Hammer (1990)

Hammer (1990)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

Starring: Daniel Greene, Melonee Rodgers, Donna Rosea, Jorge Gil, Jeff Moldovan, and Frank Zagarino

Hammer (Greene) is a Cop on the Edge. Back in ‘Nam, he and a group of buddies had a small clique known as the Storm Riders. When one of said old buddies, Greg (Moldovan) reaches out to him, seemingly in trouble, Hammer responds, but then Greg is murdered by a mysterious assassin (Zagarino). Now Hammer is a cop over the edge. He chases the man, but he escapes. It’s then that Hammer goes on vacation to Jamaica, and proceeds to go on a rampage and cause all sorts of havoc while there. Hammer must fight through corruption, drug dealers, liars, cheaters, and just about every sort of baddie there is. Will he ever make it back to U.S. alive? Find out today!

“Wow, there’s actually a movie with Daniel Greene, Frank Zagarino and Jeff Moldovan and it’s directed by Enzo G. Castellari? That’s amazing!” That quote was taken from...us, when we realized the movie Hammer existed. And you thought Fred Williamson was the only Hammer. Well, it turns out Daniel Greene can Hammer it up with the best of them. With his hair lookin’ better than ever, Greene puts in a winning lead performance. The greatness of Enzo just proves itself even more with this highly entertaining and enjoyable romp.

The opening chase between Greene and Zagarino is an impressive movie highlight, and they even get a jet ski chase again later. Zagarino is perfectly cast, because he doesn’t say anything and he’s the slippery bad guy who the audience can readily hate. Plus he has some awesome sunglasses. Weirdly enough, during the first chase scene, on the soundtrack we get the “Sweet Child O’ Mine” guitar solo, but it’s never credited anywhere. Could it be a possible under-the-radar steal? It does firmly place the movie in 1990, however. Right where movies should be.  It was also nice to see Masterblaster (1987) co-stars Moldovan and Donna Rosea reunited in a different movie.

In all fairness, the movie does start to run out of steam just a tad somewhere towards the middle/end, but that’s a common thing and very slight in this case. Enzo hits all the right action notes, including the time-honored final warehouse shootout. There really is plenty here for fans to sink their teeth into, and this movie should be more well known.

Featuring the catchy tune “Island Man” by Charlie Cannon, Hammer should satisfy anyone’s craving for classic early-90’s action. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


China Strike Force (2000)

China Strike Force (2000)- * *1\2

Directed by: Stanley Tong

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Coolio, Leehom Wang, Paul Chun, Norika Fujiwara, and Aaron Kwok

Tony Lau (Dacascos) is a gangster trying to convince the higher-ups in his organization to start running drugs, but they say no. Coolio (Coolio) (no, that’s not a mistake; in what has to be the most perfect casting of all time, Coolio just happens to play a guy named Coolio) is a gangsta from South Central L.A. who is trying to make inroads into the Hong Kong criminal underworld. So naturally Tony and Coolio gravitate toward each other so they can achieve their own personal aims. Meanwhile, cops Darren Tong (Kwok) and Alex Cheung (Wang) are part of an elite squad who are determined to stop the gangsters and the drugs they import.

 These guys will stop at nothing, and they’re constantly doing crazy stunts to stop the baddies. When they’re transferred to Lung Cheng, their contact is Sheriff Lin (Chun), who resembles a Chinese Joe Mantegna. But the real question is: who is the mysterious and beautiful Norika (Fujiwara)? Where do her allegiances lie? So sets the stage for the ultimate showdown between cops and criminals. What will happen?

Perhaps the question foremost in the minds of viewers of China Strike Force is: why...WHY is Coolio of all people involved in a Hong Kong action film? And why is his name in the film Coolio? It would have made so much more sense for his character to have a different name, because there is dialogue such as (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Coolio killed my partner two years ago!” Do they mean Coolio or...Coolio? And lets also keep in mind he has a fedora-style hat with no top, so his bizarre, plant-like hair can sprout out the top of the hat. Words can’t describe how silly this looks. 

But in all seriousness, he and Mark Dacascos have good chemistry together, and for American audiences like us, they are the two “names” in the cast, so we already have a sort of recognition factor with them. While Coolio’s stereotypical chattering can get irritating, it makes you wonder why this didn’t become a three-part series like Rush Hour.

Seeing as China Strike Force is light in the character and plot development departments, it makes up for it with stunt work and Martial Arts fights. The stunts stand out as being particularly impressive, especially the car chases. 

But it’s not really enough to keep a 90 minute film afloat, so there is definitely some filler. But it should be noted that American movies have either a Black Yelling Chief (BYC) or a White Yelling Chief (WYC) at the precinct, but here, in a wild twist, is a CYC, or Chinese Yelling Chief. But the movie as a whole has a huge American influence, as best indicated by its numerous Arnold Schwarzenegger references. 

