Monday, January 19, 2015

Barbarian Queen (1985)

Part of Roger Corman’s nine picture deal with Argentina the Barbarian Queen seems to be an answer to the question, “Was Deathstalker rapey enough?” This entry was also helmed by local Argentinian director Héctor Olivera who’s most notable contributions to film is this one and the equally terrible Wizards of the Lost Kingdom. Bad acting, terrible dubbing, gratuitous sexual assaults, recycled sets and a plot that wanders around like a beaten lost puppy makes this one of the worst entries in the genre.

Barbarian Queen poster 1 
Her steel is hardly the only thing naked here.

Do you remember the beginning of Conan the Barbarian where young Conan is being told about the “Riddle of Steel” by his father and then the village is attack by Thulsa Doom and his marauders? That was a pretty badass opening wasn’t it?  Well this film starts with a girl being horribly raped by soldiers before the village is attacked by the villain and his marauders which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of this movie.

Opening rape 
Viewers with taste may want to abandon the film now.

Descriptions of the movie claim it takes place during the days of the Roman Empire but as not one character dresses like a Roman and all the sets are reused ones from Deathstalker I never got that vibe. It’s basically just another evil king ruling from an evil city full of harem girls and gladiators with nothing to set it apart from other Sword & Sorcery movies except for the lack of sorcery that is.

Lana Clarkson is The Barbarian Queen.

The village is attacked during the wedding preparations of marriage between Prince Argan (Frank Zagarino) and Amethea (Lana Clarkson) and most of the villagers are killed while the few survivors are taken as slaves including Argan and the poor raped girl who turns out to be Taramis (Dawn Dunlap) Amethea’s sister. Amethea only survives by setting fire to her hut and then taken cover in her bathtub.

Hot tub 
That party got out of hand.

Two other women survived the attack; Estrid (Katt Shea) and Tiniara (Susana Traverso) and Amethea convinces them to join her on her mission to avenge her ruined wedding day, “I’ll be no man’s slave and no man’s whore, and if I can’t kill them all, by the gods they’ll know I’ve tried.” They canoe down the river for a while until they come across a military outpost where they see some old dude raping a woman that is tied to a fence, they kill the rapist but the girl dies in the arms of Estrild.

Rape interuptus 
Rapist Interruptus.

The trio make quick work of the rest of the soldiers of the outpost and discover Amethea’s sister who has gone a bit funny in the head since her capture and one can assume multiple sexual assaults by the soldiers here. I don’t want to harp on this but for a movie called Barbarian Queen there just seems to be lot of violence towards women here and were not even at the fifteen minute mark.

failure one 
The first of our heroes many failures.

The four women take the horses of the now dead soldiers and proceed on their “Revenge Quest” only to be attacked by a rebel band of villagers that is until the villagers learn that Amethea and company are also enemies of Arrakur (Armando Capo) who lead the attack against Amethea’s people and who rules the land with an iron fist. The rebels lend the women a young girl named Dariac (Andrea Scriven) to lead them to the city as only she knows the secret way in.

We’re told this a girl so I’ll take their word for it.

They are lead through underground passages into the catacombs below the city where they meet up with Dariac’s father the apparent leader of the underground rebel movement. He tells them that he can’t let them fight as they’ll start a battle that the rebels are not ready to finish.

the rebels 
The rebel leader seen here with standard issue eye patch and “missing arm.”

Now is when things start to really go bad, for reasons unknown the group split up which allows traumatized Taramis to run off and join the evil Arrakur as she apparently is suffering from some form of Stockholm syndrome, when Estrild tries to find Taramis she is captured and raped by city soldiers and then later dies in the castle dungeon.

“At least I’m out of this movie.”

When Amethea and Tiniara see Estrild being taken away they rush to her rescue but instead they themselves are quickly captured by the more of the city soldiers.
heroic fail 
I’m getting the impression that as heroes go, Amethea kind of sucks.

Tiniara is sent off to be a harem girl and sex toy for the gladiators while Amethea is interrogated by Arrakur himself who orders her to take her clothes off and when he tries to kiss her she bites his face.

This kind of thing never happens to Conan.

Arrakur doesn’t kill her for this insolence but sends her to his chief torturer and we are “treated” to the film’s most bizarre scene as Amethea is tied spread eagle on a rack while some kind of mechanized steel gauntlet is aimed at her chest.

claw of doom 
Words fail me.

