COMBAT SHOCK (Director’s Cut, 1984)

COMBAT SHOCK (Director’s Cut)

1984, USA

Director: Buddy Giovannazzo

Starring: Ricky Giovannazzo (Franki Dunlan), Veronica Stork (Cathy Dunlan)

Music: Ricky Giovannazzo

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Very Good


If this were edited down to 45 minutes I could imagine it receiving some polite (albeit uncomfortable) applause from director Buddy Giovannazzo’s classmates at his community college’s video art class final crit, but as a 91 minute feature it’s a truly insufferable slog. I honestly don’t understand the cult following this film has. Sure, the final scene is brutal, but if you make it that far you’re likely to be left rolling your eyes (as I was) after the amateurish drudgery you’ve been subjected to up until that point. It’s as though Giovannazzo was trying to mainstream David Lynch’s Eraserhead by giving it more characters, dialogue, and a backstory and then filming the whole thing in color. Imagine Henry Spencer but as a Vietnam vet. Oh, brother…

The film opens with our lead, Frankie Dunlan (Ricky Giovannazzo) experiencing a
flashback to his time in Vietnam and his vague recollections of a massacre of some kind that he was involved it. Flash to the present as he wakes up in his filthy apartment and his life of squalor with his wife Cathy (Veronica Stork) and their deformed baby (a la Eraserhead), whose incessant wails seem to be produced by the same synthesizer that’s responsible for the hideous soundtrack. This grotesque being is apparently the product of Frankie’s exposure to chemicals in the ‘Nam. So, he’s got no job, no money, and no food… just a filthy apartment in the worst slum of Staten Island. Frankie’s day consists of wandering around the wasteland (sometimes seemingly in real time) looking for a job and occasionally running into gangs, druggies, and prostitutes who are each trying to squeeze him for money he doesn’t have, all while he blathers on to himself about his predicament. These scenes are interspersed with flashbacks to his time in Vietnam as he tries to piece together what happened there that led him to the horror show that is his life. 

I’ll quickly make my case as to why this is a shit movie:

Exhibit A: the interminably dragged-out scenes of Frankie wandering through the
wasteland of 1980s NYC that just fall flat. I mean they go on and on and on and on.
Yeah, we get it, it’s a wasteland.

Exhibit B: the multitude of tangents in the storyline that confuse more than they reveal and, in some cases, don’t even jibe with one another. I still don’t get what the whole thing with his father was all about and that goes on for like twenty minutes!

Exhibit C: the excruciating and unimaginative dollar store take on a Tangerine Dream soundtrack. Seriously, it’s as though Giovannazzo purposefully made a score out of the least interesting noises his synth could produce. I’ll give him credit that the music for the closing credits was good, but then again my elation over the film ending may have clouded my judgement.

Exhibit D: Frankie’s painfully incessant superficial and self-indulgent existentialist
yammering. I mean by the 30 minute mark, I had pretty much stopped caring about what happened to Frankie.

Anyway, I had to scratch my head when reading some reviews where the critics engage with this film as though it were a valid examination of the Vietnam experience and the pain and disorientation of coming back after the war. I mean, that’s gotta be a joke, right?!?

The only interesting thing in this movie is the final scene, which, if taken out of the
context of the mind-numbing 75-minutes that precede it, is so good that it would actually make you want to watch the rest. My advice to you is, don’t do it. (DC)


NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill   HR: Heath Row   MA: Matt Average



Director: William Girdler
Starring: Leslie Nielsen (John Trevor), Gary Lockwood (Frank Lassiter), Nancy Kwan (Lee Su), Vic Diaz (Alok Lee), Pamela Parsons (Lynn Walker)
Music: Robert O. Ragland
Country: USA
Viewed: Streaming
Transfer Quality: Miserable


Mr. Lassiter: Stand! What’s your project?!?

Troops (in unison): Kill!

Mr. Lassiter: Again!

Troops (in unison): Kill!

A film that is truly as brilliant as its title!

