Full Eclipse (1993)

Full Eclipse (1993)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Anthony Hickox

Starring: Mario Van Peebles, Patsy Kensit, Jason Beghe, and Dean Norris

Max Dire (Van Peebles) is one of the best and bravest officers on the LAPD. You might even say he has a talent for getting out of DIRE situations with MAXIMUM firepower (see, that’s why they pay us the big bucks, heh heh). 

Because of his stellar track record as a crimefighter on the mean streets, he attracts the attention of Adam Garou (Payne), a mysterious man who wants Max to join his gang of underground vigilantes to clean up the streets in their own way. They even use a mysterious drug to give them superhuman powers. At first, Max is reluctant, but the clever Adam has Casey Spencer (Kensit) seduce Max onto his squad. The conflicted Max tries to make the best of the team of unkillable vigilante werewolves (how often do you get to say that phrase?), but in the end must face his demons on his own terms. Can he do it before the FULL ECLIPSE?

We thoroughly enjoyed Full Eclipse. It’s a lot of fun, and delivers everything you want. There’s a lot to love and appreciate about this movie - not only is it a solid action movie in its own right, but it puts a nice spin on the cop/action drama. It even puts a spin on the vigilante movie, which we especially liked, because we love those, generally speaking, and if you add in werewolves, it’s hard to lose. Another plus was the use of real, practical effects, no CGI garbage. And the great cast ties it all together, along with the fast-paced direction of Hickox.

Mario Van Peebles was terrific as Dire: not only is he a quality 90’s coolguy with his ever-changing beard stubble, loose ties and sunglasses, but you can feel his conflict as it relates to the unfolding werewolf situation. On top of that, he shines in the action sequences, as he fires two guns while diving through the air in slow motion, in true John Woo style. The opening “punks take over the dance club” sequence was indeed a movie highlight. Fan favorite Bruce Payne matches him, giving a totally committed performance. Sadly, only fans like us (and by us I mean not just US, but you reading this as well) will appreciate this - Payne receives no awards, never gets to chat on the late night shows, but is far more competent than many that do.

The whole thing is classic 90’s; just the type of thing you’d see on the pay-cable channels or in the video stores of the day. So while this even has a dash of the then-current “homie movie” (there is a drive-by shooting and Van Peebles has a tendency to say “yo yo yo”), Full Eclipse, in general, is a cut above the average DTV film, in our opinion. The only bad thing is that this was a point in time when annoying pop-culture references were starting to pop up in characters’ dialogue.

But the 80’s weren’t that far behind, as you know that Dire’s partner, who says he’s “getting married”, is “too old”, and is nervous and complaining a lot, that he’s not long for this world. Full Eclipse, in general, is the next logical step up from Wolfen (1981), and the outing in general is never dull. It sports a killer concept, and a nice execution that lives up to it. We recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Steel and Lace (1991)

Steel and Lace (1991)- * * *

Directed by: Ernest D. Farino

Starring: Michael Cerveris, Clare When, Stacy Haiduk, Brian Backer, John J. York, Paul Leiber, Scott Burkholder, David Naughton, and Bruce Davison

When super-evil businessman Emerson (Cerveris) rapes a sensitive concert pianist named Gaily Morton (Wren), and thanks to the false testimony of his buddies/baddies Norman, Craig, Oscar and Toby (Backer, York, Lieber and Burkholder, respectively), Emerson gets off scot-free at the trial, and poor Gaily commits suicide. Luckily, her brother Albert Morton (Davison) is a creepy and obsessive robotics technician. 

Albert rebuilds Gaily but this time outfits her with cool weaponry and a drive for revenge. She then goes after the team of evildoers that wronged her. Meanwhile, Detective Dunn (Naughton) is on the case of the mutilated men. Thanks to the help of his girlfriend Alison (Haiduk of Yesterday’s Target (1996) fame) - who is an artist and was working as a courtroom sketch artist at the time of the original trial - Dunn is closing in fast. But will Dunn stop the Morton siblings from completing their revenge mission? Or will Emerson and his gang get away with it? Find out today!

Steel and Lace sports a very cool concept: a cybernetic rape-revenge thriller that crosses Robocop (1987) with I Spit on Your Grave (1978). The whole outing is perfect for the video stores of the early 90’s. Movies like The Terminator (1984) and Eve of Destruction (1991) were renting heavily (OK, just go with us on that last example) - so why wouldn’t you want to see a beautiful woman getting revenge on some baddies and boring through their chest cavities with a robotic drill? Any teenager would have been thrilled, and now any teenagers-at-heart should equally appreciate what Steel and Lace is trying to do. The end result is entertaining and enjoyable. You gotta love it.

Cerveris is appropriately boo-able and hiss-able as the ponytailed main baddie. As if rape, extortion and racketeering weren’t enough, he’s just not a very nice guy. It’s kind of a dead giveaway that you’re evil if the logo for your company is a globe with a sinister-looking hand clutching it, done up in an ominous shade of red. 

And you spend a lot of time in an “evil boardroom” (you’ll know it when you see it). It’s all part of the comic book-like fun. Let’s not forget we’re dealing with a cyber-revenge robot chick. On the side of the good guys we have not just the reliable David Naughton, but there’s a wacky M.E. named Herb that almost steals the show. (if there is a wacky M.E. on board, odds are his name will be Herb).

Our hats go off to SOTA FX for creating the robot and gore effects which were, well, effective. Released by Fries Home Video, if you liked Peacemaker (1990) - which was also put out by Fries - you’ll surely like Steel and Lace. We recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum!


