Posts Tagged ‘comedy

02
Jun
18

(NSFW) Recruits (1986): Tittyzens on Patrol

 

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a Primal Root review

“Break and enter, gross indecency, attempted murder, sexual assault with intent to rape… Do you think they’ll keep me in jail for this?” – Howie Gluckstein, introducing himself in Recruits (1986)

The Police Academy films were a staple of my childhood. The plethora of sequels to this unfathomably long running Steve Guttenberg franchise were constantly being played on HBO and I remember being in the single digits and begging my Mom to rent any sequel to the series. Was I, even at that young age, a fan of seeing figures of authority portrayed as buffoons? I doubt it was anything like that, I’m pretty sure it was just the stupid slapstick humor and vibrant, unabashed perverse sense of humor. Hell, it was the franchise that introduced to me the concept of the leather clad gay biker bar YEARS before Nightmare on Elm Street part 2: Freddy’s Revenge had a chance to.  But, I digress…

Now, going back and watching these movies, I have no idea what exactly the appeal was of that very first Police Academy film. Sure, it had some great comedic talent, but for the most part, I feel a lot of it was wasted and it just wasn’t that impressively funny, let alone, six sequels and a seventh Mission to Moscow funny.

Which brings me to Recruits from 1986, the first in a series of one Canadian made Police Academy knock-offs that, to my own amazement, beats Police Academy at it’s own game and delivers. Sure, there were at least a half dozen imitators that followed in Police Academy’s wake like, Feds, Night Patrol, Off Beat, Moving Violations, etc. But few did it with a down and dirty purity like the highly perverted and sleaze saturated Recruits.

The basic story is as follows: Sgt. Hardbutt has two weeks to recruit a civilian team to protect the Governor who is coming to town, but they must be so inept, he can pull off an assassination of the Governor in order to promote the Mayor and then replace the position as Mayor Hardbutt. So, he plunders the darkest corners of his prison to recruit about a dozen perverts, sex workers, drunkards, and violent offenders in order to assemble his team of misfits who he then has his Master Sgt. Stonewall actually train like their in a military academy for those two weeks to the point they are actually kind of okay cops by the end.

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We are introduced to this group of characters as they fall prey to their own corrupt and immoral behavior before getting arrested, all of which typically involved exposed female breasts, which becomes apparent real quick, to be the bread and butter of this film. Our main character and Chris Pratt prototype, Mike Budowsky (Doug Annear) is arrested while dressed as a lobster and banging the Mayor’s daughter Lobster style at a fundraising event for her father. Winston and Steve stalk the beach and have an elaborate scam to sexually assault women that involves a hazmat suit and saying they need women to remove their bikinis so they can check them for signs of radiation, which the women eventually smile and do happily once they realize these men are just trying to assault them, tops to the sand, boobs a plenty. And of course, Howie, the four eyed yacht cleaner by trade, who slips and falls into the cuddy cabin of a boat he happens to be cleaning and face first into a smiling naked woman’s bare breasts, who is all about it, until her muscle head boyfriend busts in the room and has him arrested for attempted rape, sexual assault, gross indecency and…attempted murder?

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There’s scene after scene with hardly any connective tissue at all. Here’s some examples. Scene: Female recruit mock arrests our main character and tells him to unpack the “gun” from his pants, of course, they whip out their low back throbber and every one marvels at the size of his appendage which, of course, is kept totally off screen. CUT! Next Scene:  The Recruits are handed guns with live rounds and no training and are expected to hit targets, of course, they end up firing bullets into police headquarters and right through the Sergeants coffee mug. CUT! Next Scene: Howie is caught LITERALLY cleaning his gun while in bed, but German seductress Sgt. Schicklgruber (Colleen Passard) assumes he’s beating off, strips down to her elaborate display of underwear, before grabbing his weapon and it fires into the ceiling leaving the two in awkward, stunned silence. CUT! Next scene: Two guys end up in bed together under false pretenses thinking they’re with women, exchange a passionate kiss and then spend two minutes of screen time screaming at one another and spitting on the ground. CUT! Next Scene: Add an absolutely adorable motorcycle training sequence where Jon Mikl Thor of Zombie Nightmare fame, as Thunderhead does some rather lackluster, but supposedly mind blowing stunts, the old, drunk geezer recruit continually falls of his motorcycle and the Mayor’s daughter keeps her bike in place, but grinds her lady bits into the seat as the motor roars and she groans in ecstasy.

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And this bizarre form of comedic story telling, honestly, works in the films favor. You don’t care about the characters at all, but it’s all so goddamn stupid and poorly executed that it works in spite of itself. It’s like a really dumb dog trying to catch a frisbee. It wants to, and it’s trying really hard, but the frisbee keeps hitting the poor, drooling, stupidly happy dog in the face who just keeps smiling like an idiot with it’s tongue dangling out. It’s adorable and you can’t help but love it for all it’s simple minded flaws.

