B Movie Night

B-Movie Night Book Club: Double Penetrator- Blood on the Strip/ Hijacking Manhattan

Mark Hardin* is The Penetrator.  He was a star school athlete, until he was nobbled and had his knee damaged so badly he could never compete again.  Then he joined the Army and became a top special forces operative and investigator- until he uncovered the wrong piece of corruption and was beaten almost to death.  Returning to the States, he fell in love with his mentor’s niece, but when the Mafia tried to kill him, she was collateral damage.

Now Hardin is waging a secret war on crime and corruption in the USA.

In Blood on the Strip, Hardin goes to Vegas after a friend has her face disfigured by knife wielding thugs. He’s after a corrupt talent agency which is tricking dancers into prostitution as well as strong-arming debtors.

Hijacking Manhattan sees a violent offshoot of the Black Panthers (funded by Communist Chinese drugs) holding New York City to ransom with bombs and a very nasty virus.

Both stories are a bit repetitive- Hardin heads off to a site of interest, meaning to just look around, but getting into a shootout. The scale of the violence escalates and one or more sexy women is put in danger (maybe even killed) before The Penetrator kills all of the bad guys and returns to his desert retreat.

I’m being unfair, there are a few gimmicks that are quite cool, such as the super fine gloves printed with anonymous prints so that Hardin cannot be so easily tracked, and the writing isn’t too bad. It’s a diverting enough book with a lot of the old ultra-violence but not much sex.

You can buy Double Penetrator from Amazon.

*Yeah, I know.

B-Movie Night: Death Wish 5- The Face Of Death

By now, I’m sure you know the drill.

Kersey’s back in New York, but now he’s in witness protection for some reason. His new girlfriend’s a fashion designer, who’s ex is a mobster using her business for a wee bit of financial laundering.

The girlfriend is killed, the ex grabs his daughter and treats her like a hostage, Kersey kills a bunch of people. The end.

There are a couple of neat kills, particularly the one with the football, and it’s better than DW4, but there was really nothing left to be said by this point.

You can buy Death Wish 5- The Face Of Death from amazon.

B Movie Night- Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

Paul Kersey is back in LA, his whole vigilante road trip a distant memory. In fact, this film seems to completely forget about DW3. Which is a shame, because, as stupid as it was, the third film had a lot more energy and entertainment value than this one.

The Curse of Kersey is in full effect, and it’s only a few minutes before his girlfriend’s daughter is introduced and summarily dies of a cocaine overdose. Kersey does his vigilante thing and pretty soon the drug dealer is dead (but not before knifing the girl’s gormless boyfriend).

Before long, Kersey’s had an offer from an old rich white dude (never trust the old rich white dude) who’ll fund him if he’ll try to wipe out the two main drug gangs in the city of angels, setting them against each other if he can. Kersey works his way through over acting kingpins, and at least one corrupt cop, with ease, before the inevitable double cross and showdown. Then he walks away again, like at the end of number three, but not as convincingly.

You can buy Death Wish 4: The Crackdown from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: Death Wish 3

This film features product placement by a gun company. That tells you all you need to know about its tone and intent. For the first quarter of the movie, Charles Bronson keeps going on about how he’s waiting for his friend Wildey to turn up. When Wildey does arrive, it’s revealed that ‘he’ is a rather ugly pistol. Bronson quickly fulfils his contractual obligations by explaining to awed onlookers that the gun takes cut down rifle cartridges and has some sort of compensator device which can be adjusted depending upon the power of the load. Wildey then proceeds to kill loads of street punks.

With everyone he cared about dead or alienated at the end of Death Wish 2, Paul Kersey decided to take a vigilante bus tour of the USA- like the Littlest Hobo, but with violent retribution. Finally returning to New York, he brings the Curse of Kersey with him- the old army pal he’s visiting is beaten by a gang at the exact moment that Kersey phones him. The old codger manages to hold on until Paul has made a mad taxi dash across town, then expires almost immediately he gets there.

Arrested on suspicion of the murder- and giving the name Kimble- Kersey is given an ultimatum by the Chief of Police. He can bring his sidewalk vigilante act back to the Big Apple so long as the cops get to look more effective than they really are as a result. Kersey returns to the warzone that is East New York and sets to work.

It’s particularly dangerous to be a woman when Paul Kersey’s in town. One of his new neighbours starts helping out with his street patrols- so the gang targets his wife to be so brutally raped that she dies of her wounds. A public defender takes an interest in ‘Kimble’ and makes the terminal error of sleeping with him. She ends up dying in an automotive fireball. A local shopkeeper is emboldened by Kersey’s actions- so the gang’s leader slices his wife’s throat.

The men in Kersey’s shadow don’t suffer as much. The battered old veteran who supplies a cupboard full of guns is beaten up and thrown off a fire escape, but he lives and is back on his feet in days even after suffering multiple broken bones. The Curse of Kersey is far worse if you’re a woman.

It all ends with a massive fire fight, leaving dozens- maybe even hundreds- dead and razing even more of the blighted neighbourhood. In amongst all the smoke and blood, Kersey just picks up his suitcases and wanders off, not really giving a toss that he’s destroyed more innocent lives and legitimate businesses in a couple of weeks than the drugged up scum he was killing could ever have hoped to.

A decade had passed between the first Death Wish and its second sequel, and a lot of blood had flowed into the gutter. Michael Winner must have moved with the times, making this a dumb action movie with a nod to the reactionary glorification of street law from the first two. It’s still Charles Bronson killing hipsters, though, so it’s fun if you ignore its attempts to say something nasty about the state of the States in the eighties.

You can buy Death Wish 3 from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape

This documentary is part of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide, providing a lesson in how lies, lobbying and the media can create controversy from nothing and destroy businesses and lives.

With the arrival of home video, a whole slew of films were suddenly available for home viewing. What would previously have required a trip to Times Square or a low-rent drive in Stateside could now be found on the shelves at corner shops and petrol stations in Britain. The market for home video grew so quickly that distributors bought the rights to anything and everything. Giallo, grindhouse and all manner of cheap indie horror was rented without any sort of classification or quality control.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that these films were great works of art. Some were groundbreaking, most were entertaining and the most talked about ones broke numerous taboos. They were bound to fall foul of the sort of people who like to condemn things they haven’t seen. The usual suspects all lined up- Mary Whitehouse, the Daily Mail and otherwise impotent Tory MPs caused a fuss which became a frenzy, fuelled by research fudged to give the desired results. The Police got involved, raiding shops and taking all their stock- to watch down the nick later before arbitrarily burning it.

Once the frenzy was up and running, Whitehouse and the Mail found their useful idiot in the gullible shape of Graham Bright MP, who pushed through a Bill introducing over-the-top censorship. The law was used to destroy business and send people to jail, but was never even legal itself. All of this done to “protect” the lower classes from material that might corrupt them.

Almost every new entertainment medium has drawn calls for, and actual, censorship to protect the proles from stuff that might “corrupt” them- from vaudeville to video games. The video nasty palaver was just a particularly bad example. The moral panic is still in use- currently over benefits- with the usual suspects frothing at the mouth and propagating useful lies and damaging people’s lives. Censorship is not as bad as destroying lives, but it was an empowering stepping stone on the way there for fundamentalists (religious and Thatcherite) who bullied and cheated it into law. The takeaway lesson from this film, and the eighties in general, is to question all those who want to crack down on your freedoms for ill-defined reasons.

B-Movie Night: Death Wish 2

I watched the start of this film thirty years ago*, now I’ve finally seen the rest of it.

Obviously, the first Death Wish was enough of a success to warrant a sequel, so here we are- different city, same crime-run-rampant paranoia, more street law fantasising.

Run out of New York at the end of Death Wish, Paul Kersey now lives in Los Angeles. He’s designing the boring square headquarters for a local radio station and sleeping with one of their presenters. His daughter is even improving after the trauma she suffered in the first film. Things are looking good, until he tangles with a gang of muggers which includes evil Laurence Fishburne.

