Worst Movies Ever Made

Scraping the Bottom of the Cinematic Barrel

CATEGORY: Action Movies

New Trailer for Asylum actioner MERCENARIES

PrisonRaid_cropLow-budget “blockbuster” studio The Asylum may not be today’s Roger Corman outfit the way they think they are, but there’s no denying the success they’ve found churning out the likes of Sharknado, Mega Piranha and the Mega Shark vs. franchise.  When not making Nature’s Revenge pics for Syfy, they’re knocking off zero-budget versions of big-screen titles, often pre-empting those to the marketplace. The latest of these is their version of a distaff Expendables flick, taking off the Expendabelles before it even happens.

For those who have wallowed in low-budget actioners for decades now, this trailer really does hit some of the right notes, although CG explosions have replaced using stock footage or just doing them badly. And with Tarantino alumni Zoe Bell and Vivica A. Fox alongside Arnie alumni Kristanna Loken and Brigitte Nielsen, plus kung fu queen Cynthia Rothrock, all on screen, you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be settling down to Mercenaries with a giant tub of popcorn and a lot to drink!

Best Worst Spy-fi Movie Series Ever: The Matt Helm Films (1966-1969)

51YYRN45CXL_cropTitle:  The Matt Helm Collection (1966-1969)
Directed by:  Phil Karlson
Starring:  Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi,
Buy here:  Amazon UK

If Austin Powers had a favourite movie spy series it would have to be the Matt Helm movies made by Dean Martin in the 1960s. Matt was a hard-as-nails U.S. government counter-agent, hero of 27 books by Donald Hamilton. Dino played him as a lecherous, chain-smoking, permanently pickled lounge lizard who gets more crumpet than Greggs. Columbia Pictures originally planned at least five Matt Helm movies, starting with The Silencers (1966), where our hero is joined by sexy Stella Stevens on a booze-fuelled mission to prevent a baddie named The Big O (played by Batman villain Victor Buono) from creating a nuclear disaster.

Dino’s Helm is so laid back that even if a nuclear bomb went of behind him he wouldn’t drop his martini glass. He has a sexy secretary named Lovey Kravesit and a small harem of stunning ‘Slaymates’ ever ready to soap his back in his king-sized tub. He’s armed with a special gun that shoots backwards, a blade-firing camera and exploding buttons.

96JE9fN60EjjvfLiUwaOPNOw9zn_cropThis permanently sozzled superspy also has a fully stocked bar in his wood paneled station wagon so that he can get tanked up as he drives. Hey, it was the 60s, get over it and have one for the road.

Martin was 50 years old when he made his first Matt Helm flick and while he manages to bed every sexy woman he meets he’s not so energetic in the action scenes, But there aren’t that many of them here anyway. The critics hated this movie but Dino had the last laugh, it made a fortune at the box office and he ended up with a bigger payday than Sean Connery got from playing James Bond in the same year’s Thunderball!

Martin was back as Helm the very same year in Murderers Row (1966). The film was supposed to have been released in 1967 but Columbia’s big Christmas release, Casino Royale, was mired in production problems so the Helm pic took its place as a Yuletide treat.

Silencers-startled-Stella_cropThis second movie in the series saw our lackadaisical hero bedding sexy Ann-Margret and trying to stop her evil dad Karl Malden (who changes his accent in every scene) from melting Washington DC with his “helio-beam.” Dino didn’t exactly knock himself out making this one. He refused to travel for Europe to do any location filming, and therefore a good proportion of the movie involves the use of an unconvincing double!

Murderer’s Row took a tip from James Bond’s You Only Live Twice and opened with Dino supposedly being murdered in his bathtub, leading to an amusing scene where his countless girlfriends all turn up to his funeral in the same outfits. The fashions here are 60s kitsch at its craziest, and again Dino is obviously just playing himself, making jokes about fellow rat-packer Frank Sinatra and knocking back whisky on the rocks as he drives. The film features a bad musical number from the pop group ‘Dino, Desi & Billy’. One member is Dean Martin’s son, and we know this because he calls out “Hi Dad!”

The gadgets here include a gun with a delayed action, so that when a baddie uses it and it doesn’t go off they inevitably look down the barrel and… that’s their lot. Cunning.

The Ambushers came next in 1967, with more off-colour jokes, scantily-clad females and plenty of lovable sexism from Dino. Meeting one well-endowed female secret agent Helm comments: “When you say you’re a ‘38’ you ain’t just kidding.”

“It’s not a gun, Mr. Helm,” she replies. “It’s the new weapon they gave me, developed right here in our labs.”

“Developed pretty well, too!” says our man with a wink to camera.

The plot of this one had Dino traveling to Mexico to retrieve a flying saucer stolen by a rogue beer manufacturer! At one point the baddies try to kill Helm by chucking him into a huge vat of ale. How daft is that? The guy who has been thrown in with him glugs frantically that he can’t swim, and Dino coolly advises him: “Drink your way to the bottom.”

Amazingly The Ambushers made a big profit at the box office and so the Helm bandwagon rolled on with The Wrecking Crew (1969). This time our hard-drinking hero linked up with sexy Sharon Tate (a tragic victim of the Manson murders only a few months after this hit cinemas) to save the world’s economy from the meltdown that seems imminent when dastardly crime baron Nigel Green hijacks $1 billion in gold.

Chuck Norris turns up in a small role and Columbia hired Bruce Lee to train Sharon for her kung fu fight with sexy Nancy Kwan – the undoubted highlight of the film. Otherwise it’s all extremely lame, with very tacky production values – at one point Dino lands on a lawn and it bounces!

While The Wrecking Crew was utter rubbish it was not much worse than previous entries, and the only reason it became the final entry in the series was because Dean Martin himself decided to call it a day.

It is believed that he was so distraught over the murder of his Wrecking Crew co-star and friend Sharon Tate that he abandoned the next already-announced Matt Helm motion picture series installment (to be titled The Ravagers), and never played the character again, though there was a short-lived TV series in the 70s starring Anthony Franciosa in the part.

