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THE AFTERMATH (1978) - Three astronauts returning to Earth after a long mission don't know that, while they were away, our planet has gone through a nuclear holocaust. Unable to get a response from Mission Control, they are forced to dump thier ship in the Pacific Ocean (near Los Angeles) and only two of them survive: Newman (director/producer/screenwriter/editor/nose wiper Steve Barkett) and Williams (special effects technician Jim Danforth). As they are walking along the beach, they see the dessicated bodies of sunbathers still in their beach chairs, which gives them their first glimpse that something cataclysmic has happened. When they camp out that night, they are attacked by deformed mutants, but fight them off. This gives them their second glimpse that something very, very wrong occurred. The next morning, they discover that Los Angeles is nothing but a burned-out shell and they go to the nearest Civil Defense station where Newman listens to a recording by a dead broadcaster (voice supplied by Dick Miller) which tells Newman the story of the apocalypse and how he is glad he has died before "they" could get to him. Newman and Williams set up home base in an abandoned mansion, where they set up a broadcast station looking for survivors. Newman leaves the mansion with a Jeep and a rifle to look for his wife and kids (apparently, as luck would have it, they lived in Los Angeles). He drives through L.A. looking for his family and must deal with radioactive acid rain, having nightmares about his family turning into mutants, meeting a dying museum curator (an extended cameo by Forrest J. Ackerman) who gives him a brief history of what he missed while he was away in space and saddles him with a little boy named Chris (Barkett's real-life son Christopher Barkett). Newman and Chris have a run in with a roving band of pillagers and rapists, led by Cutter (the always dependable Sid Haig), the "they" that the dead broadcaster warned about. Newman and Chris save a young woman named Sarah (Lynne Margulies, who has nipples that could cut glass) from a mutant attack (she recently escaped from Cutter's camp after he tried to rape her). Newman brings them back to the mansion, where they become a surrogate family and live a life of love and happiness (along with teaching Chris how to shoot a pistol). Newman, Williams, Sarah and Chris raid Cutter's compound to rescue some captives that Sarah knew, which leads Cutter to retaliate with a raid on the mansion where he kills everyone except for Newman, Williams and Chris. This leads to a bloody showdown in which only one person will be left alive.  Surprisingly (at least for me), there are moments of extreme gore on view here, as can be witnessed early on when Cutter and his gang graphically shoot some men they have captured, ending with one old guy getting his head blown off with a shotgun. The film pulls no punches when it comes to the violence. Kids are shot and killed, women are graphically raped, people are stabbed in the eye, blown up, set on fire and hit with lots of bloody bullet squibs. It's kind of disorienting, because the film also tries to be a loving family drama that is sometimes too preachy for it's own good. The main problem with the film is that it's much too ambitious for it's budget. One man auteur Steve Barkett (EMPIRE OF THE DARK - 1991) tries to cram too many ideas and ineffective special effects into a film that must have cost less than most A-list films catering budgets. He does get some help from effects experts Robert Skotak and his brothers (who also play bit parts in the film), but most of the effects are unconvincing, especially the matte painting of a nuked-out Los Angeles. Another problem is that Barkett's screenplay is all over the place. Newman first sets out to look for his family, but quickly abandons his search once he picks up Chris and Sarah. It then turns into a family drama and then a revenge plot as Newman gets even with all those responsible for killing his new friends (and lover). Still, THE AFTERMATH is an interesting misfire. If you can get past some of the hokey effects (most are in the first few minutes) and some of the sugary sweet sentimentality, you may find yourself liking it. One gets the feeling when watching this that a bunch of movie fans got together and decided to make a film. Everyone seems to have worked both in front and behind the cameras on this. Even Eric Caidin, one of the biggest collectors of movie memorabilia, has a role in this (as the body of the dead broadcaster). Ted V. Mikels (THE ASTRO ZOMBIES - 1968; THE CORPSE GRINDERS - 1971) was co-producer. I also bet he directed a lot of this. It has his handiwork written all over it. Barkett would later go on to star in Steve Latshaw's DARK UNIVERSE (1993). Also starring Alfie Martin, Linda Stiegler, Vincent Barbi and Laura Anne Barkett. A Prism Entertainment Release. Also released on VHS & DVD-R by VCI Entertainment. Not Rated.

AFTERSHOCK (1989) - Low-budget post-apocalypse actioner from director Frank Harris (KILLPOINT - 1984; LOW BLOW - 1986; THE PATRIOT - 1986) that has a good B-movie cast, but the storyline is nothing but rehashed themes from countless other post-nuke epics. The worldwide devastation is not caused by nuclear war, biological warfare or another man-made disaster this time, but by a series of off-the-Richter Scale earthquakes, which have reduced the Earth to nothing but a pile of rubble (most of this film looks to have been filmed in some abandoned industrial park). The world is now ruled by an oppressive dictatorship led by Commander Eastern (Richard Lynch), who has his second-in-command, Captain Quinn (John Saxon), and his army search out and kill "unregistered humans" from their hiding places (Nearly all humans have an identifying barcode tattooed on their arms and this film doesn't hide the comparison to Jews during the Nazi occupation in WW II). During one of these raids, a female alien named Sabina (Elizabeth Kaitan) appears in a burst of light and is captured by Quinn's army. When Quinn notices that Sabina has no barcode and her bright red outfit is made out of some unknown metal, he becomes intrigued, especially when he discovers that she is carrying some photos and patches with her (one photo is of Nancy Reagan!). It seems Sabina is a blank slate, but she is a very quick learner (She learns English by reading a dictionary/thesaurus on a 5.25" floppy disk!) and becomes more knowledgeable when Quinn sends her to a laboratory to be observed and get a psych work-up. Meanwhile, sword-carrying and motorcycle-riding loner Willie (Jay Roberts Jr.) travels the barren landscape looking for a cause he can believe in. He stops at a bar run by Hank Franklin (Russ Tamblyn) and is arrested by Quinn's right-hand man Mr. James (James Lew, also the Stunt Coordinator) when he tries to defend an underground female freedom fighter. He is brought to the same facility where Sabina is being held and, after a series of events, he escapes with Sabina and fellow prisoner Danny Girrard (Chuck Jeffries, doing his best Eddie Murphy impression). They steal a car and end up at the underground base of freedom fighter leader Colonel Slater (Christopher Mitchum), who has a history with Willie. Commander Eastern orders Quinn to bring back Sabina no matter what the cost because the tests they performed on her in the lab proves that she is an alien (and a newborn one to boot!), so Quinn hires top-notch "Apprehender" Brandt (Chris DeRose) to bring her back alive and kill everyone else. This leads to a series of chases, fights and shootouts, as Willie tries to protect Sabina while falling in love with her (Ewwww! He's falling in love with an alien baby!). Willie must return Sabina to her original entry point before time runs out or else she will die. The remainder of the film details Willie's efforts to get Sabina off the planet so she can stop the Earth from being destroyed. From what I just witnessed, our planet is better off without us.  There's not much to recommend here except watching a bunch of talented actors trying to keep a straight face while spouting groan-inducing dialogue. The screenplay, by Michael Standing (who also gives himself the role of Gruber, Colonel Slater's right-hand man), is nothing but a mishmash of post-nuke clichés, most of them done much better in the Italian post-apocalypse rip-offs of the early-to-mid-80's (The only funny bit comes when Quinn tells Brandt that Willie's barcode scanned as a "can of Chinese mushrooms manufactured in Taiwan in the year 1987. Obviously a mistake."). The action scenes, including the car chases, fight scenes and gun battles, are strictly second-rate and the violence is rather subdued for an R-rated flick (Not to mention that Ms. Kaitan has no nude scenes). Director Frank Harris takes a lazy approach to nearly every aspect of this film, which may be why he gave up directing and is mainly a cinematographer now (he photographed the reprehensibly bad TRANSFORMED in 2003). AFTERSHOCK is the equivalent of eating a bad Chinese meal. Not only will you be hungry again one hour later, you'll still have an awful taste in your mouth that just won't seem to go away (Maybe it's from that can of Chinese mushrooms from 1987!). Michael Berryman and Matthais Hues put in extended cameos as two muscle-headed idiots named Queen and Cassidy who kidnap Sabina towards the end of the film. Berryman wears bright red lipstick and, at one point, dons a bright red wig, which makes him looks like a freakish drag queen. Originally available on VHS from Prism Entertainment/Paramount Home Video and available on a no-frills fullscreen DVD from Image Entertainment. Rated R.

AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK (1983) - This is one of the few Italian post-nuke films to actually get a theatrical release in the States and is one of the better ones. In 2019, after a nuclear war, the entire Earth is a burned-out wasteland where there hasn't been a human birth for over twenty years. The Earth is controlled by two factions: The iron-fisted European-African Conference (Eurac) and the much more malevolent Pan American Confederacy (PAC). Eurac, which controls New York, is in the middle of performing an ethnic cleansing, killing all those infected with radiation or deformed in any way. Enter Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw), a loner and part-time bounty hunter who makes money on the side by participating in deadly car races. While in Nevada, he is knocked-out and brought to PAC's headquarters in Alaska, where PAC's president (Edmund Purdom) informs him that the last fertile woman is in New York City and he wants Parsifal to find her and bring her back to headquarters, his reward being a seat on a rocket to the Alpha Centauri galaxy, where a habitable planet awaits to start the human race over again. He joins forces with Bronx (Vincent Scalondro) and Ratchet (Roman Geer), two PAC soldiers, and begins their search in the bowels of NYC, where they must fight and kill a series of increasingly difficult undesirables and degenerates, not to mention some hungry sewer rats. The trio meet a group of people (who dine on rats), led by Rat Eater King (post-nuke regular Al Yamanouchi), and are taken prisoner. When Eurac soldiers invade the camp, they take Parsifal and Bronx (Ratchet avoids capture), along with Rat Eater girl Giara (Valentine Monnier), back to headquarters for torture and experimentation. When they finally escape from Eurac headquarters (with Ratchet's help), Bronx is killed and they travel through the sewers with the help of a tribe of dwarves, led by Shorty (Louis Ecclesia). Shorty leads them to the fertile woman, who is the daughter of a scientist who has kept her in a state of suspended animation since before the bombs were dropped. They must use an ancient station wagon (upgraded with some added armor) to travel through a heavily protected Lincoln Tunnel to escape to safety, but a deception within the group (one of them is a cyborg) may bring the whole mission to a screaming halt.  Director Sergio Martino (using his "Martin Dolman" pseudonym), who also made the futuristic HANDS OF STEEL (1986) as well as the giallo TORSO (1973) and the self-explanatory SLAVE (MOUNTAIN; PRISONER) OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978), keeps the action moving non-stop and throws in a lot of bloody carnage, too. People have their eyes poked out (and have a new pair inserted into the empty sockets!), their stomachs slit open, shot, stabbed, impaled, you name it and it's here. George Eastman (THE GRIM REAPER - 1980) makes a welcome appearance in the final third of the film as Big Ape, the leader of a neanderthal-like tribe, who believes he's the last fertile man in the world (he's quite funny at times). Eastman also displays an intimate and memorable attachment to the sleeping beauty as he offers himself up for sacrifice for the sake of the future, but not before leaving the future a surprise they will not likely ever forget. Michael Sopkiw (MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY - 1985) is a pretty one-note actor but makes a serviceable action hero, fighting and shooting his way through numerous encounters. The sequence where the motley group must drive through the booby-trapped Lincoln Tunnel may remind you a little of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981), but it stands out as an exciting action sequence anyway. So, if you like films that depict the future as a dark, desolate landscape with very little hope for redemption, this film should be right up your alley. This is pretty grim shit. A Vestron Video VHS Release. Also available on DVD from Shriek Show under the title 2019 - AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK. While the theatrical and Vestron releases are Rated R, the DVD restores excised footage and is Unrated. Also available on Blu-Ray from Code Red.

ALIEN FROM THE DEEP (1989) - Two Greenpeace members, Lee (Robert Marius; FIST OF GLORY - 1991) and Jane (Julia McCay), sneak onto an island with an active volcano to get video evidence that chemical company E-Chem is polluting the environment. The natives on the island (some who wear sneakers!) are performing an ancient ritual to protect them from a "devil" in the volcano, while E-Chem, led by Colonel Kovacks (Charles Napier; DEEP SPACE - 1987), keeps dumping radioactive waste into the center of the volcano. Colonel Kovacks ignores the warnings of his own lead scientist, Dr. Geoffrey (Luciano Pigozzi, as "Alan Collins"; ARK OF THE SUN GOD - 1983), that the continued dumping of radioactive waste will cause the volcano to erupt, spewing radioactive particles into the atmosphere, but Kovacks is more interested in saving a few bucks than protecting the environment. Lee and Jane manage to sneak into the E-Chem compound and videotape the illegal dumping operation, but they are spotted by security. Lee hides the tape before he is captured, while Jane sneaks onto a helicopter and escapes, jumping out of the copter when it hovers over a waterfall (an obvious dummy is thrown out of the helicopter). Jane is chased through the jungle by machine gun-toting guards, but she is saved by Bob (Daniel Bosch), a shotgun-carrying snake hunter. Bob tricks the guards into following him and Jane into a cave, where the guards are bitten by cobras and die. Bob brings Jane to his base camp (a converted, hollowed-out school bus) and introduces her to his collection of snakes, including his pet cobra, Blossom (When Jane misinterprets Bob's motives, she screams at him, "Don't touch me, you snake squeezer!", but ends up screwing him anyway). As Jane and Bob formulate a plan to save Lee, Col. Kovacks and his crew have a new problem: The appearance of a UFO and it's alien occupant, which lands in the ocean next to the E-Chem plant. The alien (which has giant black crab claws) moves underground as it heads to the E-Chem plant, occasionally popping-up to the surface to kill or infect anyone it touches, including a rescued Lee, who commits suicide by jumping off a cliff once he becomes infected and starts to decompose. It's not long before everyone is fighting for their lives, as the alien attacks E-Chem, leaving only Jane and Bob to survive and try to defeat the extraterrestrial menace. Why did the alien come to this island? I'm afraid we will never know.  This is dopey hybrid of action adventure and sci-fi genres, not helped much by the slow pacing and idiotic dubbed dialogue (Typical dialogue between the helicopter and ground crew: Helicopter: "You hear me dumbbell?" Ground: "Yeah, I hear you, fat shit!"). Director Antonio Margheriti (NAKED YOU DIE - 1968; SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE - 1973; CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE - 1980), using his frequent "Anthony M. Dawson" pseudonym, offers a few scenes of extreme gore (faces melted by the alien and other bloody claw violence) and some nice (if obvious) miniature work (by Margheriti), but Tito Carpi's (TIGER JOE - 1982; BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983) lazy script is nothing but one cliché after another and the film on the whole doesn't make any sense at all. Major plot points are simply dropped to advance the film and the silly alien (A giant claw? Really?), who we finally see in all it's giant glory in the finale (it's a life-sized mechanical puppet that looks like something H.R. Giger would create if given .00), really makes this a slog to sit through. Charles Napier (who seems to be the only one in the cast to dub his own voice) is wasted here in his role as a one-note villain. This lackluster cross between RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and ALIEN (1979) goes nowhere fast and will have you pressing the Fast Forward button on your remote after the first ten minutes. Now, I would never do that (I have to watch films in their entirety for the sake of fairness), but I wouldn't blame anyone else if they did because this isn't one of Margheriti's better films. Also starring Robert Dell'Acqua, David Brass and Kenneth Peerless. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S. in any format, you can easily find a copy on eBay or from many gray market sellers. Not Rated.