I was in a rush downloading stuff to watch on a long flight, and I was lucky that this one got snared in the net. Actually, I almost turned this off a couple minutes in because it opens with a nighttime fight scene made practically invisible by the terrible transfer… just lots of white cuffs and collars flying around in the dark. However, the over-the-top hand-to-hand combat and man in flames emerging from an exploding jeep convinced me that I needed to tough this one out…and It was so worth it! Although William Girdler (The Manitou, Three on a Meathook) and cast really phone it in here while on vacation in the Philippines, they accidentally stumble into a masterpiece in the process.

The basic story is that the US military has developed an elite force of super-assassin bodyguards to counter political threats from abroad under the code name, Project: Kill. A surprisingly ripped Leslie Nielsen (Forbidden Planet, Naked Gun), plays it straight here as John Trevor, the commander of the operation, who has grown jaded because of the Project’s increased reliance on drugs and mind control in its quest to develop progressively super-human soldiers. Trevor…that’s Mr. Trevor to you…busts out of the base and makes his way to the Philippines to reunite with two former Kill members who are also, presumably, on the lam. Of course Trevor’s former second-in-command, Gary Lockwood’s Frank Lassiter (2001, Earth II)…that’s Mr. Lassiter to you…and Asian mob kingpin Alok Lee, played by legend of shlock Filipino cinema Vic Diaz (Beast of the Yellow Night, The Big Bird Cage), are in hot pursuit…the former to protect the secrets of the Project and the latter to exploit them. In the meantime, Trevor falls in love with bad transfer-defying beauty Nancy Kwan’s (Flower Drum Song, Wild Affair) Lee Su who must deal with his progressively violent withdrawal from Project: Kill’s drugs and mind control.

Although there are so many happy accidents and details to obsess over in this film: the wooden acting, the cartoonish bad guys, Pamela Parsons’ maladroit Lynn Walker, the sublime performance of Lonely World by Pilita Corrales–it’s the fight scenes that keep you coming back for more. You’ll never see someone overthrow a punch like Gary Lockwood! I kept pausing and replaying them because they were just too good to be believed.

In the end, I’m convinced that the low quality transfer actually adds to the experience of watching Project: Kill. You really have to earn it, but the payoff is big.


Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Heath Row: HR  Matt Average: MA


Street Law (1974) (aka Italian Il cittadino si ribella)


Director: Enzo Castellari

Starring: Franco Nero (Carlo Antonelli), Giancarlo Prete (Tommy), Barbara Bach (Barbara)

Music: Guido and Maurizio De Angelis

Viewed: Amazon streaming

Transfer: Good!


Street Law proves again that it is impossible for Franco Nero (Django, The Fifth Cord) to disappoint.  1974 must have been the year the vigilante broke…you had Bronson in Death Wish, Issac Hayes in Truck Turner, and Nero in Street Law. Definitely all classics in their own right, but this one just might have the others beat.

The film opens with a montage of a 70s Genoa overrun by brazen criminals terrorizing the streets and looting in broad daylight. Nero’s character, Carlo Antonelli, makes his entrance while on the way to the bank to make a deposit. Naturally, as soon he places his hard earned cash on the counter, the bank gets robbed. Criminals are cartoonishly ruthless during the heist, kicking the crutches out from under a disabled person and socking women and Franciscan monks alike in the face with the butt ends of rifles. However, no one actually gets killed.  The crooks somehow blame Carlo as the heist goes south and take him hostage, taking turns slapping him around in the speeding car as the police follow in hot pursuit. Later, as the cops and rubberneckers surround the crime scene, the bloodied, degraded, and abandoned Carlo swears his vengeance.

As I was watching this, I found Carlo’s motivation a little confusing at first. Sure, we later learn that the apartment being robbed in the opening sequence is his and, sure, he’s pretty emasculated by the crooks after the robbery, but his level of hostility and lust to avenge his honor that follows reads more psychotic than heroic. At first, I found myself agreeing with his girlfriend Barbara (Barbara Bach) when she says, “I’m only afraid that all those kicks to the head you took are short circuiting your brain. Will you stop complaining, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and stop acting like a goddamn fool!” Yes, Barbara, exactly! A little later in the film however, it’s revealed that Carlo’s father was an instrumental figure in the Italian underground resistance to the Nazi’s.  Therefore, Carlos’ character takes on the persona of the Italian “everyman” who is carrying on the grand tradition of railing against the injustices of the world. Suddenly it all makes sense.

