Saturday, June 09, 2018

Mack Bolan and Cult Horror DVDs: Dan's Funky Finds for 6/8/18

The kids are almost out of school and one of my summer projects is to devote more time to the social media aspects of my businesses, including the reseller biz.

So welcome to the first of what I hope will be a continuing series of videos featuring everything from what's been recently posted to the store (like today's installment) to treasures we've found in our travels.

Thanks for watching and don't forget, everything you see here and much more is available at the Dan's Funky Finds store on eBay!

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

DIRTY HARRY #10: THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS (1982)

While the first original Dirty Harry novel – DUEL FOR CANNONS – benefitted from the ghostwriting of Ric Meyers, the genre vet had to pass on certain installments due to his commitment to other "Men of Action" entries like The Ninja Master (written as Wade Barker). DIRTY HARRY #10: THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS is one of those installments and Meyers' deft touch with the material is definitely missed.

Even for a longtime fan of the original films, DUEL felt like an authentic Dirty Harry film adventure ported over to a pulpier environment, right down to Meyers' descriptions of fight scenes and our hero's sparse dialogue hissed through clenched teeth. STRANGERS – authored by Leslie Horvitz (THE DONORS, DOUBLE BLINDED, THE DYING) – feels more like a generic men's action novel whose main character just happens to be the beloved Dirty Harry. A suitably Eastwood-esque mug graces the cover but the man on the pages inside could be any random cop who gets mixed up in a terrorist plot funded by a Middle Eastern arms dealer.

In a terrifyingly lax pre-9/11 San Francisco, a couple of terrorist scumbags blow up part of an airport terminal and off some nosey patrolmen, which naturally draws the attention of Dirty Harry. But things get a little hard to swallow when our hero gets plucked off the streets to go undercover as "Dan Turner", a fill-in bodyguard for Gamal Abd'el Kayyim, a suspected arms dealer visiting California. After Harry/Turner foils an assassination attempt he finds himself moving in Kayyim's inner circle just as suspicion about him begins to boil over.

With every cop that could potentially ride shotgun either killed off or mortally wounded, Horvitz gives Harry a partner/love interest (of sorts) in Ellie Winston, anchorwoman-turned-reporter (Patricia Clarkson would play a similar role in 1988's THE DEAD POOL). Though it's hard to believe a seasoned San Francisco reporter wouldn't know who Callahan is, Winston finally realizes there might be a story in him and follows the cop from San Francisco to LA, Beirut and El Salvador as Harry's cover is blown and he finds himself matching wits and weapons with international arms dealers playing for both sides.

Brimming with head-exploding violence, THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS is a quick but instantly forgettable read. Whereas Meyers "gets" Callahan and the beats of the original films, Horvitz's attempts at harnessing their vibe fails and jamming Harry into international locales like Beirut and an Italian villa feels forced and more suited to an installment of Don Pendelton's Mack Bolan: The Executioner.

After twelve "Never before published or seen on screen" novels the Dirty Harry series (pulp division) ended with 1983's DIRTY HARRY #12: THE DEALER OF DEATH in which Harry's beloved .44 Magnum is stolen and used in a series of murders intended to frame the cop. After seven years away from the character, Eastwood agreed to once again strap on the badge of Inspector 71 for 1983's SUDDEN IMPACT and, coupled with the fizzling men's action market, that meant the end of the books.

Though I'd certainly recommend other men's action books of the era over this one, the couple Dirty Harry novels I've tackled have been quick reads and brought back fond memories of a character I spent many hours with over the years. I'll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled at garage sales and thrift stores, hoping to grab installments where Harry battles filthy pirates, watches a family reunion go south, or has to clear his name. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect. This review originally appeared in Exploitation Retrospect #52 available from Amazon and direct from the publisher.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

THROWBACK THURSDAY with MUNCHIES (1987) starring Harvey Korman

ER contributor and pal Devin Kelly mentioned 1994's MUNCHIE STRIKES BACK (starring Howard Hessman) the other day and it got me thinking about the post-GREMLINS (1984) wave of crazy critter cinema that produced such classicks as TROLL (1986), GHOULIES (1984), HOBGOBLINS (1988), SPOOKIES (1986) and, of course, CRITTERS (1986). 

But it also got me wondering about the relationship between MUNCHIE STRIKES BACK and 1987's MUNCHIES, exec-produced by Roger Corman for his Concorde Pictures. As it turns out, there's only a tenuous relationship as MUNCHIE STRIKES BACK director Jim Wynorski had lensed 1992's MUNCHIE (with Loni Anderson and Andrew Stevens!) after a request from Corman to create a MUNCHIES '87 sequel. Wynorski discarded the idea, came up with the more kid-friendly "Munchie" puppet and cracked the lucrative family flick market. The success of the first film led to the proposed sequel getting a sequel of its own, the aforementioned MUNCHIE STRIKES BACK.

