Monday, 22 April 2013

88 Films


Last year, DVD label 88 Films launched their 'Grindhouse' collection with cult-worthy Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle Of Death (1989), a comedy adventure that stars Shannon Tweed and Adrienne Barbeau; and The Day Time Ended (1979), sci-fi that’s clunky as a bag of hammers, and pits Jim Davis against stop-motion animated monster effects. January’s titles were Ken Dixon’s Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity (1987), space opera nonsense recycling the basic plot of The Most Dangerous Game; David DeCoteau’s Creepozoids (1987) in which Linnea Quigley fights ugly bug aliens; and the same prolific director’s Dr Alien (1989), featuring Judy Landers as ‘Xenobia’.

February continued the parade of cheesy subgenre stuff, perhaps fondly remembered from the video rental/ retail decades - long before such B-movie material was tamed by Hollywood, and eventually became standard blockbuster fare. Seedpeople (1992) has audacity enough for genre-splicing Invasion Of The Body Snatchers into its low-budget creature horror. Beach Babes From Beyond (1993) attempts a simple gender-reversal of Julian Temple’s Earth Girls Are Easy, but lacks any genuine imagination or funny business.
The robotic hero!

One of the better efforts from Charles Band’s productions, Mandroid (1993), directed by Jack Ersgard, is about a tele-presence robot invented by a Russian boffin, whose duplicitous partner plots to sell the machine to CIA agents, for weaponisation. As the prototype machine clomps around, we are reminded in particular of RoboCop and its sequel (both are obvious influences), but the ghosts of many earlier SF movie metal-men haunt this movie, too, and its humour is far closer to amusing spoof than biting Verhoevenesque satire. There are two victims of accidents, with weird biotech, and one results in a human monster being given a cybernaut face. 

Overall, Mandroid is a hodgepodge of B-movie sci-fi elements (such as the elderly scientist’s beautiful daughter) but the commonplace/ retro tropes here are quite charming, and it avoids the naff mistakes that other, similarly intentioned, flicks tend to make. The eastern European locations (ruined buildings, etc. in Romania) add production value to some action scenes like the climactic shootout but, even with a Swedish director, the murky politicking is merely routine stuff scavenged from Cold War spy-fi. Mandroid is a minor gem from the Full Moon back catalogue, and a sequel was made, titled Invisible: The Chronicles Of Benjamin Knight (1993), for which the heroine was re-cast.