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Cult Sci-Fi Movie Reviews

A Boy and His DogA Boy and His DogDirected by L.Q. Jones – 1974 – 91 minutes – Starring Don Johnson [Miami Vice], Tim McIntire, Susanne Benton, Jason Robards [Once Upon a Time In the West], Alvy Moore, Charles McGraw, Helene Winston, Ron Feinberg and Michael Hershman.  A wonderful cult oddity directed by Sam Peckinpah veteran and supporting actor par excellence L.Q. Jones. Set in a dusty post-apocalyptic future where food is hard to come by and women are equally scarce, the film centres on Vic [Don Johnson] and his best bud Blood [Tim McIntire], a highly intelligent dog with the ability to communicate with Vic telepathically. Vic has Blood sniff out food supplies for the pair of them and track any nearby women for him to jump the bones of, whether they are willing to or not. On one such occasion, after being led by Blood, Vic finds a woman in a bunker lair and after spying on her nubile form while she’s getting changed, bursts in and demands her to strip at gunpoint and lay down on the mattress. Suddenly however, Blood senses others approaching; they too are looking for the woman to procreate with and have tracked her with dogs of their own. Now Vic and Blood must face off against the gang in an exciting action scene. Impressed with Vic’s bravery and triumph against the odds, the woman ultimately decides to get in the sack with him, much to Blood’s chagrin; when after finishing one love making session she asks Vic for another go of it, the weary dog dryly deadpans: ‘Once more into the breech dear friends!’ However the young woman is not what she seems; she later knocks Vic out and leaves him, though not before leaving an entry pass to her underground city and telling him enough information to find her. Vic finds the entrance to her underground civilisation and passes through; Blood is badly wounded from the previous skirmish but touchingly tells him he’ll wait for him as long as he can. For its final third the film changes tack, taking on a decidedly nightmarish quality as it follows a solo Vic’s journey around his female conquest’s bizarre city in which the people wear odd clown like make up and are governed by a strange, cold, chillingly calm group of community leaders headed by Lou Craddock [Jason Robards], who intends to make Vic the community’s sperm donor! Further outlandish twists transpire in this engrossing, highly original tale which can be seen as a precursor to later post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi fare such as the Mad Max films. The film is a woefully underrated, blackly comic gem of Sci-Fi Cult cinema; a touching, hysterically funny, occasionally unsettling odd-couple tale in which the dog is the brains of the outfit and the man is his unwitting foil. Vic and Blood are ultimately inseparable; they share a genuine mutual bond which they respect above all else and this factor only makes the outrageously dark, cruelly funny ending all the more perversely satisfying. Trivia: Also known as Psycho Boy and His Killer Dog. The screenplay was based on a novella by Harlan Ellison. Tim McIntire [the voice of blood] also composed the film’s music and sung the title song. Director and co-writer L.Q. Jones appears un-credited as the man in the porno film watched by characters in the film. If you like this you may also like: The Hot Spot [1990] – Don Johnson stars as loner cum thief Harry Madox in this underrated Film Noir Thriller, directed with sweaty, atmospheric conviction by Dennis Hopper. Co-starring a sexy Virginia Madsen as the oft-nude femme fatale Dolly and featuring a saucy young Jennifer Connelly in an infamously topless turn as Gloria, the object of Harry’s lustful affections. Mad Max [1979] – Mel Gibson stars in this post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi favourite from director George Miller. The film was popular enough to spawn 2 sequels. 

Prayer of the RollerboysPrayer of the Rollerboys - Directed by Rick King - 1991 - 95mins - Starring Corey Haim, Christopher Collet, Patricia Arquette, J C Quinn, Julius Harris and Devin Clark. There was apparently a time when Corey Haim was hot property and adored by teenage girls around the world. I guess that time generally passed me by but I have to admit to being rather a fan of this trashy futuristic thriller ‘Prayer of the Rollerboys’. Set in a post depression America with the countries assets sold to foreign investors and millions sleeping rough in makeshift camps. Out of this chaos enters a gang of roller bladed yuppie-attired youths, who by way of selling drugs and charging protection money have hopes of buying back America and making it great again. Their charismatic leader (Christopher Collet) places TV adverts trying to brainwash more members into the gang and as they grow in strength, the authorities appear powerless to stop them. But hold on here comes Corey, who is recruited by the police to don his speed skates and infiltrate the gang. Aided by a scantily clad Patricia Arquette, Corey proceeds to act his way through a succession of outlandish haircuts in order to discover the truth behind the Rollerboys and their “Day of the Rope”, on which they threaten to get even with their enemies. It’s all extremely good fun with some subtle political satire thrown in for good measure and an ending begging for a sequel - that thankfully never materialised! Trivia: Writer/director partnership of Rick King and W. Peter Iliff had a busy 1991 as they also wrote the story and screenplay for the Patrick Swayze / Keanu Reeves hit Point Break. If you like this you may also like: The Lost Boys [1987] starring Corey Haim fighting cool vampires, rather than roller skaters. Fast Getaway [1991], hey why not have a Corey Haim night? This crazy tale about a gang of bank robbers even includes Cynthia Rothrock to guarantee a great night in!

PreyPreyDirected by Norman J. Warren – 1978 – 81 minutes – Starring Sally Faulkner, Barry Stokes, Glory Annen, Sandy Chinney, Eddie Stacey and Jerry Crampton.  An alien spacecraft lands in the remote countryside one night; out steps Anders, a flesh craving alien who wastes no time in devouring a nearby couple and assuming the identity of the male victim. He quickly spies a house nearby and approaches; the owners are two young ladies, Jessica and Josephine. Believing Ander’s to be inured, they invite him to stay with them. Jessica and Josephine are in fact romantically involved; Josephine is the domineering one while the slightly younger Jessica is submissive; she is evidently growing weary of Josephine’s clinginess. Anders emergence in the couple’s quiet, isolated existence quickly sparks Josephine’s jealous side, though she is decidedly off-base with regards to what his true motivations are! Director Norman J. Warren made this wilfully strange little film under very rushed and extraordinarily cheap circumstances; the shooting schedule was less than a week! Thankfully, while the low budget is often apparent, Warren armed himself with a talented cast [Sally Faulkner is particularly impressive] and some skilled technicians; all working in unison to produce a small gem of British Horror cinema. The film is a three-header; a character study operating under the hoary old ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd’ psychology. However, when the ‘two’ are lesbians and the ‘three’ are two lesbians and an alien, this cliché curiously becomes a lot more palatable! The character dynamics are also genuinely interesting, with the downbeat nature of the lovers’ relationship and some surprisingly graphic erotic couplings. This coupled with some gratifyingly grizzly gore and a downright nasty conclusion, adds up to a truly memorable work. Trivia: Originally released under the title Alien Prey in the US. Star Barry Stokes appeared as ‘Axe Man 2’ in campy cult classic Hawk the Slayer [1980]. The film was originally cut in the UK, toning down sex and violence, in particular a scene containing gory violence in a sexual context. The film passed uncut for DVD. Co-Star Eddie Stacy played one of Brian Blessed’s Hawkmen in the awesome Flash Gordon [1980]. Stacy is better known as a stunt coordinator and has worked on many films including Willow [1988], Gladiator [2000] and Batman [1989]. If you like this you may also like: Satan’s Slave [1976] – Norman J. Warren’s gory, sensationally sleazy Horror film about Satanic blood rituals. Starring Michael Gough. Inseminoid [1981] – Another memorable Warren effort. This gruesome Sci-Fi Horror shocker is about a space crew attacked by an unknown enemy. A woman [an excellent Judy Geeson] among them is ultimately raped by the space monster and this ‘insemination’ turns her into a wild eyed maniac who tries to kill her fellow crew members and gives birth to an alien offspring. 

