Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cult Film Faves Not On DVD: Stryker (1983) review


Steve Sandor (Stryker), Andrea Savio (Delha), Mike Lane (Kardis), William Ostrander (Bandit), Julie Gray (Laurenz), Monique St. Pierre (Cerce)

Directed by Cirio H. Santiago

The Short Version: One of many ROAD WARRIOR clones only instead of Italy, this one is from the Philippines. It's one of the livelier entries, yet it's no less bone headed. All the ingredients are here for an old school good time at the drive in.

After an apocalypse ravages the Earth, the most valuable commodity is water. A gang of savages led by Kardis are after a woman who knows the location of one of the last natural water resources on the planet guarded over by a tribe of amazons. Stryker and his army of midgets tries to get her there.

What would seem like a great cinematic joke is actually one of the best and most fun rip offs of all time. Resembling one of those holocaust style Heavy Metal videos that dominated the early 1980's, this post synced trash fest is for the ever dwindling cult of drive in exploitation lovers. Steve (BONNIE'S KIDS) Sandor plays our (mostly) silent hero escorting a barely dressed lovely across the desert while a Sid Haig lookalike with a hook hand is in hot pursuit to get his hand (he only has one) on a vast supply of water.

With the thought of a plot not once threatening to get in the way of the action, prolific Filipino filmmaker, Cirio Santiago directs this, his first of many rip offs of THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981). At one time Santiago had a long running association with Roger Corman and also directed some movies for his New World Pictures. Some of his other post apocalyptic excursions include WHEELS OF FIRE (1985), EQUALIZER 2000 (1986) with Richard Norton and the super sexy Corinne Wahl, the enjoyable DUNE WARRIORS (1990) and the boredom of RAIDERS OF THE SUN (1992).

Santiago became known for his braindead action epics whether set in desert locales or in the jungle for a slew of Vietnam War styled pictures. Having dabbled in other genres, too, his action films seem to be the best remembered. They're allmade from the same recipe with the proper exploitation ingredients. Marinade comic book heroes and villains and mix with a dozen or so machine gun battles, car chases and explosions. Add in some big haired beauties wearing either leather outfits, or underwear for spice. Cook for 90 minutes and serve with absolutely no plot.

The dialog is kept to a minimum until 45 minutes in when the fragments of a plot begin to surface. Up to that point, the most profound exchange consists of, "Where's the water!!" There's maybe ten minutes tops of exposition then it's right back to gun battles and explosions sprinkled with some good stunt work. Stryker's army of babbling midgets occasionally get in on the action, too. There dress and appearance instantly recalls the Jawas from STAR WARS (1977). William Ostrander (who plays Bandit) was also one of the punks in CHRISTINE (1983).

This is a really bad movie with an even worse score, but it's a tanker truck full of mindless fun. They don't make movies like this anymore, but if you're a fan of 80's post nuke flicks, heavy metal videos, sexy battling babes and rampaging midgets, you'll get your money's worth from STRYKER (1983).

The Dark (1979) review


William Devane (Roy Warner/Steve Dupree), Kathy Lee Crosby (Zoe Owens), Richard Jaeckel (Detective Dave Mooney), Keenan Wynn (Sherman Moss), Warren Kemmerling (Captain Speer) Jacquelyn Hyde (De Renzey), Biff Elliot (Bresler), Casey Kasem (Pathologist), Vivian Blaine (Courtney Floyd), Philip Michael Thomas (Corn Rows)

Directed by John "Bud" Cardos

The Short Version: Fractured minor league terror tale began its gestation as a slasher picture about a shunned mental midget with superhuman strength being unleashed on the world, but quickly changed course into a space monster murder mystery. A maniacal mess of a movie, it nonetheless sports one of the greatest casts ever assembled for a drive in movie whose production is more memorable than the film itself.

A ten foot tall alien visitor comes to Earth and terrorizes Los Angeles. Bodies begin piling up with their heads torn off. A reporter and a disgruntled book writer whose daughter is butchered attempt to stop the murders before the thing from another world kills again.

John "Bud" Cardos, the director of the classic 'Nature Amok' classic, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), guides this incredibly silly, but frequently spooky little horror picture about an E.T. of the unfriendly kind ripping apart bodies and zapping victims with lasers. It's one of the most bizarre creature features ever made and one of the most convoluted. There appears to be several ideas going at once that are all thrown together with little in the way of cohesiveness.

