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I've been threatening to do this for a while now and I suppose it is time. Despite me swearing that I'd never force myself to sit th...

Monday, November 28, 2022

Taking time off

Life has gotten a bit hectic for me here at the Crappy Movie Review H.Q. so I've made the decision to take the rest of the year off. That sounds like a long time, but really it is just a month. I plan on returning to the grind in January 2023 ready to go with some recharged batteries and a whole lot more crappy movies to talk about! 

If you need a fix... and honestly who wouldn't... you can still hear me on the Bloodbaths and Boomsticks podcast. You can download and listen to episodes at the below link. Again I'll catch you all back here next year. 

-John


BLOODBATHS AND BOOMSTICKS!


 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Ruckus (1980)

Made a couple of years before Rambo this odd combination of lighthearted chase movie is combined with some Hicksploitation and Vetsploitation elements. If you aren’t familiar with these terms Hicksploitation is when you have some rural characters that are inexplicably hostile and Vetsploitation is when a traumatized vet comes back home and is treated poorly normally leading to some violence.

Ruckus stars Dirk Benedict as a Vietnam vet who we find out was captured twice and spent time in a Viet Cong prison camp, escaping both times. This is important because he doesn’t like being locked up. We see him wander into town and buy a raw hamburger from a stand before trying to leave. The local big shot, Bellows, wants to talk to him about his missing son. He recognizes the unit patch on his jacket and hopes beyond hope that he might know something. But Kyle, the vet, ignores him and tries to leave town.

The sheriff and Bellows are both sympathetic to Kyle, which is an odd change for movies like this where they normally would be the villains and are happy to leave him be. But there is a deputy and a few others that take a dislike to him, which is only made worse when they mess with him, and he kicks their butts! From that point forward they are not only cruel but a bit homicidal towards him. They go from zero to lets murder this guy in a heartbeat. Toss in Bellows’ daughter in law Jenny who is a bit sweet on Kyle and there is some jealousy added to the fire. This all leads to a big showdown that is at times silly chase flick and at other times very dark and violent.

I really enjoyed Ruckus. It is paced well just enough character development to make you sympathetic towards Kyle and to understand the predicament of not knowing for sure that Jenny and her father in law are dealing with. I liked these characters. And again, I was very surprised in the decision to make the sheriff and patriarch of the Bellows’ family kind people. That isn’t what the formula dictates. That said I’m not sure why the locals get so bloodthirsty so quickly and more importantly how they thought they could commit murder under the noses of men who would care and assumedly try to punish them.

On a much lighter note, we get a lot of mayhem in the movie. Cop cars get stolen, there is a big dirt bike chase, another car chase, some boat chasing, and lots of crashes. Dynamite is tossed around in a manner that probably should have maimed folks, but they are okay. Roofs are torn off vintage (though not at the time) trucks and many cars explode. So, you can see why I tossed this in with my automotive mayhem marathon. There is even some romantic bonding while riding dirt bikes. That last one is for the ladies!

The cast is great and includes the already mentioned Dirk Benedict. Linda Blair plays Jenny and her father in law is played by the legendary Ben Johnson. Richard Farnsworth is the sheriff and Matt Clark is one of the bloodthirsty rednecks. You may not recognize that last name but if you watched drive-in flicks in the seventies, you will recognize him. This is a solid cast that is more than up to the challenge of bringing these characters to the screen.

Not a perfect movie but one that I think deserves a look. This one can be a challenge to locate but it is out there if you look hard enough. As of the writing of this review I couldn’t find it streaming on any of the major services but won’t be surprised if it shows up on YouTube at some point.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Texas Detour (1978)

The opening credits roll over brothers Clay and Dale along with their sister Sugar as they travel along in a groovy seventies van with Dale playing his guitar and singing a song. As soon as the credits finish, they get into a car chase where eventually the van is forced off the road by some criminals who steal their money as well as their ride. This sends the three off on foot where they meet up with a local named Beau (played by Anthony James) who offers them a ride if they can help him get his car running. They do and after an unhelpful visit to the sheriff’s office they end up working at the ranch owned by Beau’s father.

