Worst Movies Ever Made

Scraping the Bottom of the Cinematic Barrel

AUTHOR: Bill Gordon

Sharknado (2013)

Sharknado (2013)
Directed by: Anthony C. Ferrante
Starring: Ian Ziering, Cassandra Scerbo, Jaason Simmons, Tara Reid, Chuck Hittinger, Aubrey Peeples, John Heard, Robbie Rist, Alex Arleo

Sharknado LOL

Today’s weather – 60 degrees and partly cloudy. Chance of flying sharks 90%.

As you probably know by now, The Asylum is a production company that has practically cornered the market on bad movies. Started up by some guys who tried to do low-budget horror, they quickly realized that everybody and their grandparents and neighbors do low-budget horror, but doing low-budget mock-busters that rip off major hits while bragging about it – well, not many people do that. This is probably because most people are afraid of getting their pants sued off by big-time Hollywood lawyers. Not The Asylum – they crazy! Since the early 2000s, they’ve been making lots of money by creating cinematic manure passed off as “films” including Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train, I Am Omega, The Day the Earth Stopped, and as we covered here – Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus.

With Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, the Aslum discovered something interesting – people love shark movies. It doesn’t matter how bad they are, somebody will distribute them. Doesn’t matter how illogical they are – people will watch them. Just throw in some trashy celebrity, has-been actor, or “ironic” choice (Debbie Gibson and Tiffany!). You end up with something like 2 Headed Shark Attack (with Carmen Electra!) or Sharknado (Ian Ziering! Tara Reid! John Heard!). Sharknado, now there’s a piece of work. It’s like the Asylum guys just wrote a bunch of ideas on slips of paper and then spun them around in a lotto machine. In this case, the concepts of “Shark” and “Tornado” won out. So you can be certain that at some point while watching Sharknado, you’ll see a tornado full of sharks. It doesn’t matter how stupid it sounds – it’s practically guaranteed to have the stamp of “Syfy Channel Original” printed on it.

Beach Goers in Sharknado

As you can see, people are well prepared for the oncoming hurricane.

But you can’t just show the “sharknado” right away. No… you have to build up to it. So we are introduced to bar owner/surfer “Fin” (Ian Ziering, from Beverly Hills, 90210, – remember?) and his Australian buddy Baz (Jaason Simmons – from Baywatch) and bar employee Nova (Cassie Scerboto, I have no idea who she is) who sorta has a crush on Fin. The movie informs us that “global warming” has caused a giant hurricane off the coast of Mexico and it is making its way towards Los Angeles. Typically, when a freak hurricane is barreling down on the California coast, people evacuate. That’s just how it works. But people in Sharknado practically blow it off until the storm is right on top of them. I admit, it’s difficult to know when the storm is coming. That’s because director Anthony Ferrante likes to shoot a scene in broad daylight and clear skies and then a few seconds later, show the very same location under black clouds and damaging winds. To say that this film is edited by morons does an injustice to morons. As one guy said on IMDB, “the same scene moves from daylight to dusk, rain to sunshine, storm surge to quiet beach, with every single new camera angle.” It’s like when MST3K savaged Attack of the Eye Creatures (another movie that switches between day and night in the same scene) by determining that director Larry Buchanan “just didn’t care.”

John Heard in Sharknado

“I was a respected actor, once.”

Poor John Heard. He actually had somewhat of a career. Look at what he’s doing now – playing a beachside drunk (who lives in Beverly Hills! He just really likes that bar!). When John Heard’s character bites it on a bridge less than halfway through the film, you feel something like relief for him. He must have owed somebody a favor. Anyway, Fin decides that he has to go to Beverly Hills to save his estranged wife, played by a weathered Tara Reid, who is basically phoning it in. That’s right, I said it: Tara Reid is phoning it in. Of course, Tara’s character and her asshole boyfriend aren’t happy to see Fin and maintain that nothing is wrong. Not until a shark crashes through their window and eats the boyfriend. This actually caused me to rethink who the bad guys are in Sharknado – my theory is that it’s Fin and his friends. If you pay attention, sharks only attack a place after they show up. Take that bridge sequence, for instance. Everything was ok until they showed up and started warning everybody… then the waves come and the sharks attack. Watch the ending scenes when they show up at the airplane hangar, where everything was calm until they showed up. Coincidence?

Sharknado attacks car

“Hey, can I get a lift to Glendale?”

I should back up a minute. About the sharks. The movie’s premise is this: the storm has picked up hundreds, maybe thousands of sharks and hurled them around, so that they land all over L.A. and feast on running victims. Now think about the absurdity of this: sharks literally falling from the sky and swallowing people whole while they are falling. Sharks landing in backyard pools, sharks landing on bridges, sharks swimming in floods no more than a few feet high. In Sharknado, it is obvious: sharks do not need water (especially salt-water) to survive. They can fly around, even inside an F5 tornado and not only live, but aggressively eat any living thing in their path. This whole movie defies even the most elementary laws of physics. It’s like we’re in another universe.

Just take basic things. An entire house is flooded out and filled with sharks. But when everybody escapes the place, the surrounding land and road is quite dry and in plenty good condition for driving away. In fact, despite assurances from the movie that everything is flooded out, their escape vehicle really doesn’t have much trouble getting them anywhere. Continuity doesn’t have any meaning here; if the plot calls for a sudden flood and shark attack, then that’s what happens.

Watch out for:

  • the first scene involving an illicit transaction at sea which has no bearing on anything in the rest of the movie
    Sharknado Boat Captain Guy

    “Who are we and why are we in this movie?”

  • the beginning shark attack scene at a beach that in one frame shows hardly anybody around and the next frame scores of people hanging out. Fin screams “Shark!” at the top of his lungs but nobody pays any attention until it’s too late. And then after about 5 minutes of shark attacks, people are still running around and screaming their heads off… but they’re not running away from the beach- they just seem to be running in circles.
    finally, the sharknado

    Finally, a Sharknado – 30 minutes before the end of the movie!

  • Experts are saying global warming is the reason for this unprecedented event!
  • The television news is quite clear that a major hurricane is headed for Santa Monica, but the bar/restaurant is still packed with people who don’t seem to give a damn. Fin doesn’t even think about securing the bar until the storm is right on top of them (too late, dude).
  • The Jaws references. Cassie Scerbo’s story about how she got her scars (“Six people went into the water and one little girl came out. The sharks took the rest.”) and her quip towards the end (“We’re gonna need a bigger chopper.”) is meant to be an homage to Jaws but it just makes you think about how you should really be watching that movie instead of this one.
    Jaws Ripoff Sharknado

    Yes, you’ve seen Jaws. We get it.

  • Silly attempts at human drama. Some crap about Fin and his wife and estranged children. It has practically no impact; I wonder why they even bothered. I did laugh, however, at how Nova had a crush on Fin and ended up getting with Fin’s pilot-son Matt instead.
  • Tara Reid’s boyfriend sarcastically says “Everytime it rains in L.A., everyone says it’s the storm of the century!” Obviously, people in Beverly Hills are so cut off from the world that they have no idea what a hurricane is.
  • Winds that pick up and carry heavy objects, except for people, of course.
  • A helicopter flying right beside a tornado with somebody throwing bombs into it. Sure, that’s plausible!
    Helicopter Sharknado

    We’re sure this is a good idea.

  • A flying shark eating somebody in mid-air. That same shark eating somebody else, who chainsaws his way out and also manages to save the first victim while he’s at it. Hmm, that really does make the helicopter thing plausible, doesn’t it?
  • A Bus driver/comedian (Robbie Rist, who also did the soundtrack!) who says “My mom always told me Hollywood would kill me” before being crushed by parts of the Hollywood sign. Speaking of the school bus scene – you would expect that there would be other people and rescue teams to handle a full busload of schoolkids, but then we wouldn’t get to see how much of a hero Steve Sanders is!
  • The use of a Hummer at the end of a film that blames man-made global warming for the weather. (And the Hummer has a Nitrous feature!!) Teh Irony!
  • Everybody exclaims how much they hate sharks in this picture. Maybe that’s why the sharks are so mad.
pool sharks

Bushwood: Caddies and sharks welcome 1pm – 1:15pm.