Legion Of Iron (1990)

Legion Of Iron (1990)- 1\2*

Directed by: Yakov Bentsvi

Starring: Kevin T. Walsh, Camille Carrigan, Erika Nann, and Reggie DeMorton

“Superman’s Black, freak face” - Lyle Wagner

Much like The Hoff, Billy Hamilton (Walsh) has been lookin’ for freedom. Without warning, and quite inexplicably, this high school football player, along with his girlfriend Alison (Carrigan) are kidnapped and spirited away to an underground complex where the guys are forced to battle it out in deathfights to the death, and the girls are sex slaves. 

The whole operation is run by the sadistic Queen Diana (Nann), who clearly derives a lot of pleasure from other people’s misery. Billy then teams up with fellow fighter Lyle Wagner (De Morton) - not to be confused with Lyle Waggoner - but, then, maybe that was the movie’s subtle reminder that it’s at least better than Robo Chic (1990) because Waggoner was in that. Nevertheless, will Billy fight for his freedom, rescue his girlfriend and blah blah blah? Does anybody care?

Another day, another gladiators-fight-to-the-death movie. Sadly, Legion of Iron doesn’t add anything new to the formula we’ve seen so many times before. The whole affair is dour and derivative - not to mention junky and jumbled. Things aren’t established very well and there is zero character development. This movie doesn’t give the viewer much to like or hang on to. Some movies with varying degrees of cult status people still talk about today, like, to pick a random example, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). 

Nobody has ever, or will ever, talk about Legion of Iron in a nostalgic or loving way. With so much competition on video store shelves at the time, even with somewhat similar but far superior offerings such as Fortress (1992) spoiling video store patrons for choice, why would someone pick this crud? If someone gave you the choice for an ice-cold Coke or some flat, homemade syrup, who’s going to choose the syrup?

There are signs on the walls that say “sweat saves blood”, patrons yell and place bets via computer rather than shaking the cash in their hands, and with Apple IIc graphics, we are informed that we’re now watching “Mad Dog vs. Rex”. There are meatheads galore, an Ivan Drago-clone whose only real means of differentiation from the evil Russian is that this guy wears a cape, and one of the background fighters, a blonde, long-haired Fabio clone, should have been the main hero, not the whiny and ineffectual Billy.

With the possible exception of the Asian guy (who is barely in it), there are no cool characters or situations. “Billy” has all the personality and likability of particle board, and he’s the hero we’re all supposed to get behind. And his badass, intimidating gladiator uniform that’s meant to intimidate his opponents in the ring? Well, how can we put this gently...if Liberace fought Liberace in a gladiator fight, Liberace wouldn’t wear this outfit. It consists of bright silver short shorts and bedazzled football protective gear. We kid you not. Somehow, this is all done with a straight face. No pun intended. We’ve seen more heterosexual attire at the San Francisco gay pride parade. We think you get the idea.

Legion of Iron not only has no re-watchability factor, it has no watchability factor. The cutting is an eyesore, the sets are dreary, the plot/dialogue is nonexistent, and the pace is sluggish. Any one of those things wouldn’t, on its own, sink the movie, but taken together, this ship starts to take on too much water. It seems worth noting that the great Isaac Florentine worked on this production. Maybe this is where he learned what NOT to do. We would say to avoid this tiresome and unnecessary production.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Unknown Movies!


Raiders Of Atlantis (1983)

Raiders Of Atlantis (1983)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: Christopher Connelly, George Hilton, Gioia Scola, Tony King, Ivan Rassimov, Michele Soavi, Bruce Baron, and Mike Monty 

A group of scientists, led by the nerdy Saunders (Hilton) and the attractive Dr. Rollins (Scola), go on a seafaring expedition and come across an old sunken relic they believe to be an artifact from Atlantis. While they’re trying to figure out the significance of this skull-faced totem, a freak storm strands them on a Caribbean island. They then realize they’re in a whole heap of trouble, because the island is dominated by murderous punks who are descendents of the original Atlanteans. Naturally they want to take over the world, and are led by a guy who not just worships a crystal skull, but actually wears the skull on his head! Such is his devotion to crystal skulls, his name is Crystal Skull (Baron). 

Just when the scientists start to despair, a pair of tough Vietnam vets, Mike Ross (Connelly) and Washington (King) come to their rescue and put their knowledge of weaponry and survival to good use. Will they defeat the punks? Or will the baddies from Atlantis rise again? Find out today!

After getting off to a pretty slow start, The Raiders of Atlantis eventually kicks into gear and is a rollicking good time. Director Ruggero Deodato should be more well known for his action output, as action has infused much of his work in his long career, everything from Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976), to Cut and Run (1985) to The Barbarians (1987) - but his reputation is such that his name is synonymous with Italian horror. Nevertheless, Deodato delivers the goods with this, a sort of cross between  the Indiana Jones movies (and he predated the crystal skull sequel by many years!), the A-Team and The Road Warrior (1981), among other “influences”. By far the best part of this movie are the punks. 

The movie truly starts when they arrive on the scene. They have awesome outfits and vehicles. Just like how people in Cuba today are driving around in 50’s Fords and Chevys, here too the Atlanteans have the classic cars, but in their case, drills and spikes are attached to them.

