Friday, December 6, 2019


As some of you may remember, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA believes I'm his best friend, and constantly sends me letters fondly recalling all the times we stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder against the gun-grabbers. And I can't blame him for reminiscing, for to hear Wayne tell it each battle was a nail-biter, with the two of us only pulling off victory when I pulled out my wallet and made a generous donation. Now, this is basically the same pitch I get from Habitat for Humanity, but at least they don't tantalize me with the prospect that a gunfight is about to break out at any moment. Which is probably a good thing, because it's my personal belief that Jimmy Carter is immortal, and as with Mongo from Blazing Saddles, shooting the former President would just make him mad.

What perplexes me about this situation is that while I have given money to Habitat for Humanity, I've only ever given the NRA grief. So if Wayne and I do have a relationship, it's an abusive one, and if this were a Lifetime movie, I'd be the bad boyfriend. But despite his persistence over the years I think even Wayne has begun to doubt my feelings, because today he got his friend Jason Ouimet, the NRA Executive Director, to pass me a note that basically says, "Do You Still Like Wayne? Check This Box [ ]".

Well...I won't send you money, because I don't have any and anyway you'd just use it to buy cheap booze or Congressmen, or cheap booze for Congressmen, but there are other things I can contribute. My time, for instance (these emails of yours don't mock themselves). Or there's that dead raccoon at the end of the block. It's getting rained on, but it's still reasonably fresh; yet I can't help feeling you'd regard that less as a contribution and more the sort of oblique warning Mark Singer received in Body Chemistry when his spurned lover mailed him a squashed lobster (For more on their fraught, unrequited love, which eerily parallels mine and Wayne's, see page 92 of Better Living Through Bad Movies.)

In 2020, you and I are facing an ALL-OR-NOTHING BATTLE for the very survival of American gun rights.
From your lips to God's ears. But you may have to shout to be heard above all the mass shootings.
For the first time in our lives, leading candidates for the White House are openly pledging to registertaxban, and even confiscate our firearms. 
Well, that escalated quickly. From "register" firearms, which most everyone in the country supports, to "confiscate", which virtually nobody advocates--certainly not "leading candidates for the White House", more's the pity. I acknowledge, if not necessarily admire the rhetorical sleight of hand with which the most radical solution to gun violence is conflated with the most anodyne.

NRA: That drug store clerk is making CHANGE!

ME: Well, yes, these Dr. Scholl Corn Cushions are four bucks, and I gave her a five, so I'm owed a dollar in change.

NRA: But she's making RADICAL CHANGE! Instead of a filthy, crumpled dollar bill--the symbol of our proud nation--she's giving you a Sacajawea coin, beloved by Feminists and SJWs! It's like you don't even care about the historical reputation of Lewis and Clark!

ME: No, no, I mean I'd like to walk the walk, but I've got this Plantar's Wart...
And hundreds of U.S. House and Senate candidates have likewise made it clear that destroying your gun rights will be their #1 priority if they’re elected next year.
I've finally figured out why I read this nonsense, and the answer is not flattering: it's basically political porn. Not that I can fap to the Fata Morganas of right wing spleenmail, but just as porn fanciers like to believe in a world where hitchhikers are comely, well-endowed college girls and not hollow-eyed meth-heads with a facial tic and a butterfly knife, I enjoy fantasizing about election campaigns where the candidates actually share my policy priorities.
The bottom line for you and me:
If we lose in 2020, the consequences will be catastrophic.

If we lose in 2020, national gun registration will become the law of the land, and your name, personal information, and gun purchase records will be tracked forever in a centralized government database.
Well the joke's on them, given that I've never bought a gun, so I say we call up Aston Kutcher and see how this prank plays out.
If we lose in 2020, huge new taxes on firearm and ammunition purchases – along with mandatory insurance requirements – will put self-defense and recreational shooting beyond the financial reach of millions of Americans.
Sure, but let's not focus solely on the negative here, Jason. Think how many patriots, as a direct result of these onerous new taxes, will not get the opportunity to shoot their own dick off while squabbling over a parking space outside the Wal-Mart, thus depriving liberal Twitter of much needed amusement and memes.
If we lose in 2020, we’ll be facing sweeping bans on semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols that will outlaw more than half of all firearms sold in America today.
If I didn't know that you're basically the modern equivalent of those medicine show quacks who would roll into some frontier town and fob off turpentine as a cure for whooping cough, I'd be jealous of your fierce and tender faith in the efficacy of the Democratic Party.
And if we lose in 2020, we could be just months or even weeks away from nationwide gun confiscations – with millions of legally-owned firearms being seized by the government and melted down for scrap.
Well I'm sure we could make something useful out of all that scrap. Like playground equipment for school kids! Although thanks to all the un-scrapped guns, there's not as much demand as there might otherwise be.
In short, the most precious freedom in our Constitution – a freedom you and I have known all our lives – is now on the brink of total destruction.
Look Mr. Phelps, do you accept this Impossible Mission or not?!
And the only group of people in this entire country who can stop the Second Amendment from being wiped off the face of the earth are you and me and our fellow NRA members.
Well, I'd love to help preserve our many millions of guns, but I don't have a lot of spare time what with my new job as a lobbyist for the National Scrap Industry Association.
Scott, that’s why I’m asking you to please make a generous end-of-year contribution[link removed] to NRA-ILA of $28 or more – so we can head into 2020 fully prepared for the biggest election battle of our lives.

Why $28? No clue. Maybe it's an amount small enough they can circumvent some limit or reporting regulation, or maybe it's a code, the way "88" means "Heil Hitler" to the alt right.
Let me be clear.
Not only have we never faced a threat this dangerous, but gun-banners have never been better funded or better organized than they are right now.
Or more pissed off. Fortunately, they've never come up against the awesome power of my Game of Thrones-themed pro-gun LARPing group, Brothers Without Gun-Banners!
And there’s simply no way NRA-ILA can win this make-or-break fight to save our guns without your help today.
You are So. Screwed.
To reach every freedom-loving gun owner in America and get them to the polls next November, we need your generous financial help right now.[link removed]
Have we tried reaching them through the power of prayer? I hear that's pretty effective.
To combat the vicious anti-gun lies being spread by the gun-hating media, we need your immediate help today.[link removed]
Why didn't I think of this in junior high--combating the lies and vicious gossip the popular kids spread about me by demanding everybody hand over their lunch money! That whole "queer bait" incident alone could have paid for an Intellivision!
And to build, organize, and mobilize the biggest grassroots army we’ve ever mustered in key battleground states, we need your leadership now more than ever before.[link removed]
All right, Jason, you've talked me into it! Once you've mobilized our army in the battlegrounds, I'll exercise my leadership by giving them the same orders Robert E. Lee gave his troops at Gettysburg. (I'm not exactly sure what those were, but I assume he won; there's statues of the guy all over the damn place.)

This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for NRA-ILA supporters like you and me.

Scott, you and I need to recognize right here and now that the Second Amendment is going to be the number one issue in this election. Not health care. Not immigration. Not the economy.
At least if the NRA Institute for Legislative Action has anything to say about. Too bad for the future of the Second Amendment that I blew my last 28 bucks on a pallet of Otter Pops at Costco.
If we win this election, we keep our guns. If we lose, we lose our freedoms – FOREVER. That’s why I need you fighting by my side right now.
Well I'm not gonna stay by your side FOREVER if you don't scootch over. My leg's going to sleep.

Whatever you can give before the end of the year[link removed] – $28, $37, $53, $100, or more – I’m asking you to please be as generous as you can.

I'm not saying I don't get a thrill out of watching a grown man grovel like this, but in keeping with the porn theme, I see no reason why I should give them my credit card number when I can probably find it for free on some torrent site.
There’s simply never been a more important time for you to step up and help save the freedoms that generations of Americans have fought to defend.
That's what you say every election, every email, every time. Does the importance of the time just keep increasing exponentially? Or did we reach Peak Important Time somewhere back in the 90s, and now we're just struggling to maintain our relevance or even simply justify our existence like Yakov Smirnoff?

Thank you in advance for your strong NRA-ILA leadership. I’m grateful for your commitment. And I’m thankful beyond words to have you on our team.
Yours in Freedom,

Jason Ouimet
Executive Director

Okay, the closing of the email is admittedly dull, which is why people who dictate letters in movies always say, "Yours Sincerely, et cetera, et cetera" in a bored tone of voice, but I thought there has never been a more important time to include the whole stupid text, because this email contains 10 separate links to their fundraising page, a new record.

Maybe the NRA really is spooked by the withdrawal of certain big dollar donors, who figure all the heat from mass shootings is bad for business, and Jason is hoping the remaining membership is senile enough to click on all the links, forgetting they already gave two paragraphs ago.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Slumgullion Episode 70: The Mandalorian

Join Scott, Jeff, and Mary on The Slumgullion for a chat about the first two episodes of The Mandalorian. We're serving up geek crudité, Salacious B. Crumb kebobs, and Fur Eggs Benedict:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Portrait of the Artist as a Nosferatu: The Vampire of Women (1959)

By Hank Parmer

I didn't plan things out this way.

It's mostly coincidental that my follow-up review to a film featuring bunny-hopping Chinese vampires is this head-scratching take on the Land of the Rising Sun's own bloodsuckers, the kyuketsuki. I say "mostly" because the YouTube gnomes must have taken my self-inflicted ordeal with Robo Vampire to mean I wanted to see more vampire-themed flicks from the Far East, which is no doubt how this one ended up on their Recommended list.

Thankfully, compared to Robo Vampire, this flick is Citizen Kane. Which is admittedly setting the bar so low it's about a thousand feet down in the primordial ooze at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, but those little frills -- like trained actors, competent black and white widescreen cinematography, and a plot that for all its wha-da-fuckery isn't a shameless rip off of a far better film -- sure can make a difference.

I'll even go so far as to say there's some genuinely creepy and even rather twisted stuff in Vampire of Women (Onna Kyuketsuki). Although not quite in the way one might expect -- you'll see what I mean.

The director, Nobuo Nakagawa, made quite a name for himself in the horror genre during the '50s and '60s. His very next picture, Jigoku (1960), with its unsparingly bleak plot and lurid depictions of the Buddhist hells, is probably his most famous work. Many of Nakagawa's films have supernatural themes; quite a few of them are period melodramas featuring vengeful spirits, such as a retelling of the popular ghost story, "The Peony Lantern".