In a frightening development that Kersey doesn’t seem to have considered, the muggers can read, so they can find out where he lives from the contents of his wallet. They break in to his home to rape (and, later, kill) his housekeeper. Then they attack Kersey and kidnap his daughter, who jumps to her death before they can all abuse her.

Kersey is, of course, devastated by this- you can tell this by the couple of extra lines that appear on Bronson’s face for a few scenes. However, unlike the earlier film, there isn’t any soul searching to be done before he takes up his guns. All it takes is a minute or two of meaningful wood chopping and he’s getting the semi automatic out from its hiding place in the cupboard.

In the first film, Kersey never got the chance to settle the score with evil Jeff Goldblum and had to settle for shooting random muggers and scumbags instead. This time he gets a shot at closure as, unfortunately for evil Laurence Fishburne and his gang, he has seen their faces.

As is the way with sequels, the set pieces are bigger but have less of an impact. The detective from the first film returns, though it’s never clear just why he’s there and he ends up dead. With all his ties to his pre vigilante life severed I can’t wait to see what it is that sets Kersey off in Death Wish 3 and how crazy he gets.

Buy Death Wish 2 from Amazon.

*On a school trip to France, there were a few videos on the coach that the teachers played to keep a gang of thirteen year olds from getting restless. They let Death Wish 2 reach the first rape scene before they realised what we were watching and stopped it

B-Movie Night: Cockneys Vs Zombies

Eventually, everyone will get to take on zombies. As a bonus, this film gives you OAPs versus zombies as well.

A pair of bumbling brothers want to carry out a bank job to get enough money to save their grandfather’s old folks home from demolition. They rope in their multi-talented cousin, a bumbling crook and a psycho Gulf War veteran with a metal plate in his head

Despite a haul of £2million, things soon go horribly wrong, thanks partly to the psycho vet, but mostly because the building site next to the OAP home has unearthed a plague pit full of zombies. As the dead shamble through the East End, the gang take a couple of hostages and head off to rescue their granddad. The old chap and several of his chums- including Richard Briers in one of his last performances- are doing a good job of protecting themselves. Luckily for them, zombies don’t move much faster than a man with a zimmer frame.

This is a fun addition to the zomcom subgenre. It uses Cockney cliches to comic effect- particularly the convoluted explanations for rhyming slang given by one of the old codgers- without overplaying them. There are some suitably gory zombie takedowns- the “mouth zombie” and undead baby being particularly funny. There’s even an appearance by a Routemaster double decker, Boris Johnson’s favourite type of bus. Digital effects allow for London as a burning wasteland and some neat zombie bisections.

There’s a short section about halfway in- when the gang are holed up after the bank job and zombie outbreak- where the film loses its momentum for a while, but it gets back up to speed when they set off on their rescue mission. Apart from that, the film’s fun and funny, with occasional laugh out loud moments and some enjoyable action. Providing you’re not looking for anything too deep (or truly gory), then this is an enjoyable little film. Buy Cockneys Vs Zombies from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: Chanbara Beauty

Onechanbara has been a popular game in casa Spinneyhead, so when I found there was a movie based on the game it went straight onto the to-watch list.

The film differs on key plot points and makes a little bit more sense than the game, though that’s not saying much. It’s some time after 20XX, and the dead have risen. Sword wielding, bikini clad* Aya is wandering the wasteland with her comedy sidekick, looking for her evil little sister Saki and the mad scientist who caused the zombie apocalypse. Along the way they pick up Reiko, who wields a magical double barrelled shotgun with infinite bullets.

There’s a fair amount of cgi blood, mostly well deployed, and some neat gory prosthetics. Watch the making of documentary and you’ll see just how much the cutting and effects add to the fight scenes. Aya’s magic sword glows as the fighting gets more intense and she can throw some special moves I wish I knew the key combos for in the game. The ending also hinges on a power up that’s often fatal in the game. I wish I knew how to get out of it the way Aya does.

As movie adaptations of game franchises go, this one’s not so bad. It’s no masterpiece, but it is faithful to the (admittedly quite silly) source material. And it has hot chicks, swords, guns and zombies. Don’t expect too much and you’ll get a fun little film.