ALIEN RAIDERS (2008) - Good sci-fi action flick. A squad of hooded crooks invades the Hastings Supermarket in Buck Lake, Arizona just as it is closing, but after a very short period of time, it becomes obvious that these people may not be crooks at all and they're certainly not after money. Spooky (Philip Newby), a member of the gang who has extrasensory powers, begins scanning all the remaining people in the supermarket (by grabbing their heads in his hands), saying either "They are one" or "No, they aren't one" and those that "are one" quickly get a bullet in their brain and their bodies thrown in the market's freezer. Before Spooky can scan everyone, he is shot dead by a customer that happens to be a cop, forcing Ritter (Carlos Bernard - TV's 24), the head of the squad, to improvise. As the local police surround the supermarket, Ritter releases all the hostages that passed Spooky's scan, writes "Stay Back" on the front window in the blood of a dead victim and tries to come up with a plan of action to find out if the rest of the hostages are "one of them" or not. Transplanted Chicago cop Seth Steadman (Matthew St. Patrick - SIX FEET UNDER [2001 - 2005]), whose stepdaughter Whitney (Samantha Streets) is one of the hostages, tries to figure out why a highly-trained military group picked this place to rob, while Ritter and female medical officer Sterling (Courtney Ford) make all the hostages drink large quantities of milk (to change their pH level) before performing a "snip test" on them (which involves cutting off one of their pinkies!). As the film progresses, it also becomes obvious that some of these hostages are infected with an alien organism that crash-landed in a meteor in Buck Lake; an alien organism so deadly, the Earth is doomed unless Ritter and his squad can stop the infection from spreading. Some stupid heroics by the hostages leads to the infection spreading, but the arrival of drug-addled Charlotte (Bonita Friedericy), a former member of Ritter's squad who has the same powers as Spooky, may be a solution to the problem, but she wants massive amount of drugs first before she will help. Meanwhile, Ritter begins losing members of his squad to a "King", the strongest member of the alien species. Seth begins to uncover the truth, while Whitney and stock boy Benny (Jeff Licon) join forces with Ritter and Sterling to hunt down and kill the King. Just when it seem that they've achieved their objectives (but not without more deaths), the surprise ending reveals that the King is still alive, baby, and ready to appear in a sequel.  This is a tense, well-acted horror/action film that doesn't immediately play all it's cards like most modern genre films do. It builds slowly, but not boringly, offering the audience kernels of knowledge as the film progresses. We know almost immediately that the market "robbery" is not a robbery at all (it's more of a cleansing), but director Ben Rock (who, before this, directed the fake documentaries THE BURKITTSVILLE 7 [2000] and SHADOW OF THE BLAIR WITCH [2000] for Daniel Myrick, co-director of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT [1999] and one of the Producers here) wrings a fair amount of suspense out of what is basically a one location shoot. Screenwriters David Simkins (writer and producer of the cult TV series THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY JR. [1993]) and Julia Fair (Myrick's BELIEVERS - 2007) were definitely influenced by John Carpenter's version of THE THING (1982), but they manage to put a few new spins on the "Are they or aren't they?" scenario. We are purposely given very little information on the aliens, except they are deathly afraid of the cold, have visited this planet on more than one occasion and are known about by the government, yet they offer no help to Ritter and his crew when they desperately need it. For a film that spans so many genres (action, horror, sci-fi, hostage drama), ALIEN RAIDERS does a damn good job of combining them all into a satisfying whole. Worth your time. Also starring Rockmond Dunbar, Bryan Krasner, Tom Kiesche, Joel McCrary, Derek Basco and Keith Hudson. A Warner Home Video DVD Release. Rated R.

ALIEN SPECIES (1997) - An alien race has invaded Earth and begins getting all INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996) on our ass (but on a much smaller scale). A small town sheriff (Charles Napier) must defend his town from the marauding aliens when he sends his two deputies off to escort two dangerous criminals to state prison. The deputies run into trouble when they stop to pick up accident victims Professor Chambers (Hoke Howell) and his two female companions. The police van is attacked by an alien ship, forcing everyone to travel by foot and spend the night in an abandoned mine shaft. The mine turns out not to be so abandoned, as the aliens are using it as a base and they chase the humans deeper into the mine. The aliens kill a deputy and a prisoner and the rest must depend on the remaining deputy and prisoner Towers (Marc Robinson) to get them out alive. Meanwhile, the alien armada is destroying everything in sight, blowing up buildings, cars and humans, while also abducting cattle and people for experimentation. Back at the cave, the aliens kill the last remaining deputy and Professor Chambers and kidnap Stacie (Ashley Shemrick), leaving Towers and Carol (Jodi Seronick) to fight for survival (maybe for the whole human race). There seem to be two types of aliens: The short bug-eyed kind (which are intelligent) and the larger, more dangerous, lizard-like kind, which are the aliens' muscle. Towers and Carol stumble on an alien breeding ground, where humans are put in cocoons and injected with alien DNA, turning them into zombie slave labor. After saving her friend Stacie from a cocoon, Towers and Carol blow up the mine with dynamite. They drive back into town, only to find everything destroyed. With the use of his laptop and an alien device that Towers stole off of a dead alien, scientist Max (Aaron Jettleson) comes up with a way to turn off the alien's force field. Be prepared to be pissed-off at the film's non-ending. It announces to be ready for the exciting conclusion in ALIEN SPECIES 2: THE INVASION, which was never made! When Towers says, "Why do I feel like I'm suddenly in a bad episode of The X-Files?", you'll be thinking the same thing. Illogical at every turn (Why do the advanced alien species need a dirty mine to perform their experiments?; How can Max interface his laptop with an alien device he's never seen before?), you'll be scratching your head more than you'll like (I swear I had more hair before I started watching this). Made shortly after the hugely successful INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996), this ultra-low-budget knock-off, directed by Peter Maris (DELIRIUM - 1977; LAND OF DOOM - 1985; DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY - 1991), uses way too much CGI for it's own good. The aliens are pretty good (they are physical effects), but all the ships and much of the destruction is created by computer and it is painfully obvious by the long shot of the alien ships attacking the city (CGI fire effects still have a long way to go to look believable). The damn cheat of an ending is still pissing me off because nothing is resolved. Charles Napier (who gets top billing) is wasted here as he disappears twenty minutes in and never comes back. Hoke Howell (ALIENATOR - 1989) died shortly after making this film (it's dedicated to him in the end credits). Whatever positive comments I had about this film (they were few) were wiped out by the crappy finale. Also starring David Homb, Kurt Paul, Robert Thompson and Barbara Fierentino. I got this flick as part of Brentwood Communications' 20 film DVD compilation titled SPACE QUEST, so I don't feel too ripped-off as it come to less than fifty cents per movie. Not Rated, but it would definitely get an R if it was, thanks to nasty alien slashings, language and plenty of shotgun hits (from a shotgun that never seems to run out of shells).

ASSIGNMENT: OUTER SPACE (1960) - Early Italian space opera ruined by American tinkering. Not that it's a particularly good film, mind you, but it didn't need to be fooled with. It does have some history, though.
     December 16, 2116: The crew of a transport ship wake up from "suspended hibernation", where communication specialist Al (Archie Savage; DEATH RIDES A HORSE - 1967) radios Earth and tells them everyone has arrived safe and are ready to get down to business. Also on board the transport ship is reporter Ray Peterson (Rik Van Nutter; FOXBAT - 1977), who is there to film a story on man's first trip to Mars. He takes a spacewalk (with his camera and without a safety line!) to board artificial satellite ZX34, the ship taking the trip to Mars. Once on board ZX34, Ray meets the ship's doctor King 116 (Joe Pollini; THE MAN WITH ICY EYES - 1971), who gives him a physical to make sure he is up to the trip. Ray butts heads with the ship's commander, George (David Montresor), who doesn't like him being on his ship, but he has orders to cooperate with him. Ray then takes another space walk to watch the crew at work, without George's permission, and sees that one of the crew members is in the path of an approaching meteor. Ray pushes the crew member out of the way and nearly ruins everyone's chance of going to Mars. George chews-out Ray, telling him if he wants to do anything, he will have to ask his permission first (Hey, George, can I wipe my ass?). Ray is surprised to see a woman on board, botanist Lucy (Gabriella Farinon; BLOOD AND ROSES - 1960), and they have a conversation, which leads to romantic feelings in the both of them. They will have to put their romance on pause, because something bad is on the horizon. An out-of-control abandoned space station is heading towards Earth and if they don't stop it, all life on Earth, and the planet itself, will be destroyed (the space station's photon generators are radiating enough heat to destroy Earth). Ray and George (who also has a thing for Lucy) will have to put their differences aside and come up with a plan to stop the rudderless ship from reaching Earth's atmosphere. Ray, once again without George's permission, takes another spacewalk and boards the errant space station to try and rectify the problem. He doesn't notice that he is running low on oxygen until it is too late. Will they be successful or will we have to wait nearly a hundred years to find out?
     This film is "historic" because it is Antonio Margheriti's CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE - 1980; ALIEN FROM THE DEEP - 1989) first solo directorial effort. It is also the first time Margheriti (Who uses his pseudonym "Anthony Dawson" for the first time. Some prints list him as "Antony Daisies".) created miniature model effects, which was his second favorite thing to do (besides directing), that he would do more often, especially in his colorful mid-'60s sci-fi flicks, such as WILD WILD PLANET (1966), WAR OF THE PLANETS (1966), WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS (1966) and SNOW DEVILS (1967), which are more interesting than this film. This film is a slog to get through because 'Executive Producer" Samuel Z. Arkoff (who had nothing to do with the making of this film) felt the need to add narration from Ray to the whole film, repeating all the gobbledygook and space jargon that we have just witnessed moments before that we now know couldn't possibly be true (This was made during a time when space travel was just in its infancy, so you should take that into consideration.). On the plus side, we do have a black man in space in the form of Archie Savage, who gives up his life trying to save Earth (and failing). On the negative side, all of the actors are as stiff as overly-starched underwear and the special effects are anything but special, but they are still a step above any of director "Al Bradley"'s (a.k.a. Alfonso Brescia) late-'70s space operas, like COSMOS: WAR OF THE PLANETS (1977), BATTLE OF THE STARS (1977), WAR OF THE ROBOTS (1978) or STAR ODYSSEY (1978). I remember seeing this as a child on TV in the mid-'60s and liking it, but that was because I was a space nut (I still am, even though our government has turned a blind eye towards space travel) and long before I saw 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). As it stands, this is best viewed as a time capsule, when putting a man on the Moon was just a twinkle in NASA's eye.
     Shot under the title SPACE-MEN, this had a U.S. theatrical release in 1961 through American International Pictures (A.I.P.) and had many VHS releases, mainly from gray market sellers, due to its Public Domain (PD) status. It also had many stand-alone and multi-film budget DVD releases, from the likes of Alpha Video (which is how I viewed it. The print is washed-out, but watchable), Sinister Cinema and other budget labels. I looked for a widescreen release, but I could not find one because no company wants to release a relic like this in its OAR and I can't blame them. Margheriti's next film was BATTLE OF THE WORLDS (1961), another sci-fi flick that is much better than this one (and it stars Claude Rains). Look for a review soon. Margheriti gained fame in the States due to his gothic horror films, such as HORROR CASTLE (1963), CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964) and THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH (1964). Also starring Alain Dijon (THE INVISIBLE DR. MABUSE - 1962), Franco Fantasia (SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS - 1972), David Maran, José Néstor and Anita Todesco (THE EMBALMER - 1965). Not Rated, but nothing objectionable.

AUTOMATIC (1994) - In the near future, business mogul Goddard Marx (John Glover) and his company RobGen are making a mint selling artificial humans called "Automatics" as personal protectors and butlers, for those who can afford it (there's a funny ROBOCOP-like commercial extolling the advantages of owning an Automatic, that opens the film). Mr. Marx and his development team are about to unveil the newest edition of the Automatic, which is a top secret until it is unveiled tomorrow morning (until now, all the previous models look the same [all portrayed by martial artist Olivier Gruner]). While protests by labor unions and "Anti-Automatics" are being held outside the RobGen facility, one RobGen executive, Seth Barker (the late Stanley Kamel, better known as the psychiatrist on TV's MONK [2002 - 2009]), tries to rape his secretary, Nora Rochester (Daphne Ashbrook; QUIET COOL - 1986), but Automatic model J269 (Gruner) intervenes and accidentally kills Barker, which is against all Automatics' programming. Fearing a financial disaster if the outside world were to find out, Marx sends a force of killers, headed by Major West (Jeff Kober; THE FIRST POWER - 1990), to kill J269 and Nora. It's not easy as it sounds, however, because J269 has now appointed itself as Nora's personal protector. Marx and RobGen's head of security, Buck James (the wonderful Troy Evans), monitor Major West's progress in RobGen's security center, but Marx is dismayed to find that his state-of-the-art building is being destroyed floor-by-floor, as J269 tries to lead Nora to safety outside the building (Buck, on the other hand, is secretely rooting for J269 to succeed because he's grown fond of the model's unwavering loyalty). The rest of the film details J269 and Nora's exploits to reach safety, as Marx and Major West try their damnedest to make sure that doesn't happen. Along the way, Nora (who was originally one of those "Anti-Automatic" people) begins to appreciate J269's friendship, no longer thinking of him as an emotionless "tin man". The problems only get worse for Marx when the Press catches word of something big going down at the RobGen complex and all the other Automatics begin displaying behavior that can best be described as "human". Is this the dawning of a new age or the end of mankind?  Although highly derivative of both ROBOCOP (1987) and DIE HARD (1988), this film is still an enjoyable romp, thanks to a humor-filled script  (by Susan Lambert and Patrick Highsmith), the acting of John Glover (who basically plays the same type of character here as he did in GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH [1990]), Troy Evans (a terrific character actor probably best-known to TV viewers as Frank The Desk Clerk on the long-running hospital drama ER [1994 - 2009]) and Dennis Lipscomb (RETRIBUTION - 1987) as an extremely nervous bank executive and some bang-up action sequences. Director John Murlowski (RETURN OF THE FAMILY MAN - 1989; AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION - 1993) even finds time to throw in some sharp social commentary about the delicate balance between what is man and what is machine. Olivier Gruner, one of action film's better martial artists and actors (he has this sly look that's disarming), gives a nuanced performance as a "Tick" (a derogatory term for an Automatic) who, at first, seems cold and unemotional, but as he and Nora make their way through the different levels of the RobGen Building (it's like a live-action video game), he begins to realise that there's barely any difference between him and most humans, especially the heartbreaking sequence where he discovers a laboratory where his fellow Automatics are experimented on in various painful ways. Since they all look like him, it's a turning point in his education on the human condition. As a matter of fact, as the film progresses, Nora and J269 seem to switch personalities, as she begins killing people to protect him. This is one of the better DTV sci-fi action flicks of the 90's, thanks to plentiful gunfights and explosions, biting humor, social commentary and a really good surprise reveal towards the end of the film that ties everything together rather nicely. It really is a stunner that I didn't see coming. I like a film that can still surprise me in this day and age. So should you. Also starring Penny Johnson, Marjean Holden and Annabelle Gurwitch. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

BRONX WARRIORS 2 (1983) - This sequel to 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS (1982; now available on a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack from Blue Underground)) tells the further adventures of renegade warrior Trash (Mark Gregory), the unlikely saviour of a disease-ravaged Bronx, NY in the not-too-distant future. While Trash is supplying ammunition to a group of underground revolutionaries, led by Dablone (Antonio Sabato), a brutal platoon of soldiers, under orders from GC Corp. President Henry Clark (Thomas Moore), is killing all the occupants of the Bronx to make way for total urban renewal, a brand-spanking new city to rise from the ashes. The GC Corp.'s silver-suited demolition squads, led by the cynical Floyd Wangler (Henry Silva), kill Trash's parents in order to destroy the building they live in, making Trash the GC Corp.'s worst enemy (When Henry Clark complains to Wangler that his means of killing people is tantamount to genocide and that he is worse than they are [the gangs that roam the Bronx streets], Wangler turns to him and says, "Allow me to correct you Mr. Clark. I'm worse than anybody!"). Trash joins forces with the street gangs and begins killing members of GC Corp.'s "Disinfestation Squads", much to Wangler's dismay. Nosey television reporter Moon Grey (Valeria D'Obici) and her photographer Jay (Andrea Coppola) witness one of GC Corp.'s raids and slaughter of innocent citizens, but when Jay is burned alive by a flame thrower when they are caught, Trash saves Moon's ass and brings her underground to Dablone's gang for safety. Moon talks Dablone into kidnapping Henry Clark, so Dablone sends Trash and Moon to locate and enlist the help of Strike (Timothy Brent), a crazy ex-bank robber who is a pro at kidnapping people. The trio manage to kidnap Clark at a groundbreaking ceremony, but Moon is shot and killed when she creates a diversion. Trash and Strike take their captive on a journey through the New York sewer system to evade capture by Wangler and his men. When the Vice President of GC Corp. (Paolo Malco) pulls a power play and decides that Clark is better off dead, he enlists Wangler's help, which results in a finale where Trash, Strike, Dablone and all the other good guys must fight against tremendous odds to regain their right to live in the Bronx as free people.  This entertaining sci-fi fantasy, directed by Enzo G. Castellari (who directed the first film, as well as THE LAST SHARK [1981], THE NEW BARBARIANS [1983], LIGHT BLAST [1985] and many others), is non-stop gory fun from beginning to end. Originally released on VHS in the U.S. by Media Home Entertainment in a severely-edited R-rated print under the title ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX, it is now available in a beautiful unedited widescreen print on DVD from British label Vipco Entertainment and a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Blue Underground. The violence is over-the-top, as people are burned alive, shot, blown-up or have their skulls crushed with a baseball bat or butt of a rifle, all done in super slow motion. While the script (by Castellari and Tito Carpi) is generic chase-and-kill stuff, the action set-pieces are pretty good, including the chase through the sewers and the slaughter witnessed by Moon and Jay, where one poor sap has a bomb involuntarily strapped to his body, which explodes when some street gang members try to remove it. As far as the acting goes, let's just say that it doesn't really matter. Henry Silva (CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974; ALMOST HUMAN - 1974), is wasted in his role (replacing Vic Morrow from the first film, who unfortunately lost his life on the set of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE in a tragic helicopter accident) as Wangler, who speaks most of his lines into a telephone or radio receiver, barking out orders (but he does have an extremely funny line when someone gives him coffee with sugar in it). Mark Gregory (the THUNDER trilogy [1983 - 1988]; WAR BUS COMMANDO [1989]) is one of the worst actors of all time in Italian exploitation film history. He spends most of his screen time with the same goofy expression on his face. It's like a cross between John Travolta's Vinnie Barbarino character from TV's WELCOME BACK, KOTTER (1975 - 1979) and someone with a terminal case of hard gas. His dubbed-in Bronx accent (or rather what Italians think people from the Bronx sound like) just makes this film more entertaining in a twisted sort of way. Still, BRONX WARRIORS 2 contains enough bloody violence and action (it sets some kind of record for exploding bodies) to keep you properly diverted from the ridiculousness of it all. Also starring Alessandro Prete as Junior, Strike's young son, who is an explosives expert (!), Massimo Vanni, Romano Puppo, Eva Czemerys, Moana Pozzi, Tom Fellaghy and Carla Brait. A Vipco Entertainment DVD (PAL Region 2) Release. Also available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Blue Underground. Not Rated.

BROTHER FROM SPACE (1984) - Unbelievably bad and inept E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) clone which purportedly tells the true story of an alien who crash lands on Earth and takes refuge in a church, protected by a priest (Martin Balsam) and a blind girl (Silvia Tortosa Davis) who can speak to the alien telepathically. The military (headed by Jess Franco vet William Berger) would like to get their hands on the alien for scientific experiments. After several close calls, the alien returns to the crash site to renew his energy before he expires from exposure to the Earth’s atmosphere. He doesn’t make it and dies in the blind girl’s arms, but not before giving her a pair of glasses that are able to let her see! Corny to the extreme, this loser of a film has cheap effects (you can see the string on ‘floating’ objects), risable dialog and hamfisted religious analogies. Directed by Roy Garret (real name: Mario Gariazzo), this Italian-financed fiasco (lensed in San Luis Obispo, California) is a major disappointment since Garret also made the highly effective and eerie EYES BEHIND THE STARS (1977), also starring Balsam. An Overseas Filmgroup Release. I have not seen it on U.S. video, but it use show up on cable station TNT every so often (God, remember those days?). Not Rated, but it would probably get a PG if it were. Truly awful.

CLASH OF THE WARLORDS (1985) - In this quasi-sequel to director Willie Milan's W (a.k.a. W IS WAR - 1983), warrior Rex (Willy Williams) is forced to fight his best friend gladiator style in an arena by evil warlord Malsam (Robert Marios), who is holding Rex's young son prisoner and will only free him if Rex kills his friend. When Rex kills his friend and Malsam renegs on his deal, he and his son escape with the help of a friendly female. Malsam orders his men to recapture Rex and his son (He says, "Find them and don't come back until you find them!" What!?!), but the trigger-happy henchmen kill Rex's son and the helpful female when warrior Maria (Gabby Parro) comes out of nowhere to help Rex fight the bad guys. As Rex and Maria walk through the post-nuked terrain, they are captured by a group of people and led to the town of Opulus, where Maria is reunited with her long-lost father Zeus, a scientist who is working on a cure for radiation poisoning. We also find out that Malsam is afflicted with a strange disease where he begins to mutate every time he looks at the moon (When he sees the moon one night, he tells his men, "Take it away and I'll cover it in blood!" Double what!?! Some of his men turn to each other and say, "He has a devil inside him!" and "He's not just crazy. He's a lunatic!"). Malsam will not rest until Rex is dead, so he hires a band of beefy warriors to capture Rex and bring him back, which they do (without very much trouble at all). Rex must fight a series of battles in the arena, each one more dangerous than the last. Just when things begin looking grim for Rex, Maria shows up with a "Liquidation Squad", an army of rocket launcher and machine gun-carrying men who help Rex defeat Malsam's men. The rest of the film is just a series of gunfights and explosions until Rex confronts Malsam for a lightsaber duel (!), where Rex quickly defeats Malsam (he explodes into a million little pieces when Rex cuts him in half with the lightsaber!) and Maria and Rex share a passionate kiss before Rex jumps on his horse and heads off on another adventure, which audiences never got to see (because it was never filmed). Maybe he died of radiation poisoning.  This is strictly lower-tier Filipino action cinema that's pretty rough going for the viewer. I guess it would help to view the first film (which I didn't at the time of this review, but have seen since), but I really doubt if it would make a big difference. The Greek subtitled version I viewed edits out most of the gory footage and the English dubbing is so bad, it's almost surreal. Most of the impalements, axe fights (which seems to be the weapon of choice here) and gun battles end abruptly and those edits get quite annoying after a short period of time. We don't watch these films for the storylines, you know, so editing out all the gore kind of defeats the whole purpose of watching it in the first place. I'm sure director Willie Milan (ULTIMAX FORCE - 1986) didn't mean for this film to be as awful as this edition makes it out to be, but the atrocious dubbing (the word "arena" is pronounced "areener" and the dubbing crew can't seem to make up their minds if Gabby Parro's character name is "Maria" or "Reya") and lack of bloody violence in this version makes it a tough sitting for the viewing audience, even if it's only 73 minutes long. The only interesting (and weird) points this film has to offer are Malsam's aversion to the moon (which is quickly dropped) and counting how many times you spot people standing around in a circle (which is a lot!). Also starring Tom Romano, Rey De Gusman, Teresa Hunt, Joan Durst, Ching Zabala, Waldo Masconi and the "W Stuntmen". Also known as MAD WARRIOR. A Video Memory Release. Not Rated.

CREATURE (1984) - A crew of American scientists are sent to Jupiter's moon Titan, where a missing U.S. mining crew discovered an ancient alien city. They also released an alien creature that was held in a pod in suspended animation for centuries. The U.S. and Germans are fighting for control of mining rights on this moon and it looks like the Krauts have beat the scientists to the find. The scientists' ship lands on some unstable ground, causing it to become damaged beyond repair. They radio the German ship and, when they get no answer, they suit-up and begin their trek to the German ship. They find the ship deserted, as if it were abandoned. They also find one of the alien pods on the ship, empty except for some black goo. It's not long before they begin finding the mutilated bodies of the German crew. They beat a hasty retreat back to their own ship when something kills one of their crew. Running dangerously low on air and knowing that they will eventually have to go back to the German ship, they run into Hans (Klaus Kinski), the lone survivor of the German crew who doesn't seem to be telling all he knows about the death of his crew. What he does tell them is that they have discovered some alien's "butterfly collection" or zoo, a collection of creatures from other galaxies and one of them has woken up. This creature is a parasite, able to control anything it touches by placing a smaller alien creature on it's victim's head, the smaller creature taking over the brain. Hans leads an expedition back to his ship and they are attacked by some reanimated corpses (all with those little creatures attached to their heads). It becomes obvious after a short time that the alien is using the reanimated humans as manpower it needs to operate the German ship and get it back to Earth. As the alien takes over more of the American crew, the remaining unaffected fight for their lives for control of the ship as they slowly run out of oxygen.  This filmed-in-Germany ALIEN (1979) knock-off is pretty good and contains some suspenseful and bloody scenes. Director William Malone (SCARED TO DEATH - 1980; W.E.I.R.D. WORLD - 1995; HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL - 1999; FEAR DOT COM - 2002; PARASOMNIA - 2008; he also did the creature design for SYNGENOR - 1990) does a nice job of portraying the claustrophobia of living in an environment where oxygen (or lack of) is a commodity that we take for granted. The alien creature bears a slight resemblance to H.R. Giger's creation, but there's lots of other bloody mayhem on view, including a face being torn off, a decapitation, an exploding head (I'm sensing a theme...), mangled corpses, death by raygun and flesh eating. The effects are well-done, although it's apparent that Klaus Kinski (who's basically wasted in a throw-away role) elected to use a double in his possession scenes. The scene where they electrocute the alien is lifted directly from THE THING (1951) and they even mention the film during the planning stages when one of them says, "That movie with the carrot from outer space." You could do a lot worse than this film, as it is one of the better 80's low-budget monster flicks. Also starring Stan Iver, Wendy Schaal, Lyman Ward, Annette McCarthy, Diane Salinger and Robert Jaffe. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment, it slipped into the public domain and can be had for chump change as part of Brentwood Communications' 20 movie DVD compilation titled SPACE QUEST. Originally known as TITAN FIND, a more appropriate title if you ask me. Rated R.

CY WARRIOR: SPECIAL COMBAT UNIT (1989) - Those Italian sure knew how to milk a concept until it was dry as a whore's overused vagina. In this umpteenth TERMINATOR rip-off, four bumbling soldiers accidentally release a top-secret cyborg (Frank Zagarino; HAMMERHEAD - 1987) into the free world. The only problem is, the cyborg isn't fully programmed yet, so he's walking around thinking he's human, like a man with amnesia. The government sends Colonel Hammer (a badly-dubbed Henry Silva; CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974) and a team of men to track the cyborg down and dispose of it, but it wouldn't be much of a film if it were that easy, would it? Since the cyborg has a built-in tracking chip, Hammer and his men find it easily, but time and time again the cyborg escapes using it's superhuman abilities. During one of it's escapes, the cyborg injures his leg and schoolboy Brandon Scott (Brandon Hammond) finds him in the woods and brings him home to meet big sister Susan (Sherri Rose). The cyborg performs some surgery on his leg in front of Susan and Brandon, exposing his mechanical nature. Susan and Brandon decide to help the cyborg act more human, so they let him read all the encyclopedias in the house and teach him how to eat a hamburger! Susan dresses him in the latest 80's fashions and then takes him shopping around town, where Hammer and his men spot him and open fire, but they end up gunning down many innocent bystanders instead. When Susan removes the tracking chip from the cyborg's back, Hammer must rely on the local police to help identify and find Susan. Hammer again tries to kill the cyborg, but is unsuccessful, so he kidnaps Brandon and offers him in trade for the cyborg. Brandon is seriously injured in the rescue attempt, so Susan must rush him to the hospital while the cyborg kills Hammer and his goons in retribution. When a transformer blows and the electricity goes out in the middle of Brandon's operation, the cyborg performs an act of self-sacrifice to save Brandon's life (Didn't the hospital ever hear of a backup generator?). The final shot shows the cyborg lifeless, looking like Jesus Christ crucified on the cross. Can cyborgs find religion? Hmmmmm... This dime store sci-fi tale, directed by Giannetto De Rossi (KILLER CROCODILE 2 - 1990), Italy's premiere special effects makeup artist (He is the Tom Savini of Italy, well-known amongst gore affectionattos  for his work on Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE [1979] and numerous other Italian zombie and slasher flicks), is slow-moving and uninvolving thanks to a nonsensical script by De Rossi and Dardano Sacchetti (using his "David Parker, Jr." pseudonym). When CY WARRIOR turns into a cutesy family drama, where the seemingly parent-free duo of Susan and Brandon welcome the cyborg into their opulent home unconditionally, it loses all forward momentum and never regains it's footing. What's even more mind-numbingly irrational are the tactics Hammer employs to kill the cyborg, murdering innocent people on the street and in a crowded restaurant (where Susan tries to teach the cyborg to dance!) without the slightest hint of regret. Quite the contrary, Hammer (played with usual wide-eyed intensity by Henry Silva, as he spouts lines like, "Piece of shit sardine can!") seems to relish the violence and the police are nowhere to be found to offer him any resistance. Frank Zagarino is perfect as a cyborg because, let's face it, he has about all the personality of a cash register at Denny's (Zagarino later perfected his robotic skills by portraying an android in PROJECT: SHADOWCHASER [1991] and it's three sequels). He jerks his head and body around like a cut-rate Peter Weller in ROBOCOP (1987), while over-exaggerated mechanical sound effects are heard on the soundtrack and every time he speaks, the dubbed-in voice makes it sound like he's talking in a tunnel. Considering De Rossi's involvement, the effects are particularly low-rent; just plenty of bloody bullet squibs and a scene where the cyborg peels off half his burned face, revealing his metal skeleton underneath (Where have I seen that before?) and then pouring some liquid skin over the exposed area (Where the hell did he get liquid skin?). CY WARRIOR, produced by Fabrizio DeAngelis (for Fulvia Films; DeAngelis was once contracted to direct this using his "Larry Ludman" pseudonym, but decided to produce it instead. Smart move.), is a pretty weak sci-fi actioner that didn't impress me in any department. As a matter of fact, I've seen better robotic movements by drunk relatives on the dance floor of wedding receptions. Also starring James Summers, Bill Hughes, Ron Lang, Thomas Rack, Gray Jordan and Charles Irving. Never available legitimately on home video in the U.S. in any form, the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

DARK FUTURE (1994)  -  This ultra-cheapie is derivative of countless futuristic films of years gone by. This film’s main distinction is that is was directed by notorious badfilm personality Greydon Clark (BLACK SHAMPOO - 1976; SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS - 1977; WITHOUT WARNING - 1979). Far in the future, the world is ruled by Synthetics (humanoid robots with human brains) who keep the remaining sterile humans captive in a secured slum city, where they are sexually abused and generally treated like shit by the unfeeling non-humans. When a baby is unexpectedly born, the Synthetics want to extract it’s brain cells to prolong the lives of their elderly human creators, who were rich businessmen before the Black Death destroyed most of humanity and made money useless. A lone human (Darby Hinton, star of MALIBU EXPRESS - 1985) tries to protect the baby and lead the remaining survivors to the Forbidden Zone, a place that no human has ever seen. Shot in Russia in the middle of winter, this film contains some cheesy props (the guns are actually Laser Tag toys), good locations, nudity and surprisingly well-done optical effects (by David L. Hewitt, director of such badfilms as GALLERY OF HORRORS - 1967, THE TORMENTORS - 1971 and THE LUCIFER COMPLEX - 1978). The mixture of American and Soviet talent both in front and behind the cameras make this a hit-or-miss affair, with the misses far outnumbering the hits. What else would you expect from Greydon Clark? Also starring Len Donato, Andria Mann, Gabriel Vaughn and Julian Jurin. From Dead Alive Productions Home Video. Not Rated.

THE DARK LURKING (2008) - Made-in-Australia sci-fi/horror film that is a freshman effort for nearly evereyone behind and in front of the cameras, and while the plot may be old hat, the frenetic presentation adds a shot of adrenaline to the proceedings. In the distant future, Reaserch Station 320, located on some unnamed planet, places a distress call stating that they are under attack from at least "five different mutations" and the situation looks dire. The captain of a passing ship owned by the rich and powerful IDGAF Corporation orders that the research station be sealed and to keep it a secret. We then watch as a female (Tonia Renee) wakes up in a totally white room. She has "SC17" tattooed on her arm and seems totally confused. She takes a shower and begins to have a massive nosebleed, when two guys in bio-contamination suits enter the room and try to kill her, but a creature slaughters the two guys and the woman escapes. We then learn that the woman is one of eight survivors of Research Station 320, yet she has no memory of how she has gotten here. It seems the research station has been contaminated with some biological virus, which has turned most of the humans there into all sorts of flesh-hungry mutations. Those who haven't been infected with the virus must avoid even being scratched by the mutations for fear of instant contamination and transformation. The survivors, who include mercenaries Dare (Anthony Edwards), Michaels (Bret Kennedy) and Kirkland (Ozzie Devrish), as well as scientists and "lab rats" Yutani (Roslyn Van Doorn), Canning (Davyd Williams) and Jen (Cassia Rosenstraus), try to make their way to the planet's surface while battling the hordes of mutations, many of them whom were once their friends. The mysterious amnesiac woman begins to have seizures and, while she is unconscious, can see what the mutations are doing, like she has some psychic connection to them. As you can probably guess, the mutations begin chowing-down on the survivors one-by-one as they try to make their way to safety, while the mercenaries argue among themselves if it is worth risking their lives trying to protect the civilians (in the mercs' defense, most of the civilians are a thankless lot). When their numbers start dwindling, they become trapped in a laboratory occupied by Konieg (Dirk Foulger), a scientist who knows more about the amnesiac woman than he is letting on. What is this woman's connection to the mutations and will anyone make it out alive before the IDGAF Corporation nukes the station and denies all knowledge?  Although obviously shot on a shoestring budget with less than stellar acting (most of the mercenaries are portrayed by professional stuntmen), first-time director/screenwriter Greg Connors manages to pack a lot of action and gory bloodshed, not to mention some excellent makeup effects, into the mix. Besides the various mutated creatures, there are head explosions, limb removals (Yutani has her hand ripped-off and Kirkland cauterizes the wound with a flare), disembowelments, various bloody clawings and slashings and lots of squishy bullet squibs. If there's a quibble about this film, it's that it relies a little too much on the shakey-cam cinematography technique or strobe light effects during the action scenes (probably used to hide its low-budget roots) and a ridiculous (although inventive) third act explanation about the mutations (It has to do with the Nazi's finding a fossil of the original angel, Lucifer, during World War II and Konieg using DNA from the fossil for cloning experimentations. Far-fetched? You betcha!). Those are just minor distractions, though, in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable and gory "monsters-on-the-loose" sci-fi flick. Sure, it's an ALIEN (1979) clone (although it reminds me more of the Roger Corman-produced THE TERROR WITHIN [1988], only with better effects), but THE DARK LURKING is an entertaining clone nonetheless. Recommended. Also starring Philippe Deseck and Aash Aaron (I guess his Mom wanted him to be the first name in the Australia phone book!). A Cinema Epoch DVD Release. Rated R, but this is on the hard side of R.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (1989) - Forget Pink Floyd. This has nothing to do with their classic song (although it would fit in well as a background track). What we have here is a totally engrossing space/horror film about a crew on the spaceship SpaceCore One, who lose power as they are passing by the dark side of the Moon in the year 2022. They are running out of life support when out of the blue the space shuttle Discovery docks along side them. The crew go aboard the Discovery only to find that no one is on board except for a dead astronaut with a huge triangle cut out of his stomach. Giles (Will Bledsoe), one of the crew members, does a check on the dead astronaut and finds out that he disappeared, along with the Discovery, nearly 30 years ago in the Bermuda Triangle. Giles triangulates the Triangle only to find out that if it were to go out into space, it would be in the exact position they are in right now as it ends in one of the craters on the dark side of the Moon. Pretty soon the crew members (including Joe Turkel of THE SHINING  [1980], John Diehl of MIND RIPPER [1994], Alan Blumenfeld of THE RING [2002] and Robert Sampson of RE-ANIMATOR [1985]) become posseessed by what turns out to be Satan as he has complete control of the Bermuda Triangle.  The SpaceCore One is the 666th ship to be lost in the Triangle. Giles makes the ultimate sacrifice and in the finale we find out exactly what happened to all those ships, planes, helicopters and other transports that have disappeared. They are all in a crater on the Dark Side Of The Moon. This is pretty good for a low-budget space opera as we have to guess who is possessed and who is still human and parts of it reminded me of the big-budget film EVENT HORIZON, filmed 8 years later. There's very little blood or gore, but there's lots of scary situations and one-time director D.J. Webster does a good job of holding your interest. Still not available in the States on DVD, this would make a good addition to anyone's library if they are interested in science fiction with a touch of horror. Also starring Wendy MacDonald and Camilla More as Lesli, the female computer who runs the ship. A Vidmark Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.

DARK UNIVERSE (1993) - Cheapie monster-on-the-loose film from executive producer Fred Olen Ray’s American Independent Production outfit. A space shuttle astronaut is infected by alien spores upon re-entry to earth and crash lands in the Florida swamps. He turns into a monster (that looks like a cross between an ALIEN [1979] creature and a T-Rex) and terrorizes an untalented cast as they try to avoid him (it?) and some other spore-mutated wildlife. This film is notable only for some interesting morph effects and an eccentric cameo cast which includes Steve Barkett (the auteur behind the bizarre post-apocalyptic THE AFTERMATH [1978] and the even weirder EMPIRE OF THE DARK [1991]) as the astronaut, Martin Sheen’s less-talented brother Joe Estevez (SOULTAKER - 1990) as a corporate bigwig and genre director William Grefe (STANLEY -1972; MAKO: JAWS OF DEATH - 1976) as an elderly trapper who falls victim to the monster. The rest of the film is unimpressive as the creatures are unconvincing and the main casts’ acting talents leave a lot to be desired. Not worth your hard-earned rental bucks. Starring Blake Pickett, Cherie Scott, Bently Tittle and Pat Moran (who also wrote and co-produced). Directed and co-produced by Steve Latshaw (VAMPIRE TRAILER PARK - 1991; BIOHAZARD: THE ALIEN FORCE - 1994;  JACK-O - 1995; DEATH MASK - 1998; and RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS - 2012). A Prism Entertainment Video Release. Also available on a triple-feature Steve Latshaw DVD from Retromedia. Rated R.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOPPED (2008) - This is the Asylum's "mockumentary" version of 20th Century Fox's remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008) and it follows the same formula of all their other countless big-budget counterpart rip-offs (see my review of Asylum's HILLSIDE CANNIBALS for other titles): Copy the ad campaigns and 99% of the story of the big studios' films, throw in 1% originality and make it with a bunch of D-grade actors and a budget so anemic that it would even make Roger Corman say, "What, are you crazy? It can't be done!" An alien invasion of Earth leaves 666 giant robots (the same ones used in Asylum's TRANSFORMERS rip-off, TRANSMORPHERS [2007]) standing deactivated in the middle of the world's most populated cities. Two naked humanoid aliens, Sky (the beautiful Sinead McCafferty, who looks great completely naked and is clearly the best thing about this film) and Man (Bug Hall), also land on Earth and are captured by the military, led by Josh Myron (C.Thomas Howell, who also directed) and Prewitt (co-scripter Darren Dalton). Sky tells Josh that the Earth has twenty-four hours to "prove the value of human life" or else the robots will be activated and wipe out all traces of human life, putting our planet back in the state it was before we began ruining it. When the U.S. government stupidly ignores Sky's warning and try to destroy one of the robots with missiles (which are ineffective and result in the destruction of three jets), the whole world loses electrical power. Josh breaks Sky out of captivity and he tries to show her the value of human life (good luck there!), with Prewitt and the military not far behind. Can a simple schmo like Josh convince Sky to stop the Earth from spinning off its axis and stopping dead in it's tracks? When he takes Sky to church and tries to explain the concept of God (good luck there!), she taps into Josh's mind (where she sees stock footage of rain forests, waterfalls and clips of Howell when he was considered a star on the rise [OK, I made up that last one!]) and begins to actually experience the best and worst man has to offer, whether it's being carjacked by a thug with a gun or witnessing the birth of a baby. When Sky breaks her cardinal rule of "not getting involved" and uses her alien powers to bring the baby's dead mother back to life, it sets the stage for the redemption of the human race. Thank God, I was worried there for a minute!  Ugh, what a complete waste of time. Director/actor C. Thomas Howell, who was once a promising actor (THE OUTSIDERS - 1983; RED DAWN - 1984) and then became a staple in the PM Entertainment factory (directing and starring in such action titles as PURE DANGER and THE BIG FALL [both 1996]), and also worked occasionally for Roger Corman in such films as CYBERCITY (1999), has now become the poster boy of the abysmal Asylum carbon copy club, appearing in such Z-grade films like H.G. WELLS' WAR OF THE WORLD (2005) and directing/starring in the sequel, WAR OF THE WORLDS 2: THE NEXT WAVE (2008). It's hard watching Howell in crap like this when he was so good in films of the past (THE HITCHER [1986] immediately springs to mind). This is pablum that even a baby would refuse to take as nourishment (speaking of babies, the one that was born here clearly looks to be six months old!), as it is nothing but talky pseudo-babble about man's worth and cheap CGI effects (we hear about 666 robots, but we only see one at a time). Like I said earlier, only Ms. McCafferty's nude sequence in the beginning holds the viewer's interest and when she is finally clothed (apparently, alien women wear bras), the film stops dead in it's tracks, much like the Earth in this film. Not even a late-in-the-film cameo by Judd Nelson (who gets second billing in the credits, but has less than two minutes of screen time) as the father of the newborn baby, can raise any interest (Nelson's career path has taken a dive similar to Howell's). For those of you that thought that the new big-budget THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL was a stinker (and it was), let me introduce you to the entire garbage dump. No amount of ice or air freshener can mask the awful odor that is STOPPED. This is 89 minutes of pure Hell on Earth. Listen up, my faithful readers: I don't know how many more of these Asylum abominations I can watch before my brain turns into an organ that is totally useless, so can we just agree that it's best to avoid them at all cost? Also starring Cameron Bender, Jonathan Sanders, Lew Knopp, Reiko Kaneshiro and Jason Ellefson. An Asylum Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated. EPILOGUE: I am glad to report that C. Thomas Howell has had quite the career resurgence since his association with The Asylum. He was absolutely creepy in his recurring role as serial killer "George Foyet" (a.k.a. "The Reaper") on CRIMINAL MINDS (where he murdered Hotch's wife in a way that broke your heart); was a guest star in one of my favorite episodes of LONGMIRE and has appeared as a semi-regular on the TV Series GRIMM. He is also doing plenty of movies, none of them for The Asylum. Careers go up and down, but I am glad that Howell's career is up again.

THE DAY TIME ENDED (1979) - In this interesting Charles Band production (pre-Empire and Full Moon), a family gets caught in a time vortex when their new solar powered home in the desert is hit with a strange phenomenon after three far-away stars go supernova. A green-glowing alien object (which looks like a miniature pyramid) suddenly appears in their backyard and when it is touched, it causes objects to appear and disappear. The object then changes it size and little granddaughter Jenny (Natasha Ryan) puts it in her pocket and brings it into the house. Things start to get weird when the family patriarch (Jim Davis) and matriarch (Dorothy Malone) see two UFOs flying overhead while taking a stroll at night. Things get progressively stranger when a large cracked mirror seems to fix itself, rooms start glowing green, small alien creatures start roaming the house and a miniature spaceship chases everyone around while shooting lasers at them. After a while it becomes apparent that they are caught in a time warp, where the past, present and future all exist at the same time (hence the mirror seemingly fixes itself when, if fact, they were looking at the mirror before it was cracked). Son-in-law Richard (the expressionless Chris Mitchum), who was away on a business trip, worries when he cannot contact them by phone, so he begins a drive back to the house. Meanwhile, the family try to leave the house, but are stopped by strange lights in the sky. Before the night is through, the family will view plenty of alien ships, two giant creatures fighting each other (the winner then turns his attention to the family), they are transported to some alien technology graveyard and trapped in a never-ending series of travels back and forth through time. When Richard gets to the house, he sees it disappear but, for some unexplained reason, he is reunited with his family and they start a new life on an alien planet. What?!?  Director John "Bud" Cardos (KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS - 1977; THE DARK - 1979; MUTANT - 1984; SKELETON COAST - 1987) infuses the film with an air of mystery (which is nearly destroyed by the opening narration) and, although the story line is somewhat unique, the cheapness of the production hampers it's overall effectiveness. Nearly all the effects are done via stop-motion animation (supervised by Dave Allen) and some of them look unfinished, especially the scenes of the two giant aliens fighting. The optical effects are even cheaper looking, especially the scenes of the time warp surrounding the house. Still, for a small film, it is effects-laden and attempts to tell a story that, clearly, the budget couldn't sustain. The ending really doesn't make a lick of sense and seems tacked-on, as if the screenwriters (Wayne Schmidt, J. Larry Carroll and David Schmoeller) couldn't figure out a way to end it properly with the budget they were given, so they left it open-ended. Since a sequel was never made, let's hope they lived happily ever after. This played theatrically on a double bill with LASERBLAST (1978), another Charles Band production with Dave Allen stop-motion effects. Also starring Marcy Lafferty (who was Mrs. William Shatner at the time), and Scott Kolden. THE DAY TIME ENDED is also known as BLACK THUNDER, TIME WARP and VORTEX. Available as part of Brentwood Communications' 20 movie DVD compilation titled SPACE QUEST and Mill Creek Entertainment's SCI-FI INVASION 50 MOVIE DVD Compilation. Rated PG.

