Cyber Vengeance (1997)

Cyber Vengeance (1997)-* *1\2

Directed by: J. Christian Ingvordsen

Starring: Robert Davi, Rick Washburn, J. Gregory Smith, Amy Lynn Baxter, Josh Mosby, and J. Christian Ingvordsen 

In the far-off year of 2005, VR rules. Will Singleton (Smith) is a man obsessed with VR. He even has a VR job and a VR girlfriend. His job involves working the bugs out of a “Virtual Reality Prison”, where prisoners are forced to compete in VR games against “wealthy sportsmen”. The mastermind of the VR prison system is one R.D. Crowley (Davi). Because he believes one of the VR prisoners might be innocent, Crowley throws Singleton into the game with the other sportsmen. These games involve going into various different historical periods and trying to survive. There’s even a madman on the loose, Baracus (Washburn). Will Will Singleton make it back to reality...alive?

In the 90’s, VR was huge. It was surely slated to be the next big thing. Many movies have utilized the VR concept, such as Expect No Mercy (1995), Evolver (1995), The Protector (1999), and even more mainstream fare such as Johnny Mnemonic (1995) and Virtuosity (1995), and the TV show VR Troopers, among many other examples. Here, Ingvordsen, the man behind Comrades In Arms (1992) and The Outfit (1993), assembles a sort of cross between an “unstuck in time” kind of adventure and a Most Dangerous Game (1932) knockoff. With silly morphing effects and characters running around with straps, suction cups and VR helmets, of course. In fact, the name of one of the makers of said helmets, “Headgear”, whose name is prominently displayed on the outside of the helmet, doesn’t really make someone look tough. It makes you think of complicated braces.

The movie starts off with a bang, with Matthias Hues and other loinclothed fighters squaring off in what has to be one of the most ridiculous battles yet filmed. It’s rare to see something THIS silly THIS fast, and surely that makes this movie worth every penny. Before you can say “Start conscious Shareware”, the action continues in Revolutionary War times, the Prohibition era (which seems very much like Ingvordsen’s other movie, The Outfit), WWII, Vietnam, and other time periods. Frankly, it all gets a bit disjointed and jumbled, as you don’t know what time period, or what part of reality, the action is taking place in. But the team of Weiner, Washburn (who REALLY looks like Mike Huckabee) and Ingvordsen did it all on a low budget, and we commend them for that.

As far as those actors are concerned, Ingvordsen and Josh Mosby look almost exactly alike, which is the same problem we had with The Outfit, in which they both co-starred. Plus Ingvordsen’s accent is just incomprehensible, seemingly going from Scottish to German to no accent in the course of one sentence. Washburn portrays Baracus (not to be confused with Brakus), but he must be the brother Mr. T rarely talks about.

Rather than just sit at your computer and have a nice relaxing game of Snood, Sim City or Myst, we now have high-stakes VR. But it all has funny sound effects, and everyone where Will works wears the same Carhartt jacket. That’s the future for you. And there are some classic cliches such as the Black guy screaming while shooting a machine gun and the shrew of a girlfriend (in this case with the very 90’s name of Tori). But like how NASA, in the course of developing the complexities of the space program, brought us many other by-product inventions such as Velcro, so Cyber Vengeance does by inadvertently creating GoToMeeting. So that’s all well and good, but there are a few problems to spoil the fun.

Contrary to the tagline of Absolute Aggression (a retitling or possibly a re-edit of this movie, we’re not really sure), if you die in the game, you DON’T die in real life. If that was the case, the movie would be a lot more exciting. As it is, it’s just a bunch of middle-aged men playing video games. Robert Davi might kill you, but it’s not a direct cause of the game. Also, there’s very minimal Hues. He’s featured prominently on the artwork we have (for whatever reason, this was released on DVD under this title in Poland and Germany and seemingly nowhere else), but it’s practically a cameo. You’d think Matthias Hues portraying a hulking brute named “Thor” would be the role he was born to play, but sadly it’s cut pretty short. Plus the ending is highly unsatisfying. So all in all it’s kind of a mixed bag.

So while there are some good ideas here, and it’s great a movie which takes place over numerous historical periods was made on such a low budget, it seems Cyber Vengeance - of which there’s minimal vengeance, by the way - would be of interest to buffs of 90’s nostalgia, and few others.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Dragonfight (1990)

Dragonfight (1990)-*1\2

Directed by: Warren A. Stevens

Starring: Michael Paré, Robert Z'Dar, Charles Napier, Paul Coufos, George "Buck" Flower, Tom Magee, Fawna MacLaren, James Hong, and Joe Cortese

