Friday, November 30, 2012

Back to Back (1996)

All I heard of “Back to Back” was that it was a made-for-TV (HBO, I believe) action flick starring Michael Rooker. I was immediately sold! Then I read that Ryo Ishibashi would play his partner (so to speak), his daughter to be played by the gorgeous Danielle Harris, John Laughlin would be his superior, Bobcat Goldthwait would play a minor villain and both Tim Thomerson and Fred Willard would have cameos. If that’s not enough to convince you to watch this film, I don’t know what will.

If you need further persuasion, it’s a pretty damn good action flick! The first twenty minutes alone is a heart pumping adrenaline rush! You’ve got Bobcat Goldthwait playing a bank robber dubbed Psycho whose men are all taken out by Bob Malone (Michael Rooker). He doesn’t unload bullets into them because they robbed the bank. He does so because they parked him into the street and, after already having a disastrous day, snapped and beat the holy hell out of the getaway driver (by locking his head into the back window, no less)!

We learn that he’s a recently divorced cop who’s had his badge taken away due to severe anger issues. He started his morning off with a brief shouting match with his daughter, Chelsea (Danielle Harris), then had his house repossessed by the bank (in a cameo by Fred Willard). When he went to take out twenty dollars from the ATM, he was denied and his card was confiscated. Enter Psycho and his goons and you’ve got a pissed off Malone going postal on some baddies.

While he disposes of all of the goons, Psycho slips away. Before he can chase after him, his former boss, Dussecq (John Laughlin), intervenes and reluctantly arrests him. Meanwhile, Psycho is driving downtown with the police hot on his trails. Spouting out one liners (my favorite being how the town isn’t safe anymore) and spraying bullets out of his back windshield, he eventually makes his way into a restaurant that just so happens to be owned by a local mobster.

That’s the least of his worries. Koji (Ryo Ishibashi) and Hideo (Kô Takasugi) are waiting there to finish off the mobster and effectively conclude their mission. Psycho puts a dent in their plans, so they put a dent in his face. Another shootout occurs and Hideo gets shot in the process. Koji disposes of Goldthwait in an explosive manner, but is taken in by Dussecq for questioning. Hideo makes his getaway and wanders around town aimlessly bleeding from the gut and prophesizing that Elvis Presley is still alive (it works, trust me). There’s a hysterical spot where he knocks out an annoying homeless man posing as a cripple that may possibly be the highlight of the film!

Koji doesn’t have time to put up with Dussecq, so he breaks his nose and escapes the interrogation room by shooting out the one-sided mirror and crashing through it. He takes Bob and Chelsea hostage as they are conveniently leaving the premises at the same time. A brief run-in with Chelsea earlier gave Koji the slip in. It’s clear from this point that he doesn’t want to harm them, but will if necessary.

He takes them back to their house and stakes out. The film slows down a bit here as Robert Nygard develops the characters. He mainly just has Bob and Chelsea shouting at one another which grows wearisome. The heart to heart she has with Koji works decently, but it feels a bit too forced (from the script perspective, not the acting). We also learn of a rat in the police force (I won’t spoil who, but it’s pretty easy to uncover) and get a brief cameo from Tim Thomerson. Oh, and Vincent Schiavelli appears briefly as the mob boss’ slimy assistant. Good times!

It does show that this is a made-for-television film in the editing department. The scene transitions appear straight from an early edition of Windows Movie Maker and some of the camera cuts are jarring. The reason I believe this aired on HBO is that the film’s pacing is relatively good. Most TV movies have to abide by commercial breaks, forcing the film to have a more episodic nature. That’s not the case here which helps it flow nicer.

Don’t let the made-for-TV tag scare you, though. The action is fierce and rampant! There are multiple shootouts, car chases, destruction of property and even some blood (mainly from a nasty torture method that involves nails). The finale takes place in a restaurant under renovations and Nygard gets good use out of the setting. He also uses the cast well to his advantage!