Deodato assembled a top-notch cast for this, an “A-Team”, if you will. Heh heh. Christopher Connelly is great as the leader with the raspy voice. The man can truly turn a phrase like no one else. He can call you a “Dirtball” with style and aplomb. Tony King is completely winning as his sidekick - it’s largely because you get behind him that you want our heroes to succeed. Baron is suitably menacing as the guy who wears the crystal skull, George Hilton plays against type as the dorky scientist with the stylish shorts, and Ivan Rassimov, Michele Soavi, and Philippine-shot movie regular Mike Monty appear as well. So you can’t ask for more in that department. The movie also scores points because the music is done by the DeAngelis brothers (using their usual pseudonym Oliver Onions), and the movie is set in the future, “1994”, which is now the past, which we always love to see. 

 Add some shooting, blow-ups, exploding helicopters,
“pew-pew” lasers, and a high body count (including what we call a “fan favorite death”), and you have a complete night of entertainment in front of your VCR.

Released on VHS by Prism in the U.S. back in the video store days, and now available as part of the “Grindhouse Experience vol.2” DVD set (which is out of print but still cheaply found on Amazon and elsewhere as of this writing), The Raiders of Atlantis provides a solid dose of Italian-made, Philippines-shot 80’s action goodness.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddies Ed's Pop Culture Shack and  The Video Vacuum! 


The Barbarians (1987)

The Barbarians (1987)- * * *

Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: Peter Paul, David Paul, Virginia Bryant, Richard Lynch, Eva La Rue, George Eastman, and Michael Berryman

"The Barbarian Brothers as...The Barbarians"

In a mystical faraway land of swords and sorcery, two twin brothers are orphaned and adopted by a traveling caravan of weirdos. When the nefarious warlord Kadar (Lynch), in a quest for more power, attacks the traveling troupe and imprisons Queen Canary (Bryant) and enslaves the brothers in a work camp, at least some good comes out of it: a lifetime of lifting rocks has turned the two brothers into massively muscular “Barbarian Brothers”. Kutchek (Peter Paul) and Gore (David Paul) want to free their beloved Queen, so, along with another newly-freed victim of the wrath of Kadar, a girl named Kara (La Rue), they go forward on their quest. 

Along the way they meet all kinds of crazy characters and people, not the least of which are Dirtmaster (Berryman) and Jacko (Eastman). Will they slay the dragon? Will they find the magical ruby that fits into the bellybutton of the future queen? Will they argue and make weird, animalistic noises? Find out today!

Connecticut’s own The Barbarian Brothers truly come out to shine (literally - they glisten) in their first major, starring role. It truly was an amazing time for the film industry and the world of video stores alike  - the fact that projects like this could be made and distributed around the world would not happen today.  That Cannon would put Ruggero Deodato in the director’s chair, and - of all people - The Barbarian Brothers front and center is nothing short of a miracle. The result is a fairly freewheeling journey into a magical land filled with wacky costumes, crazy makeup, and oiled-up meatheads.

It was the 80’s, after all, and things like Dungeons and Dragons, He-Man, and the Conan The Barbarian series (he’s only ONE barbarian. Here you get two for the price of one) were huge. Not to mention video games like Iron Sword (remember the Fabio cover?), Gauntlet and later Golden Axe. Even the breastplate that one of the brothers wears later in the movie is very He-Man esque. 

And seeing as how Lucio Fulci directed Conquest (1983), Cannon probably figured, ‘okay, this sword-and-sorcery stuff is huge right now, let’s get another Italian director known for his horror/gore work and have him run the show’. Deodato provides a weird/wacky vibe, and the whole thing is well-shot in typical Italian style. While Dolph Lundgren was ideal casting for Masters of the Universe (1987) - could you imagine He-Man x2? Well, imagine no longer.

Fan favorite Richard Lynch was good casting as the baddie, and it’s probably the only time we’ve ever seen him with dreadlocks. He must have impressed Deodato after working with him on Cut and Run (1985). Same goes for Michael Berryman, who also appeared in that movie two years earlier for Deodato. Berryman is always cool to see, and he makes some great faces, and has some impressive headgear. Same thing for George Eastman, we always enjoy when he pops up when you’re not expecting him to, which happens fairly often. 

Eva La Rue makes a cute companion to the Barbarians on their quest, and there are some lesser characters with notable features such as a guy who can only be described as “Pee Wee Amidala” (you’ll know him when you see him) and a baddie who looks a lot like Bane. Interestingly, in this “origin story” for the Barbarian Brothers, they actually take the time to explain WHY they’re so huge, which you don’t often see for other meatheads. The brothers themselves have a silly kind of chemistry which has helped earn them a fan following.

The movie fluctuates between childish fun and more adult themes, so it’s hard to tell exactly who this was aimed for. Perhaps the ideal audience is immature young men like us. Featuring an uncredited song with the lyrics “Your ruby dreams taste so sweet”, The Barbarians remains a lightweight 80’s Barbaric good time.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out write-ups from our buddies Dead Moon Night and The Video Vacuum!


Cut and Run (1985)

Cut and Run (1985)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: Lisa Blount, Eriq La Salle, Willie Aames, Leonard Mann, Karen Black, John Steiner, Richard Bright, Michael Berryman, and Richard Lynch

Fran Hudson (Blount) is a local Miami TV reporter who never shies away from a story that is potentially dangerous. After some drug-fueled murders in the area, an informant, Fargas (La Salle) points Fran and her trusty cameraman Mark (Mann) in the direction of a mysterious man named Brian Horne (Lynch). Horne was a disgraced Army Colonel who ended up in the employment of the infamous Jim Jones. He was said to have died in the massacre at Guyana, but recent photos have surfaced featuring Horne. Fran and Mark want to go deep into the jungles of Venezuela where they believe he is hiding out in order to interview him. 