If this scene comes across as a tad fucked up how she escapes is even more so; the twisted bastard decides to move onto the sexual assault portion of his torture regime but when he starts screwing her Amethea clamps down on his dick with her super vagina muscles and she refuses to stop squeezing his manhood until he releases her hands. Of course when he does she kicks him into a nearby vat of acid.

melted torturer 
Liquefied rapist.

Meanwhile Tiniara as a harem girl has made contact with Argan who is now a gladiator and tells him that she and Amethea have made contact with the rebels and that with their help and the help of the gladiators they could overthrow Arrakur. That plan has a few hiccups being that Tiniara and the gladiators have no way of confirming with the rebels the details of the plan, they have no idea where Amethea is, and the rebels aren’t armed or remotely ready to start their rebellion.  Other than it’s a cracker jack plan.

Would you trust her to plan anything?

The big finale has the gladiators being betrayed by one of their own but just as all seems lost the rebels show up and a brainwashed Taramis plants a dagger in the back of Arrakur saving Amethea from getting her head lopped off.

You go girl.

I’ve seen my fair share of cheesy exploitation films but this one takes the cake, it would have been better off if they had just gone ahead and made it an outright porno. The action scenes were terrible with the only thing worse than the lame sword fighting would be the acting which was more wooden than the swords. As heroes go Amethea is about the worst as she fails almost constantly at everything and even at the end she has to be saved during her fight with the chief villain.  The only saving grace here is we get to see poor mentally shattered Taramis get her revenge.

I’m assuming ten minutes later the rebels toss these idiots out of the city.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

El Monstro Del Mar (2012)

There have been some great horror films out of Australia in the last few years and so I went into El Monstro Del Mar! with some pretty good expectations sadly this film fell a bit short.

The movie starts off on a nice note as we see three provocatively clad women standing by their stalled car as they await their next victims. Director/writer Stuart Simpson chose to film the opening in black & white just in case we didn’t get that he was doing homage to Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

But what he failed to do is create characters with any definition beyond their appearance; there is no difference between Berretta (Nelli Scarlet), Blondie (Karli Madden) and Snowball (Kate Watts) other than which Suicide Girls type tattoos they are sporting. Berretta is given the most lines and seems the bigger baddass, so that ostensibly makes her the leader of the group, and though Blondie is a little bitchier than the others I kept getting her and Snowball mixed up.

“I’m named after a gun, which makes me the leader.”

Two hapless slobs pull over to help the girls and after a bit of flirting Berretta makes the “cut his throat” gesture then she cuts the throat of the one standing by her. Blood sprays in glorious Technicolor red as the film transitions from black and white to colour as the movie proper begins. The filmmakers do gore quite well but I do wonder if the film would have worked better if they had kept it in black & white. Berretta bitches at Snowball for getting blood all over the interior of the car even though she commanded the throat cutting while the guy was sitting behind the wheel. Did she think her friend could somehow magically direct blood? Even dumber is that they spend the next little while cleaning all the blood up only to steal car that belonged to their victims. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just the role the murder scene/car in the ditch and torch the evidence?

“Did you pack the Windex?”

The girls arrive at a sleepy seaside town where they plan to lay low at cabin lent to them by a friend (I’m assuming by friend they mean someone they killed and stole their house keys from) and this is when the film shifts gears and becomes a B-Grade monster movie. The girls immediately decide to go frolicking in the ocean only to have an old coot in a wheelchair yell at them to get out of the water.

crazy ralph 
This film’s Crazy Ralph.

The old man is Joseph (Norman Yemm) and his warnings of doom are ignored by the three girls because at no point does he explain why it is bad to be in the water. Sure these three most likely would have ignored him if he told them it was full of man-eating piranhas but who exactly would listen to vague ravings of an old man?  Later we find out that fifteen years ago this now near empty town was full and after people went into the water a monstrous creature came out of the sea and killed EVERYONE but Joseph and his two year old granddaughter Hanna, and for fifteen years no one has gone into the water since with nary an explanation from this idiot.  Also this monster is only awakened by people swimming but not people boating or fishing? Was the monster’s child killed by a group of bathers and now she haunts the shoreline like an aquatic Mrs. Voorhees?

Ringing the dinner bell.

The now seventeen year old Hannah (Kyrie Capri) is invited to party with the girls and though she is at first reticent to join, having never even had a drink before, she is eventually seduced to join the party. There is more flirting and implied girl-on-girl action but the film surprisingly avoids going for the full lesbian erotic scene so at most we get Berretta licking alcohol off one of the girl’s legs.

girl on girl action 
“We’re not gay, we just forgot to pack shot glasses.”

