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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Band’

Shrunken Heads

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Richard Elfman is the son of novelist Clare Elfman. He grew up in L.A., then worked as an Afro-Latin percussionist in the San Francisco musical theater troupe The Cockettes before moving to Paris to perform, and later returning to form the “commedia dell’arte ensemble” or “surrealist street theatre troupe” The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. They performed Cab Calloway covers and Russian ballet songs in whiteface, won an episode of The Gong Show, released a doo wop song about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and played demons in a hallucination scene in I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN. In the late ‘70s Elfman turned filmmaker, directing the Mystic Knights’ black and white cult musical FORBIDDEN ZONE (released in 1982).

It’s a pretty obnoxious and completely amazing movie, filmed on theatrical sets beautifully designed in a German expressionist/Max Fleischer cartoon style (and sometimes noticeably made of paper). It’s a short but unrelenting burlesque nightmare of tap dancing frogs and skeletons, adults dressed as children and/or only wearing underwear, lots of Mickey Mouse ears, fezzes and boobs, every single character (and there are tons of them) a weirdo or a grotesque caricature. They move bizarrely and at fast speed, lip sync to old timey big band jazz tunes, simulate humping. It stylishly switches to animation as they plummet to Hell or through the intestine shaped tunnel from the Hercules family’s basement to the Sixth Dimension, which is ruled by Susan Tyrrell as the Cruella-meets-drag-queen Queen Doris, and Herve Villechaize as her cheating husband King Fausto.

Elfman’s younger brother Danny made some great songs for it and has a scene as Satan, singing “Minnie the Moocher” with a band of hooded, lumpy ghouls. Joe Spinnell shows up as a sleazy, drunk sailor. To me it’s soiled by its use of historical racist imagery – I know this is vintage hipster irony or some shit, but opening with a blackface pimp character looking for his heroin is a problem. And you also have to be patient with the inside joke art school forced weirdness nonsense humor ethos that thinks it’s hilarious to have  a main character named “Squeezit Henderson,” who has a twin sister played by the same actor, who is credited as “Toshiro Boloney.” (That’s actually Matthew Bright, better known for directing FREEWAY. His well-meaning drama TIPTOES, which infamously co-stars Gary Oldman as a little person, was inspired by the director’s friendship with Villechaize.)

Around that time Richard passed the creative direction of the Mystic Knights to Danny, who soon decided to ditch all the theatrics and strip down to the rock band Oingo Boingo. They became very popular and had songs on movies ranging from WEIRD SCIENCE to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. And during this time, of course, Tim Burton convinced Danny to score PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, which led to other scores, and all the sudden he was an A-list film composer.

Meanwhile, Richard directed a few of the band’s videos, but didn’t make any more movies until 1993, when he resurfaced with a silly but pretty straight forward Mimi Lesseos b-action vehicle I’ve already reviewed called STREETS OF RAGE. For that he was credited as “Aristide Sumatra,” which is the name of a character in his third movie, SHRUNKEN HEADS. Released in 1994, SHRUNKEN HEADS was written by Elfman’s old friend Bright (pre-FREEWAY) and produced by Charles Band and his company Full Moon Entertainment. So you better believe it has some tiny little guys in it. Shrunken, like the title says. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ghost Warrior

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

GHOST WARRIOR is sort of a sci-fi action drama that was made in 1984, but shelved and thawed two years later. It’s about a samurai named Yoshimitsu (Hiroshi Fujioka, Kamen Rider, IN THE LINE OF DUTY III) who’s just minding his own business – okay, I guess he’s fighting some dudes and forced to jump falls off a cliff – when suddenly he wakes up 400 years later in a lab. Somebody found him frozen in a cave and he ended up at the California Institute of Cryosurgical Research.

By the time the man in charge, Dr. Alan Richards (John Calvin, Tales of the Gold Monkey, CRITTERS 3), recruits “Oriental history” expert/narrator of the film Chris Welles (Janet Julian, HUMONGOUS, FEAR CITY, KING OF NEW YORK) to consult, she’s already read rumors about “The Frozen Shogun” in the newspaper, but just thinks it’s an archaeological discovery. It’s immediately clear that Dr. Richards is an asshole because when she walks into the lobby to report to the job he’s standing right next to her and doesn’t bother to welcome her, introduce himself or even look at her. Then he pulls a John Hammond and brings her for a tour without warning her there’s gonna be a live samurai involved. (read the rest of this shit…)

Castle Freak

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

The way Stuart Gordon tells it, CASTLE FREAK was made because he saw Charles Band’s poster for it before it was even really a premise.

“What’s that about?”

“A castle and a freak.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how the majority of Full Moon Pictures come about, but they usually don’t have the brilliant director of RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND as the guy translating the poster into an actual movie, so they don’t turn out this well.