This coincides perfectly with the wishes of their station manager, Bob (Bright) as well as Karin (Black). Bob’s son Tommy (Aames) has been missing and thought to be in the same area. So Fran and Mark have their work “cut” out for them, as they must report on the drug killings, find and interview Brian Horne, and rescue Tommy - all the while dodging the many pitfalls of the jungle, not the least of which is the violent and frightening killer Quecho (Berryman). Can they do it?

Out of all the jungle movies released in the 80’s, Cut and Run has to rank as one of the best. While it sits comfortably with other items on video store shelves at the time such as Cocaine Wars (1985), Cut and Run has a lot more going for it. Namely the strong cast, and equally strong direction by Ruggero Deodato, who most people would associate with Cannibal Holocaust (1980) - but here at Comeuppance we associate him with Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976), Raiders of Atlantis (1983) and The Barbarians (1987). 

Though, truth be told, Cut and Run shares more of the themes of Cannibal Holocaust than any of the other movies we mentioned - jungles, white people entering them and facing hostile Indios, and gore a-plenty. So while lesser filmmakers were off making nondescript El Presidente movies or Jungle Slogs (as we call them), Deodato corraled an impressive cast and raised the bar on all films of this type. He set the standard for the 80’s video store-era jungle movie, and it has yet to be surpassed.

Lisa Blount makes an appealing lead, and she’s an actress we don’t often get a chance to talk about. Eriq La Salle - much like his co-stars John Steiner, Gabriele Tinti and even Karen Black - puts in a colorful and worthwhile, but brief, role. Fan favorite Michael Berryman is on board doing what he does best, as is fellow fan favorite Richard Lynch. Both Berryman and Lynch have loinclothed goons - presumably no jungle movie would be complete without them. 

It’s hard to say exactly what’s going on with Willie Aames (or is it Willie Bibleman; not really sure) what with his curly mullet and Mickey Mouse tanktop over a red sweatshirt, but like Blount, we don’t get to talk about Willie too much on this site, so we were happy to see him in a non-Charles in Charge role. But seeing as how the movie was directed with energy by Deodato, and has typically-excellent Claudio Simonetti music, you can’t really lose...or can you?

Actually, you CAN lose if you view the New World VHS. The Anchor Bay DVD is uncut so make sure that is the version you see/buy. The moments of well-executed gore are one of the main ingredients that set this movie apart from its jungle-based competitors. So make sure you see it all on the DVD. Corman and New World have a tendency to cut movies and make sure they don’t go “too far”, and Cut and Run was sadly a victim of that back in the day. But it’s been rectified now, so there’s nothing to fear. Except maybe Quecho.

Cut and Run is a solid movie, and the DVD is a solid addition to anyone’s collection.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum!


She-Wolves Of The Wasteland (1988)

She-Wolves Of The Wasteland (1988)- * * *

AKA: Phoenix The Warrior

Directed by: Robert Hayes

Starring: Persis Khambatta, Kathleen Kinmont, Sheila Howard, Veronica Carothers, and Peggy Sands

 In yet another post-apocalyptic future, men have been eradicated. The surviving women left alive on the planet battle for supremacy. The head baddie in this manless future is Reverend Mother (Howard), sort of a cross between The Emperor from the Star Wars movies and Plughead from the Circuitry Man movies. She has a way of impregnating people, but she doesn’t want any male children born. She’s kind of like the opposite of China. When Keela (Sands) becomes pregnant, she goes on the run. A baddie-ess named Cobalt (Khambatta) faithfully executes the orders of the Reverend Mother. Thankfully, Keela meets up with a warrior chick (also called a “Sandtrapper”) named Phoenix (Kinmont) so they can both battle all the goons that are after them. Along the way, they find the last man alive, not surprisingly named Guy (Emery), and they face many trials and tribulations as they fight to stay alive. What will happen?

It’s not Warriors of the Wasteland, it’s She-Wolves of the Wasteland, so, you know, let’s keep that in mind. (Though, to be fair, this did come out on VHS as Phoenix The Warrior). For an American post-apocalyptic slog, this is modestly entertaining, and the pace isn’t that bad. It’s not terribly different from others of its kind, but the main twist in the formula, if you want to call it that, is the 98% female cast on display. If nothing else, you can always gawk at the eye candy. There’s certainly no shame in that - heck, what else would you be gawking at if not for that?

Many of the post-apocalyptic mainstays are here: riding around a desert setting in dune buggies, characters with torn/bizarre outfits, wacky makeup/hair, narration in the opening that sets up why there was an apocalypse, but never comes back to explain anything else, and of course, some shooting and blow-ups. By definition this time around, all the fights are cat-fights, though that description may be demeaning to Kinmont as the noble heroine. She doesn’t need a man around, much less Lorenzo Lamas. Persis Khambatta as the baddie is tough too, however - she even has an Andrew Scott-style necklace of ears. Women love necklaces and earrings so this really saves time. Khambatta is also listed as an associate producer, and she does seem intensely into her role as Cobalt. We applaud her professionalism in the face of low-budget silliness.