Now, of course, in the year 2018 just about ALL of these jokes have not aged well. Most assuredly the majority of the jokes revolve around women being either totally butt nekkid or topless due to someone ripping off their blouse accidentally…or what seems to be totally on purpose. Let me tell you, I have seen plenty of Trashy movies in my day, and I can with all honesty say, I have NEVER in my viewing experiences EVER seen this many pairs of bare female breasts in one movie. If a woman shows up on screen, chances are you are going to see her tits. Sure, the first five minutes you see about three pairs of tits and it gets an awkward chuckle, “This is funny?” But by the twenty minute mark, what becomes hilarious, is seeing to what lengths the filmmakers will go to justify the gag of a woman having her breasts exposed for the camera. It ludicrous and astoundingly perverted, but seeing a film so tit happy is kind of remarkable. I guess boobs were much funnier in the 1980’s than they are today. Seems like wieners have taken over as the comic relief piece of the human anatomy in the new millennium. Which is fine, but man, do I miss all those boobs…

Another repeated gag that has aged pretty poorly, is the gag attributed to a recruit named Clint. Clint is a character who’s hilarious characteristic is how gun happy he is. He shoots at everyone. Jay walkers, tiny children going faster than him on their big wheels, etc. This day and age, I don’t think anyone is laughing at trigger happy policemen and is a joke that would never be made nowadays, unless it’s Sandra Bullock shooting off a man’s genitals. It lent itself to some uncomfortable laughs and knowing “holy shit” looks exchanged between Bootsie Kidd and I, but this would not even make it onto the page these days.

There’s even a strange racially charged scene where an African Canadian recruit, Winston, goes into a country western bar, trying to emulate Eddie Murphy’s character from 48 Hours (his own words). Winston, once intimidated by the racist white trash rednecks that inhabit the place after he orders a black russian, states that he is a cop. When this tactic fails, Winston claims he has multiple personality disorder, then gets the shit kicked out of him and thrown out of the bar. He later rectifies this situation with a leopard he brings into the western bar at the end of the film to maul the rednecks to death. It’s a very awkward character arc with very little comedic delivery, but it pays off in all kinds of awkward.

All these half hazardly strewn together scenes and story arcs lead to the attempted assassination of The Governor via civial war cannon… because Sgt. Hardbutt wants a “big bang.” The Governor is driven to town by two naked recruits he interrupted while they were fucking, he has the top to the convertible dropped down to he and his wife can wave to their supporters, and all Hell breaks loose! The cannon misses, obliterates the stage, the crowd erupts into a riot, the nekkid recruits literally scream “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” Before running for their lives wearing nothing but their police issued hats, boobs bouncing, and Howie crashes his motorcycle into the back of The Governor’s car, does a back flip of the trunk, grab’s the Governor’s wife’s blouse and rips it off (of course) exposing her huge breasts for the world to see. THE ARISTOCRATS!

As you might imagine, the recruits are fired, but not before, for some reason, the mayor hires them all back because the rest of the police for quits or goes on strike or something. For whatever reason, the city is experiencing riots and looting and the only people who can put an end to it are The Recruits! They suit up and go to work using their highly illegal methods, my favorite is the use of teenage baton twirlers to savagely crush the testicles of a half dozen rednecks looting a farmer’s market, to crack down on the epidemic of crime. Paul Verhoven would later use this plot point to greater effect in 1987’s ROBOCOP.

Will the recruits prove that Sgt. Hardbutt and Master Sgt. Stonewall are the culprits behind the assassination attempt of The Governor? Will they be reinstated as actual police officers so they won’t have to go back to their low paying lives as sexual assaulters? And, most importantly, how many more bare female breasts can we cram into the run time of this fucking movie? I can answer that one for you, AS MANY AS POSSIBLE!

Recruits shouldn’t work. Especially over twenty years later.Recruits is unrelentingly dumb. An artifact from the past filled with politically incorrect humor, unabashed perversion, and the most gratuitous movie I’ve ever seen in a genre picture of this ilk in my entire life in Trash Cinema. Mix all these ingredients together, and you have aGrade A slice of beautifully realized Trash Cinema Comedy Gold well worth the revisit.

I’m awarding Recruits FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Available to rent on glorious VHS at Tallahassee’s Own Cap City Video Lounge! Or watch it on youtube in it’s uncensored entirety.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

28
May
18

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014) High Octane Corpse Grinder

 

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a Primal Root written review

“You get to see what the Adults do after dark…” – The Doctor, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

The zombie apocalypse has been done to fucking death. I used to eat every film, every book, every piece of pop culture I could find related to the re-animated, flesh craving undead ever since I unearthed a VHS copy of both George A. Romero’s classics Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) from a  bargain bin inside the Tallahassee Mall back in the early to mid 90’s when the zombie genre was far from thriving. I was infatuated, tracking down as much as I could back int he day before there was a computer, let alone the internet, in our house. Fast forward over twenty years later, and not only has the living dead genre risen from it’s shallow grave and crawled back to life, but the hordes of these shambling corpses have practically taken over pop culture to point they are appearing of throw blankets, children’s films and are the central issue in long running, incredibly repetitious television programs.

To me, the zombie genre has been irrelevant and tiresome for decades. The last time a living dead film really got me revved up it w=as probably Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, when a filmmaker decided to create an updated version of the creature and new rules were invented. It livened things up and gave us something new and truly interesting within a genre that was just beginning to come back into sharp focus within the cinematic landscape. But, before long, it was the same old horde of zombies, following the same old rules, chasing the same rag tag group of thieves and misfits. It’s tired, done, to death, and no real fresh blood has been injected to give this world something to interest me.