DEAD MAN WALKING (1987) - In the future world of 1997 Earth, disease has spread throughout the land and there are three distinct groups of people: The uninfected, who are free to move about wherever they please; The diseased, who are put into "Plague Zones" and can never leave, and: "Zero Men", males who are infected with a non-transmittable strain of the disease and only have one to two years to live. The Zero Men are known to have extremely tempermental behavior because of their short life expectancy. One ultraviolent Zero Man, Decker (Brion James), escapes from a prison van and heads into the nearest Plague Zone to hide. He, along with a couple of other prison escapees, stop a passing limousine and kidnap Leila (Pamela Ludwig), after killing her wealthy industrialist father, and head into the heart of the Plague Zone, knowing full well that the police will never follow. Chaz (Jeffrey Combs), Leila's chauffeur (and possible lover) hires devil-may-care Zero Man John Luger (Wings Hauser) to lead him into the Plague Zone to rescue Leila. As Luger and Chaz track Decker, they find nothing but death and destruction (including a boobytrapped severed head) left in his wake. Decker catches Luger and Chaz off-guard and buries them up to their necks in the blazing sun. They are rescued by a nomad farmer (Leland Crooke) and his hideously deformed sister Pookie (Penelope Sudrow). After giving the farmer Chaz's "pain pills" in exchange for oil (for their car), guns and Pookie (who dies the next morning from the disease), Luger and Chaz head to Cafe Death, where the dregs of society go to drink, fight and watch a live stage show where infected people are killed in graphic ways. Decker gets the drop on Luger (again) and uses jumper cables and a car battery to torture Luger. Chaz rescues Luger and they have a final showdown with Decker in a junkyard, where Chaz makes a startling revelation to Luger about his "pain pills" and Leila puts a few rounds into Decker. Luger then makes a move that will change all of humanity.  This is one of Gregory Dark's (here using the pseudonym "Gregory Brown") rare forays into mainstream filmmaking (others being STREET ASYLUM [1990 - also with Hauser] and the recent SEE NO EVIL [2006]). Dark is mainly recognized for his stylish porn films, like NEW WAVE HOOKERS (1985) and also directed erotic thrillers like ANIMAL INSTINCTS: THE SEDUCTRESS (1995) using the name "Alexander Gregory Hippolyte". Dark borrows motifs from many films for DEAD MAN WALKING, most notably the recurring TV news breaks from ROBOCOP (made the same year as this), right down to using the same actor (the late Mario Machado) to play the news anchor (he played "Casey Wong" in all three ROBOCOP films). Some parts of this film are highly inventive, such as our initial introduction to Luger, where we see him in a bar playing a deadly Russian roulette game with another patron that involves a chainsaw, their necks and a pull on the starter rope. Another funny sight is Luger's car: It's a hollowed-out AMC Pacer made to look like a dune buggy. The film is violent (plenty of gunshots to the head, a neck snapping, a man turned into a fireball), funny (Chaz's first meeting with Luger involves him holding a ticking bomb while Luger tries to disarm it) and it has something to say about society and how it classifies people (Luger says in one moment of weakness, "I don't want to die!"). Some scenes reminded me of porn films, such as the stage show at Cafe Death, which looks like a twisted take-off of CAFE FLESH (1982). The jazz score, by Claude "Coffee" Cave, is also highly unusual (and eerily effective) for a film of this type. DEAD MAN WALKING is by no means a great film, but it is a very interesting way to spend 90 minutes. Worth your time. Also starring Sy Richardson, Biff Yeager, Darwin Swalve and Diz McNally. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

DEAD SPACE (1990) - When Roger Corman starts ripping off his own material, you know it is going to be a stinker (just look what happened when his company remade Poe's MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH in 1989). This one is a reworking of FORBIDDEN WORLD (a.k.a. MUTANT - 1982), where a rampaging monster is killed by feeding it a diseased, cancer-ridden human liver. DEAD SPACE offers the same premise: Space cop Marc Singer (a regular in Corman films) answers a distress call on a distant planet where a team of scientists are working on genetic experiments to combat a lethal new disease. Soon they are combatting their genetic experiment as it mutates into a new life form. It needs human flesh to survive. Bullets and conventional weapons cannot stop it, so it is up to the scientists to come up with a way to dispatch it while they are horrendously murdered one by one. When it is learned that one of the scientists (Bryan Cranston of TV's MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE [2000 - 2006] and his triple Emmy Award-winning role as Walter White in BREAKING BAD [2008 - 2013]) has the lethal disease they originally were to find a cure for, he offers his blood as a possible weapon against the mutant. Singer, not satisfied with just his blood, offers the mutant Cranston's entire body. The mutant chows down on Cranston's head and dies, but not before giving birth to two baby mutants. Can the last two survivors (Singer and Laura Tate) destroy the infants before they become mother's milk? They do. (There, now you don't have to view this excruciatingly bad film!) Even at 72 minutes, it is highly padded and seems twice as long. The mutant is also a laughable creation. When are filmmakers going to learn that you can't top the creature from the ALIEN series when you are only working with a fraction of its budget? If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what can be said of an imitation of an imitation? Corman and crew should stick with making erotic thrillers because that is where they excel. You would have to have an empty head to enjoy DEAD SPACE (also released under the title BIOHAZARD in some foreign territories). Directed by Fred Gallo, who also made DRACULA RISING (1993) and TERMINATION MAN (1997) for Corman. A Columbia-Tristar Home Video Release. Rated R.

DIGITAL MAN (1994) - Short on logic but high in action, DIGITAL MAN makes for a pleasant 95 minutes for thrill seekers. A high-tech military cyborg prototype (Matthias Hues of MISSION OF JUSTICE [1992]) is sabotaged and goes on a murderous rampage in a small, almost deserted, ghost town. The military (led by Ed Lauter) sends a team of well-equipped soldiers (led by Ken Olandt of TV’s SUPER FORCE [1990 - 1992]) to the town to destroy the Digital Man and retrieve the launch codes (which could cause World War III) that he is holding. The rest of the film is a series of hunt-and-kill scenes, but with a difference. When one of the team is killed and it is discovered that he was a cyborg, the rest of the team begin looking at (and mistrusting) each other, not sure if they are cyborgs also. The team must also defend the denizens of the town, including a dimwit country bumpkin (Don Swayze, Patrick’s more-talented brother) who tries to escape the town at the most inopportune times and a government-hating, cigar-chewing broad (Susan Tyrrell) who is more than she seems. Some good humor, excellent Steadicam work and lots of nifty weaponry and explosions make DIGITAL MAN a cut above most direct-to-video fare. Director Phillip J. Roth is kind of an expert at this type of film, as he has previously made PROTOTYPE X29A (1992) and  A.P.E.X. (1994), two above-average futuristic thrillers. Roth would later direct the interesting VELOCITY TRAP (1998), the very good (and intentionally funny) INTERCEPTOR FORCE (1999) and it's equally good sequel INTERCEPTOR FORCE 2 (2002), all starring action star Olivier Gruner. Also starring Paul Gleason, Kristen Dalton and Adam Baldwin. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

DRIVING FORCE (1989) - Weird futuristic actioner in the vein of MAD MAX (1979), but without the heady atmosphere. Widower Steve (Sam Jones; IN GOLD WE TRUST - 1990) takes a job with the No Risk Towing Company to support his young daughter Becky (Stephanie Mason), but immediately butts heads with rival towing company The Black Knights, which consists of leader Nelson (Don Swayze; TRAPPER COUNTY WAR - 1989) and underlings Surf (Robert Marius; FIST OF GLORY - 1991) and Pool (a badly-dubbed Billy Blanks), Steve and The Black Knights trade blows and steal each others car wrecks, which begins to piss-off Nelson a great deal. Complicating matters are Becky's rich maternal grandparents, John (Gerald Gordon) and Leslie (Renata Scott), who want to take custody of Becky (who is wise beyond her young years) because they believe Steve is an unfit father (and the fact that he never married their dead daughter). When The Black Knights don't have enough business, they cause accidents by booby-trapping the roads. Their latest victim is rich businesswoman Harry (Catherine Bach; RAGE AND HONOR - 1992), but Steve saves her in the nick of time from the sexual advances of Surf and Pool. Steve and Harry soon become romantically involved, but Steve worries how Becky will respond to a new woman in their lives. It turns out to be totally unfounded, as Becky and Harry immediately hit it off, but life becomes complicated when both The Black Knights and Becky's grandparents turn up the heat (The Black Knights set fire to Steve's motorcycle and the grandparents hire some thugs to kidnap Becky). When The Black Knights run Steve's tow truck off the road and Steve is hospitalized (he also loses his job), it is the perfect excuse for the grandparents to legally take possession of Becky. Steve and Harry must find a way to get Becky back, especially since Leslie turns into the grandmother from Hell and refuses to let Steve see Becky (She tells Becky, "Your father doesn't love you anymore."). Steve begins to unravel, so he decides to open his own towing company with friend Pete (Ancel Cook). He builds his own indestructible tow truck and soon becomes the premiere towing company in the area, raking in the cash hand over fist. When Nelson learns he is dying of lung cancer, he decides to go out with a bang, but he's not going alone. He destroys Pete's garage and nearly kills Becky (who has run away from her grandparents) when he, Surf and Pool push the trailer she's in over a cliff (the film's most effective scene), forcing Steve and his tow truck to go on a ride of vengeance. This sets the stage for a bloody showdown, where both the good and the bad get ugly.  A strange mixture of action and soap opera elements (maybe too much of the latter), DRIVING FORCE can't make up its mind just what type of film it wants to be. Director Andrew "A.J." Prowse (DEMONSTONE - 1989; ATTACK OF THE GRYPHON - 2006) handles the film's action scenes with aplomb, but falters when it comes to the human element, as all the characters, with the exception of Becky, are thinly-drawn and lack proper back stories (especially Nelson, who is mean for the sake of being mean). Thankfully, the action scenes, which include these strange-looking miniature tow trucks (they look like a cross between converted dune buggies and go-karts) crashing and exploding, work extremely well thanks to Stunt Superintendent and Second Unit Director Grant Page, who is Australia's top stuntman and whose exploits are documented in such films as THE MAN FROM HONG KONG (1975), DEATH CHEATERS (1976) and STUNT ROCK (1978). I was also hoping for more of the craziness that was found in the beginning of the film, such as when Nelson and Surf try to force severely injured accident victims to sign release forms as they lay bleeding in their wrecked cars, but the film quickly discards that quirkiness for more standard fare. As it stands, this Philippines-lensed film passes muster (barely) thanks to the energetic action scenes. The sci-fi aspects of Patrick Edgeworth's screenplay are dropped very early on, so there's not much on screen to make you believe this film takes place in the future. Also starring James Brewer, Joey Aresco, Paul Holm and Nigel Hogge. Originally released on VHS by Academy Entertainment and not available on DVD. Rated R.

DUNE WARRIORS (1990) - New California 2040 A.D.: A group of ruthless nomads, led by William (Luke Askew; ROLLING THUNDER - 1977; FRAILTY - 2001), destroy an entire village and kill all it's occupants (including one by decapitation) in their search for water, which is apparently scarcer than oil (William's gang drive around in gas-guzzling, weapons-equipped vehicles straight out of THE ROAD WARRIOR). Hot on William's trail is sword-weilding warrior Michael (David Carradine), who wants William's head on a stick for some past transgression. William sends his head goon, the pith helmet-wearing Tomas (Nick Nicholson), on an advance mission to a village known to contain plenty of water. The first thing Tomas does when he reaches the village is kill the brother of village girl Val (Jilliam McWhirter) to show he means business. Since the local village men are too scared to take on Tomas and his small force of men, who have taken over the village, Val escapes and begins a voyage to search for some brave men to free her village from the tyranny. Val runs smack-dab into a tribe of pygmie cannibals and is saved by Michael, who drives her to Freetown, a village full of misfits and mercenaries. After watching a motorcycle jousting tournament and getting involved in a bar fight, Val and Michael recruit John (Rick Hill), Dorian (Blake Byod) and Ricardo (Dante Varona) to help Val regain control of her village before William arives in one week's time. Along the way, they also recruit shotgun-toting female warrior Miranda (Isabel Lopez), who knows about Michael's past with William, but William stops her from telling the others. Val and her five warriors regain control of her village rather easily and begin training the villagers, who are mainly farmers, how to fight in preparation for William's arrival. Val's fiance, Luis (Henry Strzalkowski), becomes jealous when Val shows an interest in Dorian, so he turns traitorous and frees Tomas, who warns William what is waiting for him in the village. William has a hard time believing that only five people could defeat Tomas' squad, so he sends an advance force to kill them, which fails terribly. William eventually recaptures the village and takes Val and Dorian prisoner, but in an incredible stroke of luck (some would say too incredible), John finds a cache of weapons and explosives hidden in a cave. He arms all the villagers and they assault the village, while Michael and William settle an old score, having a swordfight with each other in the middle of the raging battlefield. Just what was their beef anyway? Really, can someone please tell me?  Is it derivative? Sure. Reminiscent of countless post-nuke flicks, not to mention THE SEVEN SAMURAI (1954)? Double check. Entertaining? Damn skippy. Director/producer Cirio H. Santiago is an old hand at churning out these Filipino post-apoctalyptic actioners, such as STRYKER (1983), WHEELS OF FIRE (1984), EQUALIZER 2000 (1986), THE SISTERHOOD (1987) and RAIDERS OF THE SUN (1991). Santiago is a competant director when handling actions scenes and DUNE WARRIORS is one non-stop action set-piece after another, with just enough exposition to connect those scenes together. Santiago follows the Roger Corman Principle (Corman financed many of Santiago's films, including this one): Keep it short (this film is barely 77 minutes long), keep it simple and give viewers what they expect, which is explosions, gun battles, martial arts fights, gore and nudity (both Jillian McWhirter and Isabel Lopez have topless scenes). Even David Carradine, who was usually just slumming around in low-budget films during this point in his career (KARATE COP - 1991), looks to be having a good time here, playing an "old timer" with an agenda.  Most of the cast is made up of Santiago regulars, including Rick Hill (THE DEVASTATOR - 1985), Jillian McWhirter (STRANGLEHOLD - 1994), Henry Strzalkowski (FIREHAWK - 1992), Nick Nicholson (SILK - 1986) and Joseph Zucchero (also this film's Editor), so making this film must have been like working with family and friends (Santiago's son, Christopher, was in charge of the production and worked on many of his father's films). There's not much meat to T.C. McKelvey's (Santiago's FIELD OF FIRE - 1990) script, but it's apparent he was having some fun here, such as when John says, "Take these assholes back to the stockade......and no milk and cookies!" If you enjoy post-nuke flicks, DUNE WARRIORS is a pretty safe bet. The closing song that plays over the end credits ("Desert Heat" by The Score Warriors) sounds too much like Joan Jett's "I Love Rock And Roll" to be a coincidence. Also starring Val Garay, Bon Vibar, Jim Moss, Ned Hourani and Robert Ginnivan. An RCA Columbia Pictures Home Video VHS Release. Not yet available on DVD. Unbelievably, this has been released on Blu-Ray by Code Red as a Screen Archives exclusive in its original director's cut, with 15 extra minutes of footage! Rated R.