There are some organized prison fights to the death (THIS close to Punchfighting but not quite, mainly because swords and other weapons are used instead of fists, and we don’t see anybody clutching the cash in their hands), and of course where would we be in life if there wasn’t a Final Warehouse Fight? Interestingly enough, in the future, bizarrely deformed mutants will use TV Guides as religious articles and remembrances of TV shows are the new religion. Ideas like that help propel the movie along. And it is comforting to know that in the future, after the apocalypse, hair crimpers will still be widely available.

God bless you, AIP, you’ve managed to wring some last droplets out of the post-apocalyptic genre. We knew we could count on you.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett


The Cut-Throats (1969)

The Cut-Throats (1969)- * *

Directed by: John Hayes

Starring: Uschi Digard and Sandy Carey

Set towards the end of World War II, The Cut-Throats is the tale of Captain Kohler, who, despite his name, is actually an American Captain. He is in command of a rag-tag team of  misfits, wouldn’t ya know. Apparently these dudes are known as “The Cut-Throats” because of their ruthless determination to finish their missions at all costs. Ostensibly, their objective this time is to capture some valuable documents and plans from the Nazis. But the Captain really wants to steal some jewels originally stolen by said Nazis. 

However, all the men seem to get highly distracted by all the beautiful German women. This causes further complications, but who will come out unscathed from all the sex and violence? And does it even really matter?

Depending on your definition of “action”, this would certainly qualify, but more in the “eee-rrr, eee-rrr” (squeaking bedsprings) sense of the word. The WWII setting, despite a couple of shootouts and a lackluster, if prerequisite, throat-cut, is really more of a backdrop for a softcore porn romp. 

It really could have been set in any historical time period as a pretext for nudity and sex scenes, but perhaps director John Hayes, who is pretty well-known in the exploitation world, especially after being thoroughly profiled in Stephen Thrower’s excellent book Nightmare USA, wanted the most sordid and icky setting he could think of, because he was targeting the “raincoat” (i.e., perverted) crowd. But still, this is on the relatively tame end of the “Nazisploitation” subgenre. In the American sweepstakes, Love Camp 7 (1969), released the same year (what a proud year it was), has it beat.

We considered not reviewing this one, but we figured, if there was a movie released to video stores with the title “The Cut-Throats”, we should at least tell people what it is. And that’s what it is. The exploitation team of Hayes-Henning Schellerup-David Chase churned out a low-budget sex drama that will be familiar in style to anyone who watches Something Weird-released titles. It even features two performers legendary in that regard: Uschi Digard (perfectly cast as a Nazi secretary) and Sandy Carey. Perhaps the only people that should bother to track this movie down would be fans of those two actresses. 

Otherwise, there’s not a ton to recommend going out of your way for, really. The production values are so low, it makes Hogan’s Heroes look like Schindler’s List (1994).

So even though the main guy’s name is Kohler, it sounds like everyone’s calling him “cola”, and the end bit has the classic scene where the bad guy says the good guy’s name a million times as they search for a final face-off. 

Director Hayes was no stranger to the WWII drama, having made Shell Shock (1964) a few years earlier. I’ve actually seen that, because it was released on the great Paragon label, and I endeavor to see anything they’ve released. From what I remember, that was not nearly as salacious as this. But The Cut-Throats does have an original song, “The Ballad of Jimmy Johnson”, which, despite what you might think, isn’t about those late-night Extenze commercials. Or maybe that is what you think. It might make sense after all.

Released, appropriately, on All-American Video, The Cut-Throats more than likely won’t mean much to die-hard action fans, but fans of 60’s sexploitation may find it worthwhile, even though it is somewhat disposable.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett


The Vindicator (1986)

The Vindicator (1986)- * * *

Directed by: Jean-Claude Lord

Starring: David McIlwraith, Teri Austin, Richard Cox, Maury Chaykin, and Pam Grier

A scientist/researcher, Carl Lehman (McIlwraith) is in a bit of a bind. He has a loving wife, Lauren (Austin) who is pregnant with their first child. But also he was horribly disfigured in a lab accident, presumed dead, revived and put in an indestructible bodysuit, and is on the run because he is programmed to kill against any sort of human will he has left. So you can see his predicament. 

Diabolical scientist Whyte (Cox) hires a bounty hunter of sorts, named, naturally, Hunter (Grier) to stop the man they now call "Frankenstein". But after this modern-day Frankenstein (see the movie's alternate title) beats up some street punks in an alley, we see what he's capable of. Through all this mess, he still communicates with his wife by speaking via the family synthesizer! And what does the Chris Christie-like Burt Arthurs (Chaykin) have to do with all this? Will Frankenstein come "unbound"? Find out today...

Not to be confused with The Exterminator (1980), The Terminator (1984), Eliminators (1986), The Revenger (1989), or The Punisher (1989), THE VINDICATOR is a highly comic book-influenced sci-fi actioner that wears its Canadian heritage on its sleeve with pride. Director Jean-Claude Lord proves there's more than one guy named "Jean-Claude" in the movie industry that we should be aware of. He imbues the project with an intelligence that keeps the viewers' interest. 

He seems pretty influenced by his compatriot David Cronenberg, but Lord's approach to some of the same themes Cronenberg has tackled is much more populist and aimed for the heart of the video store market. While on the one hand, Carl's "body horror" and his examination of his own humanity is reminiscent of Cronenberg, Pam Grier with a super soaker-like weapon shooting people in a sewer as cars blow up really isn't.

The most obvious parallel we can see to The Vindicator is, of course, Robocop (1987), which came out the following year, which is extremely interesting. The Vindicator came first, much like Greedo's shootings. But the sewer scenes recall yet more movies, C.H.U.D. (1984) and Alligator (1980) - Pam Grier's character is reminiscent of Henry Silva's in the latter movie. So it's fair to say The Vindicator is an amalgam of many different sci-fi/fantasy/horror/comic book ideas from years past. 