In the deserts of Arizona, two men face off in a battle to the death: the maniacal Lochaber (Z’Dar) and the honorable Falchion (Coufos). Because this is the future, the two men are being controlled by their corporate masters. One big corporation, led by the smarmy, ponytail-wearing businessman Michael Moorpark (Paré) and his associates Asawa (Hong) and the creatively-named Kyoto (Aleong), have millions of dollars riding on the success of their chosen fighter. The other businessmen, led by Baybington (Cortese) are their rivals, backing their own guy. They sit in their cushy offices watching the proceedings play out on TV monitors. Falchion decides he’s had enough and defects. He goes on the run, refusing to fight. It’s on his travels away from Lochaber that he meets a desert Ranger, Moochow (Napier) (who presumably, based on his name, will get a Chicago-based talk radio show) and a drunken stranger, Jericho (Flower), who decides to narrate the whole story. There’s also the magical hot chick, Dark Servant (MacLaren), who has the power to heal. But the time comes when all men must fight, and Falchion realizes he must face off against the murderous Lochaber (who has gone rogue and started killing innocent civilians). Who will be victorious in this so-called “Dragonfight”?

Oh dear. Dragonfight is one choppy, nonsensical mess of a movie. It’s more an off-kilter mishmash of stupidity and half-baked concepts than a fully-fleshed out film. We were happy to see a top-billed Robert Z’Dar, and a second-billed Paul Coufos, especially on a tape released by a major label (Warner Brothers, though we don’t understand why; this definitely seems like something that would come out on a much smaller label - but then again, we’re happy some of our fan-favorite actors got wider distribution than normal, even if it’s not an ideal vehicle for them). Paul Coufos, star of Busted Up (1986), strongly resembles Huey Lewis - we suppose this is as close as we’ll get to seeing Lewis in an “action” film, though Falchion needed more goons to fight, not just one, and he spends most of the movie running from the fight. That’s bad policy for a supposed action movie with the word “fight” somewhere in the title.

Michael Pare has a very limited amount of screen time, and of that, his ponytail steals his performance away from him. The movie as a whole has some classic line readings, some of which are said by James Hong, but just about every character says a stupid and/or confusingly-written piece of dialogue in an appropriately-confused manner. That’s why the first 30 minutes or so of Dragonfight is so wacky and funny. But the desert sequences are mostly slogs and have an unfortunate Albert Pyun feel, and things slow down tremendously then. Some nice cinematography can’t fix the egregious problems this movie has.

Z’Dar runs around the desert yelling “RAAAAAHHH!!!!” and wearing a too-small suit of chainmail, complete with codpiece. Charles Napier has a cap with the word “Ranger” on it in tiny type, so small you can barely read it. Were smaller-than-average chainmail suits and “Ranger” embroidered patches cheaper than normal-sized ones?  Then George “Buck” Flower (or is it Randall “Tex” Cobb? Not really sure...) shows up, and most of his dialogue (and inexplicable narration) is so grumbly, mumbly, and slurred, he makes William Smith seem like a master of elocution. And lest we forget Tom Magee as Bull, the token meathead. Naturally a movie about mystical sorcery wouldn’t be complete without the Canadian 1982 World Powerlifiting Champion. Also he was in Stone Cold (1991) and Street Knight (1993).

Director Warren Stevens also is responsible for Lone Tiger (1999) - how does he keep assembling impressive B-movie casts for these nonsensical movies? Sure, the writing, editing, and directing are very off, but our question is: did Stevens think it made sense? Did he think it would make sense to audiences? Or does he know it makes no sense, and he doesn’t care? These are the questions we’re curious about. But naturally, there is a lot of repetition to pad out the running time. We also noted that the movie Digital Man (1995) is very similar to this. Of all the movies to imitate, why Dragonfight? Is it really that inspirational? Add in a little Cyber Vengeance (1997) and you have...well, something.

The first half-hour is fairly mind-boggling, but then the silliness subsides for most of the rest of the film. We felt the corporate-based scenes were more interesting than the desert slog scenes, of course. So that led to an overall feeling of dissatisfaction. Featuring the song “Take My Stand” by Velvet Hammer, Dragonfight is, despite author John Stanley giving it a glowingly positive review in his book Creature Features, a confusing disappointment after its opening promise. But there are some unintentional laughs along the way.

Also check out a review by our buddy, The Video Vacuum!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Yor, The Hunter From The Future (1983)

Yor, The Hunter From The Future (1983)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Antonio Margheti

Starring: Reb Brown, Corinne Clery, Luciano Pigozzi, and John Steiner

“You command a world of puppets! Is that your goal in life?”

Yor (Brown) is a warrior from a prehistoric (?) time who seems to be the first person to invent ab crunches. At first he is content to go about his day fighting dinosaurs, fighting ape-like creatures with purple skin, and spending quality time with Ka-Laa (Clery) and the elder Pag (Pigozzi). But when a futuristic device appears that looks like a modern-day GPS, Yor begins to question his entire existence. Before you can say “oiled-up dude in a loincloth”, Yor and his friends are transported to some sort of Star Wars-like future world, complete with an Emperor (Steiner), who is called “Overlord”, and Stormtrooper-esque baddies with masks reminiscent of Darth Vader. Surely Yor is confused, but he must protect his allies and fight the baddies, all while trying to discover the secret to his origins. Can he do it?