EMPIRE OF ASH (II) (1988) - In case you are wondering why I am reviewing a sequel before the original, stop wondering right now. This film is actually its own sequel, released as EMPIRE OF ASH in 1988 and then re-released as EMPIRE OF ASH II in 1989. I can't come up with another example of a film ever doing this before or since, but once you watch this flick, you'll hope no one ever puts you through this type of torture ever again (Once is enough. Twice is unforgivable.). What we have here is a Canadian tax shelter film that posts this eternal question: How can we make a post-apocalyptic movie on a .98 budget (and that's Canadian dollars!)? The answer seems to be: Find junker cars that barely run, film it on roads in the middle of obviously green forests (apocalypse asmockalypse!) or in rock quarries and use actors that can't speak their lines without the use of cue cards. In the years following the "Great Infection", a band of cut-rate ROAD WARRIOR wannabes (another alternate title to this film is MANIAC WARRIORS), led by an uber-religious nutjob called Shepherd (Frank Wilson), roam an area known as New Idaho looking for infected mutants to kill and non-infected females to rape or get pregnant to propagate their species. A lone female warrior named Danielle (Melanie Kilgour) teams up with escaped military prisoner Orion (Thom Schioler) to look for Danielle's sister Jasmine (Ann Louise Meyer), who has been kidnapped by Shepherd and his gang. While Danielle is taking a topless shower in a cave, Orion is knocked-out and kidnapped by some mutants (who look like the Sand People in STAR WARS) and then brought to their compound (an abandoned industrial park), where they plan to drain and drink his blood and remove his bone marrow (the mutants need the blood and marrow to combat their low white blood cell count). Meanwhile, Shepherd and his warriors attack a human settlement (actually an auto junkyard), where they kill all the men and capture all the women (half of Shepherd's warriors are lesbians dressed in black leather outfits). Danielle sneaks into the mutants' compound and saves Orion's ass (he makes love to her as a way of saying "Thanks!"). Orion enlists the aide of his father's old army buddies, Iodine (James Stevens) and Chuck (Sandy MacKenzie), to help them raid Shepherd's camp and rescue Jasmine. With a cheapjack version of The Doors' "Born To Be Wild" playing on the soundtrack, the quartet enter the camp, kill Shepherd and his followers, save Jasmine and drive off into the sunset (The closing tune on the soundtrack sounds too much like The Rolling Stones' "[I Can't Get No] Satisfaction" to be a coincidence).  As I have stated previously, EMPIRE OF ASH (II) is a cheap, cheesy flick with very little going in its favor except for some unintentional humor (when a mutant drops an IV bag of blood in the mud and it breaks, he scoops up the muddy blood and tries to put it back into the bag!) and lots of low-rent chases and shootouts. Co-directors Lloyd A. Simandl (CHAINED HEAT 2 - 1993) and Michael Mazo (CRACKERJACK - 1994), who would both go on to co-direct an actual sequel to this, EMPIRE OF ASH III (a.k.a. LAST OF THE WARRIORS - 1989), try their best with the screenplay supplied by John Ogis, but the fact is the scope of the script far surpasses what this film's paltry budget will allow. There are simply too many characters to keep track of here and the film seems more like a series of vignettes than an actual linear story. While the acting is generally weak across the board, Simandl and Mazo at least have the good sense to let the pretty females do some nude scenes and spice-up the film with some blood and gore (bloody bullet squibs; dismembered body parts), including the killing of children. Alas, the action scenes have a substandard look to them, as the camera placements are off and the blocking of the fight scenes are lousy. Still, there are a few good tries and in-jokes, such as Iodine & Chuck's firefight with some warriors that is staged like a videogame, or Iodine throwing darts at a Jane Fonda magazine cover. It's not nearly enough to overcome the general cheapness of the entire production, though. The film is so threadbare, I'm surprised anyone is wearing clothes. Also starring Misha Lachat, Eric Horsfall, Michael Bernardo and David Gregg as "Rocket Man", who fires rockets from a helmet he wears on his head. Originally released on VHS by AIP Home Video and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

ENDGAME (1983) - Out of the numerous post-apocalyptic thrillers to come out of Italy during the 80's, this is my absolute favorite. The beginning of this film is similar to Steven King's story THE RUNNING MAN, written around the same time this film was being produced and was turned into a film in 1987 with the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Bronx has been turned into a radioactive cesspool in the year 2025 and one of the very few distractions the people have is a reality show called Endgame, where three "hunters" try to kill the "prey", the winner getting fabulous prizes (including a lifetime supply of LifePlus, an energy drink that tastes like shit). On this, the 25th episode of Endgame, the prey is former hunter Ron Shannon (Al Cliver) and he is being stalked by three of the game's best hunters, including personal enemy Kurt Karnak (big George Eastman, who wrote the script as "Alex Carver"). It seems that this episode of Endgame is serving a dual purpose as, while everyone in the city is glued to their sets watching the show, the SS-like government, headed by Col. Morgan (Gordon Mitchell), is systematically wiping out all the Mutants, fearing that their superior powers (including telepathy and the ability to read people's minds) will lead to the government's downfall. During the middle of the game, Shannon is contacted by telepathic mutant Lilith (Moira Chen, a.k.a. "Laura Gemser") and is asked to escort her and some fellow mutants out of the city where they will be safe. Shannon's pay will be a fortune in gold. Shannon kills the first two hunters and defeats Karnak (with Lilith's help), but spares his life. He then runs afoul of the government when he saves Lilith from some government goons. Shannon agrees to lead the Mutants out of the city and hires Ninja (Al Yamanouchi), a (what else?) martial arts expert and Kovack (Mario Pedone), a brute man, to come along as extra muscle. After a brief run-in with Col. Morgan, where Karnak saves Shannon's life (now they're even), Shannon starts leading the Mutants out of the city, with Karnak not far behind. It's a long and deadly trip and not everyone will survive. Expect to be entertained and pleasantly surprised along the way.  Much more literate and creative than most Italian post-nuke films, director Joe D'Amato (he uses the pseudonym "Steven Benson" here) anticipates reality television over 15 years before it would become commonplace and tosses in some pretty good set pieces to boot, including telepathy used to defeat enemies remotely (as Lilith does in helping Shannon Defeat Karnak in Endgame) and when they run into a town full of psychopathic blind monks (who are also being controlled by an enslaved telepathic mutant). That's not to say that ENDGAME skimps on the action or violence, though. Heads are split open with axes and run over by cars, there are numerous car and motorcycle stunts and chases, stabbings, impalements, explosions, bullet squibs, a nasty neck-twisting and dismemberments, not to mention acts of self-sacrifice you don't normally see on films of this type. The real surprise is Karnak's turnaround from bad to good guy. Or is he? You are never sure until the finale (which is a hoot). There's also a heartbreaking scene where Shannon and Lilith are speaking to each other telepathically while she is being raped, only she talks to Shannon as if nothing is going on because she does not want him to know. Another unusual scene for a film of this type. On the minus side, some of the Mutant makeups are shoddy (some of the members of a renegade motorcycle gang look like outcasts from PLANET OF THE APES) and, as usual, the dubbing is horrendous with lines like, "Look at me while I rape you, damn it!" littering the script. Don't let that deter you from watching this, though (the late Joe D'Amato has said in several interviews that this was his favorite film), because it really does have much more to say than most Pastaland flicks. Future director Michele Soavi (THE CHURCH - 1989) was one of the assistant directors here (using the name "Mike Soft") and has a cameo at the end as a helicopter pilot. D'Amato, better known for his horror films like BURIED ALIVE (1979) and THE GRIM REAPER (1980), made 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS a year earlier (using the name "Kevin Mancuso"). It's another above-average entry in the post-nuke sweepstakes. Hunt them down if you get the chance. You won't be disappointed. The future never looked so grim. Also starring Jack Davis, Gus Stone (a.k.a. "Gabriele Tinti") and Nat Williams. A Media Home Entertainment Release. ENDGAME is also available streaming on Amazon Prime. Not Rated.

EQUALIZER 2000 (1986) - "North Alaska: A hundred years after the nuclear winter." The ice caps have melted and most of the potable water has disappeared. The Earth is nothing but a scorched shell and the remaining humans are ruled by a brutal dictatorship known as The Ownership, whose main base sits on top of the Alaskan oil pipeline. Those who control the oil controls the world. A faction of the rebel forces, who are fighting for a supply of oil, capture Ownership member Captain Slade (Richard Norton) during a battle and hope to use him in a prisoner exchange, but he escapes. Meanwhile, a sexy, leather-clad woman named Karen (Corrine Wahl) rips-off a group of black marketeers (who dress like Southern rebels during the Civil War), led by Alamo (Henry Strzalkowski) and Deke (Robert Patrick), and takes off with a few crates of their explosives (this was supposed to be a gas-for-explosives trade, but when the goofballs put the moves on Karen, all deals are off). This leads to a ROAD WARRIOR-type  car chase, which results in Slade saving Karen's ass. Now, Slade is not only wanted by The Ownership (who think he's a traitor) and the rebels, he's also on Alamo and Deke's shit list. Karen takes a wounded Slade to her village to recover, while The Ownership recruits Alamo and Deke's gang to look for Slade. Dixon (Rex Cutter), the leader of Karen's village, has developed a multi-barreled handheld weapon called the Equalizer 2000, capable of firing bullets, shotgun shells, grenades and rockets. Slade helps refine the weapon in hopes of using it against Colonel Lawton (William Steis), a sadistic Ownership member and former friend of Slade's who has become power-hungry. Lawton and his men travel the barren landscape, killing anyone who don't agree with The Ownership rules. Lawton eventually makes it to Karen's village and a huge firefight breaks out, but Slade and the Equalizer 2000 manage to hold Lawton back until the villagers escape to safety. Once Lawton sees the new weapon, he must have it, so he orders his men to get it any way they can. Alamo and Deke manage to steal the weapon, kidnap Karen and break off from The Ownership. Deke betrays Alamo (never trust a black marketeer) and takes off with the weapon, giving it to Lawton (and paying for it with his life). Lawton uses the Equalizer 2000 to take control of The Ownership and the finale finds Karen's village joining Slade and the rebels in storming The Ownership's headquarters. After the good guys win, Slade destroys the Equalizer 2000, so no one else is tempted to take over the world. Everyone else throws their weapons into a bonfire and they all live happily ever after. Except Karen. She's dead. Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes.  Yes, this is another one of Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's many post-nuke films, which include STRYKER (1983), WHEELS OF FIRE (1984), THE SISTERHOOD (1987), DUNE WARRIORS (1990) and RAIDERS OF THE SUN (1991; also starring Richard Norton). Viewers of SUN should be very familiar with this film, since many of EQUALIZER 2000's action scenes were used in SUN in a typical Roger Corman (who financed both films) cost-cutting manner. If you've seen any of Santiago's post-nuke flicks, you know what to expect here: Plenty of explosions, gunfights and chases with a minimum of plot. Nothing more, nothing less. It's interesting to note how bad an actor Robert Patrick was when he first started in the business. Besides appearing in the abysmal WARLORDS FROM HELL (1985), Patrick also starred in Santiago's FUTURE HUNTERS (1986), EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987) and BEHIND ENEMY LINES (1987), and he's terrible in all of them, screaming out his lines and mugging for the camera. He's calmed down a lot since then and has made his mark on TV (THE X-FILES [1993 - 2002]; THE UNIT [2006 - 2009]; SCORPION [2014 -Present]) and films (THE MARINE - 2006). Santiago also utilizes his regular stable of actors here. Besides the ones already mentioned, there's Frederick Bailey (DEMON OF PARADISE - 1987; also this film's scripter), Don Gordon Bell, Ramon D'Salva, Peter Shilton, Steve Cook, Bobby Greenwood, Nick Nicholson, Eric Hahn and Filipino staple Vic Diaz as Bone, a member of the spear-carrying Mountain People. Don't go in with your expectations too high and you may have fun with this film, also known as DEFENDER 2000. Santiago produced this using the pseudonym "Leonard Hermes".  Be aware that the R-rated VHS version distributed by MGM/UA Home Video in 1987 is the 77 minute version and is missing nearly 8 minutes of footage, including a rape committed on Karen and a nude sex scene involving Karen and Slade (this edit cuts away just as it is getting interesting). I believe the only uncut edition is available on Japanese VHS, but all the nudity is optically fogged-out. Note: Now available on a beautiful uncut Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.

ESCAPE FROM GALAXY 3 (1981) - Lower-tier Italian sci-fi flick that tried to pass itself off as a sequel to STARCRASH (1978), only it doesn't star Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner or even David Hasselhoff and it wasn't directed by Luigi Cozzi. While that film had a playful sense of lunacy, this film is boring for its idiocy and surprising turn at the halfway mark. Not that the "surprise" is entertaining, it was just unexpected (I should have translated the original Italian title!).
     Ceylon (Chris Avram, using his real name "Auran Cristea"; A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971), the King of a galaxy far, far away is attacked by Oraclon (Don Powell; BLACK EMANUELLE - 1975; who also supplied this film's disco soundtrack), the "King Of The Dark", and his race of African American aliens! ("It's Oraclon, The King of the Night!"). Ceylon's daughter, Belle Star (Cheryl Buchanan; DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. - 1980) and Lithan (Fausto Di Bella, using the pseudonym "James Milton"; TORSO - 1973) vow to fight Oraclon until their last dying breath (it's almost like they have given up hope!). The problem is, Oraclon has more advanced weapons than they do, except for "Plan Epsilon", a prototype weapon that has yet to be tested. Ceylon then says, "I hereby declare a state of emercency. Everybody to their posts!" We are then on Oraclon's ship, where he orders his lily white underling Jemar (Max Turilli; ZONE TROOPERS - 1985) to get in touch with Ceylon. Oraclon (who dresses like Ming The Merciless in FLASH GORDON - 1980) tells Ceylon to surrender, but he refuses and there is a battle in space (borrowing footage from Luigi Cozzi's film). Before you can say "I should have surrendered!". Ceylon's central computer is destroyed, so he sends Belle and Lithan out of the galaxy to find an ally (that we never meet) to help them defeat Oraclon. The rest of the film details the duo's "adventures" as they try to find the elusive ally (maybe he doesn't want to be found!). What they don't know is that Ceylon has been killed, his spaceship destroyed and exploding. They meet a race of clueless aliens, learn how to make love, get drunk, eat chicken with their bare hands (!), dance to disco music and other innocuous adventures before the film finally ends and we can take out eyes off the clock. Will love defeat Oraclon? Will the laser beams that shoot out of Lithan's hands castrate him when he masturbates? Whatever happened to "Plan Epsilon"? A fun time was had by none.
     This film lacks the playfulness of Luigi Cozzi's film, as well as it's cheezy stop-motion animation, rather relying on space science mumbo-jumbo ("Fire up the irridium laser rays!") and bottom-of-the-barrel special effects (including reversing footage that shows Lithan jumping a high distance). The only things this has in common with STARCRASH are the costumes and the sexy outfits Cheryl Buchanan wears, showing off her best "assets". Otherwise, this is an excruciating bore that offers nothing in the way of entertainment value. Director/co-screenwriter Bitto Albertini (HUMAN COBRAS - 1971; ZAMBO, KING OF THE JUNGLE - 1972), here using the pseudonym "Ben Norman", has no idea what makes a science fiction film work, even going as far as to have one race of aliens dress as if they were ancient Romans, using costumes probably left over from some Italian peplum flick. To keep costs down, this race of aliens don't have bow and arrows or spears, they just throw rocks! This film's idea of "comedy" is Belle & Lithan mimicking an alien couple who are kissing, because Belle & Lithan's race don't touch each other to show love. As a matter of fact, for the last 45 minutes of the film, it turns into a softcore sex flick, more interested in showing Belle and Lithan's sexual awakening, as Lithan and a male alien member get into a competition to be the first one to pop Belle's cherry, but it is so sloppily done, it is not titillating at all. The film's shooting title was Giochi erotici nella terza galassia ("Erotic Games In The Third Galaxy"), but the only eroticism you will experience would not shock a grade schooler. I'm not sure if Albertini wanted to make a science fiction or sex film (much in the same way as Alfonso Brescia's X-Rated THE BEAST IN SPACE - 1980), but he failed on both counts. I tried to find something positive to say about this film, but damned if I could find it. It's not even worthwhile for an unintentional laugh. Oh, and those Roman-dressing aliens? Turns out they are human and the planet Belle and Lithan landed on was ancient Earth!
     It's no mystery why this film never had a U.S. theatrical release or that it fell into the Public Domain (PD). It's just bad.  It had numerous VHS releases (most notably by Prism Entertainment) and is available on many multi-film DVD compilations, like Mill Creek Entertainment's Sci-Fi Invasion 50 Movie Classic Features, which is how I viewed it. Don't look for this to be released on Blu-Ray anytime soon, because a company would have to be retarded or braindead to give this the deluxe treatment (OK, maybe Code Red!). Also known as SPACE TRAP. Also starring Alex Macedon, Margaret Rose, Attilio Dottesio, Eugenia Dominici and Ottaviano Dell'Acqua (BLASTFIGHTER - 1984) as the alien who gets into the cherry-popping contest with Lithan. Not Rated, but it would probably get an R-Rating due to the frequent nudity, including quick full-frontal shots of Buchanan.

