Forbidden Zone (1982)

forbiddenzoneStarring Hervé Villechaize, Susan Tyrrell, Gisele Lindley, Jan Stuart Schwartz, Marie-Pascale Elfman, Phil Gordon, Virginia Rose, Gene Cunningham, Hyman Diamond, Matthew Bright, Danny Elfman, Viva, Joe Spinell

Directed by Richard Elfman

Expectations: Moderate. I remember enjoying this quite a lot, but I’m not sure it’ll hold up on re-watch.


A lot of people throw out the term “cult movie” while talking about various films. Stuff like Escape from New York or The Princess Bride come up a fair amount, but while those films definitely cater to a specific audience I think it’s a stretch to call them cult movies. But Forbidden Zone? That shit is the real deal, Daddio, and an unsuspecting viewer would be lucky to make it past the first scene. To me, that’s the definition of a cult movie, and Forbidden Zone is one of the cultiest cult movies ever made.

So imagine a movie that opens with some introductory text about a heroin dealer mistakenly entering the 6th Dimension through a door in his basement. Upon his return, he sells the house and the Hercules family moves in. To say they’re dysfunctional is the understatement of the century. Also imagine the film’s child hero, Flash Hercules, is played by an old man in a boy scout’s uniform. As an aside, I have to wonder if Richard Elfman got this idea from watching Spanish-language comedy shows where old men regularly wear sailor suits and act like children. Anyway, one day Flash’s sister Frenchy hazards a peek into the forbidden 6th Dimension, but instead falls right into it! Flash and Grampa Hercules to the rescue!

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Maniac (1980)

Starring Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Tom Savini, Hyla Marrow

Directed by William Lustig

Expectations: High. Lustig, Savini, how can it not be good?


Sorry to those hoping for rainbows and unicorns, Maniac delivers manic thrills and nothing else. As long as you’re OK with that, and you’re down for some brutal Tom Savini FX work, then you should enjoy Maniac. It’s a unique take on the slasher film, and one that I won’t soon forget. This was William Lustig’s first legitimate film (after a few legitimate pornos), and it’s a frontrunner for the best thing I’ve seen from him. Maniac Cop and its sequel are both superb, and Vigilante is fun, but Maniac has a guerrilla quality to it that makes it seem just as seedy and grimy as the film’s main character, Frank.

The plot of Maniac is rather sparse, instead doing its best to deliver a character study of a madman. What this equates to is watching Joe Spinell stalk and brutally kill female victims for most of the movie. There’s no cops trailing him, or any real story to speak of. Even the dialogue scenes are all somewhat meaningless. This makes the film feel gratuitously sadistic, and it’s rather hard to watch at times. A slight story comes in during the second act, but even this is just a means to provide Frank with another victim, and ultimately bring us to the climax of the film. It does add some interesting situations for Frank, and ones that allow us to further explore his character, but the film still retains its initial structure. This might sound like it would be boring and hard to get through, but the film is incredibly watchable thanks to Spinell’s perfect portrayal of the madman, Lustig’s inspired direction, and Savini’s gory, ultra-realistic FX.

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Vigilante (1983)

Vigilante (1983)
AKA Street Gang, Street Fighters

Starring Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, Richard Bright, Rutanya Alda, Don Blakely, Joseph Carberry, Willie Colón, Joe Spinell, Carol Lynley, Woody Strode

Directed by William Lustig

Expectations: Moderate. I was hoping that I’d enjoy this as much as Walking the Edge.


Vigilante opens with Fred Williamson walking out of complete darkness. He has a cigar in his mouth and ominous, droning electronic music builds in the background. Then he speaks…

“Hey. I don’t know about you guys, but me, I’ve had it up to here. There are some 40-odd homicides a day on our streets. There are over two million illegal guns in this city. Man, that’s enough guns to invade a whole damn country with. They shoot a cop in our city without even thinking twice about it. Ah, come on. I mean, you guys ride the subway. How much more of this grief we gonna stand for, huh? How many more locks we gotta put on our goddamn doors? Now we ain’t got the police, the prosecutors, the courts or the prisons. I mean, it’s over. The books don’t balance. We are a statistic. Now I’m telling you… when you can’t go to the corner and buy a pack of cigarettes after dark because you know the punks and the scum own the street when the sun goes down and our own government can’t protect its own people then I say this pal, you got a moral obligation. The right of self-preservation. Now you can run, you can hide, or you can start to live like human beings again. This is our Waterloo, baby! If you want your city back… you gotta take it. Dig it? Take it!”

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Walking the Edge (1983)

Walking the Edge (1983)
AKA The Hard Way

Starring Robert Forster, Nancy Kwan, Joe Spinell, A Martinez, James McIntire, Wayne Woodson, Luis Contreras, Russ Courtney

Directed by Norbert Meisel

Expectations: Moderate. It could have gone both ways, but I love a good revenge film.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


I watched this movie for a couple of reasons. First, when I pulled the filmography of Empire International this was at the top of the list. From what I understand they distributed the film at some level, but seem to have played no part in the actual production. Charles Band is listed as an uncredited executive producer on IMDB as well. I’m not posting this in my Tuesday series, though, as it’s not a true Charles Band picture and it will appeal to a completely different set of viewers. The other reason I watched it was Robert Forster. I must admit that I didn’t know who he was until Tarantino’s Jackie Brown came out, but I was immediately a fan. His subtle nature in that film was so charming and real that I’ve wanted to check out some of his older films ever since. Well, it took 13 years but I’ve finally come around and done just that. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Walking the Edge is the type of movie that you’d see in the video store and would always walk past. It might catch your eye for a moment, but you never took it home despite thinking about it several times. There’s nothing terribly special about it upon first glance, but it reveals itself to be a very competent and enjoyable revenge film. The setup is incredibly simple. The film opens in a house where a group of thugs, led by the great Joe Spinell, hold a woman (Nancy Kwan) and her son hostage. The thugs tell her that her husband is actually a drug dealer and that they’re gonna kill him. When he arrives home, they do just that, but they also end up killing the son. Kwan runs out an open door in the confusion and escapes to take revenge on these insidious motherfuckers later on in the film.

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