Posts Tagged ‘written review

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

30
Jul
16

Eaten Alive (1976):A Slice of Deep Fried Southern Sleaze

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve spent a lifetime tracking down and viewing the strangest, nastiest, weirdest films that have ever been made. Years I’ve spend renting, sitting in theaters and even buying movies for my collection before ever having viewed them in the hope of tracking down a little nugget of dirty trash cinema gold.  And in all those years, few have reached the levels of sick, disturbing, nasty southern fried exploitation sleaze and depravity as Tobe Hooper’s 1976 bargain basement horror flick, Eaten Alive (aka: Legend of the Bayou aka: Death Trap aka: Horror Hotel aka: Murder on the Bayou aka: Starlight Slaughter). This flick is about as seedy, filthy and low brow as horror cinema gets. It’s garish, lurid, ultra cheap and is missing so much of the artistic flourishes which made Tobe Hooper 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre not only a massive success with audiences but critics too, so much so that it is considered an American classic and even has it’s original negatives housed at The American Film Archive.

You will never find Eaten Alive being lauded over and put in a film preservation vault. Not, this is the kind of movie main stream critics use to wipe the turd crusted asses with. This is the ultimate deglamorization of the horror genre. The colors are thick and heavy, the sets rudimentary, ramshackle, and worn down, totally caked in dust, dirt and filth.  And the first lines we ever hear are during a close up shot of a huge belt buckle coming undone as a young Robert (don’t call me Freddy) Englund exclaims, is a raspy southern accent “My name’s Buck and I’m rarin’ to FUCK!” He makes this exclamation as he bends a young prostitute over and attempts to ass fuck her, which she is less than willing to do. Eaten Alive begins…with a man trying to stick his cock up a woman’s ass… Sophie’s Choice, this is not.

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It all gets even more dark and mean spirited from there, as the madame of this particular Pussy Shack, Miss Hattie (Morticia herself, Carolyn Jones) boots the young prostitute , Clara (Roberta Collins), out on the street for refusing to let young Buck savage her inexperienced poop chute with his throbbing, eager, member. She ends up heading deep into the bayou to stay at the run down, once thriving, now absolutely disgusting and grotesque Starlight Hotel. It’s a shanty out in the middle of the swamp and houses not only the disturbed, one legged, bespectacled, murderous proprietor… Judd (Neville Brand), but also is the domain of Judd’s behemoth per crocodile, a crocodile he claims he got directly from The Nile, which stays in a fenced in portion of the swamp right beside the front porch of The Starlight Hotel.

Clara is chopped to pieces and tossed to the crocodile within minutes of arriving when Judd realizes she used to sling leg for cold hard cash back in town. He flips his shit, tucks his scythe into her young, lovely flesh several good times and tosses her still breathing body off the porch, into the swamp to spend her last gasping breaths chocking on her own blood as she is torn to pieces by the resident devourer of anything made of meat. It’s a pretty nasty, unapologetic and fucking cruel way for this character to meat her end. It’s like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho…only set in Florida Man’s South. Where these sorts of things are still shocking, but not necessarily surprising and everything is much more gruesome.

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Eaten Alive is a horror movie with no exits, no easy way out from the grueling, unrelentingly malicious story and it’s schlocky tone. From the get go, the audience knows that their emotions, their nerves, will not be spared and, as my close, personal friend, Joe Bob Briggs once said, the key to a good Drive-In movie is that anyone can die at any moment. Tobe Hooper keeps this rule close to his heart in Eaten Alive, as many kind hearted, well meaning characters are introduced and then have scythes rammed through their skulls and an enormous gator tugs at their flailing legs and pulls them in half. It’s that kind of ride. Innocent family pets are shown being bitten into and dragged to their watery deaths while their adolescent owner screams in horror. So, be warned, this movie is for the sicker of us who respect films that can show just how unlikable and horrifying the human condition can be.