Thankfully there are enough of these ideas so that the filmmakers and cast can make it work. This is a movie that is filled with as many strange situations as it has strange-looking people. It was from a golden time when scientists smoked and cops shot monkeys with abandon. Also there's a line of dialogue about "3000 free games of Zaxxon", totally in keeping with our perspective today as the movie as retro-futuristic.

Released by Key video back in the good old days of the video store, The Vindicator has a certain unorthodox appeal and is worth seeing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Scanner Cop (1994)

Scanner Cop (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Pierre David

Starring: Daniel Quinn, Darlanne Fluegel, Richard Grove, Billy “Sly” Williams, Brion James, Cyndi Pass, Hilary Shepard, and Richard Lynch

As a little boy, Sam Staziak was taken in by a police officer named Harrigan (Grove) after his own father freaked out because they both have the scanner bloodline. Little Sam grew up to be a cop like his adoptive father, and now, as an adult (Quinn), he looks to follow in his father’s footsteps on the L.A.P.D. 

But an evil, unhinged brain surgeon (aren’t they all?) named Karl Glock (Lynch) is using unsuspecting normal citizens and using them for his sick, twisted experiments. He makes them believe all cops are supernatural, grotesque monsters, so when they see them, they snap and start killing them. 

Now trying to figure out and combat an amorphous, confusing threat before more boys in blue get killed, Staziak must tap into his scanner abilities which have caused him nothing but pain in the process. But too much scanning can lead to insanity and sensory overload. Dr. Joan Alden (Fluegel) is helping, but truly only Sam can come to terms with who he is and stop Glock in the process. Will he do it before it’s too late for the L.A.P.D. - and himself? Find out today!

Much like we said in our Scanner Cop II (1995) review, not being sci-fi fans, we weren’t going in expecting much. But there is more to Scanner Cop than you might think, and there are plenty of interesting ideas at work here that raise the level of enjoyment considerably. 

You can tell the writers actually thought about the plot a lot, which goes a long way and is much appreciated. The intelligence and serious, downbeat tone would surely do Cronenberg proud. Just the idea of a “scanner cop” is rife with possibilities, and the movie, thankfully, capitalizes on them. We couldn’t help but wonder why movies about other scanner professions never materialized: “scanner firefighter”, “scanner teacher”, “scanner professional boogieboarder” - the options are endless.

After a long career as a writer and producer, this was director David’s directorial debut. He’d worked with fellow Canadian Jeff Wincott a lot, as he was a writer on  Mission of Justice (1992) and Martial Law II (1992), and produced Marked Man (1996). David clearly learned a lot during his time doing other roles on film sets, because it has a professional look and you’d never know it was his debut. 

While the humorless, somewhat bleak approach he took was a good one this time around to sell the bizarre subject matter, some levity would have helped, and as David did not return as director for part II, seemingly a little more fun was had the second time around.

The cast is plentiful with B-movie stars: fan favorite Richard Lynch does his classic baddie thing, Brion James is in it for about 2 seconds, Hilary Shepard of Peacemaker (1990) fame plays Lynch’s assistant named Zena, predating Xena by a few years, Cyndi Pass of Mission of Justice is here too, and Billy “Sly” Williams plays a drug dealer named Eightball, among other names in the cast. While Richard Grove did a fine job as Harrigan, we can’t help but think Stacy Keach would have been a nice cast addition in that role. He even played a similar part in Irresistible Force (1993). But maybe that’s why he didn’t do it.

The Scanner Cop series was big on cable and in video stores at the time, and while that doesn’t seem that long ago to us, clearly it is, because in the movie characters smoke cigarettes indoors and in government buildings. Which tells us intelligent, well-thought-out sci-fi (or any types of movies for that matter) are getting farther and farther away in the past. Just compare this to the “syfy” channel’s “original movies”. The difference is crystal clear. As with its sequel, Scanner Cop is far better than you might think.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, The Video Vacuum, Film Guinea Pig, and Cool Target!


Dark Breed (1996)

Dark Breed (1996)- * *1\2

Directed by: Richard Pepin

Starring: Jack Scalia, Cindy Ambuehl,  George “Buck” Flower, Sal Landi, and Jonathan Banks

“I’m NASA.”

Nick Saxon (Scalia) is an ex-Special Forces Vietnam veteran (of course), so when a crew of astronauts returns infected with an alien virus, naturally Saxon is the first person the government calls to stop the spread of these body-snatching interlopers (wonder where they got that idea...). So Saxon and his team are working on stopping the astro-nuts, who predated the diaper-wearing astro-nut from the news of a few years ago by many years. But it’s personal for Scalia, sorry, Saxon, because his buddy Joseph Shay (Banks) is one of the unfortunate astronauts taken over by an alien presence. Will Saxon don his Denim and Leather and come out victorious against the alien baddies?

Judging by the fact that most of the scenes are too dark to see, Dark Breed is indeed an apt title. Or maybe they could have called it Dark Screen. Which leads us to the schizophrenic nature of this movie. The sci-fi scenes are dark (as if we haven’t made that sufficiently clear yet), almost as if to hide their shame at making a sci-fi slog. 