The film takes another turn as it morphs into a “buddy movie” when Carlo blackmails another criminal to get a load of weapons. Despite Tommy’s repeated attempts to ditch and double-cross Carlo, they end up being best buds and partners in the quest to topple the hoods who humiliated him—with Carlo seeking his vengeance and Tommy just looking for a way out of the thug life. What truly sets this movie apart and keeps it a cut above a pure exploitation flick, however, is the decently nuanced exploration of the ‘who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy’ dilemma. Where in Death Wish the whole film is geared toward making Bronson’s Kersey the clear hero no matter what action he takes, for Nero’s Carlo, it’s a lot more complicated. This is brought into sharp relief when it’s Carlo who beats his girlfriend and is later the first in the film to kill.

Soundtrack to this is absolutely killer, and the top notch Italian car chase scenes and shootout at the end are must sees if your at all a fan of 70s action. Also, director Enzo Castellari’s (Kill Them All and Come Back Alone, Keoma) move to the handheld camera at key moments creates a ton of cool tension and intensity.

Hands down best line in the film: “C’mon out shitface, or your friend’s a goner!” (DC)


NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill   HR: Heath Row   MA: Matt Average


THE DEVASTATOR (aka Hostile Takeover, aka Office Party) (1988)


Director: George Mihalka

Starring: David Warner (Eugene Bracken), Michael Ironside (Larry Gaylord), Kate

Vernon (Sally), Will Lyman (Smolen), John Vernon (Mayor)

Music: Billy Bryans, Aaron Davis

Viewed: Streaming Amazon Prime

Transfer quality: Bad


A man takes three co-workers hostage while working overtime on Thanksgiving weekend. He has no demands. –IMDB

This short description should have come with a spoiler alert, because that was pretty much it.

Man, this was a long slog. I had to pause this more than once to check that I was watching the right movie.

There’s a moment towards the middle of this where I got excited that I would get to see “The Devastator,” when Police Chief Smolen (Will Lyman) rues the Mayor’s (John Vernon, Animal House, Savage Streets) decision to bring in the SWAT team for assistance and refers to SWAT commander Garlas (Anthony Sherwood, Terror Train, Heartbreak High) as “Robocop.” I actually woke up and sat up in my chair a bit, hopeful that this shallow attempt at a “deep” philosophical movie was going to ride off the rails into something amazing. I was sadly mistaken, however, as Garlas turned out to be just a cut-rate Billy Dee Williams trying, very unconvincingly I might add, to out strut Chief Smolen. So no Devastator, terrible soundtrack, and an atrocious transfer…seriously, the only redeeming value of this film is that it gives you the ability to link Scanners to Animal House in a game of 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon.

I suppose rebranding this film as “The Devastator” achieved its goal of suckering me into wasting an hour and a half of my movie watching time, but I wasn’t happy about it. I’m not even convinced this is a legit title, as IMDB lists the possible titles as Hostile Takeover and Office Party. Screw you, Amazon. (DC)


Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Heath Row: HR  Matt Average: MR




Country: US
Starring: Tiffany Bolling (Ellie), Robin Mattson (Myra), Steve Sandor (Larry)
Director: Arthur Marks
Music: Carson Whitsett

Viewed:  Streaming, Amazon Prime

Transfer Quality: Excellent! Top quality restoration and transfer


Larry: You mean to tell me that God made two of you?

Ellie: God had nothing to do with it, darling.

Hot, oversexed, devious, and cruel would aptly describe the sisters, Myra (Robin Mattson Candystripe Nurses, Phantom of the Paradise) and Ellie (Tiffany Bolling The Candy Snatchers, Kingdom of the Spiders), but Bonnie’s kids aren’t the only morally bankrupt denizens of this twisted and superficial world of predator vs. prey. Virtually every character that appears on screen is on the make in one way or another. Even the camera is a lecherous creep, shamelessly panning up and down the contours of every female figure and implicating the viewer along the way whether we like it or not. This feature is gratuitous, but why would you expect any less of a film that was a major influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

