Cannonball Run 2 (1984)

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Erin: Cannonball Run 2 is one of those awful movies I loved as a child because I had no idea that it was not a good movie. It was playing on HBO every day at 10, 2, and 6, how bad could it be? Although you could argue that, seeing as how I was ten years old by the time Cannonball Run 2 played on cable, I should have known better, the fact is that I grew up in a town that didn’t get a movie theater until 1988. So whatever was playing nonstop on cable was a blockbuster to my dumb small town ass. I actually didn’t realize just how stupid a movie this is until I watched it with Dan last week. As it turned out, literally the only elements of the movie I remembered were Abe Vigoda landing a helicopter equipped with a big magnet on Jamie Farr’s car, and Dom DeLuise saying “Fricken chickasee. Chicken fricasee.” I wish I could say that I remembered Jackie Chan’s involvement, but I wasn’t that cool.

Supposedly about a cross-country race, Cannonball Run 2 is actually both an excuse for a bunch of friends to get together and make an ensemble comedy, and a two hour setup for a punchline that isn’t fucking funny. Burt Reynolds stars as a cowardly daredevil who decides that he’d rather drive in this race than keep on doing his current job as a stunt flyer. DeLuise is his sidekick. For some reason they pretend to be in the army, which gives them the opportunity to pick up Jim Nabors along the way for a little while. Nabors’s character’s name rhymes with Gomer Pyle, natch. Before that, though, they pick up Shirley MacLaine and the hot redhead from Taxi, who are pretending to be nuns because they want a ride to New York. Because that makes all kinds of sense. No one is mad when all the pretending is found out, because everyone has the promise of sex. Even if it has to be with Don DeLuise. Oh, and Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin pretend to be priests, and Frank Sinatra hops into the race at the end in a Dodge Daytona, which was very disappointing to me. Frank Sinatra could have been driving something cooler than a dang Dodge Daytona, like a Fiero! Even Reynolds, the Bandit himself, spends the race in some kind of big old stupid slow Chrysler sedan. Everyone’s character seems to be a reference to some other, better role they played.

But Erin, aren’t you supposed to be writing a synopsis? OK. The actual “plot” is that Jamie Farr is a sheik whose dad is about to cut him off if he doesn’t win this race, which their country is bankrolling, and a bunch of guys who were literally the cast of The Godfather are trying to kidnap Farr with the help of everyone’s favorite tough guy Charles Nelson Reilly. In this film’s defense, I did get pretty fired up during this most recent viewing whenever Jackie Chan started kicking people, but that’s just because there’s nothing else going for Cannonball Run 2, and Jackie Chan in 1984 was pretty sexy.

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Dan: Well shoot, I don’t think there’s anything else to say. *packs it in*

I keed. I only remembered bits and pieces of this film, like the orangutan that pretends to drive Tony Danza and Mel Tillis and Jackie Chan and Richard “Jaws” Kiel driving a Mitsubishi that could go underwater. Man I wanted one of those cars, at least until I realize that I ran out of gas underwater and can’t swim.

This movie is a hot mess. A fun mess, yes, but a hot one nonetheless. I know it’s stupid to complain about the plot in a Burt Reynolds/Hal Needham get together car chase movie, but couldn’t you make the actual winner of the race more than an afterthought (Spoiler, I think Danza, Tillis, and Right Turn Clyde wins it)? Although I did enjoy seeing Burt look like a scared fool for half of this movie.

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Erin: I don’t even know if Tony Danza and Mel Tillis were still in the car, but I know the orangutan won. And that part, the race, you know, the focus of the film? It was extra stupid because the whole film only made it to a whorehouse outside Vegas, and then bam, suddenly they’re in New York and the ape won. For a 108 minute movie about a race, there is very little about any progress or actual competition. I mean, there are people pulling dirty tricks, but that’s it. I don’t know why I bother complaining, because this is just a series of jokes strung together, but I would have liked to have seen a cross country race actually taking place across the country. I mean, in 108 minutes, they had time. I bet the movie was even longer to begin with, though, before it was edited. I bet they didn’t even have to go out and film most of it; I bet Burt Reynolds’s fiery hot ego just burned the scenes directly onto the film like some mustachioed Sadako from The Ring.

I did like the running joke that only Richard Kiel and Dom DeLuise could understand Jackie when he spoke Chinese, though, and it’s always a positive thing when a movie features a theme song with lyrics about the movie. Bonus points if the chorus of the song is the title of the movie! But it’s safe to say that Cannonball Run 2 is no longer one of my favorite “let’s go on a wacky road trip” movies. Honky Tonk Freeway, another 80s cable hit, is still safe in my heart, though. What’s your favorite road movie, Dan?

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Dan: I’m still trying to get the image of Burt Reynolds crawling out of a Trans Am out of my head. I bet this movie was like 12 hours long, with many different stops and adventures for Burt, Dom, and the gang. But no, we got stuck with a lame kidnapping plot that was only there so we could see Burt, Dom and Sammy Davis Junior play the ugliest women imaginable. Well maybe not Sammy…he was kinda cute.

There were some things I liked about this movie though, and two very good reasons belong on Catherine Bach. Hey, any young boy in the early eighties who didn’t have a crush on Daisy Duke…probably had a crush on Bo or Luke. That’s OK, as long as it wasn’t Boss Hogg. Then I’d worry about you. I also liked that they cast the gangsters with guys like Alex Rocco, Abe Vigoda, that one dude from Godfather 2 who turns traitor (not Fredo), and everyone’s favorite low rent gangster name, Henry Silva.

As for your question, I’d probably would have to say Smokey and the Bandit 2. Why part 2? Well because of the elephant, duh.

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Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

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yorgatitlecardDan: Count Yorga is a 1970 film about these doofuses who have a seance with this creepy psychic. Seems one of the women there wants to contact her dead mom. Weird shit starts to happen and Count decides to go. A couple there give him a ride back, where they meet his ugly hairy bucktoothed servant. They get stuck leaving and decide “Hey, let’s have sex in our van in this guy’s driveway!” So you know what happens next…yep, Yorga’s a vampire.

Erin: And he kicks Michael Murphy in the face!

Dan: I’m sure most people have wanted to kick Michael Murphy in the face at some point.

Erin: Mr. Murphy’s attorney will be in touch. Anyway, his girlfriend doesn’t remember what happens after Yorga attacks, but the next day she gets caught eating a kitten. And that’s no euphemism, sadly. So her boyfriend does what anyone would do, takes her crazy hungry ass to the doctor. Fortunately for purposes of moving the minimal plot along, the doctor says, “Hey, look at these bites on her neck; I think y’all have done run up on a vampire!” And then they of course try to fight the vampire for the rest of the film.

Dan: By “fighting the vampire” you really mean “talk about fighting the vampire for thirty minutes, set your alarms to wake up at the appropriate time, go to the vampire’s house, annoy him and make him pour you drinks at 4:30 in the morning.

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Erin: Yes! Wasting time talking about an alarm clock, which actually was a part of the dialogue of this film, is a concrete example of why Count Yorga, Vampire is bad. The characters trying to trick an ancient vampire into staying up until sunrise is the cinematic equivalent of our ten year old son trying to trick us into letting him stay up past 9 by pretending to be thirsty.

Now, although this is technically a bad movie, I like that no one in the film really needs to spend a lot of time wrapping their minds around the fact that they are dealing with a supernatural creature, because it bores the shit out of me to watch people who are IN a horror movie who refuse to believe that something horrific is going on. It’s too bad they didn’t realize he was dangerous while they were at their yuppie hippie encounter group back at the beginning, before they started playing vampire taxi.

Dan: The movie is beautifully shot for the supposedly low budget they had. But outside of that and one or two other things, this movie is simply not very good. Robert Quarry as the Count really has this hypnotic, creepy vibe about him. He came off to me a little like Terrance Stamp in his cool no emotion demeanor.

Erin: I liked the seance scene at the beginning, because I thought the way it was shot with lots of quickly changing closeups really provided a sense of foreboding. There was some great camera work throughout the film, some nice long shots of sunrises and other establishing shots, and a good technique of switching back and forth between handheld camera and static shots to make some shots look like point of view. It’s too bad that the last thirty minutes were so dang boring! I find that’s when most bad movies fall apart, and it seems like such a no-brainer. That last act should be a tension builder, but so many filmmakers start out great and then just end up fucking the chicken. At least when I did my usual bored-with-the-movie search through IMDb to see why some of the actors looked familiar, I found a neat TV movie from ‘75 (Conspiracy of Terror) on the resume of the guy who played the doctor character.

Dan: That’s how they should have ended the movie. The heroes come in to save the leading lady, they fight off some of the lady vampires, and then go upstairs to find Count Yorga fucking a chicken. The chicken of course becomes a vampire and pecks holes in everyone. The end.

Erin: Man, if those A-holes at Chick fil A thought gay people were a threat to America, wait until everyone in the state of Georgia gets ahold of a vampire chicken sandwich!

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-14h52m44s114Dan: This movie was originally going to be a soft core sex film called The Many Loves of Count Iorga. Not entirely sure why they changed the name (A good idea IMO), but it don’t matter because they still use that title on recent releases. Anyway, they hired several women who had been in exploitation films and a couple that were in a ton of those nudie cutie flicks. So how is it, that there’s not one goddamn shot of a titty in this film? Oh sure, there’s cleavage and side boob for days on end, but heaven forbid that a nipple might fucking peek out. I’m not asking for a Jess Franco movie here, I just wanted to see some titties.

Erin: For one thing, most people would have had too much trouble pronouncing the name “Iorga.” But yes, I agree this film may have been improved with 100% more breasts. It also could have been improved if all the “good” characters weren’t so dumb. Maybe we were supposed to root for the vampire.

Dan: I know I did. Like the previous film we reviewed, Evil Altar, there were questions that never got answered. Like the hell happen to the nerdy couple at the seance? They are in that scene and then we never hear about them again. Was one of them someone’s co-worker and they brought their significant other? And how long has the mother of the main lady been dead? Because if it’s recent, then mom popped this woman out when she was eight.

Erin: Nudie cutie films have been linked to teen pregnancy, you know. But yes, that whole plot thread bothered me too. I mean, the seance was to contact the dead mother, so it was real fucking convenient that she just happened to be a vampire enslaved at the Count’s castle. Was she friends with the vampire in his psychic guise before she was drained of blood? I know fake psychics like to drain old ladies’ bank accounts, but this is taking things too far. How did the daughter meet him? Did he have an ad in the phone book?

Dan: There’s a sequel to this called The Return of Count Yorga, so I imagine enough people saw this film to warrant a sequel. I’m sure it involves Yorga hanging out at a disco waiting for groovy chicks to take him home so he can start his harem scarem all over again, but I ain’t gonna watch it. I know that unless John Waters directed it, there’s no chicken fucking to be found.

Evil Altar (1988)

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Erin: I was bamboozled into watching this 80s horror flick by the name recognition of actors Robert Z’Dar and William Smith, but as is too often the case, these guys have a few scenes, while the real protagonists of the film are unknowns. Probably even Smith and Z’Dar did not have cult status yet at the time of release. Anyway, I should know better by now, but at the same time, I hope I never learn.

As Evil Altar begins, demonic sorcerer Smith (looking like Donald Pleasence with his bald head and sans mustache) is torturing some teenage boy until he agrees to bring him 103 of something, with the last one being a virgin. 103 of what? “103 Damnations” was my husband’s witty answer. Then, as horror films so often do, we jump 30 years into the future! We meet our protagonists at a softball game: a teenage couple, the female counterpart of which looks like a Playboy bunny (fitting that she played one of the girls at One Eyed Jacks in Twin Peaks!), and the boy’s sister, who looks like a tomboy herself. Guess which one is the virgin. Now, the hot girl’s brother disappears with Smith’s henchman after a hissy fit over a bad play, and now only two plus a virgin are needed for Smith’s endgame. Why it took 30 years I don’t know.

It turns out, though, that it’s not that simple. This satanic Peyton Place of a town has many weak and convoluted subplots, including a relatively normal looking, dare I say somewhat goodlooking buff Robert Z’Dar doing what he does best, gleefully tearing it up as an evil sheriff. I’ll turn this over to my funnier half, because I’m still not completely sure what went on before Smith got his 103.

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Dan: Z’Dar did look surprisingly normal. And you could tell he was having a blast playing the typical corrupt small town sheriff. He was kinda buff there. I’d do him…did I type that out loud? Fun Fact: The “Collector” is played by Pepper Martin, who is best known as playing the asshole truck driver that beats up Clark Kent (and gets his ass handed to him later) in Superman 2.

This is one of those movies that tries to cram too many damn things in at once, and doesn’t do a good job at any of it. It’s all halfassed. The hell happens to the guy running the gas station who obviously was in on all the kidnappings? Did he just continue on pumping gas for folks and owning the dirtiest bathroom in America before that lawyer came back to punch his face in? Why did they stop giving a shit where that one girl’s brother went? And why didn’t he make an appearance after he did like the lawyer’s kid did? If this movie was a food, it’d be sloppy joe.

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Erin: There was the plot with the lawyer who came to town to hunt but got sidetracked because William Smith’s assistant kidnapped his son out of the gas station bathroom under the guise of “hand me some paper towels under the stall door.” I don’t believe that would actually work on a man, by the way. Women hand each other t.p. all the time in bathrooms, but it seems like a dude would be all like “fuck off, Cinderella.” Because of just such as this being known to happen in gas station bathrooms: becoming one of the 103. Then let’s not forget that the guy who played the antagonist in Deadly Prey was the father of the boyfriend and tomboy sister, and he had made a deal with William Smith to have his wife killed and replaced with his mistress, who looked a lot like Starla from Napoleon Dynamite. Also, there was the thing where the hot chick was being stalked by a gay-ish man in a classic convertible because he wanted to sleep with her in exchange for not somehow stealing her father’s house? And you’re right, everyone forgot about her brother being kidnapped from the softball game. Plus, there was another boy who was kidnapped, only I can’t remember who he was related to, and whoever should have been missing him was completely unconcerned.

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Dan: “Do people think I’m a loser cause I lost to Ted Prior once and come home to this!?” Sorry.

I don’t even remember who else was kidnapped because you need one of those lists like you get in a Clue game just to keep up with who was doing what to whom. William Smith in the shitty house with a bad Brando impression.

The effects in this movie weren’t bad, but they were pretty inconsistent with the deaths. Some of them they lingered on like they were proud parents, while other kills are simply done out of frame. Yeah you slapped some burnt looking makeup on the “Collector” but couldn’t you show me the lawyer blowing his zombie kid’s brains out?

 

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Erin: I think we need to address the “must-see” moments of this film. I choose the demonic baseball on an almost invisible string that came into the tomboy’s room to hover around and wreck everything, as well as the moment when the same girl describes her situation (of being stalked by Smith’s now undead henchman, after she shoots him in a hunting accident) as being like “that horror movie where the guy won’t die.” I love it when bad movie characters almost realize they’re in a bad horror movie. It’s dramatic irony.

Below the evil rainbow you can see the evil baseball. Evil.

Below the evil rainbow you can see the evil baseball. Evil.

Dan: I’d like to think that the horror movie she was referring to is Forever Evil. But that’s just me. For me I enjoyed any scene where Robert Z’Dar has to interact with the lawyer guy. He’s having so much fun harassing the guy, pushing him around, cussing him out, even arresting him, that I wanted to have a few shots at him as well. That would make a hell of a carnival booth. Smack the lawyer around. I’m trademarking that.

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Erin: I would just like to add that the actor who played the lawyer, Tal Armstrong, also put out an indie soul record in 1980 called The Tallest Man in Love. Because of his singing past I believe it was intentional that the movie includes a funky bass solo during some of his scenes. As Evil Altar is his only film credit (according to IMDb), I wonder if the making of this film was a negative experience. Some people have Google alerts set up for themselves, so Tal Armstrong, if you’re out there, leave us a comment. You did a good job playing a badass sorcerer-fighting lawyer, especially given the source material. Of course, I’d also like to hear from any other movie masochists who have seen this film. I don’t know where Dan dug it up, but we can’t be the only people to suffer through Evil Altar. There must be 101 others out there.

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Dan: I think this is simply a bad movie that was made that way due to its script. It was too convoluted, too many halfassed plots that could have been left out, and the heroes left something to be desired. But there are some fun moments in this, and as I’ve admitted elsewhere numerous times, I’m a huge Robert Z’Dar fan. So like Erin, said, we’d love to hear from you that have seen this film. And if you have pics of yourselves sitting in an easy chair holding a clarinet, even better.