One of the reasons is that the film originally began under the direction of Tobe Hooper, a director who has had his fair share of ups and downs. Removed from the picture supposedly for falling behind schedule, Cardos was brought in to take over. Not only that, but the script originally leaned towards a proto-slasher angle about a family that kept their insane progeny locked away in an attic shut off from society and technology. When the home accidentally burns to the ground, the unhinged mongoloid with freakish strength is let loose on the world.

Since STAR WARS mania was sweeping the planet at the time, Edward L. Montoro, arguably the most notorious and unscrupulous producer to ever walk the Earth suddenly decided to change the plot to feature an increasingly indestructible monster from outer space. This would explain why some characters are mutilated and others are disintegrated by laser beams fired from the monsters eyes. The alien being heralds his arrival as lights inexplicably shut off wherever the victim happens to be followed by a great gust of wind. The abrupt change in the storyline is evident in some of the death scenes. When the monster is shown killing with lasers, the next scene shows the police and ambulance carting away a corpse on a gurney.

Adding to the already messy plot is a psychic woman named De Renzy, an eccentric woman who sees some of the killings before they occur. One evening, the beast visits her home, its visage seen in her mirror just before her house is wrecked by an unseen force. It's a thoroughly nutty premise bolstered by one of the most perplexing cast of actors and technicians for a film such as this.

According to Cardos, William Devane was anxious to work with Hooper and it was a bit of a rocky start between the two once Cardos took over. Devane plays the novelist whose daughter is killed by the creature. He approaches the role in a similar detached fashion that he did his disturbed Vietnam vet from the shamefully underrated ROLLING THUNDER (1977). The beautiful Cathy Lee Crosby is fine as the spunky reporter dying to find 'The Mangler'. Crosby is probably best remembered from the THAT'S INCREDIBLE! TV program. She also played the original WONDER WOMAN in one of two pilot movies before Linda Carter took over. Character actor, Keenan Wynn (PIRANHA '78, ORCA '77) plays Crosby's boss.

Richard Jaekel gives his all as usual playing the frustrated cop on the case. He was one of the most dependable actors working in Hollywood and appeared in dozens of movies and television programs of various genres. From Japanese movies like THE GREEN SLIME (1968), LATITUDE ZERO (1969), to westerns like CHISUM (1970), drive in action like WALKING TALL 2 (1975), and more horror like GRIZZLY (1976)and even martial arts movies such as KING OF THE KICKBOXERS (1990). There's a running gag in the movie regarding Jaekel's partner played by Biff Elliot. Every time you see him he's eating, putting some kind of sandwich, or junk food into his mouth.

Television sensation, Dick Clark(!) was the producer of this B movie train wreck and even his pal, radio sensation, Casy Kasem(!!) has a role as the baffled pathologist who comes to the realization that they aren't dealing with anything human. In another bizarre bit of minutiae, Paris Hilton's mother plays the first victim. Shot in 1978, the film was released in April of '79 and made little noise. It wasn't long before it was sold to television where most fans probably saw it the first time.

A few years before hitting it big on the television show MIAMI VICE, Philip Michael Thomas was playing racially motivated characters named 'Corn Rows' in John Cardos's peculiar and muddled sci fi horror non-masterpiece

The trouble the film went through shows from time to time and it suffers from lots of talky stretches, but many of the characters are decently drawn out in spite of a few rough spots of dialog. There's one nice touch, though. Considering the name of the film, a blind man is seen wandering the streets at certain points during the movie. I assume this character is supposed to be symbolic of the nature of the monster and how and when he kills. It's not much, but it's something among this potpourri of mangled ideas and mismatched plot devices. The whole movie manages to go to hell during the big finale which is preceded by an out of left field car chase(!!!) This leads to the monster being assaulted by a cadre of cops in an epic light show of hilariously cataclysmic proportions inside a dilapidated monastery.

Amidst the chaos, there are actually some well done scenes in this movie. The stalking bits are moody and creepy and each one shows the monster getting stronger. Whether hurling his victims through fences, crashing through walls, moving vehicles like they were cardboard, or firing off ocular blasts of laser beams, the beast is big, but never looks like he came from the stars. If anything, it resembles a less hairy werewolf. Now there's an idea! An intergalactic lycanthrope with ray gun eyeballs that awkwardly roams the streets at night tearing off unsuspecting noggins.

The soundtrack is eerily appropriate and unusual from the normal horror movie score. I first saw the film back in the early 80's as the ABC Movie of the Week and it gave me the creeps. Some of the cues will sound familiar and are borrowed from the original TWILIGHT ZONE show. While it's far from assimilating anything even remotely close to consistency, I have a soft spot for this minor footnote of horror cinema. No doubt it will be remembered for it cast and production than it will for what limited merits it possesses.

This review is representative of the Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD
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