Monday, September 10, 2012

R.G. Armstrong, Part II

7 April 1917 – 27 July 2012
Character actor R.G. Armstrong died of natural causes at the age of 95 on 27 July 2012. A perfect example of one of those faces seen again and again in many a film that you never remember the name of but usually recognize, his long and successful career on TV and in film spanned 47 years.

Part I of his career review is found here.

The Pack
(1977, dir. Robert Clouse)
Before The Breed (2006 / trailer), there was The Pack, a Joe Don Baker vehicle (from back when he still had vehicles) meant for the 42nd Street crowd that probably wouldn't even scare that crowd's kiddies (we know, 'cause we've seen the movie). Aka The Long, Dark Night, to date the film has not officially been released on DVD. Basically, this low-body-count horror film is about feral dogs vs. humans on an island. World of Mr Satanism gets it right when it says: "This movie isn't afraid to portray the brutal truth: the only reason dogs don't eat people is because there's usually more of us then there are of them. Not this time, though. This time all these idiotic asswits are trapped on an island with a bunch of pissed-off dogs and the dogs decide to start killing everybody. There's not enough gore for this movie to truly rock, but there are some funny parts, like when the dogs chase this fat dork off a cliff, or when the main guy runs over several dogs with his truck and they just get up and run away. In the end the main guy's brilliant plan is to lure all the dogs into his house and then set it on fire. Isn't that a bit extreme to kill like ten stray dogs? Jesus Christ, if you're gonna go that far over the top why not just drop a fucking nuclear bomb on them? Moron." R.G. plays Cobb, one the island's inhabitants who survives – he even makes it onto the poster in the small print. Director Robert Clouse, by the way, was a deaf (!) director best known for the Enter the Dragon (1973 / trailer) and Black Belt Jones (1974 / trailer) – and for the guilty pleasure The Game of Death (1978 / trailer), the Bruce Lee comeback vehicle made five years after the marshal artist's death due to the painkiller Equagesic. Clouse died of kidney failure on 4 February, 1997, in Ashland, Oregon.

The Car
(1977, dir. Elliot Silverstein)

"Oh great brothers of the night who rideth upon the hot winds of hell, who dwelleth in the Devil's lair; move and appear."
Anton LaVey (technical advisor to The Car)

R.G. Armstrong has a small as Amos Clemens in this fab piece of James Brolin flotsam. Director Elliot Silverstein, though mostly active as a TV director, fooled the critics for awhile with the inexplicably well-received Cat Ballou (1965 / trailer) and A Man Called Horse (1970), but with the guilty pleasures Nightmare Honeymoon (1974) and this film here, he revealed that The Happening (1967 / trailer) was no fluke of bad luck. The Car, which is about a demonic 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III terrorizing and killing people in the deserts of Utah, was ripped apart by the critics when it came out – Gene Siskel called the movie "The Cinematic Turkey of 1977" – but it proved rather popular and has since long become a cult favorite: it is listed among "The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made" in The Official Razzie Movie Guide and even Final Girl says "The Car is awesome, surely the finest film of its kind." We like it, too... it makes a fun double feature with Spielberg's superior Duel (1971 / trailer) or the almost as trashy Killdozer (1974 / trailer).

Mr. Billion
(1977, dir. Jonathan Kaplan)
Terrence Hill tried to take his indomitable sunny boy image to the US with this fiasco of a film, Jonathan Kaplan's follow up project to White Line Fever and one of his (and Hill's) least known projects. The Unknown Movies Page  explains the plot: "In San Francisco, the billion dollar Falcone Corporation is shaken when its elderly Italian born founder Anthony Falcone (Ralph Chesse) is killed in a freak accident. (Meant to be funny, but isn't.) John Cutler (Jackie Gleason) had previously had power of attorney over Falcone, so he is of course shocked to find out that Mr. Falcone not only had a nephew (guess who?) named Guido, but that the entire corporation has been willed to this previously unmentioned nephew. When Guido arrives in New York, he has just a few days to make it to San Francisco, but decides to travel cross country like his immigrant uncle did and see the sites along the way. This gives time for Cutler to hire a female detective (Valerie Perrine) to try and get Guido to sign over the corporation, for kidnappers to grab and hold him for ransom, and for Guido to meet various oddball characters along the way as he gets repeatedly delayed and in danger of losing his inheritance to the dastardly Cutler." R.G. Armstrong shows up in this mess as Sheriff T.C. Bishop. 

The Time Machine
(1978, dir. Henning Schellerup)
R.G. Armstrong appears briefly as Gen. Harris in this made for TV remake, a part so small he only gets listed in the credits and not shown before the film starts (see the filmlette below to understand what we mean). The blog Space 1970 says: "[...] in 1978, NBC aired a TV movie based on Wells' novel, The Time Machine. It was framed as a Classics Illustrated special for the whole family. It starred John Beck (of A Climate for Killing [1991]) as a mustachioed computer scientist in a leisure suit named Neil Perry, whose misadventures in time nearly get him burned at the stake (along with his clunky, 'computerized' time machine) by Puritans and engaging in Old West gunfights, before finally putting his invention in gear and visiting the far future, where he inevitably finds the novel's Eloi and Morlocks. Add in an early vignette about a Soviet spy satellite crashing uncontrollably to Earth, and the suggestion that the TV movie deviates from Wells' novel is... a bit of an understatement." Denmark-born director Henning Schellerup, who died at the age of 72 in 2000, was primarily active as a cinematographer (of such classics as Silent Night, Deadly Night [1984 / trailer] and Kiss of the Tarantula [1976 / trailer]), but he also directed an occasional TV movie or super cheap, sex-heavy 42nd Street flotsam like the mostly forgotten Blaxploitation flicks The Black Bunch (1973 / trailer), The Black Alley Cats (1973 / long NSFW trailer at Something Weird) or Sweet Jesus, Preacherman (1973 / trailer).
First 9.5 minutes of The Time Machine:

