some political and social commentary but it is far from heavy handed and really just serves the purpose of setting up the film. After that, it just goes on to keep the film in a setting populated by mostly black characters. There are some club scenes and a hip urban ’70s vibe but ultimately, this falls more into being a horror film in the vein of AIP’s other offerings.

I really liked William Marshall in this role and Vonetta McGee is always great to see, as she knows how to hold her own and is just as tough as the men she used to share the screen with.

Blacula is just an enjoyable, cool, fun and entertaining film for its era.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Scream Blacula Scream, of course! I also like watching these paired with those two Count Yorga movies from the same era and also put out by American International.