Yor is a video store classic that anyone with a sense of nostalgia for that place and time (the 80’s, and video stores) will surely appreciate. In that classically Italian way, the movie is sort of a melange of the popular things of the time, such as the Star Wars series and He-Man. Throw in a little The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) and maybe a little Caveman (1981), put in a blender with some alcohol, and there you have it. While I don’t know this for sure, I would guess that this isn’t director Margheriti’s favorite from his own work (it was also based on some graphic novels of the time) - but it’s probably the Margheriti most American viewers have seen, since it was distributed widely to stores by Columbia Home Video. Perhaps it opened the door to fans seeking his other output.

The costumes are certainly a sight to behold - in the first half of the movie, the raggedy cavemen duds make you think at any moment one of the characters is going to say “It’s...!” and an episode of Monty Python will begin. Once we get to the futuristic section later, there’s even more greatness and creativity. Why is it in the future, breastplates are so popular? That nagging question aside, we get some nice laser action (because lasers were gigantic in the 80’s, never mind Laser Tag and Photon, just ask Judas Priest) - and the laser guns look more like car accessories, but who are we to say what laser guns will look like in the future?

Anyone who reads this site knows that we are big Reb Brown fans, and the fact that here he teams up with the great Antonio Margheriti behind the camera is truly a dream team. Brown plays the aforementioned oiled-up dude in a loincloth (OUDIAL for those on the go) with typical aplomb. Though this was so early in his career, he had yet to fully perfect his trademark scream. But he has amazing hair (especially for a prehistoric guy) and looks oddly like James Van Der Beek. Was this VHS tape ever put in the horror section of any video store? Speaking of which...this movie does introduce the public to “triceratops gore” which no doubt we’ve all been clamoring for.

There is some amazing music on the soundtrack. It’s not said who did the actual songs in the end credits. We know the music was by the great DeAngelis brothers, along with John Scott, but did they do the Queen-like tunes as well? It’s never said what those songs are. But no doubt they were recorded to hop on the bandwagon of yet another popular movie of the day, Flash Gordon (1980).

Anyone who doesn’t like this movie is just too logical. Turn off the logical part of your brain and just go with the flow. If you do, Yor gonna love it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out more YOR write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and The Video Vacuum!


Dead Man Walking (1988)

Dead Man Walking (1988)-* *

Directed by: Gregory Dark

Starring: Wings Hauser, Brion James, Pamela Ludwig, Sy Richardson, and Jeffrey Combs

In the far distant future of 1997, the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland (yes, another one). Many survivors have a deadly plague and their quarantined area is known as “The Plague Zone”. When super-evil baddie Decker (James) and his minions, including Snake (Richardson) kidnap the daughter of a wealthy businessman, his chauffeur, Chaz (Combs) goes into the plague zone to try and rescue her. But he brings along a mercenary, Luger (Hauser) to help him. The devil-may-care Luger and the skittish, nerdy Chaz are the original odd couple - but will they use their combined mixture of brains and street-smarts to outwit the baddies, rescue the girl and defeat Decker once and for all?

Anyone who reads this site regularly knows we try to always find movies that are set in “the future” but are now the past. Dead Man Walking certainly qualifies, but sadly this movie is nothing more than a programmer, a Sunday-afternoon time-waster that adds nothing new to the already-tired “Post-Apocalyptic” movie so prevalent in the 80’s. We all know the Italians mastered the genre; it was fairly presumptuous for Gregory Dark to assume he could outdo them. This is a director known for his porn movies, “erotic thrillers”, music videos and wrestling stuff. And Street Asylum (1990). It seems his heart was not in this project. There is only so much actors can do with mediocre material, and talented men like James, Wings, Richardson and Combs are fighting an uphill battle here.

Mix Neon City (1991), Maniac Warriors (1988), and Omega Cop (1990) with the news reports inspired by Robocop (1987) and the “wacky”, “futuristic” set design in the vein of Shredder Orpheus (1990) (especially prevalent in the “Cafe Death” scene) and that should give you some idea of where we are here. Brion James stands out as an especially psychopathic bad guy, whose “evil clown” appearance makes him even scarier. Wings has shorter hair than usual, and plays a game we can only describe as “Chainsaw Chicken” while listening to jazz music. Apparently this is what goes on in the future. But the closest companion of all to this movie might be Nightmare at Noon (1988), which also featured Wings and Brion James, and it shares other similarities as well. But Nightmare at Noon is better.

Sadly, Dead Man Walking seems like it’s missing something. It’s hard to say what it is, perhaps some kind of verve or energy. As stated earlier, it’s an overdone idea, and something would be necessary to make it stand out from the pack. The real problem is that there’s not nearly enough action. This can barely qualify as an action movie. As it stands, this movie is okay, standard fare, but you’d think the cast would elevate the dull material and unfortunately that does not happen.

