Tag Archives: the 80s

Get all the big names you want – it still sucks

schizoid 1980

SCHIZOID

2 Stars  1980/18/85m

“Dear Julie, don’t let me do it again.”

A.k.a. Murder By Mail

Director/Writer: David Paulsen / Cast: Klaus Kinski, Marianna Hill, Craig Wasson, Donna Wilkes, Richard Herd, Joe Regalbuto, Christopher Lloyd, Kiva Lawrence, Flo Gerrish, Cindy Donlan.

Body Count: 4

Laughter Lines: “He doesn’t want to hurt me, he just wants my help.”


Despite some heavyweight names attached, Schizoid is mostly a nonsensical bore with a scissor-wielding killer offing the female member of Kinski’s therapy group – all to the tune of a crappy synth score. Why? Well, the motive is never really explained and by the time you find out who the killer is – if you haven’t already guessed from all the stupid plotting – you won’t care anyway.

Hill is a columnist receiving cut-and-paste letters from a psycho wants to kill her, while she’s screwing Kinski, who in turn is trying to build bridges with his snotty daughter. It relies on so many coincidences it’s unreal, and why the killer only targets the women is never resolved, just an excuse for the producers to get their femme cast members to bare some skin and then get cut up.

The usual bunch of red herrings are lobbed into the mixing bowl to throw the viewer off the scent, but they’re too transparent to consider, like Christopher Lloyd’s pervy repair man. In a turn of huge convenience, all of the suspects happen to be gathered at Hill’s press office for a climax that already sent you a letter six weeks ago telling you it was coming. If anything, it does reverse some of the damage done by Paulsen’s previous effort, Savage Weekend.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kinski was previously in Slaughter Hotel; Craig Wasson later appeared in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3; Donna Wilkes was also in Blood Song and, later, Grotesque.

 

Valley of the Overlooked Franchises: Maniac Cop

Yeeeee in a time when trust in the cops not to shoot you is lower than a Madonna chart debut, it’s surprising that they’re remaking it. But until that happens – and also, if ever – let’s revisit the trilogy of original 80s-into-90s thriller-cum-slasher-zombie flicks. Some spoilers follow.

*

maniac cop 1988

MANIAC COP

3.5 Stars  1988/18/82m

“You have the right to remain silent… forever.”

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Sheree North, Robert Z’Dar.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “You always take a leak with a gun in your hand? That’s a good way to blow your balls off!”


RoboCopSumurai CopBeverly Hills Cop, Kindergarten CopPsycho Cop and Maniac Cop – sure were a lot of ‘Something Cop’ movies around in the mid-80s-to-early-90s. While most of these garnered a following – maybe not Psycho Cop - and several generated sequels of their own, Maniac Cop is a strange venture, a weird fusion of ideas from action thrillers with some voodoo-slasher shit mixed in too.

Starting as so many serial killer films have, a young woman is walking home alone in New York City, tormented by some thugs, she runs into a uniformed cop – BUT THEN HE KILLS HER! The thugs are the only witnesses but nobody believes them. Soon after, a guy is pushed face down into drying cement and a driver slashed to death over a traffic violation – all in the first twelve minutes.

New York is in the throes of terror – which of the boys in blue has turned to slaying the residents? Grizzled detective Tom Atkins is on the case and in shepherded into suspecting Bruce Campbell’s beat cop, Jack Forrest, after his wife turns up dead she follows him, having received a series of calls from a mystery voice who keeps telling her that Jack is the killer. Turns out Forrest was just having it away with vice cop Theresa Mallory (Landon). Concerned to clear his name, the two of them investigate the suspicious death of a cop sent to Sing Sing some years earlier and was beaten to death by inmates – or was he?

maniac cop 1988 tom atkins bruce campbell robert z'dar laurene landon

Before Forrest and Mallory can alert the important people to the truth, the undead cop – old-style super-cop Matt ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ Cordell – goes on a rampage around their precinct, even turning on his old flame after she tries to tell him he’s losing control.

Maniac Cop crams a lot into 82 minutes (look for Sam Raimi’s cameo) and is thus never boring. Cordell’s carnage-creating romp around HQ is expertly done; A scene where Malloy is handcuffed to a body; Car chases with slo-mo crashes, and all manner of creative shots and visual cues that serve to keep the horrors of the killer’s face out of shot. A longer cut with more to say on the city-in-fear perspective would be interesting, as that kinda gets left behind once our leading lovers suss out what’s really going on and who has covered up what.

