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.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Hard to Die (1990)
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited onto the Drunk on VHS podcast with Moe Porne and Jon of the After Movie Diner. The subject was this Jim Wynorski joint (where he's credited as Arch Stanton). The discussion moved from Wynorski's Ozu-esque establishing shots, to his Hitchcockian use of shadows and lighting to create tension in his audience. Okay no, we actually spent very little time talking about the film, instead doing 80 minutes discussing Hobo Butt Flutes and a crime series starring Peter Spellos only his name is Pedro Spellos, with the "e" a long "a" sound and the "ll" pronounced the way it is in Spanish. It was a great time, they're both really cool guys, and you should definitely go to their sites and check out what they have going on. Also, if you want to hear what my voice sounds like, you can check out the podcast here. (On the page, right click on the download link and click "save link as".)
Hard to Die is billed as Die Hard with lingerie workers or something, or maybe it's billed as a slasher film crossed with Die Hard, or a spoof of Die Hard, I have no idea, but it really has nothing whatsoever to do with Die Hard. It's about four women who work at the main office of a lingerie company, among them the great Gail Harris (credited as Robyn Harris), Debra Dutch (credited as Debra Dare), and Melissa Moore (credited as Melissa Moore, and she meets a far better fate than the Bacon Grease Foo of Samurai Cop). These poor ladies are burning the midnight oil for their be-ponytailed jackass boss who I'm assuming Wynorski's casting director pulled from the nearest Chess King. Anyway, after the sprinkler system goes off and the ladies need to have their nude shower scenes to clean up, someone starts bumping them off. Early money's on the gross creepy Orville Ketchum (Pedro Spellos), but we B-movie watchers and former fans of Murder, She Wrote know the obvious choice is seldom the correct one.
I think this movie will work on you in two opposing ways. First, it'll hit you with that nostalgia factor. This is USA Up All Night kind of fare for sure, only if you find it on VHS you can get it uncut, which is even better. Second though, it's pretty unremarkable and not a lot happens for the first 45 minutes or so. I think with those two factors, because I'm writing this review in 2014 and not 1994, the nostalgia factor wins out, at least it did for me. If this were made today with the modern state of DTV, I'd be killing it; but it's Wynorski and he made it in 1990, so it works.
This is where we usually talk about the film's main star, but other than Pedro Spellos, the star would be the director, Wynorski, so I guess we'll start there. That's him below in his director's cameo. He put himself in the film but not his name in the credits, as he went by Arch Stanton, which I think is fantastic (according to imdb it's the name on a grave in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). If I ever had a son or a male cat, I'd name him Arch Stanton. When I first started this blog almost seven years ago, I expected to have tons of Wynorski flicks reviewed, but this is only his sixth. It shows you the degree to which the DTV world has changed in that time, with new DTV films starring major Hollywood actors coming out more often and companies like The Asylum making huge noise with schlock fare like Sharknado, Wynorski's great 90s flicks have been lost in the shuffle-- not to mention the submissions from independent film makers and distributors looking for me to review their films, which is something I love to do but something I never expected when I started either. With the state of the modern schlock flick and B-movie goof fest, in particular The Asylum and their imitators, we either forget about guys like Wynorski or Fred Olen Ray who really did it right, or we elevate their work to a higher level because we're just craving that kind of thing after being denied it for so long. If anything, it's a reason for me to keep going into the past as much I'm trying to keep up with everything new that's coming out, because it's the 90s flicks that got me and a lot of other people into this kind of stuff in the first place.
Pedro Spellos. We last saw him here in the Ray/Wynorski collaboration Dinosaur Island, where he played a doughy virginal man whose grossness didn't turn off the Amazon woman on the island that he was betrothed too. Just when you thought he couldn't be any grosser, he reprises his role of Orville Ketchum from Sorority House Massacre II, making him something of a Wynorski mainstay. As gross as his character was and as much as I wanted him to be killed off quickly, I understood that he probably worked for a warm meal and was willing to schlep gear, so Wynorski had to keep him in the film as long as he could to keep the budget down.
Other stars in the film were Melissa Moore, who we've seen a few times in classics like Samurai Cop. She seems like the Audrina from The Hills of the 90s B-movie (ouch, did I just admit I watched The Hills, or maybe I admitted that on here way before...). Gail Harris (listed as Robyn Harris) played the lead. She was in the three Circuit films with Olivier Gruner that we reviewed sometime back. Jon loved her Northern accent, and we enjoyed imagining her as a butty in a Northern mine. One of my favorites was Debra Dutch (credited as Debra Dare) as another of the girls. She made these great exaggerated facial expressions, like she used to do silent film work or something. In any slasher film you need someone like her that you root for, even though you know she's at impossible odds to be the Final Girl, and Dare/Dutch was that for me.
Finally, take a look at that guy's hat. Boston Red Sox baby, getting some shine in 1990. In 1990 the Red Sox would be swept again in the ALCS by the Oakland A's, getting swept before in 1988. With how good the Sox have been the last ten years, we forget what they were between 1986-1990: three trips to the ALCS, with one trip to the World Series in 1986 that ended in disaster. Now the Red Sox don't lose those games, and the 11-year-old me in 1990 could not have fathomed the 34-year-old me watching them win a third World Series in 10 years this past fall. Nor could he have imagined the dump that was Fenway then turned into the amusement park it is now. I don't know which is worse: drunk belligerent assholes and peeing in troughs back then; or that God awful "Sweet Caroline" thing they do in the middle of every 8th inning now. Ugh!
Okay, I'm getting way off track here-- much like our podcast did-- so let me reel it in and wrap this up. Used VHS is the way to go, and it's a little pricey. If you were to find it in a VHS bin consider it a great score and even at $5-$10 it's worth it. I know more of these are popping up on Instant too, so hopefully it'll be on there soon as well. Also, I want to thank Moe at Drunk on VHS again for having me on his podcast and he and Jon at the After Movie Diner for the great time recording it. Again, check out what those guys are doing if you haven't already.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103111/