After some working the ranch montages and a bar fight, we see Beau chase down Sugar and rape her. This is the seventies and Texas Detour is a “hicksploitation” flick so that is par for the course. This sets Clay up to chase down Beau and beat the hell out of him. But the sheriff stops him before he does too much damage, though Beau is pissed off. Since his family runs the town, the sheriff can’t do much about it. After Clay beds Beau’s sister Claudia (played by Priscilla Barnes) and Beau is killed by someone else in a barfight things get crazy. Everyone blames Clay for the murder, despite having an alibi provided by Claudia which leads to one final car chase as the they try to escape the county with the sheriff and father of Beau and Claudia in hot pursuit.

Did he ever play a good guy?
I love these movies and their odd screwed up seventies’ logic. The rich family can get away with anything because they own everything. But their influence ends at the county line so all you have to do is get there or in this case jump over a roadblock! This same basic plot was used repeatedly in these cheap but entertaining drive-in flicks. Here they don’t screw the formula up as the movie plays out something like this. Car chase 1, dirt bike race, bar fight with hicks, horse vs. dirt bike race, bad thing happens (rape), another dirt bike race, and final car chase. You mix in some musical numbers and the working on the ranch montage, and you have yourself a movie. Simple but effective as something interesting is always happening from the opening credits to the final frame.

Love seeing familiar faces
The cast is filled with familiar faces including Patrick Wayne as Clay, R.G. Armstrong as Sheriff Burt, Anthony James as Beau (did he ever play a good guy?), and Cameron Mitchell as the pissed off patriarch of the powerful family. Of course, I’ve already mentioned Priscilla Barnes of Threes Company fame in her first starring role. This is a solid “B” cast bolstered with a few Hollywood veterans to round things out. I miss the days when you could get solid working character actors to show up and put in a good day’s work regardless of what kind of movie they were making. I think that is what is missing in today’s low budget flicks.

This isn’t a classic or even a great movie if I’m being honest. Texas Detour knows the formula, adheres to it, and in the end provides us with a fun way to kill an hour and a half. Not everything needs to be art or reinvent storytelling/filmmaking. Some movies are just meant to be a good time. With that in mind I recommend folks track down a copy and check this one out.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, November 14, 2022

Checkered Flag or Crash (1977)

The drive-in theaters were filled with “car” movies for most of their existence. Though they really hit their stride in the seventies with flicks like Vanishing Point and Grand Theft Auto. I’ve watched just about all of them over the years so imagine how surprised I was to have found Checkered Flag or Crash. It stars Joe Don Baker, Larry Hagman, and Susan Sarandon as well as being shot in the Philippines. Car movie… check! Cast of actors I dig… check! Shot in one of my favorite locations for drive-in flicks… check! How have I never seen this before?

The story is very simple. Joe Don Baker is a driver who is nicknamed Walkaway because he is the only one that normally walks away from his many wrecks. He has been sponsored by a magazine to take part in a big rally race in the Philippines with the agreement that he takes a reporter along for the ride. What he doesn’t know is that it is a lady reporter played by Susan Sarandon. We also get a bunch of other characters including a pretty lady on a motorcycle, a French race car driver, a local driving a taxi, and a few more. I’m glossing over these because they don’t do much with them other than an occasional scene here and there. We don’t even find out what happens to any of them, though given the sheer number of crashes I’m thinking a lot of them died!

The race is being put on by Larry Hagman’s character. He is determined to finish the thing even after there is a flood and mudslide that forces him to choose a dangerous route where the racers will not only have to dodge each other but construction equipment as well. Why the rush? Well there is a toss away line about him owing “people” money that infers it may be the mob or some other organized criminal enterprise. Don’t worry though we never hear about it again. Heck they even hint that the promised prize money might not exist which is something else that is never resolved.

Checkered Flag or Crash has some serious issues. The plot is paper thin filled with, as I’ve mentioned above, far too many throwaway characters to pad the runtime. It would have been nice to see some of the subplots go somewhere, but that doesn’t happen at all. Even the main plot with Walkaway and the reporter doesn’t have a resolution. He basically is an ass to her leaving her stranded in the middle of nowhere at one point, though she still cares about him. I suppose making your male lead be completely without redeeming qualities might have been a bad choice. I didn’t like any of the characters and that is an issue.

Most of the better car movies have human characters and a story that is set in and around the road/race/chase. Here it is all about staging the car crashes and stunts. There are a lot of them, though the way they are shot makes it difficult to follow the action at times. So not only do we not have much story to keep our attention what they try and hang their hats on, the stunts and racing, is also poorly executed. This is further hampered by them mostly using voiceovers from the actors as the cars roll by to tell the story.

