Thursday, December 26, 2019

R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part VIII (1990-94)


25 Dec 1928 – 30 Jan 2019

The American thespian treasure known as Dick Miller, one of our all-time favorite character actors, entered the Great Nothingness on January 30th, 2019. 
A Bronx-born Christmas Day present to the world, Miller entered the film biz doing redface back in 1956 in the Roger Corman western Apache Woman (trailer). He quickly became a Corman regular and, as a result, became a favorite face for an inordinate amount of modern and contemporary movie directors, particularly those weaned and teethed in Corman productions. (Miller, for example, appears in every movie Joe Dante has made to date.)   
A working thespian to the end, Miller's last film, the independent horror movie Hanukkah (trailer), starring fellow deceased low-culture thespian treasure Sid Haig (14 July 1939 – 21 Sept 2019), just finished production. In it, as in many of Miller's films, his character is named Walter Paisley in homage to his first truly great lead role, that of the loser killer artist/busboy Walter Paisley in Roger Corman's classic black comedy, A Bucket of Blood (1959). 
What follows is a multi-part career review in which we undertake an extremely meandering, highly unfocused look at the films of Dick Miller. The films are not necessarily looked at in the order of their release... and if we missed one, let us know. 


Go here for
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part I (1955-60)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part II (1961-67)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part III (1968-73)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part IV (1974-76)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part V (1977-80)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part VI (1981-84)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part VII (1985-89)


Mob Boss
(1990, Fred Olen Ray)

Yet another Fred Olan Ray movie with his usual eclectic cast of nobodies, familiar faces, and cult names. Although we have not seen this movie, we are sure that much as Boba Fett said about Ray's 1986 movie Armed Response (see Part VII), which like this direct-to-video movie was also scribed by T.L. Lankford, Mob Boss "makes you wonder if perhaps Ed Wood also wouldn't have been capable of making some decent movies if he was given some more money to work with."
Trivia: Somewhere, Mob Boss features the last screen appearance of the familiar thug face of former professional wrestler Mike Mazurki (25 Dec 1907 – 9 Dec 1990), seen above from while he was still a wrestler, who appeared in many a better film than this one. Dick Miller shows up to play someone named Mike... but not Mazurki.
Trailer to
Mob Boss:
The plot, as supplied at Film Affinity: "Don Anthony (William Hickey [19 Sept 1927 – 29 June 1997]) is the head of California's largest crime family. Unbeknownst to him, his voluptuous mistress Gina (Morgan Fairchild) and his arch-rival Don Francisco (Stuart Whitman of The Monster Club [1980] and The Girl in Black Stockings [1957]) have plotted a hostile takeover of the business, and Don Anthony is gunned down following a mob meeting. Lying mortally wounded in the hospital, Don Anthony directs his chief lieutenant Monk (Irwin Keyes [16 Mar 1952 – 8 Jul 2015]) to locate his estranged son Tony (Eddie Deezen) to assume the family business and carry on the Anthony name. Unfortunately for the family, Tony is a wimpy nerd with no idea of the true nature of his father's business. As Monk tries to transform the milquetoast geek into a fearsome gangster, Don Francisco attempts to overthrow him through Gina's powers of seduction, while a pair of bumbling hitmen (Brinke Stevens [of Necromancy (1972)] and Jack O'Halloran) try to bump Tony off at every turn.
At Down Among the "Z" Movies, they say "This falls squarely between [Fred Olen Ray's] better efforts (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers [1988 / trailer]) and his terrible ones (too many to mention). There are Three Stooges-type sound effects and a very self-conscious tone for a parody. There are some decent gags — which is rare for any comedy on this blog."
Over at Amazon, some customer would probably more or less agree, saying: "Mob Boss tries very hard to be funny, and, at times, succeeds. […] How funny you will find this depends greatly on how you view low-brow humor (e.g., child being baptized urinating on pastor and mob officials), as well as if you are watching for the women (Morgan Fairchild, Brinke Stevens — who's a delight), and, subsequently, the nude scenes. […]." 


Gremlins 2: The New Batch
(1990, dir. Joe Dante)

Six years after Gremlins was a hit, Dante was given carte blanche to a sequel (at almost three times the original budget — $30 million instead of $11 million) and made his, to use his own words, "MAD magazine [movie]. There are doodles in the margin. It's Hellzapoppin' (1941 / faux trailer), which is one of my favorite movies. I was very lucky to make it. [Ain't It Cool News]" Unluckily, Gremlins 2, which was meta long before meta was in, sort of flopped in a big way.
Scriptwriter Charles S. Haas, who suggested the NYC setting, had previously scripted the unsettling teen drama Over the Edge (1979 / trailer) and the extremely annoying comedy Martians Go Home (1989 / trailer). Of the first movie, five original cast members cum characters returned: Zach Galligan (of Infested [2002]) as Billy Peltzer, Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer, Dick Miller as Murray Futterman, Jackie Joseph (of Little Shop of Horrors [1960, see Part I]) as his wife Sheila Futterman, and Keye Luke (18 June 1904 – 12 Jan 1991 of Mad Love [1935 / trailer]). Among the new faces, the great Christopher Lee (22 May 1922 – 7 June 2015 of The Curse of Frankenstein [1957], Geheimnis der Gelben Narzissen (1961), The Mummy [1959], Sherlock Holmes & the Deadly Necklace [1962] and so much more) as Dr. Cushing Catheter.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch:
The plot, as found at Cineccentric : "The plot once again centers on Billy (Galligan) and Kate (Cates) who have now moved to New York to put their past behind them. Through a series of unfortunate events, Billy is reunited with his Mogwai friend, Gizmo, and falls foul to yet more bad luck when evil gremlins accidentally spawn from him again. This time, the gremlins run riot in Billy's employer's high rise premises within the Big Apple, stumbling through a laboratory that gives them even more hideous characteristics. Billy, Kate, and Gizmo must once again stop the gremlins, but this time from overtaking New York City." 
The GIF above was stolen from Kindertrauma, who are particularly enamored by the fact that in Gremlins 2, "Leonard Maltin is finally murdered for his crimes."
A love-it or hate-it kind of movie, most genre aficionados and Dante fans tend to think along the lines of 28 Days Later Analysis, which points out: "Charlie Haas' script is admittedly cartoony in structure. The villains are larger than life, the gags are over-the-top and the film is comedic. Watching one character smoke on an 'unauthorized break' and then being reprimanded via video camera made this reviewer laugh. Later, a bat-like gremlin flies out of the building leaving a Batman caricature in its wake is also silly, but fun. Not much later, that same batish gremlin turns into a gargoyle after having forty pounds of concrete poured onto it. These scenes create laughter despite the silliness of the scenes. And if one joke does not get your gut another will. There are adult situations here as well. After all, it was the original Gremlins [see Dick Miller Part VI] that helped create the MPAA's PG-13 rating. So, it is hard to say who the target audience for the film is. There is ambivalence here. The cartoonish style of the film would make it seem like the film is geared towards pre-teens or teenagers. Yet, the adult situations such as sexual innuendos and allusions to murder make the film more appealing to an older demographic. Either way, this film fan enjoyed the many comedic set-ups and a broad range of viewers will likely enjoy these scenes too."


The Woman Who Sinned
(1991, dir. Michael Switzer)

Dick Miller has a small part as a police detective in a Susan "Erica Kane" Lucci TV movie! Its original title got changed to Mortal Passion when it got its VHS release two years later.
Trailer to
The Woman Who Sinned:
Lucci herself offers the following plot description at her official website: "Victoria Robeson (Lucci) is a married woman who for the first and only time in her life succumbs to the charms of another man (Michael "Beefcake" Dudikoff, seen further below not from the film). Accused of murder, her only alibi is her adulterous liaison. Trouble is, she can provide no proof that the affair or her lover, ever existed." Her hubby Michael is played by Tim Matherson, and her murdered friend Jane Woodman by Lenore Kasdorf (of Fly Me [1973 — see Dick Miller Part III] and Where Does It Hurt? [1972 — See Uschi Digard, Part VI]).
"There's bad and there's laughably bad. ABC's The Woman Who Sinned falls in the latter category. As the plot twists pile up, this ludicrous Susan Lucci vehicle is an absolute howl. [LA Times]"
The best opening to any Susan Lucci TV movie ever —
Wes Craven's Invitation to Hell (1984):
"Yet another did-she-or-didn't-she drama, with American daytime TV star Susan Lucci playing the wife accused of murder after she has an affair. There's really nothing new here as every whodunnit theme is rehashed. More time seems to have been spent on Lucci's wardrobe and hairdo than on the plot, but at least she keeps the hysterics to a minimum and valiantly battles against the constraints of the tired idea. [Radio Times]"


Motorama
(1991, dir. Barry Shils)

Dick Miller plays what House of Self-Indulgence describes as "an unpredictable father of two" in this obscure labor of love.
Trailer to
Motorama:
We looked at Motorama in our R.I.P. Career Review of the great cult actress Susan Tyrrell, where we tersely cobbled together: "Drew Barrymore isn't the only person to have a cameo appearance in this surreal road movie written by Joseph Minion (he also wrote the mildly amusing After Hours [1985 / trailer — see Part VII] and the decidedly bonkers Vampire's Kiss [1988 / trailer]), there's also Flea, Jack Nance, Garrett Morris, Mary Woronov, Vince Edwards, Dick Miller, Meat Loaf and, the reason the film is even here, Tyrrell as a bartender. Plot, taken from Wikipedia: 'A ten-year-old runaway boy (played by Jordan Christopher Michael) on a road trip for the purpose of collecting game pieces (cards) from the fictional 'Chimera' gas stations, in order to spell out the word M-O-T-O-R-A-M-A. By doing so he will supposedly win the grand prize of $500 million.' Four years later, director Barry Shils followed this, his début film, with the documentary Wigstock: The Movie (1995 / trailer)."
To supplement the above synopsis, let us look to All Movie, which points out: "This allegorical comedy […] offers a unique twist on the standard road movie formula. […] The country presented in this film, however, is not the U.S., but a fictional land with states such as Bergen and Essex — a land with parallels to a giant board game. While on the road, […] as Gus approaches his goal of collecting all eight letters, he has assorted adventures, many of them strange and a few that are distinctly unpleasant."
The extremely difficult to please Worldwide Celluloid Massacre, which rates the film as "of some interest", explains the symbolism: "A 10-year-old kid (naiveté) drives around the country (life) in a stolen car playing a game called Motorama (any of life's pointless driving goals) where he has to collect all the letters to win the grand prize. Most people see him as an adult (because he isn't really a child) and he encounters strange characters along the way […]. The message seems to be that all of life's goals are meaningless and most people are crazy bumbling fools and you just have to stop driving around like a lunatic and relax. Bah."


Unlawful Entry
(1992, dir. Jonathon Kaplan)

"One of many psychopathic thrillers that washed over us in the early 1990s, this one targeting an obviously vulnerable situation: what do you do if a cop sets out to ruin your life? [Thrill Me Softly]"
Throughthe Shattered Lens has a detailed plot: "The upscale and complacent life of Michael and Karen Carr (Kurt Russell [of 3,000 Miles to Graceland (2001)] and Madeleine Stowe, seen below) is interrupted one night when a burglar breaks into their home via their skylight. […] Shaken by the encounter, the Carrs are very happy when a seemingly friendly cop, Officer Pete Davis (Ray Liotta of No Escape [1994], Unforgettable [1996] and Turbulence [1997]), offers to help them cut through all the red tape and get a security system installed in their house. […] Pete seems like the perfect cop but actually, he's a mentally unstable fascist who quickly becomes obsessed with Karen. When Pete offers Michael his nightstick so that Michael can use it on the man who earlier broke into his house, Michael refuses. That's all that Pete needs to see to decide that Michael's not a real man and that Karen would be better off with him. Even after Michael orders Pete to stay away from his home, Pete continues to drop by so that he can spy on the couple. When Michael complains, Pete frames him by planting cocaine at his house. When Michael says that he's innocent, no one believes him. Why would they? Pete's a decorated cop who is keeping the streets safe. Michael is just a homeowner. While Michael sits in jail, the increasingly violent and unhinged Pete makes plans to make Karen his own."
Derek Winnert was not thrilled: "Director Jonathan Kaplan's 1992 thriller is […] shamefully unsubtle and exploitative, abusing people's worries about law and order, rape, the race issue and police brutality. As a mystery, Lewis Colick's screenplay signals all its punches and wastes time on character development and issues when it would be more effective as a plain action thriller."
Trailer to
Unlawful Entry:
"[Unlawful Entry] is an amazingly sharp, nasty little thriller that takes a silly situation and squeezes it to the core, vicious as a heart attack. […] Director Jonathan Kaplan (Night Call Nurses [1972], see Part III) came from the Roger Corman school of filmmaking, and his technique is lean and mean. […] The great Dick Miller, also from the Corman camp, appears in a small role. (Miller always improves whatever movie he shows up in.) [Combustible Celluloid]"
The film was given the Bollywood treatment in a 1996 version of the tale entitled Fareb (trailer).
Ye teri ankhe jhuki jhuki hd from
Fareb:


Quake
(1992, dir. Louis Morneau)

This TV cum direct-to-video time-waster is from the not very active but nevertheless at times effective trash-film director Louis Morneau. He, like so many, is a graduate of the Roger Corman Filmmaking Factory, where he started out as an editor of trailers. His directorial projects include, among other forgotten movies, Retroactive (1997) and the two unneeded sequels to other better movies, Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting (2003 / trailer) and Joy Ride II: Dead Ahead (2004 / trailer). He also supplied the story to the semi-Retroactive movie entitled Slipstream (2005).
Also known as Aftershock and The Stalker, Quake is The Collector (1965 / trailer) meets Earthquake (1974 / trailer). Wikipedia, and seemingly no one else, has the plot: "Set around the events of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a young couple, Jenny (Erika Anderson) and David (Eb Lottimer), experience the horror of being terrorized by a psychotic neighbor, Kyle (Steve Railsback of Disturbing Behavior [1998] and In the Light of the Moon [2000]), in a city where panic and fear is the order of the day. The sexy female lawyer played by Erika Anderson is knocked unconscious during the earthquake. She is then kidnapped by neighbor Kyle […]. His intentions are to keep her as his prisoner and she must do whatever it takes to escape." Blink and you might miss Dick Miller playing a storekeeper.
Over at Letterboxd, some guy named Alberto Farina says: "Straight-to-video Corman exploitationer is actually more enjoyable than you might expect. […] Liberally interspersed with stock footage, cheap thrills, bondage and rape, this is basically a two-character sex thriller (with husband Lottimer spending most of the film trying to get back home through the city wrecks). Railsback's creeper peeper and Anderson's attractive captive are convincing enough [so] you won't care if the plot makes no sense."


Body Waves 
(1992, writ. & dir. P.J. Pesce)

The feature-film directorial debut of director P.J. Pesce, who went on to do the enjoyable direct-to-video prequel to From Dusk Till Dawn (1996 / trailer), From Dusk Till Dawn: The Hangman's Daughter (1999). Body Waves was co-written by Bo Zenga, who went on to produce a movie we here at a wasted life really hated, Turistas (2006). P.J. Pesce earned ten thousand to write and direct this obscure sex comedy produced by — who else? — Roger Corman.
Mr Skin has the plot: "Body Waves is the comic saga of young Rick Matthews (Bill Calvert) attempting to prove to his father (Dick Miller) that he will be able to support himself without going into the family's hemorrhoid-cream business. When Rick sets out to peddle suntan lotion on a hottie-heavy beach, three nerds make him a proposition: If he can turn them into lady killers, they'll financially back his new enterprise. What follows is a romp in which doofuses pursue beauties, and everyone comes out looking like a boob — in the breast possible way. Catch these Body Waves."
And catch the opening credit sequence of the movie: the epitome of what one calls a "no budget solution".
Full movie —
Body Waves:
TV Guide seems to be one of the very few, the proud, the brave that have ever seen this movie — and they didn't like it: "Body Waves is a predictable, slow-moving comedy which futilely resorts to tacky humor for laughs. […] There are a few genuinely funny moments in Body Waves, but otherwise it fails as a comedy. The storyline […] is sophomoric, the physical humor doesn't work, and the dialogue is often ridiculous. At one point Donner says: 'We don't get the fundage unless those geeks get some pump action.' This pretty much sums up the tone of the movie, dude. (Profanity, partial nudity, sexual situations.)"


Amityville 1992: It's About Time
(1992, dir. Tony Randel)
 
One of director Tony Randel's projects before this one is the enjoyable sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser (1988 / trailer), where he proved his ability to handle grue and gore; a later film is the far more enjoyable Ticks (1993 / trailer) — which is not to say that this movie here does not also have its own enjoyable moments of visceral. This direct-to-video Amityville movie is the sixth of the original franchise, which saw two more unneeded movies before the first was finally remade in 2005 (trailer) with a buff Ryan Reynolds (below).
"Nothing dates a film faster than proudly displaying the year it was made in the damn title. It seems the distributors learned the errors of their way and removed the '1992' from the DVD release and not just on the box artwork. They actually went into the film itself and put in a blatantly obvious black box over the '1992' on the title card which just brings me to a chuckle. Despite the silly title and botched attempt to correct it on recent releases, Amityville 1992: It's About Time... err.... I mean Amityville [insert black box]: It's About Time actually ends up being one of the better entries into the overlong haunted house series. [Blood Brothers]"
Trailer to
Amityville [insert black box]: It's About Time:
The plot, as found at For It Is Man's Number: "Stephen Macht plays Jacob Sterling, a man who unwittingly brings a piece of Amityville horror into his home when he brings a large clock back from one of his many work trips. Things quickly start to become quite strange for Jacob, as well as for his son, Rusty (Damon Martin), and his daughter, Lisa (Megan Ward of Freaked [1993]). When Jacob is savagely attacked by a neighbourhood dog he has to rest up at home and enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend, Andrea (Shawn Weatherly of Shadowzone [1990]), which adds further tension."
"Bizarre things start happening involving dogbites, retro home decorating, unusual clothing, a giant, bowtie-clad fake bird and Dick Miller! Miller plays a neighbour whose hedges are immolated by the demonic timepiece, and he gets a great little scene which suggests a whole angry-neighbour subplot that was cut out of the picture — so often the fate of Miller's performances, it seems! [Ha ha, it's Burl!]"
"There is no universe where this movie makes any sense: not our universe, not a parallel universe nor a perpendicular one. But who needs sense when a demonic clock wreaks havoc? […] This movie is a wackadoo delight. Like I said, it makes not a single lick of sense, but it is totally enjoyable, off-the-wall crazy schlock. Well, I could have done without the insanely sweaty sex scene, but still. It's surprisingly gory at times, there's a toddler with a mullet, and there's a scene where a girl gets fingerbanged by her own reflection. WHAT THE WHAT. [Final Girl]"
"Megan Ward seducing her classmate only to dissolve him in a puddle of black goo is a highlight. [HK Fanatic]"


Evil Toons
(1992, writ. & dir. Fred Olan Ray)
 

"You little bitch! I'll get you in the sequel for this!"
Monster (Robert Quarry*)

Don't let the credited screenplay name, "Sherman Scott", fool ya: Fred also wrote this popular D2V piece of trash pop flotsam. Dick Miller plays Burt, the boss of the cleaning company — he's in the trailer, too. Imagine the original The Evil Dead (1981) remade by a senile Joe Dante on a shoestring budget but with big-breasted girls more than willing to display their pulchritudinous assets (example below).
One of the better meta-references in the film: at one point Dick Miller watches his early classic A Bucket of Blood (1959 — see Part I) and asks, "How come this guy never won an academy award?" His movie-character wife, played by Michelle Bauer (a.k.a. Pia Snow), shows up just long enough to go topless and fire up a sex toy.
Trailer to
Evil Toons:
If we are to believe HK & Cult Film News, which points out that "probably the most […] disturbing thing about this movie occurs in the opening minutes when, in an extremely ironic coincidence, David Carradine's character hangs himself", Evil Toons came about when "Fred Olen Ray was asked to come in and do some nude scenes to punch up another film that was nearing completion, and when he saw all the locations and equipment right there for the taking, with the rental still paid up for several days, he figured it would be the perfect opportunity to do another project he was currently trying to finance. So he teamed up with producer Victoria Till and in eight days shot the 'naked girls terrorized by a cartoon monster in a haunted house' flick he'd been wanting to make."
Rock! Shock! Pop! has the plot: "Evil Toons […] revolves around some nubile young women, this time made up of a quartet of college students — Megan (Monique Gabrielle — see Part VII), Terry (Suzanne Ager), Roxanne (Madison Stone) and Jan (porn star Barbara Dare acting under the alias Stacey Nix) — who are dropped off at a creepy old house by a guy named Burt (Dick Miller) who runs a cleaning company. His van pulls up at the place and they unload everything that they'll need to spend the weekend cleaning the place up — you know, essential things like slinky outfits and lingerie. They head on inside and get comfortable but later that night a mysterious guy dressed sort of like a pilgrim named Gideon Fisk** (David Carradine of Dead & Breakfast [2004] and Q [1982]) shows up and hands them a weird old book. The brightest of the girls, Megan, decides to read a few passages from the book out loud and, well, you've all seen Evil Dead, right? Right. Bad things start to happen when a cartoon demon (voiced by the director himself) appears, summoned by the reading, and starts to make trouble for the ladies, first by killing off Roxanne and possessing her body. When various guys start showing up, some looking for sex and others looking to check in on the girls' progress cleaning, the demon kills them too. Maybe the weird old neighbor (Arte Johnson [20 Jan 1929 – 3 July 2019]) will be able to help?"
* The un-credited Quarry (3 Nov 1925 – 20 Feb 2009), by this time wheelchair-bound due to the mysterious midnight mugging during which he was beaten into crippledom, supplies the voice of the demon. To give credit where credit is due, Fred Olan Ray was one of the few to give the more-or-less by then forgotten and ignored actor food-paying employment (if not virtually the only one to do so regularly).
 ** Love that sentence structure: Is Carradine a guy named Gideon Fisk who's dressed like a pilgrim, or an unnamed guy sort of dressed like a pilgrim named Gideon Fisk?
Cinema Head Cheese points out a core attraction of the movie: "Fred Olen Ray's Evil Toons is a unique fusion of live-action tits and ass with animated characters among the bevy of bouncy beauties (Monique Gabrielle, Barbara Dare, Susan Ager and Madison Stone). […] If the tits aren't enough to keep you watching there are some nice cameos by numerous cult icons including Dick Miller, David Carradine and Robert Quarry*."
None of which impressed Down Among the "Z" Movies, which seethes that Fred Olan Ray "was apparently wanting to ride the coattails of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988 / trailer) and blend animated characters with live ones. […] Here, toons from a magical book come to life and attack — an idea that has some possibilities, as how does one kill something that's animated? Unfortunately, the film meanders and is the usual lowbrow sludge Ray specializes in. The toons themselves are mostly derivative of Chuck Jones and look like they were merely painted onto the film."


Angelfist
(1993, dir. Cirio H. Santiago)
 
OK, we're stretching things a bit by including this movie in Dick Miller's resume, especially since he had nothing to do with it. BUT: as many websites indicate, Angelfist is considered a regurgitation of the Dick Miller-scribed trash classic T.N.T. Jackson (1974, see Part IV), and thus distantly linked to Miller.
Trailer to
Angelfist:
TV Guide has the plot: "Cat Sassoon [stars] as Katara Lang, a tough L.A. cop who travels to Manila to find the killer of her sister Christie (Sibel Birzag), an FBI agent/kickboxer who photographed the assassination of a US military man. Christie gives the film, which identifies the assassins as the Black Brigade, a Philippines freedom fighter/terrorist group, to strip-joint dancer/friend Sulu (Shiela Lin Tan). Embassy official Victor Winslow (Joseph Zucchero) warns Katara not to interfere. She saves personable gambler Alcatraz (Michael Shaner) from a street-gang attack and takes Christie's place in a kickboxing tournament with the approval of Christie's trainer Bayani (Roland Dantes). Diplomat Donaldson is next killed by the Brigade's black-robed, samurai-like thugs. Everyone's looking for Sulu and the incriminating film, especially Cirio Quirino (Henry Stralskowski), the Brigade's chief honcho, and Christie's kickboxer friend and FBI operative Lorda (Melissa Moore). Now lovers, Alcatraz and Katara get to Sulu (who is killed) first, and Katara delivers the film to Winslow. Katara beats Gold Tooth (Christina Portugal) to win the tournament, then foils the Brigade's attempt to assassinate US Ambassador Franklin. In a final melee, Katara, Alcatraz, and Lorda (who escaped a torture session with Quirino) kill Quirino and the traitorous Bayani, his second-in-command. Apparently having won big bucks in the tournament, Alcatraz and Katara head into the sunset on a conspicuously large yacht."
 
The plastic boobage above, from the film, is that of Cat Sassoon (3 Sept 1968 — 1 Jan 2002), whose career was cut short when she died from an opiod-induced heart attack. 
 
In the end, we would probably argue that this movie owes more to Terence H. Winkless's Bloodfist (1989 / trailer) than to either T.N.T. Jackson or the later T.N.T. Jackson white-chick remake, Firecracker (1981, see Part VI).


Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
(1993, dirs. Eric Radomski & Bruce Timm)

Conceived as a D2V, expanded episode of the TV series Batman: The Animated Series (1992-95), aka (as of season two) The Adventures of Batman & Robin, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was suddenly given a theatrical release by Warner Bros, where it got positive reviews but failed financially. It went on to greater success on VHS and DVD, and is now often found on many a "Best Animated Films" list.
Inspired by the story arc found in Mike W. Barr's Batman: Year Two, among other changes the main antagonist became the titular Phantasm, instead The Reaper. The video success of the feature-length animated film led to three further stand-alone direct-to-video "sequels", Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998 / trailer), Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000 / trailer), and Mystery of the Batwoman (2003 / trailer). It remained the only theatrically released animated Batman movie until Batman: The Killing Joke (2016 / trailer).
Trailer to
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm:
And You Thought It Was…Safe(?), which gushes that Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is "arguably the most mature American cartoon feature to date", has the plot: "Phantasm begins with a mystery for Batman (Kevin Conroy) to solve in the deaths of several prominent Gotham City mobsters, and since the killer (who goes unnamed for the entire film) is also a costumed vigilante with a flair for the dramatic and a love of capes and cowls, the entire city believes Batman's finally blown his last gasket. Meanwhile, one of Bruce Wayne's old flames, Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany), returns to Gotham after an unknown amount of time abroad. Through a series of flashbacks intercut with the main action (nicely bracketing each act) we learn 'Andy' was the last real emotional connect Bruce allowed himself before he became Batman full time. Eventually, we see Bruce's relationship with Andy was instrumental to this decision, and these flashbacks add more psychological complexity to Bruce Wayne than any film before or since, no joke, full stop." 
The end credit song, I Never Even Told You,
sung by Tia Carrere:
"[…] We have to accept that it's never going to gain the mass appreciation of Nolan's Bat-films, or even Tim Burton's; but for those in the know, Mask of the Phantasm is a gem in the history of Batman on screen. Indeed, it may even be the best Batman film of all. [100 Films in a Year]"
Dick Miller supplies the voice of Charles "Chuckie" Sol, seen above, the crime boss that becomes the first victim of The Phantom. The image below has nothing to do with the film, and was found at Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Stephen.


Matinee
(1993, dir. Joe Dante)
Mondo Digital, which says that "this love letter to the golden era of kid's horror and sci-fi matinee movies from the mid-'50s through the early '60s is perhaps the warmest film directed by Joe Dante", has the plot: "As the Cuban Missile Crisis looms in 1962 and atomic fears are at their height, gimmick-hawking movie director and producer Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman of Fallen [1998 / trailer]) descends upon a military-heavy neighborhood in Key West to hawk his latest masterpiece: Mant!, the story of a dental X-ray mishap that turns an innocent man named Bill into a mutated monster with a taste for sugar cubes. Accompanying Woolsey is his leading lady and partner in promotion, Ruth (Cathy Moriarty of But I'm a Cheerleader [1999 / trailer]), who's getting a bit jaded with a life of nonstop showmanship. Among the fans eager to see the film are high schooler Gene (Simon Fenton) and his younger brother, Dennis (Jesse Lee), whose Army dad has just moved them into the area. Gene has a crush on Sandra (Lisa Jakub) and uses the opportunity to help Woolsey with the big premiere as a chance for a double date with friends Stanley (Omri Katz of Hocus Pocus [1993 / trailer]) and Sherry (Kellie Martin), but a jealous leather-clad rival*, a concerned citizen's group with a big secret, and a twitchy theater manager ensure the big day will be more explosive than originally planned."
* Named "Harvey Starkweather" — one of Dante's darker in-joke references to the general period in which Matinee is set. In this case, a reference to the infamous serial killer Charles Starkweather (24 Nov 1938 – 25 June 1959), who (among many films) inspired the low budget masterpiece The Sadist (1963). Warmer nomenclatural references, among the many in the movie, include Dick Miller's character Herb Denning (seen above), named after the actor Richard Denning (27 March 1914 – 11 Oct 1998), with whom Miller actually worked in The Oklahoma Woman (1956 — see Part I) and Naked Paradise (1957 — see Part I), and Cathy Moriarty's Ruth Corday, who is named after Mara Corday (see: Trailers of Promise – Films We Haven't Seen: The Giant Claw [1957]). The whole film, of course, is loosely inspired by the great independent showman cum filmmaker, William Castle.
Trailers from Hell on
Matinee:
"[…] Matinee appears to represent a maturity upon Joe Dante's part. While it never leaves the Famous Monsters fanboy territory that Dante has staked out behind, it is more substantial as a story than all of Dante's other films. It is less a film about monster movie fannish enthusiasm than it is about the era the films came from. Indeed, one gets the impression it could almost be a film about Joe Dante's own childhood. It has a nicely structured screenplay that enjoyably twists and turns through the awkwardness of asking girls out, first kisses, dealing with annoying younger brothers, juvenile delinquency, the madness that took people's imagination during the Cuban Missile Crisis era and, of course, a love of monster movies. It is the first of Joe Dante's films that actually touches base with the subtext of the films he loves. [Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review]"
Raging Bull, which has the movie on its Best Films of 1993 list, raves that Matinee is "A rare artistic effort for children, capturing not only the magic of 1950's low budget horror films, but also the pleasure of viewing them in the theatre. […] There are in jokes for followers of horror and politics, […] much of Dante's comedy is built around comparing and contrasting the absurdity of adults with the indifference of children. […] Matinee is the kind of film that makes you want to be young again because it's one of the few that seems to truly remember what being a kid was like. It hits on things like how you felt closer to people you didn't truly know, and even understands that you hated family films because they were candy-coated corn."
About the music: "The original score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Several cues from previous films were also used, arranged and conducted by Dick Jacobs, including 'Main Title' from Son of Dracula (1943 / trailer); 'Visitors' from It Came from Outer Space (1953 / trailer); 'Main Title' from Tarantula (1955 / trailer); 'Winged Death' from The Deadly Mantis (1957 / trailer); two cues from This Island Earth (1955 / trailer), 'Main Title' and 'Shooting Stars'; and three cues from the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy: 'Monster Attack' from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954 / trailer); 'Main Title' from Revenge of the Creature (1955 / trailer); and 'Stalking the Creature' from The Creature Walks Among Us (1956 / trailer). [Wikipedia]"
Trailer to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953),
which is seen in the movie:


Runaway Daughters
(1994, dir. Joe Dante)
 
"Rebel Highway was a short-lived revival of American International Pictures created and produced by Lou Arkoff, the son of Samuel Z. Arkoff (12 June 1918 – 16 Sept 2001), and Debra Hill for the Showtime network in 1994. The concept was a 10-week series of 1950s 'drive-in classic' B-movies remade 'with a '90s edge'. […] Arkoff and Hill invited several directors to pick a title from one of Samuel Arkoff's films, hire their own writers and create a story that could resemble the original if they wanted. In addition, they had the right to a final cut […]. Each director was given a $1.3 million budget and 12 days to shoot it with a cast of young, up-and-coming actors and actresses. [Wikipedia]" Among the directors: Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror [2007]), John McNaughton, (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer [1986 / trailer] and Wild Things [1998 / trailer]) and William Friedkin (Good Times [1967] and The Boys in the Band [1970 / trailer]) — the list of future names among the various casts is extensive. 
Trailer to Dante's
Runaway Daughters (1994):
A remake of Edward L. Cahn's 1956 B-film of the same name from 1956 (trailer below), Dante's extremely loose "remake", also set in 1956, was originally aired on 12 Aug 1994 and eventually, in 2005, had its DVD release. Dick Miller, seen below from the film, is on hand playing Roy Farrell, a private detective hired to find the runaway girls. In a bit of meta-deco, at the drive-in theater playing I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957 / trailer), among the posters hanging at the Skyline Drive-In movie theater are two in which Dick Miller had lead roles: Rock All Night (1957, see Part I) and Naked Paradise (1957, see Part I).
The basic plot: "Three girls (Julie Bowen, Holly Fields, and Jenny Lewis) spend their nights chasing boys at the drive-in. When one of the girls gets pregnant by her boyfriend, he skips town and joins the Navy. They find out he’s about to ship out and they go on a road trip to the naval base to confront him. Since their uptight parents would never dream of allowing them on such a jaunt, the girls concoct an elaborate false kidnapping plot to cover their tracks. [Video Vacuum]"
 Trailer to
Cahn's Runaway Daughters (1956) — and more:
The Pink Smoke, which complains that "the films [of Rebel Highway] are of extremely variable quality and many of the directors seem to be unclear if they're supposed to be delivering winking camp, nostalgia pieces or modernized updates," nevertheless thinks that "Dante's film is probably the best in the series if only because of his innate talent for all three styles: Runaway Daughters blends the cinephile nostalgia of Matinee with the goofiness of The 'Burbs with a distinctly modern knowingness. It's a broad comedy full of deep emotions, the over-riding emotion being a love for old movies, a love for dusty archetypes and faded movie stars, for drive-in movie theaters and sullen teenager greasers, for saddle shoes and headstrong girls. […] It's an episodic road movie that has no problem placing the girls in situations ranging from the silly (paranoid backwoods survivalists!) to the horrifying (ugh — rapist cops), shifting gears moment to moment with each twist of their road-trip in a stolen coup."
 
Neither the 1956 version (poster above) or Dante's reboot of Runaways Daughters had anything to do with the obscure, completely forgotten and possibly lost exploiter from 1968 by the great non-great Barry Mahon (5 Feb 1921 – 4 Dec 1999), Prowl Girls, which was filmed and possibly also released at one point as Runaway Daughters. (As Chateau Vulgaria notes, the in the trailer to Prowl Girls included in 1993's Twisted Sex Vol 3 compilation, and that the "narration gives the title as Runaway Daughters".) Distributed by Chancellor Films and yet to see a DVD or VHS or streaming service release, someone at TV Guide once saw Mahon's Runaway Daughters / Prowl Girls  and wrote: "A thoroughly unpleasant film about a teenage girl who rejects her middle-class lifestyle to live with her ex-drug pusher boy friend in an East Village hovel. He concocts a profitable scheme to separate well-to-do businessmen from their cash under the guise of social rehabilitation. When the girl discovers his racket, she runs off with one of the businessmen. She is tracked down by her former boy friend's associates and injected with a lethal dose of heroin. Completely unredeeming and ineptly made." Sounds like our kind of film...


Shake, Rattle and Rock!
(1994, dir. Allan Arkush)

As mentioned above in the entry on Runaway Daughters, "Rebel Highway was a short-lived revival of American International Pictures created and produced by Lou Arkoff, the son of Samuel Z. Arkoff (12 June 1918 – 16 Sept 2001), and Debra Hill for the Showtime network in 1994. The concept was a 10-week series of 1950s 'drive-in classic' B-movies remade 'with a '90s edge'. […] Arkoff and Hill invited several directors to pick a title from one of Samuel Arkoff's films, hire their own writers and create a story that could resemble the original if they wanted. In addition, they had the right to a final cut […]. Each director was given a $1.3 million budget and 12 days to shoot it with a cast of young, up-and-coming actors and actresses. [Wikipedia]"
Trailer to Arkush's
Shake, Rattle and Rock! (1994):
Allan Arkush, like his regular compatriot and fellow Corman Factory graduate Dante, was also one of the various directors given a chance to redo an AIP exploiter from the 50s, and he did this one, a remake of yet another Edward L. Cahn B-film, Shake, Rattle and Rock! (1956). Ironically enough, both the original version of Shake, Rattle and Rock! and the original version of Runaway Daughters were originally released as a double feature. Arkush's TV movie version, however, was aired two weeks after Dante's Runaway Daughters, on 26 August 1994 — and eventually released on DVD in 2001.
Full, original, public-domain version of
Cahn's Shake, Rattle and Rock! (1956):
Dick Miller shows up to play Officer Walter Paisley Arkush's the remake, one of many familiar faces also previously found in Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979, see Part VI), a film that shares this film's basic adults vs. teens & R'n'R narrative, if in settings decades apart.
Nights and Weekends has the plot: "Renée Zellweger [on her way to Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994 / trailer)] stars as Susan, a bubbly, redheaded '50s teenager who lives for rock 'n' roll music. Every day after school, she tells her mother she's going to the library — then she hurries out with her friends to dance on the local dance show, The 3 O'Clock Hop, hosted by Danny Klay (Howie Mandel). She and her friends even play in a band — and they're convinced that they'll be famous someday (if only they could find a place to practice). But then Susan's mother (Nora Dunn of Die, Mommie, Die! [2003 / trailer]) and her group of June-Cleaver-like friends catch Susan dancing on TV during their afternoon game of dominoes. Shocked by Susan's appearance on the show (where they actually allow black musicians to appear in the same room as their children!) and by her choice of friends — like the motorcycle-riding bad-boy, Lucky (creepily played by aging punk rocker John Doe [of The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)]) — Susan's mother decides to put her foot down. Unless Susan cleans up her act, her mother vows to rip up Susan's college applications and make her live at home and attend the local junior college. When Susan's friend and drummer, Tony (Max Perlich of Ninja Cheerleaders [2008] and Seven Mummies [2006]), finds a closed Chinese restaurant where the band can practice and perform, the battle for rock 'n' roll is on."
Over at All Movie, Buzz McClain raves: "Shake, Rattle & Rock! captures much of the campy, cult vibe it obviously intended to create […]. What makes the film work, however, is the youthful exuberance of its star, Renee Zellweger, who makes the most of this early opportunity by radiating energy and charm in every scene. The topical issues — racism, oppressive conservatism, rebellious youth — are handled gently but not brushed aside, giving just enough seriousness for the farce to bounce off. The music […] is the heart and soul of the film, and it's used perfectly. A bright, fast-moving production with a cast as perky as its star, Shake, Rattle & Rock! deserves a look."
From the soundtrack to Rebel Highway
Iggy Pop singing C'mon Everybody:
Others, like Teenage Frankenstein, are less enamored: "Renee Zellweger […] fares surprisingly well in this made-for-TV quickie. Her beauty, charm, and energy (all of which would disappear in a few years) carries what is otherwise middle-of-the-road fare. The story manages to rip off both Hairspray (1988 / trailer) and Cry-Baby (1990 / trailer) without including the already minor camp or outrageousness from John Waters in that period. […] It was made on the cheap for television and shows. In addition, there is (as with Hairspray) a subplot involving racism, which is presented here in such a simplistic manner it becomes rather offensive by itself. I couldn't hate this film because again Zellweger is enjoyable to watch by herself. Also, there is an interesting b-list cast, […] a guest appearance by Paul Anka, John Doe from L.A. punkers X, Riki Rachtman as Eddie Cochran (a casting decision ranking as one of the low points of western civilization), and Howie Mandel. Mandel here looks like Steve Vincent of Space Thing (1968 / 5.5 minutes) and Mantis in Lace (1968 / trailer below) fame."
Trailer to
Mantis in Lace a.k.a. Lila:


Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 In. Women
(1994, dirs. Julie Brown & Richard Wenk)  
Like, as if you didn't know: the title of this comedic TV movie is a reference to the classic B-film starring the stunning Alice Hayes (6 Marc 1930 — 27 Feb 1977), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958 / trailer) — a factoid we present only as an excuse to embed a picture of her below.
Co-director Julie Brown also co-wrote the script (with some guy named Charlie Coffey) to Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 Women and stars as the respective lead characters (Tonya Hardly & Lenora Babbitt) of the respective segments of this two-segment "comedy"; her co-director Richard Wenk, the man who helmed the underappreciated Grace Jones horror comedy Vamp (1986 / trailer), has since gone on to scripting A-production B-films. Dick Miller, by the way, shows up somewhere to play someone named Officer Murphy.
TVGuide has the plots to this two-segment pay TV movie: "Julie Brown plays the title roles in two spoofs: 'Tonya: The Battle of Wounded Knee,' about a figure skater who plots to cripple her competition, and 'He Never Give Me Orgasm: The Lenora Babbitt Story,' about a woman and her unfaithful husband." The film, particularly the Babbitt segment, offers a humorous but insightful study of the long-term psychological effects of wife-beating and inter-marriage sexual abuse. (Not!)
Julie Brown sings Queen of the Ice
from Tonya: The Battle of Wounded Knee:
We would have liked to present a female take on the movie, but we could only find one review of the thing, at it was written by someone with a penis, who says: "[Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 In. Women] is presented as a double feature, in which two different stories are told. Both feature the same actress as the main lead but are basically not connected in any way. The only thing that connects them, expect for the same main lead actress, is how incredibly bad they are. It's almost as if there was no script ready at the time of the shooting and the stories just never get off the ground, since they are just far from something interesting. They progress in a very childish way, as if it was made only for people with an incredibly low IQ score. How can you watch and honestly like a movie like this? The movie tries to be funny in basically every scene, which is overkill. And on top of that, the movie obviously isn't that funny. It's comedy is oh so predictable and again incredibly lame and childish. If you let a 6 year old come up with a comedy, he or she would probably come up with a movie like this. [Bobafett]"


Mona Must Die
(1994, dir. Donald Reiker)
Dick Smith plays Father Stilicato in this obscure, German-flavored independent production that almost no one outside of Germany seems to have seen. The German title, Ein fast perfektes Verhältnis, translates into "An Almost Perfect Affair".
Over at All Movie, Sandra Brennan has the plot: "A wife finds herself highly expendable as her husband and his lover continually bungle their attempts at murder in this black comedy. Mona (Marianne Sagebrecht of War of the Roses [1989 / trailer]), the wife, is a woman of substance who is forever trying to coerce her husband Eddie (Uwe Ochsenknecht), a selfish, shallow creep, into making love to her. He refuses. She goes to the hospital for liposuction. While she is gone, Eddie saves the life of a woman attempting suicide. She is the beautiful Rachel (Sheila Kelley of The Guest [2014 / trailer]). They become lovers. When Mona returns, Eddie lies and tells her that Rachel will be her nurse. Realizing that Mona will figure it out soon, the two lovers decide to murder her first. They try burying her in the sand, tossing her into the garbage, towing her out to sea, but nothing works."
Variety says, "Similar frustrated death scenarios have been played to various comic effect in numerous other films, from The Ladykillers (1955 / trailer — see R.I.P. Herbert Lom) to Harold and Maude (1971 / trailer) and the Inspector Clouseau series. Here, the couple's strenuously physical efforts to dispose of their formidable prey are generally more exhausting than amusing, although there are a few good gags along the way to keep attention from flagging entirely. […] The film's funniest moments are provided by Dick Miller, in briefly as a beleaguered priest who defensively complains, 'It's getting very trendy nowadays to accuse priests of sexual improprieties with young boys.' Despite heavy sexual element, it's mostly of a caricatured and physically unrevealing nature."
But if Variety makes it sound like Mona Must Die might offer a good gag or two, Germany's Filmdienst simply seethes that the "black comedy" is "a cheap production that promotes prejudices and relies on stereotypes" and is "humorless, psychologically implausible and weakly acted".


Midnight Runaround
(1994, dir. Frank De Palma)
Contrary to what one might assume, Frank is not Brian's untalented brother; in fact, the two aren't related. This TV movie is a sequel to the sequel — Another Midnight Run (1994 / film) — to the inexplicably popular Martin Brest movie, Midnight Run (1988 / trailer below). It was followed within the same year by, Midnight Run for Your Life (1994). The character of Jack Walsh, played by Robert De Niro in Brest's film, was taken over by Christopher McDonald (of The Faculty [1998 / trailer] and Unforgettable [1996]) in the subsequent TV movies.
Trailer to
Midnight Run (1988):
My Movies has the plot to a movie that almost no one seems to have seen (and in which Dick Miller appears plying someone named "O'Doul"): "Bounty hunter Jack Walsh (McDonald) heads for a small rural community in Oklahoma to bring back a young bail jumper (Kyle Secor), only to discover that the entire town has united to defend the young man."
Eighties Kids, in any event, is dismissive of all sequels, saying "Midnight Run was really good, unlike its terrible sequels Another Midnight Run, Midnight Runaround and Midnight Run for Your Life, films you should definitely avoid at all costs."


Pulp Fiction
(1994, writ. & dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Perhaps the greatest of all "almost" credits that Dick Miller had. "Pulp Fiction is widely regarded as Tarantino's masterpiece, with particular praise for its screenwriting. The self-reflexivity, unconventional structure, and extensive homage and pastiche have led critics to describe it as a touchstone of postmodern film. It is often considered a cultural watershed, influencing movies and other media that adopted elements of its style. [Wikipedia]"
Indeed, not only has it had a lasting effect of filmmaking, but in no less than ten years it was already selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress (in 2013).
Trailer to
Pulp Fiction:
Tarantino's second directorial effort, Pulp Fiction is also of the time in his career when Tarantino was still interested in using selected "forgotten" actors and faces from the genre films that he so loved instead of the big Hollywood names he gravitates to now.
In any event, Dick Miller shot some scenes for the movie that never made it to the final theatrical print (though they are now found in the Outtakes presented on the Collector's Edition DVD*). Had his scenes been used, he would have showed up as Monster Joe, the owner of the auto parts yard where Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel) disposes of the bloody car and body of Marvin (Phil LaMarr), they guy Vincent (John Travolta) accidentally shoots in the head. The name "Monster Joe" is claimed by some as an homage to the director Joe Dante, who famously has used Dick Miller in every film that he has made to date.
* And, of course,
on YouTube:

 More Dick coming soon…
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