From here on out the film shifts into full on monster mode as we see local fisherman killed by the beast, the creature is apparently a huge monster with tentacles reminiscent of the graboids from Tremors, then come morning when Blondie is discovered missing Berretta and Snowball wander by the scene of a beach massacre with blasé “been there done that” attitude.

give them a hand 
“This was no boating accident.”

The final showdown is fun as we discover that monster is about the size of a house and our “heroes” must engage it in hand to tentacle combat. Timid Hannah steps up to the plate to be the Ripley of this movie as she wields a shotgun and axe against the creature while her wheelchair bound gramps hides in the basement. We get a fair amount gore and the monster effects are quite well done but when the blood finally settles I just found myself not carrying. Stuart Simpson never bothered to give anyone much of a backstory beyond brief flashbacks, the ridiculous history of the monster makes no sense at all and as a result I never found myself invested in any of the characters.

Bloody good party 
Sadly this awesome flashback of carnage has no bearing on the story.

Someone should have told Mr. Simpson that if you are going to homage a certain period or genre you can’t just reference elements you must have your own story to hang it on, sadly this film falls short of the bar.  I truly wanted to like this movie but between the stilted acting of most the cast and the lack of a coherent story I just couldn’t get behind.  And one finally question, “What kind of name is El Monstro Del Mar for a creature of the shores of Australia?

“Dammit, I’m trapped in a Japanese hentai movie!”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Croczilla (2012) aka Million Dollar Crocodile – Review

Stories of Man vs Nature have been around since the dawn of time, ever since man first painted images of themselves fighting sabre toothed cats on the walls their of caves, but modern audiences now seem to be inundated with movies where some type of giant beastie is out to get us, sadly very few of them are any good. Back in 1975 Spielberg made everyone terrified of going into the water with his summer blockbusters Jaws but that excellent film spawned hundreds of imitators of less than stellar quality. Killer grizzlies, voracious piranha, and tons of killer shark films followed in the wake of Jaws but the killer alligator/crocodile movie has almost become a genre on its own, and that brings us to today’s entry Croczilla or as it is also called…

million dollar crocodile

The title of this Chinese movie was changed from Million Dollar Crocodile to Croczilla for Western audiences and is probably the biggest mistake the distributors made as its original title is easily more fitting. When one hears the title Croczilla the image of a mammoth reptile towering amongst skyscrapers leaps to mind and not that of an eight metre crocodile that just so happened to swallow a handbag full of money. Adding to that misstep is that when giving your movie a poster like this…

croczilla poster

…one would assume your film is going to have some series carnage and not a body count of three people and a goat which is what we actually get here. Instead of giant monster rampage we find ourselves watching a comedy about a boy, his dad, some moronic restaurateurs and a girl who really wants her money back. You see the plot hinges on a large crocodile that is sold to a group gangsters that have a restaurant that specializes in croc meat, not being to keen on the idea of being eaten the crocodile escapes and during its initial rampage it knocks one of the gang into a group of crocodiles where he is quickly devoured, then the big croc runs into pretty girl wandering through a tea field and ends up swallowing her handbag which just so happens to contain 100,000 euros. Wackiness ensues.

where is my money 
Your enjoyment of her comedy stylings may vary.

At the center of this movie is 10 year old Xiao who had befriended the croc while it was a resident of his grandfather’s Crocodile Farm which had fallen on hard times forcing the old man to sell his stock to nefarious individuals. The kid shows no self-preservations instincts as at one point his school report card falls into the crocodile enclosure and he quickly runs in after it only to then wrap it around some ham and feed it to Amao the giant crocodile.

this movies kenny 
This film’s Kenny.

If this kid wasn’t annoying enough we are next introduced to his dad who is a police officer that no one respects because he is apparently a terrible shot and not allowed to carry a gun. He spends his spare time at home with his son playing Nintendo’s original Duck Hunt to sharpen his shooting skills. Also he is an overprotective parent that will not let his son go out and play with the local boys but instead forces him to stay home and count kernels of corn. Is this a thing parents do in China?

wrong cop 
In lieu of a hero we get this guy.

Eventually the cop and the girl whose money was swallowed team-up and try to find Amao before it eats anyone and hopefully retrieve her money. The evil restaurateurs get wind of the amount of money supposedly in the belly of the beast and they themselves enter the fray and because they are evil at one point they hang the boy and the girl upside down as croc bait.

bait for the beast 
Sadly neither of these two are eaten.

For me the film failed on pretty much every level; it isn’t horrifying because Amao isn’t a monstrous killing machine but a poor animal trying to get to it’s breeding grounds to lay her eggs, it isn’t a good comedy as the humor is much too broad for my tastes and the leads too annoying to root for, and the CGI effects for the crocodile though better than what one would get in a SyFy original are nothing to write home about. Overall the film was tedious as characters continued to just run around in circles screaming about the croc or the money, drumming up not one ounce of supsense. At no point did I care for anyone except maybe Amao.

bad comic relief 
Certainly not these guys.

This isn’t the worse of the killer crocodile/alligator genre but it doesn’t hold a candle to such films as Alligator, Lake Placid or Rogue and as a farce it wasn’t all that funny either.   What also didn’t help was the fact that it even lifted the creature swallowing a phone and the heroes hearing it ring from inside it’s belly gag from Jurassic Park III.  I guess we should just be happy they didn’t try and rip off anything from The Lost World: Jurassic Park or we could have ended up with Xiao using gymnastics to fight the crocodile.

 This is a confused mash-up of a monster film with a French farce where neither element really works. The giant crocodile isn't a bad effect just not always that convincing. Recommended for die hard fans of the genre only.

Deathstalker II (1987)

With Deathstalker II we get the last Sword & Sorcery movie that Roger Corman produced in Argentina but unlike the first Deathstalker, which had a darker more serious tone, this film directed by the always fun Jim Wynorski has a decidedly more comic sensibility.

Deathstalker II poster

What’s interesting is it didn’t start out that way as the screenplay by Neil Ruttenberg was more in keeping with the original but once on location Wynorski tossed that script out and proceeded to make it up as he went along. Each night after a day of shooting Wynorksi and his American cast members would go back to the hotel to work on the next day’s pages and with Warner Brothers cartoons being the only English programming on Argentina TV this greatly influenced the tenor of the film and why Deathstalker II comes across as hybrid of Looney Tunes and Conan the Barbarian.

Temple of Dumb 
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Paper Mache .

One quality that makes a true Corman production is its ability to recycle elements; whether that be using the same sets, the same actor for multiple parts, or even using footage from previous films.

recycled nudity 
Recycled Nudity

recycled ham 
Recycled Ham.

The Three Henchmen 
Recycled Stuntmen.

According to Wynorski the plot of Deathstalker II was loosely inspired by Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night where the carefree hero meets a damsel in distress and eventually love prevails amongst their madcap adventures. Now aside from the hero bearing the same name as the character portrayed by Rick Hill in the first movie there is no connection between this film and that one, and its comic tone almost makes this film more of parody of the first movie than a sequel as it is very self-aware.

whats in a name 
Deathstalker? Is that your first name or your last name?

The plot centers on Princess Evie (Monique Gabrielle) who has had to flee her kingdom to escape the clutches of the evil sorcerer and master swordsman Jarek (John Lazar) who has put an evil double of Evie on the throne. Evie is forced to take on the guise of a seer named Reena to enlist the aid of Deathstalker (John Terlesky). Reena encounters Deathstalker just as she is about to be raped by some local guards and to say his reaction to seeing a woman about to be sexually assaulted is a tad odd is an understatement, “Ordinarily I don’t mind seeing a woman get a good beating, if she deserves it, but this doesn’t look like much of a contest to me.

Apparently Deathstalker takes relationship advice from Sean Connery.

This is what really sets apart the two Deathstalker films, if this line had been delivered by Rick Hill in the first movie it would have just added to his creep factor while here, and delivered by the charming John Terlesky, it comes across as funny and roguishly charming. Jim Wynorski completely understands what makes a likable rogue character and proves it by shamelessly ripping off Indiana Jones and James Bond constantly throughout the film. Even Jarek has considerably charm as the villain, which makes him more of an interesting character than your stock moustache twirling baddie we get in most of these types of films.

Jarek the Sorceror

Ard from Heavy Metal
Is it just me or does the slightly effeminate Jarek the Sorcerer remind anyone else of Ard the king from the Den sequence in Heavy Metal?

Under her guise as Reena the Seer and with her Crystal Doorknob of Power Evie is able to convince Deathstalker to travel to a far off land, rescue the beautiful princess, slay the evil sorcerer and become very, very rich.

magic doorknob 
She had him at very, very rich.

Meanwhile Jarek isn’t letting the grass grow under him as it is very important to him that he gets the real Princess back because her and her magically created evil double are still physically linked and if the original dies so does the copy.

evil clone 
The Evil Evie and her Freudian Fruit of Doom

Jarek enlists the aid of Chin the Buccaneer (Marcos Woinsky ) and Sultana (Toni Naples) who has her own score to settle with Deathstalker as it was her temple he robbed during the film’s opening action piece.

The sultry Sultana.

Chin on the other hand is just in it for the money and recruits some extra help in the form of the Fearless Five.

 “And last but not least a real find, Buddy ‘Footstool’ Laroza, only recently dismissed by Ivan the Terrible for excessive brutality.”

This group of thugs are here only to be easily dispatched by Deathstalker to show off his awesomeness so they are stabbed, broken and blown up by our hero without much impact on the story. Trivia Note: The character Chin is only in the film to allow Jim Wynorski to make an obscure Hawaii Five O reference.  I kind of admire that.

Give it to me Chin, what have you got 
Give it to me Chin, what have you got.

On their quest to overthrow Jarek and reclaim Evie’s throne our heroes must survive many travails such as…
exploding arrows 
Exploding arrows

wall of death 
A crushing wall of spikes


The Amazons 
…and of course Amazons.

Our heroes’ journey is interrupted by a group of warrior women who put Deathstalker on trial for crimes against womanhood. Apparently his exploits with the fairer sex has gotten around.  Even for a movie such as this the following sequence stands out as rather bizzare as all of a sudden they are spoofing Rocky (right down to the music cues) as Deathstalker must face off against Gorgo (Dee Booher aka Queen Kong) a 300 pound Amazonian giant in the ring.

She craps thunder 
“Dolph Lundgren sends his regards.”

Of course Deathstalker prevails and having finally learned that Reena has lied to him and is actually Princess Evie he gives her the ole kiss-off and proceeds to make out with the Queen of the Amazons only to sneak away when he finds out he will be forced to marry her in the morning.

a fate worse than death 
Certainly a fate worse than death.

out of the frying pan 
Meanwhile Evie is captured by Sultana and is hung over a pot of boiling oil.

Deathstalker arrives in the nick of time and quickly dispatches Sultana with a thrust through the gullet and then our two leads finally make it to Evie’s castle. Though they sneak in easily enough things go south rather quickly as Deathstalker is captured and sentenced to death…again. Deathstalker is strapped down below a bladed pendulum by the resurrected Sultana and manages to rip off both Goldfinger and The Pit and the Pendulum in one scene.

Pit and the Pendulum 
No Deathstalker, I expect you to die.

Because Evie can’t go five minutes without getting into trouble, though she miraculously managed to evade capture when Deathstalker was caught, she is captured and about to be raped by a group of guards just outside the castle. She is rescued at the last minute by the Amazons from earlier and though we do get some nudity here the scene sticks out as rather distasteful in an otherwise fun romp of a movie and is more in keeping with the first Deathstalker.

A bit too rapey 
For a minute there I thought I was watching Deathwish II

Deathstalker is freed from this latest deathtrap by the Evil Evie who wants to seduce our hero so she can suck out his life force but the real Evie arrives in time to save him from La Petite Mort.

I’ve noticed that our hero spends a lot of time in bed.

The film wraps up rather nicely as Deathstalker and Evie find themselves surrounded by Jarek and his minion only to be saved once again by the Amazons.  Sultana, fed up with the whole affair, just takes off while everyone else breaks into battle mode.

Amazons to the rescue 
A Deus Ex Machine of Amazons.

wicked ending 
Evil Evie meets her end at the point of Good Evie’s knife and dissolves into ash
Finally Deathstalker and Jarek face off and though this is no duel at the Cliffs of Insanity both actors comport themselves quite well with the sword fighting and when Deathstalker breaks Jarek’s sword with a palm strike and then stabs him with the broken blade…well that was pretty awesome even if it was lifted from Sonny Chiba’s Five Fingers of Death.

the duel 
That the fight was choreographed by actor John Terlesky makes it even more impressive.

Jim Wynorski and company clearly had fun making this movie, well except for Monique Gabrielle who apparently was not keen on the Third World amenities, but they clearly knew that it is better to have the audience laugh with you than at you and with blatant lifts from such sources as Raiders of the Lost Ark, James Bond, Laugh In and Abbott and Costello this entry in the Sword & Sorcery genre stands apart from most its brethren with its wit and charm, even if some of the jokes go a little too broad or are a little too old.

Mae West moment 
Stalker, is that your sword or are you just happy to see me.