Clearly Tim Robbins is either a thief or just ignorant as evidenced by his 1995 movie of the same name. Perhaps the only good that the 1988 Dead Man Walking has done in the world is confuse video store patrons looking for the Susan Sarandon vehicle, only to accidentally rent this one instead. We’d love to see the look on their faces.

Also check out a review by Wings Superfan, DTVC

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The New Gladiators (1984)

The New Gladiators (1984)-* * *

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Fred Williamson, Jared Martin, Hal Yamanouchi, Claudio Cassinelli, Al Cliver, Eleonora Brigliadori, and Howard Ross

In the future, two TV networks, Seven Seas and WBS (World Broadcasting System) are vying for ever higher ratings. Seven Seas’ hottest show is “Killbike”, where, you guessed it, dudes on strange looking, tricked-out motorcycles beat, slay and decapitate each other, assuming one of them doesn’t blow up in the process. WBS’ competition to that is “The Danger Game”, in which contestants think they are facing scary and gruesome situations, but it’s all a carefully manufactured hallucination. However, Station Manager Of the Future Cortez (Cassinelli) wants to trump his rivals once and for all, and, because he’s based in Rome, decides on a fight-to-the-death biker romp in the coliseum featuring death row criminals sentenced to die, calling it “The Battle of the Damned”. (Noteworthy cons include Williamson as Abdul and Cliver as Kirk). But, despite their cynicism, in order for this to be a ratings bonanza, they still need a hero. And in order to get a hero, he has to be on death row. So popular good guy Drake (Martin) is framed for his wife’s death. With all the pieces seemingly in place, only Drake - perhaps with the help of Sarah (Brigliadori) - can stop the madness and end the ratings wars for good. But can he survive?

Not since the late night wars of the early 90’s has TV competition been this fierce...say what you want about The New Gladiators, the movie was definitely ahead of its time. It predated the proliferation of reality shows, especially the ones that feed off your fear, such as Fear Factor. (That’s all “The Danger Game” really is). It predicted the ever-more-vicious competition between networks that leads to the lowest common denominator being aired. It predicted companies conglomerated only in the hands of a few huge concerns. It even predicted reality shows such as “Full Metal Jousting”. In the movie world, ideas and concepts included in this movie predate Robocop (1987), The Running Man (1987), Strange Days (1995), and Fatal Combat (1995). It even predicted GPS, especially having it on a bracelet you cannot take off, just as criminals have today.  All that being said, Rollerball (1975) and Blade Runner (1982) seem to be the major influences. Jared Martin even resembles James Caan. But Fulci and his team deserve a lot of credit for being so forward thinking.

Of course, this is Fulci’s entry in the Italian post-apocalyptic sweepstakes (technically we don’t know if an apocalypse happened this time around, so let’s just say “futuristic”). It has the touches of gore Fulci is synonymous with, but there are plenty of impressive stunts as well, especially the motorbike extravaganzas. Working on a low budget, it’s pretty evident all the capital in this movie is conceptual and idea-based, not so much budgetary. But, as ever, the Italians are wizards at getting the most out of a little, and the sets look amazing, the outfits and cycles impressively decked out, and we’d rather see meticulously-built miniatures than gag-inducing CGI any day of the week. And what would a movie of this era be like without the sax on the soundtrack and the prerequisite torture scene? So everything is present and accounted for, and Fulci makes it all work.

There’s so much we didn’t even mention, like the mysterious network boss “Sam”, an evil dude named Raven (Ross) who is part of a “Pretorian guard”, and on and on. Even the ultra-modern furniture is at least a little interesting. Needless to say, the presence of Fred Williamson livens things up, and he has an impressive cast to back him that fans of Italian genre cinema will certainly recognize. Not to be outdone, the movie even predates seizure-inducing strobe effects that wouldn’t hit big until Pokemon. We applaud Fulci and the gang for approaching this subject matter differently than his peers. It’s not just a bunch of cars crashing in the Italian countryside, there are actually some interesting ideas going on here. But any viewer could miss them if they’re not paying attention.

Because of the typically lame Troma DVD, Fulci will yet again not get the credit he deserves for making ingeniously put together, even thought-provoking movies. But we’re pretty sure you’ll have a wheelie-poppin’ good time when you watch The New Gladiators.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The New Barbarians (1983)

The New Barbarians (1983)-* * *

AKA: Warriors Of The Wasteland

Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

Starring: Fred Williamson, Giancarlo Prete, George Eastman and Giovanni Frezza

“The Templars are ministers of revenge!” - One

In the year 2019, after the nuclear holocaust, an evil band of marauding evildoers called The Templars want to be the ultimate “Warriors of the Wasteland”. These amoral baddies will stop at nothing to achieve their evil ends, but, unluckily for them, there are still heroes left in this harsh, unforgiving world. Scorpion (Prete), Nadir (Fred) and a young tot who’s handy with cars as well as a slingshot - making him a post-apocalyptic Dennis the Menace (Frezza) band together to fight the Templars and their leader One (Eastman). Will our heroes prevail - or will the Templars rule the ruins? Find out today!

