Monday, June 27, 2022

Junesploitation 2022 Day 27: Albert Pyun!



    DECEIT (1989, YouTube w/very low sound, 92 min.)
    for the first time.

    Filmed in a couple of redressed sets from "Cyborg" in just a few days, "Deceit" is a talky sci-fi yarn about the fate of planet Earth hanging in the balance between a couple of aliens (Pyun regular Norbert Weisser and Scott Paulin) while arguing with kidnapped stripper Eve (Samantha Phillips) about whether sex is better off forced against a person's will or given warmly and with pleasure. Yawn. The opening 'Crucial Information' text, suicide-by-bleach dead body possession and pulsating credits hint at something much more clever than what we actually get, but that's 21st Century Film for you. Other than Eve actually growing as a character (from bimbo to unlikely defender of humanity) "Deceit" is a dull chamber "drama" that's a chore to sit through and even look at (that damn blue smoke spinning fan). 1.5 'ASEOGICAL PRODUCTS' WALL SIGNS (out of 5).

    OMEGA DOOM (1996, Amazon Prime, 84 min.) for the first time.

    As if Walter Hill's "Last Man Standing" didn't give us enough "Yojimbo" remix in '96, here comes Pyun's version of the same source material but 'PG-13' and dumbed way down. Set in a clearly-inspired-by-"Terminator" dystopian future where factions of robots fight amongst themselves after the last World War looking for the last remaining stash of weapons that the (unseen) remaining humans will use to destroy them, damaged-but-still-cool Omega Doom (Rutger Hauer, who chooses to look/act normal while everybody else around him does 'robot' acting) walks the tightrope of alliances and betrayals between the Roms (new deadlier tech without imagination) and Droids (older less efficient tech, but more personality). There's not much action that happens (couple of fights here and there), but at least Pyun and company try to create memorable characters (Norbert Wisser's 'Head' constantly switching bodies, Anna Katarina's 'Bartender' without allegiance, Jahi J.J. Zuri's OTT bully 'Marko,' etc.) and fully exploit the small European sets at their disposal. Alas, the movie proper ends at 75 minutes and drags for nine more with outtakes and slow credits. 2.5 DIRTY GLASSES FULL OF ICELESS WATER (out of 5).

  2. Nemesis (1992 – Albert Pyun)
    Fantastic! Not the story, I won’t pretend that I’ve understood what this movie is actually about. But the look and feel, the action itself, how it looks. Everyone sweats, despite being a cyborg. Everyone sparkles when getting shot – and there is a lot of shooting going. Some action and characters reminded me of what The Matrix would do a few years later. You can see that they didn’t have the budget for great stages, so they shot at locations you wouldn’t necessarily see in other movies, which makes this pretty unique. But man, you see every dollar on screen. I loved it.
    It is my first experience with Pyun and I don’t think it will be my last, if any of his other movies have nearly the quality this one had – any recommendations?

  3. Brainsmasher: A Love Story (1993)

    Who are we to say that Andrew “Dice” Clay and Teri Hatcher could not be a couple?

    Anyways, the Diceman was not on the top of the world in 1993 — a proposed network series was canceled and he started honing down the edge in his stand-up routine. But somehow, he played a near superheroic bouncer that battles martial artists over a rare lotus flower and when I say, “Yeah, Albert Pyun directed and wrote this,” that pretty much explains it all.

    The bad guys are not ninjas — they will say this often — but Chinese Shaolin monks who believe that eating the lotus flower will give them infinite life. It’s in the orbit of the Brain Smasher (Clay) because Cammy Crain (Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Jackie on Too Close for Comfort and, of course, The Warriors) has sent the flower to her supermodel sister (Hatcher).

    Wu, the leader of The Shaolin Monks, is played by Yuji Okumoto. As Chozen in The Karate Kid Part II, he is the best bad guy ever as even in the face of a hurricane, he will not redeem himself.

    This film also packs on the character actors, with Brion James, Charles Rocket, Nicholas Guest and Tim Thomerson as detectives, Liz Sheridan as Brain Smasher’s mother (meaning that Sheridan played mother to Jerry Seinfeld and Andrew “Dice” Clay in the very same year), Dee “Matilda the Hun” Booher and Liz Shaye.

    This only came out on VHS in the U.S. and never even made it to DVD. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Dice punch a man into his brain? The title does not lie. This does happen.

  4. Dangerously Close (1986)

    Just read Patrick's review, he says it better than anyone else can:

    Just want to say thanks to F This Movie for turning me on to Pyun, who has become one of my favorite filmmakers. It has been a joy going through his filmography over the past few years. Cheers!

  5. Nemesis (1992, dir. Albert Pyun)

    The plot is nonsense, but Pyun clearly knows how to stretch a limited budget and turn a rote script into a fun and engaging movie. It's a fun sci-fi actioner if you just let it wash over you and don't question the script.

    I guess Pyun liked working with leading men who have trouble with the English language, since after JCVD in Cyborg, he cast Olivier Gruner in Nemesis.