EVILS OF THE NIGHT (1984) - Take one look at the cast and you know that you're in for something painful. The film opens with four overage teenagers at a midnight excursion in the woods enjoying such common things as underwater fellatio and doggie-style sex. They are abducted by a race of aliens (led by Tina Louise, Julie Newmar and John Carradine) who remove their blood platelets which will increase the aliens' lifespans. The aliens set up shop in an abandoned hospital and pay bumbling garage mechanics Neville Brand and Aldo Ray (in career busting performances) gold coins to help them with the abductions. The aliens need 10 people between the ages of 16 and 24 within the next two days to complete their experiments. The grease jockey duo kidnap and hold three teenagers in their garage while they wait for the aliens to contact them. Brand gets horny and tries to rape one of the girls. She fights back and Brand power drills her through the stomach. He goes after the other girl and ends up crushed under an hydraulic car lift. After seeing his buddy lying dead with a bloody sucking chest wound, Ray assaults the poor girl and gets an air hose shoved in his ear by another girl who has escaped from the alien hospital (she shoves it in his right ear and blood spurts out of his left one!). This severely disturbs Ray, who grabs an axe and chops the hospital girl to pieces. The departing aliens kill Ray with a green death ray as payment for a job well done. EVILS contains plenty of gratuitous sex and nudity in its first 30 minutes, but goes for a deep slide after the story kicks in. It's painful to listen to the actors speak such ridiculous line as: Brand: "I sure would like to hump one of those girls!" Ray: "Why not? We've done it before!" After Newmar finds Louise's head caved in on the hospital floor she utters this immortal line: "She's been expunged!" Triple threat Mardi Rustam (who directed, produced and wrote this mess and used the same bumbling/raping grease monkey premise in the piecemeal film EVIL TOWN [1974/1985]) also executive produced Greydon Clark's THE BAD BUNCH (1976). One question: If the former Ginger, Tina Louise, refused to appear in the GILLIGAN'S ISLAND reunion TV movies, why did she agree to star in this abomination (and others, like HELL RIDERS [1984])? EVILS OF THE NIGHT is an embarrassment for all those involved. A Lightning Video VHS Release. Available on fullscreen DVD from Media Blasters/Shriek Show. Also available on widescreen DVD from Gorgon Video/MPI Home Video, which also contains the TV Version, which cuts out nearly all the gore and all the nudity, but has extra footage not seen in the theatrical release. Rated R.

EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983) - This Italian/Spanish co-production is one of the worst ROAD WARRIOR (1982) imitations that I have ever seen and I've seen plenty. In a post-nuclear apocalypse world, the Earth is running dangerously low on drinkable water and it hasn't rained in over a hundred years. A town of scientists experimenting in hydroponics sends a convoy of tanker trucks out to a secret location where water is plentiful, but on their way there they are attacked by the Exterminators, a band of dirtbike and dune buggy-riding mutants led by Crazy Bull (Fred Harris). The only survivor of the attack is ten year-old Tommy (Luca Vententini) and he enlists the help Alien (Robert Jannucci), a loner anti-hero (in the mold of you-know-who), to help him bring a tanker full of water back to his town. At first, Tommy get's on Alien's nerves (he sure got on mine), but after a few close calls together, they become to depend on each other and Alien becomes somewhat of a father figure to Tommy (whose real father died at the Exterminators' hands a short while ago). After Tommy has an accident, Alien takes him to a mechanic named Papillon (Alan Collins) for repairs (turns out Tommy has some bionic parts) and he gives Tommy an upgrade. Alien meets old flame Trash (Alicia Moro) and Tommy tells her the secret location of the water (he still, at this point, has trust issues with Alien). Trash and Alien go to the site and find the water, but must deal with some angry religious zealots who guard the water and work their way around various booby traps (not to mention being double-crossed by Trash) before making the long journey back to Tommy's town. Expect lots of resistance from Crazy Bull and his gang of Exterminators (who he keeps calling "mother grabbers" and "ball breakers") on the return trip. After an accident depletes the supply of water, all hope is lost. Or is it? Hey Alien: Are you crying or is it raining for the first time in over a hundred years?  Quite simply put, George Miller should have sued. Not only are entire scenes copied from THE ROAD WARRIOR, characters are as well (Fred Harris is made to look the spitting image of Vernon Wells). Director Giuliano Carnimeo (using the pseudonym "Jules Harrison"), who also directed THE RAT MAN (1987) under the name "Anthony Ascott", just substitutes water for oil and, voila!, he has an "original" film. My hopes were briefly lifted when Tommy was tied between two motorcycles and his arm is torn off, but then it turns out he has a bionic arm and he wasn't hurt. To add insult to injury, Alien picks up the arm and duct tapes it to Tommy's shoulder (!) until he can have it attached properly. Tommy also gets drunk on beer at one point, proving that the Italians never heard of child labor laws. The fact that it took three people to write the threadbare script (including genre vet Dardano Sacchetti) and the best they could come up with are lines like, "A snake bite is better than a kiss from you!" and "Unleash the dogs of war!", shows what little original thought went into EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000. They already had a blueprint to follow, so why try, right? Wrong. There are serious amounts of dead air in this film and the action scenes are not very exciting or staged very well and there's too much reliance on slow motion. There's plenty of violence as people are shot in the head, blown up or run over and there's lots of chases and explosions, but there's nothing here you haven't seen done better in other films, like THE ROAD WARRIOR! Not worth your time or patience (and you'll need plenty). Also known as DEATH WARRIORS. Also starring Eduardo Fajardo, Beryl Cunningham and Anna Orso. A Thorn EMI Video VHS Release. Also available on fullscreen DVD by Code Red, which in now OOP. Available on widescreen Blu-Ray from Scream Factory. Rated R.

THE EYES BEHIND THE STARS (1977) - I remember coming home late from a night of boozing sometime in the early 80's and turning on the TV (to CBS TV's The Late Late Show) just as this flick was starting. The mixture of rocket fuel in my system and the eerie vibe this film possessed creeped me out at the time and I never forgot the experience. Since I am a glutton for punishment, I decided to watch this again over twenty five years later, this time perfectly sober. Knowing full well that I would probably be bitterly disappointed, I was pleasantly surprised when I wasn't. The film starts off like a ufologist's version of BLOW-UP (1966) where fashion photographer Peter Collins (Franco Garofalo) notices something strange in the background of one of the photos he has taken. He goes back to the location to investigate when he is chased and captured by aliens and brought aboard their spacecraft, where he is put on a table and probed. Peter's model friend, Karen (Sherry Buchanan), goes to his studio and finds the negative of the photo. She calls her friend Tony (Robert Hoffman), a reporter for the Daily Herald, who comes over and takes the negative with him. Right after Tony leaves, a blinding flash of light engulfs the studio and all the photos disappear. Karen walks out of the studio in a trance and disappears. The next day, the police, headed by Inspector Grant (Martin Balsam, badly dubbed with an English accent), find Peter and Karen's vehicles abandoned in a park, a huge circular burn in the grass nearby. Tony begins an investigation and finds out that an old man and his dog were blinded that night a short distance away from the cars and that there were multiple reports of UFO sightings that night. The old man dies soon after (of radiation poisoning) and the military covers it up. Tony become suspicious and consults a noted ufologist, who tells him that UFOs are real and the military is aware and may be working in conjunction with them for nefarious reasons. He gives Tony some top secret documents and tells him to be careful.  Soon, the aliens and the military are trying to silence Tony and everyone Tony talks to ends up dead or too scared to talk. Can Tony get the information out to the public before the Men In Black (yes, they're here, but they are called "Silencers") and aliens shut Tony's trap for good? Prepare yourself for a nihilistic ending.  A mixture of paranoia, deceit and uncertainty permeate every frame of this film. The eerie electronic score, along with the use of fisheye lenses, give the film an otherworldly quality that greatly enhances the atmosphere. Director/screenwriter Roy Garrett (real name: Mario Gariazzo), who also directed the abysmal BROTHER FROM SPACE (1984) and the even hoarier THE COMING OF ALIENS (1978), which both also deal with extraterrestrial visitations, gives us a straight-up verbal history of UFO cover-ups across the world, all wrapped up in this little tale. He should know because during his opening directorial credit it states that he's a member of the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) and a field investigator for the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO). I don't know if any of that is true (Garrett died in 2002), but he sure does play everything that goes on in this film very seriously. On the minus side, the aliens are laughable. They're basically men in silver jumpsuits with a huge visor to hide their faces. The dubbing is also atrocious. Everyone speaks with a proper English accent even though it's abundantly clear that this wasn't filmed in England (the steering wheels on the cars are on the wrong side). It's still a pretty decent tale of government cover-ups, paranoia and trying to get to the truth, one of the true precursors to THE X-FILES (1993 - 2002). Also starring Nathalie Delon, Victor Valente, Sergio Rossi, Anthony Freeman and George Ardisson. A VCI Video Release. Also available on a double feature DVD (with UFO: TARGET EARTH - 1974) from Alpha Video. This can also be had as part of Brentwood Communications' 20 movie DVD compilation titled SPACE QUEST and Mill Creek Entertainment's SCI-FI INVASION 50 MOVIE DVD Compilation. Not Rated, but nothing really objectionable.

THE FINAL EXECUTIONER (1983) - This is another in a long line of Italian post-nuke films that flooded the marketplace during the 80's. After stock shots of atomic bomb explosions and volcano eruptions, a voice-over informs us that the future world contains two societies: The wealthy minority who are uncontaminated and the radiation-diseased majority. The wealthy amuse themselves by playing "The Hunt", a sick game where they hunt infected humans for fun, profit and bragging rights. Future hunters Erasmus (Harrison Muller of SHE [1983]) and Edra (Marina Costa) are competitors in the latest hunt; the prize being ownership of a white sniper rifle (One hunter says, "Whoever painted it didn't know the color of bullshit!"). Edra and her group savagely gun down over 25 people while Erasmus takes a more hands-on approach and kills six people with a samurai sword. Since Edra also killed six people, she and Erasmus are tied in the competition. They capture player Alan Tanner (William Mang) and decide to let him go (after raping and killing his wife!), agreeing that whoever hunts him down and kills him will win the game. After being shot by Edra and presumed dead, Alan is rescued by old-timer ex-cop Sam (Woody Strode). After repairing Sam's car, Alan and Sam stakeout a food drop, where they witness gangs of infected people fight each other to the death for tins of meat. We then find out that Alan had proof that the Earth and it's people are no longer infected by radiation and he was made "target material" by the wealthy minority, who don't wish the world to know the truth. After Sam teaches Alan fighting and survival techniques, Alan sets out to get revenge on those who raped and killed his wife. It won't be that easy since Erasmus and Edra still have a contest to win. Alan infiltrates the Hunters' compound and begins killing everyone there one-by-one (he even boobytraps a motorcycle so that when one female hunter tries to get away on it, it explodes underneath her). In the finale, it's Alan against Erasmus and Edra, where Alan gets an unexpected hand from Sam, just when things look hopeless.  This is a pretty weak apocalyptic tale thanks to the almost non-existant blood and gore. THE FINAL EXECUTIONER is plenty violent, as people are shot, stabbed, punched and blown up, but very little of it is bloody. The action scenes are handled well, but there's an over-reliance of slow-motion shots and nearly every death is handled this way. As with many Italian films of this type, there's a brutal rape which leads to the death of the woman being raped. This film is not without some effective moments, though. The Hunters have this device they put on their heads which allows their memories to be displayed on a TV screen and everyone gathers around to watch them like it's a night out at the movies. When one hunter puts the device on his head, it plays back the brutal rape. Hunter Diana (Margi Newton) gets turned-on from watching it and ends up screwing the guy projecting the memory. One wishes that director Romolo Guerrieri (THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH - 1968; COVERT ACTION - 1978) would have used more of these imaginative moments instead of focusing much of the screen time on William Mang as Alan. Mang has such an unexpressive face, it's hard to tell if he's taking a shit or just pissed off at the world. Another Italian post-nuke flick, ENDGAME (1983), told nearly the same story much more effectively and violently. Cannon Films handled the theatrical distribution for this. Also starring Maria Romano, Karl Zinny, Giovanni Cianfriglia, Renato Miracco and Stefano Davanzati. An MGM/UA Home Video Release. Not Rated.

FIST OF STEEL (1991) - Teddy Page directs a post-nuke flick! After some stock footage of an atom bomb explosion (you know the footage I'm talking about), we watch Amp (Dale "Apollo" Cook; FIST OF GLORY - 1991) and girlfriend Lyssa (Cynthia Khan; IN THE LINE OF DUTY 5 - 1990) trying to escape through the bleak landscape, only to be recaptured by a band of roving nomads, led by the dentally-challenged Mainframe (Gregg Douglass). Mainframe snaps Lyssa's neck and has his men crucify Amp in the sand (Which raises the question: How do the spikes driven through Amp's hands hold him in the sand?), but an unexpected sandstorm offers Amp an opportunity to escape. Amp stumbles through the desert until he is found by female villager Wild (Khan again), who brings Amp back to her village. The village leader (Mike Monty) doesn't approve of Amp's presence (Amp is a fighter called a "Spiker", who fights in tournaments for food and water), so as soon as Amp's wounds are healed, he leaves the village with an unwanted Wild in tow. It's a good thing she left with Amp, because a short time later, Mainframe's men invade her village looking for Amp and murder everyone when they don't find him. Amp and Wild travel from village to village, surviving on food and water Amp wins in Spiker tournaments. Amp teaches Wild the finer points of fighting so she can pull her own weight. After battling some mutant sand lepers, Amp and Wild end up in the next settlement, where Amp is reunited with old friend Scudder (Jim Gaines; JUNGLE RATS - 1987), an ex-Spiker who gave up fighting due to a traumatic event in his past. Amp enters into a tournament where the winner will fight the champion fighter, Mainframe, in the Spiker Championship Tournament. Amp takes on a series of increasingly difficult opponents and ends up the winner, but Mainframe's second-in-command, Wires (Don Nakaya Neilsen), nearly wrecks Amp's chances of getting even with Mainframe. The sand lepers kidnap our heroic trio and Amp is forced to fight their best fighter to the death. After Amp defeats the rotting-faced leper, the trio head to the next village, where Amp faces Mainframe in a final battle to the death.  Though nothing but a series of increasingly complex martial arts fights, FIST OF STEEL (also known as ETERNAL FIST) is an enjoyably goofy and bloody Filipino actioner. Late director Teddy Page (BLOOD DEBTS - 1983; WAR WITHOUT END - 1986), using his "Irving Johnson" pseudonym, and screenwriter Anthony Jesu have fashioned a fast-paced, if derivative, post-apocalypse tale that's short on plot, but contains more than enough bloody violence and even some comedy (Filipino staple Nick Nicholson is a hoot as a pot-smoking fight promoter) that fans of this genre should enjoy. There's nary a dull moment here, as people are pummeled, beaten to a bloody pulp, stabbed, shot with a crossbow, axed in the head or run-through with spears. What you won't find here, which is highly unusual for a film in this genre, is gunplay of any kind. Guns don't exist in this universe, as everyone either carries spears, knives, crossbows or other edged weapons. Mainframe and his men still drive around in dune buggies and gas is mentioned as a highly sought-after commodity, but there is not one mention of guns. I find that very refreshing, even though I'm sure the only reason we don't see firepower of any kind was strictly a cost-cutting measure on the production end. Bullet squibs and blanks aren't cheap, you know. This film has several "What The Fuck?!?" moments, including Mainframe's gleeful killing of Scudder (Gregg Douglass clearly relishes his role, which makes his limited screen time a treat for viewers) and Amp getting drunk and coming-on to Wild by asking, "I guess a blowjob is out of the question?" The fighting scenes are solidly filmed and well choreographed and the acting by Cook (who made BLOOD RING with Page the same year), Khan and Gaines gets the job done without being embarrassing, which is surprising, since Cook is usually stiffer than a corpse in Winter in all the other films I have seen him in (Try watching AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2 [1993] sometime). If you can imagine a post-nuke flick without all the normal pyrotechnics you've come to expect, give FIST OF STEEL a try. You may just find yourself liking it. Also starring Ned Hourani, Crist Agular, Big Boy Gomez, Paul Petterson, Adnan Trad, Craig Judd and David Giberson. An Action International Pictures Home Video VHS Release. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

