The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Brain Smasher... A Love Story (1993)
This is one I've been meaning to do for a long time, but it's not that easy to find. Not only is it only available on VHS here in the States (the UK get a Region 2 DVD, lucky bastards), but it's also usually expensive on the secondary market. Fortunately a buddy hooked me up with his, and now I'm passing the savings onto you... that didn't make any sense, but it sounded good.
Brain Smasher... A Love Story is an Albert Pyun flick starring the Dice Man Andrew Dice Clay as a bouncer in Portland,Oregon who runs into supermodel Teri Hatcher escaping from a band of Shaolin Monks led by Yuji Okumoto. Okumoto wants a red lotus flower, and Hatcher's sister has it, but they think they can get it through her. Now she and the Dice Man are on the adventure of their lives, trying to save the world, and maybe falling in love in the process.
This film is fantastic. A really fun 80s-style romp, similar to Big Trouble in Little China, only on a slightly smaller scale. The music was great, the dialog was great, the action wasn't lacking, and the performances more than held up their end. Not only were Teri Hatcher and Andrew Dice Clay solid, but there were tons of Pyun mainstays that were also sweet, including DTVC faves Tim Thomerson and Brion James. Top to bottom, this just works, and works really well.
It really is too bad that it's films like the Urban Trilogy-- each of which had to be fudged together because half of each film was lost in transit by Air France--, that are available on DVD and Netflix Watch Instantly, when so much of Albert Pyun's best stuff, including Brain Smasher, is out of print and only on VHS-- again, unless you're a Brit, and then you get it on DVD. I mean, this has Teri Hatcher, who is kind of a big deal on Desperate Housewives, you'd think an opportunistic distributor would pick up the rights and mass produce a bunch of $5.88 DVDs with her all over the cover.
Speaking of Ms. Hatcher, you don't need me to tell you how hot she is, and playing a supermodel means she's even hotter. She also understood the sillier side of this movie, and really made it work. This was right before she got the Lois and Clark gig, which was what made her a big star the first time, then she fell off a bit before rising again through Desperate Housewives. I wonder what she thinks of this film looking back on it, especially kissing Andrew Dice Clay. One really cool thing Pyun did with her character, as she was running through the streets of Portland to avoid Okumoto and his gang, was have her stand in front of advertisements she did as a model that were displayed in department stores and whatnot. I liked that he juxtaposed her glamorous supermodel world with her current situation, reminding us how much of a fish out of water she was-- or she was supposed to be-- plus, it made for a great shot to have multiple images of her on screen at once.
One of the ongoing jokes in the film was about Americans lumping all Asians into one ethnicity, in this case saying they're all Japanese, and that the Shaolin Monks are ninjas. Throughout, Okumoto's gang corrects people, telling them "Ninjas are Japanese. We are monks, and monks are Chinese!" The joke of course is that Okumoto is Japanese, playing a Chinese character. For me, being a fan of both Chinese and Japanese cinema, and Chinese and Japanese cuisines-- and just being an anth major in college-- I got a kick out of this, because I'm often explaining the differences to people I know too.
Now it's time for everyone's favorite game when reviewing an Albert Pyun flick: name that mainstay; and Brain Smasher had plenty. I already mentioned Thomerson and Brion James, who played great send ups of the classic 1940s Film Noir detective, grilling the Dice Man. We also already mentioned Okumoto, who played the head of the gang of monks. Then there was Nicholas Guest, another detective, only grilling Teri Hatcher instead of the Dice Man. Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who played the accountant in Mean Guns, was Hatcher's sister (she was also in Road to Hell, which I believe hasn't been released yet). Other stars who weren't Pyun mainstays included Peter Kwong, who you may remember from the Olivier Gruner flick Angel Town, but who also had parts in Big Trouble in Little China and The Golden Child; and Liz Sheridan, Jerry's mom from Seinfeld, played the Dice Man's mom. Interesting that we had a second Seinfeld connection, the first obviously being Teri Hatcher in the "They're real, and they're spectacular!" episode.
If you live in the States, either keep your eye out in used VHS bargain bins, or bite the bullet and make the Amazon purchase, but this is one you'll need. If you live in the UK, take a break from all that Steven Seagal buying and pick this bad boy up. You won't regret it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106475/