There are some magical moments in this movie, which makes its impact on Tarantino easy to figure. For example, the arrangement of shots in the opening scene is quite brilliant in its portrayal of teen innocence that’s just slightly askew. It’s difficult to describe how well done this scene is, but director Arthur Marx (Bucktown, Monkey Hustle) employs some great visual storytelling techniques here that set the deliciously cynical tone for the film. An ice cream truck, headlights glowing in the distance, blares its syrupy looped tone made even more unsettling by its incongruity with the nighttime scene. Something is off balance, and it creates a sense of foreboding that subconsciously prepares us for the nihilistic excess that will occupy the rest of the film.  As the ice cream truck jingle continues, we see two high school couples making out in a convertible. While the ominous vehicle slowly rolls towards the make out session, Myra skillfully rebuffs the advances of her boyfriend as he presses his luck trying to unzip her dress. In the meantime, the truck passes without incident and the camera moves away from the action in the car to zoom in on the front window of the house where Myra’s stepfather, the tightly wound Charlie (Leo Gordon, Riot in Cell Block 11) is playing cards with his buddies.

Myra leaves her friends and enters the house where things get intense quick. Charlie’s buddies take turns teasing Myra and him about what they’d do with her and her older sister Ellie if Charlie wasn’t around. Myra quickly reveals herself as no innocent as her sexual teasing of the older men shatters any presumptions lingering from the opening scene. Later, as an undressing Myra is ogled at through the bathroom window by his departing guests (and then by the local police!) Charlie, who’s planning a trip to Montana to be with his terminally ill father, is in his bedroom chugging down a bottle of Seagram’s. Things continue to devolve as the drunken Charlie catches Myra on the phone talking sexy to her boyfriend. The out of control stepfather unleashes on Myra in a violent rage, and initiates what most certainly will end in sexual assault. It’s at this precise moment that Ellie enters and from quick back and forth we infer that she too was molested by Charlie. No sooner do we piece it together than Ellie blasts Charlie twice in the chest with a shotgun, leaving him dead. And so it begins…

The hallmark of the great morality exploitation film is that it titillates the viewer with precisely the vice it purports to condemn. At first I thought this was going to be one of those kinds of movies, but the ambiguous principles of each character left me wondering if anyone could be described as the morally righteous hero in this story. The way this film ends (and I’ll leave it for you to watch) only led me to further abandon all hope for humanity. However, when I wasn’t catching myself sinking into depression or contemplating the reason for my own existence, I actually found this film quite difficult to pause.

It’s also cool to keep an eye out for the connections between Bonnie’s Kids and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. From a “Bonnie” whom we never see on screen, to Eddy and Digger (Alex Rocco, Timothy Brown) as the inspiration for Vincent and Jules, to the flirty banter and surreal showcase dance scene with Ellie and Larry (Steve Sandor) ala Mia and Vincent, it’s obvious that Tarantino was mining the gold nuggets embedded in this film. Even the shot composition at the diner scene with Eddy and Digger seems strangely familiar.

Check it out…enjoyable to say the least, but you might find yourself craving a shower by the end of it.  (DC)


NW: Nate Wilson  DC: Devon Cahill  HR: Heath Row  MA: Matt Average



THE MAD BOMBER (aka The Police Connection) (1973)

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Starring:  Chuck Connors (William Dorn), Vince Edwards (Lt. Geronimo Minneli), Neville Brand (George Fromley)

Music: Michel Mention


Viewed:  Streaming, Amazon Prime

Transfer Quality: Good


It’s people like you who make our world filthy my friend. You’re a pig.

—William Dorn

Bert I. Gordon’s (Necromancy, Food of the Gods) film opens with a cool street shot of early 70s LA and a very Lurch-esque Chuck Connors (yes, The Rifleman) storming down the boulevard, physically confronting a litterer, and setting him straight with the line above. Connors pulls off a masterful performance here as William Dorn, the Mad Bomber…the sociopath you just can’t help but fall in love with. You’ll immediately notice how much Connor’s Dorn must have been an influence on Michael Douglas in Joel Schumacher’s 1993 film, Falling Down. Similar to Douglas’ character, you can’t help but gleefully live through Dorn as he confronts purveyors of society’s ills with a puritanical and righteous insanity. Whether he’s taking a Porsche owner’s keys (albeit a 914) and depositing them in a nearby mailbox, laying into the supermarket clerk for denying him the sale price on a can of peaches, or kicking a couple street toughs’ asses when they try to mug him for his grocery bag, he’s every man’s hero. Only problem is, that grocery bag always has a bomb in it.

