Article

VIDEO KILLED THE B-MOVIE . . .



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VIDEO CHEAPIES?
You know – movies that go straight to video, made solely for the purpose of being released into the video market. Films usually shot on a small budget to guarantee profitable returns. Along with made-for-tv movies the straight-to-video market is the modern equivalent of the so-called B-picture.

YOU KNOW IT’S A VIDEO CHEAPIE WHEN:

  • You see Roger Corman’s name somewhere

  • It’s directed by one Albert Pyun

  • It’s a sequel to a film that you didn’t even know that existed in the first place (e.g. Nemesis 3, Project Shadowchaser 2, etc.)

  • It’s advertised as so-and-so meets so-and-so (for example "Total Recall meets Blade Runner" or "if you liked Jurassic Park then you will like this")

  • You’ve never heard of it

  • You can’t remember it ever being on the cinema circuit

  • It stars people you have never even heard of

  • You have to be reminded of who the "stars" are – e.g. Oliver ("Nemesis") Gruner

  • You can’t find a listing of it in any authoritative video or movie guide

  • If you do find a listing, it supplies other titles under which it was also released

  • The cover has some muscled hunk brandishing a huge machine gun on it

I'VE HEARD OF ROGER CORMAN, BUT WHO IS ALBERT PYUN?
Many years from now his name will be revered as much as Ed Wood’s name is revered today.
Some of his movies:

1982 THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER director
1986 DANGEROUSLY CLOSE director
1986 RADIOACTIVE DREAMS director
1987 ALIEN FROM L.A. director
1987 DOWN TWISTED director
1989 CYBORG director
1990 CAPTAIN AMERICA director
1991 DOLLMAN director
1993 BRAIN SMASHER… A LOVE STORY director
1993 NEMESIS director

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IT "STARS" ANY OF THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE:

  • Oliver Gruner

  • Has-been television stars (such as George Peppard and Richard Thomas)

  • Never-been movie stars (Dolph Lundgren and Brigitte Nielsen)

  • Has-been movie stars (Rutger Hauer and Christopher Lambert)

  • Ex-porn stars (Traci Lords)

  • Porn stars

  • Ex-models

  • Models

  • Ex-WWF stars (Roddy Piper, Hulk Hogan)

  • WWF stars

THEY FELL FROM BIG SCREEN GRACE

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Rutger Hauer
Dutch actor who in his heyday stole movies right from under A-list actors such as Harrison Ford and got star billing opposite Michelle Pfeiffer. But Hollywood never knew what to do with him exactly – casting him as anything from sympathetic villain (Blade Runner) to romantic leading man (Ladyhawke) to psychopathic nutcase (The Hitcher).


Christopher Lambert

After an impressive debut as Tarzan in Greystoke, Lambert did good in the cult Highlander hit. But the die was cast: always a wooden actor (and he never could shake that accent) he went on to star in two terrible Highlander sequels, a small bit role in Mortal Kombat. Although Fortress proved to be an unexpected hit, Lambert was soon consigned to straight-to-video hell.

Dolph Lundgren
After an impressively physical debut in Rocky 4 as a Soviet boxer, Lundgren starred opposite Van Damme in the Universal Soldier hit movie. But it was all downhill from there on . . .

SOON TO FALL FROM BIG SCREEN GRACE

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Sylvester Stallone

Anything that isn’t a Rocky or Rambo sequel simply flopped. However, Stallone’s movies still do well in the non-American market, but after horrendous bummers like Daylight, Cliffhanger and Judge Dredd video oblivion is always close.

Steven Seagal
He hasn’t starred in any sci-fi related material yet, but desperation will probably force him into a sci-fi cheapie one day. His recent self-financed The Patriot movie didn’t even get a theatrical release in America and went straight to television instead. Not surprising after efforts like On Deadly Ground and Glimmer Man bombed at the box office . . .

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Jean Claude Van Damme
For Van Damme returning to straight-to-video movies would be coming full circle. His Kickboxer and Bloodsport-type movies were always favourites on the video circuit and after lately after several bombs directed by former Hong Kong action meisters (like Knock Off and Double Team) expect to see him in a straight-to-video TimeCop or Universal Soldier sequel one of these days . . .

IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A VIDEO MOVIE STAR TO GAIN BIG SCREEN STAR STATUS?
Not impossible – Van Damme did it, but it’s not very likely. Seen anything starring Oliver (Nemesis, Mars, etc.) Gruner on the big screen lately? But anything is possible: several big name stars such as Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron started off as slave workers on Roger Corman produced B-movies . . .

INCREDIBLY BAD VIDEO CHEAPIES (the bottom of the heap)

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CYBORG
HUH? A Road Warrior clone in which leather-clad and steroid-injected Nazis battle it out in a cheap set post-apocalypse setting. It stars Jean Claude Van Damme who, as usual, has less presence than a Cuppa Soup. For some reason all the characters have the names of electric guitars. Plotless, aimless . . .
DEFINING MOMENT: Things turn truly nasty when it turns into some unpleasant sadomasochist fantasy when Gibson Rickenbacker (the character played by Van Damme – see, I told you!) is crucified by the chief baddie.
SEQUELS: Apparently two of them, but none of them starring Van Damme and not related at all…

NEMESIS
HUH? Terminator clone in which a half-human/half-machine cop Oliver Gruner has to foil a convoluted and muddled plot by cyborgs (actually robots) to wrest control from humans . . .
DEFINING MOMENT: When Gruner uses two machine guns to blast a circle around himself on the floor to fall through it, and then doing the same on the next floor, and the same on . . .
SEQUELS: Nemesis 2 and 3.

WITHIN THE ROCK
HUH? Astronaut team has to drill hole and detonate bomb in crust of an asteroid on collision course with earth. Things are complicated when they awaken a Predator-like alien . . .
DEFINING MOMENT: The stunt man in the rubber alien suit . . .
SEQUELS: Hopefully none.

IT CAME FROM OUTERS SPACE II
HUH? Remake of "classic" 1950s 3-D movie for the Sci-Fi Channel.
DEFINING MOMENT: The aliens aren’t hostile. It’s a good story (one by Ray Bradbury), but the movie is populated by unlikeable people and one particularly annoying brat . . .
SEQUELS: It’s a sequel itself in title, but is in reality a remake.

XTRO
HUH? Story about kid whose dad is actually a viscous alien . . .
DEFINING MOMENT: Bad everything: music, plot, effects, makeup, acting, EVERYTHING!
SEQUELS: Xtro II and Xtro: Watch the Skies (apparently sequels in title only)

MORE TERRIBLE VIDEO CHEAPIES
Redline
Crossworlds
Wedlock

SORT-OF ENJOYABLE BAD VIDEO CLASSICS

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NOT OF THIS EARTH
HUH? Remake of a 1950s Roger Corman movie in which an alien sucks blood from hapless victims to save his dying home planet. Stars ex-porn star Traci Lords.
DEFINING MOMENT: Traci Lords topless, Traci Lords lazing next to the pool in small bikini, Traci Lords . . .
SEQUELS: None, but yet another remake recently.

SPLIT SECOND
HUH? Cop Rutger Hauer seeking revenge against alien that killed off his partner in futuristic London that is semi-submerged under water after a spot of some bothersome global warming.
DEFINING MOMENT: Hauer in long black coat, brandishing lots of huge guns and a penchant for lots of sugar . . .

CRITTERS
HUH? Gremlins-like fur-balls escape from asteroid prison with two stupid alien bountyhunters in hot pursuit . .
DEFINING MOMENT: Fur-ball gets blown away by shotgun . . . oh no, that’s it, really . . .
SEQUELS: Critters 2 – The Main Course, Critters 3 and
4

RETROACTIVE
HUH? Actually quite good Back to the Future/Groundhog Day-style plot crossed with standard action movie as Kylie Travis pulls a Linda Hamilton (T2) trying to rectify events that have gone desperately wrong – but each time she keeps on making things turn out worse . . .
DEFINING MOMENT: Jim Belushi with huge lamb chops . . .

TRAPPED IN SPACE
HUH? Made-for-TV movie about astronauts en route to distant planet who run out of oxygen. A battle for survival begins . . . (If it sounds familiar, it’s because it’s based vaguely on an old Arthur C. Clarke story.)
DEFINING MOMENT: The poodle gets it!
SEQUELS: None.

MORE:
Disaster In Time
Space Truckers
Roswell
Moon 44

MOVIES MOST OFTEN RIPPED OFF
Whatever might have been a hit a short while ago (Critters soon after Gremlins was a hit, Nemesis soon after Terminator 2 – Judgement Day)
The Terminator
Blade Runner
Alien
Aliens
Starship Troopers (at the moment)

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LESSONS TO BE LEARNT

Life is too short to be spent watching some dreadful straight-to-video movies. Don’t rent some in the hope that they are good – usually they aren’t and nowadays with all the advances in special effects few of them are truly Mystery Science Theatre 3000 material. They are usually merely mind-numbingly dull and no amount of beer, pizza and other substances will alter that. Rather go read a book, go on a hike, watch the tumble dryer in action . . .


 



 

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