With Richard Donner’s Superman still a few years off from transforming comic cinema into a legit and lucrative genre, letting the audience in on the gag and addressing its protagonist’s more antiquated elements would have been a wise move. But outside of pausing every so often to superimpose a gleam across Ron Ely’s peepers or randomly announce a new, heretofore unknown talent of Doc’s, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze does little to deconstruct its parent property or its contemporaries in the world of crime-fighting fiction. Producer George Pal took a chance on a big-screen throwback.
Those who might shift the blame for Cell’s shortcomings onto a writer with a feeble understanding of the source book should be aware that Stephen King himself had a hand in composing the screenplay. Not only that, he also warned admirers of said novel that some changes that might rub them the wrong way would be imminent. King wasn’t lying, having willingly helped turn a visceral and harrowing work like Cell into a limp-wristed 28 Days Later riff with too many cut corners to freak out seasoned horror buffs.
“When everyone is connected, no one is safe…”
Masked hero dressed to the nines with gizmos galore? Check.
Doughy character actors scurrying about in silly costumes? Check.
Twelve half-hour episodes of the aforementioned cheesiness, and more? Check.
“So, Commando Cody, Sky Marshal of the Universe. As one scientist to another, I must congratulate you. You have conquered space! A great achievement…for an Earthman.”
Out of all the bizarre trends the ’80s hoisted upon pop culture, ninjas have to be among the most prolific. Suddenly, any two-bit action flick schlock factory received a license to render their product “mysterious” and “exotic,” just by decking out half their actors in black long johns. Never one to pass on a fad that could net them some extra bucks, the Cannon Group gladly hopped aboard the martial arts bandwagon, putting out a series of cult cheesefests that included 1985’s American Ninja.
“The deadliest art of the Orient is now in the hands of an American.”
Horror fans nowadays are spoiled rotten. They’ve grown up with fancy special effects and boundary-pushing thematic content packaged with the latest genre titles, whereas viewers way back when made do with the main actor staring at everyone as a movie’s big draw.
“His lust for voodooism spells D-O-O-M!”
Eight-year-old me couldn’t help but get excited over the ads for a strange new movie called The Meteor Man. Of course, I instantly ate the flick up when I got my hands on the VHS, but unfortunately, time hasn’t been its greatest ally. As admirable as The Meteor Man is for its innocence and total lack of cynicism, it makes for a pretty awkward watch.
“He’s coming to save the world, one neighborhood at a time.” PRESS PLAY ►
Having blessed his first flick The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms with a mostly solemn tone, director Eugene Lourie tried to make lightning strike twice with 1959’s The Giant Behemoth. Unfortunately its impact doesn’t resonate nearly as much as it’d like.
“SEE the Beast that shakes the Earth! LIVE in a world gone mad! WATCH the chaos of a smashed civilization! FLEE from the mightiest fright on the screen! NOTHING so Big as Behemoth!” PRESS PLAY ►
Cinema’s fascination with fusing the horror and western genres has proven to be as resilient as it has bewildering. It’s not uncommon to see the wild west go weird on the big screen. 1959’s The Living Coffin hails from Mexico, and in addition to presenting the world of tumbleweeds and bucking broncs with a supernatural bent, it goes one step further by incorporating aspects of its own cultural horror heritage.
“Fear is killing you all.” PRESS PLAY ►
Deliver Us from Evil carries a hardened vibe, attempting to replicate what it might be like if the supernatural really made itself noticed in modern times. In the end, though, this translates to the movie pushing its “this is totally based on a true story, you guys” angle extra hard, and the more it does so, the more abundantly clear its huckster ways become.
“You haven’t seen true evil!” PRESS PLAY ►
Adapted by Ray Bradbury from his own novel, this animated TV special doesn’t stop at merely checking off the holiday’s most familiar elements. No, The Halloween Tree aims to do one better by delving into the very origins of the season’s many traditions, and while it may blaze through this ambitious endeavor at a breakneck pace, its keen instinct for setting the right mood easily wins you over in the end. The Halloween Tree is a creatively spooky good time.
Released: 14 September 1994 (USA, VHS) PRESS PLAY ►
1989’s Puppet Master was the face that launched a thousand horror flicks about tiny things for Charles Band’s Full Moon production house. The man had been kicking around the genre for a while but this tale of murderous marionettes was nothing short of a game changer. After making an unforeseen killing on VHS, Puppet Master soon bloomed into a franchise.
Tagline: “A box of little toys has just become a gang of little terrors. This is not child’s play…” PRESS PLAY ►
I Married a Monster from Outer Space, while it may resemble some third-rate Body Snatchers riff on the surface, is one of the most daring and subversive films of its time. The flick still has the spaceships, death rays, and rubber aliens that warm any sci-fi lover’s heart, but it also has both an agenda and the ability to properly smuggle it in the guise of a nifty little genre thriller.
“Shuddery things from beyond the stars, here to breed with human women!” PRESS PLAY ►