If you’re a fan of Dino himself or maybe just of really trashy 60s spy flicks with swinging chicks and groovy tunes then you’ll probably get a kick out of the Matt Helm movies despite their ineptitude. All four movies are available as a box set from Amazon. Pour yourself a large martini and enjoy.

Worst Movies Ever: Black Dawn (2005)

81YRtDeOkkL_SL1500_cropBlack Dawn (2005)
Directed by:  Alexander Gruszynski
Starring:  Steven Seagal, Tamara Davies, John Pyper-Ferguson, Andrew Stevens, Ryan Bollman, Julian Stone, Don Franklin
Buy From:  Amazon UK

Normally we would recommend vast quantities of extra strong beer to keep your viewing faculties finely tuned while watching really bad movies, but when crank this Steven Seagal flick up for some late night viewing, only one drink will do.

We’re talking, of course, about Master Seagal’s Lightning Bolt!

Yes, Lightning Bolt is indeed the one and only energy drink crafted by martial arts expert and herbal specialist Seagal. With a healthy dosing of Tibetan Goji Berry, Asian Cordyceps, B-Vitamins, Green Tea, Yerba Mate, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, Guarana, and Policosanols, Lightning Bolt will give you the strength you need to punch your adversary’s faces through plate glass windows day in and day out!

We love the names that Seagal comes up with for his characters. Here he plays Jonathan Cold, ex-CIA, now freelance and specialising in covert operations and nuclear weapons intelligence. B#$$er me, who’d let Steve near an atom bomb?!

“You see, in this business,” he says sagely, “the keys to the kingdom is weapons-grade plutonium. If you ain’t got that, you ain’t got shit.” Viewers will agree that this film is nothing but weapons grade throughout. Big Steve actually left the film 18 days into a 30-day shoot, leaving the rest of the work to his stunt double, so nothing new there.

cerny-usvitAt the start Stevie appears to be a bad guy because he’s hired to break a terrorist out of prison and help him get the parts for a suitcase bomb. Meanwhile, some Chechen terrorists have been doing robberies to get enough money to buy the bomb and detonate it in Los Angeles. But it turns out Steve is a top secret undercover agent for the CIA and when the terrorists find out he has betrayed them and surround him with guns and stuff, he just shrugs and says, “S#!t happens, y’know?”

That could sum up his whole career.

Jonathan Cold also appeared in Seagal’s 2003 The Foreigner, and s#!t happened there too. Coincidence?

blkdw_stl_16_hThere’s some clever product placement in this movie, by the way. In one scene Seagal is driving round and you can see McDonalds french fries and a Big Mac wrapper on his dashboard. At the end the suitcase bomb is activated and Seagal has three minutes to get it out of town before it explodes. Since it usually takes him that long to walk down a single flight of steps, it’s a tense moment. But he manages to nick a helicopter and dump the bomb in the drink. “We could be glowin in the dark for a while,” he grins as the radiation washes over him like a soothing Radox bath.

The message is simple: Drink Lightning Bolt and eat at McDonalds and you can survive a nuclear holocaust.

Best Worst Movies Ever: Mr. No Legs (1979)

THE AMAZING MR NO LEGS_cropMr. No Legs (1979)
Directed by:  Ricou Browning
Starring:  Richard Jaeckel, Ron Slinker, Lloyd Bochner, Joie Chitwood, John Agar, Ted Vollrath, Rance Howard, Courtney Brown, Joan Murphy, Luke Halpin, Suhaila, Billy Blue River, Templeton Fox, Jack Belt, Beverly Shade.
Buy/Watch Here:  YouTube

I first spotted this movie on the top shelf at my local video shop back in the early 80s and quickly grabbed the case, only to be told that somebody had nicked the actual video itself so I couldn’t take it out on rental! Two decades later a friend (who may have been the guy who nicked it, for all I know) lent me a copy. Was it worth the wait? Ask Godot.

What we have here is what Ironside could have been like if Raymond Burr had been a badass motherfudger who had double-barrelled shotguns fixed to each arm of his wheelchair. Shot in Florida by people who should have been shot in Florida, it’s about a gang of drug smugglers whose main enforcer is the ruthless Mr. No Legs, so called not because he drinks too much, but because, having lost said limbs in an explosion, he now wheels round town wasting cops and fellow crims alike from a motorised and heavily tooled-up wheelchair. Just try nicking this bad boy’s disabled parking space and see what happens!

4No Legs (played by real-life amputee Ron Slinker) is the main enforcer for suave crime boss Hart Bochner, an equal opportunity employer who’s making a fortune smuggling cocaine capsules inside Cuban cigars. Like many wheelchair-bound folk, No Legs is fed up with being pushed around, and he determines to bump Bochner off and take over his narcotics empire. But Bochner is also getting worried about No Legs’ cold-blooded methods and so he orders a bunch of his heavies to dispose of the threat.

Meanwhile, honest cops Ted Vollrath – who has the biggest moustache in the precinct – and Richard Jaeckel (never-aging star of The Green Slime) investigate the death of the former’s sister, which eventually leads them to uncover a crooked cop who is feeding vital info to Bochner. This also puts their lives in danger from the man in the deadly wheelchair…

mr-no-legs-titreDirector Ricou Browning is best known for having played the Creature From The Black Lagoon in the 1953 classic, and here he stages the action scenes – including a bar fight involving midgets and trannies – as if they were taking place underwater. There’s a car chase at the end that goes on so long you could pop down the shops for some groceries and it would still be playing when you get back.