And of course the presence of the one and only Coolio, who - though you have to wait quite a while for it - gets to do some Coolio-Fu on his opponents. And in an (unintentionally?) “Meta” sequence, we find out Coolio is played by Coolio, while Coolio music plays on the soundtrack. We believe the official mathematical term for that is Coolio Cubed.

In the end, China Strike Force isn’t really the most consequential movie out there, but it makes for a decently entertaining one-time watch, thanks to the obvious care that went into the stunt work.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, DTVC!


Ninja Blacklist (1972)

Ninja Blacklist (1972)- * * *

Directed by: Mar Lo

Starring: Sing Chen

When he’s released from prison after being framed for crimes he didn’t commit, a man teams up with his friend to get revenge on the evildoers who set him up. He’s had plenty of time to stew over this, so now finally is his chance to cross - one by one - the baddies off of his “Blacklist”. In the midst of all this, there’s some family drama, but all our hero wants to do is pound his cheating, lying, thieving enemies into submission with his Martial Arts skill. Will he complete his goal?

Ninja Blacklist was a pleasant surprise. It’s actually a lot better than a lot of its “chop-socky” competitors. It has a very cool intro which sets the mood for the equally cool super-70’s vibe. This overall feeling maintains throughout the movie, making it an enjoyable experience and not a slog. 

You can tell a true filmmaker is at work here, with interesting and different lighting schemes, creative camera angles and editing, and awesome music putting the cherry on top (check out the main theme, which seems like it’s out of a Spaghetti Western - other themes have fuzzed-out funk that you can’t help but love).  All this leads us to believe that if a widescreen, uncut, subtitled, remastered DVD came out, everyone would love this movie and give it a nice reassessment. As it is, it’s a pan-and-scan, dubbed abomination all too common with foreign films released at the time.

While not a ninja movie in any sense of the word, and actually not Japanese, but a Hong Kong production, like so many other movies unrelated to ninjas, it got repackaged and re-released to cash in on the massive Ninja Boom of the 1980’s.  As much as we love the Ninja Boom, the record must be set straight, and this is a stylish Hong Kong Kung-Fu movie, not a ninja movie. That being said, Ninja Blacklist overall seems influenced by some Japanese filmmakers, most notably Seijun Suzuki.

Some audience members may be put off by the copious use of the zoom lens, but it’s a technique filmmakers used to use and it didn’t bother us. We’re hoping director/co-writer Mar Lo becomes a more well-known name in the West, and we’re definitely going to be looking out for more of his stuff. In the clothing department, there are a lot of great fashions on display. The movie is like a moving catalog of amazing sunglasses.

We definitely enjoyed Ninja Blacklist, despite its misleading title, because the movie has a lot of merit in its own right. This is one of those undiscovered gems that, while Cobra Video tried to use it to cash in on the Ninja Boom, it got lost in it, and it’s time for a re-release so new eyes can see it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a review by: The Video Vacuum! 


Contraband (1980)

Contraband (1980)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Fabio Testi, Ivana Monti, Guido Alberti, and Marcel Bozzuffi

Luca Di Angelo (Testi) is a Naples-based cigarette smuggler. He and his smuggling buddies ride their speedboats up and down the Italian waterways to deliver the goods, but it’s never anything really harmful like drugs. Luca has a wife and young son, and doesn’t want to jeopardize their lives.  

Things turn deadly serious when a French drug kingpin, known as The Marsigliese (Bozzuffi) decides he wants to move into the Italian territory, with hard drugs and all. Being a sadistic torturer, he murders, tortures, disfigures or mutilates anyone who gets in his way. When his wife Adele (Monti) is kidnapped, the normally mild-mannered Luca goes on a rampage of revenge the likes of which Naples has never seen.  Will Luca get out alive?

While not, strictly speaking, a Poliziotteschi (because the role of the police is pretty limited and it’s not a procedural), director Fulci has crafted some kind of cross between the crime films prevalent at the time, and the gore films he is most known for these days. It’s all beautifully shot by cinematographer/master Sergio Salvati, and the make-up effects brilliantly done by artist/master Franco Di Girolamo and his team, and the music is stellar as well, done by the great Fabio Frizzi. These men and others help make Contraband a very well-made and entertaining movie. But it’s not for everyone. Anyone who reads this site will surely love it, but the level of violence is definitely over the top - in an awesome way, of course.

You have to transport yourself back to 1980 - while characters are playing Pong and going to the discotheque (while wearing some amazing clothing), they also are being subjected to what had to have been new heights (or depths, depending on your outlook) of blood, guts, and gore. 

Even today with our jaded and experienced eyes, it’s powerful - imagine what they thought back then? There’s other things that presage the oncoming 80’s as well, such as the sax on the soundtrack, a couple of blow-ups and fights, and a kid with the time-honored bowl haircut.

