Sunday, November 12, 2023

Lunar Cop (1995)

Lunar Cop


He came to Earth to clean up the mess!



Michael Paré is Lunar Cop Joe Brody of the moon colony, sent to the supposed ruins of earth to retrieve a stolen serum that can revitalise the planet for habitation after the Big Burn. When he arrives he finds a post apocalyptic wasteland ruled by a deranged Billy Drago as Kay and his motorcycle riding thugs, but the planet is not the toxic dump he was told it was.

The first ten minutes on the moon colony are glorious in a Roger Corman kind of way: static space sets, amusing costumes and military bravado. Once on earth, Brody finds a motorcycle and quickly becomes a Mad Max style protector in a wild west that replaces horses with many, many motorcycles. Given the desert location and style of action, this feels very much like Cirio Santiago's Stryker (or Wheels of Fire, or Equalizer 2000..)


Paré is pretty stoic in this, except when letting his guard down for Thora. He's not the type of guy I immediately think of when it comes to post-apocalyptic action in a desert wasteland, but he does well here. Mad Michael, rather than Mad Max, and not really that mad. He certainly keeps busy these days, starring in every second film from The Asylum (I guess when Eric Roberts isn't available).

Walker Brandt plays the Pocahontas style love interest, Thora, and like I said Billy Drago is unhinged and doing his best Toecutter impersonation. His inclusion is a diversion from the real fight: once Brody finds out the truth about the Earth survivors, the moon colony send a Terminator-style cyborg to eliminate him. The action stakes only get higher from here!

So many things explode in this film. The pyro budget was definitely higher than the sets, but that's a good thing, because they blow up those sets. When things aren't exploding, they are at least being shot at. In fact the only times the action lets up is for Brody to make temporary goo-goo eyes at Thora. That’s okay, because the explosions soon resume.

From the director of the great Joe Lara film American Cyborg Steel Warrior, and you can tell. I dug this one, because it just doesn't give you time not to! 84 minutes of shit exploding, you can't go wrong.



Friday, September 29, 2023

Project: Shadowchaser (1992)

But what if the creation destroys the creator? Now that would be true freedom.

Project Shadowchaser (1992) is a B-movie Action Sci-Fi classic that riffs on Die Hard as much as it does The Terminator.. and it was followed by three sequels, all starring Frank Zagarino as an android.

In this video, I talk about the four films and try to determine what a Shadowchaser actually is...

Watch now!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Tough to Kill (1979)



One Million Dollars Of Vulture Meat

Movie Review:


Martin (Luc Merenda) joins the platoon of Major Hagerty (Donald O’Brien) for a steady pay check and some jungle action. On their first mission to blow up a dam in enemy territory, Martin reveals that he is actually a bounty hunter and that there is a million dollar price tag on one of the team’s heads. With this fact known, the men fight amongst themselves as to who gets the prize on their way to cash in.


Wow, this is some sleazy Euro-trash right here - not entirely unexpected being a Joe D'Amato film, the Director who gave us "Porno Holocaust". Tough to Kill has got to be one of the most “of its time” films I have seen in ages. At a rough estimate, a quarter of this film’s dialogue could not be used in 2021. Perhaps that’s why the film has languished on VHS and grey-market DVDs cut from those same VHS rather than get the remastered treatment that it deserves.


If you are one to be offended by 1970s use of racist terms and treatment of anybody not American, but especially those with darker skin, turn away now. However if you can grit your teeth and bare it, there is a lot to enjoy in Tough to Kill – particularly when taken into context that some soldiers from this era likely talked and treated others like that. And given that there is some level of comeuppance as well, that helps justify things a bit and is possibly what D’Amato was going for when he plotted this out. Martin still declares this war is “One bunch of n*****s trying to take down another bunch of n*****s.”

What I liked about Tough to Kill was that it was not what I expected. I spent two months watching Teddy Page’s entire filmography of jungle action films and for the most part they are all cut from the same cloth. A General needs rescuing. Rag-tag team of soldiers fetch him back. Huts explode. That is not what you get in Tough to Kill at all. On the outset I was a little confused and impatient, as the training scenes were taking half the films runtime. The mission isn’t even assigned until the half-way mark, and once Martin reveals his true purpose the direction changes entirely to be one about greed. It starts as a slow burn but it all ends up making sense, and is actually well paced and plotted in retrospect so stick with it.


There is of course still plenty of action, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. The bulk of it is the mission itself to blow up the dam, and a few incidental fire-fights that happen before and after. The violence feels quite real, as the injured carry their pains with them the rest of the duration. One cool stunt sees Martin and stow-away Wabu evade enemy fire by running inside a barrel to make it roll as they are being shot at. Some “really, we are doing this?” moments too when two of our soldiers decide that to solve their differences they will do the “"walk ten paces, turn and fire” routine. Not even joking around, that is how they solve their disagreement.

The main proponents in this film actually have some meat on their bones in regards to characterisation that make them unique. Martin presents himself as chilled and against The Man. Hagerty is very much the definition of The Man, challenging his men to playing “chicken” with a grenade, and he gets more slime ball once Martin’s truth is out. Mike is our token Irish drunk, bartering for boxes of J&B whisky. Wabu, Martin’s “man servant” has the most growth of all and, as I mentioned earlier, there’s some comeuppance involved. However it was Polansky who I got a kick out of the most; the eccentric soldier who plays piano in the mess and is always seen carrying his pet white rabbit – even on manoeuvres when being shot at!