The 80’s post-apocalyptic boom was in full force here - both in Italian production studios and shortly thereafter in video stores. With the usual suspects both in front of and behind the camera - director/co-writer Enzo G. Castellari, writer Tito Carpi, producer Fabrizio DeAngelis and most noteworthy of all, music by Claudio Simonetti - they probably figured “plot? Who needs plot? Let’s go out to the countryside and just see what happens.” And while you think that might not work, it totally does, because of all the creative inventions on show. By inventions we mean the outfits, props, hairstyles, vehicles, weaponry and all the little innovations in between. Thankfully, the untraditional approach of making the movie more about the inventions than anything else paid off.

Differentiating itself from the previous year’s 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), The New Barbarians is a rural post-apocalyptic escapade, while 1990 is a grimy urban tale. There are plenty of “pew pew!” lasers on show here, as well as plenty of flamethrowers, blow-ups, and of course the prerequisite torture scene. Additionally, it seems a lot of time was spent of the sound effects, which go a long way. Visually, there are many cool shots in the movie, and the beauty of the photography is clearly evident on Media Blasters’ DVD. Sadly, a lot of this was butchered on the Warriors of the Wasteland VHS released by Thorn EMI back in the day.

While Fred Williamson doesn’t seem to actually say very much in this movie, it’s okay, because he lets his bow and arrow with exploding arrows do most of the talking. The movie is filled with crowd-pleasing effects and moments: don’t you wish you had a button in your car that would make a door fly off just in case someone happened to attach a bomb to it? Man, those post-apocalyptic weirdos thought of everything! So don’t get so angry and frustrated you rip a bible in half with your bare hands - just watch The New Barbarians tonight!

Comeuppance Review by Brett and Ty


Steel Frontier (1995)

Steel Frontier (1995)-* * *

Directed by: Paul G. Volk

Starring: Joe Lara, Bo Svenson, Brion James, Kane Hodder, James Victor, Stacie Foster, Brian Huckeba as Chicken Boy and Adolfo "Shabba Doo" Quinones

In a post-apocalyptic future, survivors live in a dirty makeshift town named New Hope. It seems tires are valuable so workers toil away in the tire yards. One day, a band of marauders known as “The Deathriders” roll into town. Through violent tactics, they sack the town of New Hope and institute J.W. Quantrell (James) as leader. Quantrell then makes his son, Julius (Victor) Mayor. Their plan is to institute what they call the “United Regime”. But a savior arrives in the form of a gunfighter named Yuma (Lara). 

He pits various factions against each other (not forgetting about Bo Svenson as Ackett, Kane Hodder as Kinton and Brian Huckeba as the immortal and show-stealing “Chickenboy”). Yuma attempts to save the lives of Sarah (Foster) and her young son as she is a widow trying to make it in this tough world. But there are many pitfalls along the way, not the least of which are desert-dwelling cannibals named “Roach Eaters”. Will Yuma save the day and ride off into the sunset?

PM attempts to marry two genres here: the post-apocalyptic actioner (in the vein of the Mad Max series but perfected by the Italians) and the Spaghetti Western (started and perfected by the Italians) with generally entertaining results. 

Like in the Italian post-ap’s, cars have wacky contraptions glued to them and people wear wacky outfits. But because this is a PM, it has much more action than the usual slog. There’s pretty much non-stop shooting, chases, stunts, fights and blow-ups. There’s even minimal dialogue at the outset of the movie, telling the story mainly visually, which is difficult to do. But this is a PM synthesis of Yojimbo (1961), hence For A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For A Few Dollars More (1965) (and any number of Clint Eastwood’s 60’s/70’s output - including a bus chase reminiscent of The Gauntlet, 1977) along with a futuristic twist. So you get what’s going on here.

Even the name “Steel Frontier” indicates what you’re in for: “Steel” indicating the future and “Frontier” indicating the Western. There’s also some biblical symbolism worked into the storyline, a lot of which revolves around Joe Lara looking especially like Jesus this time around. He puts in an especially charming performance - this really is Lara at his absolute best. A location in the movie is even reminiscent of fellow Lara vehicle American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993). Maybe he lives in that industrial wasteland for real. You know Kane Hodder because he wears a hat with a Jason logo on it, and the guy who plays Julius has orange hair, making him, naturally, “Orange Julius”. Svenson puts in a standard performance. Brion James should have been more involved.

Because there is terminology such as “The Drylands” and the tire farmers are derisively known as “tire suckers”, this would seem to be PM’s Neon City (1991). But Steel Frontier is far better than that movie. 

To see PM’s take on not one, but two classic genres together in one film, don’t hesitate to see Steel Frontier. And did we mention Chickenboy?

