Wolfgang Petersen’s In The Line Of Fire is as solid as action pictures get, a three course thriller meal, and one of my favourite Clint Eastwood flicks. Starting to show his age here and adopting a brittle, calcified hardness, he plays disgraced secret service agent Frank Horrigan, a quiet, resolute man who is haunted by his failure to protect Kennedy from that infamous bullet. He’s on undercover sting operations with his rookie partner (Dylan McDermott) these days, and is battling some health issues that go hand in hand with getting up there in years. No better time for predatory, mercurial ex CIA assassin Mitch Leary (a terrifying John Malkovich) to taunt him out of retirement with threats against the new president, up for election. Leary is a cunning psychopath who won’t go down so easy, and Frank is just the determined wolfhound to take him down, as a dangerous, violently suspenseful game of cat and mouse plays out. There’s an obligatory female love interest too, but the film shirks the usual ditzy throwaway chick and goes for something classier in Rene Russo, a capable senior agent who initially roasts Frank for his age before eventually warming up. Russo is an unconventionally attractive, intuitively engaging actress whose subtly likeable nature sneaks up on you and the muted chemistry she has with Eastwood is terrific. The three excellent leads are surrounded by a nebulae of awesome supporting players including John Mahoney, the always solid Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson, a sleazy Tobin Bell and scene stealing character actor Steve Railsback in a brilliant cameo as Leary’s shady former Agency handler. Subtlety has never been Petersen’s forte, but his approach works here as he tells the story in big, bold strokes that highlight each set piece with sterling suspense. There’s also a brooding score by the master himself, Ennio Morricone, which takes the solemn, scary route instead of blaring up the Zimmer-esque fireworks. As great as the action is here (that plastic 3D printed gun though), my favourite scenes are the creepy late night phone calls that Malkovich makes to Eastwood, teasing him but also betraying notes of loneliness in his perverted psyche. This is a battle of wills before it even gets physical, and the two heavyweights spar off of each other with calculated portent and restrained, fascinated loathing. A thriller classic.
Everyone has their career peak, and unfortunately for Edward Furlong it was right out of the gate with James Cameron’s Terminator 2. After that it was a long slow slump of B movies leading up until the present, one of which is the dingy cave set horror flick Intermedio, which is mostly trash save for a few artistic flourishes in ghost design, and a spooky villain performance from genre icon Steve Railsback. Furlong leads a hopeless troupe of American tourists who attempt to smuggle drugs back to the states through a complex underground catacomb, and fall prey to many tortured souls who have become vengeful phantasms down there. It’s dark, noisy, dimly lit and cluttered, with Railsback providing class and creep factor, but beyond that it’s not much. The obligatory scream queens are played by Cerina Vincent and Amber Benson, who have enough presence to get by alright. I did enjoy some of the ghostly special effects though, trippy apparitions that almost look like cave paintings come to life. This is nothing more than an extended X Files style gig, with a few notes that land, but mostly gets swept away in the dust. That title is neat though hey, representing an ancient word for the space between the world of the living and that of the dead. If only the film could have been that effectively mystic.
Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce is the most dementedly unique horror SciFi mashup you’ll get. Based on a novel that’s literally titled ‘The Space Vampires’, the film is exactly that and more. It’s so out of it’s mind that at a certain point you have to surrender and bask in it, and grab the sides of the cart as it veers between all kinds of increasingly bonkers plot points. When a strange, rice kernel shaped object shows up in earth’s atmosphere, a team of exploratory astronauts led by intrepid Steve Railsback goes on up to investigate. What they find up there eclipses any weirdness aboard the Nostromo, Millennium Falcon or Event Horizon. Intergalactic vampires lie in creepy cryo suspension, just waiting for unlucky hosts to come along. Soon they’re exposed to earth and it’s a gory mad dash all over London to stope them from turning every earthling into zombies. Yes, that’s actually the plot, and despite how it sounds on paper, they really make it work. That’s mostly thanks to the screen shattering, ridiculously good special effects, especially in the opening aboard the alien’s strange, baroque vessel which is one of the most otherworldly and atmospheric sequences in any horror film ever. Once the action shifts back to earth it’s a pure shit show and near comedy of errors, with Railsback’s frenzied cosmonaut teaming up with a peppy British intelligence agent (Peter Firth), and even Patrick Stewart comes out to play as some vague scientific bro. There’s boundless imagination at work here, carried by sheer movie magic to contribute lasting, impressive images and create an entirely unique horror experience. Plus, how could a flick about space vampires not be amazing (we will not speak of Dracula 3000). A sci-Fi horror classic, an under-sung jewel of visual flights of fancy and practical effects laden nightmares.
Bear with me here for a sec while I say this, but Barb Wire is actually a genuinely great flick. Based on a kinky Tank Girl-esque comic book and boasting a busty starring turn from Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson, it’s got a lot more going for it than the porn vibes the poster probably gives off at first glance. Picture this: Pam is Barb, night club owning bounty hunter in a Neo-fascist futuristic American industrial town called Steel Harbour, ducking gestapo style soldiers and playing the double agent against a government gone rogue. She’s propelled back into action when her former boyfriend Axel (Temuerra ‘Jango Fett’ Morrison) blows back into town with fellow freedom fighter Cora D (Victoria Rowell). Barb is now faced with protecting her club, extricating all of her friends to a safe haven in Canada (come on up) and battling the forces of supremely evil Colonel Pryzer (Steve Railsback, chewing the scenery and then some). It’s a total blast of perverse steampunk mayhem, Pam solidly playing a badass heroine who’s fun to hang around with. Udo Kier shows up as her friend and club manager Curly, eccentric as ever, and watch for Clint Howard, Nils Allen Stewart, Jack Noseworthy, Xander Berkeley and Tiny Lister as well. Not half as much of a novelty or gimmicky film as some would have you believe, this one actually takes itself seriously for the most part and proves to be a solid genre effort. Good times.
Everyone knows that high school teenagers are the most lawless, degenerate, ill adjusted scoundrels out there, but what to do about it? Radically unethical, mandatory brain modification of course, or at least that’s what mad scientist school principal Bruce Greenwood has in mind in Disturbing Behaviour, a Scream/Faculty esque 90’s shocker that didn’t get half the attention it deserved upon release. Shame because it’s a sleek, well oiled little horror outing. James Marsden and Katie Holmes are the new kids in town, siblings thrust into the savage Serengeti of high school and forced to jump through that fiery hoop of social interaction. Nick Stahl channels his inner awkwardness as the brooding outcast who befriends them, and the trio soon notice some weird activity from their peers. Behavioural patterns are erratic, robotic and vicious, their classmates seemingly not themselves anymore. A creepy local cop (always nice to see Steve Railsback) seems to know what’s up but eerily keeps it hush hush, and calmly maniacal Greenwood definitely has a few skeletons in a few closets. It’s up to them to figure out what’s going on, escape the cerebral rescanning net before they end up dead or worse. Assisting them is a scene stealing, nearly unrecognizable William Sadler as the school’s eccentric, hard-nosed janitor. Working from a script by word wizard Scott Rosenberg and beautifully spooky cinematography from John Bartley that captures the unsettling North Vancouver and Bowen Island coastlines, this flick has a lot going for it and should have gotten way more kudos.
We are incredibly proud to present our podcast with veteran actor Steve Railsback. Steve has been in everything, from Richard Rush’s THE STUNTMAN, to Toby Hooper’s LIFEFORCE, Todd Solondz’s STORYTELLING, Rob Zombie’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, HELTER SKELTER, BARBWIRE, ED GEIN, IN THE LINE OF FIRE, and an important arc as Duane Barry in THE X-FILES. Steve gives a candid, hilarious, and heartfelt account of his incredible career speaking at length about working with Elia Kazan, Richard Rush, Clint Eastwood, and how Chris Carter specifically courted him for the role of Duane Barry. We hope you have as much fun listening to this as we did recording it!
The Box is a moody little crime drama thriller starring James Russo, whose appropriately brooding persona lends itself to grim neo noir films such as these. He’s an actor who has almost entirely worked in B movies for a long time, and while you have to watch out for most as they are usually geniune piles of dog shit, this one is a jewel amongst the rubbish. Russo plays Frank Miles here, an ex con trying to go straight, sticking with the dead end job his P.O. has given him to stay out of trouble. Soon he meets beautiful waitress Dora (Theresa Russell) who falls in love with. The two of them try to start a new life together, but as we all know sometimes it’s very hard to run from your past, and soon enough trouble comes looking for them. Frank tries to get some money owing to him from his sleazebag of an ex-associate Michael Dickerson (a detestable Jon Polito) and things go wrong. Violence ensues, and Frank finds himself in the possession of a mysterious box which he can’t open and hasn’t a clue about. Dora has a scumbag boyfriend in club owner Jake Ragna (a terrifying Steve Railsbac) who I’d dangerous, volatile and obsessive about her. Soon, an evil corrupt Police Detective named Stafford (Michael Rooker) makes their lives hell as he searches for the box. Frank and Dora take refuge at the home of Stan (Brad Dourif, excellent), Frank’s former cell mate, friend who is now a weed dealer. Even this may not be enough to keep them safe, as the long arm of the crooked law probes, and Stafford gets closer and closer. It’s a depressing situation forged by bad decision and the perhaps inescapable knack for trouble that some people tend to have, whether it’s coincidence or a measurable character flaw is eternally up for debate. The pair try so hard to fix their lives and still seem to be headed for a tragic dead end. Russo has sadness in his eyes in every role, as well as a boiling anger to match it, he fills out his protagonist very well. Rooker and Railsback make scary work of the two villains, especially Rooker who uses the kind of blatant brutality and abuse of power that are essential ingrediants in very dangerous men. Dourif is Dourif, which is never not mesmerizing, and Russell does the wounded angel thing down to the bone. A sad story, with a dream cast (for me, at least), a downbeat reflection on lives gone down the wrong path, a diamond in the rough noir thriller of the best kind.