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell
(1978, dir. Curtis Harrington)
R.G. Armstrong in a TV movie by Curtis Harrington, one A Wasted Life's favorite directors! We've never seen this baby, but The World of Mr Satanism sure makes it sound good: "These Satanists buy a dog so they can have a demon screw it and make evil puppies. When a movie starts off with something that fucked-up you know it's gonna be cool. The Satanists kill this family's dog then have an evil fruit & vegetable salesman stop by and give them one of the demons. Right away it uses its puppy Omen powers to set the annoying maid on fire and that's the end of her. Later when it grows up it wastes this Marmaduke-type dog (and good riddance), drowns a dude, and runs another guy in front of a car. It also turns the kids into little bastards and the wife (Yvette Mimieux) into a mega-slut (this chick's fucking hideous, by the way, so don't get too excited). Finally the dad (Richard Crenna) gets pissed off and takes the dog out to shoot it, but bullets don't hurt it so he has to learn some magic shit for the final showdown. In the end the dog turns into this dumb monster that looks like a see-through wolf with horns and an afro, but the rest of the movie rocked so hard that I'm willing to let that slide." As Final Girl says "I knew it would be stupid, and I hoped it would be fun. Goals met!" R.G. Armstrong, who appears as "Dunworth", can be seen in the trailer amongst the chanters at the Satanic dog-impregnation ceremony led by Martine Beswick (of Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde [1971]).

Texas Detour
(1978, dir. Howard Avedis)
Howard Avedis is one the many unjustly overlooked and forgotten trash filmmakers of the past who made crap and even knew they were making crap but nevertheless tried to make the best crap they could. His films are bad, but usually enjoyable, and they were also made cheaply enough that it is a bit un-understandable that he hasn't done anything since his 1987 flick Kidnapped (featuring Charles Napier, among other fave cult names and has-beens). Anyone out there know what's happened to him? Texas Detour was the last of his films he directed under the name "Hikmet Avedis"; R.G. Armstrong (playing "Sheriff Burt") makes it on the poster in the small print. The plot? To quote, Texas Detour is an "above average hicksploitation with John Wayne's son Patrick and two of hippie friends getting a taste of good ol' southern hospitality when their custom van breaks down in crooked sheriff R.G. Armstrong's town." Regrettably, we couldn't find any clips of the flick online, but the few reviews we stumbled upon did nothing but rave about this totally unknown piece of prime hicksploitation with music by Flo & Eddie.
Flo & Eddie – Getaway (Back to L.A.), from Texas Detour:

(1979, dir. Steve Carver)
R.G. Armstrong appears in a film with the equally great character actor Richard Lynch! From the director of The Arena [1974 / trailer], Big Bad Mama (1974 / trailer) and Drum (1976 / trailer / full film), a movie about Lee Majors trying to overcome his erectile dysfunction (he's a former construction worker who developed a fear of heights). TV Guide explains the plot: "Steel concerns a construction crew fighting to finish nine floors of a skyscraper before the bank interferes. The construction company's owner, Big Lew Cassidy (George Kennedy), pitches in to help, but he's killed in a fall from the structure. His daughter, Cass Cassidy (Jennifer O'Neill of The Psychic [1977 / trailer]), takes over, hiring Mike Catton (Lee Majors) and his hand-picked crew of ace workers to try to finish the nearly impossible task. The dangers presented on-screen were tragically duplicated in real life when stuntman A.J. Bakunis fell to his death during production in Lexington, Kentucky. Attempting to regain his status as the record-holder for the longest stunt fall, Bakunis was killed when he broke through the 12-foot airbag upon which he was to soft-land [while doing Big Lew's death scene]." As the credit sequence says: "Also starring" R.G. Armstrong.
First ten minutes:

Fast Charlie... the Moonbeam Rider
(1979, dir. Steve Carver)
R.G. Armstrong must have had a two for one deal with director Carver, for he promptly put Armstrong in his next film, Fast Charlie... the Moonbeam Rider, a totally forgotten film starring David Carradine and costarring the mostly forgotten Brenda Vaccaro; R.G.'s name actually appears third in the credit sequence (which you can watch at the blogspot Thinks Happen). Time Out explains the plot to this film that no one else has ever seen: "Corman and Carradine teamed up again for yet another version of the coast-to-coast race with no holds barred. This time it's 1919 and motor-cycles, not cars as in Death Race 2000 (1975 / trailer). Not just a straightforward win-or-bust movie, it often goes for laughs with its miraculously injury-free carnage, and demonstrates how the scorn of a good woman can make an honest man out of free-wheelin' Charlie, ex-army dispatch rider and conman extraordinaire." TV Guide says "A shoddy production; the only important race is to the end credits."

Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff
(1979, dir. Marvin J. Chomsky)
On the heels of his TV miniseries Holocaust (1978 / trailer), which was mandatory viewing at the time, Marvin J. Chomsky got even more somber with this feature film which, aside from having the final film appearance of the original Morticia Carolyn Jones, disappeared without a trace when it came out. At the Donald Pleasence website, Kevin Thomas of the LA Times is quoted as having written: "About two-thirds through the perfectly dreadful Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff, adapted from a William Inge novel, an attractive but virginal 35-year-old spinster high school Latin teacher (Anne Heywood) in the small town of Freedom, Kan., in 1954 is raped by a muscular young black custodian (John Lafayette) – and becomes his submissive lover in a relationship heavy with sadomasochistic overtones. Inge was ever the poet of the desperately lonely and the cruelly oppressed victims of small-town hypocrisy, but the way this entire episode is presented is enough to set back women's liberation and its anti-rape campaign – not to mention race relations – about a century. Up to the rape sequence the film ploddingly depicts the sex-starved teacher's attempts to come to terms with her longings, via a Wichita psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence), then abruptly stages the rape and subsequent love scenes with an explicitness and kinkiness just this side of an X rating. The effect is sensational and exploitative, to say the least. And when the film resumes its flat tone and trite dialogue, it becomes laughably ludicrous." R.G. Armstrong fills the background as "Mr. Hemmings". The book cover above left, obviously enough, was not used for the US American edition.

Where the Buffalo Roam
(1980, dir. Art Linson)

Music to Where the Buffalo Roam:
To simply quote what Rusted Televisione says at YouTube: "Where the Buffalo Roam is a 1980 American semi-biographical comedy film which loosely depicts Hunter S. Thompson's rise to fame in the 1970s and his relationship with Chicano attorney and activist Oscar Zeta Acosta. Art Linson directed the picture, while Bill Murray portrayed the author and Peter Boyle portrayed Acosta, who is referred to in the film as Carl Lazlo, Esq. [...] Thompson's obituary for Acosta, The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat, which appeared in Rolling Stone in October 1977, serves as the basis of the film, although screenplay writer John Kaye drew from several other works, including Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Great Shark Hunt, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson served as 'executive consultant' on the film. The film was scored by Neil Young [...]. Music in the film included rock and R&B songs by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Temptations, the Four Tops and Creedence Clearwater Revival. [...] Because of the high cost of music licensing, most VHS and all DVD releases have retained only the Neil Young score and the Creedence song, Keep on Chooglin', with the rest of the music replaced by generic approximations of the original songs." A.R. Armstrong appears briefly as Judge Simpson. The film was an artistic and financial flop – and hasn't exactly been reappraised since then as being anything else but one. 

The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper
(1981, dir. Roger Spottiswoode)

Waylon Jennings' Shine, the song to the movie:
OK, we ain't talking about just the facts here, Ma'am. But then, this film is based on J.D. Reed's novel inspired by the event, Free Fall, and not the event itself, which involved an unknown man who, using the alias Dan Cooper, hijacked a 727 and bailed out over Colorado in the middle of the night and in a rainstorm with 200,000 dollars ransom; as everyone knows, he ain't been found yet, though some of the money has. The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper is Roger Spottiswoode's second film, his follow-up to his directorial debut, the fondly remembered slasher Terror Train (1980 / trailer). Spottiswoode replaced director Buzz Kulik, the man who brought us that fondly remembered TV flick Bad Ronald (1974 / trailer) and who, actually, had replaced the first director slated to helm the film, John Frankenheimer. It stars a pre-B and Z film Treat Williams (of Venomous [2002]) and a slumming Robert Duvall; R.G. Armstrong appears somewhere as "Dempsey". The film flopped and nowadays even the DVD is hard to get. Plot? Well, over at imdb udar55 of Williamsburg, VA, says "Here is a fine example of some good ol' Hollywood exploitation. [...] Talk about a missed opportunity! Cooper (Treat Williams) lands easily in the woods of Oregon. Just as easily, insurance investigator Gruen (Robert Duvall), whose company is out the ransom money, discovers Cooper is a former charge of his from the Army and begins his pursuit. If you can distance the idea that this is about D.B. Cooper, it is a pretty entertaining chase flick in the Smokey and the Bandit (1977 / trailer) vein. I'm sure they threw the Cooper name on there to get the public interested, which is a disservice to the film itself."
TV trailer:

Raggedy Man
(1981, dir. Jack Fisk)
Well received when it came out, this interesting film has pretty much receded into obscurity – a fate it truly does not deserve. The directorial debut of Jack Fisk, it not only stars his wife Sissy Spacek, a young and still sorta sexy Eric Roberts (of American Strays [1966]) and an unrecognizable Sam Shepard, but also features the film debut of Henry Thomas (of Dead Birds [2004]). Based on the novel by William D. Wittliff and Sara Clark, what starts out as a beautifully directed and photographed recreation of 1940s Midwest USA flips into violent horror the last 15 minutes. The plot, as explained by Huggo at imdb: "It's 1944 in the small town of Gregory, Texas. Divorcée Nita Longley (Spacek) has been brought into the town by the telephone company to work as its switchboard operator, a job which requires her to be at the switchboard day and night. She was originally told by her boss Mr. Rigby (Armstrong) that this job would only be a stepping-stone to a more lucrative job with regular working hours, which Mr. Rigby seems to be reneging on since he has now told her that her position is frozen due to the war. As such, Nita feels trapped by this situation. Nita lives in the telephone switchboard office building with her two sons, adolescent Harry (Thomas) and infant Henry (Carey Hollis Jr.). Because of her marital status, many of the townsfolk, especially the men, view Nita either with contempt or as a loose woman. One evening, Teddy Roebuck (Roberts), a sailor on a four-day furlough who is hitchhiking back to his home in Ardmore, Oklahoma, stops by to make a telephone call. When he learns that the reason for his trip home no longer exists, Teddy decides to stay in Gregory instead. Teddy strikes up a friendship with Nita and her two boys, which blossoms into love. The appearance of this stranger does not sit well with locals Calvin (William Sanderson) and Arnold (Tracey Walter), who had plans of having their way with loose Nita, who earlier rebuked their advances. The town's unidentified disfigured man (Shepard), who Nita fears, may ultimately provide her with the ability to move on with her life."
The whole movie in 8:40 minutes:

(1981, dir. Eric Weston)
The directorial debut of the less than prodigious trash filmmaker Eric Weston, who most recently made the horror film Hyenas (2011 / trailer). Evilspeak, which was supposedly rather liked by Anton LaVay, was hacked to pieces just before its general release to get an R rating, which didn't stop it from getting banned in Great Britain during the "video nasty" scare. (It may have slow parts, but it's gory as heck.) In recent years, the film is available in a variety of "uncut" versions. The title, perhaps needless to say, is a play on the term "computer-speak", and refers to the computer dork that is the lead character. The great Clint Howard (Ron Howard's younger, more talented brother) who, as always, looks too old for his role, plays Stanley Coopersmith, an outsider and put-upon student at a military academy. Stumbling upon the papers of the evil Father Estaban (Richard Moll) of the Dark Ages, Stanley awakens evil spirits with the help of his computer to take revenge on those who torment him, including Sarge (R.G. Armstrong), who gets his head twisted off. A lot of people like this film, including Ninja Dixon, who says "I really like – maybe love – Evilspeak, but it's one of those movies that demands a re-watch from time to time, because it's hard to forget how good it actually is. I always remember the slow-moving parts, but they belong there and they are good." But then, as says, "Watching a half-naked chick being devoured by satanic devil-pigs in her own bathtub isn't such a bad way to spend an evening after all."

(1982, dir. Wim Wenders)

John Barry's score to Hammett:
Hammett was to be Wim Wenders US American directorial debut, but instead Hammett is less a legendary flop than a forgotten film. When it was finally finished – delays dragged the production out for years – producer Francis Ford Coppola was so dissatisfied with the result that he supposedly reshot 80% of it. It features the final feature film appearance of Elisha Cook Jr. (of Phantom Lady [1944]), one of the numerous familiar faces from the film noirs of yesterday that make appearance in this color homage to the B&W classics. The plot, as explained by The Film Pilgrim: "Based on the novel by Joe Gores of the same name, the plot of this film centers around Hammett (Frederick Forrest); a retired detective, that has turned his hand to writing crime novels. The film starts with Hammett working away on a story, but on entrance of his friend Jimmy Ryan (Boyle) Hammett is drawn into a mysterious case set in Chinatown that spirals further and further out of control." R.G. Armstrong, who was never in a noir, appears as Lt. O'Mara.
Closing scene and film credits:

The Beast Within
(1982, dir. Philippe Mora)
R.G. Armstrong appears as "Doc Schoonmaker" in this under-appreciated cult horror flick. Director Philippe Mora is an artist turned filmmaker who made it to the USA on the power of his successful Australian debut film about fake beards (starring Dennis Hopper) entitled Mad Dog Morgan (1976 / trailer), which got general release in the states. The Beast Within was both his American debut and his second film; he went on to do such masterpieces as The Howling II (1985 / trailer) and III (1987 / trailer) and the Troma flick Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills (1997 / trailer) – he has indeed had a career to be proud of. The Beast Within features the last feature-length film score done by Les Baxter, and is the first flick scripted by horror genre regular Tom Holland, the man behind many a good and bad genre flick, including Thinner (1996). The plot, according to Bloody Good Horror: "[The newlyweds Eli (Ronny Cox) & Caroline (Bibi Besch) McCleary] ... are traversing rural Mississippi when their car gets stuck in the mud. Eli goes for help on foot and Caroline goes looking for their dog that has run-off into the woods. She is subsequently raped by an Ogre-ish brute. Caroline survives the attack, has the child, and she and Eli raise the boy they name Michael (Paul Clemens) as their own for 17 years. When we next meet the McClearys, they are receiving dire news regarding a recent condition that has befallen their son. Michael's condition is a mystery to the doctors and a frustrated Eli decides that in order to unlock the mystery of the boy's malady he and Caroline must take their son back to the rural town near where he was violently conceived, in search of the boy's bio-dad." While The Beast Within is considered by many as an underappreciated horror classic, many others have a lesser opinion of the film – so watch it make an opinion of your own.

Lone Wolf McQuade
(1983, dir. Steve Carver)
R.G. Armstrong appears for the third time in a Steve Carver film, this time as "T. Tyler" – you see him in the trailer – in this film which plays a lot like a dry run for Chuck Norris's later TV show, Walker, Texas Ranger... so much so that the producers of this flick later sued the TV producers for copyright infringement. Aside from Armstrong and the headlining Norris and David Carradine, the prime B-film cast includes a still-hot Barbara Carrera, a fit Leon Isaac Kennedy and a young Robert Beltran (of Night of the Comet [1984]). The plot, according to at imdb: "J.J. McQuade (Norris) is a Texas Ranger who doesn't exactly follow the rules, is unruly, and prefers to work alone, which earns the nickname, Lone Wolf McQuade. When he discovers some criminals have automatic weapons, he discovers that they were stolen from the military. He tries to handle on his own, as usual, but in the end an old friend, and a prisoner, whom he was keeping under wraps, are killed. He is then relieved of duty. But then an FBI agent, who also wants to get these guys, offers to help McQuade, and along with a rookie, they track down the mastermind." To say the score borrows from the soundtrack of Sergio Leone films is an understatement...