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That all came to an end the other night when I sat down to a viewing of the 2014 film entitled Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. An Australian independent horror film that took nearly four years to create and touts itself as”Dawn of the Dead Meets Mad Max.” The film has more unrestrained energy, ferocious creativity and enthusiasm for the genre than I’ve come across since Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive aka: Brain Dead from 1992 and Drew Bolduc & Dan Nelson’s The Taint from 2011.  Wyrmwood is the living dead film I have been craving for 25 year, a film so fun, so heartfelt and so genre defying while staying true to it’s spirit, it not only revived my love and hope for a genre that has been the lackluster, stale floating turd of horror for far too long. Wyrmwood is the new high watermark of the genre. Seriously, it is THAT good. This mother fucker IS the fiery, fresh shot of new blood the likes of which I never even dreamed I’d see again.

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Wyrmood: Road of the Dead starts off on familiar territory, we are introduced to our central characters which will be Barry (Jay Gallagher) a bearded, well built handy man, husband and father of a cute and rambunctious young daughter who is woken out of a sound sleep by the sounds of a society starting to collapse just outside the door to his warm suburban home. Brooke (Bianca Bradey), his sister who happens to be a makeup artist working on a photo shoot with two other young ladies when the outbreak begins, and Benny (Leon Burchill) who is on a camping trip with his mates when they all witness the plethora of shooting starts lighting up the sky the night the outbreak begins. All prove to be more than capable of defending themselves against these living dead, human meat chomping, ghouls, but it soon becomes apparent that these zombies are not playing by the familiar rules set up by George Romero 40 years ago. No, these foul breathed carnivorous creeps are something entirely different.

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Sure, some of the same rules apply, obliterate their head and they drop like a sack of monkey cum, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how people are becoming infected, not only that, but there’s a strange new mystery revolving around which certain machines have stopped functioning. The story splits off into two different tales as we follow Barry and Brooke on their struggles to survive. After Barry loses both his wife and daughter, he is left suicidal, but soon begins to cross paths with other survivors, discovers answers to mysteries about their current biblical Doomsday situation, and steadily gains back his will to live by harnessing his grief and rage into being proactive and moving forward into this new, horrifying world while trying to protect those around him. Brooke, on the other hand, is abducted, drugged and experimented on by a disco dancing wack job in a hazmat suit who is part of a roving pack of the Australian military, it would seem, who continuously inject her with a serum  created using the blood of those infected with this reanimated virus which results in some very unexpected consequences.

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If you think any of what I’ve told you above is a spoiler, trust me, they are not by a LONG shot. I went into Wyrmwood knowing nothing at all about it and the film left me absolutely thrilled and slack jawed by it’s immense creativity and bold new and totally out of left field rules. On several occasions Wyrmwood completely inverts audience expectations and leaves you wondering just where the Hell the filmmakers are planning to take you. It’s a spirit and kind of maniacal glee in a team of creative thinkers always one upping themselves and deciding to crash right ahead down the road less traveled and blazing a whole new path that they know will leave the audience on the edge of their seats and smiling ear to ear. Several time during our viewing, Bootsie Kidd and I turned and looked at one another, eyes wide, gapping smiles and laughing with absolute joy at just how insanely intelligent, hilarious and deeply human this Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead was. Not afraid to introduce likable characters and then rip them away from us brutally, and often with fates worse than death, and allowing viewers to feel the gravity of these losses. Sometimes you might laugh at the absurdity of the loss, but there’s almost always a moment of sorrow for them being gone.

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I really don’t want to say a whole lot more about Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, and I STRONGLY advise you don’t watch the trailer and simply go in blind. I can guarantee it will be a far more rewarding experience, as the trailer spoils pretty much everything that’s surprising and original about the film itself. I know Wyrmwood likes to advertise that it’s like Dawn of the Dead meets Mad Max, but to me, it feels almost like a spiritual offspring of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead meets Peter Jackson’s early work, specifically Bad Taste and Dead Alive aka: Brain Dead. It’s a go for broke, low budget, independent labor of love. The kind of love you can feel just oozing from this thing like so much maggot filled vomit from the black, rotten, gob of and long deteriorating zombie. Truly, it’s the kind of film I could see Oscar winning director Peter Jackson making today is he were to get back to his roots ala: George Miller with Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s honestly that fucking impressive.

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Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is the low budget high energy and inspiration action gore fest the genre has been lacking in for what feels like fucking ages. I happen to know the film’s director, Kiah Roache-Turner has a new film coming out this year entitled Nekromancer, a tale about a man who hunts down and destroys demons in the internet. After watching the absolute joy that is Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, I am chomping at the bit to see how Kiah will subvert the genre and surprise us in the future.

I am awarding Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Check this breathless and badass motherfucker out, Gang.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

29
May
17

Never Too Young To Die (1986) From Stargrove With Love

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a Primal Root written Review

If I had a dime for every franchise started that claimed to be “The Next James Bond.” It seems to be a height countless studios have tried to reach since Bond proved so ceaselessly profitable. Classy, violent, misogynistic, and featuring gadgets, over the top improbably action and dynamite opening credit sequences that often times are the highlight of these action and espionage drenched goofball male fantasy spank fests. Bond proved to be a franchise that could carry on indefinitely, changing creative hands, trading out talent, and even continuities and never to the detriment of the fans. Except those who hate Daniel Craig for whatever reason.