It’s bad movie gold, full of dodgy 70s fashions and horrible song interludes from a gruesome easy-listening duo called Mercy (who wouldn’t have appeared at all if they’d lived up to their name). There’s some cool dialogue though; spotting a black guy in mile-high platforms with matching earrings, Jaeckel comments, “He could be a pusher…” to which his partner wryly replies, “He’s a pusher all right, but what he’s pushing you stroke, you don’t smoke!” Right on, brother.

shotgunsOf course the real drawing card is No Legs himself, whose big moment comes when he’s set upon by six hard nuts while relaxing by a swimming pool with his well-stacked moll. Things just don’t get any better for aficionados of legless martial arts as he disposes of his small army of attackers, using the throwing stars attached to his wheel hubs and some nifty limbless judo to batter one guy into submission with his stumps! It’s a shame after all this that he gets bumped off so easily at the end, but when you hear “million-selling pop group” Mercy’s brain-rotting song over the end titles, you’ll realise he was wise to make an early exit!

Worst Movies Ever: Driven To Kill (2009)

driventokill2d_cropDriven To Kill (2009)
Directed by:  Jeff King
Starring:  Steven Seagal, Mike Dopud, Igor Jijikine, Robert Wisden, Inna Korobkina, Zak Santiago, Alexander Rafalski
Buy Here:  Amazon UK

Say what you like about Steven Seagal, the man is a bad movie legend. Industrious, too; by the time he made Driven To Kill, the pony-tailed slow-fu legend had gotten so busy that he had to be driven around killing people rather than doing it the old fashioned way, by foot.

The original title of the film was Ruslan, which is the name of the character that Big Steve portrays, a real hard nut who smacks a bloke’s nose flat into his face just for bumping into him in a bar. Spill Ruslan’s pint and you’re going to be wearing your bum for a hat. One of the bad guys sums his act up most eruditely when he says: “This f#@king guy’s crazy!” But is he as crazy as us when we keep renting his movies? We doubt it.

As always Big Steve is a man of few words, most of them inaudible. He wears his usual big leather coat and the spray-painted hair has got blacker over the years. As reformed Russian mobster-turned crime novelist Ruslan Drachev, he starts off speaking in a weird kind of Russian accent, which disappears and then comes back again at random. Everyone who meets him seems to say, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” But they don’t finish the sentence with… “You’re like that bloke from Under Siege, only fatter.” Not if they know what’s good for them, anyway.

driven-to-kill-original1_cropThe plot has Steve returning to his old urban stomping grounds to celebrate the wedding of his daughter, who is getting married to the milksop son of one of his most hated former rivals. He doesn’t want any trouble, but puts a couple of punk bystanders in the hospital just to prove the old slo-fu skills are still there.

This is the kind of movie where the moment you meet a character you know whether they are a nasty bastard or a victim in waiting. The slimy Defence Attorney who is his ex-wife’s new hubby is obviously both. As is Steve’s hard-faced rival, who shoots the ear off one of his henchmen when the unlucky lad screws up.

Anyway, the wedding doesn’t go off as plan because a bunch of mobsters turn up and murder his wife, leaving his daughter barely clinging to life. This is not a wise thing to do, even to an overweight Steve. The camera closes in for a Sergio Leone-like close-up of his bulging eyes and he looks like Boris Karloff in The Mummy, only meaner. “Those who did this will cry tears of blood,” says someone. No s#!t, Sherlock.

He manages to persuade the lady cop in charge of the case to pretend that his daughter is dead, and then sets out on a revenge trail that leaves bodies everywhere. Most of the action involves very loud gun battles where the baddies fire a million bullets from about three feet away and miss Steve, who somehow manages to duck his huge bulk behind something. Then when they’ve had their go he jumps up and shoots back, making every bullet count. They always manage to run out of ammo at the same time so that the main baddie of the bunch can take on Steve in hand to hand combat the inevitably ends with said punk getting his own balls for earrings.

8044_2_cropThe use of music in this film is a hoot. One of the big fights has really loud heavy metal going on, but mostly we get some kind of crazy Russian polka, which adds an unintentional comedy element.  We’ll pass on buying the soundtrack album, which is probably only available on cassette anyway.

In his pursuit of vengeance Steve goes to a sleazy night club, where he and the bad guy’s son share a private room with a stripper just to put a bit of sex into the proceedings, though our hero looks like he’s really embarrassed about being there. “This place has lots of interesting bad guys,” he says. Then they turn up and he kicks their goolies into orbit.

The big showdown is reserved for a strangely under populated hospital where the daughter is being guarded by the cops. The Russian mobster turns up er, mob-handed, and Seagal despatches his goons in best Die Hard style, eventually going mano-a-mano with his old arch enemy. Steve was probably sitting on the sidelines typing his latest novel while this was going on because it’s obvious a stunt double has been employed. It should be noted, however, that he does actually run in one scene, for a good ten seconds anyway. We’ll be back soon with a review of Steve’s next film, Driven To Burger King.

Ten of the Worst Box Office Flops Ever

51I64Byt3jL_cropDanny Dyer’s recent movie Run For Your Wife only managed to muster a box office take of just over six hundred quid in its brief and very misguided theatrical run, but since it looked like it only cost about five hundred quid to make the producers probably weren’t suicidal. Danny wasn’t too worried either, since he was pulling pints in the Queen Vic by then.

There are some movies, however, which have so much dosh poured into making them that if they flop they can completely ruin the careers of their directors and stars, and even in some instances bankrupt the studio that backed them – as was the case with the bloated 1980 western epic Heaven’s Gate. United Artists rolled the dice on this one and they came up snake eyes.

Heaven’s Gate director, Michael Cimino, was on a roll after the success of The Deer Hunter, but he basically pissed on his chips (as they say in Tinsel Town, well Vinnie Jones does) overspending by $30 million and shooting 220 hours of footage to come up with what was called “an unqualified disaster” by respected New York Times critic Vincent Canby. Astute Vince also compared Heaven’s Gate to “a forced four-hour walking tour of one’s own living room.”