Children of the Corn
(1984, dir. Fritz Kiersch)
Supposedly, R.G. Armstrong filmed his scenes for this flick in just one day. Children of the Corn is the debut film of director Kiersch, whose less-than-spectacular career includes the film Gor (1987 / Spanish [?] trailer) and, both most recently and last, The Hunt (2006 / trailer). We here at A Wasted Life have read the passable Stephen King short story the film is based on and even saw this flick in a grindhouse when it came out – in the case of the latter, we yawned all the way through the flick. Hard to believe it could ever have spawned so many sequels (none of which we have seen), the last of which – Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011 / trailer) – just came out last year... but then, we also would never have thought that Linda Hamilton would go on to participate in any films as good as The Terminator I (1984 / trailer) and II (1991 / trailer). One of our favorite sites, Kindertrauma, has the following to say about the film: "Few child-killer movies have cemented themselves as securely in the public's consciousness as Children of the Corn. It's become a veritable punchline and the go-to title when describing any group with blind, cult-like followers. The fact that the movie is not nearly as strong as its reputation hardly matters any more. [Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton] play a couple who find themselves in the eerie town of Gatlin, Nebraska, where the child population has slaughtered the adult population and worships an unseen being called 'He Who Walks behind the Rows'. A Logan's Run (1976 / trailer) type clause in the youngin's new-found religion also states that when they turn 19, the children themselves are to be sacrificed to their god in order to prevent future adults. It's a frightening concept, imagine a world where happy meals were the only thing on the menu at McDonalds! There's a lot of missed opportunities visually and the acting, with the definite exception of John Franklin as Isaac and Courtney Gains as Malachi, is patchy at best. In fact you could just credit Franklin's work here as solely responsible for this flicks longevity. [...] As shoddy as some of this is, (the special effects near the end are pitiable) Corn is still worthy of a rewatch from time to time..."

(1986, dir. Steve Carver)
R.G. Armstrong is yet another Steve Carver film, this time playing "Coach Bettlebom" in this seriously misbegotten attempt at a comedy that has justly been forgotten and disappeared. As Movies About Girls says, "It's not like the man [director Steve Carver] has not graced us with lasting exploitation goodness. He just blew it here, is all." They also point out the obvious: "Given the title alone, I would have never seen Jocks. Who would? It sounds like gay porn. Also, nobody likes jocks, not even jocks. Maybe drunk cheerleaders, but for the most part, people hate them. The only saving grace it had was a poster* that looked like some Lois Ayres female aerobics porn flick. Aerobics porn was huge in the late 80's. So yeah, Jocks. Awful title. The movie? Eh. Slightly better." Video Dead was less than thrilled by the film: "Pretty standard 80s comedy that might be of interest to horror movie fans due to the fact that Christopher Lee plays the head of the college in it. It is kinda weird to see Lee trying to be funny. He gets hit on by a transvestite in one of the few semi-humorous scenes. You also get Shaft (1971 / trailer) star Richard Roundtree as the coach of this team of misfit tennis players that include your stereotypical gay character, a psycho guy (played by Donald Gibb who was also the crazy guy, Ogre, in Revenge of the Nerds [1984 / trailer]), a wacky Spanish guy and a few preppies. Plus there's Mariska Hargitay, daughter of Jayne Mansfield, who's a big deal on some modern TV show I could care less about. For an 80s movie like this there isn't very much of the expected nudity or even anything all that funny going on. If you find tennis matches thrilling this might be for you but I found the whole thing to be pretty uninteresting and unfortunately typical of the era it was made in."
*Actually, it's the DVD cover (above left) that looks like a porn flick cover...

(1987, dir. John McTiernan)

Few people who saw McTiernan's debut film Nomads (1986 / trailer) managed to stay awake for the whole film – and those that did only giggled at the final shot – which made this, his second film, all the more surprising: the modern classic Predator starring the great Austrian muscle packet Arnie Schwarzenegger in his hairless-body prime. Among all the familiar faces that color the background, R.G. Armstrong appears in a few scenes as "General Phillips" — he survives, of course, 'cause he never runs into the Predator.
Predator – The Musical:

(1988, dir. Steve Carver)
TV Trailer:
Steve Carver casts R.G. Armstrong yet again, this time as "Miles Blackburn" – in action film based on a story by Fred Olen Ray! And starring Gary Busey (of A Crack in the Floor [2000]) and Henry Silva (of Alligator [1980])! And featuring Thalmus Rasulala! The combination of those four names alone would make us watch the film, if we didn't have to pay for the DVD, that is. Comeuppance Reviews, which specializes in this time of film, says: "[...] It might seem hard to believe, but there once was a time when Gary Busey [...] wasn't known as a crazy guy and late-night comedian punchline. To witness this prime Busey, simply check out Bulletproof [...]. Busey plays Frank 'Bulletproof' McBain, a rogue, but lovable cop on the edge. He's teamed up with the original Blacula (1972 / trailer) himself, Thalmus Rasulala.* One of McBain's talents is he is able to withstand being shot, and he saves all the bullets he's been shot with in a jar in his bathroom. Meanwhile, somewhere in Mexico, a terrorist network of 'Mexicans, Nicaraguans and A-rabs' are all working in collusion to take over the world using a supertank called the NBT-90 Thunderblast. The evil Colonel Kartiff (Silva) and General Brogado (Rene Enriquez) are heading up the operation, so Special Ops Military Advisor Sgt. O'Rourke (Jones) and army officer Devon Shepard (Darlanne Fluegel) go south of the border to investigate. They, along with some of their army buddies and a group of priests and nuns are kidnapped and held hostage by the evildoers. Only one man can save his compatriots (and Devon, his long-lost love)...MCBAIN of course! And did we mention there are also evil Russians McBain has to stop?"
*Not true, actually: Blacula was played by the great William Marshall in both Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream (1973 / trailer); Thalmus Rasulala only appeared in the first film as Dr. Gordon Thomas, one of those out to destroy the vampire.
Bulletproof kill count:

Trapper County War
(1989, dir. Worth Keeter)
Worth Keeter started his career as a schlock director with the unknown stinker Wolfman (1979), but after this unknown piece of hickspoitation here he concentrated mostly on TV schlock; the world of genre films never noticed he left it, despite the fact that he had made some pretty fun stuff during his days as a trash filmmaker – including this one. Ioffer explains the Oscar-worthy plot: "Two vacationing musicians from New Jersey meet waitress Lacey Luddigger (Betsy Russell) in a small town in North Carolina. Her backwoods relatives Walt Luddigger (Don Swayze [Patrick's brother]) and Pop Luddigger (R.G. Armstrong) object to her new friends with violent results. Old pro Bo Hopkins is the sheriff and Ernie 'Ghostbusters' Hudson shows up to help [...].

Ghetto Blaster
(1989, dir. Alan Stewart)
Dunno who director Alan Stewart is, for under that name he seems to have been less than productive. In 1987, he made (to quote the Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Review) a "dreary" Western horror entitled Ghostriders (1987 / first five minutes in Italian) about, more or less, ghost cowboys that come back a hundred years after they died to take revenge upon the break-dancing descendent of those who killed them. Then he made this film, produced by the great auteur David Decoteau, and seemingly fell off the face of the earth – from embarrassment, perhaps? The plot synopsis at "Street gangs have turned a peaceful community into a war zone. Automatic gunfire rips through the night. Innocent victims are mowed down in drive-by shootings and the cops say they're powerless to stop the assault. But this neighborhood has a new power. The gang's rule is over — a Special Forces Vietnam vet has just declared war." The second biggest name in this film after R.G. Armstrong, who plays an old shop owner killed by the gangbangers, is Richard Hatch (who?), who is rather miscast as the shop owner's son (and Vietnam vet).

Dick Tracy
(1990, dir. Warren Beatty)
Madonna singing Sooner or Later in Dick Tracy:
Why the hell someone like Warren Beatty would choose to do a film version of Chester Gould's legendary comic cop is a bit beyond our comprehension, but what the heck, he did it right! This Pop Art live-action comic book is much, much better than At-A-Glance Film Reviews's snide one-line review of the film – "Be careful not to mistake the cinematographer's clever use of the four comic book colors as a sign that this film is artfully done" – would lead you to believe. The plot, to quote DVD Verdict: "Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) is the ultimate good guy cop of the 1940s trying single-handedly to bring down the mob. As the movie opens, he has his sights set on Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino), the boss who's trying to unite the bosses – behind himself, of course – to run the city. He'll get his man, even if it means going through frame-ups, assassination attempts, even sultry singer Breathless Mahoney (Madonna)." A perfect film for the whole family – literally. Even bad film fans like us here at A Wasted Life had a grand time with this film – and Madonna never looked hotter: sure, she's still an artificial pre-fab example of style over substance, but she is far from the android-looking walking facelift that she is now. Among the twenty-one villains from the original comics that appear throughout the film, an unrecognizable R.G. Armstrong is there as Lorenzo "Pruneface" Prunesti.

Warlock: The Armageddon
(1993, dir. Anthony Hickox)
Anthony Hickox has made some disastrous films in his day – Prince Valiant (1987 / trailer) and Submerged (2005 / trailer), being two of the worst – but he's done some damn good trash in his day as well, ranging from so-bad-it's-good (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth [1992 / trailer]) to fun (Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat [1989 / trailer]) to entertaining (Waxwork [1988 / trailer] and Waxwork II: Lost in Time [1992 / trailer]) to schlockily violent (Jill the Ripper [2000 / trailer]). We here at A Wasted Life found the original Warlock (1989 / trailer) so tedious that we never bothered to see this "sequel in title only", so we have no idea how the flick is. The plot, according to the Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review: "The Devil's son, the Warlock (Julian Sands), spontaneously impregnates a woman during a lunar eclipse and gives birth to himself as a full-grown man. He then sets forth to obtain the six druidic stones that will open the gateway to Hell on Earth. Each stone must be given willingly by its possessor. However, once each possessor surrenders their stone, The Warlock has a bizarre death in store for them. Meanwhile, teenager Kenny Travis is shot by his father and then magically revived. Kenny learns that he is a druidic warrior and has been empowered with stopping the Warlock from bringing about Armageddon." R.G. Armstrong shows up briefly in the film as "Franks," joining such other illustrious rent-paying names as Bruce Glover, Zach Galligan (of Infested [2002]) and Joanna Pacula. Warlock: The Armageddon was followed by another Warlock film six years later, Eric Freiser's Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999 / trailer).

