Friday, October 7, 2016

Movie Review: The Majorettes (1987)

The Majorettes (1987) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Bill Hinzman
Starring Kevin Kindlin, Terrie Godfrey, Mark V. Jevicky, Denise Huot, Carl Hetrick, Russell Streiner

Starts off as a standard slasher flick but plot twists make it a more interesting movie, unfortunately marred by poor production.

The pretty, baton twirling majorettes for a high school marching band are being stalked and killed by someone in a camouflage hood and fatigues, a nurse caregiver has sinister plans for the elderly woman in her charge while a drug dealing gang has a score to settle with a quarterback. All of these stories are connected.

The Majorettes is based on the novel of the same name written by John Russo, who also wrote the screenplay, produced this movie, and even has a bit part in it as a coroner. Russo was co-writer of the original Night of the Living Dead and has been a successful independent filmmaker, writer and influence on other filmmakers since. Others from the original Pittsburgh zombies associated with this movie include Bill Hinzman, the first zombie seen in Night of the Living Dead, and Russel Streiner, Johnny in Night of the Living Dead. Bill Hinzman both directed and edited The Majorettes.

The Majorettes is a different kind of slasher movie. It starts off in the same vein as others of the subgenre, a masked killer stalks and kills people, in this case the majorettes of the high school marching band, but then it goes off on its own into an interesting twist that changes the direction of the movie, and to some degree turns it into an action/revenge movie. Overall this would be a good thing, and interesting, but it is brought down by poor production.

Audio in this movie is its biggest downfall. Too many scenes are using obvious omnidirectional mikes, or a poor audio tech, which not only pick up the foreground audio intended but also every bit of background noise. Even if the background noise is not distinct, there is still hiss and hum mixed in with the audio. This is not consistent throughout the movie as there are scenes with excellent audio, but just too many scenes where it is either difficult to make out what someone is saying or distracting, and often both.

Bill Hinzman directed and edited this movie. Both are its strong points, the story as well. Hinzman keeps the storline moving in a coherent arc. There are well done scenes, such as the first appearance of the killer which is impressive, that keep the tension up. 

Unfortunately other than the direction and editing there is little consistency to the production. Poor audio, dim night scenes on some occasions, and amateurish acting all hurt the movie overall. With better production this could have been something to recommend, but it's too much work on the viewer's part to enjoy the movie rather than where the work should have been done, on the production part rather than going on the cheap.

My Rating: 2 Fingers

You can find the full movie on YouTube

Toxic Fletch

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Living or Dead: Barney Miller

Barney Miller was a TV show which ran from 1974 to 1982 about the antics of the police of the 12th Precinct station and the criminals and inhabitants of the 12th Precinct who passed through there.

This is a list of regular cast members and prominent recurring guest stars, with their current status as living or dead.

Capt. Barney Miller - Hal Linden (Living)
Det. Stan 'Wojo' Wojciehowicz - Max Gail (Living)
Det. Ron Harris - Ron Glass (Died November 25, 2016 at age 71)
Det. Sgt. Arthur Dietrich - Steve Landesberg (Died December 20, 2010 at age 74)
Officer Carl Levitt - Ron Carey (Died January 16, 2007 at age 71)
Det. Sgt. Nick Yemana - Jack Soo (Died January 11, 1979 at age 61)*1
Inspector Frank Luger - James Gregory (Died September 16, 2002 at age 90)
Det. Phil Fish - Abe Vigoda (Died January 26, 2016 at age 94)*2
Mrs. Elizabeth (Liz) Miller - Barbara Barrie (Living)
Det. Sgt. Chano Amenguale - Gregory Sierra (Living)*3
Lt Ben Scanlon (Internal Affairs) - George Murdock (Died April 30, 2012 at age 81)
Marty Morrison - Jack DeLeon (Died October 16, 2006 at age 81)
Darryl Driscoll - Ray Stewart (Living)
Ray Brewer - John Dullaghan (Died January 18, 2009 at age 78)
Mrs. Bernice Fish - Florence Stanley (Died October 3, 2003 at age 79)
Det. Janice Wentworth - Linda Lavin (Living)
Bruno Bender - Stanley Brock (Died January 25, 1991 at age 59)
Arnold Ripner - Alex Henteloff (Living)

*1 Jack Soo, born Goro Suzuki, died during the 5th year of the show. In an unusual move for any show then or now, the producers and cast of the show did a special tribute episode to the memory of Jack Soo that aired as the last episode of that season.

*2 Abe Vigoda took in stride mistaken reports of his untimely death in the 70s and 80s. So much so that premature reports of his death became an ongoing joke, such as David Letterman conducting a seance on his show to contact the spirit of Abe Vigoda only to be interrupted by the very much living Abe Vigoda telling Letterman that he's not dead. There was even a website you could check to see if Abe Vigoda was living or dead. Sadly Abe Vigoda passed away this year.