The fact is, I’ve never been a huge James Bond fan, but I know the tropes pretty damn well, and every time a wannabe comes along it’s apparent and, in it’s own way, no matter hopeful or interesting it might be, a little pitiful. Why? Because it always feels like these films are trying to “One Up” James Bond. And with a franchise this long standing, there’s hardly a chance. You should probably have some respect for the franchise that inspired your lame wannabe flick. The franchise inspired such unabashed ripoffs as Secret Agent Super Dragon, Operation Kid Brother (starring NEIL Connery), A Man Called Dagger and more recently modern crap that tries to update the formula like XXX starring Vin Diesel, where our new Bond character is an EXTREME Mountain Dew ad of a special agent, and that goofy Kingsman: The Secret Service, where a young parkore kid gets fitted in a nice suite and fucks a princess in the ass. How far we have come, huh? Or should I say, “cum”? Bus, I digress…

Because there IS one James Bond ripoff that I have an immense appreciation for. One that gives it’s nods to the franchise that obviously inspired it, but also blazes it’s own trashy, wonderfully weird and awkward path towards cinematic action glory. It’s Gil Bettman’s 1986 Daddy Issues, terrorist thwarting, action and espionage classic, Never Too Young to Die!

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John Stamos (TV’s Full House) IS Lance Stargrove! A young man attending a prestigious academic academy and happens to be an accomplished gymnast and a straight A student, thanks to his Asian buddy, Cliff (Peter Kwong) who helps him cheat via wristwatch. Lance is also a gloomy gus because his Mom died years ago and he never sees his Father, Drew Stargrove (George Lazenby of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, SEE! That’s respect! Putting an ACTUAL actor who played James Bond in your goofy James Bond wannabe flick!) When Lance’s Pop’s doesn’t show up the Parent’s Day to watch him hang from some rings, he takes it to heart. Old Dad dropped the ball and let him down again. Little does Lance know, his Dad is a hard nosed, wisecracking, badass secret agent who is missing Parent’s Day trying to thwart a terrorist plot to poison California’s entire water supply with toxic waste.  This is the horrifying plan dreamed up by evil hermaphroditic terrorist, sociopath, snazzy dresser, murderer,  night club performer and general madman, Velvet Von Ragner (played by show stealing Gene Simmons from the legendary rock bad KISS). When Lance’s Father is double crossed and puts up a  valiant struggle against Ragner and his goons (who dress in Road Warrior sheik at ALL times which doesn’t help them blend in at all)  in vein, Lance feels somehow feels it in the middle of his gymnastic routine and drops to the floor like a sack of shit.

At his Father’s wake, the official explanation is “car accident”, but lance isn;t buying it. Especially after he lays eyes on the sexy, sultry, mourning, Ms. Danja Deering (Vanity, RIP, of Action Jackson and The Last Dragon Fame) who manages to look good in head to toe black in the sweltering California heat.  Lance tracks her down at his recently inherited farm just in time to watch Danja stomp a warrior of the wasteland’s face into some horse shit before the place gets set on fire, igniting a box labeled “grenades” and blowing the whole damn place sky high. After this harrowing encounter, Lance begins whining and and accuses Danja of banging his Dad as she gets disrobed in the kitchen and grabs a gun from above the oven as an alarm goes off warning of intruders. It happens to be Caruthers, a ginger bearded member of the same nameless agency Danja and the late Drew Stargrove worked for, at least as far I can tell. They have their first of many conversations that repeatedly emphasis that Ragner IS A HERMAPHRODITE, and is almost certainly the person responsible for Drew Stargrove’s brutal murder.

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Danja heads to an avant-garde biker bar called The Incinerator where Ragner, a known terrorist threat and certainly on The FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List,  is performing her strange spoken word rock and roll stage show. Of course, Lance tags along, requests a lube job from a transgendered waitress. Danja tells this idiot to go home, to which he replies, “I don;t have a home!” I suppose the excitement of the day made poor Lance forget about not only his dorm room, but the enormous farm he just inherited. Ragner takes the stage and speaks a diddy about be a hermaphrodite which includes the immortal line “It takes a man like me to be a woman like me!” as Danja reveals to Lance that Ragner is the person who killed his Father. Lance responds by accusing her of fucking his Father again and Danja storms away from the privileged little shrivel dick.

Lance follows Danja into the desert and they are both viciously attacked by mutant road warriors and kidnapped. Lance wakes up at home, which is oddly enough where the goons brought him, and they begin to beat him savagely as they demand to know where a disc containing the map of the Los Angeles sewer system is.  After smacking face around the kitchen sink, feeding him a cherry tomato (seriously) and throwing him through  half a dozen book cases, Lance fondles his Father’s family jewels and he feels a stirring! He stops cry and uses all his gymnast powers to flip around the den and throw these greases caked fuck faces out the upstairs window before grabbing a shot bun and blasting it into the air at random while screaming, “I’M STARGROVE! I’M STARGROVE!” Cliff soon arrives, having stashed the super secret disc in his new motorcycle. The two discover where Danja is being held captive, head over, and begin callously, mercilessly , killing people left and right. Sure, they’re all bad guys, but Lance and Cliff show up and just start blowing people to pieces and neither one seems all that affected by the death they are dishing out. Have these two gone on murder sprees in the past? Because for two college boys who have not been established as expert gun wielders or people killers, they sure are efficient and emotionless about it. Lance even shoots several folks who are running away from him. Out hero, ladies and gents!

