Buy & Cell (1987)

buyandcell_1Starring Robert Carradine, Michael Winslow, Malcolm McDowell, Lise Cutter, Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb, Ben Vereen, Tony Plana, Roddy Piper, Michael Goodwin, Fred Travalena, Mickey Knox, West Buchanan, Tony Carroll

Directed by Robert Boris

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

When a comedy opens with a suicide and it plays the scene for laughs, you know you have a tonally strange film on your hands. Buy & Cell is a hard film to get into, but once it finds its footing and kicks into the plot proper, it’s a pretty fun “Let’s stick it to the rich assholes” ’80s movie. I’d say this one is strictly for those that consider themselves ’80s aficionados, as just about everyone else will be left wondering why there’s crazy ideas like a schizophrenic character that thinks he’s a VCR (complete with rewinding himself) or how these prisoners could have an entire dance club and hot tub squirreled away in their rec room. It’s not so much a matter of “Why?” in an ’80s film, but “Why Not?”

Robert Carradine, the quintessential ’80s nerd thanks to Revenge of the Nerds, plays Herbie, an employee at a stock brokerage firm who’s been set up as a fall guy for the owner’s embezzlement of company funds. Herbie is sentenced to 13 years of hard time in the federal penitentiary, but he doesn’t go in scared or all that nervous. He knows he’s innocent, so he instead chooses to bide his time. The warden (Malcolm McDowell) is another shady asshole, asking Herbie to work for him on the side, trading stocks. Herbie refuses, but when his cellmate Sly (Michael Winslow) needs some fast cash to get out of some major debts, Herbie decides to give investment banking one more shot for the good of the prisoners. Like I said, why not?

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The Caller (1987)

lamorteavraisuoiocchiStarring Madolyn Smith Osborne, Malcolm McDowell

Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman

Expectations: Moderately high. I like Malcolm McDowell and Siedelman directed Hercules in New York!


I like movies that are cinematic. They don’t always have to be this way, but it’s always going to help if it is. Barring the last few minutes of the film, The Caller is about as far from being cinematic as is possible, as the entire film consists of two people talking to each other for 95 minutes. You might think I’m exaggerating, and in this case I wish I was. Two people. 95 minutes. Non-stop talking. It feels like a long, talky play with the production values of an ’80s TV movie. Neither of those are my thing so clearly this is a movie I was never going to like. You might like it if those things are your things, though. Maybe.

The film opens with a woman getting gas while someone in a trench coat watches her from a nearby payphone. Sounds interesting, right? Don’t be fooled. She goes home to her cabin in the woods and removes a bloody hat box from the back of her jeep. Don’t be fooled. The woman then showers and calls her daughter to tell her that she’ll be so proud of her mommy for what she’s going to do. Intrigued? Don’t be fooled.

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Stephen reviews: Fist of the North Star (1995)

Starring Gary Daniels, Malcolm McDowell, Costas Mandylor, Downtown Julie Brown, Dante Basco, Nalona Herron, Melvin Van Peebles, Clint Howard, Chris Penn, Andre Rosey Brown, Isako Washio, Paulo Tocha

Directed by Tony Randel

Now what on Earth am I doing reviewing a live-action American film, you might ask. Well, if your memory reaches back a few weeks, you might remember my review of the anime Fist of the North Star, and this is the live-action adaptation of the series, though not specifically of that 1986 film. It claims to be the first Hollywood adaptation of an anime, and in the absence of any contrary evidence, I’m not going to argue.

The use of the word “Hollywood” implies an impressive big-budget production, but that really isn’t the case. Kill Bill this ain’t. You’re also probably questioning if a live-action American film could possibly capture the spirit of an anime, especially one as absurd as Fist of the North Star. Obviously you can’t expect to see a 20-foot-tall giant turn his skin into steel and trample an entire army. And since shit like that is the main draw of the anime title, you have to go into this version with some vastly different expectations.

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