Monday, July 25, 2016

Episode 15: The Crush (1993)

“Ever do a virgin?  I know you want to...”

While apartment-hunting, photojournalist Nick Eliot (Cary Elwes) stumbles upon a quaint guesthouse owned by a middle-aged couple (That ‘70s Show’s Kurtwood Smith and Gwynyth Wash). Soon after settling in, their fourteen-year-old daughter, Darian (Alicia Silverstone in her first major role), insinuates herself into Nick’s life, becoming a constant and inescapable presence. With her ever-present smile and flirtatious demeanor, it’s quite clear she’s developed an intense infatuation with her new neighbor. As they always do, things start out innocently enough, with Darian appearing on his doorstep at odd hours, giving him little gifts, making “casual” phone calls (one of which to reveal she’s begun her menstrual cycle), and sunbathing, in a very revealing swimsuit, well within eyeshot of Nick’s window. Events take an ugly turn when Darian realizes her love is destined to go on unrequited, and an even uglier turn when Nick begins dating a colleague (Jennifer Rubin). What begins as an innocent adolescent crush quickly becomes a deadly obsession, as Nick discovers how dangerous this fourteen-year-old girl can be, especially when she doesn’t get what she wants.

Okay, so The Crush isn’t a B-film. It’s not even a cult classic. It is, however, one of my favorite Fatal Attraction-style thrillers and the film that spawned my decades-old adoration of the gorgeous Alicia Silverstone. I also chose The Crush because of its interesting history. It’s rarely mentioned that the movie was loosely inspired by a true story and screenwriter Alan Shapiro based the script on his own experiences. He even gave the film’s antagonist the same name as the girl who, at one point, made his life very unpleasant.

I suspect Shapiro elaborates on this during his on-camera interview, as well as on the commentary track featured on Scream Factory’s new Blu ray/DVD combo, but sadly, I cannot confirm this, as I refuse to buy this release. As a matter of fact, I refuse to watch any version other than the original Warner Bros. VHS. Why? Because all subsequent releases of the film were (poorly) dubbed to remove any/all mentions of the name “Darian,” replacing it with “Adrian.” This was due to a lawsuit orchestrated by the real-life Darian, who saw the film as defamatory. I elaborate on this, as well as other bits of trivia, during the actual commentary.

Since we live in a hyper-sensitive age, where anything can be misinterpreted, especially on the Internet, I felt compelled to include a disclaimer explaining a moment during the episode (in particular, during the scene in which Darian files false sexual assault charges against Nick), where I make some odd comments and laugh sort of inappropriately. Just in case I didn’t make myself clear during the recording of the episode, I wanted to state here that I WAS NOT laughing about or making light of rape or sexual abuse of any kind. I WAS NOT poking fun at anyone who’s fallen victim to sexual assault of any kind. Most importantly, I WAS NOT trying to insinuate that all women who make sexual assault claims are lying. The point I was trying to make (and I don’t think I did a very good job of it) was that girls like the Darian character, i.e. girls who make false claims, are one of the main reasons those who’ve actually been abused are reluctant to come forward. They fear they won’t be believed and, in many cases, fear those reporting the crime will assume they’d “asked for it.” I was laughing AT MYSELF because it was late, I was more than a little slap happy, and couldn’t clearly verbalize my thought. I was laughing at being so tongue-tied, NOT at anything involving sexual abuse. Now that my conscience is clear, please enjoy this edition of B-Movie Bonanza.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Episode 14: Strip for Action (1996)

“My name’s not Einstein.”

Tipped off by a trusted employee, Jones and Halleck (Kevin Alber and Emile Levisetti), a pair of sociopathic gunmen, creep into an L.A. strip joint through an unlocked back door. They intend on making off with the club’s lucrative earnings, approximately $1,000,000.00 in cash, but almost immediately, their plans veer off-course.

What should’ve been a simple in-and-out heist quickly becomes a bloodbath, as Jones and Halleck realize things haven’t been as tightly planned as they’d thought. Inside, they discover more armed guards, more patrons, more employees. Worst of all, the safe they’ve come to unload is on a timeclock, set to open at 6:00 AM, when an armored truck is scheduled to collect the accumulated funds.

A tense game of waiting ensues, with the club’s owner lying in a pool of blood and the few surviving staff members bound at the wrist and held at gunpoint. When finally they get what they’ve come for, Jones and Halleck decide that taking along a pair of hostages might come in handy, should there be a police standoff. Forced to join them are Kim (Maria Ford), shift supervisor/assistant manager, and Crystal (Nikki Fritz), a sassy. melon-breasted stripper. Needless to say, poorly-executed mayhem ensues.