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As our heroes rescue Danja, we are treated to a scene of Ragner, at his secret headquarters,  slicing the throat of his henchman with her extra long middle finger nail for not retrieving the sewer disc.  Ragner’s top scientist, played by Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger) show Ragner the specs for redirected toxic waste into California’s water supply. Looking at the computer screen Ragner remarks on what a beautiful shade of purple the merging of drinking water and toxic waste makes, only thing is, THERE IS NO SHADE OF PURPLE WHATSOEVER ON THE MONITOR! That Ragner, he truly IS a madman…

Meanwhile, Carruthers comes up with a plan to flush Ragner out of hiding, by putting Lanca and Danja is a little cabin together and spying on it to see if Ragner will attack. This plan, of course, leads to one of the highlights of the film. See, Danja REALLY want to pork Lance for saving her bacon (HA!), but Lance is all shy and hesitant and doesn’t feel it’s right. So she strips down to a bikini and begins pouring oil all over herself, her tits, her thighs, all while Lance tries to resist by drinking Perrier and eating apples. What really does it, is when Danja finally whips here chesticles out and begins doing a dance of seduction with a filthy water hose. Lance tosses his apple asides, picks her up, takes to bed and begins plowing her soy bean field. It is truly one of the most erotic and sensual scenes in all of Trash Cinema and it must be seen to be believed. The score, the performances, the editing all perfectly capture what it is to seduce a Stargrove.

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Before long, the double crosser within the nameless agency is shockingly revealed as Lance and Danja are captured and taken to Ragner’s secret lair which leads to an action packed finale on top of a water dam as Lance Stargrove and Velvet Von Ragner must now battle face to face in a brutal, knock down , drag out, boob biting, bloody battle where one man or one hermaphrodite must perish, and countless lives hang in the balance. It;s breathtaking and truly one of the finest action film finales I’ve ever witnessed. Seriously, it doesn’t get more bizarre, trashy, or unbelievable than this.

It’s difficult to discern whether Never Too Young To Die is trying to be serious, if it’s a parody of the spy genre, or if it’s trying to be a balance of both, because it is hysterical from start to finish. I get the feeling that the creative minds behind this thing really were trying to pay it straight and create a new franchise. But, what the ended up with was a highly entertaining and wholly unintentionally hysterical bit of Trash Cinema Gold. And, as is so often the case, the more unintentionally funny these films are, the better they play. And this is why Never Too Young to Die is a hidden gem of action trash cinema that must be seen to be believed. Unlike most James Bond Cash-ins, Never Too Young to Die works because it doesn’t really work at all. You can see what they were going for, but they miss the mark by such a wide margin, they just about create a different genre altogether. And if you ask me, that’s a remarkable thing.

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Honestly,  the film’s MVP is Gene Simmons he gives a truly phenomenal, over the top, hysterical performance as he ads life and genuine menace to a larger than life villain who I would LOVE to have seen more of in further adventures of Lance Stargrove. Every time Gene Simmons is one screen, his performance is so goddamn balls to wall joyously psychotic, you cannot help but laugh and enjoy every moment of his batshit time on screen. I really wish I could have seen the man in more rolls like this, because he steals the whole damn film.

Never Too Young to Die is as goofy, strange and wonderful as they come. A true tour de force of absolute trash cinema. Chock full of violence, ridiculous action, and a damn fine amount of nekkid breasts, I award Never Too Young to Die FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets! DO NOT MISS!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

09
Oct
16

The WNUF Halloween Special (1987-2013)

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“This is not some Halloween prank. The grisly evidence of the supernatural is real. – Frank Stewart,  The WNUF Halloween Special

a Primal Root written review

This day and age everything we want is right at our fingers tips. All the information (and misinformation) we need is jut a key stroke and a mouse click away. Movies are on demand, Netflix streams their tiny list of titles right into our living rooms…but not long ago we had to dig. A younger generation will not know of the struggle it once was to locate an obscure title or horror film, a rare bootleg of a strange, grotesque, bizarre television occurrence or to pay exorbitant amounts of cash to purchase a copy of something you’ve heard such tall tales of that your expectations are sky high, only to pop in the VHS tape and realize you’ve totally been had. Sure, it was a kind of dark age of horror cinema geekdom, but for every tape you watched that was absolute dog shit, you would come across some absolute gold. Even some strange, unlabeled tapes from the local thrift store, flea market or Goodwill that left you wondering just what the fuck you witnessed and had your grasping desperately at what was left of your Taco Bell and Mountain Dew fueled teenage sanity.

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However, in 2013 some innovative and intelligent filmmakers decided to try and recreate that exact same vibe with The WNUF Halloween Special, a feature film intended to look and feel like a lost, legendary 1980’s local news Halloween broadcast that went terribly wrong and has become the stuff of Urban Myth. The film begins with the all too familiar bright blue VHS screen we all recall from the era, a white triangle with the word “PLAY” pop up in the top corner as an audible click is heard and we are transported back to a simpler time, a crappier time perhaps, where audio was spotty, video quality was always poor and everything was tacky and damn proud of it. Of course, those living at the time had no idea and it was embraced in all it’s clunkiness.