You can buy Chanbara Beauty from Amazon.

*No, the bikini is never explained, any more than her 21 year old sister’s schoolgirl fetish get-up is. It’s what they wear, because this film offers a lot of fanservice.

When viral marketing goes horribly wrong

You may remember the original Red Dawn, a piece of gung-ho anti-communist nonsense from 1984 about the Russians invading Colorado. It’s been a while since I saw it, but I don’t remember it being all that good. Despite my reservations, it’s got a cult following and inspired a remake, which was shot in 2010 and starred Chris Hemsworth- later to be Thor.

The new version of Red Dawn changed the invaders to the Chinese. However, for various reasons it was shelved and didn’t see the light of day until last year. Not wanting to miss out on the now lucrative Chinese market, the invaders were changed to North Korea.

Worried that they had a crap film with a ludicrous premise, the studio knew they needed a really good marketing campaign, so they put in a call to Kim Jong Un. “Kimmy!” they said, “Kimmy, baby! We need you to prance around a bit and look threatening, so that the kids’ll buy the set-up of our new movie. Can you do that for us, sort of Gangnam Style but with nukes? We promise you the real Mickey Mouse, and we’ll build you a better theme park. Just act all tough and say some nonsense about how you’re going to destroy America. There’s no need to actually do anything.”

Kim was a bit late getting into the role- the film’s been and gone and is already out on BLu-ray– but, you have to admit, he’s very convincing.

B-Movie Night: The Undertaker and his Pals

Somebody must have thought that a screwball comedy exploitation movie would be a great idea. They were wrong.

Someone is running around town killing women and stealing their body parts. It’s no secret who the perpetrators are- a camp and creepy undertaker profiting from the grieving relatives and his neighbours in the “Greasy Spoon Cafe” who are cooking up the stolen limbs as daily specials. Instead, the story concentrates on a rather well off down-at-heel private eye who’s in the habit of losing secretaries to the mutilators. After a bunch of meaningless scenes, the undertaker and his pals are dead and that’s that.

There’s no coherence to the comedy and not enough gore or nudity for an exploitation film, so there’s really no reason to watch it. But, if you still want to, you can buy The Undertaker and his Pals from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: The Three Musketeers

This is not the rather wonderful Richard Lester two part adaptation, or even the enjoyably cheesy Brat Pack version, but last year’s attempt to launch it as a brand with 3D and fan service.

The Musketeers are introduced as the King of France’s elite secret stealers- ninjas with flintlocks, or James Bond and Ethan Hunt with repeating crossbows. Tasked with stealing one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs from a Venetian vault, they commit cultural vandalism by destroying everything else in the crypt. Then they’re double crossed and disgraced by milady DeWinter and Orlando Bloom.

Fast forward a year and cocky pretty boy D’Artagnan is in Paris looking to join the King’s guards. Cue the three-way duel and the fight with Rochefort’s guards, one of the few scenes recognisable from the Lester version*. The rest of the movie is full of made up silliness and plot holes you could drive a flying galleon through.

Yes, a flying galleon- the one design saved from Da Vinci’s vault. Because those are historically accurate and absolutely believable. They’re just one of the many effects or action sequences shoehorned in to cater for the presumed short attention spans of the fifteen year old boys all films are supposedly made for these days.

It’s not all bad, I admit- there are moments of humour and it looks really, really good- but it’s just nowhere near as good as Lester’s version. I recommend you watch that one instead, but, if you must, you can buy the 2012 version of The Three Musketeers from Amazon.

*I haven’t read the book yet, but for the purposes of this review I’ll presume the Lester film is close to it.

B-Movie Night double feature: Black Samurai and Black Ninja

Black men who know martial arts, a staple of seventies cinema (even though one of these films is from 2003).

Robert Sand (Jim Kelly) is The Black Samuraui, top agent of D.R.A.G.O.N. (Defense Reserve Agency Guardian Of Nations). When his old squeeze- the daughter of the Minister for the Samurai Code- is kidnapped so that her father can be blackmailed, Sand cuts short his holiday to take down the satanists who have snatched her.