Oh boy. Where do I even begin? Well, within the first five minutes, it’s abundantly clear that the term “B-movie” is a little too kind for  a for a cheesy, slapped-together action/thriller like Strip for Action (formerly titled Hot Ticket). As is the case with a large number of Roger Corman’s straight-to-video time-wasters of the 1990s, we’ve got lots of sex and nudity, cringe-worthy dialogue, clichés aplenty. and practically as much stock footage as original material.

If I haven’t already stated my case, Strip for Action is not one of my favorites, but like Showgirl Murders or Saturday Night Special (both starring the lovely Maria Ford, no relation), it’s a Corman title I’ll revisit when I want to just turn my brain off and spend 80 minutes with a little Z-grade silliness. So, in a sense, it’s a movie I enjoy purely on a “guilty pleasure,” “so bad, it’s (sort of) good” level.

If you’ve watched a lot of the latter Corman movies (“latter” meaning the late ‘80s on up, when he focused mostly on erotic thrillers like the Body Chemistry series, with the occasional Edgar Allan Poe retelling thrown in for good measure), you’ll note that when Concorde started releasing these movies on DVD in the early 2000s, they went through a series of bewildering cuts (a topic I elaborate on during the commentary). This is not to say they made a habit of only releasing the R-rated version to DVD, when the VHS contained a longer, jucier unrated cut (although they did do a fair bit of this).

What I came to find was that Concorde trimmed a number of these scenes not for sex and/or violence, but for...well, I’m not entirely sure. On many discs, bits of dialogue (and sometimes entire scenes) have been omitted. It’s like watching an old Seinfeld or Friends re-run and noticing that one of your favorite jokes has been removed, not for questionable content, but essentially to make room for more commercials. With the Concorde discs, I really have no explanation for this odd phenomenon, but as a long-time fan of these movies, I can guarantee that it’s ever-present.

Why the lengthy rant? Because Strip for Action also fell victim to the scissor-happy editors over at Concorde prior to the disc’s pressing. There are a number of shots, lines, and some short scenes included on the original VHS, but not the DVD. However, someone out there (and God bless this guy, because he’s the only person in the world who’d go through the painstaking efforts to do something this time-consuming for absolutely no reward) made a composite version of the film, which contains the “remastered” version included on the DVD, with all the cut scenes found on the VHS edited back in (kinda like the way Anchor Bay put together their original, uncut version of Silent Night, Deadly Night some years back). Because this was such a rare find (and I’d rather not say where I found it), I wanted to share it with other B-movie fanatics like myself. I uploaded the file to YouTube and to my surprise, it received well over a thousand views in just a couple weeks. I couldn’t believe how many people had stumbled upon this micro-budget cheeseball and how quickly. So, I thought I’d add it to the B-Movie Bonanza roster.

Unfortunately, in between the recording of the commentary and its addition to the blog, I felt compelled to remove the upload from my YouTube channel due to the nonsense that took place between myself and the doofballs known as “slasher // video” (yes, because of their doofball-ery, they will be forever known by this title). What isn’t mentioned on the original blog chronicling the ridiculousness of the story is that I attempted several times to reach out to the “slasher // video” doofballs to apologize for my transgression (I guess that’s what we’ll call it) and pleaded with them to remove my YouTube strike so I could continue posting episodes of B-Movie Bonanza there. Each and every one of my attempts went unanswered, so to the doofballs, I say: “Suck it. I didn’t mean one goddamn word of my apology anyway. It was merely an attempt at making you rectify your douchiness.”

I was under the impression that due to this strike against my account, I wouldn’t be able to post anything longer than 15 minutes until December, when the strike would be removed. However, I came to find that I am once again permitted this option, though other restrictions will remain on my account until the 6-month probationary period expires.

Don’t worry. You can still enjoy this episode of B-Movie Bonanza. As with almost all the commentaries I’ve recorded thus far, I spend less time discussing what’s on-screen, and more time sharing personal stories, bits of trivia, and in this case, my fandom for the underrated B-Queen Maria Ford.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Episode 13: Sleepaway Camp II (1988)

“You pissed away your good looks and God-given talent your whole life and turned into nothing but a cynical, dirty-mouthed waste of flesh!”