In fairness to this director, I've seen six or seven of his other movies, and they seemed to make some kind of sense at the time. This one, though, is set in modern times, as we follow the misadventures of a crazy, mixed-up monster who can't decide whether he's Lon Chaney, Jr. or Bela Lugosi.

The Vampire of Women opens with a taxi speeding through the night. Journalist Tamio Oki urges the driver to step on the gas, explaining he's late for his fiance Itsuko Matsumura's birthday party.

A woman darts in front of the taxi; the driver swerves to avoid her and the cab screeches to a stop. Tamio and the driver pile out of the taxi, certain they must have hit this jaywalker, only to find she has vanished into thin air. They even check under the cab, but nope, no scofflaws hung up in the driveshaft.

At Itsuko's party, our slightly miffed birthday girl decides they shouldn't wait any longer for Tamio. After she blows out the candles, she cuts into her exquisitely spun-sugar-frosted cake with a razor-sharp knife.  She accidentally slices her thumb, and splatters the celebratory confection with her blood.

At least they still have the ice cream.

Outside, that mystery woman scoots across the driveway just ahead of Tamio's taxi as it pulls in to the Matsumura mansion. But when Tamio looks around for her, she's disappeared yet again.

Back at the party, Itsuko's father, Shigekatsu, and Wada the butler are worried. This aged retainer recalls her mother cut her finger in exactly the same way, just before she disappeared. "Yes... a question of blood, perhaps," Mr. Matsumura replies, enigmatically. Is he hinting klutziness runs in the family?

Tamio arrives, with profuse apologies for being late to the party. While he explains about that careless phantom pedestrian, the lights suddenly go out.

Cut to the mystery lady, or rather, her legs, as she stealthily crosses the patio, traverses a dark, deserted hallway and ascends a flight of stairs. In the kitchen, the cook and the maid grouse about the blackout making their jobs even harder, only to be astonished when someone rings from the second-floor bedroom, the one that's been closed up for years!

While the youngsters have a sing-along, Wada and Mr. Matsumura investigate this strange development. They're justifiably amazed when Dad recognizes the new occupant of the long-disused bedroom: It's his wife Miwako, Itsuko's mother, who disappeared twenty years ago.

Maybe they should have checked the closet again, or looked under the bed... Yet, amazingly, she doesn't appear to have aged a day!

Miwako is barely conscious, unable to answer when Shigekatsu implores her to tell him what happened, and where she's been all this time. He mutters something about a family curse.

The next day, his wife is still semi-comatose. The doctor assures Shigekatsu she seems perfectly healthy -- but confirms that physically she can't be a day over twenty. Itsuko, worried that her mother will be treated like a freak, makes her fiance promise not to publish the story.

Tamio suggests they forget their troubles by taking in an art exhibition. As it turns out, there's more exhibited here than they might have expected: Itsuko is certain that prize-winning piece (by which I mean, "portrait of a reclining nude") is her mother. After looking more closely, Tamio agrees it's definitely her -- face.

A whisper-thin guy wearing a black dinner jacket, black fedora and white scarf, and large and very dark sunglasses, stands close behind them. OMG: It's the "Chairman of the Board"!

Tamio wanders off to find out more from the gallery. That swankily attired stranger strikes up a conversation with Itsuko, querying her about her evident fascination with the painting. He seems intrigued when Itsuko answers it reminds her of her mother.

Rather than trying to ferret out more details about Itsuko's unconventional upbringing, the man in black abruptly exits the exhibition, his faithful dwarf close on his heels. Tamio returns from having been told at the information desk that the gallery hasn't the slightest idea who the artist and his model are. There's only the name signed on the portrait: "Shiro Sofue".

After Tamio drops Itsuko off back at the Matsumura mansion, the man in black and his pint-size posse show up outside the gate and take a quick gander at the residence. Next we see the dwarf sneaking through the darkened gallery after hours. He stops in front of that prize-winning nude and gazes up at it. It may be a good thing this scene doesn't go any further...

Cut to the mysterious man in black's hotel suite. A maid tops off his glass, with red wine, natch. Although it's nighttime, he still insists on wearing those shades. Once the maid exits, his diminutive assistant enters the scene through the dwarf entrance the management had installed.

Which was quite thoughtful of them, really. Except that due to a mix-up with the contractor it's six feet up on the wall. When the little guy jumps down and hits that bare floor, he takes the impact on his arms as well as his legs. It takes a moment for the actor to recover. (It's not like he needed those rotator cuffs for anything important.) Let's hope they got this scene in one take.

Pausing for a few seconds to swing his arms back and forth and take a few deep breaths, the henchman reports everything went as planned. The mystery man is pleased. He removes the cheaters, but for anyone who might have been anticipating some ocular weirdness a la The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, his are disappointingly normal.

The dwarf suddenly panics: "The windows are open!"

This is the cue for the boss to begin having some kind of fit, possibly inspired by the full moon that's shining through the window. His henchman frantically wrestles with the heavy drapes, while the man in black puts his hands over his face, hurls himself on the bed, thrashes around and moans.

The maid, who's just outside in the hallway, hears the commotion and rushes back into the room. The man in black is sitting up now, seemingly calmer, but his hands are still covering his face. She thinks it's a bit stuffy, so she helpfully pulls the curtains open again.

Extremely bad move: The boss puts a whole new spin on "fresh air fiend" as he transforms into a classic Euro-style vampire with pale, sunken features, Count Orlok eyebrows and a pearly pair of fangs.
"How do you like me now?" 

His convenience-size Renfield locks himself in the bathroom, while the bloodsucker chases down this hapless do-gooder and sinks his teeth in her neck. He dumps her corpse on the couch in the hallway.

Tamio is dispatched to report on the murder. After the investigating detective does the obligatory "baffled by the marks on her neck" routine, the journalist spies the man in black, sans shades, standing in the doorway to his digs -- which can't be much more than twenty feet from where the maid's lifeless body lies sprawled on that couch, blood dribbling from the holes in her neck. Tamio works his way through the crowd to interview him. The vampire slams the door in Tamio's face.

Returning to the newsroom, Tamio learns there's been an art heist: That prize-winning nude has been stolen!

And where should it turn up next morning, but inside the front gate of the Matsumura residence, wrapped in brown paper, with a slip signed simply "Shiro Sofue" attached. Itsuko claims she hasn't the slightest idea who that is.

Which seems strange, considering the employee at the gallery said it was a signed portrait, and she did spend a fair amount of time studying it. Maybe the artist's signature was really tiny, or perhaps her attention was focused elsewhere. Then again, it could be there's a good reason why Itsuko is rarely entrusted with sharp objects.

But you do have to hand it to the little guy: It appears he managed to horse that oversize portrait in its heavy frame -- which anyone who wasn't at least six-and-a-half feet tall and built like a tank would likely have found somewhat unwieldy -- out of the gallery, wrap it carefully, and deposit it on the Matsumura doorstep, all without being seen. This Renfield may come in a small package, but he's undeniably worth every last morsel of his spider goulash.

Tamio arrives in time for the unwrapping. He's amazed to see the stolen painting, and immediately clues the others in about its theft last night.
"It's an interesting approach..." 

Is it just me, or is there something slightly peculiar about Itsuko et al's nonchalant attitude toward this canvas? Shigekatsu in particular seems remarkably unaffected by this clue to what his missing wife was up to these past twenty years. As for Tamio, well, I'm fairly broadminded when it comes to nekkid pictures -- er, celebrations of the human form, but a large, realistic nude of my fiance's hot mom (or for that matter, my mother, or my wife) displayed in the front room?

Prize-winning composition or no, I believe that might fall just a bit outside my comfort zone. But who knows, maybe Tamio met Itsuko and her dad at a naturists' outing.

And that doesn't even begin to address the twist-of-the-knife implicit in having this... revealing portrait delivered, out of the blue, to the model's family in a manner which leaves no doubt it's a gift from the secretive artist. If you ask me, though, it seems he's gone about it in a needlessly complicated manner. Although I suppose sending it by parcel post probably wouldn't have had quite the same sinister cachet.

Nighttime: A full moon rides above ragged clouds. Medium close up of Miwako's portrait, where it remains propped up in the shadowed parlor. It seems like that nude gets almost as much screen time as some of the principal players.

Not that I'm complaining.

Miwako sits up in bed. As if in a trance, she tosses the covers back, rises and heads downstairs to the parlor.
"Sure, I've got a bod that won't stop... but am I art?" 

She stares at her portrait for a moment, suddenly cries out, "I'm scared!" then, after a few seconds, "Forgive me!" and collapses. Shigekatsu comes running, followed quickly by Itsuko, her fiance and the help. Miwako's only out for a few moments. Her husband is overjoyed when she opens her eyes and finally recognizes him.

While Shigekatsu re-introduces his wife to their daughter, Tamio continues to intently scrutinize that cryptic painting. Jeez, buddy, can't you afford a magazine or something?

Shigekatsu decides this is the perfect time for the youngsters to hear about some family history.

Itsuko's father begins by asking if they've ever heard of Shiro Amakusa. Tamio immediately recognizes the name: Back in the 17th Century, he was the leader of the Shimabara Uprising, when Iemitsu Tokugawa outlawed Christianity. Although Shiro and his followers were all killed, the Matsumura family are his descendants. His blood flows in Miwako's veins. (Shigekatsu took his wife's clan name when they married.)

In a flashback to twenty years previous, the young couple decide to visit her family shrine on a holiday. After paying their respects, Shigekatsu relaxes with a little angling in the nearby lake, while Miwako sets out their picnic beside a small campfire. But then, from one moment to the next, she simply disappears. Though he searched far and wide for her, that was the last her family saw of Miwako until she turned up a couple of days ago.

Now the flashback follows Miwako: Seized by some irresistible compulsion, she takes a stroll. On a promontory overlooking the water, she meets the man in black. He's busy painting a landscape, out in the broad daylight. As we saw earlier at the gallery, this is one weakness our kyuketsuki doesn't share with his Western counterpart. Quite the contrary, in fact.

He tells Miwako he's been waiting for her, and hands her a pale rose, claiming its scent drew her to him. (Romantic cuss, ain't he?) One close-up sniff of the flower's fragrance is enough to put Miwako down for the count. I'm beginning to wonder if the family curse is actually narcolepsy.

