Leapin’ Leprechauns! (1995)

Starring John Bluthal, Grant Cramer, Godfrey James, Tina Martin, James Ellis, Sylvester McCoy, Sharon Lee Jones, Gregory Smith, Erica Hess, Mihai Niculescu, Dorina Lazar, Ion Haiduc

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Moonbeam films share so many similarities that I am no longer surprised to see re-used elements; I actually look forward to them now. Leapin’ Leprechauns comes from the mold of Dragonworld, though it uses its building blocks uniquely to make for a much different film experience. Shot on the rolling green hills of Ireland Romania, Leapin’ Leprechauns introduces us to a world of wonder and fantasy, the people who believe in it, and a few who do not.

Michael Dennehy (John Bluthal) has lived peacefully on Fairy Hill his entire life, and now in his elderly years gives brief tours of the grounds to visitors on bus excursions. He lives in harmony with the living world around him, including the wee leprechauns and the fairy folk. One day, Michael comes upon a pair of surveyors examining the land, and much to his surprise they’re working under the orders of his son living in America, John Dennehy (Grant Cramer). John wants to turn the land into an amusement park called Ireland Land, so he invites Michael to see the grandkids in the US (getting him out of the way for the surveyors to survey in peace). It’s kind of an inverse of Dragonworld, where an American boy is orphaned and comes to live in Scotland with his grandfather. In the back story of Leapin’ Leprechauns, John must have moved to the US at a young age with his mother or something, because he has zero trace of an accent or respect for his Scottish heritage. This makes me wonder about the wild, roving days of Michael, but all of this is far outside of the confines of Leapin’ Leprechauns.

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Heroes of the Underground (1976)

Heroes of the Underground [丁一山] (1976)

Starring Ling Yun, Ching Li, Meng Yuen-Man, Cheng Kang-Yeh, Wai Wang, Kong Yeung, Liu Wai, Tin Ching, Yeung Chak-Lam, Yeung Chi-Hing, James Ma Chim-Si, Shum Lo

Directed by Pao Hsueh-Li

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.


I knew going into Heroes of the Underground that it wasn’t a martial arts movie, but it was still quite a disappointment. I often schedule contextually interesting movies into my chronological series and I penciled this one in based on a couple of factors. For one, it was written by the same team responsible for Come Drink With Me: King Hu and Ting Shan-Hsi (presumably from the late ’60s when they worked at Shaw together). Secondly, I’ve previously reviewed every Pao Hsueh-Li film up to this point in his career, so I might as well hit this one in order while I can. Thirdly, there were a lot of movies released in 1975 that were finished earlier and held back from release, so when I learned Heroes of the Underground was completed in 1973, I thought it might be worth watching along with the others. And finally, it just looked fun; Ching Li on the poster with a machine gun was quite persuasive! Unfortunately, on every one of those points the film is a disappointment.

Heroes of the Underground tells a story of rebellion during the Second Sino-Japanese War when Japan occupied China and oppressed the people. It is a time regularly depicted on film, from dramas to classic kung fu films to modern films like Ip Man. The film’s Chinese title is merely the main character’s name, though, Ding Yi-Shan, and usually this is an indication that the movie is centered around a renowned hero from history or folk legends. I couldn’t find anything that indicated the character was drawn from fact, but I did find a 1943 Lao She novel, Cremation, which shares a few character names, a setting, and a general plotline of resistance to the Japanese occupation.

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Bruce Lee and I (1976)

Bruce Lee and I [李小龍與我] (1976)
AKA Bruce Lee: His Last Days, His Last Nights, Bruce Lee: His Last Days, I Love You, Bruce Lee

Starring Betty Ting Pei, Danny Lee, Wang Sha, Tony Liu Chun-Ku, James Nam Gung-Fan, Wong Man, Ku Wen-Chung, Lee Pang-Fei, Lee Sau-Kei, Wong San, Gam Dai, Pang Pang, Ling Hon, Kong San

Directed by John Law Ma

Expectations: Low.


The Bruceploitation genre is one that consistently surprises, offering as many unique ideas as it does scenes of “Bruce picking his successor” or footage from his funeral. I had heard that Bruce Lee and I was an especially exploitative look at Bruce Lee’s final days through the eyes of his mistress Betty Ting Pei (who plays herself here). In part, this is true; the film opens with a wild sex scene between Bruce and Betty, with Bruce taking regular breaks to smoke pot or take pills from the bedside table. It’s a whirlwind of bodies and drugs, and in the movie it directly leads to his death. Later the film contradicts this — and perhaps that’s the point — but it’s by far the most memorable thing about the movie, so viewers are likely to come away remembering the very thing the film was trying to dispute.

Bruce Lee’s death was sudden and the exact cause of death has always been up for debate. It was officially ruled a “death by misadventure,” which only led to further speculation on the part of his adoring and growing fan base. Bruce died at the home of Betty Ting Pei, which was initially covered up by Lee’s family who wanted to preserve Bruce’s image in the media. Did Bruce and Betty have an affair or were they just good friends? Who knows, and more importantly does it even matter? Despite the salacious opening that basically fuels the legend, Betty Ting Pei’s participation in this film suggests that it’s an attempt to tell her side of the story so we might understand the bond and friendship that she shared with Bruce Lee.