If the Angel of Death had no trouble finding fault with the horny, pot-smoking teenagers of the Reagan era, can you imagine how she’d react to the crazy kids of today? The thought evokes a streamline of gore-soaked images; possibilities of how the notorious Angela Baker would  “handle” 21st Century post-adolescents. With their iPhone obsessions, sexting, bath salts, and this odd new Pokémon Go craze, we’ve got bad campers coming out of the woodwork, not mention falling into open manholes, leaving a mountain of easy prey for the predatory counselor.

In the sequel to Robert Hiltzik’s 1983 cult classic, everyone’s favorite transgender (transgendered? Anyone?) psycho returns, this time as a Camp Rolling Hills counselor, and within the first five minutes of the film, we come to find she has even less tolerance for those who don’t play by the rules. All you have to do is give Angie the ol’ side-eye and you’re doused with Jack Daniel’s and set ablaze atop a barbecue pit.


For a time, Unhappy Campers was not only my favorite installment in the Sleepaway Camp franchise, but it was easily one of the most viewed and most quotable movies in my extensive collection. I vividly remember sitting cross-legged on my basement floor, reciting every line in the script (without the aid of a VCR, thank you very much) just to impress the few friends able to tolerate my questuinable eccentricities. So enamored with the demented sequel, I could even recite the synopsis printed on the back of the old Nelson Entertainment VHS, word for word, without so much as glancing at the box. What can I say? I was quite smitten with Fritz Gordon’s (a.k.a. Michael Hitchcock’s) quirky writing style, this brand new incarnation of the Angela character, and, most of all, with Pamela Springsteen’s portrayal of the murderous camp counselor who can’t stand the idea of anyone having any fun.

For those of you who’ve been listening to my silly little fanboy commentaries from the beginning, you basically know how I operate and what to expect from an episode of B-Movie Bonanza. This is not an excuse to rip an ‘80s cult classic to shreds, but to show both my appreciation and undying love for a movie that has brought me so many years of twisted entertainment.

I used Scream Factory’s Blu ray/DVD combo as my film source, so for those of you who want to watch along, this would obviously be the best option. The running time is 1:20:22, including the MGM intro prior to the opening titles. After recording this episode, I popped in Anchor Bay’s 2002 Survival Kit edition, just for the sake of comparing lengths (good grief, that sounds filthy) and their version runs, sans MGM intro, 1:19:53, which would leave you about 30 seconds off. So, join me as I revisit Sleepaway Camp II, but please, pack only the essentials and remember, “nice girls don’t have to show it off.”

Brandon Ford's B-Movie Bonanza - Episode 13: Sleepaway Camp II (1988) from Brandon Ford on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Episode 12: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

“How pretty. All of you are...very pretty...”

Don’t you just hate it when things don’t go according to plan?

It was supposed to be an intimate gathering of girls only; a slumber party wherein old friends gorged themselves on junk food, sparked a little Mary Jane, and reminisced about old times. Unfortunately for Trish, our party’s hostess, things start off on the wrong foot. A lecherous neighbor has made himself a little too available, some male classmates show up to pull a prank or two, and Diane, Trish’s closest friend, is more concerned with getting it in (with her horned-up boyfriend, not Trish) than spending quality time with longtime contemporaries. As if poor Trish doesn’t have enough on her plate, an escaped maniac convicted of five brutal slayings has decided to crash their little gathering—with his portable electric drill.

Plans. Makes me wonder why any of us even bother with ‘em. I myself had a plan for this particular episode of B-Movie Bonanza. Since The Slumber Party Massacre has been in my top five horror films for well over two decades and I’ve spent years talking about it at length, I wanted to do something other than yammer on about my obsessive appreciation for the film and the hundreds of times I’ve seen it, as well as its successors. . I do a fair amount of gushing during the actual commentary, but for the blog post accompanying it, I thought it would be interesting to include something different.

As I’m sure you all know, the screenplay for The Slumber Party Massacre (formerly titled Sleepless Night) was penned by feminist author and activist Rita Mae Brown, who made a name for herself in the early 1970s with the publication of her debut novel Rubyfruit Jungle, and throughout the ‘90s with a series of mystery novels centered around cats. In 1997, she released an autobiography entitled Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble Rouser. In this 500-page tome, she delves deep into her personal life. sharing hundreds of stories involving her early years living in the south, the homophobia she later experienced during her college years (when closeted faculty members looked down their noses at students, like Rita, who were comfortable enough in their sexuality to publicly embrace it), a rocky relationship with her aunt and adoptive mother (who were always at odds), as well as high-profile lesbian relationships with tennis pro Martina Malinova.

