Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Miner’s Massacre (2002)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD box art for Miner's Massacre (2002)Miner’s Massacre AKA  Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002) by #JohnCarlBuechler

w/#KarenBlack #JohnPhillipLaw #RichardLynch #VernonWells #MartinKove #JeffConaway

A group of friends take gold from an old mine and awaken a long dead miner Hell Bent on protecting his treasure.

“They Axed For It!”

#Horror #Slasher
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

A friend of mine worked for a website reviewing DVDs. Apparently, he did it to get a bunch of free DVDs mailed out to him on a regular basis. He told me I should get in on it, but somehow I never did. One of the movies he received and reviewed was Miner’s Massacre (2002). – and he told me about it one day.

“Is it worth watching?” I asked him.

“Oh, yeah!” he said with a glint in his eye.

I got the impression that he thought it was a bad movie, but a “so-bad-it’s-good” bad movie. He knew I liked that sort of thing, so I guess he figured that he was giving me a hot tip. He didn’t lend me his DVD, oddly enough. But I guess at that point we were only seeing each other once in while – if we happened to bump into each other at a party or event. He may not have wanted to risk losing his precious copy (for which he’d paid nothing).

A couple of years later I found a copy of Miner’s Massacre in a bargain bin somewhere and, recalling my friend’s ringing endorsement, I bought it. I guess I must have enjoyed it enough to put it onto my movie shelf – where it has remained collecting dust ever since. Honestly, I couldn’t remember a thing about it. So, I decided that it was time to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

It’s basically an old school slasher film directed by John Carl Buechler, who made Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) and about 17 other movies. He is more known for his special effects work. Miner’s Massacre is inferior in every way to any Friday the 13th movie. It tries to create a supernatural killer, like Jason, but doesn’t do as good a job setting him up and making him scary. He seems more campy and ridiculous most of the time. We also see him right away, so we know he’s the killer. There’s no mystery, like even the original Friday the 13th had. That would be okay if he was scary like Michael Myers, but he’s not. 

There’s an amazing cast of well known supporting actors in Miner’s Massacre. Unfortunately, they are all wasted. It’s pretty evident that they are there just to provide some names that can be used to promote the movie. many of them just have one scene – some of which are completely unnecessary and do nothing to move the story forward. 

So what’s the verdict?

Miner’s Massacre (2002) is Trash. It doesn’t work as a serious slasher film. It’s not scary or suspenseful. It also isn’t quite bad enough to be “so-bad-it’s-good”. The ridiculous misuse of the famous actors could almost qualify it, but not quite. It does have a tiny bit of sleaze in it, but not enough to make it worth sitting through. Perhaps those who’ve seen fewer bad movies than I have may be amused enough to declare it “so-bad-it’s-good”. Maybe I even did myself when I first saw it almost 20 years ago. But now, it just seems bad.

For a much, much better miner’s massacre, stick to My Bloody Valentine (1981) – or even My Bloody Valentine (2009), which has a much higher sleaze factor and is in 3D! They are both well worth repeat viewings – and are much better slasher films than Miner’s Massacre (2002). 

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Undead or Alive (2007)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for Undead or AliveUndead or Alive (2007) by #GlasgowPhillips

w/ #ChrisKattan #ChrisCoppola #NaviRawat

Two misfits rob a corrupt sheriff as a plague of zombies begins to sweep the country.

“Guns don’t kill people. Zombies kill people.”

“A Zombie Western Comedy … no really!”

#Comedy #Horror #Western

 

Undead or Alive (2007) is another example of a movie (like last week’s Cult (2007)), which has been sitting on my shelf for about a decade – and which I certainly did watch before putting it there – that I basically have no specific memories of, in terms of plot and content. I recalled it being a zombie western, but other than that – nothing. So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

Right off the top, they seem to be blaming the zombie plague on Geronimo – who they claim put some kind of curse on white people. Later in the movie, they even refer to the zombies as Geronimonsters. This didn’t quite sit right with me. I have undoubtedly written my fair share of politically incorrect humour in my time, and maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but I felt that Geronimo deserved a better (albeit fictional) legacy than this.

I must have bought Undead or Alive during the time that I was thoroughly immersing myself in Westerns. I was writing my own epic Western play (an exploration of the history of Western Canada, in fact), and I wanted to soak up as much old west atmosphere as I possibly could. I was also watching a lot of zombie movies because, well, I like zombies – and we were in the midst of a huge zombie resurgence at that time (post Dawn of the Dead (2004)  – which was released, coincidentally, while I was in rehearsal with my brand new  zombie musical – but that’s another story).