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Yesterday's Target (1996)

Yesterday's Target (1996)-*1\2

Directed by: Barry Samson

Starring: Daniel Baldwin, LeVar Burton, Stacy Haiduk, T.K. Carter, Richard Herd, Trevor Goddard, and Malcolm McDowell

Paul Harper (Baldwin) has telekinesis. Jessica Harper (Haiduk) can see into the future. And Carter (Carter) has flame-throwing abilities. These three unlikely allies are on the run from Winstrom (Burton) and his boss Holden (McDowell). It seems Winstrom also has special powers and is after them. Also they can travel through time and are all in our present day. It’s never made completely clear why any of this is happening. Who will become Yesterday’s Target?

If you look up the phrase “video store shelf-filler” in the dictionary, there just might be a picture of Yesterday’s Target. Also you have a pretty awesome dictionary. It’s an out-and-out sci-fi slog, but the filmmakers might have figured that if they get a good cast and make sure it’s 79 minutes long, viewers could tolerate anything. Well, this movie proves them wrong. The short running time, which we normally approve of (usually for action movies) seems too truncated to support a science fiction film with some complex ideas. It’s choppiness would indicate that there’s plenty left on the cutting room floor.

As for the cast, clearly LeVar Burton was trying to shed his “Reading Rainbow” image by playing the baddie (not entirely convincingly) both here and in his episode of “Deadly Games” on TV at the time. He has an evil hat that makes him look like a sinister Herman Cain. Presumably that’s all you can do to make LeVar look eVil. Malcolm McDowell does almost nothing, although in one scene there is a poster for A Clockwork Orange (1971). You can practically see director Barry Samson snickering to himself about how clever and “meta” he is. Actually, you can imagine him doing that throughout the course of this turkey.  Daniel Baldwin puts forth a modicum of effort, as do Haiduk, Carter and Herd, but you can’t really blame them for not bringing their A-game to this dud. Interestingly, Baldwin calls a character “Sparky”. In Desert Thunder (1999) he calls someone “Slappy”. Is Baldwin ad libbing this stuff? If so, are these the only ad libs he can come up with? Does he call people “Sparky” and “Slappy” in real life? What would you do if Daniel Baldwin called you one of these names? These are the true mysteries of Yesterday’s Target.

Special mention should go to Trevor Goddard, who we are fans of. Even his screen presence can’t save things. Yesterday’s Target is the type of movie that would be played on the Sci-Fi channel before they became “SyFy” and got into the whole phase of movies about dinosharks, dinocrocs, sharktopuses, sharktopiranhas, giraffehippobirds, slothtoadchickens or whatever else these geniuses deem as top-shelf Science Fiction. Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke would surely be proud. But as far as Y'sT, at least there’s no CGI to screw things up even further. Adding to the annoyance is that all the characters are continually arguing, and there’s little-to-no character development, so you really don’t care about their plight.

Yesterday’s Target is pretty darn bad. Despite the cast, you’ll want to avoid this one.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

NOTE: On 12\12\12 none other than Daniel Baldwin himself tweeted us about our posting of Yesterday's Target. His exact tweet was: @DanielBaldwin: "Glad you liked it!!!! LOL" 


2019: After The Fall Of New York (1983)

2019: After The Fall Of New York (1983)-* * *

Directed by: Sergio Martino

Starring: Michael Sopkiw, Romano Puppo, Edmund Purdom, Paolo Scalondro, and George Eastman

Classic Sopkiw.

Michael Sopkiw plays Parsifal, a guy who loves racing cars around the Arizona desert and basking in the love of his fans for beating his opponents on the post-apocalyptic racing circuit. But his world is interrupted when he’s summoned to a secret base by The President of the Pan-American Confederacy (Purdom). He’s informed that he must break into New York City - which is controlled by deadly gangs called the Euraks - to rescue a woman from their clutches who can perhaps help to replenish the depleted population of earth. He also gets assigned two helpers: Ratchet (Puppo), who’s supposed to be one of the strongest men left on the planet, and Bronx (Scalondro), a man who has memorized the map of New York. During their mission, the three men meet tons of trials and tribulations, not the least of which is New York’s serious rat problem. They meet many wacky characters along the way, such as Big Ape (Eastman). Will they get out of NYC alive and save the world? Find out today!

Despite being the pride of our home state, Connecticut, Sopkiw starred almost exclusively in Italian productions. Between 1983-1985 he appeared in 2019, then did two movies for Lamberto Bava: Blastfighter (1984) and Devil Fish (also 1984), then one more for Michele Massimo Tarantini, Massacre In Dinosaur Valley (1985) then all but disappeared. Just more evidence that the 80’s was awesome - Italian productions were flourishing, and stars like Sopkiw had venues to flower and we got to know them all through our local video stores.  Sadly, that time is over, but gems like 2019 provide much-appreciated artifacts from that golden time period.