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There’s an outstanding sequence where a little nuclear family stops by The Starlight Hotel to stay the night and collect bed bugs. The married couple, Faye and Roy are played by none other than two of my favorite character actors, Marilyn Burns (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise). Their marriage is obviously a slow burn downward spiral into permanent psychosis and Roy apologizes constantly, fantasies about his wife using his eyeball as an ash tray and barks all night. It’s a tense, wholly bizarre marriage filled with passive aggressive behavior and absolute batshit crazy behavior. I’m not sure what the fuck is exactly going on here with these two when they’re alone together, but I do feel for their little daughter Angie (Kyle Richards) who spends her time screaming in despair with her hands clasped over her ears as her parents act like complete nutty bars. It’s one of those scenes that I;m so happy exists, because it’s so much fun to watch these two actors go tow to tow and go crazy on one another, but the implications are disheartening to say the least.

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Soon, Clara’s sick and slowly dying Father, Harvey (Mel Ferrer), and his blonde, well stacked daughter, Libby show up in town looking for Clara. Harvey knows he will be gone soon and wants to find her so he can make good with her before his imminent demise. Things ended on a sour note and he wants to be the bigger man and is desperate to track her down. Where do they end up staying? You guessed it! The Starlight Hotel! The two begin to investigate her disappearance which gets the local Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman). All the while, Buck (Robert Englund) takes his curvy young girlfriend, Lynette (Janus Blythe) up to The Starlight Hotel for a little consensual sodomy which all leads to a collision course with absolute horror at the dank, gross and inexplicably popular hellhole of a hotel. There’s gotta be a Motel 6 nearby, right?

 

One of the more disturbing aspects of Eaten Alive is the film’s distinct lack of anyone to really root for, it’s lack of humanity and likable characters. There’s not much to distinguish the villain of the piece, Judd, from the rest of the stories inhabitants. We can;t root for Buck, he’s a rapist, a drug dealer and a fucking bully. Sheriff Martin is totally incompetent and impotent as a lawman or any kind of hero. Roy is a failure, a whimpering loser on the verge of a psychotic break down…even Clara’s Dad is so obsessed beyond reason with finding her and comes off as a total jerk. Still, you see these poor sacks of flesh getting filleted by Judd and then ripped to pieces by the voracious crocodile and you genuinely feel bad for these poor, fucked fuckers.  It’s like a treatise against having faith in humanity. Possibly even life itself. Did I mention this movie is dark?

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Some of the women fair a little bit better and are able to save themselves most of the time and work together to overcome the blood thirsty men who happen to be coming after them intent of sinking as much blade into their young soft bodies as possible. But, possibly the only totally sane character in the whole film is Roy and Faye’s young daughter, who is certain to be scarred for life after her long weekend witnessing horror after horror and narrowly escaping being stabbed to death and Eaten Alive… Yeah, I foresee many hefty therapy bills for the rest of this poor child’s life…

 

There’s a lot of joy to be had, also, in watching a young pre A Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund playing a pretty nasty piece of white trash dirtbag named Buck in Eaten Alive. He gives his all in what could have been a pretty forgettable character, but that Englund personae pulls through and makes Buck a pretty memorable piece of shit. You can’t help but see the shadow of Freddy in so many of this characters posses and mannerisms. I often like to imagine that Buck is possibly Freddy Krueger’s cousin.

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All this being said, Eaten Alive is a kind of harrowing masterpiece of deep Southern sleaze cinema. The gore is gnarly, the kills palpably unpleasant, the effects all bargain basement which, in it’s own way, adds to the sticky, morbidity of the piece AND there is a plentiful helping of gratuitous tits and ass, which is kind of the sugar that helps this dirty little pill go down. The sleaze on display here is authentic. One walks away from a viewing of Eaten alive feeling dirty and in need of a shower. There’s no deeper meaning to be found in this head first dive into depravity, murder and insanity. It’s a film totally preoccupied in the grimy, the dirty and the disturbing and offers no apologies. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Only blood, chaos, death and darkness. And what could be more terrifying than that?

I award Eaten Alive 4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 




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