Let me repeat myself from the first paragraph. “Back to Back” stars Michael Rooker, Ryo Ishibashi, Danielle Harris, Bobcat Goldthwait, John Laughlin, Tim Thomerson, Vincent Schiavelli and Fred Willard. That right there is a genre fans wet dream! It’s easy to forgive some of the film’s shortcomings thanks to the dream cast and solid action. It’s possible some of my issues were the side effect of premature ejaculation. This is an action film with Michael Rooker as the lead, after all. That’s too much awesome for me to contain myself!

MVT: I’m going to give it to Rooker, as I love the man and he’s in fine form here. Ryo Ishibashi gives him a run for his money. He holds his own in both the action department and in commanding the screen.

Make or Break: The opening action sequence. It has Bobcat Goldthwait looking like a sewage worker mowing down cops and spouting one-liners (and not acting like Zed from the “Police Academy” movies). What’s not to love?

Final Score: 7.5/10

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Episode #211: Lady Snowblood Double Duece

Welcome to another episode sponsored by and part of our Double Deuce coverage!!!

This week it was Sammy's turn to program the show and the Lady Snowblood films were chosen to be dissected by the Gents!!! We cover Lady Snowblood (1973) and Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974) both directed by Toshiya Fujita and starring the enigmatic Meiko Kaji.

Direct download: Lady_Snowblood_12.mp3

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Sheriff And The Satellite Kid (1979)

I don’t think anyone actually likes being alone.  Oh, sure, after a time, you can get used to the solitude and even prefer it.  But as human beings, we are social animals, and it is our natural inclination to engage in communal activities with one another, even without physical contact (try to explain Facebook otherwise).  And so it is that we have the concept of the comedic duo.  The juxtaposition of disparate personalities between the straight man and the funny man creates humor in much the same way that a similar juxtaposition can create conflict and drama.  Yet, if one walks away from a Laurel and Hardy movie without a smile on their face, the double act has failed (it could more believably be argued that the viewer has no sense of humor in this case, but you see what I mean).  The duo is also different from a comedy troupe, because the personalities are more defined, the purpose more  focused.  You may not be able to name and describe the individual style of every cast member on Saturday Night Live, but you can easily recognize and delineate between Bud Abbott and Lou Costello or Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.  The comedic duo has to be polar opposites in order to complement each other in a way normal relationships simply don’t always work.  Even then, though, there are no guarantees.

A public furor has gripped Newnan, Georgia after a UFO was spotted landing over the small town.  As the locals panic and blame everything that goes haywire on aliens, the gruff-but-kindly Sheriff Hall (Bud Spencer) struggles to keep crime down as well as impart some sanity to his constituents.  When Mrs. Parkins reports that her son is missing, Hall finds the lad at the local amusement park.  Playing with the Parkins boy is another child (Cary Guffey) who gives his name as H7-25 and insists that he is from another planet.  Hoping to get the truth from the boy and return him to his parents, Hall takes H7-25 under his wing, but Captain Briggs (Raimund Harmstorf) of the Coast Guard (?!) wants to capture the alien boy in order to get a hold of the photonic laser which allows the kid to perform all sorts of wild feats.

Michele Lupo’s The Sheriff And The Satellite Kid (aka Uno Sceriffo Extraterrestre – Poco Extra E Molto Terrestre) is not The Champ.  Neither is it The Kid or even Cop And A Half.  Ostensibly though, this film is about father and sons.  It has no real option to not be (just look at the title).  While Hall is an imposing presence and just a little grumpy, he also has a big heart which hurts the film twofold.  First, it gives us no arc for Hall to come to love the kid, starting as he does from place of benevolence and quasi-amiability.  Second, it deprives us of any true sense of conflict for the portions of the picture which don’t involve either the military or Brennan (Joe Bugner), the town fuckup.  By that same token, H7-25 states that he is in essence a neglected child.  He says that his father, H7-24, gets angry when the boy is scared.  His world has no such thing as music.  He is supposed to be a child searching for a positive father figure.  Unfortunately, we never get the feeling that the boy is all that troubled by his home life and certainly not to the point that he must bond strongly to Hall, and Hall has no strong motivation to feel protective of H7-25.  