But as for the action scenes, most of them are shot in daylight and are clearly and appropriately lit. That’s normally the way with PM, but maybe they were experimenting with the “moodier” feel of the day, which was ahead of its time, as many movies and TV shows are severely underlit today.  So if you’re interested in seeing PM experiment with darkness, here is certainly a place to check that out. But we can’t honestly say we’re on board with it this time. Thank goodness for the plentiful muzzle flashes and blow-ups, because they provide the only light in many scenes.

But the action is classic PM, with high-quality explosions, plenty of car stunts, and much gun-shooting. When it settles back into sci-fi territory, the movie inevitably slows down.  But we’re such PM fans, we had to see this movie, even though we don’t like sci-fi slogs. 

But scenes like the highway chase where Scalia is riding along the back of a truck on an upturned satellite dish are vintage PM and start to turn the movie back in good graces. The scene is reminiscent of PM classic Last Man Standing (1996) and easily could have appeared in that gem. Plus you can actually see the scene, so it stands out from a lot of the rest of the proceedings. But the movie as a whole is a sci-fi actioner, kind of in the vein of Peacemaker (1990). So if you liked that, you might like this.

Most of the dialogue consists of characters saying other characters’ names repeatedly, almost reaching Airplane! (1980) levels at times. Of course, that’s not when the aliens start making pig noises. Even though the aliens are supposed to be scary and malevolent, they sound like a mash up of Babe, Gordy and Arnold Ziffel in the midst of a slop fight. 

In other cast news Sal Landi, who has been in plenty of movies reviewed on this site, here plays “Zim” Zimmerman, also predating a certain news story. And fan favorite George “Buck” Flower even finds time to stop by in the midst of all the craziness. Tying it all together is Scalia, who looks like a stone statue carved of Treat Williams.

In the end, this movie is at war with itself. It’s sci-fi sloggery vs. tried-and-true action. If you don’t mind your action punctuated by literally dark, boring scenes (or if you genuinely like sci-fi, which is also a possibility), you might be able to extract some enjoyment from Dark Breed.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Demonstone (1990)

Demonstone (1990)- * * *

AKA: Deathstone

Directed by: Andrew Prowse

Starring: R. Lee Ermey, Jan-Michael Vincent, Nancy Everhard, Joonee Gamboa, Joe Mari Avellana, and Pat Skipper

Col. Joe Haines (Ermey) and Andy Buck (Jan-Michael Vincent, who we call JMV) are Marines going around Manila trying to get to the bottom of a mysterious series of murders. The authorities are blaming one of their fellow Marines, Tony McKee (Skipper), but Haines and Buck aren’t so sure. Soon, reporter Sharon Gale (Everhard) is involved in unraveling the puzzling case. 

Meanwhile there is civil unrest with plenty of protesters objecting to the American presence in their country. A local senator and baddie with the less-than-frightening name of Belfardo (Gamboa) is trying to manipulate things for his own ends - and what of the ancient curse of the Demonstone? Could that be the cause of all the misery? Find out if you dare...

You might be thinking right now, “Demonstone? Isn’t that a horror movie?” - and that is reasonable enough to think, but Demonstone is actually an action movie. Granted, there are some horror elements and the whole thing plays out like a cross between Saigon Commandos (1988) and Soultaker (1990) with a bit of Braddock: Missing In Action III (1988) thrown in for good measure. There’s the prerequisite barfight and constant machine gun shooting. 

But JMV and R. Lee Ermey make a great team. While JMV’s dialogue seems a bit slurry this time around, his own hair picks up the slack. It looks cool, and gets progressively cooler in every scene. Truth be told, both his and Everhard’s hair look exactly the same. You wouldn’t be able to tell them apart if you saw them from the upper forehead up.

As for Ermey, he plays a...wait for it...tough-talking Marine Colonel! Hey, better to be typecast than not cast at all. We’re actually big Ermey fans, and he does a great job. He’s as intimidating as usual here, until a shot of him walking with JMV reveals him wearing some highly ridiculous shorts. Then we felt less intimidated. 

Interestingly, the great Brian Trenchard-Smith is credited as a producer on Demonstone, and he featured Ermey prominently in the previous year’s The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989). Perhaps he was so impressed with him, he opted to use him again in this project. The editor on ‘Firebase was director Prowse, who also directed Driving Force (1989). While Prowse did a good job, we can’t help but wonder what the result would have been if Trenchard-Smith (who is one of our favorites) was in the director’s chair.

We appreciated that the movie was shot in - and also took place in - the Philippines. They didn’t try to pretend it was somewhere else. And actors like Gamboa and Avellana that we often see help liven things up. 

Surprisingly, Vic Diaz was not around for this one. In some of the protesting scenes, there are signs that say “Yankee Go Home”, among others with questionable English. You gotta love it. Maybe whoever wrote the signs also wrote the script, because there is plenty of funny dialogue on display, which actually is one of the strongest points of Demonstone. Where else will you hear someone angrily call someone else a “corndog” as an insult?

While Demonstone would have been stronger if there was a specific, central villain and JMV and Ermey were cops busting heads to get to him, it’s still worthwhile, especially if you’ve enjoyed the other horror/sci-fi/action hybrids of Fries Entertainment such as Peacemaker (1990) and Steel and Lace (1991).

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Gangland (2001)

Gangland (2001)- * *

Directed by: Art Camacho

Starring:  Sasha Mitchell, Vincent Klyn, Tim Thomerson, Costas Mandylor, Sam Jones, Kathleen Kinmont, Kristanna Loken, Ice-T, and Coolio

"It's survival of the baddest."