Dead Center  
(1993, dir Steve Carver) 
Steve Carver pulls in R.G. Armstrong for a small part (as "Art Fencer") in the director's second-to last film, a low budget action movie so obscure that it died a quick death on VHS and has yet to see the light of the day on DVD... but seeing that it was produced by Menahem Golan, the flick's demise is no surprise. Dead Center is an unofficial remake of Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita (1990 / French trailer), which was officially remade the same year as Dead Center by John Badham as Point of No Return (1993 / trailer). In Carver's B-film retread, the total babe killer becomes a total hunk killer played by Calvin Klein model Justin Lazard, who later appeared in the truly entertaining piece of total exploitation flotsam Species II (1998 / trailer), a film that everyone in the world but A Wasted Life seems to hate. Plot: Crack dealer Joe (Lazard) gets caught and is confronted with the death penalty, but is recruited by some woman named Mary (Rachel York) to work as a hit man for the government agency "Secret Force." Officially "killed," he is retrained and goes on the job ... but then he decides he wants out. The film is said to be "gritty and action packed" but hollow and without substance... sounds good to us. Got tits, too? David Carradine is also along for the ride.

(1995, dir. Anthony Hickox)
Ten indiscriminate minutes:
Aka Hell's Passion. R.G. Armstrong as "Mac" in his second acting job for director Anthony Hickox – in a C. Thomas Howell film! (Hard to believe Hickox's career survived that.) Inspired in parts by aspects of The Postman Rings Twice (1946 / trailer or 1981 / trailer), the film has yet to be released on DVD. At-A-Glance says Payback is "both unlikely and superficial" and "so formulaic and slowly-paced that there is no involvement with the characters." Plot, according to Josh Pasnak ( at imdb: "Oscar Bonsetter (Howell) tells a dying prisoner (Armstrong) that he will take revenge on the sadistic guard (Marshall Bell) who killed him. In exchange, Oscar is told of a stash of money. Oscar is eventually released from prison but when he is goes to get his revenge, he gets sidetracked by the now-handicapped guard and his alluring wife, Rose (Joan Severance). The tension builds as Oscar becomes more and more attracted to Rose."
 Wikipedia says "[Payback] has a very famous love-making scene of Joan Severance": 

Invasion of Privacy
(1996, dir. Anthony Hickox)
R.G. Armstrong plays "Sam Logan, Storekeeper" in his third and final film for director Anthony Hickox in a film written by Larry Cohen, who this time around deals with the abortion rights issue (as in who has the rights to control a woman's body/uterus?) in this "boyfriend from hell" picture. Over at the NY Times, Mark Deming explains: "[...] Theresa Barnes (Mili Avital) is a young woman working at a flower show who meets a handsome and charming young man, Josh (Jonathan Schaech of The Forsaken [2001 / trailer]), who as a child had a successful career as a model. Theresa and Josh quickly become a couple, and she thinks that she's finally found the man of her dreams until she becomes pregnant. Josh reacts to this news with unpredictable, psychotic violence, and as Josh becomes more and more unstable, Theresa decides for her own safety that she needs to get away from him. Theresa runs away and stays in a cabin in the woods, and she makes plans to get an abortion. However, Josh finds her and holds her captive, intending to keep her his prisoner until her pregnancy is too far along to be terminated. After several attempts at escape, Josh finally lets Theresa go, and she immediately goes to the police. Josh, however, promptly hires a lawyer who helps him bring his story to the media. As Josh tells it, he's a concerned and caring father trying to save the life of his unborn son from his callous and uncaring girlfriend, who does not respect the sanctity of life. Overnight, Josh becomes the new spokesman for the pro-life movement. In time, Theresa decides to have the baby, but she refuses to buckle under to Josh's public demands to be given sole custody of the child. In time, Theresa is able to convince Police Sgt. Rutherford (David Keith) that Josh is not all that he claims to be, and Rutherford's digging confirms that Josh is not a cheerful friend of the unborn, but a dangerous psychopath who has killed before and will likely kill again."