  6. ALIEN FROM L.A. (1988)
    An introverted woman travels from Los Angeles to Atlantis (I think?) where she finds adventure and romance. This movie has a reputation for being one of the worst things ever, but I thought it was fun. It's a starring role for supermodel Kathy Ireland. She's totally in on the joke, playing the whole thing with a squeaky voice and an out-of-her-depth exasperation. The real star of the movie is the production design. It's one-half Mad Max and one-half Blade Runner, but on a threadbare budget. Another great example of Pyun making a lot out of very little. It's a ridiculous movie, but I dug it.

    Bonus Lloyd Kaufman-sploitation, day 27: GRINDSPLOITATION (2017)
    A collection of phony trailers made by a bunch of indie directors, obviously inspired by the ones in the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse movie. I'm unclear as to which one Kaufman made, and I fear his co-director credit might be in name only. The better trailers are stand-alone comedy skits, with an attitude of "We're just having fun." Most of them, though, are filmmakers hoping to eventually make features of these things, like Rodriguez did with Machete. And at two hours and thirty minutes, this is way too long. It must've done well, because it's the first in a nine-movie franchise. (Ed Rooney: "Nine times.")

  7. Captain America (1990)

    I think this movie, for better or worse, really cemented by hatred for the MCU. Corporate, bland, forced. I'm so totally over them.

    This is terrible, sure. But it's got personality, true silliness, and it's not factory made - in large thanks to Pyun.

  8. Alien From L.A. (1988)

    Some directors lean into a low budget and adopt a somewhat lazy approach. Not Mr. Pyun. Every set, costume, matte painting and even optical effect are created with so much care and detail that it feels like Golan and Globus are splurging. Credit to delicately voiced Ireland only appearing to be ADR'd in scenes where the other actors obviously are as well. Super funsploitation!

  9. Cyborg (1989)

    Jean-Claude van Damme is a tortured "slinger" who wages a one-man war against diabolical "pirates" in a post-apocalyptic Mad-Maxian nightmare world. Meanwhile, a girl cyborg holds the key to saving the human race from a devastating plague but bad guys stand in the way. All this and more in this low-budget sci-fi epic told almost entirely in fight scenes and flashbacks (so many flashbacks!).

    I realized while watching how great JCVD is at getting the shit kicked out of him on screen, and there's a lot of that going around in here, to the point that he even gets himself crucified. Despite the apparent cheapness Pyun makes everything look as good as he can, coming up with fun, creative shots to spice up the fights and a really inventive way to stage the mandatory scene of JCVD doing the splits - it's actually one of the best examples that I've seen. A very solid effort from everyone involved.

    1. JCVD split = best surprise reveal of "Cyborg" (even with the trailer using it as a "money shot"). 😎

  10. VICIOUS LIPS (1986) - The film today's image comes from.

    Having seen a few of Pyun’s films, I tempered my expectations for Vicious Lips. I guess the biggest challenge of watching of his work is appreciating the positive aspects while overlooking some of the flaws. Vicious Lips has a very big flaw in the lack of a coherent story. Although the general idea of a band having some adventures while getting to a gig is followed through with, the scenes do make any sense combined together. The lack of budget might have had something to do with that. What Pyun does well, at least in his 1980s films, is develop an engaging aesthetic. The lighting, the fashions, and the music could not be more mid-1980s. Even with the cheapness of the sets, the lighting makes everything look good. The art direction makes the most out of little things, like those rows of colored sheets hanging down. The immersion into that aesthetic carried me through Vicious Lips, making it a watch I do not regret. The final song of the film, Lunar Madness, is really catchy. Pyun made a decent music for that, actually.

  11. Corrupt (1999) dir. Albert Pyun

    When I found this, I wondered how the hell there was a movie starring a just-pre-SVU Ice T and just-post-Charge It 2 Da Game Silkk the Shocker that I had no clue existed, and that it was part of a trio of similar outings that also included Snoop Dogg, deep in his No Limit phase? I settled in for a trio of late nineties hood-movie oddities, and got about ninety seconds into Corrupt before I remembered that some things are obscure for a reason. This was rough y’all… it looked downright terrible- which you’d be forgiven for thinking is an insane complaint given my Letterboxd review history, but this was some of the worst straight to video I’ve seen. Typically Eurocentric cheap video equipment is already notoriously poor at capturing non-white skin tones, but here the clash seems maddeningly dialed up, despite a nearly all black cast. Combined with a brutally boring and occasionally obscured script, I really felt this running time- which is wild because it’s just sixty-six minutes long.* Apparently there’s a DVD of this that Ice-T does the commentary for where he basically MST3K’s it the whole time- I’m not going to spring for a movie I don’t like just to hear someone make fun of it (even if that person is Ice-T, whose really good at making fun of stuff), but I won’t lie, about halfway through I was looking for a commentary version online just to get me through the rest. Ah well- I’ve been pretty lucky so far, and stumbling across something you just don’t like seems in the spirit of exploitation cinema as much as finding hidden gems, so at least this feels like a well rounded Junesploitation now.

    *yes, I’m not a big fan of Pyun and sort of dreaded this day, and yes I come across this in the fist place by sorting Pyun’s films by “length” on Letterboxd- I’m not proud, I usually try to be a good sport.