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April 23, 2011

Midnight Top Five - The 2011 First Quarter Midnight Favorites Edition

I might be jumping the gun a little bit, but it's been a surprisingly good first few months of 2011 for me.  And a big part of that fun has been finding a surprising number of cheesy flicks that I kinda love in the first part of the year.  Instead of waiting to wrap everything up at the end of the year, I figured I'd take the chance to shed some light on a few films I didn't cover yet at FMWL which I've fallen for in the first part of 2011.
This picture might be here because I never learned to ride a bike.  Or it might come into play later on....
Bonnie's Kids (1973, Dir. by Arthur Marks.)
Mega-Babe Tiffany Bolling and Robin Mattson star as the eponymous lead characters in this rape/revenge/film noir hybrid, two young girls on the run after the elder kills their stepfather who is attempting to rape the younger.  On the run from the law, the duo find themselves caught up in a series of dangerous events, including attempts to swindle money from their rich uncle and the problems that come with gang involvement.  The film's biggest legacy is probably the pair of interracial hitmen who track the girls, which were an inspiration to that guy who cast John Travolta and Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
I already stated her mega-babeness, but I must again say that Bolling is a ridiculously fetching femme fatale.  Her Ellie is the focal point of most of the film, though Mattson's Myra does get in her kicks. By the time the film rolls into its cheesy "who can you trust?" third act, it does a good job of pointing out that there are few characters in the film that we should be rooting for.  This turns the film into a sleazy version of Double Indemnity as it heads toward the finish, but it stays fun thanks to the fun performances of the actors and a quick pace that fills 105 minutes easily.  This is the kind of movie I'd love to have found at a drive-in of that era.

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1973, Dir. by Bob Clark.)
I know I'm not the first to point it out, but Bob Clark is the director with the most schizophrenic filmography of all time.  After debuting with the gender-bending She-Man (no relation to He-Man, naturally), Clark went on to make this film, the original Black Christmas, the Sherlock Holmes/Jack the Ripper flick Murder by Decree, the adult comedy Porky's, the holiday classic A Christmas Story, the Dolly Parton/Sylvester Stallone flick Rhinestone, and (finally) the Baby Genius movies.  I'm no expert on demonic possession, but I've seen one on TV - and I'm pretty sure Mr. Clark needs a young priest and an old priest.
Speaking of demonic, there's Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, an entirely tongue in cheek zombie flick that lacks tact or style but is oozing with a homemade charm.  It's written by oddball star Alan Ormsby, who plays a character named Alan, and features a slew of cheesy characters (mostly named after their actors, too) on a cheesy island being attacked by the undead.  Despite its flaws in tone and execution, the film is a lot of fun to experience as a period of the era.  While a film with this plot and these characters might fall flat in today's saturated zombie market, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things isa neat little byproduct of its time that I fully enjoyed.

Midnight Madness (1980, Dir. by Michael Nankin & David Wechter.)
If it weren't for its name, there's little that would really merit me talking about this film on this blog - but that's never stopped me before.  An American Werewolf in London star David Naughton headlines this surprisingly adult themed (but still PG) comedy from Disney, which features a bunch of cliched characters on five separate teams (jocks, nerds, feminists, bad white guys, good white guys with a token black friend) competing in an all night scavenger hunt that covers large sections of Los Angeles in the name of fun.  It's an incredibly simple film, but I had a ton of fun with it.
The film is assisted by the real-world board game plot, and part of the fun definitely lies in trying to figure out the clues. (I will admit I'm a bit too "wasn't even born then" and a bit too "I grew up in Iowa, what the hell do I know about LA?" to get it all.)  The film's madcap sense of humor, which seems like a toned down version of a John Landis film of the era, keeps it fresh, and the side performances - including a young Michael J. Fox in his film debut and PEE WEE HERMAN AS A COWBOY(!) - add to the appeal.  It's an innocent (except for that whole token black thing) comedy that is one of the more enjoyable '80s films I've found in a long time.

Night Visitor ( 1989, Dir. by Rupert Hitzig.)
I've mentioned before that Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window is 100% my favorite movie ever, but I also have a soft spot for most films that borrow its trappings to make a different kind of voyeuristic horror tale.  Night Visitor is an example of that, as Derek Rydall (later the male lead in Popcorn) plays a teenager with a vast imagination who becomes enamored with his new neighbor (Shannon Tweed), but then witnesses a vicious murder in her home that appears to be a cult sacrifice.
Night Visitor is buoyed by a strong cast of established actors, with Elliott Gould and Richard Roundtree (aka SHAFT!) on the police side of the film and Allen Garfield and Michael J. Pollard (of TANGO & CASH!) on the possibly satanic side of the film.  While the film shifts in tone far too often - and the tacked on ending is enough to make me gag on my own spit - it's a fun little diversion with good actors carrying a silly film and making the whole thing enjoyable.  It's no Rear Window, or even Fright Night, but it's a fun cult thriller for fans of '80s horror.

Stunt Rock/BMX Bandits (1980/1983, Dir. by Brian Trenchard-Smith.)
Up until a little while ago, I knew Brian Trenchard-Smith as the guy who made Leprechaun 3 and Leprechaun 4: In Space.  Oh, and Dead-End Drive In, which is an amusing oddity from down under.  When I started hearing some people talk more about him - and when I won a copy of BMX Bandits from Severin Films and Trailers from Hell - I didn't really know what I was getting in to, except that the film had a teenage Nicole Kidman doing bike jumps.  What I found was a laid-back and playful teen-based adventure that featured some inventive camera work and a frantic pace that was right up my alley.
I followed that up quickly with another Trenchard-Smith project I'd heard of, Stunt Rock.  The film is exactly what it sounds like (unless you think it's about a rock who stands in for actor rocks) - a chronicling of stuntman Grant Page and rock band Sorcery.  Page pulls off some awesome death-defying tricks, the music's fun for a classic rock fan like myself, and the whole film is just so unique that I had to love it.  I can't wait to look into more of Trenchard-Smith's work soon.

Have any great finds of your own from the first part of 2011?  Hit up the comments below and let me know! (And yes, I cheated.  HA!) 


Emily said...

Awesome post The Mike! I haven't seen any of these films, and haven't even heard of a couple. You always find such interesting films to watch! I haven't seen too much so far this year that's blown me away, but there have been a few. I finally did see Westworld and thought it was awesome and Death Race 2000 was extremely enjoyable as well.... oh, and Kill Baby...Kill! I guess I'm getting a lot of suggestions from you! Sauna and Outpost also stick out in my mind. ... and I just watched Monsters finally and loved it.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Rad?

MadMan_731 said...

Hah, some of these movies sound rather craptatistic. I'm most interested in seeing Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. Especially because of the title.

The Man-Cave said...

You are the third person now I know who has seen Midnight Madness. It really is a simple little fun film and who doesn't like a movie with mini-golf, mouthpieces used to jimmy rig elevators and Stephen Furst?