Somewhere along the way I remembered that I reviewed the original (sic) MUNCHIES back when it was released on home video and thought I kinda liked it. After digging through a few back issues, here's my original review of MUNCHIES from MGM/UA Home Video from the pages of Exploitation Retrospect #9 (September 1987), complete with excessive use of commas.

Roger Corman made a career out of taking a hit film, stealing the idea, and then milking it shamelessly. That's my man. (For proof, see ALIEN and the Corman film FORBIDDEN WORLD.) Since leaving New World Pictures, Corman's output has slackened a bit, but his new arm, Concorde Pictures is finally beginning to pick up the slack.

Tonight, I watched MUNCHIES, a film Corman acted as Exec. Producer for. This is a blatant, shameless rip-off of the Steven Spielberg/Joe Dante film GREMLINS. Nothing new, since one of Dante's best films is PIRANHA. That flick, produced by Corman for New World, is a blatant, shameless rip-off of Steven Spielberg's JAWS. What goes around comes around don't it.

Starring Harvey Korman in a dual role (yes, an evil twin story), the pic tells the story of an archaeologist (Korman #1), who finds a creature that resembles a clearance table GREMLINS plastic toy from the local K-Mart. I can hear Corman now: "Ah, just slap some Vaseline and a piece of cloth on it and no one will know!"

Upon returning home, Korman's evil twin kidnaps the "Munchie" so that Korman #1 can't get the money to pay off his house or land or something. Complicating matters are Korman #1's son and his gal-pal, and Eddie the son of the local sheriff. Weird stuff.

There are a few good jokes, especially when the Munchies steal an AMC Gremlin, and the line "LA is like New Jersey, only with earthquakes." However, the film never goes beyond the "better than expected level".

One thing that really bothered me about the film was the musical score, which amounts to nothing more than a blatant rip-off of the music Danny Elfman composed for the film PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE. While this did bother me a bit, I shouldn't expect anything else from Corman. Ah well, give it two and a half stars. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and reading his old reviews makes him cringe.

MUNCHIES (1987) is out of print and goes for more than expected on the secondary market like Amazon and eBay.




Wednesday, April 25, 2018

BATH SALT ZOMBIES (2012) Directed by Dustin Wayde Mills

I miss the days of topical exploitation and horror cinema, when filmmakers would rip their storylines right from the headlines to offer up slightly (or more than slightly) fictionalized tales of the day’s news events. Whether they were showing us the horrors of marijuana (REEFER MADNESS), teen pregnancy (TEENAGE MOTHER), cults (GUAYAN: CULT OF THE DAMNED) or savage dictators (THE RISE AND FALL OF IDI AMIN), trash filmmakers could often be counted upon to scare up some sort of cinematic boogieman that would make our own lives seem safe and tame by comparison.

Then again, after watching BATH SALT ZOMBIES maybe it’s just a whole hell of a lot easier to rip-off the SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY flicks.

Inspired by a wave of “bath salt”-related violent crimes and cannibalistic behavior, BATH SALT ZOMBIES feels like it wants to be this generation’s answer to the aforementioned REEFER MADNESS. It even starts with a faux bath salts health class propaganda video, though I don’t recall any of the 16mm flicks I saw in high school being peppered with profanity, face-eating and an appearance by Satan himself.

Once that’s out of the way (and it’s not half as funny as you’d hope a profane parody complete with Satanic cameo would be) the plot jumps to present day NYC where it appears that about twenty people live. Ritchie (Brandon Salkil) and his bitchy, busty girlfriend Angel (Erin Ryan) are strung-out junkies in search of their next high until Ritchie scores some new smokeable bath salts from Bubbles (Ethan Holey), a biz-savvy dealer willing to give away that first pack for free.

Little does Ritchie know that he’ll not only be instantly hooked on the junk, but the military-grade designer drug will also turn him into a twitchy, super-strong monster with a proclivity for killing gals with big, natural boobs.

From there BSZ ping-pongs from Ritchie and his killing sprees to the DEA agent on his tail, to Bubbles and drug designer Sal (affably played by director Dustin Wayde Mills) complete with headache-inducing shaky-cam, comically grotesque makeup that gets more outrageous as the flick progresses and a couple flashes of not-quite-brilliance that made me wonder what could have been.

Made for less than a day’s catering on TWILIGHT, the micro-budget strains the production at the seams, highlighting both its pluses (a couple good performances, some inspired stylized mayhem) and minuses (a handful of bad performances, video-gamey CGI, flat script). Salkil makes a fine, twitchy junkie-monster and seems to be having a good time, especially during two over-the-top slaughter rampages that highlight the flick. Unfortunately, much of the flick’s 70-minute running time is monopolized by Josh Eal’s shouting DEA agent, who lays waste to drug cookers and doughnuts with equal aplomb.

With its mix of punk rock music (and filmmaking), face-ripping gore, “real” actors, junkie atmosphere and zero budget, BATH SALT ZOMBIES comes off like some bastard lovechild of the Cinema of Transgression and HG Lewis. Luckily, I enjoyed BATH SALT ZOMBIES just enough to give Mills' SKINLESS (2013) a whirl and was amply rewarded for my optimism. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. This review originally appeared in ER #52, available from Amazon and direct from the publisher.