Sand investigates the only way he knows how- by beating the shit out of a bunch of people and eventually getting caught. There’s an entertaining, if over-long, jetpack sequence, a sportscar with a gun hidden in its rear wheelwell and lots of fights of varying quality. It’s never explained why the satanists employ so many persons of reduced stature, or how their leader’s pet vulture turns out to be a better fighter- keeping the BS pinned for at least a minute- than his henchmen. The story, such as there is, exists merely to hang these bits and pieces on and, as such, doesn’t have to make much sense. Which is good, because it doesn’t.

Next to Black Ninja, however, Black Samurai is a masterpiece of plotting, acting, editing and fight choreography. Black Ninja is a really, really bad film, but some of the awfulness is the sort that’s hilarious.

Malik Ali is a high flying defence attorney whose power suits are almost as bad as his closing arguments. Somehow, he keeps getting obviously guilty crims off the hook. Then he goes out in the night wearing a face mask and Zorro outfit to beat up the guys he just got freed. It doesn’t make any sense as a plan, but he does get to castrate the rapist he got cleared on grounds of stupidity.

All the while, Black Ninja is tracking down the man who killed his family- a Japanese martial artist who dresses like Fu Manchu and has an accent and camp mannerisms that jump across the line into racism. When Malik falls for the key witness in a mafia murder case it all begins to come together, sort of.

The lack of budget shows. The sound is awful, lighting is murky, the scenes static and the acting stilted. The plotting is dire and the script mostly maudlin rubbish. But it’s worth it for the occasional moments where it appears to develop self awareness and is genuinely hilarious. If only the rest of the film could have maintained the standard of these few bits of brightness.

Buy Black Samurai from Amazon.

Buy Black Ninja from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: Death Wish

The Big Daddy of all those vigilante/urban America is hell films, it’s incredible I hadn’t seen this yet.

It’s 1974 and all sorts of petty criminals, purse snatchers and muggers- including evil Jeff Goldblum- stalk the streets of New York. Well meaning architect Paul Kersey finds this out the hard way when Goldblum’s gang (Freaks #1, 2 and 3) do a home invasion which leaves his wife dead and his daughter traumatised by sexual assault.

As the Police investigation falters and his daughter becomes ever more withdrawn, Kersey takes a job designing some suburban sprawl in Arizona. Reintroduced to guns (his father was killed in a shooting accident and Kersey hasn’t touched a gun since) and shown a Wild West show, he begins to re-think his attitude to Manhattan’s street crime problem. Armed with an illicit pistol, he returns to the Big Apple determined to get revenge of a sort. In the way of seventies films, it takes a while for Kersey to get to this point. It’s almost 45 minutes before he’s wandering down dark alleys looking for trouble- so his conversion is more believable than just grabbing the gun and donning the beanie hat at the first opportunity.

Kersey’s vigilante acts are brief and brutal- but not all that bloody. He draws his attackers out by looking like a gormless chump with too much money or simply putting himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then he goes home to read the growing commentary on the mystery vigilante and enjoy comedy footage of the copycats he’s inspired. But, all the while, the Police are closing in, piecing together his identity from minor details in a procedural story that runs as a counterpoint to the blood-letting.

The denouement, when it comes, is something of a let down (and jittery on the version I watched because the DVD was scratched) when the politics of avoiding making Kersey a martyr override justice and he’s run out of town with a stiff warning. Arriving in Chicago, Kersey looks set to start it all again.

Death Wish is quite obviously a conservative and reactionary tale- though not going as frothingly over the top as so many of its successors and imitators. Kersey’s position at the start of the film would be better suited to solving the city’s crime problem- cut poverty and regenerate the slums. This wouldn’t make for as much drama- you can’t entice recession, inflation and bad policies down an alley so you can shoot them, but you can blow away a few of the brutes who are the symptoms whilst ignoring the cause.

Not that I’m complaining. Urban regeneration and architecture are fascinating, but sometimes you just want to see a gruff man with a silly moustache shoot people.

Buy Death Wish from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: Red Scorpion

The Commies are bad, mmmkay.

The other great theme of eighties US action cinema- after the cancer of urban decay- was the fight against global Communism. Rambo led the charge when he liberated Afghanistan. Red Scorpion is Dolph Lundgren’s entry into the genre. He wants you to know that there were decent Russians out there- they were just too naive or brainwashed to recognise the evil that their leaders did. All they needed was to have their eyes opened, probably violently.

Nikolai is that naive, brainwashed Russkie, a spetsnatz specialist called in to infiltrate a rebel group in a made up African country ruled, by proxy, by Russia. He’s big and dumb, if resourceful, and it takes a long time for him to realise the oppressors aren’t the barely organised resistance but the Soviet “advisers” and their Cuban puppets. He has to get beaten, betrayed, tortured and taken on an over-long vision quest before he fully understands this, but when he does blood flows and bullets fly.

There’s only one American character in the whole film- M. Emmett Walsh playing a pugnacious little reporter, recording Soviet atrocities on his big tape recorder. The rest of the cast play Africans, Russians or Cubans. This could have been a brave move in a film primarily for an American audience, but was probably its own piece of propaganda. The USA doesn’t interfere in other countries (and hopefully the viewers are naive and brainwashed enough to believe this).

Apart from its No Yanks policy and some good looking scenery, there’s not a lot to distinguish this film. None of the set pieces is outstanding or inventive. And they destroy a lot of Land Rovers, which is a sin. It fills a gap in your action film collection, but it’s nothing special.

Buy Red Scorpion from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: The Streetfighter

Takuma Tsurugi is a karate fist for hire with flexible morals. In the opening sequence of the film, he rescues a condemned martial artist from the scaffold, but when the fighter’s siblings can’t cough up their fee Tsurugi kills the brother and sells the sister into prostitution.

But Tsurugi has some lines he won’t cross. When a prospective job means working for the mafia he refuses, and becomes a marked man. Insulted by an attempt to kill him, Takuma decides to protect the billionaire’s daughter he had been expected to kidnap. This puts him at odds with a Hong Kong based mercenary crew, the members of which wouldn’t be out of place in Streetfighter the game. (One of them, in a clear nod to Zatoichi, is a blind swordsman, another a knife wielding crazy with painted on cheekbones. They all wear ostentatious outfits from another era.) After rescuing and then losing the heiress a couple of times, it all comes full circle for the final showdown.

This isn’t graceful martial arts. It’s all bone-crunching punches, kicks and barges, often in confined spaces, with interesting camera angles and a fair amount of fake blood. A signature Tsurugi move is to tear chunks of flesh from his opponents bodies. Most often it’s the throat that suffers, but in one memorable finishing move it’s the tackle of a would-be rapist that becomes a squelchy mess.

Chiba doesn’t play his character as invincible. You know he can easily pulverise most of the goons that come after him, but there are moments of vulnerability, most obviously when the martial arts teacher who may have known Tsurugi’s father demonstrates his superior technique.

Logic and character motivation- particularly that of the Hong Kong leader- go out of the window in the last scene, but that is the way of most action movies, particularly in this genre. All in all, this is a respectable addition to the martial arts canon.

Buy The Streetfighter from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: The Exterminator

Another entry in the “urban America is hell” genre of 1980’s movies.

The film opens with an explosion and a high fall, as more movies should. We’re in Vietnam, and a couple of Rangers- Mike and John- are in deep shit after being caught by the Cong. After seeing another soldier beheaded Mike makes use of a cleverly hidden garotte to rescue John, who’s tied to stakes and next in line for decapitation.

Fast forward a few years and Mike and John are working in a food warehouse in New York city. John’s still twitchy and haunted by his war, but Mike’s a happy family man still capable of laying down a beating if necessary. Mixing it up with a gang called the Ghetto Ghouls, however, sees Mike beaten and paralysed and sets John off on a revenge spree.