Don't Look Back
(1996, dir. Geoff Murphy)
R.G. Armstrong appears as "Isaiah Parish" somewhere in this HBO TV movie by "New Zealand's most successful film director, Geoff Murphy," to quote a blurb at YouTube. We here at A Wasted Life are less convinced of the man's talents – see our review of his The Quiet Earth (1985), which has driven some "Anonymous" person to write us two consecutive years to tell us we're an "asshole" – and also wonder whatever happened to Peter Jackson (for whom Murphy has worked as second unit director). To tell the truth, years ago we not only also saw Don't Look Back but even wrote a review to it, which we now publish here: 
"Don't Look Back opens with three kids playing pirates and becoming blood-brothers before jumping forward to the scummy underside of Hollywood through which one of them – Jesse Parrish (Eric Stolz, of Anaconda [1997]) – now crawls as an unemployed junky musician. Searching to score, he stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and absconds with a suitcase full of money, going back home to the coast of Texas. After some re-bonding with his old friends Morgan (John Corbett) and Steve (Josh Hamilton) they catch on that Jesse is a junky and, being the best friends that they are, take him out into the boonies for a few weeks of cold turkey. Meanwhile bad guy Marshall (Billy Bob Thornton), who hasn't taken well to the loss of his money, is tracking Jesse down, stopping at nothing and leaving a trail of bodies behind. A dark and stormy night as a storm blows in, the bad guys with Jesse in tow end up facing off the good guys on the island where the three used to play as kids. Bang! Bang! Bang! Almost everyone you expect to die, dies, and the survivors live happily ever after...
For a TV flick, it ain't the worst: nothing new, nothing exciting, but well acted and over quickly enough. An interesting, effective cast goes a long way, especially since the care in casting is found in every role, no matter how small or brief. Amanda Plummer (of Satan's Little Helper [2004]) and Dwight Yoakam do much the little time they are alive, and most of the heavies are effectively menacing, though the bearded fat guy does almost become a caricature after awhile. Billy Bob Thornton (of Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town [1991]), not yet the big name he made for himself soon after with his depressing critical hit Sling Blade (1996 / trailer) is also an effective heavy. He is such a menace that he seems twice as big as he has in any film since, but it could be that he was simply fatter at the time. Thornton also had his finger in the writing of the script, but though the characterization and acting is good, the plot treads waters swum in a thousand crime films before. Done well enough, even the oldest plot can be watched again....especially when there ain't anything else on the tube.
New Zealand born director Murphy, who had seemingly shot all his creative juices in his first film, Quiet Earth, [...] seems to have at least managed to concentrate again for this film. Not only does he have excellent control of his actors, but his straight, almost workmanship-like style serves the less-than-complicated plot well. (Still, the film could have used a little more cynicism and humor to sharpen its violent edge.)" 
 Nasty, well-acted four minutes:

(1999, dir. Uli Edel)
Fan-made trailer: 
German director Uli Edel film career spans from exploitation-with-a-message like Christiane F. (1981 / trailer) to art house fodder like Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989 / trailer) to total artistic fiascos like Body of Evidence (1993 / trailer) to a lot of other unexceptional stuff. Purgatory, which was originally shot as a TV movie for TNT, is perhaps one of his odder projects; as scripted by Gordon T. Dawson, the screenwriter of the existential masterpiece Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974 / trailer), the film could best be described as "Western meets the Twilight Zone." R.G. Armstrong appears as the coachman that brings new residents to the town of Refuge (and to take them to their next station when ready to leave), where the core events of the film take place. The plot, as per DVD Verdict: "Somewhere in the old west, the sinister Blackjack Britton (Eric Roberts) and his gang have just pulled off a huge heist, fleeing into the desert with a posse in hot pursuit. After getting lost in a storm, the gang finds itself in Refuge, a pastoral paradise of a town, filled with kind and unassuming folk. They have the saloon to themselves. Room and board at the local hotel is on the house. The sheriff (Sam Shepard) doesn't even carry a gun. While Blackjack sees the town as an opportunity for more thievery and mayhem, the youngest member of his gang, wannabe gunslinger Leo (Brad Rowe), suspects there's more to this town that what it seems. Familiar with heroic western legends from his dime novels, Leo is quick to figure out the truth. But will that be enough to stop Blackjack from tearing the town to pieces?" A pre-burn-out Randy Quaid, who's now on the run from "Hollywood star whackers," is there for the ride as well.

The Waking
(2001, dir. Tim Card)
Aka Keeper of Souls. R.G. Armstrong ends his film career as it began: in a little-seen, regional independent flick – but instead of good, healthy nudists he's now surrounded by evil, unhealthy townsfolk. Over at, Jason Buchanan explains the film: "A horrifying demon casts a black shadow of misfortune on a sleepy Southern town and threatens to swallow the souls of a young couple looking to start a new life in this dark tale of supernatural vengeance from director Tim Card. When news arrives that Stacy's (Kelly Rowen) grandmother has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, horrifying nightmares begin to haunt her in her sleep – and when her husband Cliff (Tim Card) begins to question his faith and his role in ministry, the couple decides to start life anew in Stacy's childhood town of Grove Hill. Offered a room at the local plantation upon their arrival, the couple gracefully accepts until Stacy's nightmares throw her into a constant state of terror. Prompted to study the history of the town after making a horrific discovery in a nearby forest, Cliff unwittingly unleashes an ancient and powerful demon that will stop at nothing to claim the souls of not only the young couple but every last citizen of Grove Hill. Over at Amazon, Joseph P. Ulibas says: "Bad acting and a laughable screenplay. There are a lot of good and watchable low budget films out there, sadly this isn't one of them." In turn, also at Amazon, Jim Yoakum says: "This modest little horror flick is full of creepy performances and surprise twists. It ain't great but it's a fine scare and well shot." See it and decide for yourself.


Philippe Mora said...

R.G was a great fellow and actor. BTW I'm proud of my career including the films you are sarcastic about, but including and especially for Communion, Swastika, Death of A Soldier, the Return of Captain Invincible and recently Continuity, The Gertrude Stein Mystery and German Sons.

Abraham said...

I can imagine R.G. was a great fellow, as he always exuded that (even as a [convincing] bad guy, he still had that "I'd be a great grandfather" presence), and his acting chops weren't that bad either. As for your career, be proud – I might find some of your films super-sarcasm worthy, even if I like & enjoy them in that certain way (tho I notice most of those you list are not ones I commented upon) but, Dude! You make them! No matter what others say, the day you yourself aren't proud of what you do any more, then you know it's time to move on. Till then, keep it up!