2019 appears to be the result of Sergio Martino throwing his hat into the then-hot post-apocalyptic genre. The movie has all the insane outfits, wonderfully decorated sets, innovative weapons and vehicles with crazy crap glued to them that any Italian post-nuke movie would have, and that fans have grown to love and have become accustomed to. Of course that includes flamethrowers and “Pew Pew” lasers. These movies were primarily meant to entertain, and 2019 completely succeeds. It has the ultimate coolguy for a hero, plenty of wild situations intermixed with brutal violence, and the time-honored innovations we often talk about, ensuring an 80’s Video Store Classic.

Speaking of video stores (though when aren’t we?), when 2019 was released on VHS by Vestron, they dropped the 2019 and just went with After the Fall of New York. Could this be because they wanted to bring the similarities to Escape From New York (1981) front and center? Nah. Can’t be. But then Joe D’Amato’s 2020 Texas Gladiators (1984) presumably picked up where this movie left off? Regardless, the Guido and Maurizio DeAngelis music (using their pseudonym Oliver Onions) is typically solid and appropriately synthy and futuristic. Their soundtrack to Street Law (1974) is hard to beat, but this one is a winner as well.

The Media Blasters DVD is a must-own if you’re into the Italian post-apocalyptic genre. It looks great in widescreen and even has an intro from Michael Sopkiw. We recommend it.

Also check out write-ups from our buddies: RobotGEEK, The Video Vacuum, and Trash Film Guru!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Firepower (1993)

Firepower (1993)-* * *

Directed by: Richard Pepin

Starring: Gary Daniels, Chad McQueen, Joesph Ruskin, Art Camacho, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Gerald Okamura, and James Hellwig

Set in the far-away future of 2007, two cops/friends, Braniff (McQueen) and Sledge (Daniels) are some of the toughest police officers in L.A. Making their job much harder was the creation of areas known as “Zones of Personal Freedom” which later devolved into highly dangerous, lawless areas called “Hell Zones”. In order to break a counterfeit AIDS vaccine ring, Braniff and Sledge must go undercover into the Hell Zone. Ground zero for their investigation is an illegal Punchfighting ring run by the super-evil Drexal (Ruskin). They are fights to the death where competitors take on names and personas, and they are even given certain weapons at specific times, controlled by Ruskin and his lackeys. The unbeatable man-mountain known only as The Swordsman (Hellwig AKA The Ultimate Warrior!) not only is unstoppable in the Death Ring (as its called) but is also a destructive criminal in his own right. Will Braniff and Sledge survive enough death matches to take down Drexel and The Swordsman? Find out tonight!

Chalk up yet another winner for PM. PM always seems to know just the right elements to keep action fans satisfied. And at least there are some ideas at work here, which is more than you can say for a lot of movies, action or otherwise. But it certainly doesn’t skimp in the action department, as there are car/motorcycle chases, gunfights, blow-ups, radically awesome lasers, exploding helicopters, loads of hand-to-hand combat and naturally the PM standby of “car flipping over in the middle of the street”. There are plenty of fun moments and the movie as a whole is never anything less than entertaining.

We always love when movies are set in the future but is now the past. We try to collect those. You’d think the filmmakers, knowing full well their movie would exist on the video market, might last 15-20 years. But they make some surprisingly relevant comments about insurance rates and gas prices that are perhaps truer today than they were back when the movie was filmed. But that aside, The Ultimate Warrior is in this movie as the main baddie! His hair alone is worth seeing the movie for. Too bad this Swordsman wasn’t in the Lorenzo Lamas Swordsman (1992). ‘Warrior’s only spoken (or more accurately, roared) dialogue consists of him bellowing “Raaaaaahhhhhh!!!”, although, to be fair, at one point he diabolically laughs “heh heh heh”.

Chad McQueen is still sleeveless and loving it as the main hero. But without Gary Daniels to brighten things up as his partner, the whole movie might have been a crashing dud. We think this is one of Gary’s most fun and upbeat roles. He truly adds life and energy to the proceedings. Whereas McQueen just seems to phone in his typical Chadditude.

Don’t forget this was around the time of the dominance of American Gladiators, and clearly PM wanted in on some of that action. That would explain why characters are named Viper (played by Art Camacho), The Swordsman, Maniac, Dr. Death (the same Dr. Death from Ballistic, 1995?) and Sledge becomes “The Hammer” naturally, and McQueen becomes the fearsome “Alley Cat”. Plus Gerald Okamura is in an uncredited role as a fighter, and fan favorite Lawrence Hilton Jacobs does an awesome job as the ring announcer, even though he is unseen throughout the film. Also in the movie Braniff plays Super Nintendo with his son. Must be retro gaming.

Not leaving any details out, there’s an end-credits song, “Hell Zone” by Adrienne Heath. While we’re not entirely sure why the movie is called Firepower, as it’s primarily about Punchfighting, we can definitely recommend it. Check it out.

