Posts Tagged ‘robert englund

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

06
Aug
10

Freddy vs. Jason: Adolescent Wish Fulfilled

a Primal Root review

For me, there was no bigger event film this past decade than Freddy vs. Jason. It was the film my friends I would talk about on the playground when I was in elementary school. Who would win? Who has the advantage? It was so much fun building these scenarios and debating who was the tougher monster between hanging from monkey bars and playing flag football. I think it was in those early discussions that I grew an allegiance to Jason Voorhees in a giant sandbox at DeSoto Trail Elementary. . We already had King Kong vs. Godzilla, Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman….where was Freddy vs. Jason? It was the movie all of us were dying to see. The years passed and I waited.

And then the news broke. It was actually going to happen after all these years of hoping, waiting, rumors, false reports and face palmingly weak leaked scripts it was finally happening. New Line was putting into production the one film I’d been wanting to see since I was in short pants. Freddy vs. Jason. I could not have been happier. For the majority of 2003 leading up to the release of the film I could not stop watching both franchises over and over, hyping myself up into a frenzy over the upcoming film to the point I knew my friends wished I would get caught between the two slashers and be quieted for good.

The big day finally arrived. I put on m Jason costume and hockey mask as a sign of allegiance, and headed to the midnight showing. I got there early and rushed to the best seat in the house. Turns out only myself and two of my friends had dressed up as who we were rooting for (two Jasons, one Freddy) so we stuck out like the awkward, over enthusiastic horror fans we are.

Freddy vs. Jason Opening Night!

The lights dimmed, the trailers ran…and then the movie began.

Freddy vs. Jason begins with Krueger narrating his life story over footage of his final moments and his life as the eternal dream demon, Fred Krueger. It’s been almost a decade since Freddy has seen any action, Springwood has hushed up those who remember him and white washed everything regarding his very existence. Without the children’s fear, Freddy is rendered powerless to haunt their dreams and has been dwelling in Hell ever since.

Freddy Krueger reminds you to brush and floss every day.

But, being the evil genius he is, Freddy has found a way to make the children of Springwood remember. By resurrecting the towering hunk of unstoppable rotted death, Jason Voorhees. Freddy is hoping Jason can spark some fear into the kids, and in the process, bring the legend of Freddy back to life.

The plan goes swimmingly at first. Jason rips up some Elm Street residents, the kids start getting scared and Freddy is again able to enter their nightmares. But there’s one  little bit of the equation Freddy left out. See, Jason is REALLY good at what he does. He may not be the high concept killer Freddy is but Jason knows how to get the job done, quickly and efficiently which might be why he always has the higher body counts.  Jason kills just about everyone within machete shot where Freddy brings in a kill total of…1. Way to bring your A game, bro.

Freddy vs. Jason is a blazingly cool and tantalizing idea. The simple day dreams of these two laying into each other is the stuff of childhood fantasy. And that’s what we went in expecting, a none stop battle to the death between the greatest icons of modern horror. One thing we hadn’t counted on was all the teen melodrama which makes up almost three quarters of the film.

A riveting scene with our teen protagonists.

See, there’s this plot about a girl named Lori who lives at 1428 Elm Street now with her psychiatrist father.  Lori’s Mom was murdered in the house and her pops is made up to be a red herring, which if you buy into, you’re a complete idiot. Of course Freddy killed her. Anyway, Lori’s boyfriend Will saw the murder go down and is now locked up at Westin Hills (REMEMBER! From Nightmare 3 & 5? Yay, for references to previous films!) with his buddy Mark on Lori’s father’s orders.

Jason sneaks into Lori’s house, kills a jerk, Will escapes and finds Lori and blah, blah, blah, did anyone care? Does anyone care now? It’s all just filler and a means to slow the pace of the film to a snail’s crawl and deliver inane, moronic dialog that helps to crap all over both franchise mythologies.

“Freddy’s afraid of fire, Jason’s afraid of water…how can we use that?”

And the problems roll on from there.