Fabio Testi is charismatic and likable, and he has a truly amazing fur coat at one point. Thankfully, Contraband was made long before political correctness. But besides all that, it’s just a good, solid movie, well-made on all fronts. Fulci was truly a maestro and this is one of the feathers in his cap. He was undoubtedly a man ahead of his time, yet firmly rooted in the traditions of the past. The way he marries the two is an example of his no-rules genius. Look for him in a tiny cameo at the very end of the movie as one of the shooters. 

The Blue Underground DVD is excellent, although it would have been nice to have an Italian track with subtitles, instead of a no-options dubbed version. But that’s a minor quibble, as this fine film is well worth owning.

Contraband is just great. If you haven’t already, we definitely recommend purchasing the DVD.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, A Hero Never Dies!


The Final Alliance (1990)

The Final Alliance (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Mario DiLeo

Starring: David Hasselhoff, Jeanie Moore, Bo Hopkins, and John Saxon

“I’ve been shot before. I survived. You won’t.”- Will Colton

Will Colton (The Hoff) is a man who swears by his awesome hat, beard stubble, mullet, tight jeans, cowboy boots and jacket. He also has a pet puma named Felix. He returns to his old hometown of Goldcrest, and begins fixing up his old homestead. However, that does not sit well with the local biker gang, called The Vipers. Through their forceful intimidation tactics and a frightened populace (of only 3000 people), The Vipers run Goldcrest. It’s also because the leader of the gang, an albino named Ghost (Saxon) has a corrupt relationship with the Sheriff, Whistler (Hopkins). 

So it’s up to Will Colton to clean up this town, with the help of new love Carrie (Moore). As if that wasn’t enough, an event in Colton’s past drives him to get revenge on The Vipers. Will he succeed?

Hasselhoff should have been in more movies like this. It plays to all of his strengths.  He even runs in slow motion at one point. The Final Alliance is a lot of fun, though it’s nothing, plotwise, you haven’t seen before. The “stranger comes to town and cleans up said town” has been around since time immemorial and if you’ve seen Walking Tall: The Payback, Nowhere To Run, Street Corner Justice, Radical Jack, and Fire Down Below, among many other possible examples, you’ll know what we’re talking about. It’s all very David Heavener-esque (let’s not forget to add Outlaw Force to the list), but somehow, someway, The Hoff makes it work. Just as he unfailingly has done for his entire career.

Casting John Saxon, a man of Italian descent, as an albino was certainly an interesting choice. The role seemed tailor-made for Richard Lynch, but perhaps he wasn’t available. Saxon’s ghoulish appearance adds something to the overall feeling. Bo Hopkins also puts in an inspired performance (read: insane) and he yells most of his lines. It’s truly a pleasure to watch Saxon, Hopkins and Hasselhoff in this outing. It doesn’t get much better than The Hoff as a former mercenary with a proficiency in booby traps.

There are the time-honored stand-bys such as the abandoned warehouse fight and barfight, and the fact that this movie is from 1990 and shot in a foreign country is evident pretty much all the time. Prime examples include plenty of stonewashed denim, Hoff’s first nemesis is a dude in a Manowar half-shirt, the town has a combination general store/video store (complete with posters for The Untouchables, among others), graffiti on the walls says “Dead People Are Cool” (???) and the word “Tobacco” is spelled incorrectly on another sign in the small town, which feels very much like a Western set. And of course, the sax on the soundtrack.

Director DiLeo has fashioned an entertaining, if incredibly undemanding romp that’s not to be taken too seriously. While we’re not exactly sure what “the final alliance” refers to in the saga of Will Colton, you’ll be pretty much guaranteed a night of silly fun if you can find this VHS.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Red Sun Rising (1994)

Red Sun Rising (1994)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Francis Megahy

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Michael Ironside, James Lew, Mako, Terry Farrell, Ken Davitian, Stoney Jackson, Edward Albert, and Soon-Tek Oh

Thomas Hoshino (Wilson) is a half American-half Japanese cop with a strong sense of honor. When his partner is killed whilst in Japan, he tracks the baddies responsible all the way to Los Angeles.  It turns out the main culprit is no ordinary baddie. Jaho (Lew) is a supremely evil monster with a very special weapon literally at his fingertips - the Death Touch. In order to combat against this supposed Death Touch, Hoshino reaches out to an old associate, Iga (Mako) and he trains him in not just Martial Arts but magic powers. Hoshino also ends up working alongside no-nonsense L.A. cop Karen Ryder (Farrell). Ryder comes into the picture because a gang war is brewing between street gangs the 72nd St. Icemen and the Malitos. 

Could Jaho have anything to do with the impending gang throwdown? Can it be stopped? Can anything stop...the DEATH TOUCH? Find out today!

We believe Red Sun Rising: The Legend Of The Death Touch (if you include that on-screen subtitle) is one of Don The Dragon Wilson’s best movies. Could it be a coincidence that when he escaped the clutches of Roger Corman, his best work appears? There have been other movies that revolve around, or at least mention some kind of “Death Touch” (also sometimes called the “Dim Mak”) but here it receives what has to be its ultimate cinematic representation. Add some training sequences and an all-star B-movie cast and it’s pretty tough to go wrong.