51yHeIaUDYL_cropIronically the movie was later praised by the likes of Martin Scorsese, but by that time UA was no more and a reconstructed Michael Cimino had salvaged what little was left of his reputation to team up with fellow plastic surgery fan Mickey Rourke on Year of the Dragon and The Desperate Hours. Kelly Lynch was one of the stars of the latter and recently revealed that Cimino wanted her to look like a drag queen in the film. “I didn’t know at the time that Michael was kind of … interested in dressing like a woman,’ she said. If only UA had known earlier that they were basically giving a shitload of cash to a modern day Ed Wood!

Another film that dragged a big studio to the wall and lined up the firing squad was Cutthroat Island (1995), which effectively put an end to Carolco, the company behind Rambo, The Terminator and Total Recall. Production problems spiralled the cost of this Geena Davis pirate epic to an estimated $115 million and Carolco got jolly rogered. It certainly put Hollywood off pirate pictures for a while, until Disney wisely signed up Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Speaking of Disney, they have also made more than their share of megaflops in their time, which I suppose is appropriate for a Mickey Mouse outfit. John Carter (2012) wasn’t exactly a terrible movie, but it would have needed to make more than $600 million at the box office to repay its bloated budget. Only 63 movies have done this in the history of moviemaking, and John Carter wasn’t even in the race.

The failure of John Carter followed hot on the heels of Disney dropping even more filthy lucre on Mars Needs Moms (2011), an animated feature that proved the biggest box office failure in the company’s entire history. Walt’s accountants will probably now steer well clear of films with Mars in the title, but if I was them I‘d be asking how an animated film can cost $150 million to make and distribute in the first place!

81rrnkpeLHL_SL1500_cropThe strange thing is, nobody really knows when a movie is going to bomb at the boxoffice any more than they do when it is going to be a massive success. Look at the way Spielberg nearly got fired from Jaws, and even the stars of that one, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, went to the preview screening thinking they were going to be witnessing a big budget disaster.

There’s also a famous story that when George Lucas showed his director mate Brian De Palma (Carrie) an early cut of Star Wars, De Palma told him it was bound to be a flop. Lucas became so convinced it would that he went on holiday to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg instead of attending the premiere.

The problem with blockbusters today is that it isn’t just the lolly that’s spent making them that disappears down the U-bend. You’ve got to add the many millions more spent on promoting them and all the tie-in tat flooding the market that nobody then wants to buy. Even George Lucas is not always on the money – remember Howard the Duck?

Nobody is surprised when a film that’s utter rubbish proves a loser at the box office, but sometimes even good movies can flop if they’re not marketed correctly. In many cases however these will recoup their losses on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download. A good case in point is 2012’s excellent and vastly underrated Dredd, which earned $41 million at the box office on a budget of $44 million, but earned so much money on home video that a sequel now seems likely.

Brad Pitt’s World War Z is another great example of a film that was expected to tank and duly did so, even though it wasn’t half as bad as we were all expecting. In the end, with home video sales factored in, it has gone on to earn a tasty $540 million against a production budget of $190 million, again prompting demands for a sequel.

What will be the biggest financial disaster of 2014? It’s a bit early to say, but Hollywood pundits are already predicting box office meltdown for the $150 million Jupiter Ascending, the new science fiction epic from the Wachowski Brothers, er I mean the Wachowski brother and sister.

Apart from the fact that their last movie, Cloud Atlas, ended up with red ink on the balance sheet, and their 2008 Speed Racer left skid marks in the underpants of Hollywood studio bosses, there are two further clues this might be a disaster… Firstly, the film was originally going to be released this July, and now it has been delayed until February of next year. Secondly, it stars Channing Tatum.

Similarly, great things are not predicted for the $125 million Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, produced by Michael Bay and directed by the guy who gave us Wrath of the Titans (2012) and Battle: Los Angeles (2011). It stars Megan Fox, presumably because Meryl Streep wasn’t available. If this turns out to be a good movie, the pizzas are on me. As far as I can see it could very well figure prominently on the list below if we update it in 2015.



1.  Heaven’s Gate (1980); estimated loss:  $120,953,664



2.  Mars Needs Moms (2011); estimated loss:  $130,503,621



3.  The Lone Ranger (2013); est. loss:  $95,926,537—121,237,25



4.  Speed Racer (2008); est. loss:  $73,027,117



5.  The 13th Warrior (1999); estimated loss:  $97,896,514—182,838,584




6.  The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002); estimated loss:  $96,448,014



7.  Cutthroat Island (1995); estimated loss:  $88,741,339



8.  R.I.P.D. (2013); estimated loss:  $90,837,890—114,837,890



9.  John Carter (2012); estimated loss:  $108,610,950



10.  47 Ronin (2014); estimated loss:  $149,518,762

Gymkata (1985) – Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani

Gymkata (1985)
Directed by: Robert Clouse
Starring: Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Richard Norton, Buck Kartalian, Bob Schott, Edward Bell, Zlatko Pokupec, John Barrett, Eric Lawson, Slobodan Dimitrijevic, Conan Lee, Sonny Barnes, Tadashi Yamashita


Decent form. I give it a 9.4.

Hey, did you know that Parmistan is a tiny mountain nation in the middle of the Hindu Kush range? I guess it’s so tiny that you can’t even find it on Google Maps. No matter, the important thing here is that Olympic champion gymnast Jonathan Cabot has been given an urgent assignment by the United States government: travel to Parmistan, take part in “The Game,” and win a chance to place an American “Star Wars” satellite station there to warn the U.S. of any Russian attack. All in a days work for a dude who utilizes a “subtle blend of the martial arts of the east and the fighting skills of the west. Karate and … his own special gymnastics.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Gymkata.

Arriving right smack in the middle of the 1980s, Gymkata could be compared to other Reagan-era action thrillers like Rambo. It could be, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you. Better to compare Gymkata to those other cold war era “movies” like Megaforce. Plotwise, the film is similar to some other features directed by Robert Clouse, including Enter the Dragon, where the star has to survive some kind of deadly tournament. Remember that by this time everybody loved martial arts (The Karate Kid was a success the year before; Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris were favorites.) Also note that the 1984 summer olympics had just taken place in Los Angeles, with the USA taking home 83 gold medals. Kurt Thomas was already an impressive gymnast and had earned six medals at the World Championships in 1979. He was favored to win some gold at the 1980 olympics, but as you recall, Jimmy Carter boycotted the Moscow games that year because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In any case, Thomas was good enough to have two moves named after him, including the “Thomas Flair,” and the “Thomas salto,” which is to this day an extremely dangerous move to perform.

Where the hell am I going with this? Oh yeah, somebody at MGM thought it would be an awesome idea to make an action movie starring Thomas as some kind of U.S. spy named Jonathan Cabot who knows karate and gymnastics and can combine them both into a lethal form of combat. (Try not to laugh at the trailer to Gymkata, where the serious narrator explains how Kurt Thomas becomes Jonathan Cabot! Right, I can’t think of anyone else to play the immortal character of Jonathan Cabot, can you?) At the very beginning of the movie, we see Cabot’s dad taking part in a deadly tournament, or race… aw, hell, let’s just call it a most dangerous game, shall we? He’s shot by an arrow and presumably falls to his death. Our next scene finds Cabot winning a gymnastic competition of some sort and then being whisked away to a mountain retreat, where a special agent named Paley (Edward Bell) informs him of his mission, as I described above. You just have to assume that the CIA makes use of lots of gymnasts as assets; Cabot doesn’t seem surprised at all about his assignment, as if he’s done this before. Training for the Parmistan mission includes doing a walking handstand up some stairs, where the camera helpfully centers on Thomas’ crotch. Wow, thanks, Gymkata!

Gymktata Crotch Shot

Helping out, somehow, is Princess Rubali (the very cute Tetchie Agbayani) who doesn’t say a word but does like to physically abuse Cabot, which of course means that they’ll fall in love quickly. Rubali knows all about “The Game”, being the daughter of The Khan of Parmistan (Buck Kartalian, who reminds me of Mel Brooks cross-bred with Albert Einstein). Agbayani is from the Philippines, Kartalian is from Detroit. Can’t you see the resemblance? Oh, and about the princess, Paley has this to say about her: “Interesting background. Her mother was Indonesian!”

That’s it? She’s interesting because her mother was Indonesian? Well… ok.

Khan and Princess

Ask the Khan to tell you about his little trip to Indonesia 20 years ago…

Complicating things is Zamir (Richard Norton), the earring-wearing, dishonorable assistant to the Khan who secretly intends to overthrow him and sell the country out to the Ruskies. Khan has no idea about Zamir’s intentions or the fact that an army is being assembled to overthrow him, nor does he believe it, even though it seems common knowledge to everybody but him. By the way, Norton is Australian. I’m starting to like this Parmistan, a country where anyone in the world, no matter their ethnicity, can easily participate in savage rituals and oppress the local populace. Now that’s diversity!

After his training, Cabot and Rubali travel to Karabal… on the Caspian sea, which is mentioned a few times before a helpful title card drives the point home. They meet up with a local guy named Mackle (Zlatko Pokupec), who flubs his lines a lot, but director Clouse didn’t consider it worthy of a retake. A truly funny scene takes place in the market, where a shopkeeper throws water on Cabot, saying “Yankee, go home!” One of Cabot’s assistants says something like “Well, there’s just a little anti-American sentiment running around, but I think…” and then that guy gets an arrow in the chest! Beautiful. After some “Gymkata” action, Rubali is kidnapped, so Cabot travels to the mansion of the lead terrorist guy named Tamerlane, or something. Apparently, he’s working for Zamir, but just like our hero, everybody operates on a need-to-know basis, and Gymkata has decided that the audience really doesn’t need to know.

Gymkata Anti-American Sentiment

Hey guys! Uh, say, is there an arrow in my chest?

Cabot rescues Rubali, which involves finding a pole stuck between two walls which conveniently allows him to use his gymnastic skills to defeat his attackers (he even kicks one innocent guy by accident). I’ll discuss the convenient placement of gymnastics equipment in a minute. After the rescue, the pair find out that Mackle is a traitor (is there anybody who doesn’t work for Zamir?) but Paley shows up and saves the day (maybe the CIA should send Paley into Parmistan instead). After a trek into Parmistan (including a nice whitewater rapids experience!) they are attacked by ninjas (such a nice welcome for Parmistanian royalty, eh?) and Cabot wakes up in bed being fawned over by an ugly woman with no teeth or tongue. He is prepared for the royal banquet, where the Khan announces Rubali’s marriage to Zamir (doh!). As if that’s not enough of a disappointment for Cabot, his idol Thorg shows up (“Is Thorg gonna be here? Let’s hope he makes it.” “Thorg! I’ve admired you since Munich!”) The big, lumbering Thorg (sounds like “thug” get it?) just ignores Cabot, like those ungrateful actors who don’t want you bothering them in public with your stupid camera.

A word about “The Game.” Basically, it’s an obstacle course where a bunch of contestants are sent out and have to make it through difficult levels, like climbing up a cliff, crawling over a gorge, and passing through the “Village of the Crazies” (a walled city where Parmistan sends all its criminally insane – how humane). The contestants really don’t have much of a chance, since their pursuers are all armed with bows and arrows and most of them aren’t fond of following the (admittedly loose) rules anyway. I should mention that Parmistan is overflowing with ninjas (or at least, idiots wearing silly ninja costumes). Some Central Asian countries have an excess of natural gas or oil reserves; Parmistan cranks out ninjas from every nook and cranny. Some of these guys are given special instructions – they are to hold flags and point the way throughout the course, in case the game players lose their way. There’s even a ninja flag guy at the bottom of the gorge – thankless job, indeed. I mean, why have a flag ninja at the bottom of the gorge? Is it because of the nice view of falling bodies? Or in case one of them gets up and needs to find his way back?

Flag Ninja

“Oh, which way do I go? Thanks….”

By the way, Zamir is an idiot. He knows how easy it is to just pick people off with bows and arrows, but he never thinks to use one on Cabot. Cabot climbs up a rope, so Zamir puts a torch to it, instead of doing the smart thing and shooting an arrow in his back. Cabot crosses a rope over a gorge, and Zamir cuts the rope, instead of doing the smart thing… well, you get where I’m coming from.

If there’s one funny thing to take away from Gymkata, it would be the sound effects. I assume I should blame Richard Dwan Jr. (yes, I’m calling you out, sound man!), with all the forceful footsteps and swooshes and hard landings of human bodies on ground and wanton destruction of numerous sides of beef. I mean seriously, did Dwan Jr. just bring his recording equipment into a meat packing plant for a day or what?

If there are two funny things to take away from Gymkata, the second would be the fact that the ‘Stan villages in this movie have all been organized so that olympic gymnasts would have the most comfortable time defending themselves from danger. As I described earlier, one walled city happens to have a high bar set up in an alleyway, which is perfect for Kurt Thomas to swing around on and kick at the bad guys with. The main event happens when Cabot makes it to the village of the crazy people, where somebody was “crazy enough” to setup a pommel horse right in the center of town. Naturally, Kurt Thomas uses it to defend himself with extreme hilarity against the onslaught of psychopaths, who haven’t figured out that it would be better to rush him all at once instead of approaching him one at a time. Well, they are crazy.

Gymkata Pommel horse

The result of Sochi’s $50 billion spending spree.

How can a village of crazy people even survive as a village? One villager is just mildly frustrated during battle, so he cuts his own arm off. This is not a group of people who would be able to run a marketplace, or grow food, or run a government. They’re great at laughing hysterically through. Also good at acting possessed.

After the pommel horse fight, Robert Clouse drops everything into slow motion for a few minutes, I guess because he thought that was creepy. Turns out that it’s just really boring and pointless.

Then there’s more stupid as Cabot is rescued by his father, who was previously seen shot with an arrow and falling into the gorge. But fortunately “the trees along the way broke my fall!” Uh, yeah, but if you take a look at the gorge, you’ll noticed that there aren’t any trees! Doesn’t matter, only a few minutes of the father/son reunion pass before Zamir puts an arrow into daddy’s back (which is what he should have done to Cabot ages ago).

So now Cabot has all this baggage heaped onto his short-but-muscular stature: Win for Dad! Win for Princess Rubali! Win for the USA!

Which, of course, he does. Using GYMKATA!

Gymkata Alley Gunfight

Parmistan thugs are easily distracted by bottles. Just strategically place them and then run away.

In the end, Zamir is crushed between Kurt Thomas’ thighs and his army of traitors are defeated by the Khan (with help from a catsuit-wearing Rubali, and the villagers themselves, who are obviously so happy living a Medieval existence under a despot, they’ll do whatever the Khan tells them to).

With Cabot victorious, a title card informs us that the first early warning station for the Star Wars program was placed in Parmistan. What it doesn’t tell you is that a year later Parmistan underwent a bloody civil war and was partitioned into Yakistan, Mallastan, and the Parmistanian Republic. The satellite station now operates as a low-powered, local UHF station which broadcasts old Bollywood films late at night.

- Bill Gordon

Buy Gymkata on DVD
Gymkata on Amazon Streaming

Fun things to spot in Gymkata:

  • All Parmistanians speak English, except for the occasional chant of “YakMalla!” which loosely translates to “May your ninja flags not be soiled and the village pommel horse stay strong and sturdy.”
  • Cabot’s weird fascination with Thorg. “I’ve admired you since Munich!”
  • Missed opportunity: why didn’t the Russians send a champion? Instead we get “Thorg”?
  • Head-scratchers: the “two-face” guy in the crazy village and the weird monk with exposed-rear-end
    weird guy with two faces

    The Burger King is finally defeated.

  • Watch closely around 36:35 in – Zamir’s horse knocks a poor extra down. An accident, surely, but Clouse couldn’t be bothered to remove it.
    Gymkata horse knocks guy down
  • Fun fact: the banning of this film in Finland is probably due to their “neutral” status during the cold war (since the movie makes references to the Star Wars system, a very controversial topic at the time). Although somebody at IMDB said, “The Finnish are easily offended by inappropriate placement of pommel horses.”
  • Even though the film’s politics are pro-American (since the hero is American and our “mission” to place a satellite station in Parmistan was a success), there’s a line in there that could be considered a slight jab at Reagan’s foreign policy. Cabot remarks on his contact Mackle being in the tour business, and how all his boats and busses are “compliments of the American taxpayer.” “It figures” says Cabot.
  • For some reason, Kurt Thomas never became an action star like the studio wanted. He has done two movies since – a TV movie and a Spanish film – both so obscure that I’m surprised they have IMDB entries. Still, he can do the Thomas salto. Can you do that? I didn’t think so.
  • This flick is based on a book called The Terrible Game by Dan Tyler Moore. Terrible game…. terrible movie. Makes sense.
Visit Beautiful Parmistan

When in Central Asia be sure to visit beautiful Parmistan!

Samurai Cop (1991) – Amir Shervan, Robert Z’Dar

Samurai Cop (1991)
Directed by: Amir Shervan
Starring: Matt Hannon, Mark Frazer, Robert Z’Dar, Jannis Farley, Dale Cummings, Melissa Moore, Gerald Okamura, Krista Lane, Joselito Rescober

Matt Hannon and Mark Frazer

My fists are weapons and… oh, you shot him. That’s cool.