In fact, the film on the whole is little more than small, brief moments between “humorous” (and yes, that word needs to be in quotes) slugfests.  It could be argued that this film is aimed at the family market, but it would be much more accurate to state that it is in fact aimed at children almost exclusively.  There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it also means that the filmmakers felt the need to play down to their assumedly dumb audience.  The humor is as broad as broad can be.  We get a porcine family who dress identically and are not only always eating but also are portrayed as just flat-out stupid.  Deputy Allen (Luigi Bonos) feels the undesirable desire to constantly rhyme his lines (and I suspect the English dubbing doesn’t do it any favors, in this regard) and he does all sorts of gymnastics despite his being in his late sixties.  Animals talk in generic, predictable ways (a horse sounds like Mr. Ed, a German shepherd has a Teutonic accent).  But worst of all is the rebarbative practice of playing and rewinding the film at various times to either convey the idea that the characters are dancing against their will or just to have them re-experience painful moments repeatedly.  I suppose there are those (child and adult alike) who would find this funny (hell, I still like fart jokes, usually), but its stultifying overuse makes the film a slog.

Children in film can often be either twee or annoying or both (witness Giovanni Frezza in The House By The Cemetery), and it must be said that Guffey himself does not wear out his welcome entirely in this regard.  However as a character, H7-25 is perplexing.  Remember the Great Gazoo on The Flintstones?  That’s this kid.  He unwaveringly goes around causing mischief for mischief’s sake and in ways which could be construed as (at least marginally) criminal.  He lets Brennan out of jail and out of his cuffs at various points (it’s possible he sees the good inside the curmudgeon before Hall does, but there’s no indication of this).  He squirts an Army General in the face with water.  He badmouths Hall to a horse right in front of the guy.  By all indications, H7-25 knows exactly what he’s doing.  He’s being a jerk of the highest order, and his father’s no picnic either, as he takes over Hall’s car and rams it through the town, smashing into all of the unconvincingly placed obstacles which litter the roads.  One almost gets the feeling that the Satellite Kid’s true aim is to pave the way for a hostile alien invasion (but that wouldn’t come until the sequel, Why Did You Pick On Me?, and the kid’s not directly involved there, anyway), stripping we human beings of our will to live and scouring our resolve to its very core.  I hope not.  They would be extremely nettlesome.

MVT:  For as much as I have ragged on this flick, the relationship between the Sheriff and the kid is really the best of it.  Bud Spencer is one of those guys who I believe is impossible to not find charming.  That he’s only allowed to have basically two modes (exasperated resignation and bemused geniality) in the film is not his fault, but he does them both very well.

Make Or Break:  The Break is the denouement between Hall and H7-25.  There is simply no heart to any of these proceedings (despite the entire film’s purpose of appealing to the audience’s).  We make no strong connection to either character, and therefore we could care less if these two ever see each other again.  The film practically states outright that we should have our hearts warmed by this point in the runtime, but sadly, it all simply feels like going through the motions.  So the final shot, which should be uplifting (or at the absolute minimum leave us grinning), just makes you want to turn it off and watch The Toy instead.

Score:  5/10  

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Love Maria (1988)

I want you to go on the interwebs and look up “dogs playing poker.”  Done?  Good.  In my opinion, no image this side of either the various Trucking For Jesus or Elvis Presley on velvet paintings have so encapsulated the lowbrow aesthetic in such a swift shorthand.  According to Wikipedia, the dog paintings were commissioned in 1903 by the Brown & Bigelow publishing company in order to sell cigars (most likely to minors, but still…).  Painted by C.M. Coolidge, there were sixteen paintings in the series, but only nine had the canines playing cards.  Some of the other activities included dancing (which is actually sort of creepy when you see it), smoking and drinking, or working on the “family” car.  