Lustig and Cohen worked together on all three movies and separately have a few slasher credits between them (notably, Lustig directed the nasty Maniac, which also makes the most of NYC as a player), but this is arguably a stand-out. Although rarely bandied in with slasher movies, it has enough elements to include it, even if some of those were traded in for more mainstream concerns in the follow-ups.

*

maniac cop 2 1990MANIAC COP 2

3 Stars  1990/18/84m

“You have the right to remain silent… forever.” – again??

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Robert Z’Dar, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi, Lou Bonacki, Paula Trickey, Charles Napier.

Body Count: 32

Laughter Lines: “Shooting Cordell is only good for getting his attention.”


At the end of the first one, it was plainly obvious Matt Cordell wasn’t done with his Make New York Obedient Again missive, and so he returns shortly after his ‘death’ to take revenge, quickly doing away with Forrest and Mallory, who transfer the reigns of hero over to Robert Davi’s Detective McKinney and a department shrink (Christian), who has had a hard time believing Mallory, until she comes face to face with Cordell for herself.

After this solid first act, things begin to wobble as Cordell inexplicably teams up with serial killer-of-strippers Leo Rossi, breaks into Sing Sing to finish off the inmates who ‘murdered’ him, and go on a machine gun spree at police HQ, which explains that sky-high body count.

There are still some great scenes, peaking with Landon and Christian in a cab, attacked by Cordell, who handcuffs the latter to the steering wheels and sends her off down the city streets while he takes care of Mallory for good.

Some fun parts, but it lacks the charm of the first one. Joe Spinnell was originally to play the role taken by Leo Rossi, but died before production began and so the film carries a dedication to him.

*

maniac cop 3

MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE

2.5 Stars  1992/18/81m

“The wrong arm of the law is back.”

A.k.a. MC3: Maniac Cop 3

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Robert Davi, Caitlin Dulany, Gretchen Becker, Robert Z’Dar, Paul Gleason, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Julius Harris, Doug Savant, Bobby Di Cicco.

Body Count: at least 18


A religious oddball resurrects Matt Cordell for no reason, just as a decorated female cop (Becker) is shot during an armed robbery and set up by the media to be a Cordell-like villain. Our maniac cop develops a bit of a crush on her and sets about clearing her name in the only way he knows how – by killing all of those responsible, as well as anyone else who crosses his path.

Davi returns as McKinney, this time joined by Caitlin Dulany as a doctor who just stands around in designer workwear looking pretty and screaming on cue.

More in the mould of a slasher film than the previous entry, but loses itself in a series of plot holes you could navigate the Titanic through. Still, as before, it’s a fun ride with lush production values and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Had so much time not passed, and Lustig not quit the project (his original cut was shorter than an hour!), from that ending we could’ve expected Bride of Maniac Cop to follow in 1994.

Overall blurbs-of-interest: Tom Atkins was in My Bloody Valentine 3D; Bruce Campbell appears briefly in Intruder; Robert Z’Dar was also in Grotesque; Michael Learner was in National Lampoon’s Class Reunion; Leo Rossi was Bud in Halloween II; Robert Forster was in Lustig’s Uncle Sam and also the 1998 Psycho remake; Charles Napier was in Camping Del Terrore and Wacko; Jackie Earle Haley was the new Freddy Krueger; Bobby Di Cicco was in The Baby Doll Murders; William Smith was in Valley of Death.

VIP’S of Slasherdom: Melissa

One of the first Friday the 13th‘s I saw was Part VII: The New Blood, which, on the back of the original, I found to be pretty lax. There were still enough scraps to feast on as the genre was still new to me then. Aside from the awesome Maddy, and the swoon-worthy Nick, there was, after previous VIP Inductee Wendy, the best bitchy girl found in the genre… bow down for Melissa.

melissa susan jennifer sullivan

“…’Like’ has nothing to do with it.”

Missive: To get Nick (Kevin Blair) into bed at any cost.

Talents: Manipulation, seduction, eavesdropping, but also hair care and modelling those Hamptons-housewife pearls that her daddy gave her for being ‘the perfect daughter’. Hmm… hey Melissa, meet Madison Penrose!

Why we love her: Melissa is just a force of pure evil, rivalling Jason from a social perspective – while he destroys people physically, Melissa and her ilk are destructive in another way entirely, cutting them down with her scheming ways rather than a bladed weapon.