James Lew (he gets an “Introducing” credit here although he’d been in plenty of movies before this) puts in a hiss-worthy bad guy performance, with Soon-Tek Oh backing him up. Michael Ironside as Ryder’s Captain does pretty much a sit-down role, but it’s one of the better ones we can remember. Ken Davitian is on hand as the prerequisite Wacky Taxi Driver, and Stoney Jackson has a pretty small but worthwhile role as Gamal. 

Edward Albert of Kenderson!!!!!!! fame has a low-key role that perhaps should have been bigger, but that’s the problem with these “all-star” movies. Not everyone gets enough time in the sun. But for once, Mako is not the victim of that. His role is meaty and substantial, with plenty of screen time. Don the Dragon is delightfully wooden as always, and it should also be mentioned that Art Camacho has a small role as a Malito. Perhaps stealing the movie was Terry Farrell as Ryder. We weren’t familiar with her before, but she’s tough, smart and funny in equal measure. Farrell should have done more material like this.

Wilson, besides merely starring in the movie, receives the credit “Executive In Charge Of Fight Action”. Who else can claim that distinction? Providing his foil is Mako, and when we first see him, although he is the wise sensei, he is wearing a shirt that says “I am the big banana” with a large picture of a banana, with matching banana-print pants! We applaud the filmmakers for not going with the typical cliches. He’s more intelligible than usual and he puts in a bright, happy performance. 

Ryder and Hoshino go through the typical American vs. Japanese “culture clash” that we’ve seen before but it’s usually played for laughs. As for the training sequences, they could have used a pounding, anthemic rock song, but maybe they were taking a different tack this time. And seeing as how this was the mid-90’s and Street Fighter and its Ha-Do-Ken was huge, this is finally the movie to see it in. Interestingly enough, the Street Fighter (1994) movie came out the same year.

Seeing as how this is a “gang war” movie as well as a “death touch” movie with a mega cast, it really tries to be all things to all people and basically succeeds.

Featuring a title song (we always love those) by Angela Carole Brown and Phil Settle, Red Sun Rising is a very good example of what Don The Dragon can do and would be a good starting place for people not familiar with him. It’s also a good example of 90’s video store action that’s worth seeing.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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


Raiders Of The Magic Ivory (1988)

Raiders Of The Magic Ivory  (1988)- * * *
AKA: Predators of the Magic Stone

Directed by: Tonino Ricci

Starring: James Mitchum, Christopher Ahrens, and Clarissa Mendez

Captain Rogers (Mitchum) - whose nickname is “Sugar” (we know; very manly) was a commander in Vietnam and is now a mercenary. Together with his buddy Mark (Ahrens), the two men accept a job from an “elderly Chinese gentleman” named Lee Chang. Chang instructs the two men to go deep into hostile jungle territory to retrieve a magical tablet. Chang says if he doesn’t have the tablet at the time of his death, his family will be cursed for a thousand years. He offers the two men a substantial amount of money and off they go. 

While slogging it out in the jungle, the pair encounter black magic rituals and end up saving Mei Lai (Mendez) from being sacrificed. After some more trials and tribulations where they end up mowing down baddies with their machine guns, they end up learning the truth about the mysterious tablet...but is it too late?

Raiders of the Magic Ivory (or Predators of the Magic Stone, in case anyone gets confused by its alternate title) shows that Jim Mitchum can enter the pantheon of actors who openly don’t care while on screen. 

Some others being David Carradine, and the father of them all, Burt Reynolds. Here Mitchum has an overgrown and possibly asymmetrical mustache that makes him look like a sillier Stacy Keach. But obviously the title is meant to recall a certain Harrison Ford adventure movie...but here there is very little raiding going on here, their predominant means of doing their job seems to be shooting their machine guns. But perhaps “Shooters of the Magic Ivory” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

We love Mitchum, Code Name: Zebra and Hollywood Cop are classics. But he’s no Indiana Jones. He’s more of a “fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt”. Or possibly “mustachioed guy in a kimono”. And we mean that in the most appreciative way possible. His monosyllabic line readings, about 75% of which consist of the line “Let’s get outta here” are so droll they become funny very quickly. The doltish dialogue is definitely a movie highlight. It’s so amazingly dumb you just have to appreciate it.

When our heroes aren’t paddlin’ down a river or fighting black magic monks, their fighting style seems to be modeled on the children’s game “Tag”. Meaning, Sugar or Mark will try and punch or shoot a baddie, and if they miss, it’s like “ha ha, you missed me, now I go after you”. If they hit, it’s like “Tag - you’re it”. You kind of have to see this to know what we’re talking about. But needless to say, it’s very childish.