Exterminator is different from other 80s action films, and in many ways more realistic. Robert Ginty, as John the Exterminator, is not the tough, unbeatable type. He’s vulnerable, occasionally even seeming terrified by what he’s got himself into. But once he’s started, he knows there’s no clean and easy way out, so he keeps on with his one man war on crime.

The Exterminator has his military training, and access to M16s and other Army kit, but he’s no tactical mastermind. The criminals he takes down, with the exception of the meat-packing districts main mobster, are targets of opportunity rather than part of a plan. The action all takes place at a believable level. This is probably a result of the limited budget the film had, and it works very well.

New York is a horrible, dangerous place in this film. The Bronx looks like it’s been bombed and Times Square is a seedy space full of porn and prostitutes under all the neon. The Exterminator moves between these apocalyptic spaces, almost guided by Brownian motion to find chicken pimps and perverse senators, scarred prostitutes and drugged out thugs until it all comes full circle and he has a final showdown with the Ghetto Ghouls.

There’s a cop on John’s tail, but he seems to spend more of his time starting a relationship with Mike’s doctor than trying to catch the Exterminator. The press and public love the vigilante, the Police department is ambivalent and the CIA have their own politically driven reasons to see him eliminated. Cop, killer and spooks eventually meet in a midnight rendezvous on the docks and it ends the only way it can.

This is a neat little film. Gruesome, for its time, and a scary representation of how grim some folks felt the world was in the eighties, it’s human scale and realistic nastiness make it a good counterpoint to the overblown outings of Stallone and Schwarzenneger.

Buy The Exterminator from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: Convoy

Breaker 1 9. Breaker 1 9.

I’m not sure if Redneck Hollywood is as deserving of a documentary as Australian or Phillipine exploitation cinema, but I’m sure it was a thing. From Deliverance to Smokey and the Bandit (the whole of Burt Reynolds’ career, in fact) and The Dukes of Hazzard, the southern states had a fair representation. Add Convoy to the list.

Convoy is a Sam Peckinpah film. This meant very little to me when I saw it as a ten year old, but I can see similarities to some of his Westerns now. It’s a PG, so there’s none of the blood of The Wild Bunch, but there are the sun-bleached vistas and the dust. The truckers are latter-day cowboys- tough men and women doing a hard job that few others want to- or can- do. It’s a lonesome existence, with comradeship based upon shared experience and snatched chances for love (or, more often, sex).

And then there’s The Man, always trying to punish them for just getting by the only way they know how. In Convoy, The Man is Lyle ‘Cottonmouth’ Wallace, played by Ernest Borgnine. Lyle’s a self important sheriff with a bad attitude toward truckers and a dubious line in CB based entrapment. After one run in too many with the corrupt cop a bunch of truckers, led by ‘Rubber Duck’, beat up Wallace and a bunch of his deputies then make a run for the state line. They pick up fellow travellers along the way and six trucks become a mile long convoy with popular support and overtures from politicians.

The problem is, it’s never made clear just what it is that the truckers want, apart from away from Lyle. With their disparate complaints and lack of coherent demands it’s like they’re Occupy the Interstate. The film, and the Duck, is saved from having to address this by the need to rescue a fellow trucker from a rotten border town and then escape to Mexico.

The final showdown on a bridge features more than enough bullets for a Peckinpah flick, and a big explosion to make up for the lack of blood. The Duck is a martyr to whatever it was he stood for, only to have his memory hijacked by a senator up for re-election.

Convoy was based upon a novelty hit song and cashed in on the CB craze, but it managed to squeeze some anti-establishment, pro working man propaganda into the mix.

Buy Convoy from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: Cobra

The ’80s were hell.

There’s something simultaneously entertaining and embarassing about action films from the early to mid eighties. The blatant Right wing propaganda is laughable, until you realise that its simplistic worldview has migrated from the screen and is now the manifesto for far too many politicians in the USA. Fat white men think that because they can legally own a gun they’re as tough as Cobra and need to trash talk anyone who dares suggest they’re part of the problem.