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Pet Shop (1995)

Starring Terry Kiser, Leigh Ann Orsi, Spencer Vrooman, Joanne Baron, David Wagner, Jane Morris, Jeff Michalski, Shashawnee Hall, Sabrina Wiener, Cody Burger, Leondardo Vincent Surdo, Nino Surdo, John LaMotta

Directed by Hope Perello

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Pet Shop is the story of an alien invasion in the small Arizona town of Cactus Flats, but it’s probably unlike any alien invasion movie you’ve seen. One night while locking up, the aged proprietor of the town’s pet shop is visited by a kid on a bike. He asks for the turtle he ordered, but the old man has forgotten the kid’s request. He just doesn’t have his heart in the business anymore. Just a minute later, almost like an answered prayer, the man meets a pair of aliens who offer him a suitcase full of money to take the whole kit and caboodle off his hands. Of course, he agrees, and now this sleepy town of just under 2000 residents is in for the craziest pet shop this side of Mars.

What’s a crazy pet shop without crazy pets? Pet Shop delivers a batch of weird, lovable critters, all realized through animatronics and puppets. Each one is based on a common Earth animal, and they all have a lot of personality. For instance, the little bunny creature — who looks just like a Furby, three years before that toy’s debut! — does the cutest little yawn at one point, and even a lil’ bunny burp. Oh, so cute! My other favorite was the lizard critter who gets a lot of screen-time and probably features the best animatronic work of the bunch. I don’t think their appeal really translates to my poor attempts at describing them, so you’ll just have to take me at my work that the little guys are charming and fun to watch. The low budget shows through at times, but it’s never enough to override the animals’ charm.

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Vengeance of the Dead (2001)

Vengeance of the Dead (2001)
AKA Sleepwalker

Starring Michael Galvin, Mark Vollmers, Susan Karsnick, Andrea Washburn, Bob Wilson, Dan Kelly, Dick Furniss, Ashley Bodart, June Gracious, Wil Brochtrup

Directed by Don Adams & Harry James Picardi

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The early 2000s were a low period for Full Moon productions, and in the case of Vengeance of the Dead, Full Moon simply acted as the film’s distributor. The directing duo of Don Adams & Harry James Picardi would later make Jigsaw for the company, but Vengeance of the Dead (or, as they originally and more aptly titled it, Sleepwalker) is purely the product of amateur passion and ingenuity. It is a film made for the love of it all and it shows, even through the film’s slow pace and relative lack of energy. The success of selling the distribution rights to your amateur horror film is a pretty big achievement, though, and the film is definitely worthy of its release (unlike many low-budget films I’ve seen 🙂 ).

Eric (Michael Galvin) is visiting his grandfather (Mark Vollmers), because that’s what good kids do. His grandpa is a nice guy, living is a modest house in a small town. Grandma died not too long ago, so the company is welcome (although it could be said that in most cases, grandkids visiting is always a welcome occurrence). Anyway, the guys catch up over a beer or two, and they open the final Christmas present that Grandma had squirreled away for Eric: a model rocket. It’s just an everyday, normal visit until they launch the rocket and it lands in the debris of a demolished home. While looking for the rocket, Eric takes an old spoon that catches his eye… but it seems that is not all Eric took home with him!

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Dead & Rotting (2002)

Starring Stephen O’Mahoney, Tom Hoover, Debbie Rochon, Trent Haaga, Jeff Dylan Graham, Barbara Katz-Norrod, Christopher Suciu, Beth Biasella, Tammi Sutton, Jamie Star

Directed by David P. Barton

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I always hope to like the movie I’m watching, but I must admit that I started Dead & Rotting with a real sinking feeling. The title seemed prophetic of the film’s quality, and its ugly cover art (see above) didn’t reassure me any. So when I began the film and it wasn’t an immediate train wreck, my spirits lifted a bit. A few minutes in, I actually thought to myself, “This is actually pretty good!” By the end of the film, I had been converted completely, and I can now declare Dead & Rotting to actually be one of the best Full Moon films of the early 2000s. Maybe now I’ll have learned my lesson not to judge a movie by its title/cover, but with Full Moon movies like Magic in the Mirror: Fowl Play still on deck for review, I’m unsure if it’ll stick.

Three prankster buddies are out for a night ride in their truck, daring each other to check out a scary house in the woods rumored to be the house of a witch. Before they can get too close, though, they meet a weird, dirty man who runs them off the property by attacking the truck with some kind of animal on a stick. One thing leads to another and the witch sets out to curse the men, asking them, “Do you know what it feels like to be dead and rotting?” It’s a fairly simple, straightforward movie and it’s also short, so I’ll leave it at that. You get the gist.

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Dragonworld (1994)

Starring Courtland Mead, Alastair Mackenzie, Brittney Powell, Lila Kaye, Andrew Keir, John Calvin, Jim Dunk, John Woodvine, Janet Henfrey

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I’ve been watching the Full Moon films in a fairly random order, so I generally associate the Moonbeam films with a certain style that developed during Full Moon’s leaner years when everything was shot in Romania. I’m so accustomed to this “flavor” that I forgot entirely that the origins of Moonbeam go back to the years when Full Moon was partnered with Paramount, and as such they are much higher budgeted films. Dragonworld — the third Moonbeam film released — is one of these Paramount/Full Moon endeavors, and it’s decidedly more ambitious than pretty much every other Moonbeam film I’ve seen.

John McGowan (Courtland Mead) is a five-year-old American orphan traveling to Scotland to live with his paternal grandfather, Angus (Andrew Keir). John is scared and not entirely prepared to handle this kind of intense life change at his age. Living in a remote Scottish castle might sound like a great idea to get away from the current state of American politics for you or I, but to John it’s a bit isolating. His grandfather starts him on the path of learning the bagpipes — with the wonderful line, “Put your sadness into the music.” — and one day while practicing he wishes for a friend. Smoke billows, the earth shakes, and before you can say The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond a baby dragon emerges from this geological anomaly.

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