Raiders of the Magic Ivory might not be the best action movie ever made, but director Tonino Ricci imbues it with that classic Italian style we all know and love. Plus Jim Mitchum is a force to be reckoned with. So despite what you may have heard, we believe this is actually worth watching.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Out For A Kill (2003)

Out For A Kill (2003)- * *1\2

Directed by: Michael Oblowitz

Starring: Steven Seagal

A bunch of Chinese gangsters are using their international network to smuggle drugs. Their evil operations infringe upon the happy-go-lucky life of Yale professor Robert Burns (Seagal) and all hell breaks loose. On an innocent fact-finding mission, Burns discovers that they are using ancient artifacts to conceal their drugs. After some fights and shootouts, Burns realizes he must track down all those responsible for ruining his life. 

Unleashing the awesome power within all Yale professors, he beats up, maims and kills across several continents, using their arm tattoos as clues as to where to go next. Will anyone survive when professor Robert Burns goes OUT FOR A KILL?

Latter-day Seagal meets Nu-Image. We could just stop there, because you probably know what to expect (assuming you don’t already feel like you’ve seen the movie), but we’ll continue. At the beginning of the movie, the first scene in fact, a bunch of unsmiling guys in suits walk in slow motion into a Bulgarian strip club. 

Guess what happens next? You can no doubt guess, but what if we told you it involved REPEATED FOOTAGE? Then we go to Paris where a bunch of gangsters are sitting around a table. On the screen we get a bunch of fun facts about their personal lives and hobbies. We don’t know why. All we can assume is that this is the “Anti-Seagal Club” because all they do is complain about him. It seems to be the basis of their organization. We can reasonably assume there’s a crudely painted sign on the door that says “no girls allowed”.

Finally we move to beautiful New Haven, Connecticut (not really, it’s probably a blue screen or possibly a green screen. What an insult to our fair city). We are, as an audience, finally ready to meet professor Robert Burns. He’s receiving an award because he’s such a talented and great man. Those stodgy Yalies probably thought they were giving the award to the national poet of Scotland Robert Burns (1759-1796). The similarities between him and Seagal are uncanny. Nevertheless, he then dons his leather jacket and becomes “Indiana Seagal”, bearing no resemblances to any other badass archaeology professors.

The rest of the movie is your typical Seagallian morass of unintentionally funny ADR work, unintentionally funny Martial Arts fights and unintentionally funny green screen shots. There are even some Sniper-style “bullet time” shots. Add to that some silly quick cuts and zooms, and there you have it. Besides the references to Yale and 18th century lyric poets, the highbrow literary references continue when Seagal goes to (what no doubt must be one of his favorite haunts) the “Cafe Sartre”. Trust us, you’ll be feeling the “Nausea” if you watch this movie.

But really, there are enough funny and/or silly moments in this movie to make it rise above the level of other Seagal “Kill” movies such as Driven To Kill or Kill Switch. Speaking of the title, it’s just an unashamed mash-up of two of Seagal’s “classic” titles, Out For Justice (1991) and Hard to Kill (1990). Except “Out For A Kill” makes no sense. But it does sound like Seagal, in a domestic situation, calls to his wife in another room in their suburban house as he’s walking out the door, “Honey, I’m going out for a kill, be back in twenty minutes...” Sadly this scene didn’t happen in this movie. How disappointing.

In all, Out For A Kill has enough decent moments (be they unintentional or not) to keep this latter-day Seagal outing’s head above water. Barely. However, there are certainly worse Seagal movies out there (*cough*KillSwitch*cough*).

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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


Teenage Exorcist (1991)

Teenage Exorcist (1991)- * *1\2

Directed by: Grant Austin Walden

Starring: Michael Berryman, Brinke Stevens, Elena Sahagun, Robert Quarry, Jay Richardson, Oliver Darrow, Tom Shell, Hoke Howell, and Eddie Deezen

Don’t buy a house from Michael Berryman. Or a pizza for that matter. And if Eddie Deezen delivers said pizza, you know you’re in real trouble. When college student Diane (Stevens) moves into a spacious Hollywood home, little does she know that the spirit of the nefarious Baron DeSade (Howell) - who is pure evil, yet a homebody (he shouts “I shall live here forever!!!!”) - still inhabits the space. This somehow turns the bookish and cute Diane into a demon-possessed dominatrix, of sorts. 

Her sister Sally (Sahagun), her husband Mike (Richardson), and a potential college boyfriend (Shell), along with Father McFerrin (Quarry) and Deezen, the pizza delivery boy, all cavort around the house trying to get Diane back to normal. After some hijinx involving a demon (Darrow) and a bunch of zombies, something ensues - but is it hilarity? Find out, if you dare.

I’ve never really been a fan of horror comedies. With the possible exception of Dead Alive (1992), usually they just seem like excuses to be neither funny nor scary. However, AIP seems to like them, having released this, and the very similar Speak of the Devil (1991) in the same year. Both have evil stuff lurking in the basement, and neither of them are that funny. But of the two, Teenage Exorcist is better. 