She also spends a fair amount of time discussing her literary career and, from what I’d been told prior to picking the book up, talks briefly about the original screenplay for what is now known as The Slumber Party Massacre. As far as I know, Rita Mae has never spoken publicly about the film and I’d always been curious about her original intentions, as well as her reaction to the final product. I knew the script was written as a Student Bodies-style parody of the era’s slasher films, but shot in more of a straightforward manner. Other than this microcosm of information, I knew nothing of the movie’s origins. So, I was very excited to read what she’d have to say and planned on including excerpts from the book in this blog. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the book’s mid-point, so I never actually made it to the section devoted to the film.

While Rita Mae’s stories and life experiences are interesting enough, the book rambles on endlessly about her formative years, going into everything without sparing the smallest detail. It was a seemingly endless array of stories, anecdotes, and rites of passage. After a while, I simply couldn’t take it anymore, so I put the book down sans reaching the finish line. From what I’d been told by a previous reader, the Slumber Party passage is quite brief. Even so, I was excited about reading Rita Mae’s memories of this particular endeavor, not to mention sharing this information with devoted fans of the series. However, much like Trish’s ill-fated get-together, things didn’t go according to plan.

Despite my shortcomings, I recorded what I think is a pretty decent commentary, wherein I discuss the usual: how and where I discovered the film, memories of seeing it for the first time, how I obtained my VHS copy, and, believe it or not, how The Slumber Party Massacre has helped in my quest to master the French language. As a source for this commentary, I used the Scream Factory Blu ray edition, which runs 1:16:15. So, get ready to kick back and enjoy the show, because it’s time to revisit “the ultimate driller killer thriller!”

Brandon Ford's B-Movie Bonanza - Episode 12: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) from Brandon Ford on Vimeo.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Episode 11: Prom Night III (1990)

“It wasn’t a person. It was a guidance counsellor.”

Let me, if I may, toss you a hypothetical situation:

You’re a high school senior with average grades, but medical school aspirations. Your long-term relationship can be described as rocky, at best. You’re lacking in friends, popularity, and worst of all, your mediocre skills on the football field have let the team down again and again.

As if by some miracle, a beautiful and incredibly seductive enchantress enters your life. She’s passionate, immediately devoted, and more than willing to do whatever it takes to help you realize your dreams.

Your long-term girlfriend takes an immediate backseat when this beautiful seductress sends your GPA soaring to the top of the list, enhances your game-playing abilities with a few insider tips, and eliminates those who’ve stood in the way of your success (this includes teachers, guidance counsellors, and student body adversaries).

What does she want in exchange? For you to be her obedient love slave. Oh and to dispose of the horribly mutilated bodies she’s left in her wake, then join her for an eternity in Hell. What do you say? Well, if you’re average, small-town, second-string underachiever Alex Grey, you say abso-fuckin-lutely!

In the second sequel to the 1980 slasher essential, Prom Night III veers in an entirely different direction, blending dark humor with a healthy dose of blood ‘n guts. While the film’s predecessors contained a few jokes and jabs, The Last Kiss is more camp than straight slasher. With death scenes involving ice cream cones, 35mm film stock, and battery acid baths (“Relax! You’re soaking in it!”), this Canadian cult classic goes above and beyond to show the audience it doesn’t take itself too seriously and that everyone’s in on the joke.

For all these reasons, The Last Kiss remains my favorite instalment in the Prom Night franchise. Courtney Taylor’s portrayal of Mary Lou Maloney is apples and oranges in comparison to Hello Mary Lou’s Lisa Schrage, who, when not being a total bitch, pretty much played it straight. Taylor puts an entirely new spin on the character and quite obviously had a ball doing so. With a devious smirk and an arched eyebrow, she murderously wields electric mixers and delivers silly lines like, “I’m Alex’s new girlfriend. And you have a bad...ATTITUDE!”

Sadly, The Last Kiss has yet to see an uncut version on DVD or Blu ray in the United States (I'm sure we all remember the abomination that was Artisan's Prom Night III / Prom Night IV double-feature disc). For the purposes of this commentary, I used the R4 disc, which runs 1:35:47, and contains the R-rated edition originally released to home video by LIVE Entertainment. Although I removed my upload for fear of copyright infringement, this version can easily be found on YouTube.

So, grab a shovel and a twelve-pack of Trojans because it’s time to “dig a few holes and boff a ghost."

Brandon Ford's B-Movie Bonanza - Episode 11: Prom Night III (1990) from Brandon Ford on Vimeo.