Movie Review: MISSILE X: The Neutron Bomb Incident

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missile x
V.C.L. Communications
1978
NR

  • An American secret agent is sent to Iran to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and comes across a crazed international businessman called The Barron who has stolen a Soviet nuclear cruise missile which the Barron plots to use on a peace summit in the Persian Gulf region.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Self, what was iconic American film and television star Peter Graves doing in between his roles in the Mission: Impossible television show and the Airplane! movies?”, well, here’s your answer: Missile X – Geheimauftrag Neutronenbombe The Teheran Incident Cruise Missile Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident. And, of course, the only decent movie poster I’m able to find is the Spanish language one. Eh, it keeps with the tone of the movie, I guess.

Anyway, Missile X is a 1970s European spy “adventure thriller” that was a joint production between Germany, Italy and Spain, and not only stars Peter Graves as an aging secret agent, but also features John Carradine as a Soviet Russian professor. Also, some German actor named Curd Jürgens as The Baron, whom I’m told is a big deal or something. Oh, and also it was shot in a pre-Revolution Iran, which means something, I guess.

Can you feel my enthusiasm for this movie just dripping off of me, here?

An experimental nuclear cruise missile has been stolen from a Soviet military site by an international terrorist group commanded by a Bond villain wannabe known only as The Baron. The plan is to use the missile to destroy the international peace conference that’s set to take place on an island in the Persian Gulf. Enter US intelligence agent Alec Franklin, who travels to Iran to investigate the murder of a US consul. He’s immediately targeted for death, but they underestimated the agent (probably due to his advanced age), who manages to elude them at every turn. He then travels from Tehran to Abadan and teams up with a couple of Soviet KGB agents and an undercover Iranian policewoman to find The Baron and prevent him from starting World War III.

Missile X is, in a word, boring. It’s clearly another one in a long line of James Bond ripoffs, featuring a lead Peter Graves that, although he was only 52 when he appeared in this movie, his hair was all snowy white, so he came off as much older than what he really was. I would say that it made things kind of creepy and weird when his character got his mack on with the ladies (some of which he only knew for a few hours), but considering Roger Moore was pushing 60 when he played Bond in A View To A Kill, this may actually be par for the course for spy movies.

Keep in mind, I’m not really a fan of the spy thriller genre. The closest I’ve come was playing the N64 Goldeneye game a whole bunch (darn fine game, there). Nothing against them, they’re just not my thing. This being the 70s, and European exploitation movies had a tendency to not really care about plot consistency over style, I had a tough time paying attention to the goings on. Add to this some rather low-key poor-choreographed “action” scenes and some of the lamest “special gadgets” effects, and I have a hard time thinking that even the most hard-boiled spy thriller fan would find something to enjoy with Missile X. Pass.

Movie Review: MUTANT

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MUTANT
Film Ventures International
1984
R

“Nothing human can have this in its veins and live.”

  • When two brothers — Josh and Mike — go to a small southern town or a vacation, they find most of the residents either dead or missing. When Mike himself goes missing, Josh teams up with the local Sheriff and an attractive school teacher to find him, until Josh discovers that the whole town and most of its people have been infected by a form of toxic waste, and they have all turned into toxic vampires who prowl the streets at night for human blood.

So, here we have a movie that was directed by the same guy who directed the Shatner-riffic Kingdom Of The Spiders. Ooooh boy, with that kind of pedigree, we’re in for some fun, here.

Mutant was another one of those movies that was included on the collection of low-budget C-grade horror flicks I got from Walmart one afternoon, 50 for $20. I’m a sucker for those. Apparently, it originally started life as Pestilence, but then released to theaters in 1984 as Night Shadows, but was given the current title when it was released on video. As to why, I couldn’t tell you. More to the point of the plot? We’ll go with that.

So, we begin Mutant with a couple of brothers that are on vacation together, traveling in the American South. And because you can’t have a road trip in the American South without encountering a bunch of rowdy rednecks in a pick’em-up truck, they eventually get run off the road by the unwashed locals. They find themselves stranded in the nearby small town while their car is getting fixed. This is when they start to discover that the locals are acting a bit odd. Well, of course they are, as they’re strangers in a small Southern town. Duh. There’s that, yes, but also the locals are turning into diseased vampire zombies. Bodies start piling up, several other people start disappearing, one of the brothers dies (whom the other brother creepily refers to as “cute” to someone while trying to find him, which just raises questions that never get answered), the surviving brother meets up with a local school teacher, and they both go around investigating what’s going on to cause the townsfolk to, you know, go all Night Of The Living Dead like that. Turns out, a local company dumping toxic waste is the cause of all the locals turning an interesting shade of blue with dark circles under their eyes, like they’re all cosplaying the 1961 version of Carnival Of Souls, and sucking out everyone’s blood by way of hand vaginas, like with the 1990s animated Spider-Man version of Morbius. Only, that was done a good ten years before that show, but I refuse to believe my beloved Spider-Man cartoon was inspired by this movie. Anyway, chases ensue, things go boom, and mercifully the movie ends.

Given the pedigree, Mutants plays like one of those 1950s-style B Movies that were kind of prevalent in the 1980s. Low budget, cheep effects and middling acting are par for the course, but there’s admittedly a certain enthusiasm here that keeps this from becoming just a painful waste of time. The style starts off as a general Southern Gothic, then shifts to a standard horror movie, and finally ending as an action horror. There’s a lot of exposition in here, and the music score is surprisingly top-notch for something like this.

I would be remiss not to mention that Mutant was probably the main reason why the distributor, Film Ventures International, went under. Let’s just say that the movie theaters were as desolate as the small town depicted in this movie. The studio was floundering at that time to begin with, but Mutants was pretty much the final nail in their coffin. That, and the CEO’s pending divorce, which resulted in him grabbing $1 million from FVI and vanishing, rumored to have fled to Mexico. Really, the story behind FVI deserves its own movie in and of itself.

Overall, Mutants was one of the titles that I remember seeing at the local video store back in the 80s gathering dust on its horror shelf. And, depending on your experiences with some of the other low budget horror and sci-fi movies in Film Ventures International’s stead (which includes Pod People, Day Of The Animals and the classic Jaws rip-off Grizzly), Mutants is either a mildly enjoyable low-budget monster horror romp, or a complete waste of time. For me, this lands more in the former than the later.

Movie Review: FIREHEAD

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FIREHEAD
Action International Pictures
1991
R

“I’m going to find a free country.”

  • When a Russian cyborg with telekinetic powers terrorizes a city, an elite government agency intervenes. Col. Vaughn convinces “regular guy” chemist, Warren Hart, to team up with a beautiful blonde agent to capture the menace. But Warren finds the true villain isn’t who he expected. Forces of good and evil go head to head in this paranormal story of corruption and redemption…with the world’s future hanging in the balance.

Oh, wow. Yeah. This movie. I knew this was on the list of movies I need to get around to reviewing, as I did watch it, and I am obligated to try and review everything that I’ve watched, read or listened to. It keeps me busy during the periods of soul-crushing depression and self-loathing. I shudder to think what would happen when I finally run out of things to give my piddly brain droppings on.

Firehead is one of the releases produced by Action International Pictures, home of many low-budget cheesy movies, some of which I am very familiar with. Something tells me that Firehead will not be the last AIP flick you’ll see on this blog. I’m told that it did receive a theatrical release the first month of 1991; I may have blinked and missed it, as I don’t recall this title being one advertised at the Cinema 3 in Fremont, Nebraska back in the day. I never knew of this movie’s existence until just a couple of years ago, when I came across it on my streaming service. Heck yeah, I could go for some cheesy low-budget action at the time. Popped it on, and fell asleep after half an hour. I had to restart at the last point I remembered. Then I fell asleep again. But this time, I managed to pause it before slipping into oblivion. In other words, I watched Firehead in installments, which is something I normally don’t do.

The story of Firehead involves a Soviet super-spy who has been augmented to shoot frickin’ lasers out of his eyeballs. That alone would be enough to awaken your inner 10-year-old and immediately declare this the greatest movie ever. You would think that would be enough. But I digress. After deciding to not use his power for evil, he defects to the United States and manages to hide out for a couple of years…until he begins blowing up American munitions factories, which tends to get you noticed. The good news is, at this point the Iron Curtain had fallen and he’s no longer sought out by the Russian gov’ment. The bad news is, he’s now being pursued by a National Institutes of Health scientist and a gov’ment assassin, and another secret organization are wanting to exploit this guy’s activities in their overall plot for WORLD DOMINATION! Big, massive ‘splosions ensue.

Here’s what intrigues me: Firehead, despite being one of those very early 90s excuses for big explosions with barely a plot to hang things on that were being produced left and right back in the day, actually features the great Christopher Plummer hamming things up (and looking like he’s having a blast doing so), and a cameo appearance from Martin Landau. Of course, rather than hit the trifecta with getting Jack Lemmon, we instead get Lemmon’s son Chris Lemmon as the NIH scientist. So, it’s like we’re getting the v2.0 model. Or something.

Anyway, Firehead is your basic low-budget time-waster that you sometimes come across on the weekends on some basic cable channel’s Action Block before the pro-wrastlin’ comes on. Not a bad way to kill some time, but it’s no 90s Steven Seagal movie, either. Mileage will vary.

Movie Review: TRUCKER’S WOMAN

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trucker's woman
Super Pix
1975
R

  • A son is sure that his truck driver father’s deadly roadside crash was no accident; he leaves college to take up the old man’s profession and seek clues to determine who is responsible.

In the 1970s, America was obsessed with truckers. It was a pop culture phenomenon that spawned its own fashion, novelty songs, and obsession with CB radios. Oh, and there were several films romanticizing these noble asphalt cowboys. Cannonball Run immediately springs to mind. But, we’re not here to go over a good truckin’ movie. We’re here to review Trucker’s Woman.

Shot in only three weeks, and originally going by the title Truckin’ Man for the first few months of its theatrical release, Trucker’s Woman is probably one of the most 70s things I’ve ever experienced to have come out of that era. And remember, I was born two years prior to this getting released. There are pictures still floating around of me rocking a butterfly-collared magenta leisure suit as a wee lad. Why was the title changed to Trucker’s Woman, you ask? Sex appeal. The distributor figured doing that would result in higher box office returns. Rather than, you know, making a good movie, or something.

The story of Trucker’s Woman, in case you skipped the obligatory movie description blurb up top, involves a middle-aged young man named Mike Kelly, whose truck drivin’ daddy was killed by truck drivin’ bad guys. And so, since there was no other way to get justice for his murdered papa, Mike takes a job truck drivin’ for the same company that employed his dad to investigate and get to the bottom of things. But, the road to vengeance is a long and lonely one, so he makes time to stop at various truck stops and do…things with various truck stop ladies. Which one’s the titular Trucker’s Woman? Probably the one named Karen, who turns out to be the daughter of the eeevilll gangster kingpin at the trucking company he works for, whose goons may be the ones that iced his pop.

So, what we have with Trucker’s Woman is true Z-grade exploitation at its…well, no its finest, in a matter of speaking. It definitely does not deliver on the promises made from the movie poster and cover art for the VHS and DVD releases (especially the Troma edition in the early 80s, but that’s because Troma is Troma). I’ve seen truck driving instruction videos with more action and excitement than this movie has. The editing and cinephotography are choppy and uneven and uninteresting, and the acting is…well, it’s just bad. I’m not sure, but I think the dialogue was ADR’d completely. The action scenes, especially, are laughably bad. I found myself checking my watch several times during this runtime, and that, my tender readers, is not a good indication of quality viewing. If you must watch this, for whatever reason, watch the Rifftrax edition, so you’ll at least get a few intentional laughs out of this.

Movie Review: UPGRADE

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upgrade
Blumhouse Productions
2018
R

“While I am state of the art, I am not a ninja.”

  • After his wife is killed during a brutal mugging that also leaves him paralyzed, Grey Trace is approached by a billionaire inventor with an experimental cure that will “upgrade” hi body. The cure: an Artificial Intelligence implant called STEM, gives Grey physical abilities beyond anything experienced, and the ability to relentlessly claim vengeance against those who murdered his wife and left him for dead.

So far, Blumhouse has had a pretty steady track record when it comes to low-budget genre flicks. Nobody’s going to accuse them of releasing more arty type horror and science fiction, like A24 has been doing. But, if your taste runs more to the cheesy yet well-produced B-movie side of things–like I do–Blumhouse has got you covered. They’re able to do a lot with just a little. And that talent is very evident in the 2018 sci-fi thriller Upgrade.

Made for a budget of $3 million, Upgrade is basically The Six Million Dollar Man by way of Death Wish: A mechanic in the FUTURE! specializing in refurbishing combustion engine-powered cars (i.e., the kind we drive right now) drops one off at his client, an eccentric and reclusive tech innovator. After showing off his latest techy gadget–a multi-purpose microchip he dubbed STEM–the mechanic and his wife take off, but on the way their automated high-tech future car goes DERP! and crashes, then the couple are jumped by four men, killing the wife and leaving the mechanic paralyzed from the neck down. All a coincidence, I’m sure. Months later, he’s a paraplegic being taken care of by his mother at his new automated house. One day, he’s contacted by his old client, the inventor guy, offering to install the chip he showed him all those months prior onto his spine to gain his mobility back, and much more. An upgrade, if you will. The caveat being that the reclusive tech inventor guy has to perform the operation himself, and the mechanic has to keep all o this on the down-low, on account if it’s kinda, sorta illegal and stuff. So, he can walk and has all his functions back, but he has to pretend to be paralyzed in public. Which he agrees to…until the chip begins talking to him. And convinces him to use his new upgraded talents to find the men responsible for his wife’s violent death and his current state and make them pay. And so he does. Which catches the eye of a police detective. And it seems to be getting harder to keep the chip from taking complete control of his body. Not to mention there may be more of a conspiracy behind him taking the chip than he realized.

I missed out on watching Upgrade when it was out in the theaters. That was mostly due to me not being aware of its existence, because I don’t watch television and I’m not privy to a lot of movie advertisements outside of the trailers at other movies. Mostly I heard about this through the other reviewers that I glom to for movie information, and almost everybody gave Upgrade a pretty high rating, calling it a pretty good sci-fi action flick with  solid mystery story. So, I got ahold of a rental, and gave it a watch, and…yeah. Upgrade is a pretty solid movie.

The movie does a great job at crafting a dark, existential and somewhat bleak scenario, while mixing in some well-choreographed fight scenes while the story unfolds in a way that, okay, maybe not the most original one I’ve come across, but still ends on a very, very satisfying note. At least for me, anyway. If you prefer a more upbeat, happy ending, you maybe won’t like the ending as much. Regardless, Upgrade is very much worth a watch.

 

Movie Review: CYBORG COP 2

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CYBORG COP 2
Millennium Films
1994
R

“I was born for trouble.”

  • A fancy, loner cop loses his partner to a crazed terrorist during a hostage rescue. He settles for the terrorist going to Death Row in jail. What Jack doesn’t know is that the terrorist will be taken and turned into a cyborg for the Anti-Terrorist Group. When the Cyborg “Spartacus” wakes up accidentally, he kills the scientists and their guests, then go to set things up for a Cyborg Empire. Only Jack and a few friends know how to stop them.

So. Here we have a movie that came out in the earlier mid-90s that, due to the title, I was expecting it to be about a cop that is also part cyborg, fighting crime and stuff. You know, something like a low-rent Robocop or something. Also, for whatever reason, I could only find the sequel for streaming on my service, which is kind of like getting the classic video store experience, where they have every movie in the series, except for one or two. Eh, I’ve been known to dive into a series in the middle, and allow my plump, succulent brain to fill in the blanks as we go.

In this case, the “cop” in question (played by B-Grade martial arts action star David Bradley) isn’t, in fact, a cyborg. He’s fully human. No, the reason why he’s referred to as Cyborg Cop, is because he fancies himself a cop of cyborgs. You know, keeping those rogue abominations of science playing god in line when they decide to break Asmov’s 3 Laws, as they always seem to do in movies like this.

In this sequel, after a hostage situation gone horribly wrong, a crime boss is sentenced to death, but while awaiting his sentence is kidnapped by gov’ment agents and turned into a cyborg to lead an army of cyborg soldiers. As you do. This prompts the titular Cyborg Cop to launch an investigation on the whereabouts of the missing crime boss. Meanwhile, the cyborg crime boss–now going by the name of “Spartacus”–manages to activate and declare cyborg war on the humans, and leads the entire cyborg army in the uprising that we all saw coming several miles away, here. So now our Cyborg Cop has his hands full trying to stop Spartacus from taking over cities and giving all humans the full-on Borg treatment. Resistance is futile? Yeah, I wish.

Cyborg Cop II is one of those low-budget action flicks from the 90s that you really begin to forget about once the video is shut off. For an action movie, that’s never a good sign of the quality. I have a soft spot for low-budget cheesy action flicks, they’re fun. I get it. However, it takes a special kind of lame to make a movie that involves cyborgs rising up against humans with a lead hero whose style can best be described as Fonzie with a Fanny Pack and hitting all the 90s action tropes (and then some), and have it make no impression on my brain pan whatsoever. Once the end credits rolled, I could care less. I couldn’t even be angry at the movie for being so bad. It’s just…meh. Unremarkable. It doesn’t inspire me to try and find the first movie to see what I may have missed. Also, did I mention there’s no actual cyborg cops in this? Yeah, you’re not missing much by skipping this.

Movie Review: MANBORG

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manborg
Astron-6
2011
NR

“To the death, please!”

  • The armies of Hell have taken over the Earth, and all that stands in the way of the villainous Count Draculon and humanity’s total extinction is a motley crew of misfits led by the mighty MANBORG: a warrior that’s half-man, half machine, but all hero. Once a young soldier killed during first war against Hell, Manborg reawakens in the future, rebuilt as a walking weapon and mankind’s last hope. Struggling to learn the secret of his origins, Manborg unwittingly befriends a post-apocalyptic Australian punker, a knife wielding vixen, and a kung-fu master, before finally squaring off against Count Draculon in a desperate and bloody bid to take back the Earth!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, various intergalactic species reading this document, I give you now my new favorite deliberately cheesy awesome sci-fi movie I’ve had the pleasure of stumbling across recently: Manborg.

Originally released in 2011, I am shocked and appalled that I had not heard of this movie until just the past couple of years. Shocked and appalled, I say. Why have I never been told about this movie until now? And why is it, whenever I bring it up with anyone else that I know loves movies like this, they’ve never heard of it, either? I’m slipping at my game, here. Not good.

Anyway, the story itself should lead you to give this a watch: in the future metropolis of Mega-Death City, a soldier that’s fighting against the evil Count Draculon and his army of Nazi vampires is killed, but then made into the titular Manborg and joins resistance fighters and put in post-apocalyptic gladiatorial fights where things go boom. If that description didn’t have you salivating, how about the fact that the filming style seems to be aping the technique used on the first arcade edition of the Mortal Combat video game? Or that, while this is made to be deliberately cheap-looking and cheesy, this actually has some bite to it? Or how about, it’s only 70 minutes long? And free to stream on Amazon Prime?

Whatever. Manborg is brilliant. Watch it. Have fun doing so. This is a command from your Uncle NecRo.

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