Friday, January 20, 2012

The Dungeonmaster

  This is one of those films that I saw as a kid and it stuck with me.  I rented the video from Video Paradise (our little Mom & Pop shop on Main St. in the town I grew up in.) which sadly no longer exists.  I must have rented it about 2 dozen times, much to the chagrin of my poor father who would beg and plead with me to rent something different.  Now remember....this was in the 80's when it cost about $80 to buy a movie, so just buying me a copy certainly wasn't an option at that point.

The movie appealed to everything that I loved as a kid:  Monsters, magic, computers, sci-fi, was all in there, rolled into one cassette tape.  To me it was the greatest movie ever made.  Ya know what?  I still love it just as much.  Sure I can see it's flaws now, but it for me it didn't lose any of it's charm.

The film is about a nerd (Paul) who's girlfriend (Gwen) is jealous of him and his computer (XCaliBR8.....Excalibrate....or EXCALIBUR?!?!??!?!?   Hhhmmmmmmm.....) which Paul seems to like to spend more time with.  It doesn't help that Paul has given his machine a smokey, sultry female voice.  Not that Cal (XCaliBR8's nickname) is anything to sneeze at.  She can help Paul swindle money out of ATM's, change traffic lights and scan equipment for defects.  Where can I get one?!  Anywhoo....after Paul has some strange dreams, he wakes up to find Gwen gone.  After searching around the apartment for her he's transported to another realm that is presided over by Mestema (Played by Richard Moll!  Yep!!!  Bull from Night Court!).  Or as you and I may know him...Beelzibub, Satan, etc, etc. He's the devil, and he is curious about Paul's computer.  Surely this magical machine that he wields makes Paul a worthy opponent for Mestema and therefor, dubbed Exalibrate!  Not only that, but Mestemo transfigures his rather large desktop computer into a super compact wristband computer.

Paul is then given the chance to free himself and Gwen.  All he has to do is complete the seven challenges that Mestema sets before him.  You'd think that Satan would give him like 6 tests.....or 13.....but nope.  Lucky Number 7.  I dunno.  Anywhoo...this is where stuff, because though this is a Charles Band film, it boasts 7 different directors in total.  One for each challenge....except for the Heavy Metal Challenge....which Band directed.  Okay let's go for it kids!

Challenge #1:  Stone Canyon Giant (Directed by David Allen) - Paul is sent to a mountainous environment inhabited by little dwarfs that are called Cliffdwellers.  They steal Cal off his arm and run as fast as their little legs will take them.  Paul gives chase and gets Cal back just in time to face off against an awesome stop motion Stone Giant.  Using Cal's new found laser beam application (There WAS an app for that!) he calculates the exact trajectory needed...blah blah blah (in other words, he had Cal AIM) to hit the gemstone on the Giant's head.  Which makes the Giant blow up.  

Challenge #2:  Demons of the Dead (Directed by John Buechler) - Paul is next sent to a cave full of undead warriors and zombies.  They don't seem to offer much of a challenge for Paul as he easily pushes past them and knocks them down.  The Undead Cave is ruled by Ratspit.....a strange little creature that Paul comes across.  As more zombies flank him, he destroys them all by hitting the gemstone on top of Ratspit's staff.   (Hhhh.....I  think i might see a pattern emerging here....).  Mestema tells Paul that in a future reality he is dead.  Paul then retorts with the now popular meme "I reject your reality and substitute my own!"  Apparently this is enough for Paul to win this Challenge.

Challenge #3:  Heavy Metal (Directed by Charles Band) - This is probably the weirdest of Paul's Challenges.  Gwen is being held hostage by a satanic heavy metal group (played by real group WASP!).  Gwen is going to be massacred on stage unless Paul can somehow stop the evil musicians.  Once again, Paul relies on Cal to find the right frequency to overpower and destroy the band.  

Challenge #4:  Ice Gallery (Directed by Rosemarie Turko) - This Challenge is another weird one.  Paul and Gwen are transported to a cave full of frozen figures including The Wolfman, an African Head Hunter, A Mummy, Jack the Ripper......there's some other guys in there I don't remember....there might have been a samurai.....but in the middle of all this is Albert Einstein.  Naturally, all the figures come to life and close in on Paul and Gwen.  This is one of the few times that Paul doesn't use Cal.  He takes a crystal that Einstein is holding and smashes it and wins the challenge.

Challenge #5: Slasher (Directed by Steve Ford) - This is the most "realistic" challenge that Paul must face.  He's dropped into a city and given a time limit to find Gwen before she becomes the next victim of a serial killer.  Paul starts to navigate the streets and ends up getting arrested by two of the most retarded cops I've ever seen.  He escapes police custody and manages to find Gwen just in the nick of time.  Giving the serial killer a zap from good ol' trusty Cal.  

Challenge #6:  Cave Beast (Directed by Peter Manoogian) - This one is a mind boggler.  Paul enters a cave.  A troll like monster starts to throw explosive crystal shards at him.  Before he and Cal can figure out the best way to deal with the Cave Beast, it accidentally mortally wounding itself.  It then turns onto an angel-ish woman who tells Paul that Mestema captured her and transformed her into the hideous Cave Beast.  Challenge over.  Man.....that was easy.  Along the same lines as getting points on your SAT just for writing your name on it!

Challenge #7:  Desert Persuit (Directed by Ted Nicolaou) -   Complete and total Mad Max rip-off.  I don't really remember a whole lot about this one, because frankly I thought this challenge sucked.  The friggin' suicidal Cave Beast was more exciting!  It's basically a Road Warrior-esque vehicle chase....and then Mestema decides to cheat and crashes his vehicle into Pauls....or something like that.

Well, now that Paul has "lost" the final challenge, it would seem that Paul and Gwen must forfeit their souls to Mestema.  However, Paul challenges him to a fair physical fight.  No computers, no magic.  Mestema accepts and against all odds, Paul manages to overcome his adversary.

So there you have it.  That is The Dungeonmaster in a nutshell.  This is another great Friday night Pizza Movie.  If you think this sounds like a fun time (and it is!) you can check it out streaming on Netflix!  Plunk down in front of your computer or even better yet on your couch and stream through your game console.

Speaking of game consoles, I think that this would have made an awesome NES game!  The different challenges would work out perfectly as stages!  And while we're on the subject of games, here's a little trivia for you:  When the film was retitled The Dungeonmaster (no doubt to cash in on the popularity of AD&D) it actually carried a disclaimer in it's print ads which read:  "This film is not endorsed by, or associated with T.S.R. Inc., publishers of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game."!!!

Some other interesting tidbits for ya....the film has three different English language titles:  

The Dungeonmaster (US Title)
RageWar (UK title)
Digital Knights (Alternative Title)

And some interesting foreign titles....

Il demone delle galassie infernali (The Demon of Hell Galaxies)
O Mestre do Jogo (The Game Master)
Saatanan lunnaat (Satan's Ransom)
Wladca podziemi (Lord of the Underworld)

Personally, I like the title, The Demon of Hell Galaxies!  Sounds so badass!

One final treat for's the trailer!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beyond your WILDER Space Fantasies!

Today I want to talk to you about a duo of el cheapo sci-fi flicks that are near and dear to my heart
First up:

Killers From Space

This film has it all.  Goofy aliens with ping pong ball eyes?  Check.  Putting actors in front of blown up footage of insects, arachnids and lizards to simulate gigantic sized creatures?  Check.  Absolutely wonky logic dictating every scene?  Check.  Directed by W. Lee Wilder?  Check.

Peter Graves stars as Dr. Douglas Martin, a scientist doing atomic reseach in the Soledad Flats.  On an aerial mission to "collect data"  which apparently consists of flying around an atomic blast, Martin's plane crashes into the desert.  He mysteriously survives without any injuries.....only sporting a strange "L" shaped scar on his chest.  At the base hospital, he cannot recall anything that happened.  The FBI is called in because he's acting kinda funky and they think he may be an impostor.  Finding no evidence of this, he's cleared from the hospital and told to take it easy for a while.  He's not very happy about being kicked off the project, but begrudgingly goes home.  As he's sleeping one night, he has bizarre dreams that culminate in a pair of super-imposed googily eyes staring at him through a window.  Giant eyes.  Just floating there.  Oooooooohh....spooooky.

Well, the tests go on and another atomic blast is set off, which really pisses Martin he breaks into the base and steal the data, fleeing into the desert.  The FBI is hot on his trail and they nab him after he stashes the papers under a rock. know.....I'm sure they'd still be there when he came back for them later.  Whatever.
Back at base he's given a truth serum and tells a tale of ping pong eyed alien invaders out to conquer the world by growing irradiated critters to wipe out humanity.  Yep....that old chestnut.  Well, it's discovered that the ping pong aliens have wiped Martin's memory and they placed him under hypnotic suggestion to steal that data.  Those evil bastards!
Well, now that Uncle Sam is onto the dastardly plot, the government does the only thing it can.  Keep Martin locked up in the hospital like the crack pot they think he is.  Uncle Sam - 1.....Hero - 0.

Martin figures that if he can just turn of the power to Soledad Flats Power Plant, he can over load the aliens apparatus and foil their plans.  So he breaks out of the military hospital....cause ya know....that's easy to do.  High-tails it to the power plant and forces the lone technician to shut of the power for 10 seconds or so.  This apparently is enough to blow the aliens to kingdom come.  Smooooooth.

 Did that sound awesome?  Well, it is.....if you are a fan of bad movies.  It's even better if you've got alcohol and like minded friends....but sometimes I still pull this bad monkey out on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  It holds a certain charm for me that I just can't resist......and I just can help but smile when I see those great big googly alien eyes staring back at me.

Killers from Space is pretty readily available in DVD format.  I got my copy on my 50 Sci-Fi Classics collection from Mill Creek.  It's a pretty fantastic set of films and priced at $14.99 it comes out to under 30 cents per film!

If you're still not convinced that you need this film in your personal collection, then I suppose the only thing left I can do is let you watch it.  So here you go!

This brings us to our next film in this double feature.....

Phantom From Space

Let's keep on rolling in the goodness, shall we?  What's this film got...Alien in goofy scuba-diver looking spacesuit?  Check.  Extremely lo-fi wonky special effects?  Check?  Misunderstood alien?  Check.  Directed by W. Lee Wilder?  Check.  (Notice a pattern yet?)

The first ten minutes of this movie jump around from scene to scene while we are told that an Unidentified Flying Object is streaking through our atmosphere at amazing speeds.  Fighter jets are scrambling to intercept the craft but it's moving at such an incredible rate, they are unable to keep up.   The UFO is reported to have crashed.  The radio and television transmissions are then disrupted and the FCC sends investigators to figure out what is going on.

Then the reports of a being in a strange suit start to flood in the area.  It seems there is a spaceman on the loose.  Que cheesy 50's sci fi music.  Ooooooo-weeeeeee--oooooooo........anyway to help evade capture, the alien sheds his spacesuit and guess what kids?  He's invisible!  What an amazing way to save a few bucks on an alien costume!  Instead we can rig up objects with mono-filaments and move them around like the invisible alien is manipulating them.  GENIUS!

Well, the FCC and the government chase after our invisible friend for a while.  Turns out that Mr. Spaceman isn't doing so hot without his spacesuit either.  Well as so often happens in these types of films, the humans end up killing the alien and we're left to think about how awful we are here on planet earth.  I'm pretty sure the rest of the universe refers to us as "That Douchebag Planet"  Ah well.

Why don't you go ahead and enjoy Phantom From Space right here:

This makes a great double feature with Killers From Space for a couple of reasons.  1)  They are both on the same disc in the 50 Sci-Fi Movie Collection.  2)  They are both lo-fi wonky alien flicks to help pass away a rainy Sunday.  3)  They were both the product of one Mr. W. Lee Wilder.

W. Lee Wilder is the brother of Billy Wilder, Acadamy Award Winning writer/director of such films as Sunset Boulevard, The Lost Weekend, Stalag 17 & The Apartment.  W. Lee never achieved the sort of fame or credentials that his brother did, but I applaud him for making two of my favorite rainy day movies.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Invasion of the Blood Farmers

They planted the LIVING and harvested the DEAD!

When I think of wonky old B Movies, there are few titles that pop into my head...and right on top of that list is Invasion of the Blood Farmers, or Αιμα! Τροφη για ζωντανους (Blood! Food for Living) which is the hilarious Greek title!

I remember the first time that I saw IOTBF,  I was on a weekend trip with some friends up in Vermont.  The weather was was a nice late September weekend, the trees were turning and there was a slight crispness in the air.  We drove aimlessly around for a while, stopping here and there at whatever roadside attractions happened to catch our attention.....tourist attractions and such.  Our plan was to head into Brattleboro later in the evening....find a hotel and head out to the bars.  Somewhere around 6pm, we were at this barn/farm/restaurant and as we ate dinner, we could see thunderclouds literally streaming over the Green Mountains.  In a matter of minutes, the clear sky was a static grey and there was a flash of lightening.  A moment later the rain started....torrential downpours the likes of which I had never seen.  Suffice to was wet.

It was at that moment we started to discuss Plan B.  Nothing kills the fun of pub crawl like getting soaked in the rain when it's only  50 degrees out.  We asked the waitress if she knew of any nearby hotels or any other sort of lodging nearby.  As luck had it, the barn/farm/restaurant also had a few cabins for rent!  So we decided to rent a cabin for the night.  After settling down and figuring out sleeping arrangements (there were two twin beds and a Lay-Z-Boy.  I got the chair....lucky me.) I ventured out to the general store that was just down the road.  There I loaded up on junk food and beer.  There was also a small little video rental stand in the store.  Next to the DVD rack there was a box of VHS tapes that said "3 for $5" and next to THAT was a stack of old VCR's for $10 each.  I rummaged around in the box and found three that looked interesting.  One was Amsterdamned.....a weird movie about a killer using scuba gear to navigate that waterways of Amsterdamn and killing people with a spear gun.  Another was a sci-fi movie that I can't even remember the name of.  I don't really remember much about it....other than a guy wandering around a post apocalyptic wasteland and basically ripping off Mad Max.  It was some Italian movie.  Didn't make an impression at all.  The third of course was Invasion of the Blood Farmers.  I snagged up a VCR and went back to the cabin.
That night we watched all three films.  We watched the Italian Mad Max rip-off first.  Then Amsterdamned.  By the time we got to Blood Farmers we were all liquored up pretty good.  We thought that the hillbilly druids were hilarious.  We had a great time with the film.  Unfortunately the next morning as we packed up our stuff, I completely forgot about my new VCR and movies.  I was in a hangover haze and didn't realize that I didn't pack my new treasures up till we got back home two days later.

So!  What is this whole Blood Farmers flick about?  Well, here we go:  Druids in upstate New York pose as hillbillies and kidnap women....harvesting their blood with what looks like swimming pool pumps.  Their sinister goal is to resurrect their queen with the harvested blood.  That's pretty much int in a nutshell.  What makes the movie so amazing is the ineptitude of the whole thing.  It's rumored that the actors were paid with six-packs of beer and I would be willing to bet that they probably drank through their wages on set.   A fight between a dog and one of the druids is an absolute must see.  Pure fromage of the cheesiest kind.  We're talking 100% Velveeta!

I should mention that this film is greatly improved by watching it while in a chemically altered state of consciousness with like minded friends.  Or if you are a hard-core bad film buff such as myself.  This is a film that not many people have heard of and even less have actually seen it.  For a great write up on the film, check out Issue 83 of Rue Morgue Magazine, in which fellow Blood Farmers enthusiast, John Bowen spotlights the film in his Bowen's Basement column.

VHS tapes on EBAY go for about $20 or more, depending on the quality and condition of the tape.  The Retromedia DVD is now OOP.  I was lucky enough to scoop up a copy of the DVD before they all vanished.  Do yourself a favor and hunt down this film.  Then get a bunch of your  friends together and let the magic happen!