Now she's dressed in a filmy negligee, and lying on a divan, in some strange place surrounded by impenetrable darkness. The man in black wakes Miwako by vehemently prodding her in the solar plexus with a floor candelabra.

"Wakey wakey eggs and bakey!" 

They're not alone: There's also a withered crone in a plain grey kimono, plus our old friend Mini-Renfield (who's borrowed an extra-shaggy sherpa vest from Sonny Bono for the occasion) and, making a special guest appearance, Japanese Mr. Clean.

The man in black offers her eternal, unfailing youth, if she accepts his love. In a flashback-within-a-flashback, we see the vampire's origin story: He was a samurai named Takenaka, who loved Princess Katsu, the daughter of Shiro Amakusa -- remember him? -- even more than his Christian faith. When the Shogun's armies came for them he helped her commit seppuku while the full moon was rising. Then, because he was so smitten with the princess, he drank her blood.

Nothing so odd about that, right?

Be that as it may, this doomed him to live forever, seeking the blood of maidens, the blood of his Princess. (Well, sheesh, you make one mistake...) Unsurprisingly, Miwako is a dead ringer for Princess Katsu.

In the next scene, Miwako's posing for that prize-winning portrait.
"Now, hold that pose -- for the next twenty years." 

Vampire Takenaka flings his brush and pallet away. He complains he can't paint her, because of the hatred for him in her eyes. (What did you expect, gratitude? It's not like you gave her much say in the matter.) The nutty nosferatu shows Miwako his gallery of two-piece bathing suit-clad former lovers; he promises if she tries to betray him, she'll end up a statue like the rest of them, with a golden cross pendant hung round her neck.

Miwako resumes the narration: After years of waiting for her chance, she managed to escape and somehow found her way back home. It was the moonlight that woke her just now. Miwako confides she finds it comforting, because her captor hated the stuff.

Okay, that's all good and well, but I distinctly remember Mr. Matsumura saying something about a curse. Is it that the women in Miwako's family keep getting hit on by a screwball vampire with artistic pretensions? If anybody seems like they're genuinely under a curse here, it's Takenaka.

Shigekatsu reports the stolen painting to the police; Takenaka has also been summoned to the station. He's antsy and keeps checking his watch, clearly impatient to get the interrogation over with. The detective from Homicide leads off by observing the maid's corpse was found right outside his door. When he asks Takenaka the obvious question about his whereabouts at the time of the murder, the camera pans to the clock on the wall -- it's almost a quarter 'til six.

Whatever alibi he concocted must have satisfied the police, because it's night again and Takenaka is cruising the brightly-lit streets of Tokyo's famous Ginza district. The kyuketsuki notices the full moon trying to peep out from behind the thick overcast, and becomes increasingly nervous. He pulls over suddenly. Clutching his portfolio, he exits the car and hastily ducks into a nearby restaurant, the Angel Cafe.

Takenaka seats himself at a table, where luckily the pebble-glass windows hide the sight of the moon. Outside, in yet another remarkable coincidence, Tamio happens to be right on the spot when Mini-Renfield pops out of the car's trunk -- and just exactly where else would you expect the Master to keep his dwarf? -- and scuttles down the sidewalk. This naturally sets the journalist's investigative juices flowing. He follows Takenaka's henchman into the restaurant.

Takenaka sits hunched over his table, laboring to retain his cool. His diminutive assistant clambers up on the bar and begins kicking and hurling glassware and bottles of booze everywhere. The best I can figure is either the little guy thinks he's auditioning for Coyote Ugly, or he's trying to distract everyone from Takenaka's obvious distress. Whichever it is, he blows it big time when he gets a little too carried away and pitches an ashtray through one of those pebble-glass windows, giving the boss an unobstructed eyeful of the lunar orb.

Takenaka goes berserk. One thing you can say about this kooky kyuketsuki: Despite being well past his 300th birthday, he's totally plugged into that modern, on-the-go, supercharged and highly efficient Japanese lifestyle. During the ensuing rampage, he merely has to fasten his fangs onto each victim's neck for a couple of seconds to kill her.

This vampire must really suck.

Another puzzling aspect of this sequence is that in addition to journalist Tamio, there are at least five other men, who all appear fairly stout of arm and in good fettle, in the adjoining bar along with their dates. Yet Takenaka thoroughly intimidates these wimps simply by throwing a chair at them. Then he sinks his teeth into the hostess, and, shortly thereafter, a panicked woman who tries to bolt from the bar.

All through this, Tamio and the others merely stand there and gawp. It's not like Takenaka appears to have supernatural strength, though of course he could still give you a nasty bite, or some painful scratches with those pointy fingernails. Even so, no one makes the slightest move to stop him. Like, say, whacking him with another chair.

After dropping his second victim, Takenaka stumbles out of the cafe. Tamio retrieves the artist's portfolio and follows at a discreet distance. But at the entrance to the establishment Mini-Renfield body-checks the journalist, then takes off in the other direction. Tamio wisely decides to pursue the dwarf, instead.

In quick succession Takenaka attacks two more women, in plain view of a bunch of pedestrians, then totters back to his car and drives off.

The vampire's murderous romp in the Ginza district naturally makes the headlines. For some reason the newspapers inflate his kill total to six, not four. Could be he stopped off for a couple of quick ones after the first massacre.

At the Matsumura spread, Itsuko, Mom and Dad are back in the parlor with the painting. They do seem to spend a lot of time there. Miwako is terrified when she realizes someone has stuck a small gold crucifix to the forehead of her nude. She's convinced it's a sign from "the master of the cave" that he's coming for her.

Shigekatsu assures Miwako the police are supposed to come by soon to pick up the painting. While Mr. Matsumura helps his distraught wife return to her bedroom, Itsuko answers the doorbell -- but no one's there.

She then unwittingly (or half-wittingly) assists the vampire with this obvious diversion by asking her father if she can speak with him alone, even though Miwako begs him not to leave her side. Shigekatsu promises her he'll be right back.

While they're outside the bedroom, Takenaka emerges from the shadows and reproaches Miwako for running away. He pleads with her to come back to their cozy cave with him. She refuses.

Downstairs, Shigekatsu orders the servants to search the house, but first he wants the painting put somewhere out of sight. Awww... and it was such a great conversation piece.

Takenaka puts Miwako under a spell, or kills her, it's not very clear. When Shigekatsu returns to check on Miwako, he's confronted by the vampire, who chokes him and tosses him onto the landing, then slams the door to the bedroom shut. Gathering Miwako in his arms, Takenaka quite pointlessly kicks out the glass on the double doors leading out onto the balcony, and absconds with luckless Mr. Matsumura's wife.

Later, Shigekatsu lingers disconsolately in Miwako's now-vacant bedroom. You do have to feel sorry for the guy.

Just as the police are carting the painting out the front door, Tamio belatedly makes the connection between the artist's signature on the portrait and that signed charcoal sketch of a nude in the portfolio Takenaka conveniently left behind while running amok. Which Tamio has held on to, instead of turning over to the police, even though as a reporter he should know they'd consider it vital evidence.

I'm sure he just wanted to study the artist's work more closely.

Tamio and Itsuko decide to investigate the kyuketsuki's hotel suite. Which implies Tamio must have recognized him at the Angel Cafe as the guy he saw at the first murder scene. Yet again, he didn't bother to mention this to the authorities? And come to think of it, how did that dwarf manage to outrun him?

No one answers the door. The desk clerk informs the two they just missed him: Takenaka checked out earlier that morning. Tamio and Itsuko realize he must have gone to ground at his hideout in Shimabara. They resolve to hunt him there.

Meanwhile, Takenaka breezes right through a roadblock, in the same car in which multiple witnesses must have seen him fleeing his Ginza sucking spree. A bit of trick photography with a double exposure reveals that Mini-Renfield and unconscious-or-dead Miwako are in the trunk, which of course the police neglect to search.
"I'm the luckiest little guy in the world!"  

You know, given the level of police work we've seen so far, there may be some justification for Tamio's do-it-yourself attitude toward tracking this monster down. Anyway, Godzilla only knows what the little guy's going to be getting up to in there. For Miwako's sake, I hope it's a short trip.

Incidentally, this scene takes place at night. When a mere glimpse of the moon is supposed to turn Takenaka into a ferocious, out-of-control vampire. Yet here he is taking a road trip, appearing perfectly cool and collected. Sure, why not? Maybe there's a thick overcast.

A lucky tip from some fellow reporters in Shimabara puts our vampire hunters on the right trail: A thief who hid his loot up in the mountains was recently nabbed by the police. The guy claims that after he buried his haul, he was frightened away from a "castle" by a bald-headed giant and a tiny fellow. Changing his mind now about going it alone, Tamio somehow persuades the authorities there's something to the criminal's story.

A search party is organized, with the thief leading the way up into the snow-clad mountains. After a while, Tamio notices Itsuko is lagging behind. (This delicate flower of Japanese womanhood is of course unable to climb that slope as quickly as the menfolk.) He backtracks to give his fiance a hand; the rest of the party disappears over a rise.

It's obvious what's going to happen next, right? Well, yes and no. Sure, I expected an attack by Takenaka's henchmen, but I didn't think Mini-Renfield (who's grown quite attached to that sherpa vest) and Japanese Mr. Clean would employ 17th Century style matchlocks. Their boss couldn't have sprung for some slightly more up-to-date weaponry? I bet he ends up regretting this penny-pinching.

The giant and the little guy take their ineffective potshots at Tamio, then beat feet into a boulder field. Tamio predictably swallows the bait and pursues them, leaving Itsuko all by her lonesome. As soon as he's out of sight, the caped kyuketsuki suddenly appears behind her.

Tamio hears Itsuko's cries for help; when he returns to the spot where he'd abandoned her to go chasing after the vampire's henchmen, all he finds is a shoe. Tamio searches the mountainside for her. Eventually, with no apparent indication as to why he chose to check out this particular rocky knob, he finds the hidden entrance to Takenaka's "castle" -- which looks more like a cave to me, even down to the traditional rubber bats fluttering on strings.