*3 Though Gregory Sierra is known for playing characters like his character of Chano on Barney Miller who speaks with a thick accent, the accent is part of his acting as he was born in New York City and in real life speaks with no such accent.

Toxic Fletch

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Movie Review: Rush Week (1989)

Rush Week (1989) - USA - Horror - Unrated
Directed by Bob Bralver
Starring Pamela Ludwig, Dean Hamilton, Roy Thinnes, Donald Grant, Courtney Gebhart, John Donovan, Gregg Allman, Kathleen Kinmont

It's Animal House meets The House on Sorority Row in a well paced and produced slasher flick.

Toni, a journalism major, has just transferred to Tambers College and her first assignment for the college paper is to cover rush week, not something she would prefer to write about. Overhearing a conversation about a missing female student, she noses around to find out if there is a story, despite being put off by the dean and others telling her there is no story that the girl just took off and didn't tell anyone. But she is obviously stepping on someone's toes as she receives strange messages via computer while a cloaked, labris (double-edged axe) wielding figure continues killing college girls.

For those looking for a bloody mayhem type of slasher movie along the lines of Friday the 13th, you are not going to find that in Rush Week as the kill count is low and the movie plays more like a detective story combined with a college hijinx movie.

In addition to the underlying story of Toni searching for a killer, there is a secondary story revolving around the BDB (Beta Delta Beta) House fraternity, a group of pranksters and sleazebags just reinstated after having been shut down the previous year. These two running plotlines are not unrelated, but they do also provide a good pacing for the movie as it moves between a slasher thriller and a fraternity comedy.

What impressed me about Rush Week was the quality of the audio, and I mean on the production end, and the camerawork. The audio is well done with solid dialogue and even nuances as trivial as the crushing of a beer can not being overlooked. The photography uses tight framing, and very much to their credit uses natural lens distortion and perspective to create mood. The night shots are also all well lit, and distinctively night, shot with muted colors, near black & white, while still maintaining detail.

What didn't impress me with Rush Week was the 80s insensitivity. Par for course in an 80s fraternity movie there is likely going to be a derogatory reference to gays. Rush Week goes beyond that by having a fraternity rival to BDB, the Gamma Alpha Epsilon House, regular referred to as the GAE House and pranks are pulled on them which center around homosexuality.

Aside from the gay insensitivity issue, which as I previously stated is par for course in some 80s movies, Rush Week is entertaining with good pacing, playing the slasher theme as a detective story, having plenty of humor with the college fraternity part of the story, and of course with a story that is part slasher movie and part frat movie there has to be boobs, and there are!

An interesting footnote is this movie also is the first acting gig for Gregg Allman, the musician, though in only two scenes and with nothing much to say.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

You can find the full movie on YouTube

Toxic Fletch

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Movie Review: Blood Frenzy (1987)

Blood Frenzy (1987) - USA - Horror - NR
Directed by Hal Freeman
Starring Wendy MacDonald, Tony Montero, Lisa Loring, Lisa Savage, Hank Garrett

At a minimum a slasher movie needs a group of actors willing to play victims and a plot any 5 year old can figure out. That minimum is all this bland entry in the slasher subgenre succeeds in accomplishing, other than having two stars from 60s TV sitcoms on-board.

A psychiatrist takes a group of her patients to a secluded spot in the desert for group encounter therapy. Unfortunately for them, and perhaps for the viewing audience too, someone starts killing off members of the group. Could it be one of them? Is there something in someone's past that has come back to haunt them? Are these questions more entertaining than the movie?

An opening flashback sequence, an RV ride into the desert, right off the bat we can see this movie is going places we've all seen before in horror movies. The only thing Blood Frenzy adds is having Lisa Loring (Wednesday from The Addams Family TV show) and Hank Garrett (Nicholson from Car 54, Where Are You?, the TV show) along for the ride.

Most of the acting in this is amateurish at best, save for Wendy MacDonald and Lisa Savage who both do a good job. Lisa Loring's performance belongs in the over-actors' hall of fame. I got the impression they may have shot this in sequence as most of the performances improve as the movie advances. On the other hand the dialogue from the start comes off like one-liners from beer can koozies, and I can't help but feel the writer and producer of this are no strangers to beer can koozies.

The only possible reasons to see this would be if you are a fan of gruesome neck slashing scenes, which seems to be the only special effect the crew knew how to do, or for Lisa Loring's over-acting. Even with the inclusion of a character who is a nymphomaniac, there is no nudity in this movie other than a drunk falling off a toilet, and that's something I would have been happy to not have seen.

My Rating: I give it a finger!

If you really want to see this, you can find the full movie on YouTube.