Hair Don’ts II: The Revenge of Aqua Net

Somehow, since last time it’s taken ages to accrue more terrible hairstyles, but here they are:

bad hair final exam 1981

“The Walking Bouffant,” modelled by Final Exam (1981) Matthew Perry-esque frat dude.

I worry about how much hairspray went into creating this bonfire mound of hair, worsened by the centre parting and general volume. It lends well to the character’s general smarminess and eventual knife through the torso.

grotesque 1987 bad hair

“Wind Shear,” by Gang Member from Grotesque (1987)

Looks like actress Bunky Jones – also modelling a huge do in Hide and Go Shriek that same year – stuck her head out the window on the freeway and was hit in the face by a blueberry pie.

sleepaway camp judy bad hair

“The Cricked-Neck Counterbalancer,” sported by Judy in Sleepaway Camp (1983)

The entire 80s Sleepaway Camp franchise is full of fashion faux pas’ and bad hair, and it’s possibly Judy started it all by pulling her entire mane of thick, dry hair into a side-ponytail, which must have had consequences for her skeletal musculo something something.

child's play 3 bad hair

“What ever happened to Tiffany?” on random girl from Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Shaggy perm, scrunchie on top, was this look still around in ’91? I guess so. Perhaps Chucky was too weirded out by it, because this chick exits the film intact.

bad hair girls nite out 1982

“2-for-1 on Bad Hair,” with Pryor from Girls Nite Out (1982)

A classic 80s mullet and 90s curtains together at last, somehow before either became fashionable, on Hal Holbrook’s son as the is-he-or-isn’t-he killer, who understandably would’ve donned that bear costume after glancing in the mirror at this atrocity.

bad hair trampa infernal

“Perm-A-Mullet,” by lead-guy in Trampa Infernal (1989)

This guy is the hero, aided probably by extra protection afforded to the skull by the thickness of his curly mullet. I need to go to Mexico and see if they still have this do.

bad hair grotesque 1987

“The Morning After,” by Shelly in Grotesque (1987)

Grotesque – surely named for the hair-don’ts that litter it – strikes again, with another of the punkz, who looks like she lapsed into a two-week coma under a hairdryer.

christine elise child's play 2 1990

“Push it all aside,” with Kyle from Child’s Play 2 (1990)

Probably the least offensive ‘do on the list, but this is a nice compensation for Judy’s heavy list to one side, with Kyle pushing it all to the other, but with less length to slowly pull her neck over.

bad hair bloodstained shadow

“Insane Asylum Special,” for deranged son of nurse in The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

It may be hard to see clearly, but this poor chap has a standard buzz-cut on top and then a sort of mullet at the sides. The character was kept in a room on a remote island off Italy, so maybe that’s how they rolled there in the late 70s.

linda blair bad hair grotesque 1988

“The Career Flatliner,” from Dame Linda Blair in Grotesque (1987)

Maybe she was possessed by a demon again, as that’s surely the only explanation for this hairspray-OD’d combo of several terrible mid-80s styles, which I fear still exist at roadhouses in the square States.

The title and tagline are referring to the hair

grotesque 1988

GROTESQUE

2 Stars  1988/18/89m

“There is a fate worse than death.”

Director/Writer: Joe Tornatore / Writer: Mikel Angel / Cast: Linda Blair, Tab Hunter, Donna Wilkes, Guy Stockwell, Luana Patten, Brad Wilson, Michelle Bensoussan, Nels Van Patten, Sharon Hughes, Charles Dierkop, Billy Frank, Robert Z’Dar, Bunky Jones [as Bunki Z], Robert Apisa.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “My ass doesn’t get cold” / “I don’t doubt it, that’s because you think with your ass and not your brain.”


For a few years, when people said ‘I cannot even’ to express their speechlessness over trivial things, I was confused. ‘Can’t even what?’ I thought. But then came Grotesque into my life, sent by my good friend Ross, who was having a DVD clear out (I tried to palm off 12 Deaths of Christmas on him but he’d already read what I had to say about it and dodged a bullet).