For such a bizarre image, the appeal is both baffling and ridiculously simple.  As Homer Simpson once said, “They’re dogs!  And they’re playing poker!”  I think that’s the trick of it.  We know there’s absolutely nothing natural about these actions, yet we cannot help but be charmed by it.  Is it the laconic looks the dogs give each other, trying to remain impassive?  Is it that one of the dogs is usually cheating under the table?  Is it that everything else in the paintings is entirely normal, so when these odd elements are added, the incongruity attracts us, like a perfectly-placed mole (sorry, beauty mark) on a woman’s cheek?  Most likely, it’s all of these things and more, like the disparate ingredients that make a great casserole.  The amalgam shouldn’t work, but damn it all if it doesn’t.  And that’s what David Chung and Tsui Hark’s I Love Maria (aka Roboforce aka Tit Gaap Mou Dik Maa Lei Aa) is like.  

The Hero Gang is terrorizing the city (Hong Kong, I assume) with their giant robot, Pioneer 1.  Cub reporter TQ Zhuang (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is hot on the story, but he is put off and utterly disregarded by not only the police but also his boss at The City Times.  Meanwhile, Saviour (Ben Lam), leader of the Hero Gang, has decided to create another robot fashioned in the image of girlfriend (or possibly sister, the subtitles are confusing on this matter) and second-in-command, Maria (Sally Yeh).  Needless to say, Maria is not thrilled, but what can you do?  Police scientist Curly (John Sham) is being used and abused by his higher-ups and makes the mistake of befriending former gangster and current souse, Whisky (Tsui Hark).  But when the gang gets wind that one of theirs (never mind that he is no longer a gang member) is friendly with a cop, they don’t take very kindly to it, and insanity ensues.

There’s simply no way to talk about this movie without referring at some point to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, so let’s dispense with this here and now.  The Maria-Robot in that film drove people to heights of lust and violence and caused all manner of chaos.  She enflamed the emotions and passions of men through her programmed (but never robotic) dancing and the outward appearance (and visibility in terms of amount) of her feminine flesh.  Pioneer 2 (the Maria-Robot of this film) is never anything other than a robot.  There is no subterfuge whatsoever as to what she is or what she does.  And like her human counterpart, Pioneer 2 kicks ten kinds of ass.  It’s this idea of anthropomorphized sexualized technology that the film sets its story on.  Whisky has deep feelings for Maria, so of course, he wants to be near the next best thing.  Curly doesn’t know Maria, but he loves the robot.  However, this sexuality is never explicit.  There is never any nudity or sexual activity of any kind, but the implication is present.  While it would never work cinematically for either man to consummate their love for Maria with the automaton itself, since Pioneer 2 is not anthropomorphized enough in its behavior for us to accept such an act (unless maybe this were a Category III film), the robot does provide the linkage for the brotherly love that develops between Curly and Whisky.  

Curly programs Pioneer 2 to only respond to the passphrase, “I love Curly,” thus ensuring that the tech-minded nebbish will have love for him expressed if not necessarily felt (at least at first).  Also of note, the robot causes convulsive shocks (read: orgasms) which course through one, the other, or both male characters at various points.  But this is only when the men are in physical contact with Pioneer 2 and each other simultaneously.  It is as if the sexual congress simulated by these shocks brings out the bisexual nature of Curly and Whisky in the only way acceptable to both men (i.e. through a woman).  This odd quasi-sexual breakthrough strengthens the nucleus of the men’s connection with each other as well as Pioneer 2’s connection to both of them.

Our two main characters are complementary to each other.  They are, in effect, one gestalt character.  In most outward respects, they are opposites.  One works within the law, one without.  One is a drunk, the other is sober.  One is a tough guy, the other is a wimp.  One is brains, the other is brawn.  But Curly and Whisky have just enough in common to find orbit around one another.  Apart from each other, they are incomplete and ineffectual.  Neither is taken seriously by those who have power over them.  Both are capable at their jobs but are never given the opportunity to shine.  Nonetheless, together (through the facilitation of the robot) the two form a more complete personality.  They become a yin and yang to each other.  And this is mirrored in the character of Pioneer 2.