As with most films I love, the coolest thing about this movie is how it outdoes itself with ridiculousness at every turn. It’s the kind of infectious insanity that makes you just want to believe it could all be possible. Like when Dorn returns home from his litter policing, grabs an already ticking alarm clock (out of a cupboard full of them, haha) and throws together a bomb in 30 seconds with some sticks of dynamite he just leaves laying around on his kitchen table…all while eating a donut. Or, when he steals a bright yellow motorcycle with a sidecar from some hippies to make a bomb run. On top of all this, he’s gotta be the most conspicuous guy in LA. I mean, look at that picture. Yet, he still manages to elude suspicion.

The true stroke of ludicrous genius in the plot of this film is that the only one who can ID the bomber is a serial rapist who just happens to see Dorn bringing a bomb into a hospital while he’s busy attacking a woman in a storage closet. This sets off an almost transcendental assault on reason that involves Lieutenant Geronimo Minneli (Vince Edwards…you know, Dr. Ben Casey!), an overzealous cop armed with a police super computer who enlists an army of scantily clad policewomen to roam the streets “just asking to be raped” in order to net the witness. Two interesting facts learned from these sequences: First, circa 1973 the LAPD had a seemingly unlimited supply of hot young female officers. Second, if you were a male out after dark in LA in 1973, you were most definitely a rapist. Every woman they put out on the streets gets attacked in matter of seconds as the cops scoop up the suspects. Naturally, none of the creeps they catch the first night match, so they have to do it again a second night. Eventually they get their man, the cool, calm, collected, and sexually twisted dude, George Fromley, quite brilliantly portrayed by Neville Brand. All of this culminates in an amazing composite drawing scene where the sketch artist produces a photo quality rendering of the bomber from Fromley’s hazy description. It’s just undescribably good.

Ok, I’ve spoiled enough of this for you already. It’s a must-see in my opinion.

Plus, the ending is a real BLAST! Har har… (DC)


NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average


And God Said to Cain…
1970 Italian E Dio disse a Caino…
Starring: Klaus Kinski (Gary Hamilton), Peter Carsten (Acobar), Marcella Michelangeli (Maria),
Antonio Cantafora (Dick Acobar) 
Director: Anthony Dawson (aka Antonio Margheriti)
Music: ​ Carlo Savina 
Theme Song Performed by Don Powell
Viewed: Streaming Amazon Prime
Transfer Quality: Good
A ghost returning
And he’ll have only one desire in his heart
Only one thirst. Revenge. –Maria


The quality of the anachronistic theme song in an Italian Western is always a good indicator of the caliber of the film to follow (i.e. Django, Keoma, any Morricone related Western, etc.), and this one is right up there. I would put this on any must see Italian Western list.

Gary Hamilton (Kinski) gets a pardon from the chain gang 10 years after being framed by power hungry Acobar (Carsten) who has stolen Hamilton’s house, mining operation, and woman, Maria. Naturally, vengeance must be administered. After Hamilton gains his freedom, an impending tornado serves as an apt means of foreboding his bloody return. It also creates a signature setting for the film where most of the action takes place at night in the midst of the ever threatening and violent windstorm. Every aspect of the tornado intensifies the anxiety surrounding Hamilton’s return; every utterance of his name evokes fear among his enemies.

The tornado also gives Hamilton’s vengeance an air of divine retribution. This is compounded by the Bava-esque eeriness of the night scenes and disorienting winds that add an other-worldliness to his nighttime attack. Using the cover of the storm and his familiarity with his old homestead, Hamilton is like a ninja, evading capture and keeping adversaries off guard while accumulating an insane number of kills single-handedly. Various trapdoors and hidden entrances allow him to move like a ghost through the mining tunnels under the town, constantly outmaneuvering Acobar’s small army. His name is repeatedly invoked in vain as he moves in the shadows, a seemingly supernatural force. The haunting effect is intensified by the tolling church bell and organ music that signal each wave of vengeful slaughter.  Some other reviewers have derided the film’s mirror room shoot-out scene climax a la Orson Welles’ Lady of Shanghai (1949) as too predictable, but I think it’s great as it adds even more nuance to Hamilton’s ghostlike elusiveness. Even in the light he isn’t really there…until you’re dead! Plus, Bruce Lee’s mirror room climax in Enter the Dragon won’t come for another three years, and no one ever complains about that scene.