Set in the far distant future of 2010, Gangland is the tale of a post-apocalyptic wasteland where a plague runs wild. Yes, another one. Evil bad guy Lucifer (Klyn) kidnaps scientist Dr. Adams (Thomerson) because he’s close to figuring out a cure for the plague and he wants it all to himself. Meanwhile, Derek (Mitchell), Jared (Mandylor), and Alexis (Kinmont) go on the run from all the rampaging post-apocalyptic punks (what is it about the future that always breeds so many punks?). 

While on the run, they take time out to engage in fight scenes with them occasionally. Will our three heroes survive long enough to be able to get the plague antidote from Lucifer - who has also bothered to make an unkillable, Frankenstein-like superbaddie to fend off his attackers? Find out today?

Gangland pretty much defines the term “low budget”. And yes, technically speaking, this movie is “bad”, but not for anyone with a sense of humor. Corral your buddies together, watch and enjoy. Presumably all the resources the filmmakers had went to the cast. You might think, if you just saw the cast list, you couldn’t go wrong, though Ice-T, Coolio, Kristanna Loken and Sam Jones simply make cameos. But our main heroes Mitchell, Mandylor and Kinmont kicking, punching and shooting goons might be enough, but your tolerance for stupidity, dumbness, idiocy, imbecility and ineptitude (truly, a movie like this does define the subtle differences in these words for you better than a dictionary ever could) has to be pretty high.

Fan-favorite Sasha Mitchell beats up more future-punks here in much the same way he did in Class of 1999 II: The Substitute (1994). Heck, it was only eleven years later in the worlds of that and Gangland. A plus goes to the fact that this is one of those “set in the future that is now the past” movies. We love those. We actively seek them out. 

Helping out Mitchell on his quest (before we move on, watch out for his scene in the jail. His performance is truly a powerhouse) is Costas Mandylor, who walks away from fire in slow motion, and Lamas Wife Kinmont who looks disturbingly like Chelsea Handler in this movie, but no others that we’ve seen her in. Vincent Klyn, Mario Van Obama himself, is especially Peebles-like (well, Peebles from Exterminator 2 (1984), complete with throne, sunglasses and army of goons).

We’ve learned that great hair and clothing still exist in the future, which is a relief. One of Lucifer’s Lieutenants wears a spaghetti-strap tanktop almost all the time, except when he puts a leather vest with gold rings stitched up the sides and the word “wiseguys” painted on the back of it, over said tanktop. 

Add to this mix the fact that it looks obviously shot on backlot-style sets (that you can visit anytime you want if you visit Universal Studios), and maybe a “fan-favorite death” or two, among all the absurd beat-em-up and shooting scenes, and you have...a movie.

Featuring two songs (the title song and “Freak”) by rapper C-Tab (Ice-T and Coolio must not have been available), Gangland is pretty lame by most standards, but provides humor value if you watch it with other people.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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


Raw Force (1982)

Raw Force (1982)- * * *1\2

AKA: Kung Fu Cannibals

Directed by: Edward D. Murphy

Starring: Cameron Mitchell, John Locke, Geoffrey Binney, Jillian Kesner, Ralph Lombardi, Jewel Shepard, Camille Keaton, and Vic Diaz 

When Vietnam Vets and Martial Artists Gary Schwartz (Locke), and Mike O’Malley (Binney, not the guy who demanded to know if you had GUTS and went to Mo for the official standings) decide to go on a pleasure cruise captained by Harry Dodds (Cam), they can’t possibly know they would accidentally end up on a godforsaken place called Warriors’ Island, a tropical locale where “Martial Arts outcasts” haunt the place. Led by Monk (Diaz), the island is now the hub of a female white slavery ring/jade mine controlled by Speer (Lombardi) and his minions. 

The only problem for our stranded heroes (which also includes Jillian Kesner of Firecracker fame) is that the island also contains zombie-like Kung Fu cannibals who are thirsty for their blood. What a predicament. It’s not exactly a Carnival cruise...or is it? Our heroes will have to use all their wits and fighting abilities to get out of this jam...can they do it?

You might as well just project this movie on the side of your house and sit in your car and watch it, because this is perhaps the ultimate example of Drive-In exploitation from the early 80’s. It has elements from just about every genre of 42nd street-style filmmaking: Action, Martial Arts, exploitation, comedy, horror, and just plain old fashioned adventure. 

This nutty melange throws a lot at the viewer in its brief running time, and it never gets boring and always stays entertaining and fun. From the time-honored barfight (complete with disco soundtrack), to the Romp-style elements, to the nudity, to the “Fan Favorite Deaths”, Raw Force is the complete package.

Led by fan favorite Cam Mitchell, the cast of B-movie regulars like Vic Diaz, Jillian Kesner, Camille Keaton, Jewel Shepard and others turn this oddball outing into a gem. Director Edward Murphy, not to be confused with a certain comedic actor who has made certain gender-based misjudgments in his offscreen time, seems to have stumbled into a minor classic here. He later became an actor, and his only writing/directing/producing credits remain this, and the lackluster Heated Vengeance (1985). After that turkey, it’s easy to see why he turned to a different side of the entertainment business. Especially compared with Raw Force, which is a far more satisfying effort.

Originally released on VHS in the U.S. by Media (and this is truly a standout in their already-impressive catalog), and now out on DVD/Blu-Ray combo by Vinegar Syndrome, Raw Force can’t fail to entertain. To be continued...

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, Outpost Zeta and The Unknown Movies!