Where Curly and Whisky need each other to be whole, Pioneer 2 is both in one.  Like Robocop or Johnny Five or David or Pinocchio, Pioneer 2 is the synthesis between heart and hand.  She only knows what she is programmed for, but it is her experiences among humans (and importantly, “good” humans) which forms the core upon which her artificial intelligence (i.e. emotion) develops.  Naturally, this is displayed at a decisive moment when she makes a conscious decision towards action with regards to the humans in her “life.”  These themes and concepts in I Love Maria are not especially new or revelatory, but they are carried off with such energy and style that the film becomes a unique and enjoyable experience.   

MVT:  It must be mentioned that the effects work and the action in the film are extraordinarily well-shot and edited, especially those that have to do with the Pioneer 1 robot.  Its actions are clear, easy to follow, and totally understandable in intent.  For a film that probably didn’t have half the budget of Robocop’s catering, this one certainly has a lot more of what people would like to see (read: ED-209 scenes), and somewhat more kinetically than the Verhoeven picture (though that in no way reflects on the greatness of the American film).    

Make Or Break:  The Make is the first scene involving Pioneer 1 robbing a bank.  It proves that the film can pull off big special effects convincingly, introduces the viewer to the film’s light yet serious tone, and satisfies completely as an action scene.  And that’s before our lead characters are even introduced.

Score:  6.75/10

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Episode #210: The Game

Welcome to another episode sponsored by!!!

This time it was Sammy's pick and he chose to program a show to talk about The Game (1997) directed by David Fincher. This is our first Fincher film but will not be our last. We also covered a little bit of feedback and the film itself took us down the rabbit hole into some interesting and slightly immature conversation.

Direct download: The_Game.mp3

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Devil Story (1985)

After my screening of “Devil Story”, I deduced that the plot is as follows; a family of pirates raid an island commune and overtake the premises. They partake in incest and give birth to a deformed son and a surprisingly normal daughter. The few remaining locals kill the daughter and take refuge in a castle. The two factions wage war against another, which results in the pirates reviving their mummified grandfather, who was seemingly brushing his teeth when he was killed as he constantly spits out toothpaste. Oh, and they travel via a Devil Horse that does nothing but stomp and neigh his way around the island. I haven’t seen a useless horse get this much screen time since the last “Sex and the City” film.

Take out the whole warring factions that I mentioned and replace it with a damsel in distress (who has no name on IMDB, which is fitting as she has no personality). He and her boyfriend stay the night at the castle (which doubles as a hotel for tourists who want to see incestual pirates) until their car is fixed in the morning. He goes missing, she goes looking for him, she finds the pirates, multiple chases ensue, yadda yadda yadda. This is the most homogenized slasher I’ve seen since “Ogroff the Axe Monster”. At least that one was fun.

I hate to accuse Bernard Launois of being a drug addict, but it’s the only conclusion I can come to that makes sense of this film. Nothing in this film makes sense. The last two paragraphs you read are my assumptions of what the plot is and that’s after my screening. The only thing for certain is that a beautiful woman was being chased a lot. Everything else is in the air. There was an urban legend of the pirates told by the castle owner, but it didn’t make a lick of sense. Hence why I came up with my own theory.

To further my belief that Launois was on drugs during the filming of this movie, let me break down how the film moved along. We open with the mutated son killing a few people and throwing them in a ditch. His murders, it should be stated, don’t match up. He shoots one woman in the face, yet when she turns to the camera, she has slashes. Did he load the shotgun with knives?

Anyway, the monster kills a few people then meets up with his mother. She’s whining and complaining about how her daughter is dead and they have to bury her. She’s also bitching about the Devil Horse making noise. He seemingly is insulted by this and travels to the castle, where the damsel in distress and her boyfriend have arrived. We get the aforementioned folktale and she wanders off into the night.