Seriously, what the fuck happened here? This entire project appears to be some sort of exercise in LSD experimentation while writing a film script. Read on, but beware necessary spoilers so that I can stress the bizarre experience of watching it.

grotesque 1988

Long boring credits take us into a film-within-a-film intro, where some old lady is brushing her hair while some dude in a cloak approaches. Then suddenly she’s a young chick. Then old again. Ugh. Turns out it’s a screening of a new film, where the FX work has been done by wonderous artist Orville Kruger, who blabs some exposition that he’s having a little family reunion at the cabin in the mountains this weekend…

Next we meet his daughter Lisa and her friend Kathy as they grab dinner before driving up there. Kathy (Donna Wilkes, most famous for her non-stop shrieking in Jaws 2) is sad over man trouble, while Lisa (Blair) is rocking the first of many hair-don’ts Grotesque will spring on us:

linda blair bad hair grotesque 1988

The girls are warned by the local shopkeep that some ‘freaks’ happened by earlier, and we meet them in a scene: Eight punk-rock youths looking like they teleported from 1977, led by the very unstable Scratch, who looks a cross between Billy Idol and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is seemingly modelled on Zed from the Police Academy movies. Their VW bus has run into trouble and they flag down Lisa and Kathy on the road, basically threaten them, and reveal to the audience they’re planning to invade the cabin, that they killed ‘the entire family’ last time, and Scratch yells a lot.

Orville plays some cruddy pranks on Kathy; Lisa asks her mom how Patrick is. Who is Patrick? Hmm… best wait and see. Night falls soon after the ‘punkers’ break in and haul everyone inside to the den, where they assault and kill Orville, shrieking about where the money/jewellery/dope is stashed. The posturing is dementedly bad, with acting so terrible I dread to think what the other takes looked like if they chose this.

grotesque 1988

Anyway, the ‘punkers’ kill Mom and Kathy, while Lisa dives out of a window and runs off up the mountain in her PJ’s, chased by one of the gang. The others split up to look for things and find a secret room behind a bookcase where Patrick resides. Patrick is your off-the-shelf movie mongoloid: Hunched back, moans to communicate, and hideously deformed features. He’s also super strong of course, and wastes no time offing a few of the intruders and chasing the others into the night.

Morning comes and the shopkeeper from earlier drops by to go fishing with Orville and finds several bodies. Patrick kills off all but the two lead ‘punkers’, and Lisa has been strangled into a coma. Now, up rocks Tab Hunter as Uncle Rod, who is a surgeon. He, shopkeeper dude, and some cops head up the mountain and shoot Patrick dead before he can kill Scratch and Shelly, who are arrested, but swear they just stopped by for help with their van and Patrick killed everybody.

grotesque 1988 patrick

There was still about 30 minutes left at this point, so I was clueless as to what the fuck was going to happen: Patrick has gone from gross-face to no-face, Lisa is in a coma, and there are two ‘punkers’ left. The most nasty two. A very long good-cop/bad-cop sequence unrolls, all the time I was watching the clock and it was still telling me there’s 30 minutes left. HOW, universe?

Lisa dies in surgery; Scratch and Shelly are released; Tab Hunter comes back and manages to kidnap them at gunpoint and take them back to the cabin where he straps them to gurneys, reveals he is Patrick’s father and pulls of a latex mask made for him by his late bro. and then operates on their faces, locking them in Patrick’s secret room. This, apparently, is the fate worse than death the tagline alludes to.

grotesque 1988

Wait, there’s still several minutes left??? So, the film melts – it’s all been a screening! And fucking Frankenstein and the Wolfman are in the projection room, bickering about it. They go into the theater and ‘scare’ everyone (they stand there slowly swaying back and forth with their arms out) and we see several of the actors – Blair, Wilkes, Stockwell – run away screaming. Credits.

Well, what the fucking fuck, Grotesque? What are you? How did you happen? Why are there several big names in you? I cannot answer. Perhaps Blair, who served as associate producer, had the dirt of some of them? Who the fuck knows. I’m tripped out though.

Grotesque is crap, but at least funny in that it’s really a series of ‘eh!?’ moments sewed together, maybe it was supposed to be an anthology and suffered too many script changes? I’d recommend it just for the LOLs: The hair, Blair’s natural charm, her amazing sarcastic response to the child who calls to her outside the store, the hair, the diabolical overacting of most of the ‘punkers’, the makeup the girl members of the gang sport, the hair, good-cop/bad-cop 101, fucking bizarre dialogue exchanges, and the hair.

grotesque 1988

Blurbs-of-interest: Linda was, of course, the lead in Hell Night (and thus also Hellego Night) – co-star Nels Van Patten is the brother of her co-star from Hell Night, Vincent Van Patten; Tab Hunter played Blue Grange in Pandemonium; Donna Wilkes was earlier in Schizoid and Blood Song; Bunky Jones was in Hide and Go Shriek; Robert Z’Dar had the title role in the Maniac Cop movies.

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