For one thing, the cast seems to be having fun. Unfortunately, it’s not contagious for the audience. You do almost crack a smile a few times, but only because the humor is so old-fashioned. It’s almost vaudeville, and seeing as how Brinke Stevens is credited with the screenplay (although it was co-written with Ted Newsom, though he was uncredited because of a Writer’s Guild issue. I learned this from listening to the DVD commentary. And to answer your questions, yes, there is a DVD. And yes, it has a commentary track. And yes, I listened to it.) - unless she was over 80 years old or so at the time of writing (and looking really good) - it’s kind of inexplicable why the gags seem like they should be from such an earlier vintage.

So that makes Teenage Exorcist sort of a cross between Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) and Repossessed (1990), what with its old dark house and exorcist jokes. Also to the movie’s credit is the fact that it has a title song, a very catchy pop-metal ditty that would seem perfect for Hardcore Superstar to do a cover of. Elsewhere, it has a jaunty score underscoring such scenes as Brinke’s milk box inflating and deflating (a sure sign evil doings are afoot), and her carrying in her mustard in a big brown box as she moves into her house. 

But it does its best with its low budget - it all takes place, for the most part, in one location - the house (it looks like the house from Mirror Mirror 3 (1995). Even some of the end credits are first names only, kind of underscoring the buddy-buddy vibe. And, of course, when the first credit before the title of the movie are the words “Eddie Deezen in...” you know you’re in for a treat (?) But it also has Hoke Howell of Action USA (1989) fame, as well as Sahagun of Ring of Fire II (1993) and Tiger Heart (1996) fame. For a proposed first version of this movie, Fred Olen Ray made a trailer only, and it has Cam Mitchell. Too bad he couldn’t appear in the final version.

So while the title is a misnomer (there is no teenage exorcist in the film - there was supposed to be, but in an inexplicable casting decision, the teenage girl was replaced by Eddie Deezen!), if you’re in the mood for some good-natured mediocrity with a mild sexy edge, Teenage Exorcist could just be the movie for you.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett 


Robo-Chic (1990)

Robo-Chic (1990)-

Directed by: Ed Hansen and Jeffrey Mandel

Starring: Kathy Shower, Jennifer Daly, Burt Ward, and Kip King

When self-consciously "wacky" scientist Dr. Von Colon (King) creates a beautiful cyborg called ROBO-C.H.I.C. (Shower and Daly), he believes he has created the invention of the century. When she beats up some punks in an alley, the doctor realizes she can be used to fight crime. Meanwhile, a nebbish named Harry Truman Hodgkins (Ward) has claimed in the media that he has positioned a series of bombs and is going to set them off one by one. So ROBO-C.H.I.C. has to try and stop him, and meanwhile a criminal organization led by a guy named Quentin (???), as well as some bikers, are trying to stop ROBO-C.H.I.C. from depopulating their respective criminal organizations. Will you make it through to the end to see what happens?

It's hard to tell who the intended audience for ROBO-C.H.I.C. is supposed to be. Just to be absolutely clear, this is not an action movie. AIP never should have released it. It's an insufferably unfunny so-called comedy, and why the filmmakers thought the predictable, hacky jokes would hit home with any audience remains frustratingly unclear. 

Imagine if the production staff of 80's sitcom Small Wonder attempted to make Robocop (1987). And it's even less funny than that would probably be. Of course, from today's perspective, the idea of a bomber who wants to slaughter thousands of people using homemade explosive devices doesn't scream out as being a rich vein for hearty comedic laughs. And the character was played by TV's Robin, Burt Ward, so he now has this embarrassment on his resume. Too bad he didn't follow the example of his pal Adam West, and appear in high quality productions in the 80's like Night of the Kickfighters (1988) and Omega Cop (1990) (cough!).

ROBO-C.H.I.C. is completely in keeping with our theory that bad movies are long movies. This whole annoying exercise in patience lasts an agonizing 102 minutes, and is irritating right up until the final second, just like an awful old vaudeville comedian that has to get the hook because he doesn't know when to get off the stage. 

Just like the old hokey comedian who is blatantly desperate for cheap laughs, ROBO-C.H.I.C. comes from that very same DNA of those old performers. 102 minutes. Inexcusable. 80 would have been pushing it for what would have been an intolerable 8-minute Saturday Night Live sketch. Or is that redundant? Regardless, the super-slow pacing, if it even deserves to be called pacing (calling it that would imply there is a pace, or at least one that anyone thought about), is the heart of the problem. It all moves at a torturous crawl. WHY is it so slow and long? Seriously! We demand answers!

Another of our theories that this dreck is consistent with is the "two directors (or more)" theory. Not good. Even Kathy Shower, who is credited as a producer on the project, bailed, to be replaced in various scenes with one Jennifer Daly.  One of the directors is Jeff Mandel, the writer/director of all-time AIP classic, Elves (1989), released the same year as ROBO-C.H.I.C. Talk about a schizophrenic career. He also wrote AIP entry Firehead (1991). In other behind the scenes news, the guy who played Dr. Von Colon is Chris Kattan's father. It must be genetic. 