When the shit did Jason become afraid of the water? Sure, deep down subconsciously (does Jason even have a subconscious?) which is where Freddy is able to tap into it. It makes sense, seeing as he drowned at Crystal Lake (or, kind of drowned but didn’t and doggy paddled to shore and decided to never inform his Mom of this fact) but in the real world? Jason’s been literally living in and around the lake for decades! He doesn’t show much fear of the water in the real world during Freddy vs. Jason, but the sad thing is, that single line uttered by Lori has ingrained in many young horror fan’s minds that Jason really is afraid of water. Like, you could turn a hose on him and he’d run away like a frightened little girl. This is simply not the case and we all know better.

LIES!

Then again, I guess the writers had to give Jason some kind of weakness in order to balance the fight. Because let’s face it, once Freddy enters the real world and is face to face with Jason, that fucker’s dead as Dillinger. But of course, Freddy has taken kung-fu lessons while in Hell and busts that shit out all over Jason’s ass in a surreal and comical fight sequence at the end of the film.

It’s this battle royal that the two titans get into, Round 1 in Freddy’s Dream World & Round 2 at Camp Crystal Lake, that Freddy vs. Jason really starts cooking. The battle commenced and it was a sight to behold .It’s insane and over the top and quite cool in my book.

Freddy continually gets the upper hand thanks to his intelligence and agility but his cockiness tends to get the better of him. Jason just takes the damage, as always, and keeps on ticking. Sure, he looks like he’s hurtin’, but it’s Jason Voorhees. To him, everything is just a flesh wound.

I'm fine!

My favorite moment in the fight comes when the two are on the pier together, lit by the burning cabins in the distance, Jason rips of Freddy’s arm, Freddy sticks Jason’s machete deep int he hockey masked killer’s chest. The music sweels, the  two lock eyes and exchange hate filled glares before a huge explosion erupts sending both boogiemen hurtling in Crystal Lake. It’s almost like a final goodbye, like a strange, slasher twist on that last kiss between guy and girl before they both part ways. It was THIS moment I had been imagining for years. When the two monsters, caked in blood and gore, gasping for air and on their last leg, starred into one another’s eyes. Two legends fueled with hate, one of pure evil and the other eternally seeking vengeance, embraced in death.

I’m not going to lie, I got a little misty eyed from beneath my hockey mask on first viewing.

There’s still some debate as to who won this thing. Freddy fans will always say it was Freddy and Jason’s fans will say Jason is the clear victor. . I dunno, it’s really up in the air and it has to be by design. I’ve heard some fans on both sides griping about this but it’s fine with me. I half expected it to end that way going into the movie. The moments between Freddy and Jason were so entertaining I can forgive them for not wanting to please just one side or the other.

Freddy vs. Jason works pretty well as a Friday the 13th film but is probably around the same level of artistic merit in the Nightmare franchise as Part 4: The Dream Master. It’s an event film, pure and simple. Not something made to be anything more than pure entertainment for the masses and a tip of the fedora/hockey mask to the loyal fans who had been waiting since the mid 80’s for this sucker.

Simply beautiful...

The sad thing is how boring and lack luster the segments featuring our teen leads are. They just seem more annoying and useless than usual but that could just be because I am so anxious to see what the title of the film is promising. I just remember wishing the film would get moving whenever our teenage pals showed up to furrow their brows and talk about how much it sucks their friends are dead. Come on, Freddy vs. Jason, let’s get to the main event!

It’s old hat with a bit of a twist in matching the two guys together. Freddy’s charisma is a great foil to Jason’s silent brutality and it makes for an enjoyable viewing experience when they are in one another’s company.

This was a film I had dreamed about for years and now I own it. I have seen it numerous times, I have the poster rolled up in a tube. What was once simple childhood playground debates is now set in stone. It went down, the masters duked it out, and now it’s over. I left the theater with a smile on my face. I had witnessed what we had always talked about. I wonder what my childhood friends thought of it? It took me back to that time and I think that’s the major appeal of the movie to me. It’s not just the ultimate battle of  horror pop culture icons, but a trip down memory lane and a loving tribute to the slasher form.

Both franchises had completely run out of steam at this point. The Friday the 13th series had crapped out Jason X and Wes Craven had delivered the poetic and  darkly beautiful New Nightmare as a final chapter for Freddy. But if both series wanted to bring their heads to the surface and gasp one final breath before plunging into the annals of trash cinema history for good, I was pleased they did it together.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root




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