Checkered Flag or Crash isn’t a good movie. I’m happy to have watched it as I’m a nerd for this sort of thing, but there are so many better options for casual fans that I can’t recommend it. Check out one of the other movies I’ve mentioned already or perhaps the more mainstream Cannonball Run or Gone in Sixty Seconds. These are way more entertaining.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Friday, November 11, 2022

Supervan (1977)

Automotive mayhem continues here at the site. Today’s review is for the seventies classic Supervan. In case you didn’t know there was a custom van craze back in the day where people would try to outdo one another with amazing paint jobs and interiors to what were plain old vans. That culture as well as the CB culture of the seventies features heavily in this one.

Our main character Clint is leaving the business his father runs to enter a big contest at Freakout, which is a huge van competition. He has a nice van, but there is a secret weapon. His friend has built a sweet custom van that runs on solar power called Vandora. Sadly, along the way he loses his van when he saves a beautiful young lady from some bikers. She is the daughter of the man running the convention who is also a big oil tycoon. Being that she is a runaway and Clint is getting busy with her it doesn’t make daddy too happy. The fact that Clint’s friend used big oil’s money to make Vandora, which again runs on solar energy, is strike two.

The remainder of the movie is basically a chase sequence as the bad guy sends his minions after Clint and tries to hide the solar van away so he can keep selling oil and making money. Against him the van crowd runs interference, talks on their CB radios, and generally party. We also get some fun with the bikers before the end credits roll.

Now the above might make it sound like this movie has a plot. In reality the story just serves to connect a few scenes together. A lot of the movie is just footage of people being silly and having fun at the Freakout. We get a wet t-shirt contest, frolicking, canoodling, dancing, game playing, and other general shenanigans. I think that much of this footage must have been shot at an actual event because it seems random and spontaneous. The scripted stuff is okay and fun. The formula of rebel versus the man is followed closely and the proper boxes are checked. There are attempts at humor which don’t always land but fit nicely in the overall cheesy feel of the flick.

The star of the movie is... Vandora!
Let me talk a bit about the feel of Supervan. I’m a child of the seventies and my father built and drove a couple custom vans during that decade. I have also spent time watching movies at the drive-in so I might be a bit biased here. This one gave me a real nostalgic feel taking me back to some memories that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. The van culture and the CB (my dad also had one of those) chat put a huge smile on my face. While the movie doesn’t have a great plot and is utterly predictable, I found myself having a lot of fun with it. Will you? I’m not sure but I thought it was worth mentioning because I’m going to recommend this one.

Vandora, which I suppose is the real star of the movie, was the brainchild of George Barris. He was the greatest car customizer ever and I’ll fight anyone that says different. If you think of a great movie or television car from the fifties and sixties, I can almost guarantee you that he was responsible for it. He did the Munster’s Coach, the Beverly Hillbilly’s truck, and of course his most famous work is the Batmobile. Vandora looks very cool, though also very uncomfortable to drive. But it gets the job done and does give the movie its central plot hook and draw.

I like this movie and I think that you might like it too. Though its not a slam dunk that will be the case. So, while I recommend Supervan I do so with the warnings listed above. If you do watch it drop me an email and let me know what you think.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Corvette Summer (1978)

My deep dive on car movies continues as I take a look at this Mark Hamill flick made the year after Star Wars came out. Here he plays a high school senior named Kenny. We first see him with the rest of his classmates cruising a junkyard looking for a project car. He is a very talented artist and loves cars. He finds and saves a corvette right before it is to be crushed. Then we see he and the rest doing a killer custom job bringing the Vette back to life. At least it is what passes for killer in the seventies. The first night the students take it out for a drive it gets stolen.

The shop teacher, Mr. McGrath, tries to tell them it was just a commodity to be bought and sold. The insurance will pay for it so their efforts still helped the school. But Kenny was very attached to the car, so after graduating he goes looking for it. Ending up in Las Vegas he finds a “hooker in training” named Vanessa who becomes his girlfriend. He keeps having near misses with the car until he finally locates it. It is in the possession of a guy named Wayne who runs a car theft ring. This leads to some shenanigans before Kenny finally rolls back to his old high school to return it. Classes are in session, so I guess that summer is at an end.