This movie is so painfully bad, it will make you long for the subtle, biting, incisive comedy of Mango. And no amount of nudity can paste over the flaws of this turkey. But characters do smoke indoors and wear fanny packs, and you get to see the old Dunkin Donuts logo, so there's a bit of nostalgia there. But it's not nearly enough to recommend this crud. If you want to see a much better movie with a similar idea, check out Steel and Lace (1991).

On top of the humorlessness and snail's pace, the movie doesn't even seem to care whether it's good or not. The audience feels jerked around by a bunch of people who can't even put in any effort to care to make a halfway decent production. ROBO-C.H.I.C. is just so, so lame. Never see it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Order Of The Eagle (1989)

Order Of The Eagle (1989)- * *

Directed by: Thomas Baldwin

Starring: Frank Stallone, William Zipp, Casey Hirsch, Jill Foors, Perry Hill, and David Roger Harris

When an awkwardly dorky boy scout named Greg (Casey Hirsch), during the course of his normal wilderness-based activities, finds some secret government computer discs (of course) related to the Star Wars program, all of a sudden he becomes the target for trigger-happy goons under the command of the mysterious Mr. Quill (Stallone). Quill’s head yahoo in the field is Joe Piscopo doppelganger Leo (Harris). 

Thankfully, Greg isn’t alone during his trials and tribulations. Country folk such as the kindly Monica (Foors), the seemingly-confused Freddie (Hill), and the awesomely mustached n’ mulleted John Billings (Zipp) are here to help the aging boy(?) scout as he nears adulthood. Who is Mr. Quill and what are his true intentions? Will Monica, Freddie, John and Greg survive to tell the tale? Why are there ninjas in the first scene but never again - and what is the true meaning of the ORDER OF THE EAGLE? Dare you find out?

Order of the Eagle is standard-issue AIP stupidity, and is quite enjoyable for that reason for about the first half. It has that funny-dumb nonsensicality we all love and enjoy, starting with the fleetingly and incomprehensibly-seen ninjas as they see the greatest Newsweek cover of all time, to the hilarious dubbing, and finally to our hero, William Zipp (who is all over the movie, acting as star, stuntman, producer and writer) - seemingly a more-built version of our beloved Zap Rowsdower. With his award-winning mustache-mullet combo, truly he is a classic hero for the 80’s.

After some initial scenes of brilliance, such as when Freddie inexplicably changes hats (from what can only be described as a “corncob hat” to a more standard fedora) for no known reason human beings can comprehend, sadly the movie slows down to a more run-of-the-mill wilderness jaunt. This sort of thing was evidently huge from the mid-80’s on, as Hunter’s Blood (1986), Trapper County War (1989), Skinheads (1989) and Endangered (1994), among others, prove. Perhaps the most apt comparison is to Edge of Honor (1991), because of the boy scout connection. But Skinheads is apt as well because the box art makes it seem like something other than a wilderness slog.

This is director Baldwin’s sole directorial effort, though he did work in other capacities on various AIP movies. It seems he was trying to revive the glory days of Deadly Prey (1987) - which was only two years previous - but to no avail.

It hurt the movie that there was such a minimal amount of Frank Stallone, but the final nail in the coffin was the absurd score of the film. It’s this bombastic Bugs Bunny music that would be way more at home in a Looney Tunes cartoon. At any moment you think William Zipp is going to say “meep meep”. Other times the music would be more at home on a show like Matlock or The Andy Griffith Show - something with Andy Griffith anyway. And the end credits music is an overt Danny Elfman knockoff, to the point where you can pretty much add your own vocals from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), should you so choose. It’s all just TOO scored, and inappropriately so.

The thickness and fullness of William Zipp’s mustache fluctuates throughout the movie, which dictates the greater or lesser scenes. When the mustache is in full bloom, the movie is better. Once it’s shaved down, the movie slows down. The two things are intimately interconnected. So what you’re seeing all depends on that.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Dangerous Obsession (1986)

Dangerous Obsession (1986)- * * *
AKA: The Devil's Honey

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Stefano Madia, Blanca Marsillach, Corinne Clery, and Brett Halsey

Johnny (Madia) is an up-and-coming saxophone player (this was the 80’s, after all) who lets his sax do the talking. And if the scene in the recording studio is any indication, if I may paraphrase Color Me Badd, he really wants to “sax you up”. Johnny is in an intense, stormy, and tumultuous relationship with Jessica (Marsillach). 