As Tamio penetrates deeper into the mountain, the passage winds through bizarre, cubistic rock formations. This in turn leads to a stairway, then a massive, ancient double door. A skeleton held together by a few leathery scraps of flesh dangles beside it, chained to the wall. The vampire must have concluded a "No Soliciting" notice wasn't enough, after that time the Hare Krishnas found their way in.

Tamio opens the doors and enters a vast and misty chamber. So it looks like Takenaka really does have a castle, of the rare subterranean variety.

Meanwhile, in another well-lit and airy underground room, the vampire has Itsuko all to himself. Though frightened, she still summons up the gumption to demand Takenaka give her mother back.

He replies, "I'll give you what I gave her." (Naughty, naughty boy!)

Takenaka continues: "Wouldn't you like to live, eternally young, forever?" But you can see that, just like with her mom, he's not offering her a choice.

"Look at me," the vampire commands Itsuko. "I have lived for centuries, and now I will baptize you, so you may do the same."

"Baptize"? I believe that's the first time I've heard it called that. (I'll leave any Chuck Berry quips to the rest of you sickos.) Then again, he wouldn't be the first guy to try nailing both the MILF and her daughter.

But before the vampire can do whatever it is he's planning to do to innocent Itsuko, his elderly henchwoman provides a timely interruption. She warns Takenaka the mother and daughter will betray him in the end. Plus, the Christian God of the Amakusa clan will be mightily cheesed.

Presumably the murders of who knows how many women, over a period of hundreds of years, rises only to the level of a minor peccadillo.

"Enough! I want the blood of this girl," he declares. "She has Amakusa blood." (It's extra tasty and packed with goodness!)

Takenaka then rewards the poor lady's well-meant advice by smacking her in the chops with the butt of his whip. He turns back toward Itsuko, but his hellish plans are again thwarted when Mini-Renfield runs into the room. He tugs at the Master's cape and frantically points back at the door.

The crone tries once more to dissuade Takenaka, predicting that the castle will fall if he incurs the wrath of God. Rather than heeding her warning, or paying attention to the dwarf's attempts to communicate something important, he takes the whip to her again.

Giving Tamio his chance to burst into the chamber. While he roughhouses with the vampire, he yells for Itsuko to make a break for it. After indulging in a little dwarf-wrestling, she decides to follow his advice. But she doesn't get far before she runs into Mr. Clean, who's hanging out by what appears to be the castle's in-ground hot tub. Then Mini-Renfield blocks her way, as well.

Tamio shows up, and grapples with the bald "giant". Itsuko takes to her heels, with the dwarf in hot pursuit. In no time at all the pro wrestler who's been tapped for the role of Japanese Mr. Clean has the journalist hoisted up over his head, in a perfect setup for an atomic drop or a backbreaker. Then he puts him down, quite gently, in fact. And after that the big numbnut just stands there, wide open, seemingly waiting for Tamio's flying kick to propel him backwards into the hot spring.

And as any homemaker will tell you, Mr. Clean readily dissolves in warm water. The guy never had a chance.
"Ohhhh... what a world! What a world!" 

Note that while all this was going on, Takenaka simply watches from the sidelines. Yeah, but now he decides to go after Tamio with his whip.

The thief finally locates the entrance to Takenaka's hideout, while our unlucky-in-love bloodsucker and Tamio continue to tussle. The vampire swaps his whip for an epee and, cape billowing behind him, chases Tamio through the castle's corridors.

In another part of the castle, Itsuko flees from Mini-Renfield. Fer cryin' out loud... Look, lady, you've got at least a couple of feet in height and forty or fifty pounds on your opponent! I bet she's mugged by kindergartners on a near-daily basis.

While the fuzz and their guide continue to negotiate that passageway, after quite a bit of running and frantic dodging in which time after time Tamio narrowly avoids being skewered, he gets a lucky break and disarms the vampire. Tamio takes up the foil, Takenaka lays hold of that floor candelabra and the shoddily choreographed fight resumes.

The police arrive in the main hall of the castle just in time to see the two dueling along the upper gallery; they rush to help Tamio.

The thief takes advantage of this distraction to slip away from his captors. He makes it back outside, but then his greed gets the better of him. He turns around and heads back into the cave to retrieve his loot.

He locates the hiding place without a hitch. But, as he's digging his ill-gotten gains out from beneath a pile of rubble, the floor of the cave gives way, dropping criminal and cash into the main hall, where Takenaka has been giving the police a rough time.

This nasty little trick of fate not only kills the greedy thief, but also leaves a gaping hole in the ceiling, through which the full moon, high in a clear midnight sky, bathes the vampire in its brilliant light.

Now wait a second: It still broad daylight both when the cops entered that cave, as well as when the robber made his way out of there, before making his fatal decision and returning for his stash. They weren't even trying for a day-for-night effect.

But sure, why not? By this point, I should know better than to expect anything about this film to make any sense whatsoever.

The moonlight does its number on Takenaka, but this time the transformation goes much further: Takenaka's hitherto immaculate coif puffs out wildly and turns bleached white, while his nose has lengthened and sharpened, and his skin has acquired the texture of oatmeal that's been allowed to sit much too long. The reverb kicks in, as he cackles maniacally.
"You should see me before I've had a chance to do my face!"

Slipping past the cops, Takenaka makes for an alcove. Where it turns out the vampire has put his lover on a pedestal. Literally. Just as we knew she would, doomed Miwako has ended up just another specimen in his collection, with a golden crucifix hanging from her neck. He pauses for one last short soliloquy with his ghoulish trophy.

"It's time," he tells her, "for the cursed Amakusa blood to meet its end. Watch now, as immortality makes its last stand!"

Despite the build up, as Gotterdammerungs go this one's strictly a dud. While the cops hang back, clearly reluctant to tangle with Icky-Takenaka, he simply takes a dip in the hot spring and that's the end of him, too.

Itsuko, still pursued by Mini-Renfield, ends up in the castle's armory; the crone has laid a trail of gunpowder there and set it alight. The dwarf runs to his elderly co-worker for a hug. Itsuko manages to rejoin her lover and the police as the armory blows up, putting an end to the kyuketsuki's remaining henchpersons. Who, let's be honest, were a remarkably ineffective bunch.

Everyone scampers for the exit, keeping a few steps ahead of a series of explosions that collapse the underground castle behind them.

Tamio and Itsuko emerge into the welcoming daylight. Nights sure do pass quickly around here. Especially when you're having so much fun.

Itsuko reminds Tamio her mother's still inside. Tamio deftly avoids having to hire a bulldozer and an excavation crew to sift through thousands of tons of debris, when he insists she'll probably be happier there, in the ground of her ancestors.

Anyway, he believes that just like the movie, the curse -- whatever the heck that was -- is at an end.

So what lessons can we take from Takenaka's tragic story?

First, while vampirism is apparently no big deal with the Hairy Sky Thunderer, do not, under any circumstances, perv on a mom and her daughter, or you can expect swift and terrible retribution. Yep, that sounds about right.

Plus, you should take particular care when selecting your minions. Other than Mini-Renfield's handy compact form factor and undeniable skill at surreptitious package delivery, this bunch was seriously lacking in those qualities that make for effective evil.

And, cultural differences aside, I think we can all understand that drinking your inanimate inamorata's blood is probably not the best way to begin your grieving process.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Episode 69: Ed Wood Meets the Terminator

This is a historic episode: number 69. We don't like to brag, but rarely does a foul-mouthed little podcast get to 69 episodes without a filthy, elbow-nudging 'Sixty-Nine" joke, and yet...we did it! How, you ask? Well, we attribute it to clean living,  high morals, and the fact that Scott didn't tell Jeff it was Episode 69, and Jeff doesn't care and doesn't keep track of these things because he's not a weird little Gollum-esque obsessive like Scott.

So here you go. We talk about Edward D. Wood, Jr. and Terminator: Dark Fate. Do we draw a parallel between the two? An incredibly insulting parallel? Well, funny you should mention that, because we...Nah. We won't spoil it for you.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Rip Van Wrinkle in Time

Given that its agrarian utility is all but obsolete, why do we still have Daylight Savings Time? Who benefits from it getting dark an hour earlier? I'll tell you who: 


Which means the U.S. Department of Transportation is in the pocket of Big Undead.

There's only one solution to these crooked politicians, graft-seeking bureaucrats, and the deep-pocketed lobbyists who keep them in power:

Drain the Swamp.

Except then we'd have to deal with Swamp Thing.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Dr. Tongue's House of 3-D Apathy

ME: Look upon this fearsome black cat! Harbinger of evil! Mistress of the dead! She is known as Shadow and her name is spoken only in dread whispers! FEAR HER!

SHADOW: I refuse to participate in this bullshit.

ME: C'mon, it's Halloween--

SHADOW: Fuck off.

All right, fine. Mary's the one with the holiday mojo, but she's been out of town this week caring for her mother and my efforts to enlist the cats in some Halloween hijinks have clearly fallen flat. So I guess I'll just make a drink and go watch It or Them! or some other pronoun-themed horror flick. Hell, maybe I'll get drunk enough to go for a noun (albeit starting slow, with a vague one) and put on The Thing.

Happy Halloween guys.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The Tell-Tale Heart Edition

MOONDOGGIE: I can hear the ocean. 

ME: That’s my femoral artery. 

MOONDOGGIE: Whatever. They’re both clogged with fish oil and garbage.

Friday, October 25, 2019


Scott, Jeff, and two-thirds of the New Movie Crew discuss their relationship status with Joker.

It's Complicated.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Farewell Robert Forster

I've been an admirer of Robert Forster since I first saw him in Banyon, an early 70s TV series about a Depression Era private eye, a formula almost calculated to fail with the viewing public (it got clobbered in the ratings by Love America Style), but likewise guaranteed to tickle my peculiar, age-inappropriate interests. I remember being impressed by his intense, but low-key demeanor and his cool naturalism, and from then on Forster's presence in a film could make me sit through just about anything.

Even this thing.

The Black Hole (1979)
Directed by Gary Nelson
Written by Jeb Rosebrook and Gerry Day

Tagline: A journey that begins where everything else ends!

Starting with your patience.

The Black Hole gets a lot of crap for being just another Star Wars rip-off, which I consider unfair, since it’s actually a rip-off of Disney’s own 1954 picture, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but with two crucial differences: this version is set in space rather than at sea, and instead of Nemo being a tortured genius using ruthless means to achieve a noble end, he’s just an asshole.

Another criticism of the film is that nearly every performance is lifeless or just plain bad. No surprise with that talking wig-stand, Yvette Mimieux, but even normally fine actors like Anthony Perkins and Robert Forster sound like they’ve been roofied, possibly because they were forced to go back and re-record all their dialogue, something unusual for a studio film shot on a stage.  But in all fairness, if I’d been working on the that movie, I’d have been drinking too.

It’s the Year 2130. NASA has launched the spaceship Palomino (which, as my friend Jeff points out, looks like a butt-plug on a camcorder tripod) and sent it on a mission to boldly go and wander around for a while. It’s a harsh task, because the Palomino is no Enterprise; it’s cramped, filled with fey robots, and has a zero-gravity environment which is tough on the wardrobe. Fortunately, it’s the future, so everybody’s double-knit leisure suits have memory. Also helpful is the fact that the crew is aggressively middle-aged, and prone to simulate weightlessness by standing on an off-camera plank while sweaty Teamsters pump it up and down like a teeter-totter. The exception is Joseph Bottoms, who really throws himself into the zero-g effect, joyfully and repeatedly dangling from wires in his tight jumpsuit with his pert, shapely buttocks aloft, and which has inspired me to invent a drinking game. Every time he does it, yell “Bottom’s up!” and take a shot.

Anyway, we join the Palomino as it executes an unscheduled course correction, which makes the entire crew irritable, because now they’re going to be late for work. They demand an explanation from their GPS device, V.I.N.CENT, a highly sophisticated Coors Party Ball with the voice of Roddy McDowell and the eyes of that Kit-Cat Clock, but less expressive. He explains that the ship has encountered a black hole, “a rip in the very fabric of space and time,” so they’re going to have to take an alternate route.

Anthony Perkins, the ship’s astrophysicist, stares at the black hole (which is depicted as a constant swirl of fluid blue energy that kind of looks like a toilet in mid-flush) and pronounces it, with attempted awe, “the most destructive force in the universe,” although he sounds so bored he might as well be declaring it, “the most disappointing cheesesteak I ever ate in Philadelphia.”

Surprisingly, there’s a ship parked in the Black Hole’s driveway, a massive experimental craft called The Cygnus (the first time I saw this movie I thought they were calling it “the Sickness,” and an hour and 38 minutes later, I realized I should have taken the hint and snuck into an adjoining theater to see one of the many other, better films that came out that year, including H.O.T.S., C.H.O.M.P.S., Roller Boogie, or Caligula).

By an amazing coincidence, Yvette’s father was on The Sickness, which she tells us was sent out some years ago to find “habitable life.” Personally, I’d be satisfied with a habitable planet, but I guess the first step in space exploration is to find aliens big enough that we can live inside them like maggots, or immature marsupials. (Frankly, if this movie had been about the search for an intelligent race of giant space kangaroos, I probably wouldn’t have left in the middle to go buy Junior Mints.)

Newspaper reporter Ernest Borgnine, who’s embedded with the crew, tells them that The Sickness was commanded by mad scientist Maximillian Schell, who “talked the Space Appropriations Committee into the costliest fiasco of all time – and refused to admit failure,” a technique he learned from the cryogenically preserved head of Dick Cheney.

The Palomino trips and plunges headfirst into the Most Destructive Force in the Universe, which causes their muffler to fall off, so Captain Robert Forster orders Joseph Bottoms to land on the Sickness, which Joseph takes as a cue to stick his butt in the air.


The Sickness abruptly turns on the porch light, and we get the full sense of her size and majesty. A mile-long rectangle of glass and steel, it looks as if NASA just decided to launch the West Edmonton Mall into deep space. The crew takes the jetway and emerges into what looks like a Frontier airlines terminal – lots of uncomfortable plastic chairs, but no passengers -- and Robert tells Joseph to stay with the ship. Joseph responds by pouting, then pulling out his ray gun, sticking out his butt, and posing like the silhouette from the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels.


The Palomino crew arrives at CNN Center in Atlanta, where they discover the ship is being operated by “robots” dressed in Mylar hockey masks and roomy space muumuus. Suddenly, the mad-eyed Maximilian Schell, whose shaggy beard and unbelievable bouffant makes Lon Chaney’s Wolfman look like Pluto from The Hills Have Eyes, pops up to announce that Yvette’s dad is dead and to backfill the back-story. Like every spacecraft in virtually every space movie ever made, The Sickness had the crap kicked out of it by a meteor shower, so Max ordered the crew to abandon ship. Meanwhile, he stayed behind, and has spent the last twenty years alone, building robot companions and making fun of bad movies.

For some reason, the incredibly secretive and paranoid Max lets the Away Team wander freely around his ship, collecting spare parts to repair their butt-plug. They snoop in closets, admire the matte paintings, and desperately try to avoid stunts or action. At one point, Ernest Borgnine’s suspicions are aroused by a robot with a bad limp, and he gives chase, but he’s on a slightly raised platform that looks a little slippery, and he runs so gingerly, with his arms flailing to maintain his footing, that you can almost hear him chanting, “Don’t break a hip, don’t break a hip…!”

Mad Max and Anthony Perkins get flirty, and Max invites them to dinner in his wood paneled formal dining room, lavishly appointed with chandeliers and candelabras, making The Sickness the only faster-than-light, interstellar space craft to be decorated by Liberace.

Meanwhile, VINCENT makes friends with B.O.B., a levitating beer keg with the voice of Slim Pickens, and we get to watch the robots play a video arcade game. It’s a slow sequence, and sadly, putting your quarter on the machine doesn’t speed things up any.

Let’s cut back to the dinner party, because what action-packed space adventure is complete without a leisurely soup course? Max announces that he’ll be flying The Sickness straight into the Black Hole, confident he can open a portal to another universe, one which is sorely in need of a Camp Snoopy and a Wet Seal.

After dinner, the crew is served mints and exposition, when B.O.B. reveals that all the robots are really the former crew of The Sickness, whom Max lobotomized, using a special automated lobotomizing assembly line. It seems unlikely NASA included this feature as factory standard equipment, so Max would have had to get the crew to build and install it for him, and frankly I would’ve loved to have been at the staff meeting where he assigned Action Items to Team Automatic Lobotomizer.

Captain Robert snaps into action and decides to take over The Sickness! Or maybe just leave. It’s kind of unclear. Then he reads ahead in the script and sees that he’ll be spending the last twenty-two minutes of the film running from blue screens and matte paintings, so he decides he’d better conserve his energy and just do nothing. Maybe have a Gatorade and a Power Bar.  Anthony Perkins, however, announces that he has decided to stay aboard The Sickness with Max, because he finds that he really enjoys being only the second most creepy person in a movie.

Unfortunately, Max’s senior robot, Maximilian, a recycled Cylon that somebody painted the color of Gallo Hearty Burgundy, gets jealous or something and uses his juicing attachment on Anthony’s lower intestines. Then Mad Max decides to lobotomize Yvette, because it’s not like anyone would notice.

Meanwhile, Robert and the Party Balls sneak around the mall some more. Since the movie was released in December, I can only assume they’re looking for Santa. Instead, they find Yvette, who has been stuffed into a quilted, full-body oven mitt and had her head covered with aluminum foil. Seriously, her scalp is wrapped up like a rump roast; apparently, this is the exact point where the Special Effects department said, “Fuck it,” and cracked open the Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Anyway, Max’s man-bots are using Lasik surgery to burn their initials into Yvette’s pre-frontal lobe, but Robert shoots the machine with his plastic laser horseshoe. Was he in time to save her from being lobotomized? There’s no way to tell from her performance, so we’re just going to have to wait and see if her insurance company sends her a bill.

You know what? We could really use a big action sequence right about now. What we get are repetitive shots of our heroes as they squat behind those big pastel colored pipes that kids crawl around in at Chuck E. Cheese, and take pot shots at a row of immobile robots who appear to have all malfunctioned in mid Conga Line.

Robert, Yvette, and the Party Balls are pinned down by hostile fire. Joseph, who’s been sitting in the butt-plug the whole movie, runs to save them. Ernest tags along, then decides, “aw, screw it,” and fakes a leg injury like an Italian soccer player. Then he steals the Palomino and blasts off, leaving the others behind. Immediately, however, he loses control of the ship when he starts sweating, grimacing, and needlessly crouching; in other words – and I’m just going by his performance here – he has a suddenly attack of diarrhea, and crashes into The Sickness, taking out the Fashion Bug and a Cinnabon.

Our heroes decide to escape in “the probe ship.” Yeah, whatever. Meanwhile, as promised, the next 22 minutes consist of B-list actors jogging in front of cheap sets and back projection, interspersed with SFX shots as The Sickness is slowly – let me rephrase that: SLOWLY! – pulled into the Black Hole. On the bright side, we learn that V.I.N.CENT ’s large, telescoping testicles can be used as offensive weapons (try that, Jackie Chan!), when the Party Ball deploys his party balls to coldcock Mad Max’s garage sale Cylon.

Now let’s rip off the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with five minutes of half-assed psychedelic effects as the probe ship penetrates the Black Hole, played at this performance by five gallons of strawberry Jell-O flushed down a john.

But what about Max? Well, he’s just floating in the vacuum of space without a pressure suit, apparently none the worse for wear, although his hair is extremely staticky and tangled from the event horizon, and in need of a good cream rinse. He bumps into his burgundy Cylon which – spoiler alert – is filled with the brain and guts of Yvette’s lobotomized Dad. They do a touching Bro Hug, then suddenly Max is inside the robot himself! Because, irony! He looks confused, a feeling we immediately share when the camera pulls out and we see that he’s standing atop the Matterhorn ride in Disneyland.

Wait. No. Pull out a little farther, and…Oh! Hey. We’re in Hell. Flames, demons, and dozens of skull-faced penitents in black hooded robes. Okay, thanks, Disney.

Cut back to our heroes as they pass through the Black Hole and emerge in another universe, ready to begin life anew and populate a virgin world, like the story of Genesis. Except it’s Robert Forster, Yvette Mimeaux, and the dewy, fresh-faced Joseph Bottoms, so it’s like Adam and Eve and the twink hustler they picked up for a threesome on Sunset Boulevard.

R.I.P., Robert.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Slumgullion 67: Of Dinosaurs and Dirtbags

Scott goes to the 40th Anniversary screening of Breaking Away, meets the cast, and discovers Paul Dooley is mostly not dead. Then it's Larry Cohen's Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) starring Michael Moriarty as an aging Baby Driver who falls in with a homicidal femme fatale who also happens to be an ancient Aztec god (can this marriage be saved?) versus The Rebel Rousers (1970), featuring Diane Ladd as a pregnant spokesmodel for Scotch, and Bruce Dern as a kindly Hell's Angel from an alternate dimension.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Slumgullion 66: Let's All Go to the National Comedy Museum

This week, Jeff goes to the National Comedy Center in New York, while Scott goes to a dark place with some puppets.

Ernie Kovacs make-up.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Dippity-Do's and Don'ts

So Bill S. asked if I remember this goo, and I do, I Dippity-do. Specifically, I remember my mother wouldn't let me leave the house without dousing my incipient hippie hair in the stuff in an effort to foil the Counterculture with styling gel. I also remember it became very brittle when it dried, so I usually spent the first ten minutes of Third Grade Home Room tapping the top of my head and listening to my hair go "crunch! crunch! crunch!" like I was walking through snow.

This pink slime isn't as ubiquitous as it once was, although I understand the makers have secured a new lease on life by extruding it into Chicken McNuggets.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Larry Blamire Returns Again

"You suck, Clevenger!" -- Larry Blamire

Writer-Director Larry Blamire talks about the new featurettes and hilarious short films he made to accompany the Blu-ray release of his cult classic The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. Come for the Behind-the-Scenes gossip, stay to find out who that one guy is in that one thing--you know the one--and learn the secret of why Scott sucks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Episode 64: Comic-Gone

In this episode Jeff and Scott go to Comic-Con (in their minds) and talk trailers, tangents, tea, sympathy, and why Jeff now has a pick up truck and chews tobacco.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Post-Friday Beast Blogging

MOONDOGGIE: I don't understand all this stuff about global climate change, but after hours of observation, calculation, and experimentation, I have determined that the current axial tilt of the Earth has caused the living room Sun Patch to become narrow and weird and I'M DECLARING AN EMERGENCY!!!

SHADOW: I'm not in favor of this silly 'Beast Blogging' thing, but I'll agree to pose on one condition: that you point out how much my eyes look like David Bowie's in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Slumgullion Episode 63: Spider-Man Far From Home v. Suspension of Disbelief

Jeff and Scott are joined by the New Movie Crew™ to discuss SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME. Scott has a theory, John & Blanche have gripes, while Jeff has severe intestinal ambivalence, and Mary finds mermaid remains and can't decide whether to call CSI: Atlantis, or Animal Control.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Jumpin' Jiangshi: Robo Vampire (1988)

By Hank Parmer

A Filmark production, produced by Tomas Tang, directed by Joe Livingstone

If there's one thing in this life on which you may safely depend, it's that a title like "Robo Vampire" is guaranteed to pique the interest of cine-masochists.

From the outset, the mind is awhirl with possibilities: Is it a futuristic new breed of vampire who preys on robots? (I'm assuming it would be after their sweet, sweet hydraulic fluid.) Or, in line with the trend toward increasing automation, could it be a robot programmed for bloodsucking? Or maybe, like the Verhoeven film that's clearly being ripped off here, what we have is a vampire who for some unfathomable reason gets cyborg-ized.

But, as a smart-guy Britisher might have phrased it, it turns out the answer is not only crappier than I imagine, it's crappier than I can imagine.

The production opens with two camouflage-wearing, assault rifle-toting Anglos prodding a Chinese prisoner through a littered, weed-choked graveyard. More evidence the groundskeepers have been slacking off: Moldering sarcophagi are haphazardly stacked right out there in the open. One of the Anglos pushes a lid back, offering us a glimpse of the occupant, who appears to have been Caribbean jerked prior to interment.

Their prisoner flinches at this grisly sight. The other Anglo tips the lid off another coffin. This deceased must have been quite the cut-up in his day: He had his final resting place tricked out like one of those nut can gags -- except with real snakes.

Anglo #2 trips and falls over backwards in his haste to scramble away from the vipers someone's flinging out of that casket. He bumps against the lid of a third coffin, knocking it ajar -- but he doesn't notice that puff of dark gray vapor from inside. (Always a bad sign, especially if the cadaver's been holding that one in for a while.)

A withered claw of a hand shoots out of the coffin, grabs the guy by the wrist and tries to haul him inside. Anglo #2 quite understandably freaks, giving him that extra spritz of adrenaline needed to tear himself loose from its hideous clutch.

Out from the casket leaps a vampire!

I should pause here to note a few differences between the Occidental nosferatu and the Hong Kong variety: For starters, this one's rigged out like Fu Manchu, which is reasonable enough, I suppose, given the location, if rather retro. Sure, his decomposing face looks like someone mashed a Greek salad in it, but that's not unknown in European vampire flicks, either. (The decomposition, not the mixed-greens-and-olives facial.)

That somersaulting through the air is a trifle unusual, although not for a kung fu actioner. It's a given  that pumping the creature full of lead won't stop him. But what's truly special is that when this vampire comes to earth, his preferred mode of locomotion is the bunny-hop.


After lifting Anglo #2 (who probably outweighs his attacker by at least fifty pounds) completely off the ground and crushing his larynx, he drops his prey's still-twitching corpse and bounces after the remaining Anglo, his arms held out in front and hands bent down at the wrists like cute little bunny paws.

While their prisoner wisely takes advantage of this goofy distraction to make tracks, the vampire puts the bite on Camo Guy #1. Really puts the bite on him, as in "rips a big chunk of flesh out of his victim's neck with his teeth". Close-up of a paltry smear of soy sauce on Camo Guy #1's neck. Freeze-frame, with title, as the vampire chews on a ragged hunk of raw yet oddly bloodless meat dangling from its jaws.
You got a little something stuck in your teeth there ...

A tragic end indeed, for the "Orange Duck Dynasty" pilot.

True aficionados of Hong Kong B-movies will instantly recognize what we have here as an example of the reputedly popular "Jiangshi" genre, but honestly, up until this moment I had no idea such a creature existed. (And I've watched a fair amount of Hong Kong B's.) The name literally translates as "stiff corpse", while the hopping is supposed to be explained by rigor mortis.

I'll even go so far as to speculate that a Jiangshi might be fairly creepy, if you encountered one in real life, unexpectedly, in the dark. Perhaps better makeup effects, cinematography and staging could have made the creatures convincingly sinister. For all I know, there might be a Jiangshi movie out there in which they're genuinely terrifying. But hoo dawgies, not this steaming pile.

(Fun fact: The traditional Jiangshi garb featured in this cheesefest is that of a Qing dynasty bureaucrat. The "stiff corpse" doesn't actually drink blood, either, but like the alien vampires in that Tobe Hooper film, they drain your lifeforce. Which suggests this legend's originators had a particular ax to grind when they dreamed this monster up, possibly inspired by an encounter with the 16th Century Chinese equivalent of the DMV.)

To continue: A speedy cruiser boat pulls up to a jetty and disembarks a dozen Chinese men, all lugging plain brown paper-wrapped packages.

Making certain everyone understands these are drug smugglers and not some kindly souls dedicated to satisfying the insatiable demand for sex toys, one of the Anglos overseeing this operation opens a carton, removes a bag of white powder and tastes the contents. Convinced it's the real stuff, he waves the bearers on. A squad of plainclothes and camo-clad Anglo cops swoops down to nab these miscreants. But the cruiser, throttle wide open and charging along at close to five knots, manages to make a clean getaway to the open sea.

Cut to Godfather Sarducci, in a dingy basement garage guarded by heavily-armed Chinese henchmen. His two Anglo lieutenants are visibly relieved when, rather than going all Darth Vader on them for losing that shipment, their capo whines, "We've got to find a way to handle Tom, that goddamned anti-drug agent!"

I'll say this much for the guy: He should get high marks for originality, contract-wise. Your run-of-the-mill movie Mafiosi would likely go for the same old same old -- a bomb in Tom's car, kidnapping the guy and fitting him with a pair of cement overshoes. Or a drive-by hit, with hot lead spraying everywhere and a high bystander body count. But no, Sarducci intends to ask his Taoist sorcerer pal to sic his trained vampires on Tom and his men.
"...So... you gonna be havin' a big PROBLEM with dis...?" 

Betcha that god-damned anti-drug agent won't see this one coming! In the meantime, Sarducci concludes they'll need to find a new way to smuggle the heroin.

Clutching another large plain brown paper-wrapped parcel, a Chinese guy hesitantly descends the stairway to a poorly lit and even dingier cellar containing a couple of coffins resting on trestles, and three Jiangshi lined up against a wall. (They must be the new space-saver design.) Strips of paper inscribed with spells to keep the vampires quiet are pasted to the front of their hats.

Anxious delivery guy "Ken" promises he'll build them a new altar, as he throws what I'm guessing is Hell money at the vampires. Loudly surmising they might be hungry, he scatters handfuls of uncooked rice in their general direction. A man dressed in black pajamas and carrying a cooked chicken in a bowl enters the scene just in time to take some rice in the mustache.

He scoffs at his jittery compatriot's antics: "You scare too easy!"

Mustache Guy opens a coffin and adds more packets of white powder to the artistic arrangement already encircling the corpse's head with a heroin halo. He closes the lid, unaware that inside the surprisingly well-lit sarcophagus there's been an ominous transformation of this previously normal-appearing cadaver into another grotty-faced specimen with leathery blue-gray claws for hands.

While he's hiding more packets in the second coffin, 'Stache Guy parks his cigarette on the other casket's lid. His coffin nail disappears -- and in the blink of an eye reappears, stuck in the mouth of a vampire. (Mischievous little buggers, aren't they?) Finished stuffing heroin in with the second corpse, MG then turns back to find his smoke gone.

He rags on Ken, who's been busy lighting a bundle of incense while he thanks the vampires profusely for something or other. (It probably does reek down there, what with these stiffs -- and the corpses must be pretty pungent, too.) "If you wanted a cigarette," demands MG exasperatedly, "why didn't you ask for one?" -- leaving Ken scratching his head.

Ken shrugs, and decides to top up the oil in the lamp suspended above the dormant Jiangshi. 'Stache Guy discovers his chicken is now mysteriously minus a leg and thigh; he's about to accuse Ken of pilfering this, too. But when he sees his coworker standing on a chair to get at that lamp, he warns Ken to be careful: If he starts a fire, that will wake up the vampires.

Neither of these idiots has yet noticed that lit cigarette jutting from the Jiangshi's mouth. Standing on the chair, Ken's crotch just happens to be precisely positioned to get pressed against the cigarette's glowing ember when he leans forward to get at the lamp. Ken tumbles off the chair with a yell, cradling his singed wedding tackle. This was definitely not the day for him to go commando.

That partially-devoured chicken levitates out of its bowl and zooms around the coffins. Lids explode off their caskets amid clouds of smoke. The hitherto resting-in-peace spring from their coffins as Jiangshi, who launch their attack by flinging chunks of cooked chicken with incredible accuracy directly into Ken and 'Stache Guy's gaping mouths, jamming the meat down their adversaries' windpipes.

(Honest: I'm not making any of this up.)

After our wacky supporting characters cough up the chicken chunks, there follows a flurry of semi-intentionally comical kung fu shenanigans as they scrap with the bunny-hopping vampires, until Chinese Groucho arrives to whup some undead ass. Oh, okay, he only spars with them a little, then casually subdues the jumping Jiangshi in mid-rampage by slapping some more of those magic Post-It notes on their hats.

The Godfather's Taoist vampire wrangler samples one of those packets of drugs and instantly deduces the cause of all this commotion: Someone swapped the heroin with rice powder! [cue sad trombone] Well, that certainly explains everything ... If anyone out there is a Jiangshi scholar, perhaps they could fill the rest of us in about WTF just happened.

Godfather Sarducci, with Ken and 'Stache Guy tagging along, meets with the captain of a freighter. The drug kingpin passes along the news that they're going to try another way to hide the contraband, a "variation on the body-smuggling business". The captain doesn't seem enthusiastic about that, but hey, Sarducci's the boss.

Which provides a segue of sorts to a prolonged gross-out interlude in which a scalpel-wielding woman slices open the quivering belly of a freshly-slaughtered bull, stuffs some heroin packets inside the luckless bovine's entrails, then stitches up the gash. (Beef chitlins' -- with a side of smack: So good and so good for you!)

Nighttime: A pair of Sarducci's Anglo henchmen drop by Chinese Groucho's dilapidated temple. He's eager to put one of his pets through its paces for the plainly skeptical wise guys, but first he warns these smirking newcomers to keep quiet, and not show any fear at the vampire's power. As an additional precaution, Groucho hands them wreathes of garlic and a couple of vampire-quelling spell sheets.

The Taoist employs mystic incantations and gestures, pyrotechnics and a feng shui compass with a crazily spinning pointer to roust his vampire out of his comfy casket. The creature begins to stir, but suddenly a brunette swathed in sheer white silk cerements zooms out of the night and interrupts the sorcerous proceedings.

This lady is a ghost. She's righteously cheesed at the necromancer for turning her lover into a "vampire beast", because this will prevent them from being together in the hereafter. Groucho objects: She's from the West and her boyfriend is from the East. (Is he saying their afterlife-styles are incompatible, or is he just bigoted?)

Ghost Lady then gives the audience a quick synopsis of her tragic back story: Despite having christened him with the rather Euro-sounding "Peter", the guy's parents were dead set against his marrying a round-eye. Naturally, the only course open to the lovers was double suicide. (I suppose eloping to Taiwan would have been just too much bother.) At least they could have been with each other in the afterlife, but this meddling Taoist nutball screwed that one up for them, too.

Her only thought now is for revenge! After a bout of mixed magical and martial arts between Chinese Groucho and Ghost Lady, the Taoist is clearly getting the worst of it. He tag-teams with Vampire Peter, calling him out of his coffin to fight his former lover.

"Peter, it's Christine! Don't you recognize me?" she pleads desperately.

But Vampire Peter is in Groucho's thrall, plus for some never-to-be-explained reason he's donned a rubber gorilla mask and a fright wig. Christine has no choice but to grapple with her bunny-hopping erstwhile squeeze in un-deadly combat. This time it's her turn to get smacked down, when Peter employs his supernaturally long tongue to rip her off a second story balcony. (Kinky...) Fortunately, Peter finally recognizes Christine from a birthmark on her exposed thigh -- it may be he has a poor memory for faces.

Groucho isn't pleased when Peter balks at finishing her off -- and just how do you do that to someone who's already a ghost? But his Mafiosi spectators reveal an unexpected soft side: The pudgy one with the undernourished mustache is convinced the two must love each other deeply. Once they're hitched, he's confident they'll follow Groucho's orders. Marrying them ought to be a cinch, he adds, what with the Taoist's magical powers.

Chinese Groucho grudgingly agrees to this happy solution to all their problems, criminal and romantic. He promises he'll start making the preparations for the wedding.

Which is quite a lot to take on, in addition to setting his vampires after Tom and friends. There'll be the guest list and the registry, finding a printer for the invitations, the catering -- a ghost/vampire wedding will doubtless present some unique culinary challenges -- plus the florists, and a thousand other details. At least Groucho already has a spooky run-down temple; he won't need to rent a venue.

Sometime later, the Taoist sorcerer and a couple of henchmen are cruising down a sandy lane by the seaside, in their totally inconspicuous bright red jeep. That goddamned anti-drug agent Tom and three more camo-wearing Anglos block the road. A firefight ensues, with the Taoist going to ground behind some boulders while his bodyguards take ineffectual potshots at the agents. They're soon gunned down, leaving Groucho no resort but to say the secret woid and conjure up his vampires.

First, one of his pasty-faced standard issue Jiangshi appears. It instantly dispatches an anti-drug agent with poisonous gas jets from its robe's voluminous sleeves. If that closeup is any indication, by giving the agent a case of lethally unfortunate skin.

Vampire Gorilla Peter materializes up in a tree, swings down and attacks Tom with the Roman candles hidden up his sleeves. Tom is inundated with a shower of cheap fireworks until the tree behind him explodes, mortally wounding the heroic anti-drug agent. Groucho makes a hasty getaway in the jeep.
"I think that may be his spleen, lodged in his right ear ... Anyone hungry for lasagna?"

Tom's boss is so grief-stricken at the news of his death that he doesn't hesitate to let their doctor do an experimental cyborg job on his employee. In an ultra-modern infirmary equipped with a sparse assortment of vintage '50s and WWII-era electronic gear -- including the all-important plus/minus machine -- Tom gets a new lease on life. (I especially enjoyed the bit where the doc does some welding ... with a sparkler stuck in a screwdriver handle.)

As you might expect, that poster could never prepare the unsuspecting for the underwhelming reality of Tom's Robo Vampire (Killer) costume: a loose-fitting silvered coverall, with breastplate, shin and forearm guards and pointy epaulets all made of padded silver-gray vinyl, topped off by a tinted-plexiglass-visored, silver spray-painted Army/Navy surplus helmet with a padded silver vinyl skirt pop-riveted to the back and a transistor radio antenna stuck on the side.

Tom demonstrates his super-strength by gripping a pair of soldiers' helmets and lifting them off the ground -- and somehow not strangling them with their own remarkably stoutly-fastened chin straps. Then he snaps their rifles in two, picks up a BAR and fires several rounds into the center of an archery target.

(Another fun fact: Peter Weller spent long hours working with an expert from Juilliard to perfect his Robocop movements. I believe this clown may have watched a Michael Jackson video or two during lunch break.)

Chinese Groucho and Richard -- the Vatican Mob soldier who has this questionable attachment to a baggy stone-washed denim vest -- hold a quick confab. They agree someone in the gang has to be tipping off the authorities. Groucho furiously insists all the anti-drug agents must be eliminated.

Answering this plot's desperate call for padding, a pickup full of armed no-goods arrives at a small village somewhere in what we're encouraged to believe is the Golden Triangle. They bust into a church. Their leader smacks the Anglo priest (actually, Anti-Drug Agent Brown) around, demanding to know where the drugs are hidden. This man of the generic cloth swears he hasn't the slightest, but the church invaders soon locate his stash -- by accidentally jostling that unadorned but conspicuously large crucifix. It topples over, hits the floor and cracks open, spilling white powder and packets of horse everywhere. (Dammit, they just had the place swept!)

The boss orders his men to waste Brown, but at that moment Sister Mary Mayhem pops out of the back room and mows them down with her AK-47.
"Transubstantiate this, mofos!"

Anti-Drug Agent Brown tries to escape, but he's shot in the back. Sister Mary dives through a window, does a very professional tuck-and-roll -- which couldn't have been easy in that calf-length robe -- and comes up shooting. She nearly gets away, but sadly, runs out of bullets at a critical moment. Sister Mary (in reality Anti-Drug Agent Sophie) winds up a captive of Sarducci's partner in the heroin biz, the sadistic, rape-y drug lord Yung, and his band of rogue psychoanalysts*.

Back at Anti-Drug HQ, the boss has learned of Brown's death and Sophie's capture. If she breaks and tells Yung what she knows, he predicts that will mean the end of their operation! He orders an underling to arrange for her rescue. This flunky dickers a bit with a vaguely Eurasian mercenary named "Ray" (but never call him "Johnson") who ultimately settles on thirty grand for himself and the services of three other nitwits -- I mean, soldiers-of-fortune.

Godfather Sarducci makes a quick inspection of his drug bagging operation. (He certainly doesn't want another screw-up with the rice powder!) He then orders two of the baggers to come with him, providentially removing himself and a pair of precious Anglos from the premises just before Robo Tom breaks down the door.

"You're under arrest!" the cyborg informs everyone. (It's nice to know the production at least saved enough boxtops to spring for a vocoder.) The guards are momentarily dumbfounded, most likely at Robo Tom's ludicrous getup, but then they raise their Uzis --

-- and the scene does a budget-friendly shift to Chinese Groucho and Richard the vest fetishist, walking up the beach, with some more parcel-bearing lackeys close behind. The smugglers are surprised by three anti-drug agents, which just naturally means it's Jiangshi Time again. (Groucho takes his pets everywhere with him, in a black-lacquered gourd accented with yellow ribbons.) A pasty-faced vampire does its instant-jerky number on the agent who had some lines. Vampire Gorilla Peter disposes of the other two agents in his own more showy fashion.

Robo Tom clomps on screen. Peter shoots more fireworks at Tom; the cyborg agent replies with his Browning automatic rifle. The two blaze away at each other, until a lucky hit knocks Peter down. Groucho and company beat feet; Vampire Gorilla Peter evades Tom's cybernetically-enhanced marksmanship by way of some leisurely log rolling. Evidently Robo Tom doesn't do so well when it comes to leading his target, even a rather slow-moving one.

But I guess Peter must have been just messing with Robo Tom's head, because he abruptly disappears in a puff of smoke. Tom kicks up sand with a few more rounds -- could be they need to tune up his reflexes a bit, too.

So much for the spectacular debut of this super-powered crime-fighter.

Back in the Golden Triangle, Ray and a couple of his mercenary buddies float downriver in an overloaded skiff. Ambushed by Godfather Sarducci and the usual scruffy assortment of ne'er-do-wells, they're forced to take cover in mid-stream behind an entirely inadequate clump of shrubs. Fortunately, Ray's old buddy, dapper, black beret-sporting Andy -- a remarkable number of East Asians in this film sport European first names -- shows up and wipes out most of the bushwhackers in a hail of machine gun fire, though yet again the Godfather gets clean away.

Meanwhile, drug lord Yung gets his twisted jollies by subjecting Sophie to the Chinese water torture. How ... original. With diabolical ingenuity, he's had an overhead leaky faucet installed for exactly this eventuality. (Since Sophie and the spigot are never in the same frame, cynical types might suspect the filmmakers merely intercut some footage of that dripping tap in the washroom sink.)

Back to Ray and friends: He briefs the new arrival about their mission, and shows him a photo of Sophie tied to a chair. But Ray knows Andy isn't just in it for the money, because he has a personal score to settle with Yung. Then they --

Look: Is there any conceivable reason why we should waste any more of our time with this low-rent Rambo, when there's a veritable smorgasbord of screwiness awaiting us with Robo Tom, Chinese Groucho and the Jiangshi? I think not.

Godfather Sarducci, fresh back from the Triangle and accompanied by his Anglo indispensables, watches from hiding as Robo Tom lumbers along the strand. The same beach where it seems like half the scenes in this movie were shot ... probably on the same afternoon.

Suddenly, a wall of fire (actually, more like a garden border of fire, maybe two or three feet high) springs up before our hero. Robo Tom sinks into the sand and disappears. Instead of just striding right through these feeble flames. The guy's supposed to be mostly metal now, right? Or does he have some kind of Frankenstein's monster thing going on with fire?

Whatever. The flames die down and Tom emerges from his sandy spider hole. (That's got to have put some grit in his joints.) He's immediately set upon by a quartet of pasty-face Jiangshi.

Sarducci and his henchmen watch the action -- such as it is -- while the vampires gang up on Tom. First they circle around him for a bit, inspiring much hilarity with their trademark bunny-hopping.
Caption: Ring around the robo!

They then manage to disarm our fearless Robo Vampire Killer with some coordinated gymnastic moves, but he counters with his Jedi powers: The rifle magically flies back to his hands. Tom and the Jiangshi tussle inconclusively for a few moments more, until Sarducci's soldiers put a richly-deserved end to this nonsense with simultaneous shots from a pair of LAWs.

A crude mannequin Robo Tom blows up real good. Since these gangsters seem perfectly capable of fucking Tom up fairly well on their own, why are they even bothering now with Groucho's vampires?

Not so fast: Back at Anti-Drug HQ, they've collected all the fragments of Robo Tom. The doctor ignites another sparkler with his pipe lighter and Tom's welded back together in a trice, none the worse for being simultaneously flambeed and blown to bits by a couple of anti-tank rockets.

At Chinese Groucho's hideout, it's a nice night for a white wedding. The Taoist twit makes mystic passes with an oddball sword that has a basketweave blade, while he mutters incantations and tosses flame powder at candles. The indicator on his feng shui compass points straight up. (Symbolism, anyone?) Casket lids crack open and vent billows of noxious vapor.

Groucho really ought to consider some changes to his Jiangshis' diets.

Ghostly Christine hurtles through the air, close to breaking the sound barrier in anticipation of her long-delayed nuptials with Vampire Gorilla Peter.
(Rumor has it he's a real animal in the sack!) 

(Sorry ... I always cry at weddings ...)

According to the ancient rituals governing ghost-vampire matrimony, Peter enthusiastically waggles his arms up and down as he hops about. Then again, in his place I might react in somewhat the same fashion. Did I mention that Christine's grave gown is so sheer it's almost transparent? She's not wearing a bra, either -- and it appears as if it's a mite chilly on that set.

Peter growls appreciatively. The synthesizer soundtrack switches to '80s porn mode as Christine sways and languidly beckons him to join her in a charming little ghost/vampire pas de deux. The bride skates past the groom while he bounces around and flaps his sleeves even more emphatically in what I'm certain must be the Jiangshi-semaphore equivalent of "Ohhhhh baby!"

Killjoy Robo Tom crashes the wedding just as they conclude the "patty-cake" part of the ceremony, followed by the traditional "ghost-vampire newlyweds flinging themselves to the floor for some frenzied monkey love".

Christine notices Robo Voyeur is watching. She begs him not to kill them before they've had a chance to do the necrophilic nasty -- er, consummate their marriage. Bemused by a quickie flashback to when his girlfriend dumped him, because (all together now) a cop's life is too dangerous, Robo Tom hesitates just long enough for Peter and Christine to vanish in -- you guessed it -- a puff of smoke. (Ummm ... did they just consummate?)

Ghost Lady reappears at the top of a stairway. Her magical grave garment extrudes a tongue of white satin that flows down the steps, wraps itself around Robo Tom's legs and whips him back and forth like a hooked bass. Then she leaps down and pummels him with her flying fists and feet. Hopping mad Vampire Gorilla Peter joins in, and the two of them administer a thorough beating to our crime-fighting cyborg before they triumphantly vaporize. Joined together now in gaseous state, they slip into Peter's coffin. ("If the casket's a-rockin' ...")

Our hero may not be all that effective, but you certainly can't fault his persistence.

Back at the bungle in the jungle, Sarducci leads a gang of thugs in hot pursuit of Andy's spunky assistant/subplot love interest and Ray. The two evade that bunch, but then they're captured by Yung. Water torture all round! They escape with Sophie and link up with Andy, who somehow managed to plant demolition charges all around Yung's headquarters without being noticed. The drug lord and his minions perish in a series of not particularly spectacular explosions.

Returning to Hong Kong -- he must chew up quite a bit of time commuting between town and Triangle -- Godfather Sarducci rages to a gathering of his remaining mob about his latest setback. "Now," he snarls, "I must rebuild my empire!" (Grandiose much, G.S.?)

Chinese Groucho pledges to eliminate Robo Tom and the anti-drug agents. Which is the cue for Robo Tom to be jumped by a couple of Jiangshi while he's patrolling a dark alley. Or maybe he was just looking for a place to vent some coolant. So after that encounter with Peter and Christine, heroic cyborg Tom just picked himself up, dusted himself off and slunk away? Okay, sure.

More bunny-hopping and kung fu as Tom struggles to beat down those rampant stiffies. (I had much the same problem as a teenager**.) I'm assuming from the abrupt cutaway this results yet again in a draw. Later that evening Vampire Gorilla Peter, clearly feeling frisky after all the consummating, plays pranks on Anglo couples frequenting a romantically-lit walkway, as he also carries on a game of hide-and-seek with Robo Tom.

Then Peter heads for the bright lights: He hops across the street in front of the garishly neon-lit "Club Paris", to the stupefaction of several pedestrians. Following this up with a hefty dose of more bonkers bunny-hopping, he lures Tom onto a laughably fake deserted street set.

Let the battle stupide begin!

Popping up on a balcony, Peter twirls fireballs on strings and launches them at Robo Tom. They land nowhere near our hero, and explode. (Although you do see the actor flinch when one goes off.) Then the vampire gorilla goes mano a mano with the cyborg. This continues for a couple of minutes, until a quartet of pasty-face Jiangshi appear and surround Tom, but they're quickly disposed of. Two gangland shooters show themselves long enough to get off a few rounds before Robo Tom blows them away, too.
"Think I'll pick up a sack of sliders when this is over ..." 

Ghost Christine unexpectedly turns on Chinese Groucho, first yanking him into a building with that prehensile sash trick, then dazzling him with her umbrella-fu. The Taoist destroys her parasol with the Bic lighter concealed in the tip of his magic sword, She rips the front of her gown off and tosses it at the Taoist. The silk takes on a life of its own and wraps itself around his head like a famished squid, but Groucho quickly disentangles himself. Ignoring these twin nicely pert distractions, he subdues the raging haunt by speed-painting a mystic symbol between her breasts. He must have run out of paper ...

Groucho then summons up another passel of Jiangshi, who bunny-hop around Robo Tom with exceptional fervor. Though why the Taoist thinks they'll be any more effective than the previous bunch is a mystery. Especially now that Robo Tom appears to have had his reflex and marksmanship upgrades installed, and switched to wooden loads. Shooting crosswise from the hip, he effortlessly pots the circling Jiangshi -- who evaporate in a flash and wisp of smoke when hit.

Kind of makes you wonder what all the fuss has been about. And by now that sappy sorcerer should have known that you can't keep a spirited woman down: Christine appears out of nowhere (she's quite good at that) and fatally scratches the Taoist's cheeks.

Vampire Gorilla Peter hops to the attack; Robo Tom belatedly recalls he purchased the flamethrower attachment for his BAR. It's a rather lackluster spurt of flame, but still sufficient to set the glaringly obvious dummy that's been substituted for Peter (and the rope from which it's suspended) on fire.

Then again, maybe you can only destroy gorilla-form Jiangshi by burning them in effigy. Why not? Makes just about as much sense as anything else in this film. Lone survivor Robo Tom stomps through the smoke and flaming piles of Jiangshi residue.

The End.

And while we're on the subject of flaming piles, this movie spawned not one but two sequels. Is there anything I could possibly say that would top that?

* Okay, I did make that last one up.

** Yes! I've. Made. The. Stiffy. Joke!