FOOD OF THE GODS (1976) - A lot of people believe the giant monster films of director/producer/writer Bert I. Gordon are worthless pieces of crap, but I believe they miss the point. They were a mixture of the sign of their times with lots of camp value and I still believe that Mr. B.I.G. (who is still alive today at 93 years-young at the time this review was written) meant them to be nothing other than entertainment. Cheap, goofy entertainment. His 1950's giant monster flicks, BEGINNING OF THE END (1957; giant grasshoppers!); THE CYCLOPS (1957); THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957); its sequel WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST (1958; the last three dealing with giant human men); and EARTH VS. THE SPIDER (1958; self explanatory), all dealt with the paranoia of atomic bombs and their after-effects (Even as a child of the early 60's, I saw the ridiculousness of the "Duck and Cover" routine we had to perform in school every day). Gordon even made a reverse version of his giant people films with ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE in 1958, his 1965 VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS (actually his first attempt to film the H.G. Wells story) dealt with teenage rebellion against authority in their lives (the film is worth it just to see a young, giant Beau Bridges dancing in a toga and the crazy midget ending!), and this film and his EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977) were about how we fucked with the ecology too much until Mother Nature decided to take revenge. All these films were products of their times, but they made no political statements; they were made to be quick cheap entertainmant (If you can't find most of Gordon's 50's monster films on U.S. DVD, blame Susan Hart, the widow of American International Pictures co-founder James H. Nicholson, who is holding these and other A.I.P. films hostage because she wants an enormous amount of money for their DVD or Blu-Ray releases and no company is crazy enough to believe they would make their investment back. I haven't seen some of them since their TV showings in the 1970's and I refuse to watch the MST 3000 versions because they are heavily edited to run in an alotted time.). Mr. Gordon was also capable of making serious films, such as the horror film TORMENTED (1960); the thriller PICTURE MOMMY DEAD (1966); the extremely bloody and surprising action film THE POLICE CONNECTION (1972; stay away from versions on VHS titled THE MAD BOMBER because they are heavily edited TV versions. Invest in the beautiful uncut Code Red DVD.); the supernatual-tinged PG-Rated NECROMANCY (1972; which had softcore orgy footage added in the early-80's and was released Unrated on VHS as THE WITCHING. It is nearly impossible to see the original version now and Orson Wells was livid when he found out that his 1972 film was altered without his or Mr. Gordon's permission, turning the film into a sexploitation item.); the Salem, Massachusetts-lensed witchcraft film BURNED AT THE STAKE (1981; a.k.a. THE COMING); another bloody supernatural film called SATAN'S PRINCESS (1990) and a film I never heard of before, SECRETS OF A PSYCHOPATH (2014), which Mr. Gordon made when he was 92 years-old! He also made a couple of fantasies and three sex comedies in the 60's, 70's & 80's. I happen to think that FOOD OF THE GODS is Bert I. Gordon's best giant animal film, because the effects are better (even when you take the obviously fake puppets heads out of the equation), there are many different species of giant animals and insects, there are some downright atmospheric scenes (The forced perspective shots are a lot better than normal) and there's a gruesomeness factor not seen in most films Rated PG. The film is narrated by professional football player Morgan (Marjoe Gortner; BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW - 1975), as his coach suggests that he and a couple of his friends take a small vacation before the big game (Professional football has changed a lot since 1976!). so Morgan's friend Davis (Chuck Courtney) and P.R. man Brian (Jon Cypher; BLADE - 1972), take a nice peaceful trip to a secluded island, but something sticks in Morgan's  mind that his father told him when he was a child: "Morgan, one of these days Earth will get even with man for messing her up with his garbage, Just let man continue to pollute the Earth the way he is and nature will rebel. It's going to be one hell of a rebellion." Morgan, his friends and some strangers are going to have a first-hand look at that rebellion sooner than they think. The first thing Morgan and his two friends do is ride horses while two hunting dogs chase a deer. Once to dogs corner the doe, Morgan lets it go, but Davis wants to kill it, so he heads out on horseback to go after it. All of a sudden the horse bolts and Davis is thrown off while we hear a buzzing sound in the air. Davis is then attacked by giant wasps (done with Gordon's usual superimposition and practical effects) and when his friends hear Davis' yells for help, they arrive too late. When Morgan turns over his body, we see that Davis' face is grossly swollen (an effect that could never be shown in a PG film today). While Brian stays with the body, Morgan goes looking for some help and finds the Skinner Farm, but when he knocks on the door, no one answers. He hears a noise coming from a nearby shed, so he opens it and is attacked and nearly pecked to death by giant chickens (the heads are obviously plastic puppets) and barely makes it out of the shed alive. Then he meets Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino; THE DEVIL'S RAIN - 1975), who begs Morgan to come into the house to look at something. Morgan notices some rat holes in the walls and Mrs. Skinner tells Morgan that there's a white goop that is somewhere on the farm's ground. No animal will eat it unless it is mixed with feed, but only the young grow to huge heights, the adults remain the same, but the adults don't live too long, because in Mrs. Skinner's words the young ones "et them". She also says that the white goop is "the way it comes to us from the Lord": out of a hole in the ground. Morgan notices a wasp on a jar marked with "F.O.T.G." and knows this is the substance that is causing all the problems. Morgan and Brian take Davis' body back to the mainland for burial (the only way to and from the island is by ferry), while Mrs. Skinner is left by herself and has her hand attacked and mutilated by some giant slug-like creatures (it's bloody and pushes the PG boundary again). Mr. Skinner (John McLiam) comes back from the mainland after making a deal with some company about selling the white goop. He hopes it will solve the world hunger problem. He drives his VW Beetle on the road back to his farm when he gets a flat tire. He goes out to change it when he notices a pack of giant rats heading his way. He jumps in his car and locks all the doors, but it is little help as the rats (or rather rat puppet heads, which this time are rather good) break the car's windows and make a meal out of Mr. Skinner (another very bloody scene). At Davis' autopsy, the coroner states that Davis died from no less than 250 wasp stings, so Morgan and Brian head back to the island to warn Mrs. Skinner, while the callous company representative that Mr. Skinner hired to handle the sale of the goop, Mr. Bensington (Ralph Meeker; WITHOUT WARNING - 1979) and his disgusted assistant, Lorna (Pamela Franklin; THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE - 1973) arrive at the Skinner Farm, not even bothering to stop and help Tom (Tom Stovall) and his very pregnant wife Rita (Belinda Balaski; PIRANHA - 1977) get their RV out of the mud they are stuck in and never see Mr. Skinner's totally wrecked Beetle. Yes, Bensington is a real bastard and it begins to worry Mrs. Skinner, who is afraid that he will takes all of their goop and leave her with nothing (which he would have done if not for the interference of Lorna, who has a conscience and knows how Bensington works). Morgan and Brian just arrive in the nick of time and skeet shoot some giant wasps as they begin to attack Bensington, but, being the heartless bastard that he is, he doesn't even say thanks, rather telling them that he owns the goop lock, stock and barrel. Morgan and Brian find the giant wasps' nest and blow it up with a homemade bomb. Lorna falls down a giant rat hole and Morgan goes in to fetch her, but a cave-in force them to look for another way to escape, which they do with the help of Morgan and Brian's shotguns (Rats are shot in slow motion with red paintballs, and any one who has been shot in an unprotected area with a paintball knows how much it hurts, so I am sure some rats were killed in this film). After Brian saves their skins, they discover Bensington filling his Caddy's trunk up with jars of the goop and plans to drive through the rats with his car. Morgan and Brian take the Jeep out to see how many rats they are dealing with (Driving a Jeep with no roof? Good luck Sherlock!) and discover hundreds of rats and the RV is swarming with them (Luckily, Tom and Rita have made it to the Skinner Farm). Morgan seems to have a plan: Rodeo the rats into the lake by electrifying the fence with a portable generator and hoping the rats will drown (Brian says, "Rats can swim! Have you ever seen a hippo sink to the bottom?"). It works for a moment, but the rats disable the generator. Of course, as soon as Brian says that, he is devoured by some pissed-off giant rats (another very bloody scene). When Morgan makes it back to the farm, he destroys all the goop in the Caddy's trunk, while Bensington is eaten by the rats (Hooray!). Everyone else fortifies the inside of the farm as the rats attack (some of the rat shooting, done in slow-motion with the rats squealing, and the rat attacks are very well done) and notice there is a giant white rat outside that seems to be the leader. Morgan makes some pipe bombs and some molotov cocktails to take out the rats and blow up the local dam, which will flood the whole area (unfortunately, Mrs. Skinner is eaten by some rats while Morgan is driving to the dam). Rita also decides that this is the perfect time to have her baby, which turns out to be a boy (I hope she doesn't call him Willard or Ben). Morgan blows up the dam and the water begins to flow, as Morgan races back to the farm (The effects of the water escaping from the dam is the worst special effect in the film, all of which were done by Bert I. Gordon himself). Morgan and the rest of the survivors run upstairs to an alcove on the roof, while they watch all the rats drown (this is a pretty effective and well-done shot). The white rat makes a surprise appearance on the roof, but Morgan beats it to death with the butt of his shotgun. Once the water recedes, Morgan and Tom put all the dead rats in piles and burn them and hope the nightmare is over. The next winter, we see two jars of goop floating down a river where dairy cows are feeding. We then watch the cows being milked and then see a schoolgirl drinking a small carton of milk as the end credits rolls (Remember, the goop only affects the young). I have the feeling that the nightmare is just beginning.  Say what you want about Bert I. Gordon, but he does seem to get a cast of pros to act in his films, no matter how silly they seem. I have always liked this film and own both the Vestron Video VHS and the MGM "Midnite Movies" DVD (which was one of my favorite line of DVDs), but if you want to see the film like you have never seen it before, I would recommend you buy the Scream Factory double feature Blu-Ray (with FROGS - 1972; a film which takes the same conceit, but applies it to normal-sized animals and insects). The print is flawless and it even has a commentary by Mr. B.I.G. himself (ported over from the MGM DVD), a new interview with Belinda Balaski and the original theatrical trailer.. To me, he has been a legend since the 1950's and that's a long time to be in the business. The fact that people are still interested in his films (either as drunk Friday night viewings or serious film watching) speaks volumes about his popularity. At least one of his films played each week during the 70's, back when watching these old films was considered a privilege, not something for instant gratification. Still, it's nice to see his films get the Blu-Ray treatment. Now, if only Susan Hart will loosen her pursestrings! Followed by an unrelated Canadian tax shelter film (that had nothing to do with Bert I. Gordon), GNAW: FOOD OF THE GODS PART 2 (1989). A Scream Factory Blu-Ray Release. Rated PG.

FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982) - Throughout the 80's & 90's, producer Roger Corman made dozens of films copying the success of ALIEN (1979). This is one of his earliest and best of those copies. After being awakened from a cryogenic sleep by android SAM-104 (Dan Olivera) and doing battle with some alien spaceships (in footage "borrowed" from Corman's STAR WARS rip-off, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS [1980]), Captain Mike Colby (Jesse Vint; BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY - 1977) is sent to a desolate planet to investigate an "accident" which has occurred at a top-secret laboratory located there. Mike is met by Dr. Gordon Hauser (Linden Chiles) and his assistant, Dr. Barbara Glaser (June Chadwick; HEADHUNTER - 1989), where Dr. Hauser informs Mike that while creating a totally new food source, they have also created a creature called "Subject 20", a metamorph that is constantly changing its genetic makeup to adapt to its surroundings. It seems Subject 20 broke free and slaughtered a bunch of lab animals and when it stopped its killing spree, it put itself in a large incubator, where it now rests in a cocooned state. Mike wants to kill it immediately, by Dr. Hauser and Dr. Cal Timbergen (Fox Harris) talk him out of it by convincing him that by studying the creature, they could open up new discoveries in rapid genetic changes (Imagine turning a single grain of rice into something big enough to feed a large family). Well, that turns out to be a big mistake, as Subject 20 springs back to life and attaches itself to the face (Hey, where have I seen this before?) of lab technician Jimmy (Michael Bowen), where it gestates inside his body before hatching into a totally new creature which begins hunting down and devouring the laboratory staff, beginning with Earl (Scott Paulin). The more the creature (which now looks much more like the ALIEN) eats, the larger and more intelligent it becomes (it absorbs the knowledge of its victims). From here on in, FORBIDDEN WORLD becomes your standard "monster on the loose in a locked-down facility" scenario, albeit one with more female nudity than you usually find on films of this type and a truly inspired way to defeat the creature.  As directed by Allan Holzman, FORBIDDEN WORLD stands out from most ALIEN clones thanks to some effective quick shock cuts that are almost subliminal (Holzman was also the Editor here) and plenty of bloody gore and full-frontal female nudity. Both June Chadwick and Dawn Dunlap have several nude scenes, both separately and together and they are eye-opening (Damn, they are gorgeous!). Tim Curnen's screenplay (based on a story by Jim Wynorski and R.J. Robertson) is really nothing but rehashed scenes from countless alien-on-the-loose flicks, but director Holzman (OUT OF CONTROL - 1985; PROGRAMMED TO KILL - 1987) manages to overcome the clichés by keeping the camera off-balance and the gore flowing at a steady pace. The acting is uniformly flat (especially Jesse Vint, who looks bored throughout, except when he is next to the nude bodies of Ms. Dunlap or Ms. Chadwick), but we don't watch these knock-offs for their emoting, do we? FORBIDDEN WORLD (also known as MUTANT) is an entertaining quickie (it clocks-in just a tad over 73 minutes) that contains enough exploitative elements (nudity, violence, blood and feeding a cancerous human liver to the creature to kill it!) to keep even the most jaded genre fan shocked and amused. Also starring Raymond Oliver. Cost-cutting auteur Roger Corman remade this film in 1990 under the title DEAD SPACE. Avoid that one and watch this instead. Originally available on VHS from Embassy Home Entertainment and also available on fullscreen German DVD from Anolis (with optional English soundtrack) under the title MUTANT: DAS GRAUEN IM ALL. Also available on widescreen DVD & Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory as part of their hugely successful "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" line, which sets the standard for future generations to enjoy this film. Rated R.

FUTURE FORCE (1989) - The year 1989 was a good year role-wise for the late David Carradine; appearing in this insane ultra-low-budget ROBOCOP rip-off, as well as playing Mama Pearl in the unclassifiable SONNY BOY. In FUTURE FORCE, it's the not-too-distant future of 1991 and the United States has become a haven for criminals of every type. So much so, that all local, state and federal law enforcement organizations no longer exist. They have been taken over by big corporations, who have created Civilian Operated Police Systems, Inc., or "C.O.P.S." for short (the film's original shooting title), that takes care of all the crime fighting needs. One such civilian officer is John Tucker (Carradine), who we first see shooting a drug dealer with his six-gun (and saying such things like, "You are guilty until proven innocent!") and then strapping-on a metal power glove, created by young scientist Billy (D.C. Douglas), to blow up a car containing the drug dealer's two customers, who try to run Tucker