Also check out write-ups by our buddies: The Video Vacuum and DTVC

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Nautilus (2000)

Nautilus (2000)-* *

Directed by: Rodney McDonald

Starring: Richard Norton, Hannes Jaenicke, Miranda Wolfe, Victor Eschbach, and Christopher Kriesa

When a big new drilling station named Prometheus is set to open out in the middle of the ocean, its main developer, Basim (Eschbach) hires Jack Harris (Norton) to be its head of security. This is needed because an eco-terrorist group named Equinox is threatening violent tactics to shut it down because they believe it’s not environmentally friendly. Just as Harris is dealing with these troublemakers, they get a message from the future in the form of a Star Wars-like hologram. Captain Brin (Kriesa) and his daughter Ariel (Wolfe) are planning to travel back in time on their submarine, the Nautilus, to stop the drilling station. They believe it will start a chain of events that will lead to catastrophic destruction and basically the end of the world. The developers, along with Harris, are skeptical, but the future-people are insistent. What then follows is a battle of wills and ideologies. Who will prevail?

We can give you the bottom line on this one right away: the scenes with Richard Norton are worthwhile and entertaining. The scenes he does not appear in are boring and reach sloggish proportions. We could just end the review there, but we’ll provide a few more of our humble thoughts. While Nautilus is not fast-paced, and is fairly typical of the DTV dreck that cluttered up the 2000’s, it actually wasn’t quite as bad as we were expecting it to be. We thought is was going to be an out-and-out sub slog, and were pleasantly surprised to find out there are some other elements mixed in.

For example, the opening of the movie is decent, especially the introduction to Harris, Norton’s character. The movie has a few mildly interesting ideas, but sadly not enough to propel a 90 minute feature along like the cinematic sub that it is. As usual for the B-movies of this time, there are plenty of actors that look like bigger names (but aren’t), such as Brin, who looks like Sam Neill. There are scenes of actors calling out coordinates, which always make for thrilling viewing, and a nice dose of environmentalist claptrap along the way. And don’t forget the awkwardly-placed stock footage. But Richard Norton is charming as ever, and he singlehandedly keeps this movie from being a total flop. Take him out of the equation, and this movie would be unwatchably horrid. We do, however, give it credit for having the ORIGINAL Prometheus (2012).

Another name in the cast besides Norton would have helped...Don Swayze, Robert Davi, Matthias Hues, somebody. At least in his previous movie, Surface to Air (1998), director McDonald had Michael Madsen and Chad McQueen. Here, it’s just Norton. But the power of Norton keeps the movie afloat. Get it? Afloat? Meh, just don’t see it. (Unless you’re a really big Norton fan).

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

Starring: Mark Gregory, Christopher Connelly, Vic Morrow, Stefania Goodwin, and Fred Williamson

In 1990, the future, street gangs have taken over the Bronx, and it is officially designated “No Man’s Land”. A lone hero, Trash (Gregory) is a member of the Riders gang . He wants to protect his girlfriend Ann (Goodwin) from the onslaught of violence and lawlessness, but she’s the daughter of the President of The Manhattan Corporation, the suits who are really running things from behind the scenes. Part of Trash’s quest is to get to Ogre (Williamson), a powerful man in the underground community. In order to do this, Trash and his compatriots must fight through a dizzying array of enemies. Meanwhile, Hammer (Morrow) and Hot Dog (Connelly) are monitoring the situation. If that all sounds confusing, don’t worry, as 1990 is a year that can’t come too soon!

Ah, 1990: The Bronx Warriors. A video store classic if there ever was one! Just starting from the opening credits, you know what you’re about to see is going to be an absolute treat. The Walter Rizzati music is pitch-perfect, the outfits are amazing, the vehicles are a joy to watch , and the weaponry is filled with eye-catching innovation. It’s yet more proof, as if any was needed, that the 80’s rule!

We’ve always been fans of Enzo G. Castellari, and here he puts his stylish directorial touches (as well as a role in the movie) towards the time-honored post-apocalyptic movie. In more recent years, this has come to be synonymous with “slog”, but here, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Pretty much using The Warriors (1979) and Escape From New York (1981) as its template, the filmmakers behind 1990 somehow managed to come up with their own unique beast. The Italians really have their own style, and here they put their energies to an extremely entertaining use.

Trash is truly a hero for the 80’s. First off, his name is Trash. Are you really going to argue with him? Well, there’s really no second part to that. Adding to the nostalgia factor, there are plenty of scenes that feature the World Trade Center towers. But 1990 offers something new even there: how often do you see a dude playing the drums right out in the open in front of the towers? And later on, there’s even a New York cake with the towers on it! The “icing on the cake” (sorry) is that this falls into another category we love: movies that take place in the future but are now the past.

We really enjoyed 1990 and we’re pretty confident you will too. The Media Blasters DVD looks great, and needless to say, blows away the old Media tape, quality wise. It’s hard not to love 1990.

Also check out a review by our friend, the DTVC!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty