A Collection of Low Budget Sci-Fi/Horror Flicks, 80’s VHS Style
Having accumulated more movies than the average film goer is more than obvious to those who have gotten to know me either personally or through the blog here at Mike’s Take. It’s pretty near impossible for me to feature every film I see all by itself so here’s another way of trying to keep a spotlight on those I do see. Good or bad, I love to shine the light on films that many of us have never heard of or wouldn’t give a second glance to if we came across them. I have a such a soft spot for the low budget fodder that populated the video stores of my younger days. The films that inevitably caught my eye were the many action fests and sci-fi flicks that seem to show up every Tuesday when the new titles hit the shelves that in many cases starred actors I knew and considered myself a fan of. Titles I am quite sure never saw the inside of a movie theater.
I felt the urge to go on a binge watch of these oddities and flicks we’re not likely to see playing network TV any time soon so let the spotlighting begin.
This low budget special borrows a bit from a whole slew of other movies. We have a terminator like cyborg, half human and half machine, time travel, Neanderthal beings and thankfully a fun turn from Andrew Prine as a hybrid Indiana Jones/Crocodile Dundee adventurer. He’s a river boat captain who is hired on by attractive Denise Crosby to take her and the cyborg up river against all kinds of odds on the pretext that he’s in for a cut of the pirate treasure they lead him to believe is their goal. Far from it and the trip will have to contend with river boat pirates, the cave dwellers and a warlord from the future. Or is it the past? Heck, I don’t know. But I do know that Andrew Prine had me smiling for the majority of his screen time in this classic example of the “what’s new on VHS this week?” listings.
The Video Dead (1987)
Zombies are the central focus in this lower than low budget feature that sees a gang of undead “walkers” crawl through some television portal to wreak havoc on a small cast of wanna be actors. I thought the opening half hour was kind of fun when for no particular reason a small, let’s say 20 inch TV is dropped off at a neighborhood home. Once turned on, the black and white TV only seems to play one old zombie movie. Kind of a wanna be George A. Romero flick. The TV zombies decide to join the real world. Some are effectively made up, some less so and the blood soon flows freely when limbs are severed and chainsaws tear into torsos. It’s all rather pointless and over long but I did kind of like the lead zombie who approaches the inside of your TV screen looking out at you as you watch the film. Just don’t drift off to sleep. You may wake up with a zombie munching on your fingers.
The Kindred (1987)
Twenty years removed from his Oscar winning role for In the Heat of the Night, Rod Steiger seemed to slum his way through most any payday down the stretch of his lengthy career. Almost as if he was picking up roles that Donald Pleasance didn’t have time for. There’s plenty of fun to be had here in this tale of genetic research resulting in a hybrid human/mass of goo that takes it’s inspiration from any number of classic movies. A little bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a watermelon subbing in for a pod, too many nods towards Alien to even bother counting, Carpenter’s The Thing, The Island of Dr. Moreau and heck even Tentacles. I know. That’s by no means a classic.
Steiger takes on the demented scientist role here who is after what competitor Dr. Zira minus the make-up, Kim Hunter has brewed up in her cottage retreat. Not surprisingly, Steiger and Hunter get little screen time in comparison to the youngsters hired on as the would be victims and all around good sports at having globs of ectoplasm or whatever you call that stuff thrown at them for the better part of 90 minutes. Rod chews the scenery as he was known to do and I love his comeuppance in the end. This one is totally watchable and ripe for a release on Scream Factory’s line of blu rays.
Hats off to the make up and F/X team for bringing the Kindred to the screen. It just needs a little more Rod and his wonderful toupee.
The Tomb (1986)
Anyone who recognizes the name Fred Olen Ray is surely a fan of the low budget horror flick as Fred has plenty of memorable titles to his resume including Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. This nod to horror films of the golden era features all kinds of references to film’s past. That includes having John Carradine in one of his later appearances as an expert on Egyptian history and preaching the terrors that await those who dabble in the mystic arts. People like Cameron Mitchell who wants to find the key to immortality by tangling with a risen Queen of Egypt who is half vampire and wholly sadistic. For the most part, Mitchell was slumming during this portion of his career but his participation here is most welcome.
The listing of Sybil Danning in the credits would lead you to assume she’s been cast as our blood sucking Queen but no, it’s Michelle Bauer playing Nefratis amidst references to early Mummy films including a character named after actor David Manners, another named John Banning (Peter Cushing’s name in the ’59 version of The Mummy), the summoning of Amon-Ra and if you know your Ed Wood films, then surely you’ll recognize a few lines of dialogue borrowed by our intrepid detective investigating the recent murder of an aging archaeologist. I’m quite sure there are more to be found so have a look and find what I may have missed.
Both hokey and ridiculous but feel the love here and maybe you’ll have as much fun as I did checking this one out. A great example of what one might find on the video shelf during the VHS age and should you be a fan of Russ Meyer’s camera work, there are a couple of reasons you might want to check out a strip club scene that needlessly lingers a second or two to long.
Copious amounts of nudity, virgins on every street corner and a darkly clad alien with a 1950’s Fly-like head and black rubber gloves that look as if they were meant to be worn for preventing dish pan hands run amok in this low budget throwback to the days when Al Adamson blessed us with many a drive in flick. Remember when Old Bela used to attempt to mate that Ape with beautiful, virginal young women? Well director Tim Kincaid passes on the Bela character but allows his poorly constructed alien to rape, mutilate and I suppose impregnate a half dozen young cuties that all seem to regain their beauty and hair styles for the ridiculous fade out at the 75 minute mark.
To keep the plot moving along, our New York detective, Lance Lewman and Teresa Farley’s Doctor from the hospital where each of these young victims are under sedation attempt to piece the serial rapings together. In turn they’ll see each young woman rise from her hospital bed in their birthday suits and journey to the abandoned sewer systems below what I assume to be New York City. It’s here that things lean a little towards the bizarre when the young girls bathing in what appears to be a large pool of…………….. nope, I’m not telling but I’d love to have heard the director Kincaid’s instructions and explanations to our young ladies during the filming of the scene.
“What’s my motivation?”
Not sure how he’d have handled that one.
So 5 films offered here for a throwback to a time now past. See them all at your own risk and look for the positives in each. Remember that though I may poke fun at films from time to time, Mike’s Take is meant to be a celebration of movies and the recollections they offer us when looking back. I for one enjoyed every Thursday visiting a local store with Mom when new titles I’d never heard of were available to take home for the weekend rental and video movie posters advertising the coming months were splashed about the walls within.