As for everything else, Sharknado is your typical shitty-but-funny movie. Horrible CGI, even for stuff like this. No sense of where anything is in relation to anything else. Below-par acting. High school humor and dialogue. Some gore. And all-around hilarity, as the makers of Sharknado demonstrate no knowledge whatsoever of how hurricanes and floods behave, how tornados and winds behave, how sharks and flying objects behave, and how people behave. But hey, like the immortal Larry Buchanan, they just don’t care. I’ll give them this – as far as disaster flicks go, it’s much better than 2012. (And I like that song (The Ballad Of) Sharknado by Quint). Oh, good news, people, watch for the sequel Sharknado 2: The Second One, filming now, starring (again) Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, and a few other surprising guests. “The Second One” – oh, I get it! Very clever!

- Bill Gordon

Buy Sharknado on DVD

A Randy Newman Day. sharknado

I love L.A.! We love it!

Mac and Me (1988)

Mac and Me (1988)
Directed by: Stewart Raffill
Starring: Jade Calegory, Jonathan Ward, Lauren Stanley, Tina Caspary, Christine Ebersole, Vinnie Torrente, Martin West, Ivan J. Rado, Danny Cooksey, Laura Waterbury

Mac and Me Supermarket

People of Wal-Mart

In June 1982, Hollywood released three of the greatest movies ever made: John Carpenter’s The Thing, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, and Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Sadly, all these movies were overshadowed by some cutesy-alien family film directed by Steven Spielberg called E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, which features a cutesy alien stuck on earth and forced to play with Henry Thomas and cutesy Drew Barrymore while chugging Coors beer, gorging on Reese’s Pieces, and watching romantic comedies featuring John Wayne. How adorable. So adorable that it made over 350 million dollars and also made the Hershey Company very happy, since audiences were brainwashed into buying heaps of Reese’s Pieces at their local supermarkets. Anyway, the jerkoffs at Orion Pictures, with dollar signs in their eyes, decided to make an ill-advised E.T. ripoff called Mac and Me that is absolutely terrible by any known measure, but what makes things worse is the constant and blatant product placements that betray a rather egregious cynicism. I know this is Hollywood, but come on – this thing literally plays like a 90 minute TV commercial.

Mac and Me starts off on some planet somewhere, populated by these… things. How to describe them? Take the puffy cheeks of a squirrel, add extra large dog ears, give it giant eyes like eggs cooked sunny side up. Now add a touch of progeria, some devil horns shaved down to the nubs, give them bodies of Amazing Live Sea Monkeys, remove their genitals, and you’re getting close to the abomination of nature that these creatures represent. The adult version of these alien life forms takes the cake – the dimwitted, wide-eyed facial expressions, the waddle-walk, the enlarged, protruding ears, the pot bellies – it’s like we stumbled into the backwoods hill country of Hick-Planet. The place looks like a barren lump of rock, but apparently full of water just under the surface, seen when daddy alien stabs a straw into the ground and starts sucking away like it’s a Big Gulp. But this alien family’s routine way of life (which seems limited to whistling, waddling, and sucking water through straws) is interrupted by a NASA spacecraft which effortlessly lands itself nearby and starts taking soil samples. Before you know it, the entire family is sucked up into the spacecraft’s vacuum attachment, triggering some kind of malfunction, and the thing blasts off into the sky, carrying our none-too-bright aliens back to Earth.

Mac and Me - Silly Putty

So the aliens are made out of silly putty. Sure, why not?

It’s about 6 minutes into the movie and already all credibility is shot. Where exactly is this planet located? Because it sure can’t be located in our solar system. Anything potentially habitable (notice that the planet has a nice blue sky) would be many light years away, unless NASA has secretly developed warp drive. I doubt it; these guys can’t even prevent a family of four alien simpletons from escaping their supposedly well-guarded base. The smallest one breaks out on his own, hiding away in the family vehicle consisting of single mother (and Sears employee) Janet Cruise (Christine Ebersole), her teenage son Mike (Jonathan Ward), and his little brother Eric (Jade Calegory), who is confined to a wheelchair. The trio just moved to California, supposedly after losing dad (we’re not sure how, but I’m guessing he died). The family has barely settled into their hillside suburban home (Hacienda Heights, if you were wondering) when the little alien stowaway starts in with the electromagnetic interference (radio controlled cars run without batteries, TVs turn on without being plugged in). The next day, Mac (that stands for “Mysterious Alien Creature”) takes a chainsaw to a few doors and trashes the family living room, turning it into a dusty garden complete with stones, sticks, straws, and a moose head. Mom freaks out, and Eric wheels himself after the creature, but his wheelchair breaks and he rolls down a hill, right off a cliff and into some water. Watch the scene below – it shouldn’t be funny, but it is:

In the meantime, Mac’s family is lost in the desert, and occasionally he communicates with them by whistling. Eric tells his mother about the bizarre creature that saved his ass and she calls in a shrink. Eric’s friend Debbie (Lauren Stanley) tells him that the grownups think he has “schizo-freakia.” Eric and Debbie then hatch a plan to catch Mac in the vacuum cleaner, which succeeds, but Mac is hurt, so they fix him up by feeding him Coke through a straw.

Mac and Me aliens love the taste of Coke.

Coke. The source of all life.

I should stop here and tell you that up to this point, Mac and Me is just plain, run-of-the-mill bad, a blatant ripoff of a much better film (which itself isn’t all that great to begin with). But here, around the halfway mark, the movie gets insulting. The constant shots of Mac sucking down a Coke are just the beginning – the real terror begins at McDonalds. But first we have to endure a really bizarre sequence where Mac takes off on a little toy ATV through the neighborhood, chased by at least 11 unleashed dogs. Forget the alien on the electric car for a sec – I’m supposed to believe that nobody in Hacienda Heights keeps their dogs indoors, on leashes, or gated? I mean, this isn’t Sochi we’re talking about here. This little bit of horseplay is intercut with a truly out-of-left-field sequence of Eric wheeling around with his jogging mother, while a sappy ballad from Bobby Caldwell plays, with lyrics like:

I can’t face the thought of you leaving / So take me along, I swear I’ll be strong … I want you to take me / ‘Cause I long to be able to see the things that you see
Know that whatever you do, I’ll follow you… Somebody must have sent you to me / What do I have you could possibly need / All I can give is my guarantee / We’ll be friends forever

Who is this song about? Eric and the alien? They barely know each other. And secondly, he’s hanging out with his mom. So is the song about the boy and his mother? Who knows? In the meantime, the dogs chased Mac the alien up a tree. Then the scene ends. (How did Mac get down?)

Mac and Me... Stuck in a Tree

Uh…. hello?! A little help up here!?

Later, government agents show up looking for the alien. Eric hides him by putting him inside a teddy bear suit and taking him to the local McDonalds. Now here’s where we get to the most laughable scene of Mac and Me. Picture a giant McDonalds full of extras dancing in every corner of the place, and filling the parking lot. This being the 80s, I get the impression that the creators of this movie really liked Fame, Breakin’, Footloose, Flashdance, etc. And wait till you see a little person in a teddy bear costume cutting it up on the counter of a McDonalds restaurant. There are no words for this:

Don’t you deserve a break today? Aren’t you lovin’ it?

Mac and Me dancing at McDonalds

That’s great and all, but am I going to get my quarter pounder with cheese anytime soon?

So Eric, Debbie, Mike, and Debbie’s sis (and McDonalds employee) Courtney (Tina Caspary) pile in a van to take Mac into the desert to see his family, feeding him Coke and Skittles on the way. (Taste the rainbow, kids!) The alien family is hiding out in a mine, and they are almost dead, but Mike soon revives them by feeding them… Coke through a straw! (Catch the wave, dudes!) Absurdity levels go critical as the group stops at a gas station, where the alien family escapes the van and heads to the local supermarket to stock up on Coca-Cola and watermelon. Cops show up (with itchy trigger fingers), Mac Daddy steals a gun from a security guard, shooting commences, a gas pump is hit, and the entire Stage Shop Mall explodes (presumably killing all the people inside it – I mean, look at all the cars parked in front!)

Now, Mac and Me gets all sappy, with Eric apparently killed in the explosion, even though (due to bad special effects) it looks like it didn’t even touch him. Everybody is lachrymose, and the whole thing is manipulative, but up until now, the film has just been a wacky comedy with silly alien hi-jinks. In other words, it hasn’t earned this sudden change of mood. Suddenly, the aliens walk out of the fire like demons arriving from a hell-portal, apparently unharmed by the explosion. They lay their hands on Eric and start their annoying whistling routine; Eric briefly rises in the air like Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters, and through some alien hocus-pocus is brought back to life. So you see? These ugly, obtuse, witless life forms may not possess any technology or sophistication, but they are in tune with the universe, ya dig? And that gives them power over life and death. So take that, California elites! Oh, by the way, nobody seems to notice or care that everybody inside the Stage Shop Mall is dead!

Mac and Me Oath of Citizenship

George W Bush takes the oath of office.

The final scene is the frosting on the cake of this infuriating piece of flotsam. The alien family are not only allowed to live on Earth (NASA doesn’t give them a ride back to their planet?) but they are allowed to take the oath of American citizenship, thus freeing them to purchase Big Macs and 2-liter bottles of Coke for the rest of their lives! Watching a family of extra-terrestrials, dressed in clothes in the manner that you might put a sweater on your dog, raising their appendages to take a oath that they probably don’t understand, then driving down the highway in a pink Cadillac, I finally realized secondary purpose of Mac and Me (the first one being a cash-grab, of course) – it’s propaganda, singing the praises of capitalism and the American way (where everybody can be successful enough to live dull lives in upper middle class Cali suburbs, suck down soda pop and candy, start work at fast food franchises, and graduate to sales representative at the local Sears outlet store). Worried about the Soviets? Forget it – everybody wants to be an American, even aliens from Bumfuck Planet. God bless the USA, the Coca Cola company, Mars Inc., Sears Holdings, and the McDonald’s Corporation!

- Bill Gordon

Buy Mac and Me on DVD

Mac and Me loves the taste of Skittles.

Now available in the lobby.

  • In the film, Christine Ebersole’s character works at Sears, and a chase scene partly takes place there. That reminds me, I better shop there before they go under.
  • Tina Caspary looks pretty good in a Mickey D’s uniform. If you watch the McDonalds scene, you’ll notice her serving drinks to the kids, but the cups are empty. You know this because one falls off the table and Lauren Stanley quickly retrieves it. There is clearly no liquid in it.
  • Ronald McDonald was played by actor Squire Fridell, but he’s listed in the cast as Ronald McDonald.
  • Jennifer Aniston is apparently in this movie as an extra. Good luck spotting her.
  • Actor Jade Calegory uses a wheelchair in real life.
  • Mac and Me was a box office failure (surprise!)
  • They missed an opportunity to replace the aliens with Grimace and his family, kidnapped from Grimace’s home planet. Hey, if you’re going to sell out, you should sell out big.
  • The falling wheelchair scene serves as a running joke between Paul Rudd and Conan O’Brien.
  • The filmmakers were so confident that the movie would be a success that they stuck a “We’ll Be Back” caption at the end. We’re sure a Mac and Me 2 will pop up right around the time Airplane III comes out.
  • Stewart Raffill’s next film was Mannequin 2: On the Move (surprise!)
Mac and Me Won't Be Back

Yeah, we’ll all be holding our collective breath in anticipation…

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

Adventures of Thunderstorm: The Return of Thor (2011)

Adventures of Thunderstorm: The Return of Thor (2011)
Directed by: Brett Kelly
Starring: Ray Besharah, Celine Filion, Jody Haucke, Emanuelle Carriere, Gabrielle Mackenzie, Randy Kimmett, Lenard A. Blackburn

Adventures of Thunderstorm: The Return of Thor

Dude, Dragon-Con is gonna rock this year!

A quick look at Canadian director Brett Kelly’s resume reveals such gems as Avenging Force: The Scarab, Jurassic Shark, Agent Beetle, and even a remake of that old chestnut Attack of the Giant Leeches. In other words, bottom of the barrel nonsense on shoestring budgets. So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that Adventures of Thunderstorm: Return of Thor is bad, but I was surprised at how uniquely bad it is. It’s the kind of bad that actually has you wondering whether the movie is just one big joke, ineptly made on purpose (I figure that the production company – “Dudez Productions” – gets some kind of funding from the Canadian government, kinda like Cronenberg’s early films, but please don’t compare Kelly with Cronenberg… just.. don’t). Or maybe he’s not quite aware that it’s bad; maybe he earnestly is trying to make the best film he can. In which case: Yikes.

We know we are already in trouble at the beginning, when wave after wave of credits unfold in that Star Wars tradition, telling us about gods and Asgard and something called Ragnarok which will be brought about by a cult of humans who worship evil. These humans were driven underground but not defeated. Unfortunately, mankind had a falling out with the gods, so they can never directly interfere in the events of Earth, aka Midgard. This wall of text goes on for 3 minutes, with a narrator speaking them because remember – these kinds of films are made for those who can’t read. It rivals the opening credits roll in Uwe Boll’s Alone in the Dark.

Thunderstorm Return of Thor Credits


After the opening titles and cast/crew listing (which takes place over some kind of screensaver), we see amateurish, slow motion shots of dudes getting out of a car and walking towards the camera, brandishing weapons. This seems to go on forever – not a good sign. We are soon introduced to Evan (Jody Haucke), who bursts into a museum (actually, just some kind of corner office) looking for an artifact called the “Dragon’s Cross.” He is supposed to be menacing in that Anton LaVey-way, but he looks more like that one weird guy from your high school drama class (you know, the one who’s way more into it than anyone else), and he’s about as threatening to boot. But the lines he delivers, and the way he delivers them are nothing short of hilarious.

  • It would be a shame to start shooting people… it’s bad for business, don’t you know!
  • After shooting a guy who says “Give me a minute” – “A minute….. who has that kind of time?

You get the idea.

Jody Haucke - Return of Thor

I just love theater!

Then we are transported to “Asgard”, which for some reason looks nothing like the Asgard of Marvel’s Thor movie. No, this Asgard looks like graphics from Castle Wolfenstein backed by streaks of purple light. Realistic, it isn’t. We witness a conversation between Thor and his dad (who kinda looks like John de Lancie). But we aren’t looking at two people speaking. We are looking at photographs superimposed over streaks of light, and the photos are made to shake back and forth while we hear narration between two horrible actors. At this point you may have noticed that the cheesy musical score practically drowns out all dialogue. Get used to it.

Asgard - Adventures of Thunderstorm

It’s almost as if you are actually there.

Now things get dumber. We are introduced to the movie’s “hero” – one Grant Farrel (Ray Besharah) who, along with his buddy Earl (Randy Kimmett) works on a super secret project to make a weaponized suit. Their laboratory is basically a closet with some red lighting and a computer. As for the “battle suit”, it looks like something stolen off a cosplaying guest at MegaCon. (Think of the silliest Batman suit merged with a stormtrooper’s uniform.) And yet our guys refer to it as a “kick-ass battlesuit.” How cute! Oh, the suit also comes with an accessory “battle staff” with insulated electronics. Farrel comments that “it looks like a hammer if you ask me!” Ha ha! By the way, I must mention again that this suit is a military prototype and absolutely not a costume picked up at the Spirit Halloween store in Ontario for $49.95.

Meanwhile, a college girl named Susan Green (Emanuelle Carriere) is abducted by the cult, which intends to use her as a vessel to bring back an evil being called “Hel” (played by Gabrielle Mackenzie, AKA Karin Landstad, hamming it up even more than Jody Haucke, if that’s even possible). The gods finally call upon Grant to take her and the cult on. Given a gift of cheesy lightning effects coming out of his hands, Earl gets the idea to put Grant in the suit. So now Grant Farrel is a reluctant super hero called Thunderstorm! Think of Iron Man mixed with Thor. OK, now take away Tony Stark’s personality and smarts while removing Thor’s strength and bravery. Add a wisecracking, awkward Canadian sidekick. There, now you’ve got Adventures of Thunderstorm: The Return of Thor.

There’s a sequence where Grant trains himself, which is basically scenes of the camera lingering on bad graphics while Earl stares intensely and writes shit down in his notepad. What can he do with this power? Level buildings? Fly? How about… cook a hot dog! Now that’s a useful power, eh?

Thunderstorm Hot Dog

I’d like that Montreal-Style, please.

Oh, there’s also a heroine called Detective Bronski (Celine Filion – not Celine Dion) who catches up with Grant. There’s a funny bit where the bad guys get away (stealing Grant’s hammer) but the detective says to Grant (while he’s wearing his battle suit) “You’re coming in for questioning.” Grant – who, remember, is now a super hero with the power of Thor – says “Which way?” Wow, he’s such a good super hero that he willingly goes to the police station!

The cackling Hel and her gang pay a visit to Earl and leave him for dead, but for some reason they leave the hammer there. Why bother to handicap our superhero in the first place if they were just gonna return it? In the meantime, Grant convinces Bronski to help him, although at this point I am wondering if Thor perhaps chose the wrong human. His only power seems to be that he shoots bolts (which miss their targets). He doesn’t fly, but he does drive pretty well (and his choice of electric car is very environment-friendly). He stumbles upon a dying Earl, who says “there was this lady… she looked like a renaissance fair reject…” which is a line that has me stumped because – does this prove that Brett Kelly is in on the joke, or not?

The ending proves just as stupid as everything else. Hel resurrects her “brother” who appears in the form of (a very horribly rendered) dragon.

Thunderstorm Thor Cheesy FX Dragon

The Desolation of the Audience

There’s scenes of Grant/Thunderstorm shooting at (and missing) the funny CGI dragon/screensaver thing intercut with a horribly-choreographed kung-fu battle between Celine Filion and Jody Haucke. To paraphrase MST3K, people compare this fight with the one between Neo and Smith in The Matrix. Yeah, you know, they say: “The Matrix was really good. This movie totally sucks.”

And how does Grant defeat the powers of Hel the Renaissance fair reject? Spoiler alert! He grabs the dragon’s cross out of her hands and… throws it on the floor! The cross goes poof, the dragon goes poof, and Gabrielle Mackenzie screams “No No No!” before she goes poof.

Wow, really? That’s how evil is defeated? Anyhow, Grant is transported to Asgard and Odin congratulates him. Oh, does this remind anybody of that crappy TV series Shazam? Remember that one… where Billy the kid is talked to by Hannah Barbera versions of the gods? Well Thunderstorm: Return of Thor is about on par with that (except without that creepy mentor guy).

kung fu Thunderstorm

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo-ping’s Nephew’s College Roomate

Some funny bits of dialogue in this very Canadian production:

  • “Get a chick last night, huh? Get a little action, huh?” – Earl, in his super-Canadian accent. (Did “eh?” have a falling out?)
  • “Paramedics rushed him to emerge…” – said by a character early on. Do people really refer to the E.R. as “emerge?” Maybe just Canadians…
  • “Doughy Risa-Hell !! Doughy Risa-Hell!” – the silly chant performed to get “Hel” to appear
  • “Dressed like … a superhero! That’s right, folks! A superhero!” – spoken by an incredulous radio DJ as he reads the news. A superhero! Right here in Ottawa! Can you believe it, folks?
  • “He was so excited for me, ya know? When you’re a kid you dream of flying, or… invisibility or whatever?” – Grant’s heartfelt eulogy for his dead friend
  • “I am Hel, Goddess of the Underworld… future ruler of Asgard!”
    “Aww, hell no!”
    “Hel.. Yes!” – no comment needed
  • “There’s a thunderstorm coming” – Grants attempt at levity

Adventures of Thunderstorm: Return of Thor has it all: silly dialogue (constantly drowned out by a cheesy musical soundtrack), bad fight scenes, bad acting / over-acting all around, laughable “special” effects, a stupid looking suit/costume in the style of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a distinct lack of sets, goofy use of slow-mo, ambient sound that makes it seem like the audio was recorded in a bathroom somewhere (yeah, the budget didn’t allow for ADR), and, uh, lots of shots of Ontario warehouses and office buildings.

The important question now is: Is Thunderstorm: Return of Thor at least better than Shazam! or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? I don’t know, but to even arrive at a point where such a comparison must be made should tell you something about this zero-budget film. The good news, I think, is that I may have found the modern Canadian Ed Wood, and the cinematic dung heap of terrible movies has grown even larger, which means there’s plenty of fresh fodder for reviews. Plan 9 … that’s for tourists!

- Bill Gordon

Buy Adventures of Thunderstorm: Return of Thor on DVD
Watch Adventures of Thunderstorm: Return of Thor @ Amazon
Note: as of January 1, 2014, you can stream the movie on Netflix.

Thunderstorm: Return of Thor Cast

You! Have been chosen to drive us to Ren-Fest!

Also directed by Brett Kelly:

Avenging Force: The Scarab
Pirates: Quest for Snake Island
The Bonesetter

Adventures of  Thunderstorm: The Return of Thor

Brett, honey, please stop playing with your toys and get to bed!

Miami Connection (1987)

Miami Connection (1987)
Directed by: Woo-sang Park
Starring: Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, Joseph Diamand, Maurice Smith, Angelo Janotti, Kathy Collier, William Eagle, Si Y Jo, Woo-sang Park, William P. Young

Dragon Sound - Miami Connection

Hey wait a second… this isn’t Miami Sound Machine!

How is it that I have never heard of Miami Connection? You would think that a lover of bad cinema such as myself would be aware of this film, since I have lived in Orlando, Florida since 1992 and this thing was shot in my town. Made in 1987, Miami Connection takes place almost entirely in the central Florida area, focusing mostly on the campus grounds of the University of Central Florida (east Orlando) and downtown (Church Street/Magnolia Ave/Orange Ave). The problem with my first viewing of Miami Connection was that I was so fascinated with picking out all the familiar locations that I almost forgot how terrible a film it really is. Starring a group of local martial artists with absolutely zero acting experience (including the main character Y.K. Kim who can’t really speak English very well), it has all the hallmarks of a bad action film – bizarre dialogue, melodramatics, ludicrous 80s club scenes – but the thing is so sincere that it starts to grow on you and you start rooting for it. The use of Miami in the title is a bit of a cheat – sure, there’s a “Miami” connection but it’s not that important to the story. But I suppose that if director Woo-sang Park (aka Richard Park) and star/producer Y.K. Kim called it the Orlando Connection not many people would have been interested. (I’m not sure it helped in any case).

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978) (TV Movie)
Director: Gordon Hessler
Starring: Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Anthony Zerbe, Deborah Ryan, Carmine Caridi, Terry Lester, John Dennis Johnston, John Lisbon Wood, Lisa Jane Persky, John Chappell, Richard Hein, Brion James

KISS Starchild Poses

Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with
I just want your extra time and your…. Kiss

I was never a KISS fan. The problem is that I was too young – I was an 80s kid and KISS basically peaked in the 70s, having formed in January 1973, only a few months before my birth. In 1978, the band’s original lineup – Paul Stanley (vocals, rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals, bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar, vocals) and Peter Criss (drums, vocals) – were so popular that each member actually released their own solo album that year (all four albums were released on September 18, 1978 and accompanied by a marketing blitz, Frehley’s being the most successful). This was all part of a “two-pronged strategy”, the second part being a movie, which was to be a combination of Star Wars (naturally, since it was a massive hit in 1977) and A Hard Day’s Night. The problem, though, is that KISS is not The Beatles, and the filmmakers involved in creating their NBC TV movie – Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, were no George Lucas. Not even Phantom Menace-era Lucas.

Howling 2 aka Howling II : Your Sister Is A Werewolf (1985)

Howling II : Your Sister Is A Werewolf (1985)
Directed By: Philippe Mora
Starring: Christopher Lee, Sybil Danning, Reb Brown, Annie McEnroe, Marsha Hunt, Judd Omen, Ferdy Mayne, Patrick Field, Jimmy Nail, Steven Bronowski, James Crawford, Jirí Krytinár, Ladislav Krecmer, Jan Kraus, Petr Skarke, Igor Smrzík, Ivo Niederle, Ed Kleynen, Stephen W. Parsons

Howling 2 - Sybil Danning

The 1980s were exactly like this.

Stefan Crosscoe: “This type of bullet killed your sister. Unfortunately, they were removed during the autopsy and as a result, she can never rest in peace. Notice anything about them?
Ben White: “They’re silver.
Stefan Crosscoe: “Yes. Do you know what that means? This type of bullet, Mr. White, means your sister … is a werewolf.

You know something is wrong when a movie has its characters repeating its title in dialogue, as if the audience needed to be reminded: “Ah yes, that’s why this movie is called Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf! I had forgotten!” (It reminds me of the time when Sylvester Stallone exclaimed “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot“) Anyway, this sequel to Joe Dante’s film The Howling concerns the brother (Reb Brown) of Karen White (from the first film) discovering that werewolves exist, then taking his new girlfriend/TV reporter Jenny (Annie McEnroe) along with werewolf hunter Stefan (Christopher Lee) to Transylvania to put an end to the reign of Stirba (Sybil Danning), queen of the werewolves. By the way, the original title of this film was Howling II: Stirba, Werewolf Bitch. In my opinion, they should have stuck with that.