Unlike some of the movies I’m going to cover for the Automotive Mayhem marathon this isn’t a ninety-minute-long car chase. I mean Kenny is chasing after the Corvette, but this is more about him meeting different people and growing up. There are people that he runs into along the way like Vanessa and a character referred to as Mr. Lucky, played by the late Dick Miller. This is just such a neat coming of age story that just so happens to have some cool vehicles in it. Again, being a car movie, we get to see some sweet rides in addition to the Corvette including a nice Camaro. Kenny also has to deal with disappointment with adults being dishonest, this was a made for the drive-in so the “you can’t trust anyone over thirty” crowd had to be appealed to.

There is only one big chase, and it happens at the end of the movie. Just one car gets crashed and there aren’t that many stunts. But again, this is a different kind of car movie. Why include it here? Corvette Summer is solidly set in and around car culture, so it just feels right. Plus, there is a bad ass van in the movie. If you have a bad ass custom van in your movie then it is going to get covered in the Automotive Mayhem marathon.

A few other things that I wanted to note about Corvette Summer. We get some excellent shots of the Las Vegas Strip in the seventies that I rather enjoyed. I’m a nerd for these little glimpses of the past that movies like this can provide. I’ve already mentioned Dick Miller, but this is a killer cast. Annie Potts is Venessa, Danny Bonaduce and Wendy Jo Sperber are a couple of his classmates. You might not recognize her name, but I promise you have seen her before. We also get Kim Milford who was in Laserblast. Hell, we even get to see Brion James as a henchman! My favorite though was a sleazy dishonest gas station owner that hires Kenny. I recognized him but couldn’t remember where from. His name is Phillip Bruns, and he was the drunken old doctor from Return of the Living Dead 2.

This is just a fun and breezy way to kill an hour and a half. I’ve loved this one from the first time I saw it and as a kid thought it was cool that Luke Skywalker had a corvette… I mean I was only nine years old so cut me some slack! I highly recommend Corvette Summer you won’t be disappointed.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Two-Fisted Tales of Times Square by Pete Chiarella

Okay before I start off with this review, I want to be transparent and let everyone know that Pete is not only a frequent collaborator with me but is also my friend. That said I’m not going to give him a free pass and will treat this review like any other book review that I have or will do in the future. Anything else wouldn’t be fair to you the reader nor Pete.

Tales is a collection of short stories set in and around the environs of 42nd Street back in the seventies and eighties. They cover the gamut from ghosts and werewolves, to corrupt cops, and mobsters. While I enjoyed all the stories, I’m going to highlight the ones that I found the most fascinating and fun. With this out of the way lets jump right in.

The Acquisition is a tale about a pimp named Omar who goes overseas for some new “talent”. That is a fancy way of saying he collects himself a lady vampire who they chain up and charge customers to do what they want with her. Omar is more than a little sketchy and eventually greed as well as the need to feed Lilith someone other than the paying customers causes things to get a bit dicey. Lilith eventually gets loose, and things get bloody. The moral to the story here is that you never ever piss off a vampire! I loved the supernatural bits as this is a much different take on vampires than I’ve seen before. The “monster” here isn’t the undead but the scumbag Omar. That was a fun twist.

Retribution is a fun ghost story… well maybe not fun. Candy is a working girl who is kidnapped, brutalized, and murdered by a serial killer. She can’t move on and eventually finds a drunk named Joe who can hear her. She talks him thru stopping the killer and saving his latest two victims. This is a shorter story coming in at seven pages but is another cool story and something that I’ve not seen before. 

The third story I wanted to call out is The Fixer. This has a recently paroled mobster named Vince getting out of jail. We get to see him doing some collections and making bank. His work is noticed and soon he is fixing things for all sorts of folks. I’ve always been a fan of mobster movies and stories so seeing a low-level guy doing his rounds was fun.

There are also stories about a werewolf hitman that actually is mostly just about him being a hitman and not a werewolf. That was an unexpected twist but was cool. There is also a cool bit with an old theater and a slasher movie that causes some issues for a pain in the ass kid. Another story has us following a repurposed location that used to be a peep show but is now a burger joint. That one is a lot of fun.

There are also some characters that pop up in multiple stories as Chiarella uses them to establish a common world where all these events occur. There are crooked cops, an unfortunate former massage parlor employee (she maybe should have stayed put!), a pair of mismatched hustlers, and of course a cool dog. Between the setting and these characters all the stories in Two-Fisted Tales of Times Square fit together nicely. That means they can be consumed one at a time or you can sit down with the book and read them in one sitting. Either way this is a lot of fun. I recommend checking the book out. If you want to get yourself a copy email Pete at mr42ndstreetpete@yahoo.com 

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer