Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mill Creek Madness!

Back in November, I vowed to take on Mill Creek’s 50 packs to deliver full disc reviews every month.
I lied.
Not intentionally, of course. I never wanted to break my promise, particularly when I later declared it my  New Year’s resolution (screw weight loss!). It's just that I'm a really bad person.
Apologies aside, today marks the triumphant return to my Mill Creek project as we tackle the Tales of Terror 50 Pack and it's electrifying Disc 5.

Side A
1. War of the Robots, aka Reactor, Robots, Stratostars (I dare you to say the last one ten times)

Warp Speed Plot: Somebody decides to cash in on the success of Star Wars with laziness, spandex, and a convoluted plot involving space travel and sexual harassment in the workplace. That sounds far more awesome than the film, which is notable solely for the decision to dress evil henchmen with blond pageboy haircuts.
Celebrity Cred: Antonio Sabato. And lightsabers. Make of that what you will.
Verdict: This should have been tacky goodness to the extreme, but War of the Robots ultimately felt like a neverending story akin to space purgatory. It’s colorful and has moments of laughable joy, but to actually devote its 99 minute running time is something that should only be done when punishing small children.

2. Hands of Steel, aka Fists of Steel, Atomic Cyborg, Arms of Steel, Return of the Terminator

Warp Speed Plot: In the near future, truck stops remain happening joints and the government is investing most of our tax money into creating cyborgs based on Sylvester Stallone’s lead in Over the Top. Paco (Daniel Greene) is its best experiment and has been dispatched to assassinate a scientist. Cursed with a moment of conscience slip, he leaves the would-be victim alive and heads to a dingy rent-by-the-hour bar and motel where nightly arm wrestling matches take place. Shootouts happen, trucks crash, and I keep giggling.
Celebrity Cred: John Saxon snarls and George Eastman sweats, all under the restrained directorial watch of one Sergio Martino. What more do you need?
Verdict: This is the kind of ridiculously amazing extravaganza that makes these 50 packs worth that $15 price tag. Over the top action, non sequitur dialogue, and simple cinematic gluttony (arm wrestling is fun; arm wrestling where the loser’s arm releases a poisonous viper=awesome) make Hands of Steel simply smashing. I was inspired to watch this film after the Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema (a podcast you all should be listening to) gave it one of the most entertaining discussions I’ve heard in some time. This is by not means a great movie, except that it is. 
Side B
1. One Frightened Night

Warp Speed Plot: An elderly millionaire decides to split his vast estate amongst a random assortment of soon-to-be murder suspects, all because the only person he’s ever really cared about is his MIA granddaughter. Naturally, the long-lost young lady returns home just in time for the signing of the will, but things get rather complicated (we’re talking jowls shake as the camera zooms in complicated) when a second woman shows up claiming the same identity. Oh oh, but complication reigns SUPREME when the first lucky lady gets murdered and one night of mystery gets rolling.
Celebrity Cred: Charley Grapewin, better known as Uncle Henry in a little film about a girl from Kansas who isn’t afraid of scarecrows or little people.
Verdict: At just 66 minutes long, One Frightened Night is decent enough for background entertainment when cleaning or toaster or doing your taxes (note to self: do your taxes). Fans of old timey whodunits might enjoy this early mystery, but others will probably prefer a more stirring round of Clue.

2. Vampire’s Night Orgy, aka Grave Desires, Orgy of the Vampires, and the more grammatically correct Vampires' Night Orgy

Warp Speed Plot: A random assortment of dull travelers end up stuck in a quaint little village clearly run by a cult of lazily sensuous vampires who really like Shakespeare and hospitality. People die and orgies don’t happen.
Celebrity Cred: Jack Taylor. No, I don’t know who he is either, but IMDB credits him as “Priest” in Conan the Barbarian, so he must be awesome.
Verdict: I enjoyed this one for tis occasionally cheeky humor and amazing overuse of complicated translations in dubbing. It definitely lacks the all-out trashiness the title suggests, but anyone who gets a kick out of poorly transported vampire films might have some fun. If not, just flip over the disc and rewatch Hands of Steel.

Cumulative Lessons Learned
You’ll never own a man until you control his heart
In the 1930s, nights were capable of being frightened
Surprisingly enough, Snuggies will be popular amongst space emperors sometime in the distant future
Asking “No, please don’t do that” will not stop raiders from tearing your shit apart
Your bus driver dying at the wheel is a disagreeable situation
If you’re blond and the female protagonist in a 1980s film, there’s a more than likely chance your name is Linda
If you’re blond and somewhat attractive in a a 1970s Italian vampire film, there’s a more than likely chance that every single male character will hit on you
The meat of a human leg is quite tender

Lastly, when costume designing a film set in space, think realllllllly hard about how plastic hair wigs will age 30 years later


  1. I'm pretty damn sure that HANDS OF STEEL has everything good in it. Zounds--the Martino/Eastman/Saxon trifecta is seat-wetteningly awesome sounding. I know what movie just shot to the top of THIS girl's to-watch list.

  2. Kate, I think you will absolutely LOVE Hands of Steel. There's arm wrestling--with SNAKES! It's in the Mill Creek pack, but there's also a better print floating around on at Cinema De Bazarre. Either way, let me know when you watch it. I look forward to your joy.

  3. It's a good thing you got a little joy out of the blond page-boy villains in that Italian Space Opera...if this Mill Creek set is anything like the NIGHTMARE WORLDS one, you'll be seeing them again, as the director (Alfonso Bresci, I think?) reuses that footage again and again in at least a couple more cheapo space operas, including the probably-not-on-your-set spaceporn THE BEAST IN SPACE.

    And if you don't know who Jack Taylor is, just watch a few Paul Naschy and/or Franco flicks from the late 70s. He pops up again and again in all his goateed, heavy-eyelinered glory. :)

  4. I'm an admitted horror nerd, but I really do need to get my study on when it comes to those Naschy/Franco '70s flicks. It's embarrassing!

    I do have the Nightmare Worlds set, although it's still currently wrapped in plastic. I'm expecting a lot of crossover, so I'll take more plastic pageboy wigs as long as they're in a film more fun than War of the Robots!

  5. DAMN YOU!!! Another 50 pack to watch, and I'm only on Disc 2 of Horror Classics 50 pack!

  6. I learned early that you can't ever actually expect to finish the 50 packs. Well, maybe on my death bed (not Death Bed: The Bed That Eats) my last request will be to stick in the last disc with Argento's "Unsane" (the one movie I officially vowed to not watch).

    Are you watching the Classic 50 pack in order?

  7. Hands of Steel? More like BALLS of Steel! Watched it last week. Fanfuckingtastic.

  8. I definitely think I grew a pair of steel testicles watching the film. They're rather uncomfortable. How do you dudes deal with these things?

  9. So glad you are doing this now, as I, too, live with Tales Of Terror 50 pack.

  10. We live with it as if it were a great weight to bear, eh? I promise to TRY to watch another disc for next month. There are gems to be found! (once you wade through total sludge).

  11. I've been slogging through Mill Creek's 50 Drive-In Movies set for about a year now. It's tough going at times, but I just can't resist the lure of the odd gem buried among the trash.

  12. I've got four 50 packs and yeah, it's a chore. But hey, I've already found Don't Open Til Xmas, Hands of Steel, Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon, and a few more goldies that I'll rewatch in the future. Even the stinkers--and wow was Sunburst awful--are generally redeemable for unintentional laughs. It's all about watching them in the right mood.

  13. haha Hands of Steel is awesome, I haven't seen it but the trailer is fucking wild! lasers, arm wrestling, head blowing off or whatever.

  14. Plus, heavily oiled muscle men, George Eastman howling with the best accent of all time, and a fembot totally ripped off of Blade Runner's Priss.

    You will love this movie.