Meanwhile, Dr. Wendell Simpson (Halsey) is in a downright failing relationship with his wife Carol (Clery), primarily due to his frequenting of prostitutes and neglecting the needs of his wife. He’s a surgeon, and he uses the hospital as his excuse to be away from Carol. When Johnny suffers a motorbike accident - again because he’s the ultimate 80’s coolguy - while proclaiming his undying love for Jessica, he ends up on the operating table of Dr. Simpson. But Simpson is so distracted by his wife’s carping, he fumbles the operation. So Jessica reacts in the way anybody else would - she kidnaps the doctor and subjects him to endless psychological/physical/sexual torture. What will happen to Jessica and the doctor? Find out today?

Did you know AIP released a Lucio Fulci film? Neither did we, until we came across Dangerous Obsession during our, well, obsessive AIP research. No one’s a bigger Fulci fan than me, so I was delighted to stumble on to a movie of his I’d never seen before. Because of his famous horror movies, most people that know his name simply associate it with gore. 

But the truth is, the man has worked in just about every film genre there is. As we all know, the Italian film industry is known for, let’s say, jumping on the bandwagon of prevailing cinematic trends, and at this point in time, erotic dramas were, no pun intended, hot. And while many people have drawn parallels between this movie and 9 1/2 Weeks, it’s really like a “Last Tango In Rome” meets Emanuelle’s Revenge (1975), which was directed by Joe D’Amato, himself no stranger to the erotic drama, namely Eleven Days, Eleven Nights (1987). Of course, the whole thing has a very European flavor to it that I personally found appealing.

The aforementioned Emanuelle’s Revenge is probably the closest parallel you’ll find to Dangerous Obsession, because both are Italian psychological-erotic hostage dramas with a structure of flashbacks. 

But only Dangerous Obsession opens with live smooth sax. In fact, the music by Claudio Natili is not only enjoyable and noteworthy, but actually important to the plot and it drives it along. Probably the best place to turn at this point would be to quote Stephen Thrower, from his must-have monograph on Fulci, Beyond Terror: “Fulci turned in a trashy, often hilarious S&M fantasy with a few dark undertows of melancholia for good measure.” So Fulci fans who haven’t seen it should check it out, especially those only familiar with his horror output. For everyone else, those with a taste for this kind of thing most likely won’t be disappointed, because Fulci and his team bring quality and interest to something that could have been a lot worse in the hands of a lesser director.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett


Soultaker (1990)

Soultaker (1990)- * *1\2

Directed by: Michael Rissi

Starring: Joe Estevez, Vivian Schilling, Gregg Thomsen, David "Shark" Fralick, and Robert Z'Dar

Natalie McMillan (Schilling) is the “rich girl” in her small town, and Zach Taylor (Thomsen) is the poor local mechanic. Before this West Side Story/Romeo & Juliet-like romance can get off the ground, their buddy Brad Deville (Fralick), who appears to be a cross between a lunkhead and a meathead, drives drunk and they all die (?) - but before “The Man” (Estevez) can collect their souls, they realize what’s going on and they all run away from The Man and his partner (again a ?), Angel of Death (Z’Dar). 

This race between life and death intensifies because Natalie reminds The Man of a woman he used to love in a past life. Who will win - those who collect the souls of the recently deceased, or mulleted, 37 year old teens on the run?

Okay, we all know Soultaker was famously tackled by the MST3K guys. Let’s try and put that aside for a moment, if possible, and realize that it is indeed AIP April once again, so we have to put in our two cents as well. Rather than mercilessly bash the poor movie, we choose to dwell on the positive: the first half. Any scenes with Brad Deville - and David “Shark” Fralick does indeed look like a dude named Brad Deville - are gold. 

The “Summerfest” sequences provide solid entertainment/laughs/80’s nostalgia, and the presences of Robert Z’Dar and Joe Estevez are comforting and familiar. To see them working and walking together as an “afterlife team” was pretty cool. And we applaud the effort all around, even if the final result is (pleasantly?) amateurish. But that’s what we look for. Not everything has to be absolutely perfect and we cherish the quirks. But it’s not all a Summerfest bash…

The second half of the movie is boring, dull, and repetitive. Even the powerhouse team of Z’Dar with his unintelligible electronically-lowered voice and Joe Estevez with his black guyliner can’t remedy that. Their characters are supposed to be menacing because of these things, not to mention their black coats. They also disappear and reappear quickly thanks to what can only be described as “Blip-cuts”. There’s also a green special effect that will remind you not of Slimer from Ghostbusters, but of his Hi-C Ecto-Cooler. Zach Thomsen gives Billy Warlock a run for his money, and Vivian Schilling, interestingly enough, is credited with screenplay/story on the film.

So as a glimpse of the end of the acid-washed 80’s, with plenty of 80’s coolguys and coolgirls and their various fashions, Soultaker has some value for that reason alone. Pounding, generic 80’s rock/metal seems central to their lives, though the end credits song, “Somewhere in Paradise” by Karen Lawrence, would seem to contradict that. Yet again we have a movie of two halves - the first being better, of course - but it’s largely sunk by the dull second half.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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