The behaviour of the average Reagan era action movie hero was so sadistic and psychotic that the villains they fought had to be paper thin cartoon caricatures of pure evil if our sympathies weren’t to wander. In Cobra, the antagonists are a biker gang rampaging through LA, killing “the weak” so they can prepare humanity for the coming storm. This horrific Hell’s Angel/hippy/Commie group are led by a blank-faced, heavy browed thug with a messiah complex and a squeeze in the Police department.

Sylvester Stallone, on the other side, is Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, a member of the “Zombie Squad”. He’s the one they call when random bad guys need to be gunned down and not-so-pithy one liners mumbled, but they won’t let him work any proper cases- like the mysterious “Night Slasher” who’s killing folks all around town. But Marion gets his chance when a model called Ingrid unknowingly witnesses one of the killings and is marked for death herself.

Then it’s just a case of working through the shoot-outs, car chases, shooty car chases and final showdown in a factory that seems to exist to bottle flames (the fire storage business was quite big in 1980’s California, if these films are to be believed). All the time, the pencil-pushing, by-the-book know nothings that make up the rest of the Police department keep telling Cobra that he’s off the case but never actually pull him, which is a bonus for Brigitte Nielsen’s character when all of the state’s bad apple bikers turn up at her safe house.

This is a rather nondescript little movie in action film terms, with nothing distinctive about it except for Cobretti’s custom 1950 Mercury. To be honest, I was more concerned for its well-being than that of the blandly blonde leading lady in the big mid-film car chase.

I know I’ve not been kind to it, but you might want to watch this film if you’d like some insight into how the Republican party sees the world. Buy Cobra from Amazon.co.uk.

B-Movie Night: Street Trash

Don’t drink the Viper.

I spent most of this film wondering what the fuck was going on, then giggling at the next gruesome development.

In some gruesome suburb of New York a batch of poisonous hooch makes a bad situation even worse. The bums unfortunate enough to drink it dissolve into multi-hued, acidic gloop, but that’s just the end of their problems. They live in the urban apocalypse that was New York in the eighties, mostly in a sprawling scrapyard full of feral and vicious homeless people, preyed on by a murderous Vietnam vet who has nightmares about vampire Cong. There’s also a violent and dumb cop, an equally stupid wiseguy and the venal shop owner who dug up the brew in the first place.

All the grotesques circle each other, fighting, swearing, occasionally melting and, at one point, running around after a severed penis until, somehow, there’s a resolution of sorts. That’s the true wonder of this movie, that it could be coherent enough to wrap so many of its incoherent parts up into an ending. There’s no message or moral and the melting effects are more hilarious than horrible, but if you have an hour and a half you don’t mind losing to nonstop WTF this could be the way to do it.

Buy Street Trash from Amazon UK.

B-Movie Night: What Have They Done To Your Daughters?

Giallo meets procedural.

I was expecting something sleazy with this film, but actually got an effective little Police procedural. I found myself comparing it, favourably, to casa Spinneyhead guilty pleasure Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. It’s like an episode of the series that had the balls to show you some of the sleaze and horror rather than being all worthy about the subject.

When a teenage girl is found hung, naked, in an attic room it’s assumed that she has committed suicide. However, it quickly becomes obvious that she was murdered. Piece by piece, her relationships and movements are tracked until it’s revealed that she was part of a schoolgirl prostitution ring with some rich and powerful clients. (Magnum Cop centred on a schoolgirl prostitution ring, was this a recurring theme in 70s Italian crime flicks.) As the cop in charge and the female DA he’s working with get closer to the truth more bodies start piling up, victims of a motorbike riding, meat cleaver wielding enforcer.

All of the appropriate tropes are present- ketchup red blood, nudity and sleaze and a car chase- but they’re deployed intelligently rather than to cover cracks in the story. There’s a rather lofty and self-congratulatory bit at the beginning where we’re told that this is an honest and unflinching study of the subject. Though that’s an overstatement, I can forgive it.

Possibly the best of the Italian thrillers I’ve watched in the last few months, I recommend this film.

Buy What Have They Done To Your Daughters? on Amazon UK.