Gordon’s idea of CASTLE FREAK takes inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft. I’m sure you could also say that about what he eats for breakfast every morning. But he credits the short story “The Outsider,” about a man escaping from the castle where he’s lived alone for as long as he can remember. The screenplay is by Gordon’s longtime collaborator Dennis Paoli (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, DAGON), and its hook is simple: American asshole John Reilly (Jeffrey Combs, THE FRIGHTENERS) inherits a 12th century castle from a Duchess and brings his unhappy wife (Barbara Crampton, FRATERNITY VACATION) and blind daughter (Jessica Dollarhide, 1 episode of Major Dad, 2 episodes of In Living Color, 2 episodes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) to check it out with him. Little do they know that his dead relative also left behind the feral, mutilated man she’d been torturing in the dungeon for most of his life. Probly should’ve mentioned that. (read the rest of this shit…)

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

Monday, October 1st, 2018

I haven’t watched a PUPPET MASTER picture since the early ’90s, so congratulations to this marketing that got me excited to watch the new PUPPET MASTER presented by the new Fangoria.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH is sort of a start-over made with the blessing but not direct participation of Charles Band. I don’t think I can technically call it a reboot, though, because it’s not supposed to end or replace the still ongoing original series. It’s an alternate universe version where the titelistical ruler of evil puppets, Andre Toulon, is a totally different character. Instead of a victim of the Nazis he’s a French-German Nazi sympathizer played by Udo Kier (BLADE, BARB WIRE) in nasty burn makeup. The screenwriter is S. Craig Zahler, and though it does not feel anything like BONE TOMAHAWK or BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 it does continue his tradition of pushing the discomfort buttons and making me wonder “Should I be concerned about these racial themes?”

The main story takes place in the present, when artist and comic book store employee Edgar (Thomas Lennon, MEMENTO, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) has to bite the bullet and go stay with his parents while getting back on his feet after a divorce. Desperate for money, he decides to take his dead brother’s rare hand-made puppet to Dallas to try to sell at a convention for the 30th anniversary of “The Toulon Murders.” But there are a bunch of other people there with their own original Toulon puppets, which all come to life (through goofy hand puppeting, not stop motion) and gorily murder Jewish, gay and black people. Puppetry and bigotry become one. (read the rest of this shit…)

Deadly Weapon

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

DEADLY WEAPON is another randomly-stumbled-across VHS rental. This one got my attention with a faded lenticular cover and warranted further investigation when I saw that it was written and directed by Michael Miner, the less-discussed co-writer of ROBOCOP, and stars a bonafide Dream Warrior, Rodney Eastman, aka Joey from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and 4.

Caveat: It’s produced by Charles Band.

The opening text of this 1989 low budget teen angst sci-fi tale explains that it takes place “in the mind of a fifteen year old boy.” I guess that explains its cartoonishly broad idea of how people and relationships work. Eastman plays Zeke, a lonely teen who narrates in the third person, referring to himself as “The Visitor” because he’s “a visitor from another galaxy.” (Not really. That’s his fantasy.) He lives in dusty King Bee, Arizona (Population 4,852) with an abusive alcoholic stepfather and is anxious to grow up and move out, so he says he “watched the skies waiting for a sign, some signal that everything was gonna be alright.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Dolls

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

After Stuart Gordon’s opening one-two punch of RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND, he did his first non-H.P.-Lovecraft picture, DOLLS. Produced by Charles Band two years before PUPPET MASTER, it sort of invents the template for his killer doll movies. The script is by Ed Naha, the first editor of Fangoria, who’s another important figure in the history of miniature cinema, having written TROLL, DOLLMAN and (with Gordon) HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS. He also wrote the regular-sized CHUD II and OMEGA DOOM.

The story here is your basic trapped-in-a-spooky-mansion-during-a-storm yarn. A little girl named Judy (Carrie Lorraine, POLTERGEIST II and one episode of ALF), her dad David (Ian Patrick Williams, RE-ANIMATOR, ROBOT JOX, KING OF THE ANTS) and uptight step-mom Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy Gordon, RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, ROBOT JOX, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, FORTRESS, STUCK) are driving somewhere in the woods or some shit, their car gets stuck in the mud, so they go knock on the door of the nearest gothic mansion. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

The concept of THE GINGERDEAD MAN is basically “Chucky, but a gingerbread man instead of a doll.” It takes part 2 about three minutes worth of recapping and rhyming narration to explain that in the sequel. But to be fair the goal is not so much to catch the audience up to speed as to pad it out to be longer than an hour so it seems like a real movie almost.

With an ingeniously stupid premise like this, there are a million hilarious ways to do a sequel. Instead they chose to do the old “monster attacks people making a horror movie” route already done much better in SEED OF CHUCKY. If you got the same premise for part 2 as another series had for part 5 then you should probaly do it better, right? Well, that wouldn’t be the Full Moon way. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Gingerdead Man

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

get it, gingerDEAD instead of gingerBREAD

For hundreds of years, gingerbread has been a delicious and vibrant European treat. It was used to make soft cakes that would be drenched in hot lemon sauce and whipped cream, or for ornate candy-covered houses like the “witch’s house” from the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, or to form the shape of a small man, a reflection of its creator. As man is to God, gingerbread man is to man. And therefore also to God.

No one knows the origin of gingerbread, because how do you pin down something like that? I’m sure they could figure out who invented the McRib Sandwich, but not gingerbread. Some believe it came from the Eastern Mediterranean, and spread across Europe as soldiers came home from the Crusades. At least something good would’ve come out of the Crusades then. Wherever it came from, its ginger packs a powerful punch, so much so that throughout the 17th century you needed a license to bake gingerbread except at Christmas and Easter. (read the rest of this shit…)