Undead or Alive probably intrigued me because it was a combination of two of my current obsessions, Westerns and  zombies, and in theory it’s a brilliant idea. In reality, Undead or Alive just made me want to re-watch Blazing Saddles (1974) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985) – both far superior movies. I feel that Undead or Alive was lifting ideas from The Return of the Living Dead (like shooting zombies in the head doesn’t seem to work), but it was nowhere near as funny. The zombies in Undead or Alive were not that different from regular Western bad guys. They keep on riding horses, shooting guns, and having conversations. This is not what I generally look for in a zombie movie.

Undead or Alive is by no means a terrible movie. It’s well made, with decent action and gore. Unfortunately, the script is not as clever as it needs to be. The movie really aims for comedy much more than horror, and the comedy just isn’t good enough. A person looking for an effective satire of Western conventions would be far better off watching Blazing Saddles, Cat Ballou (1965), or Destry Rides Again (1939).

So what’s the verdict?

Undead or Alive (2007) is neither Trash nor Terror. It simply isn’t good enough, or bad enough, to be one or the other. It’s just floating somewhere in the middle, not particularly interesting enough to be worth multiple viewings. Having watched it twice in ten years, I don’t think I’ll need to be doing that again. It might be an acceptable time passer for those who haven’t already seen it. But I doubt that anyone will love it as much as I love Blazing Saddles (1974) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985). And in the future, I will be watching those movies instead of this one.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Female Bunch (1971)

I’ve been a fan of Al Adamson for a long, long time. So long that I’m not sure how my minor obsession began all those years ago. It might have been when I first saw Satan’s Sadists (1969). I was considering writing a biker musical as a follow up to Bad GIrls Jailhouse, so I was watching every biker movie that I could put my hands on. Satan’s Sadists blew me away and became one my favourites. At some point I started buying any and every bargain bin VHS tape that had Al Adamson’s name on it. Some of them were horrendously bad, some of them were surprisingly good – but they were always entertaining. The Female Bunch (1971) was not one of the movies I bought, or rented on VHS. I think I had read of its existence in some book or magazine, but it seemed to be a fairly elusive movie (at least to me). 

VHS box for The Female Bunch (1971)I had visions of The Female Bunch being a companion piece to Satan’s Sadists (1969). After all, The Female Bunch was made two years after Satan’s Sadists and it had Russ Tamblyn in it again. It was about a group of female outlaws, and I imagined that they might be bikers, like the guys in Satan’s Sadists. Unfortunately, that was all wishful thinking on my part. 

The Female Bunch is more of a weird, modern day Western. The outlaw women ride horses, not motorcycles, and hang out on a ranch somewhere in the desert. They are all women who hate men. They’ve all been screwed over by men in some way (this actually makes it closer to Bad GIrls Jailhouse than any biker musical I might have written), and they have  formed a secret, outlaw society as a response to their bad times with bad dudes. There are no men allowed on the ranch – except for an old and decrepit alcoholic stuntman played by Lon Chaney Jr.. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like Chaney is having to stretch very far to play this character. According to some of the other actors who were in the film, he had to be supplied with one bottle of vodka per day to keep him going. And anytime that the production ran low, they had to send someone out to buy more booze. This was a task made more complicated by the fact that they were shooting in Utah, which was a dry state (or at least their part of it was). Thankfully, they had a plane which figured into their story about drug smuggling, and when not being filmed it could be re-purposed to smuggle booze. 

Behind-the-scenes stories like that one could be more interesting than the film itself. Roger Ebert, who had been an early champion of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), was somewhat less enthusiastic about Al Adamson’s The Female Bunch. Ebert wrote: “There’s no level at which “The Female Bunch” is any good…” I suspect that most of the critics – and audience members – felt that way back in 1971. As a connoisseur of Al Adamson’s oeuvre, I can say that I don’t entirely agree.

Poster for Satan's Sadists (1969)Honestly, The Female Bunch is no Satan’s Sadists. It’s closer to some of Al’s lesser films, although it does have some standout moments. Russ Tamblyn, as a man who makes the mistake of thinking he can sneak onto the ranch to have sex with one of the outlaw women, is excellent. The beginning of the film works well enough, as we follow a new recruit into this wild and crazy world. The final act also more or less works. The film really starts to sprawl in the middle, as there is very little forward movement in the story and not quite enough sleazy goodness (or should I say, sleazy badness?) to make up for it. Still, there is some sleazy goodness, and some inadvertent humour, so it’s not a total loss, either. 

Al Adamson is true master of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, and perhaps one of the genre’s greatest auteurs. Ed Wood gets a lot of credit for his efforts to further the art form – and deservedly so – but a guy like Al Adamson deserves just as much recognition for his accomplishments. The Female Bunch (1971) is not one of his greatest works, but that’s okay. I’m glad that I finally have a copy in my Al Adamson collection, and it certainly is essential viewing for anyone who has a taste for Al’s particular brand of cinematic madness. Perhaps, like some of his other films, The Female Bunch will only get better the next time it’s screened on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Escape from the Bronx (1983)

I rented 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) on Beta in the early 1980s. It was one of the many post apocalyptic action films that sprang up after the success of The Road Warrior AKA Mad Max 2 (1981) and Escape from New York (1981). My friends and I were always keen to see the latest ripoff – I mean entry in the genre. As far as I recall, we enjoyed 1990: The Bronx Warriors as much as any of them – and I believe that I watched it again on late night TV some years later. But as weird as it now seems to me, I don’t think that I ever rented, borrowed, snuck into or otherwise saw Escape from the Bronx (1983) – which was the official sequel.

Clearly, Escape from the Bronx is trying hard to make us think of Escape from New York, but the two films are really nothing alike. What’s weirder, is that I don’t think that Escape from the Bronx is much like 1990: The Bronx Warriors either – but it does feature one of the same stars, Mark Gregory. I should admit that I haven’t seen 1990: The Bronx Warriors for quite some time, so perhaps I am forgetting some of the finer points of the plot. Maybe there is more of a direct connection between it and Escape from the Bronx than I am remembering. Regardless, watching Escape from the Bronx last Friday, it felt quite different to me – and I think that’s alright.

The plot of Escape from the Bronx is almost like that of an old Western; a big bad corporation (instead of a cattle baron, say) wants to take over the wasteland known as The Bronx and turn it into a profitable city of the future. In order to that, they need to get rid of all the down and out misfits who are currently living there (instead of Indigenous people, or small time settlers and farmers in a Western, say). In Escape from the Bronx, the hapless bums, mutants and old people are easy targets for the squad of goons called Disinfestors (who carry flame throwers!) that The General Construction Corporation has sent to do the job. But much like in an old Western such as Shane (1953), there is a professional gunfighter (or post-apocalyptic ass-kicker) who stands up to defend the neighborhood – and that’s Trash, played by Mark Gregory.

VHS box for 1990: The Bronx Warriors. Escape from the Bronx is the sequel.In the first film, Trash was the leader of a gang called The Riders. Escape from the Bronx takes place ten years later, and Trash is now simply a loner who drifts around The Bronx surviving however he can. He might have been inclined to mind his own business – as silent, brooding loners often do – but the Disinfestors burn his parents alive, and that doesn’t sit right with him. Trash becomes the leader of the resistance, and a major thorn in The General Construction Corporation’s side. 

Most of the Disinfestors seems like cannon fodder when Trash and his allies turn the tables on them, but their leader is played by Henry Silva, and he’s about as bad a badass as any evil corporation could hope to unleash on unsuspecting Warriors of the Wasteland (hey, that almost sounds like it could be the title of another, suspiciously similar movie by the same director, Enzo G Castellari – oh, wait, it is). Watching Silva do his thing, you just know that before the end of the movie there’s going to be some sort of epic showdown between his character and Trash…

I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to finally watch Escape from the Bronx, after all these years. Sequels can often be pale imitations of the original; a disappointing display of diminishing returns (Teen Wolf Too (1987) anyone?). I’m happy to say that Escape from the Bronx entertained me as much as the original – perhaps even more so (keep in mind I haven’t seen 1990: The Bronx Warriors for many years, and may be forgetting how truly awesome it is). There’s no Fred Williamson this time, which is always a letdown, but there’s Henry Silva and his army of Disinfestors so I’m willing to call it even.

Apparently there’s a popular episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 featuring Escape from the Bronx – although under the alternate title Escape 2000. I haven’t watched it, because I prefer to experience this kind of movie magic in its purest, most unadulterated form. But perhaps it’s more proof that Escape from the Bronx (1983) is high quality #NotQuiteClassicCinema that must be seen by all fans of 1980s post apocalyptic mayhem. It’s worth the price of admission and then some on any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.