Our news anchors at WNUF, dressed as a witch and Dracula respectively, are just as cheesy and goofball as you might expect, only going serious face when the story calls for it, like a story about local tragedy where an asian boy dressed as G.I. Joe when to a Vietnam veterans home and was gunned down. It’s a dark chuckle, but a damn good one, none the less. We are also told repeatedly to stay tuned for The WNUF Halloween Special at 7pm, right after the 6 O’Clock News where the ultimate ham and local news anchor, the mustachioed  Frank Stewart, played by the dead pan and hilarious Paul Fahrenkopf, will host a stunning exploration into the supernatural and unexplained phenomenon occurring within the walls of the infamous Webber House,  the site of ghoulish murders. Frank enlists the help of a famed Husband, Wife and Feline psychic team as well as a local Catholic Priest to accompany him on this journey into the horrifying, the macabre and the unknown…

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It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, folks.  But it all works in the movies favor, because for the most part, if you can suspend your disbelief just a little bit, it doesn’t feel staged.  It all feels pretty damn real thank to the very natural, often improvised performances. What also lends a lot of credence to the proceedings are the fantastic fake local commercials that keep interrupting the action after our perilous reporter looks into the camera telling us, “We’ll be back RIGHT AFTER THIS!” There are some truly wonderful ads created for the fictional but very nostalgic local haunts like Tokens arcade and pizza parlor as well as late night horror movie shows to broadcast later in the evening and even political attack ads! It goes a long way to making the whole film feel more like genuine lost relic of a bygone era than your typical found footage genre entry.

Much like The Blair Witch Project over a decade earlier, it began building hype via word of mouth. Once the Halloween Special was completed filmmaker Chris LaMartina started getting the word out by dubbing the film directly to VHS, hand writing labels with Sharpie and dropping it off without anyone noticing at VHS collector conventions for people to stumble upon. I’ve even heard they drove around Baltimore tossing VHS copies of their movie out the car window in the hopes of people picking it up, sliding it not the VCR’s and getting rumors and copies circulating.  I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to be one of the lucky ones who tumbled across one of those original VHS tapes before it became common knowledge that this was all staged and wondering just what you had come across. It must have a been the most wonderful kind of mind fuck.

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Sure, we all know it’s fake now, but I cannot heap enough praise on The WNUF Halloween Special. It has a lot of fun transporting us back the days that folks like us used to look forward to dressing up in costumes, going to Halloween carnivals with our parents and trick or treating around the neighborhood with our friends. The WNUF Halloween Special brings back those feelings of just how special Halloween night was to us as children, sure, it’s still special to us know, but as a child in meant something even more. I for putting so much effort into creating that reality for us, once again, WNUF should be commended.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but by film’s end we see another nightly news broadcast five days after the fact with our original two news anchors discussing with us whether or not what we witnessed on screen during the WNUF Halloween Special was a hoax or not. They mention the disappearance of certain people…then put on their best smiles, forget about that bummer and move on full force into discussing Thanksgiving and Christmas season! Its crasstastic, pitch perfect in it’s dark humor and mocking the attention span of the typical television viewer. But, you know as well as I do, that it’s only one year before Halloween comes round again… The WNUF Halloween Special takes place in 1987…who know what happened in 1988?

I award The WNUF Halloween Special 3 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

28
Jul
16

Nothing But Trouble: A Trash Cinema Dog Days of Summer Event!

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WHO: The Trash Cinema Collective
WHAT: A screening of the 1991 cult flick, Nothing but Trouble!
WHEN: Saturday August 6th at 9pm (EST)
WHERE: Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
WHY: Because it’s about time.

As always, NO COVER!

Hey Gang, The Primal Root here, and I am happy to be inviting you out to our August 6th Trash Cinema Night featuring the strangest of early 90’s cinematic oddities, the Chevy Chase Texas Chainsaw Massacre hybrid as well as Dan Aykroyd’s directorial debut, 1991’s Nothing but Trouble! A film that bombed horrendously upon theatrical release only to gain a rabid cult fanbase later on home video.

Nothing But Trouble is a classic tale of New York yuppies driving through rural America where they come across some backwoods locals who want to skin them alive. Only this time around, they are the local law. After running a stop sign, Chris Thorne (Chevy Chase) Diane (Demi Moore), and their driving buddies end up under arrest and must stand trial in the court/home of the decrepit, blood thirsty Judge Alvin ‘J.P.’ Valkenheiser. As the prisoners soon find out, J.P.’s mansion.prison is filled with secret passages, booby traps and other odd/horrifying contraptions. Chris and Diane must out wit the deranged family in order to survive the night and get home alive!

Be prepared for cock noses! Unskinned sausages! John Candy in drag! Pu Collars! Giant mutant babies in diapers! Awesome roller coaster style death traps! A performance by the legendary Digital Underground! A spectacular cameo by the late Tupac Shakur! And a deep wave of nostalgia for the early 90’s and a time when a once promising career for the then thriving Dan Aykroyd suddenly began to fall to pieces.

That’s right! It’s Nothing but Trouble! A strange blend of backwoods horror, comedy, and awkward social interaction! So come on out, grab a pitcher of your favorite ice cold adult beverage, sink your teeth into the BEST damn burger in town, and let’s check out a forgotten nugget of pure Trash Cinema gold! I’ll see you there, Gang!

Stay Trashy!
-Root

10
Feb
16

Phantom of the Paradise (1974): Salutations from the Other Side

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve long held that the golden age of American horror cinema stretched from the late 1960’s to the end of the 1970’s. It was an age when turmoil, violence and change was in the air. Filmmakers of the day were shaken and inspired by the horrifying, nightmarish world around them, internalized this terror and in the end brought it out of the darkness as some of the most devastatingly influential horror films the world will ever witness.  There is one other genre that happened to thrive in the 1970’s, one I know far less about, and that is the Rock Opera.

Flicks like Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, The Wiz not to mention, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would either garner rave reviews and great success or go on to become beloved cult films the world over. However, some fell by the wayside and are just now starting the reemerge and find recognition as beautiful cinematic oddities they are. And there is none I am more proud to see finally garnering the praise it has long deserved, Brian de Palma’s 1974 film, Phantom of the Paradise.

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Phantom of the Paradise blends the horror trappings of The Phantom of the Opera and Faust together and give it a glam rock makeover serving as a dark comic satire of the entertainment industry. Phantom tells the tale of Winslow Leech (William Finley in an awesome performance) a young and naive composer looking to make it big with his life long work, a cantata based on the legend of Faust. No sooner does the the owner of Death Records, an utterly charming, smooth talking, calm, collected and utterly malevolent man who has sold his soul to The Devil and goes by the name of Swan (Paul Williams) hear Winslow’s music does he find a way to steal it, exploit it and turn it into pop music garbage to open his long delayed rock palace, The Paradise, with. Swan frames Winslow and has him sent to jail where he is volunteered for an experiment which requires him to have all his teeth removed and replaced with new metallic chompers.  It isn’t long before Winslow hears his own composition on the radio, recreated as a turd of a pop song, and flees from prison. In a psychotic rage Winslow breaks into Death Records, ends up getting disfigured in a vinyl record press, vanishes into the night and is presumed dead…But soon after his disappearance a masked phantom begins stalking the darks hallways and backstage at The Paradise, determined to rain murderous vengeance upon all of those who have hurt and betrayed him.

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Along the way, The Phantom ends up becoming infatuated and falling in love with a young, inexperienced but quite talented singer named Phoenix (Jessica Harper), the only person The Phantom permits to sing his work. Anyone else who tries, he promises, will be killed. Of course, Swan makes the decision to have The Phantom’s music performed by what he considers to be the future of music, a glam rock monster who goes by the name of Beef (Gerrit Graham, who is funny as shit in the role). Despite mid shower plunger to the gob warning from The Phantom, Beef is convinced to perform as scheduled…

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Phantom of the Paradise functions as great piece of anti-establishment satire against the soulless corporatization of art and artists alike. Not only this, but Phantom is also a full on musical, complete with song and dance routines, with every song written and composed by Paul Williams. These elements together do nothing but accentuate the strangeness of the film, it’s so bizarre, so daring and so breathlessly creative, it leaves the viewer’s mind reeling. All this quirky genre blending and tonal shifts leaves us with an unexpectedly heart wrenching musical tragicomedy. I can think of few other films that achieve this level of absurdity and poignancy.

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Still with me? I know the description above may sound a bit overwhelming, and indeed, there is a whole lot to take in with Phantom of the Paradise. It is sensory overload, but in the best possible way you can imagine. Despite the film’s litany of references to other cinematic greats, (Touch of Evil and Psycho, to mention just the tip of the iceberg) Phantom of the Paradise is among the most singular and unique films ever made. Any attempt at synopsis can only do Phantom so much justice, because the heart of the film lies in the experience of watching it. It is very often compared to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released a year after Phantom of the Paradise, and if I am being honest, the two couldn’t be more different. I suppose it is more inviting to spend time with a group of people basking in their own carnal desires than with a group of tortured artists who sold their soul for rock and roll. It’s just a damn shame Phantom of the Paradise never quite caught on in the states. Of course, I’ve heard the film is fucking HUGE in Canada. And, in face, the two fellows from Daft Punk, according to Paul Williams, met at a screening of Phantom of the Paradise! But that has nothing to with anything…just a cool bit of trivia.

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However, in a way, I kind of hope it remains a hidden gem that exists just below the radar. This way it will never be over exposed to the point of nausea or run into the ground to the point of tedium. Phantom of the Paradise is much beloved by those drawn to it’s peculiar story, dark, comedic, enchanting characters, beautiful songs and unchained artistry. Phantom is a film every bit as much for the misfits as Rocky Horror, but with a much more tragic and lyrical fantasy narrative. You cannot help but feel pity and sympathy for Winslow and righteous indignation once he is transformed from sweet Winslow to the pained and murderous Phantom and finds his revenge. One cannot find something darkly funny about Swans form of easy going, suave, laid back evil as he knowingly manipulates those around him to his bidding, feel sadness as Phoenix is corrupted by fame and absolute astonishment at the the radical comedic performance of Gerrit Graham as Beef.

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Phantom of the Paradise is a marvel of a film. Brian de Palma, Paul Williams and company have crafted something so different, so daring that mainstream audiences had no idea what to make of it. A film so beautiful, poetic, energetic and well played is obviously becoming relic. A thing of the not too distant past, when artistry, creativity and taking chances we heralded above ticket sales and domestic box office grosses. I suppose it’s no big surprise at this point for me to reveal Phantom of the Paradise would rank as one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time. It’s a story of love, passion, betrayal, revenge and possibly redemption set to some of the grooviest goddamn songs to ever be featured in a motion picture. A story of how monsters are created and the good guys and bad guys we all have the potential to be. For those who have never seen it, I recommend highly recommend checking it out, but keep in mind it is not everyone’s cup of glitter. For those of us who adore the film, it;s always worth heading over the The Paradise from time to time and witnessing one of the funniest, most lyrical, most enjoyable tragic love stories ever told.

I’m awarding Phantom of the Paradise 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

09
Jan
16

Frankenhooker (1990): Let me just find my wallet…

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“WANNA DATE? LOOKIN’ FOR SOME ACTION? NEED SOME COMPANY?” – Patty Mullen, Frankenhooker

a Primal Root written review

My deep abiding admiration of filmmaker and exploitation cinema connoisseur, Frank Henenlotter, cannot be overstated. The man has created some of the of the most endearing, disgusting, weird and darkly hilarious films to ever grace a grind house screen.  I’ve done a Rotten Review of 1982’s Basket Case, Henenlotter’s incredible debut feature, I’ve written up a review for his masterpiece, 1988’s Brain Damage, so today I would like to discuss the maestro’s beautiful, heartfelt tale of sluts and bolts, 1990’s Frankenhooker . 

Frankenhooker tells the intimate love story of Jersey Electrician and part time mad scientist,  Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) and his “girthy” bride to be Elizabeth (the gorgeous and talented Patty Mullen). We meet this lovely young couple on her Father’s birthday, JEffrey surprises his soon to be Father-in-law with a remote control lawnmower. Tragically, in the process if demonstrating the new remote controlled lawnmowers functionality, Elizabeth manages to run herself over with the machine splattering herself all over the garden gnomes and leading to one of the greatest local news segments ever created. I’ll go ahead and treat you to my favorite quote:

“In a blaze of blood, bones, and body parts, the vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad, a salad that police are still trying to gather up, a salad that was once named Elizabeth.”

And this is before the opening credits even begin! We find Jefferey sometime later in a state of deep depression, cutting himself off from the world and planning to revive his fiancee whose head he managed to save in an upright freezer filled with a special estrogen based elixir he’s created that keeps her deceased head perfectly preserved, maintaining it;s freshness until he can find just the right body donor.

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A quick trip to New York city and a meeting with a pimp named Zorro lands Jeffrey right in the middle of prostitute nirvana where he hopes to cultivate all his raw material. Jeffery dreams up a master plan to put hookers down using a form of “Super Crack” he himself has created for this moment. After and hour of measuring all the sleazy, adorable hookers, Jeffry has a crisis of conscience and decides he can’t go through with it. Thankfully, as hookers are drawn to crack like kittens to catnip, the hookers steal his stash, start puffing away and find out first hand the affects of Super Crack are anything but painless as they all being to explode, one after the other, into a perfect storm of meaty, bloody, hooker chunks which litter the crusty motel room.

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In the aftermath of this carnage, Jeffry picks and pulls his favorite parts from those strewn about the room, takes them back to his garage and assembles Elizabeth’s brand new body, consisting of several different skin tones and body sizes. One properly placed bolt of lightning and Elizabeth is resurrected…only thing is, she has the spirit of the dead hookers and their mannerisms alive inside her reanimated body.  Like a reflex action, Elizabeth now blurts out “WANNA DATE? LOOKING FOR SOME ACTION? GOT CASH?” to every man she comes across. Immediately drawn tot he dark back alley’s of New York City, Frankenhooker goes on a carnal rampage of lust and death! That is, before she comes across grieving pimp, Zorro, who begins putting the pieces together which leads to one of the wildest, slimiest, whoreiest fucking finales to ever grace the silver screen.

I wouldn’t say Frankenhooker is Henenlotter’s best film, but I will say that it is by far and away his most unabashedly absurd and most fun. Frankenhooker is an A-1 slice of Trash Cinema Gold and an absolute pleasure to watch. It’s low brow, hysterically funny and unendingly creative in a extraordinarily dark and appealing way. Also, I cannot discuss this film without mentioning the show stealing performance of Penthouse Pet of the Year 1988, Ms. Patty Mullen. She turns in a remarkable, spastic, dare I say BRILLIANT performance as Elizabeth/Frankenhooker. Decked out in enormous platform shoes, a purple skirt, bra, and matching handbag, watching Frankenhooker awkwardly walk around the grimy back streets of New York, subways and seedy motels are the film’s highlights. Ms. Mullen is stunningly beautiful, genuinely talented and gives it everything she’s got in, what is now, her most iconic role. Patty Mullen, in this filthy grovelers heart, you will always be Frankenhooker. And, yes, I am looking for some action.

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Also, the totally fucking bonkers execution of the Super Crack Hooker Massacre sequence is a high watermark in down and dirty horror comedy filmmaking. These girls, when confronted with a huge bag of crack, go totally insane. Screaming, laughing, shaking, stripping naked and slipping each other the tongue, it’s all one fucking radical party…that is until they start exploding in huge fireballs, spewing sparks and hunks of meat all over the place. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch Frankenhooker, this scene has me in tears every time. It’s a goddamn riot and must be seen to be believed. Truly one of the finest moments in 1990’s cinema history.

Frankenhooker. It’s a simple tale told on a very low budget and caked in filth, just like I like ’em. It is grotesque, nasty, and completely unapologetic in it’s presentation of it’s absolutely demented material.  Still, at it;s very core, Frankenhooker is a love story about a man trying to bring his lost love back from the dead. Sure, the guy is kind of a brilliant moron, but his heart is in the right place just like the film itself. The film manages to generate a kind of sweetness that very few films pertaining to the subject matter of running over a woman with lawnmowers and then exploding prostitutes in order to stitch all their remains together and bring back your lover ever have. Frankenhooker is a down and dirty flick, obviously made for next to nothing, but delivers some massive entertainment.

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Frankenhooker, the sum of it’s parts make it well worth taking to bed with you. Just remember to, you know…wrap it up.

I award Frankenhooker 4 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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