She happens upon the family and falls into their daughter’s grave. They abduct her and plan to kill her by resurrecting a Mummy. Said Mummy chases her and spits out toothpaste. The monster takes his place as the Mummy and the newly resurrected daughter (or maybe it was the mother sporting a new hairdo, I don’t know or care) plod around the island. The monster chases the girl for what seems like an eternity. He’s set on fire and shot at, but doesn’t die. She gets her car to start working, but runs out of gas (which she used the last of to pour on the monster). Rinse, wash, repeat.

The two eventually stumble upon a cave where the destroyed ship is. The old man from the castle is also there, trying his best to shoot the Devil Horse. This results in multiple shots of the horse running around repeated ad nauseam. These shots play throughout the film to pad the meager seventy-three minute runtime, by the way. I won’t spoil the rest for you brave souls who want to watch this garbage, but I will say the twist is mind-bogglingly stupid!

Did any of that make sense to you? If the answer is anything other than “no”, see a psychiatrist. If you answered correctly, avoid this movie! This is coming from the Cinemasochist himself. “Devil Story” is confusing and quite dull! The seventy-three minute runtime feels like an eternity. The only person I’d force this upon is Roger Ebert, solely because he always talks about having seen the worst films ever. After watching this, he’d probably quit the business!

MVT: The monster, I guess. His makeup was alright, though not as cool as on the cover (go figure).

Make or Break: The countless shots of the horse doing absolutely nothing broke this film for me (even more so).

Final Score: 0/10

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Phantom Empire (1986)

One of my favorite legends is the tale of the Iron Door (the other one is Spring-Heeled Jack, but that’s a discussion for some other time).  Reputedly located in the Samaria Mountain range, the story begins at its end.  A couple of homesteaders were sitting outside their cabin one day, when they noticed a horse and rider drawing near.  The rider was wounded (shot, in fact), and the homesteaders hurried him into their cabin.  As he lay dying, the rider stated that he was a member of a trio of stagecoach robbers who had menaced the area for a long time, and they had amassed quite a stash of precious metals and assorted booty.  According to the moribund highwayman, the ill-gotten gains had been placed in a cave south of Samaria which was sealed with the eponymous door.  During an argument, the man shot and killed his two partners and sealed them behind the door as well before dragging himself away.  Since the description of the cache’s location is imprecise to say the least, no one has been able to find it (though you’d think the door would give it away) to this day.  When I initially heard this story, I was told that the door’s location would mystically change from day to day, though I believe it was just imprecisely explained to me, as well.  So, anyone who wants to take a trip to the wilds of Idaho with me, let me know.  I’m always up for a treasure hunt (actually, that’s a lie; I hate the outdoors).

One lovely day, an albino-ish monster (actually a guy in an Alien Hitbeast mask from The Last Starfighter and a blonde/white fright wig) scurries out of Bronson Cavern and kills some random guy (Michael Sonye) and his dog before being clubbed with a Coleman cooler by his wife (Victoria Alexander).  Enter hoi polloi/rich bitch Denae Chambers (Susan Stokey), who hires loser salvaging duo/drunkard tag team, Colt Eastman (Ross Hagen) and Eddy (Dawn Wildsmith) to help her trek back into the caves to find the wealth of precious gems with which the obviously non-high-class monster was adorned.  Joined by the inexplicably “hunky” Andrew Paris (Jeffrey Combs) and the dandy-esque Professor Strock (the late, great Robert Quarry), the team wend their way into the well-lit subterrane and peregrinate for about an hour or so.

Fred Olen Ray’s The Phantom Empire is actually the second (quasi) remake of the 1935 serial of the same name.  The first was on the 1979 NBC series “Cliffhangers!” (which is bafflingly unavailable on [legit] DVD; Hell, even “Tales of the Gold Monkey” received an official release).  There, the story title was changed to “The Secret Empire,” but the heart of the story remained the same.  Part of a portmanteau show, it shared its time spot with “Stop Susan Williams,” a conspiracy story which was an update on the old Perils Of Pauline serials and the Michael Nouri-starring “The Curse Of Dracula.” But the Weird Western story was my favorite, and the show did what it was designed to do; It kept me coming back every week.  I haven’t seen the television show since it originally aired, but I did recently view a condensation of the original version of the “Empire” story, and aside from the plot device of making sure Gene Autry made it back to the Radio Ranch every episode to do his live show and the natural structure of the serial format (all peaks, no valleys), it’s not bad.  Thankfully, Ray does acknowledge his influences with a passing line from the only cowgirl in the film, Eddy.

And since Mr. Ray clearly loves women (or certain parts of women at the absolute minimum), let’s talk for a moment about gender in this movie.  The film exists in a man’s world.  Eddy, Colt’s partner is masculinized almost to the point of actually being a man (I’m actually sort of surprised she never flatulates, eructates, expectorates, or micturates standing up).  The same can be said of Sybil Danning’s Alien Queen, but she at least expresses a sexual interest in Andrew, despite her being physically superior to every man and woman in the cast.  Yet as a sexual being, the Queen is dependent on machines, thus she is a direct threat to masculinity but is incapable of fulfilling her own sexual needs without artificial assistance and ergo, is incomplete.  On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Cave Bunny (Michelle Bauer), who is a sexual submissive in every aspect.  She is busty, partially clothed, and cowers, constantly hoping to make the men (or at least Andrew) happy.  Plus, she can’t speak, so there is no doubt left as to her fetishization as a perfect sexual receptacle for men.

Denae’s sexuality is closer to having an actual arc throughout the film, and I actually found it sort of interesting to follow it through.  She begins the story as an ice queen, literally wearing furs.  She is remote, controlling, and is only included in the male-dominated expedition because she has the money to fund it (in essence, a form of solicitation for sex because she cannot attract a man).  Once she meets Andrew and enters the caverns, her sexuality is ignited.  She still is unworthy of a man’s love, but she has been instilled with the desire to be so.  The further into the Earth (read: womb) she travels, the hotter she literally becomes, until she reaches the center, where there is even an active volcano spewing lava into the air, the pinnacle of sexual release imagery in the film.  The center of the Earth is also a prehistoric throwback, a complete delivery from the modern/society-enforced sexual norms and mores which have constrained her up to this point in her life.  When she re-emerges from the vaginal cave opening and seals it with an orgasmic, climactic explosion, she is reborn in a more sexually normative (but not necessarily progressive) form.  You know, if you’re looking for that type of thing in a film like this.

But let’s be honest with each other; I don’t believe anyone has ever watched a Fred Olen Ray film, nor do I believe that Mr. Ray has ever produced a film, with any intention other than to pass the time staring at the exploitable elements.  This is cinema heaven-sent for the beer-and-pizza set, and there’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself.  However, a film needs to be entertaining, and the one thing this movie isn’t, at its heart, is entertaining.  The characters seem to act however they have been written to in order to get any given scene from Point A to Point B (and the scenes themselves typically linger on for far too long in an obvious attempt at padding the runtime).  Consequently, their behavior vacillates from being likable and heroic to being boorish and irritating at various points.  You can argue that this sort of inconsistency provides the verisimilitude of greater depth, but really it’s just time passing by that you feel, and who wouldn’t prefer to be knocked out for a root canal?

MVT:  the best thing about the film, aside from the pulchritude and tight jeans on display, is the stop-motion dinosaur effects which Ray lifted from the (equally drab) Planet Of The Dinosaurs.  But at the very least, that film had the benefit of the skills of Doug Beswick and Jim Danforth.  Fred Olen Ray apparently had a Starlog catalog and access to this stock footage.

Make Or Break:  The Break is the monotony of the characters walking and running through the caverns ceaselessly.  Not only does it make the whole affair drag on, but I literally started to recognize certain sections of the caves.  It’s like a bad porn set, but made by nature rather than carpenters.  Plus, the rocks have more personality than any of the characters standing next to them.

Score:  4/10           

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