RetroactiveDirected by Louis Morneau – 1997 – 103 minutes – Starring Kylie Travis, James Belushi [K-9], Shannon Whirry, Frank Whaley, Sherman Howard, Jesse Borrego and M. Emmet Walsh.  A taut, tense, highly effective time travel/road movie with a novel set up, Retroactive was one of the finest films of 1997. The film begins when central protagonist Karen's [Kylie Travis] car breaks down; she is ultimately picked up by two strangers, Frank [James Belushi] and his girlfriend Rayanne [Shannon Whirry]. Frank is a shady character who unbeknownst to his fellow travellers, is on his way to meet a contact to sell them some stolen computer chips. However, after repeatedly calling Rayanne’s fidelity into question, Frank eventually resolves to violently blow her away. Karen manages to escape the car with a crazed Frank hot on her heels. She finds her way into a fenced off laboratory, where it transpires that a time travel experiment is being worked on; she forces the lone scientist to send her back in time to prevent Rayanne’s murder. The time travelling device works and she finds herself back in Frank and Rayanne’s car earlier that day. Unfortunately her plans to save Rayanne’s life are continually beset with unforeseen circumstances; every time she travels back in time something goes wrong. Moreover, certain acquaintances of Frank become increasingly involved at various junctures, leading to an escalating bloodbath which ultimately spirals out of control. To divulge any further details would ruin the surprises the film has in store, suffice it to say that Retroactive is a clever, witty, Action-packed Sci-Fi Thriller about the consequences of time travel which gives a stale, tired subgenre a much needed shot in the arm.  It's an adrenaline fuelled blast. Trivia: The film received a straight to video release in the UK. Former US President Bill Clinton’s brother Roger appears in a small role. Roger Clinton also co-starred as the Mayor in Pumpkinhead 2: Bloodwings [1994] and played ‘Agent Clinton’ in the Leslie Nielson ‘comedy’ Spy Hard [1996]. Star Kylie Travis was a regular on short lived 90’s television show Models Inc, a bitchy babe-fest of epic proportions. If you like this you may also like: A.P.E.X. [1994] – Enjoyable time travelling Sci-Fi nonsense about a robot drone being sent back in time from 2073 to 1973, an experiment with disastrous consequences which adversely affect the time line, leaving humankind overrun by murderous robots. 

RunawayDirected by Michael Crichton – 1984 – 99 minutes – Starring RunawayTom Selleck [Magnum P.I.], Cynthia Rhodes [Dirty Dancing], Kirstie Alley [Cheers], Gene Simmons, G.W. Bailey [Police Academy], Stan Shaw, Joey Cramer, Chris Mulkey and Anne-Marie Martin. Tom Selleck stars in this underrated Sci-Fi Thriller from director/novelist Michael Crichton. Set in a future where robots are so commonplace they help out with everyday chores, the film’s hero is Sergeant Jack Ramsay, a specialist in malfunctioning machine cases. Ramsay is partnered up with the attractive Officer Karen Thompson [Cynthia Rhodes] and the two of them become embroiled in a mystery involving robots inexplicably turning into murderers. Dr. Charles Luther [Gene Simmons] is the villain responsible; he is the instigator of an insane plot designed to raise an army of killer robots for him to be able to command at his every whim. As well as boasting a suspenseful opening featuring a house robot going haywire and a subsequent cat and mouse hunt between it and Ramsay, Runaway also features several memorable Action set-pieces throughout. Jerry Goldsmith provides the film’s strange electronic score, which sounds slightly dated now and remains an acquired taste; however it is undeniably stylish. Runaway of course considerably benefits from the presence of Tom Selleck, a sorely underrated actor with considerable range; he is believable as ever as Ramsay, ably conveying the fragile, human side of his character as well as nailing the tough, heroic Sergeant characteristics; this remains one of his best film roles to date. Fans of Sci-Fi Thrillers should definitely give Runaway a look and it also contains all the requisite thrills your average Action fan craves. Trivia: Head villain Gene Simmons is better known for being the front man for rock band Kiss. If you like this you may also like: Westworld [1973] – Michael Crichton’s highly influential 70s Cult Classic starring a brilliantly cast Yul Brynner as a malfunctioning robot cowboy. Crichton sure does like his malfunctioning robots! Magnum P.I. [1980-1988] – Tom Selleck’s signature role as Hawaii based Private Investigator Thomas Sullivan Magnum III. A truly great series with a wonderful cast, Magnum P.I. has aged like a fine wine, or better yet a great beer

 

Silent RunningSilent RunningDirected by Douglas Trumbull – 1972 – 89 minutes – Starring Bruce Dern, Ciff Potts, Ron Rifkin, Jesse Vint, Mark Persons, Cheryl Sparks, Steven Brown and Larry Whisenhunt. Silent Running stands tall as a unique gem of Science-Fiction cinema. Bruce Dern stars as Freeman Lowell, one of several men in charge of tending to the last remaining remnants of Earth’s plant life. This precious garden is located on a space station. Lowell, who considers his job to be of immeasurable importance, is horrified to discover that those in charge of the operation have deemed the garden’s preservation to be a pointless enterprise, wasteful of resources and have designated the termination of the project. Lowell’s colleagues are nonchalant about the garden’s imminent destruction and are simply happy to be leaving the dreary space station. Lowell therefore deigns to personally prevent his colleagues from carrying out the orders of his superiors, even if it means employing violent means to do so. Silent Running is a strange, poignantly affecting work of speculative fiction from writers Deric Washburn [The Deer Hunter, Extreme Prejudice], Michael Cimino [The Deer Hunter] and Steve Bochco [Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blues]. It showcases a truly beautiful performance from the wonderful Bruce Dern, who has the unenviable task of being the sole human on screen for two thirds of the film’s running time, yet he delivers in spades with a fully nuanced character study, variedly conveying the nature of living alone with only silent robot drones for company. Lowell humanises the robots by giving them names; Huey, Dewey and Louie; after a while they truly become personable and were a clear influence on Star Wars’ R2-D2 character. The special effects are also excellent in this low budget film, which marks a superb directorial debut for Douglas Trumbull. A moving, powerful Drama about outer space botany; who’d have thought it? Trivia: Freeman Lowell’s Drone robot companions Huey, Dewey and Louie, were operated by four multiple-amputee actors. Director Douglas Trumbull devised the state of the art special effects for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey [1968] and also worked on the visual effects for Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind [1977]. The film’s main theme is sung by folk legend Joan Baez. If you like this you may also like: The Cowboys [1972] – Bruce Dern is terrifying as the main villain in this highly underrated John Wayne Western about boys going on a cattle drive. The Driver [1978] – Dern assays the role of ‘The Detective’, a man determined to catch Ryan O’Neal’s getaway driver, in this existential Crime Thriller, which features superb car chases. 

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden ZoneSpacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden ZoneDirected by Lamont Johnson – 1983 – Starring Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald [The Breakfast Club], Ernie Hudson, Michael Ironside [Scanners], Andrea Marcovicci, Aleisa Shirley and Cali Timmins. An underrated gem of Sci-Fi cinema, this charming, memorable film is as cult as they come. Peter Strauss stars as weary intergalactic space hero Wolff, who is assigned to rescue some Earth women from the clutches of the villainous Overdog [played with relish by Michael Ironside], a menacing, part mechanized dictator who rules the dark reaches of the Forbidden Zone, a particularly grim section on a disease ridden planet. Along the way Wolff meets a stray named Niki, who makes a deal with him in exchange for showing him how to get into the Forbidden Zone; a funny odd couple relationship develops between the pair; Wolff ultimately admits to feeling a fatherly affection for the young girl. Washington [Ernie Hudson on fine form], a former associate of Wolff’s, also arrives on the scene and he and Wolff eventually form a reluctant alliance, teaming up to rescue the Earth girls and split the reward. Spacehunter is an action-packed adventure with a nice dose of comedy as well as a smattering of horror thrown into the mix. It has several memorable set pieces including one involving weird, giant, slug-like cocooned creatures overrunning Wolff and Niki; Wolff becoming surrounded by a tribe of alluring but fatal Amazonian women who live in a watery domain which is also inhabited by a snake-like lizard creature; hapless kidnapped slaves running around in Overdog’s nightmarish maze, trying desperately to avoid the various blades, acid pits and death machines in their path. In short it’s a nicely acted, highly enjoyable, inventive, well-paced Sci-Fi Adventure. Trivia: Spacehunter was filmed in 3-D. Ghostbusters star Harold Ramis has an un-credited vocal cameo near the beginning of the film as the man talking to Wolff over the intercom. If you like this you may also like: The Octagon [1980] – A cult, low budget Chuck Norris Ninja movie which briefly features a young Ernie Hudson. Soldier Blue [1970] – Another starring role for Peter Strauss. He plays a naïve young US Cavalry Private who will soon discover how savage his people really are in this ultra-violent Western/Exploitation blood-bath. 

They LiveThey Live - Directed by John Carpenter - 1988 - 93mins - Starring Roddy Piper, Meg Foster [Blind Fury], Keith David [The Thing, Pitch Black], Peter Jason and Sy Richardson. Great sci-fi/action/horror/comedy/thriller from back when John Carpenter made interesting and exciting B-Movies. Pro-wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper stars as a drifter who stumbles across the discovery that LA is being taken over by a horde of Aliens brainwashing the nation through their subliminal advertising. Finding a pair of sunglasses, through which he can actually see the Aliens without their human disguises, he decides to try and destroy their transmitting station, which is allowing them to go undetected via mind control. The result proves to be a fantastic crowd-pleasing movie, with plenty of over-the-top action scenes and some great wisecracks - as Roddy famously puts it "I've come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum". Trivia: The main star Roddy Piper was a pro-wrestler from 1973-1987. The films writer 'Frank Armitage' is really John Carpenter (and yes he did the music as well!). The concept of wearing sunglasses to reveal the aliens true form was later 'borrowed' for the computer game'The Simpsons: Bart Simpson Vs. The Space Mutants'. If you like this you may also like: Blind Fury [1989] Rutger Hauer stars as a blind sword fighter in this classic action thriller. Showdown in Little Tokyo [1991] violent action movie in which Brandon Lee famously compliments Dolph Lundren on the size of his manhood.

WestworldWestworld - Directed by Michael Crichton - 1973 - 88 minutes - Starring Yul Brynner, James Brolin, Richard Benjamin, Norman Bartold and Alan Oppenheimer.  Michael Crichton must really be a busy man. As well as being a blockbusting author [Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Rising Sun etc.], he also finds time to Produce films [Twister, Sphere etc.], and this was his first stab at directing, going on to make Runaway and The First Great Train Robbery among others. In Westworld, Yul Brynner stars as a robotic cowboy at a luxury western theme park. The idea of the holiday resort is that stressed-out business men [such as James Brolin and Richard Benjamin] can go to the resort and live out their Wild West fantasies in order to relax. The twist is that the theme park is staffed totally by robots, from the blacksmiths, to the dancing girls, to the bad guys - led by a menacing Brynner dressed all in black. All goes well until the robots start to malfunction, taking on a life of their own and needless to say Brynner looks forward to dishing out some revenge, after having previously been programmed to get shot all the time. It all builds to a very exciting finale, which you can’t help think provided some inspiration for the Terminator films. Trivia: The shots in the film from Yul Brynner's 'point of view' were the first use of computer digital images used in a movie. If you like this you may also like: RoboCop [1987] Part man. Part machine. All cop. The future of law enforcement. Terminator [1984] in which another unstoppable machine goes on the rampage. 

 



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