BATH SALT ZOMBIES is available from Amazon.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

DIRTY HARRY #1: DUEL FOR CANNONS (1981)

After three flicks cementing Spaghetti Western vet Clint Eastwood in the role of San Francisco Homicide Inspector Harry “Dirty Harry” Callahan, the versatile actor/director declared that his relationship with the .44 Magnum-brandishing cop was over.

Looking for ways to wring more cash from one of their most bankable creations – and establish their own line of men’s action novels to rival Pinnacle’s stars like The Executioner and The Destroyer – Warner Bros. launched ‘Men of Action’ featuring original Dirty Harry novels alongside such pulpier titles as The Ninja Master , S-Com, The Hook (a “gentleman detective with a talent for violence and a taste for sex”), and Ben Slayton: T-Man.

Ghost-written by pulp and non-fiction vet Ric Meyers under the pseudonym “Dean Hartman”, the first Dirty Harry adventure seamlessly flows from silver screen to printed page. Mimicking the beats and pacing of the original films, DUEL opens with a bloodbath at a cheap California amusement park as a hired gunman hunts down San Antonio sheriff – and Friend of Callahan – Boris Tucker. Though misguided officials would blame the deaths of Tucker and some local teens on the stressed Texas cop, Dirty Harry knows better and heads to the Lone Star State to settle the score.

Texas isn’t very welcoming to Harry, with corrupt cops, local businessmen, street gangs, muscle-bound hit men and two-bit hoods hassling him at every turn. The SOBs even go so far as to slice up Harry’s wardrobe and keep him from getting a cab. Soon, Callahan finds allies among Tucker’s few  remaining friends on the force – as well as a rival determined to kill him by book’s end – and they look to disrupt the corruption flowing through town.

It’s no surprise that Meyers nails what we’d come to love about the Dirty Harry flicks, from Eastwood’s mannerisms and fighting style to his minimalist dialogue. The book’s cover art does nothing to suggest Harry isn’t Eastwood and there’s little attempt to describe him from a physical standpoint, so Meyers takes every opportunity to make you think Clint is delivering each pistol blast and flying fist during DUEL’s many action scenes.

Though the tale veers dangerously close to going wildly over-the-top and is a bit too neatly wrapped up (a common problem with men’s action tales of the day), DUEL feels more like a legit Dirty Harry installment than SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) or THE DEAD POOL (1988) featuring Liam Neeson (as a horror film director) and a pre-stardom Jim Carrey. Meyers’ attention to detail and inclusion of characters and events from DIRTY HARRY (1971), MAGNUM FORCE (1973) and THE ENFORCER (1976) go a long way towards drawing us into this cinematic world.

DIRTY HARRY #1: DUEL FOR CANNONS landed on bookstore shelves in 1981, the first of a dozen entries in which “The Magnum Enforcer” would battle corrupt cops, serial killers, “dope-running sea pirates”, terrorists, arms dealers (look for our upcoming review of DIRTY HARRY #10: THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS), a renegade government scientist and a killer looking to frame Inspector 71. The books can currently be found on thrift store shelves, flea market tables and boxed up at garage sales near grandpop’s musty back issues of PLAYBOY (and the occasional OUI). – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and has way too many men's action novels on his bookshelf. This review originally appeared in Exploitation Retrospect #52 available from Amazon and direct from the publisher.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Return of The KISS Poster Magazine

Talk about your Flashback Friday!

KISS poster and pin-up mags were all the rage when I was about 10 years old. Word would spread on the school playground like wildfire and we'd hit the local 7-11 or nearby newsstand for our own copy.

Because my house had been declared a KISS-Free Zone by my parents – well, really just my Mom – I got great at hiding such contraband, a skill that would serve me well later in life!

My friends and I would gather on the playground and pass around our copies, debating if Gene was really a demon (or Satanist) and even pretending to breathe "fire" if the air was cool enough.

Who knew that over three decades later my 10 year old daughter would be able to get her very own KISS poster magazine – "Complete with 8 Giant Pull-Out Posters"!

Coming soon from FANTASM Media the book promises "new, exclusive and unseen photos from KISS's past and present, brand new interviews and features as well as eight giant foldout posters, perfect for framing and hanging on whatever wall you want".

Stay tuned to the FANTASM website for pre-order info and check out the poster mag's Facebook page.

#kiss #genesimmons #paulstanley

And for your Friday viewing pleasure here's Lynda Carter performing "I Was Made for Loving You" with faux KISS backup dancers...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy Shirts from FrightRags.com


No Fruit Brute or Yummy Mummy on the cereal aisle shelves this year but don't fret... FrightRags.com has got you covered with shirts and baseball tees for both flavors.

Check out the Fright Rags store for these as well as some limited edition masks and shirts featuring Frankenberry, Chocula and Boo Berry.

#fruitbrute #monstercereal #yummymummy #halloween #halloween2017