I laughed a lot during the film; there are some genuinely well placed gags. One of my favourites was early on when Martin arrives at the training base and disembarks the plane with Irish soldier Mike. Mike yells out to the pilot, Whitey (there’s that casual racism again), that he better move the plane or insurgents will blow it up. “The plane is the safest place to be, they’ll never hit it!” It of course explodes a few seconds later, and Mike dusts himself off saying “Ah man. They even dug Whitey his own grave for him.” Some gags that are best left in the past, like the ones involving Wabu being white-washed in limestone and forced to dunk in barrels of filth to wash back to “his real colour”. Oh my.

All in all, not what I expected and I’m pleasantly surprised by that. If you know going in that this isn’t a 90 minute blast-fest and has deeper plot with well thought out characters, despite the slurs, is a good way to spend your time if you are a fan of Italian army action.


tough-to-kill-bookI wanted to briefly mention that this film was also the title of a great book of Italian action films “Tough to Kill Volume 1: The Italian Action Explosion”, co-written by David Zuelo and Paul Cooke. This book was partly responsible for my exploration into Italian action cinema, as well as deciding that I could write reviews myself. While this movie Tough to Kill was not reviewed in the book, many other Explosive Action films were. Paul passed away earlier this year so it is doubtful that we will ever see a Part 2, but I wanted to credit him and David for shining a broader light on this subgenre of film for me!



Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Striker (1988)

Striker (1988)


Unpredictable. Unbeatable. The ultimate freedom fighter.

Movie Review:



John “Striker” Slade (Frank Zagarino) is an ex-military hired to rescue  journalist Frank Morris from a Nicaraguan prison. Obviously this is a First Blood Part II type film, with equal parts one-man-army Commando and its B-cousin Strike Commando to take the seriousness down a few notches. The first shot of Zags we see him in his Canadian Tuxedo, setting the tone for the film, and it’s just beautiful.

Out for a morning stroll, Zags provides a thorough arse kicking to a masked gang that try and steal his hobo bag. Zags is arrested on trumped-up drug charges and coerced into working for the government to rescue Frank. He meets up with the attractive local guide Marta (Melonee Rodgers) and helicopter pilot “The Dutchman” Houtman (Werner Pochath) to shoot, stab and exploding slingshot his way through to cartoon-character bad guy Kariasin.


Yeah, this is what you came here for. Look at the names involved for starters. First off it stars the mighty Zags as John Rambo- .. I mean, John Slade – and believe me, like Rambo, there is one thing he better bring and that’s a good supply of body bags. And who is he rescuing but none other than Pygar himself, John Phillip Law! Next off are the co-writing duo of Tito Carpi and Umberto Lenzi. That’s Italian gold right there; the men collectively responsible for Escape from the Bronx, Light Blast, Ironmaster and Violent Naples. And if that wasn’t enough, the whole thing is directed by Enzo Castellari of Inglorious Bastards fame. What a pedigree!

John Steiner plays head goon Kariasin, and he must have had a whale of a time doing this. His moustached mouth is never without a Cuban cigar, his body permanently adorned in a tacky white safari suit. He’s holed up in his castle like Gargamel, muttering lines like “John Slade, I’ll get you yet!” and constantly calling for his number two by yelling out “SANTIAGOOOO!!” in a glorious accent. Absolutely gnawing on the scenery. In the obligatory torture scene, he slaps Zags in the face no less than five times. Great stuff.


The Zag’s fighting style always reminds me of Dolph Lundgren – martial arts based but with a heavy thunk behind it and added punching to the chest, and even some ball squeezing for good measure. We get a bit of hand to hand in Striker, but most of the action is mowing down soldiers with machine guns to the face. Being part Rambo clone there is lots of stealth and traps, including a grenade firing slingshot and piano-wire lassos from the tops of trees, and cool stunts like ziplining with an automatic weapon and bodies exploding out castle windows. My favourite trap has to be the corpse stuffed with explosives; very satisfying when that thing goes off.

Marta, Houtman and Frank are fine secondary characters that exist to push the plot forward but besides the Zags wiping out armies single-handed, and Steiner chewing his cigar and stroking his invisible cat, it was the short cameo of Daniel Greene as the very excited amateur boxer by night, truck driver by day scene that had me smiling. He has the job of driving a tired and over-it Zags into the metaphorical sunset; when Greene asks Zags if he likes boxing, his straight forward reply is “I hate violence”. Poetic, given what we just witnessed.


Downsides? Well, we really didn’t need the first scene in any movie to be a real live cockfight. That wasn’t cool in 1988 and it’s not cool now, but its easily fast-forwarded past. I expect that this scene might be one of the troublesome reasons we haven’t had a DVD release of the film anywhere yet. Definitely in the UK that scene would be removed entirely. That scene aside, there is nothing to complain about with Striker. I watched this on my Japanese VHS from Columbia which is uncut and in letterbox widescreen. There is something about watching Rambo clones and otherwise jungle slogs on this format. Not just VHS, but Japanese VHS. They just play so well and it seems so right.

Here’s a titbit I didn’t realise when going in. Striker is immediately followed up by 1991’s Project Eliminator, another Zags vehicle where he plays John “Striker” Slade again, but this time teamed up with David Carradine. Obviously that is going on the watch pile as soon as I can possibly make it happen. But for now, if you want your Italian junglesploitation with a muscle-bound Rambo clone, a mad, cigar-chewing stereotype bad guy and the obvious double-crossing in the third act then look no further than Striker. It comes highly recommended.