Persian director Amir Shervan only had about 10 films to his name, but in the universe of bad cinema, he has amassed quite a following. After the Iranian Revolution, he moved to Cali and directed some astonishingly bad action films from 1987 to 1992, some of which are not available anywhere (yet). One of these films, Samurai Cop, has recently been released in a restored version for DVD. (Thanks?) Samurai Cop is your basic ripoff of Lethal Weapon, except that the Mel Gibson role goes to a non-acting slice of beefcake named Matt Hannon and Danny Glover’s part is filled in by a guy named Mark Frazer, who was good enough that he landed the part of “Young Technician” in the Lois & Clark pilot and an uncredited bit in Red Dwarf. Hey, that’s better than the awkward, bug-eyed Hannon, who never landed anything after this (I can’t imagine why). Oh yeah, the rest of Samurai Cop is a laugh-a-minute cheesefest where every single thing – from car chases to shootouts to sword fights to comedy bits to sex scenes – is done in the most inept manner possible. Think about the acting in a typical 80s porn movie; this film ranks slightly below that. Reader, you are warned.

As the movie begins, we are introduced to Yamashita, played by the Z-movie favorite, aggressively chinned Robert Z’Dar (Maniac Cop, Dragonfight, and many other bad films too numerous to list here). Yamashita is part of the Katana gang, making a name for itself in Los Angeles. The movie hits the ground running with the hilarity, as adult film star Krista Lane (masquerading here as “Cameron”) stands there awkwardly, announcing the entrance of the boss, Mr. Fujiyama (announcing his presence and hopping in the sack with Bob Z’Dar is all she does in this flick – but that’s gotta be at least as humiliating as anything she does in Captain Hooker & Peter Porn). When this mustache-wearing, mullet-sporting Japanese man enters the frame, you would be forgiven for thinking he’s simply another henchman. Well, surprise… he’s actually the gang’s boss. By the way, Fujiyama is played by… just a minute, I know I have the cast list here somewhere. Hmmm, nothing on IMDB… nothing in the beginning credits… nothing in the end credits either. Certainly he should get top billing on a poster or something… nope, not there. That’s right folks, nobody knows who he is. I have seen articles stating that Fujiyama is played by Joselito Rescober, who does get a mention in the opening credits of the film, but all evidence points to Rescober (who is an M.D. by the way) playing only a small part – the effeminate restaurant waiter (who tells our leads about a guy’s suicide and seems to find it funny).

Many Faces of Mark Frazer

“I am perpetually amused by this crazy caucasian partner of mine!”

Anyway back to our story: Joe Marshall (Hannon) is recruited from the San Diego police force to bring the Katana gang down. His nickname is “Samurai” and apparently he studied with the masters in Japan. He speaks fluent Japanese, despite his inability to correctly pronounce Fujiyama’s name upon first meeting. The first action sequence is a horribly done car chase scored to a really bad approximation of one of Harold Faltermeyer’s themes used in Beverly Hills Cop. Officer Peggy (Melissa Moore), piloting a helicopter, is called in to help spot the bad guys as they make a drug deal by the docks, but she never actually seems to do anything worthwhile. In fact, if you pay attention to the scenes on the dock, you’ll notice that there’s no chopper for miles. Where did she go? In any case, Joe seems to be on good terms with her, as evidenced by this little nugget of dialogue:

Peggy: “Keep it up!
Joe: “It’s up and ready, you just keep it warm!
Peggy: “Its warm and ready!

After a (thankfully brief) sex scene between Moore and Hannon, we are back with the gang again:

Fujiyama: “So they call him Samurai, huh?!
Yamashita: “Yes, his name is Joe Marshall. They call him Samurai.

So, they call him “Samurai.” Is that what they call him? Anyhow, Fujiyama doesn’t like his henchmen getting captured alive, so he sends Yamashita to the local hospital to take the injured guy out. Krista Lane pretends to be a nurse, just “changing the trash” but hiding in that cart (somehow) is Yamashita, who collects the henchmen’s head by “sawing” it off with his katana blade. By the way, in case you are wondering:

Frank: “What does ‘Katana’ mean?
Joe: “It means ‘Japanese sword.’

So now you know. And knowing is half the battle, the “battle” being to keep from dying of laughter as you sit through this cinematic disaster.

Samurai Cop has a decent following, as is the case with many so-bad-it’s-good movies. A few key scenes show you why. The first one takes place in the hospital, where Joe flirts with a nurse. Why don’t we just let the scene speak for itself:

While you are digesting that, take a look at this other “classic” scene from Samurai Cop, taking place in a restaurant where Joe and Frank harass the gang:

“Precious millions deposited in secret Swiss bank accounts!” That’s comedy gold.

A few things occurred to me while watching Samurai Cop. The first was that every character (hero or villain) is incompetent. After the harassment in the restaurant, Yamashita actually follows Joe and Frank outside, and sends thugs armed with swords and guns to kill them, right in the parking lot! Then Yamashita pulls out a machine gun – remember, this is broad daylight behind a restaurant – and fires upon our heroes (he also takes out his own wounded men). So, first off, your gang isn’t going to last very long if you keep killing off your own men! That’s not really good for morale or recruitment, if you know what I mean. But it seems to me that Z’Dar takes out more of his own gang than the cops that are his mortal enemies. The other problem is that at this point, Yamashita has made himself a wanted man and every cop in the city should come down on him and the gang, but nobody does a damn thing. Instead, Joe and Frank go back to headquarters to get chewed out by their captain (Dale Cummings) who is just sick of their shit (with all the dead bodies piling up) and is very close to having a coronary. (Cummings’ performance is quite funny.)

Jannis Farley and lion head

Wall-mounted lion head stares into your soul. (Cue Moonlight Sonata)

Then beefcake-with-hair visits Fujiyama’s blonde girlfriend Jennifer (Jannis Farley), tries to pick her up, and fails miserably. The scene between them is so very awkward, and the extremely strange lion’s head on the wall next to her (staring straight into the camera) doesn’t help matters. She resists his advances (“I’m busy with my restaurant… I have church on Sunday!”) and at this point Mr. Samurai Cop is looking like a creepy stalker (he confirms it when he actually shows up at her church).

From then on, Samurai Cop turns into a series of action set pieces, where the cops take down a gang member, and the gang tries to take out the cops, and the cycle repeats. There are gunfights after gunfights, and each successive one has a curious effect of inducing more ennui rather than excitement. You should understand that everything done in this movie – chase scenes, dramatic scenes, martial arts, shootouts, 80s electronic score – are done in the most amateurish way possible. Shervan basically takes an action scene – like a car chase or sword fight – and speeds it up in post to make it look exciting. He also has a curious habit of editing character conversations to make it look like a character is by himself, talking to the camera. It’s bizarre… and funny.

Robert Z'Dar in Samurai Cop

Can you smell what Z’Dar is cookin’?

Speaking of dialogue, here are some classic lines:

  • Joe speaking to Frank during a car chase : “Shoot! Shoot him!” and “Shoot! Shoot him!” (ad infinitum)
  • Joe: “Are you Fuj…. Fujiyama?
    Fuj: “Yes I am.. who are you?
    Joe: “I’m a cop!” (Cue dun-dun-dun score!)
  • Guard: “Hey, wait a minute, nurse!” (Nurse and Yamashita run off)
    Another Guard (to Yamashita): “Hey, wait a minute! I want to talk to you!
    (Yamashita disables him)
    Another Guard (to Yamashita): “Hey, wait a minute!
    (Yamashita disables him)
    Another Guard (to Yamashita): “Hey, wait a minute!
    (Yamashita disables him)
    Another Guard (to Yamashita): “Hey, wait a minute, doctor!
    (Yamashita disables him)
  • Police Captain: “I’m gonna lose my pension.. but you know something? I dont give a f**k. I want you to find that motherf**king japanese gangster! I want you to turn his house into a bloodbath! Dont leave anybody alive! Then all 3 of us will turn our badges in.
    Joe: “Now your talkin!
    Frank: “All right!
  • Joe (after Frank crawls under a fence): “Why did you come under?
    Frank: “Cuz I’m an undercover cop!
  • Thug: “We want information!” [remove's Frank's bath towel] Frank: “Information about my butt?

Not to mention Joe’s entire restaurant monologue, the nurse flirting, his conversations with Jennifer, basically anything that comes out of his mouth.

Matt Hannon Birthday gift

“Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Road to Madness

What other pleasures can be derived from Samurai Cop? How about:

  • attractive girls who have to shoot nude bed scenes with unattractive guys
  • two scenes of serious violence – a cop’s wife’s death, and another cop being tortured – that don’t have any place in a film this cheesy
  • a lady cop (Melissa Moore) who only seems interested in having sex with any able male nearby
  • almost all characters have mullets. Seriously, were the late 80s/early 90s that blatant with the mullets?
  • agonizing sex scenes, including one between Hannon and Farley that is just cringe inducing, and another one involving a semi-nude Gerald Okamura that is amusing because it’s Gerald Okamura, and another one involving Z’Dar that… well, you get the idea.
  • hilarious soundtrack/score that showcases everything goofy about 80s scores. Attention keyboardists: if your name isn’t Harold Faltermeyer or Jan Hammer you probably shouldn’t attempt this.
  • equally silly ADR; but atrocious dubbing is par for the course for this stuff
  • Endless series of surprisingly-tedious gunfights
  • the effeminate Costa Rican waiter (Joselito Rescober) who giggles at everything – especially the idea of a guy committing suicide. That’s some funny shit!

A few parting thoughts: Mark Frazer is actually not bad for what he has to do here (basically, play a version of Roger Murtaugh without the family trappings), and props to the movie for allowing him to survive. (Not only does the black character survive, but he actually kills the main bad guy!) Also entertaining is Dale Cummings as the captain, who constantly curses out our heroes (and anybody else who wanders into his office). When he doesn’t get the results he likes, he basically says “Screw it” and orders his men to kill everybody, and then turn in their badges! This is what it means to be an L.A. cop, I guess. Z’Dar is entertaining because… well, he’s Bob Z’Dar. As for Matt Hannon, his deer-in-the-headlights, bug-eyed reactions are one for the books (he’s basically Gowron as a human). He doesn’t have the charisma of a Reb Brown (God, did I just say that?) and I could have gone without seeing him in that speedo. (the eyes! they burn!) Anyway, I recommend Samurai Cop because it’s like watching one of those horrible Turkish or Bollywood films, except all the actors speak English (some, barely), they’re (mostly) from L.A., and there aren’t any musical interludes (but that probably would have helped).

- Bill Gordon

Samurai Cop (Special Edition DVD)
Samurai Cop DVD

Matt Hannon and Robert Z'Dar

“Your katana is bigger than I anticipated!”

  • IMDB, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, etc. say that this movie was made in 1989. I agree that the film looks the part, but the end credits say (c)1991 Hollywood Royal Pictures, and if you look closely at the scene in the secretary’s office when the “New York gang” arrives, the calendar clearly reads January, 1991.
  • Some of those involved with Samurai Cop are dead. Director Amir Shervan died in 2006, Matt Hannon died in 2012 at the relatively young age of 56 (not sure how), Dale Cummings also died in 2005. As for some others – Jannis Farley, Mark Frazer – it was their careers that died.
  • Melissa Moore apparently kept this film off her resume, presumably so she could make room for movies that she was actually proud of, like Angelfist, Vampire Cop, The Invisible Maniac, and Sorority House Massacre II.
  • Krista Lane briefly went back to adult movies, where the acting was more professional.
  • Shervan has left behind some other examples of his special director’s touch, like Young Rebels, Gypsy, Killing American Style, and Hollywood Cop.
  • Robert Z’Dar still makes movies (thank the B-movie gods!)
  • As for the guy who plays Fujiyama… I hope you are well… wherever (and whoever) you are.

The Cinema Epoch DVD Special Edition of Samurai Cop has interesting interviews with Robert Z’Dar, Gerald Okamura, and cinematographer Peter Palian. There is another version (this one?) that is supposed to have a commentary track by Joe Bob Briggs on it.

Bonus: Samurai Cop Drinking Game
See also: Keeping It Warm – The Lost Films Of Amir Shervan