Beyond the excellent visual composition and well-paced action, it’s the complexity of the characters and their relationships that ensures repeated viewings. Above all, Kinski’s performance rules in this film. Unlike his askew characters in Westerns like The Beast and The Great Silence, Gary Hamilton is cool, collected, focused, and human. Also, beneath the narrative of revenge is a complex tale of family and loyalty. While Acobar’s son, Dick, sympathizes with Hamilton throughout the film, when he learns of his father’s treachery he ultimately chooses family over what he knows in his heart to be right. Ironically, after this turn, it’s Acobar who takes his own son’s life when he mistakes him for Hamilton.

Getting old, so having to watch midnight movies in two or three installments sometimes. Anyway, during my first watch, I must have slept through the exposition that explains why Gary Hamilton is seeking vengeance against Acobar. So, I had initially credited this with a meta-vengeance film genius it didn’t quite deserve. Still, this is a real standout in the genre with a great balance of genre predictability and innovation.

I’d be curious if someone has counted the number of times “Gary Hamilton!!” is uttered throughout the film…one of my favorite details in the film. I’m also wondering about the total number of kills he tallies.  

Anyway, I’ll keep track next time and get back to you with some figures.

P.S. Apparently this is a remake of A Stranger in Paso Bravo (1968), the only film Salvatore Rosso ever directed. I’ll have to track that down for a comparison.  (DC)


NW: Nate Wilson   DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average



LONGSHOT (aka Long Shot Kids)

1981, USA

Director: E.W. Swackhamer

Starring: Leif Garret as Paul Rogers, Linda Manz as Maxine Gripp, Ralph Seymour as Leroy Curtis, Zoé Chauveau as Marie-Christine, etc.

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Not so great


College Rep: I will make sure you get a full scholarship and everything will be paid for!

Rogers: Um, I’ve decided to go to Europe and become a pro.

Dad: Europe?! Just how in the hell do you to intend to finance this little venture?!?

Rogers: By winning the Foosball Spectacular in Lake Tahoe.

College Rep: (incredulously) Foosball?!?

I’d started watching Bronson in Love & Bullets for review but was totally distracted by the confusing description of a film I’d never heard of called Longshot with Leif Garret, “a young foosball player who wants to earn the big dollars that will be used to play soccer in Europe by winning the foosball world championships.” Of course, my first thought was how have I never heard of this movie? and my second thought was MUST watch this movie immediately! On top of that, the promo art masterpiece consists of roughly cropped images of two of the stars (images not from this movie, I might add) and an oddly angled foosball table, all of which looks like it was laid out in MS Word. At this point my hopes were up that this would be like the movies I would stay up until 5am to watch for 5 weekends in a row on USA network when I was 13…maybe a foosball version of Equals Against Devils, or at least something as sublimely absurd as The Van. In other words, so jammed with ridiculousness that it would be mercilessly re-watchable.

The title sequence and first few scenes didn’t disappoint, but it quickly devolved (or evolved, depending on your tastes) into a pretty run of the mill Cinderella story tournament movie filled with teen love drama, destiny, and redemption. In other words: Big, gaping yawn. Not bad enough to be good, not good enough to think about ever watching again. Not to mention, foosball?!? You can probably imagine the amount of tension and depth of metaphor present, as Leif and company enter the arena of the foosball kumite: Not much.

Soundtrack wasn’t horrible and the title track actually has a pretty good hook. However, the transfer on this was almost as bad as it gets. Aside from the night scenes where the screen was just black, there was also a two-minute section in the middle where the screen went red. My guess is it was to patch over a rough spot on the VHS when it was transferred?

Trivia tidbit: I’m not an Oingo Boingo fan, but for whatever it’s worth, they perform at the Foosball Spectacular.  (DC)


NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average