Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The Other Side (1990)

Okay, dear reader, we’ve come to perhaps the strangest movie we’ve ever covered here. The closest comparison is, perhaps, “The Roller Blade Seven”, but even that miserable movie made an attempt to tell a story of some sort, and only repeated the same bits of footage five or so times. “The Other Side” goes so much further.

Firstly, there’s almost no information about it anywhere on the internet. No IMDB page, no mention of it on any biography of any of its cast or crew. The only discussion I can find of it is a 15-year-old post on a forum dedicated to American comedy troupe The Firesign Theater, but they seemed to not know anything (and got the plot wrong, such as it is); then, the place where I got my copy…let’s just call it the grey market…had an image of something which may have been the VHS cover, or may have been a clever mock-up. With it’s having such a generic title, that makes it even more difficult to search for. 

Peter Bergman is listed as the director, and that, as it turns out, is a red herring as to why this almost completely unknown movie is the way it is. The above-mentioned Firesign Theater made a movie called “J-Men Forever” in 1979 which is mostly a re-dubbed, heavily re-edited version of those 1940s serials – one of the Firesign guys, Peter Bergman, wrote it and was one of the stars of the small amount of new footage they shot. But, that was a proper comedy, with jokes coming thick and fast (even if most of them were pretty bad). This…isn’t. Anyway, it’s not the same Peter Bergman, which was just confirmed for me by a friend who knew the late great comedian. “I emailed him one day, asking him about it, and expecting a great story about this wild trouble-filled shoot. He told me it wasn’t him”. At least I’m not alone in thinking it was probably the wrong guy!

There’s a plot, which I’ll recap in its entirety – don’t worry, it won’t take me very long. Jimmy Lowson (Larry Carver, no IMDB profile) is an investigative journalist for the Daily Scoop, and he’s been dispatched to find out why Andy Warhol, who’d been dead for three years at this point, has started showing up in lambada clubs. He keeps seeing him from a distance in “Lambada Real”, the hottest spot in town, but Warhol just leaves as soon as Lowson arrives – not running away, seemingly just a coincidence every time. Lowson falls in love with one of the women on Andy’s arm, billed as “The Mysterious Woman” (Lisa Hambley, who does have one other credit, at least), but she dies. Then there’s a vague attempt made to pin the murder on Lowson, but then she’s fine later on. Or maybe she isn’t, it’s somewhat hard to tell. 

The late great Robert Z’Dar is also in this, playing the “Coroner of Manhattan”, with Manhattan being spelled wrong in the credits. He’s in maybe a minute of original footage, and is first billed. My friend has an even better story about him – after being rebuffed by Bergman, he contacted Z’Dar (he’s much better connected / talented than me) only to be told that Z’Dar had no memory whatsoever of being in it!

To amp up the confusion, footage of the real Andy Warhol is used at one point, an interview where he spends most of his time silent, as well as a few clips of Richard Hell playing at CBGB's from the movie "Blank Generation", which was produced by Warhol.

But the plot is definitely not the most interesting thing about “The Other Side”. I’m going to give you some of the building blocks of it:
  • ·         About a minute or two of lambada footage
  • ·         Lowson walking into a club, looking vaguely puzzled
  • ·         Lowson slumping in his chair, then checking his answering machine
  • ·         A bare-chested guy holding an axe, not moving
  • ·         Z’Dar glaring, with his face mostly in shadow
  • ·         “Warhol” standing at a bar with two women, then leaving
  • ·         “Warhol” dancing
  • ·         Lowson talking to his editor

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the lambada dancing footage is repeated at least fifty times (in different combinations and edits, but it’s the same minute or so). Even the biggest fan of dancing ladies’ bottoms will be thoroughly bored of seeing them after this movie. Everything else I’ve listed above is shown at least twice, and as often as ten times, too. 

There are some jokes. Like, the first time Lowson walks behind a pillar in the club, his voiceover (which sounds nothing like his real voice) refers to it; and there’s a newsreader (played by co-writer Maci Celli, who also doesn’t have an IMDB presence) who gives us an occasional gag. But…it’s just not trying to be funny, enough of the time. It’s not really trying to be anything!

Even if you accept that it’s just an extremely low budget movie made to cash in on the lambada craze, which was pretty hot in 1990, you still have to factor in that it makes no sense whatsoever. Could they not have filmed the lambada dancers for a few more minutes? Or edited it better? Like, there’s a scene where Lowson admits his love for the Mysterious Woman, but she walks away. Then, in the next scene, he goes back to the club they were just in and hassles the people at the bar, looking for her. Or the way the Warhol scenes go. I assume there’s a reason for it to be this wildly confusing, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is. Why not put the word “lambada” in the title, now we come to it?

Normally, I at least try and figure out why a movie is the way it is, after I’ve made some of my trademark baseless supposition, but with “The Other Side” there’s nothing to find out. Much like “The Roller Blade Seven”, or “After Last Season”, I’m firmly of the opinion that nothing this odd could have been made by accident, so every absurd choice, every repeat of those bloody couples dancing, must have been done on purpose. But the fact that it’s 30 years old and has disappeared to the point there’s almost literally zero information about it online, that its star (before he died) didn’t even remember being in it, means our questions will remain unanswered. If you, by any wonderful chance, read this and know someone who was in the movie, then please ask them to get in touch as I’d love to find out more about it.

One of the more confusing experiences of my movie-going life. 

Rating: ?

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Misfit Patrol (1996)

Welcome to the second of two directorial efforts from Anthony Cardoza. His name is probably not familiar to you but if you’re reading this site, his work is.  Let’s start with “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. One of their more beloved directors was a fellow by the name of Coleman Francis, who made “The Beast of Yucca Flats”, “The Skydivers” and “Red Zone Cuba”, incompetent and weird but made with a genuine black heart. Francis’ producer for those movies was Mr Cardoza, who’d made a little bit of money as a welder but had also produced an Ed Wood movie by the time they met.

Anyway, Francis died in 1973 but Cardoza’s dreams didn’t, so he hung around the movie business. He produced a few things (most famously and profitably, 1968’s “Hellcats”), but it’s his directing work we’re interested in at the moment. We already covered 1979’s “Smokey and the Hotwire Gang”, one of the more confusing / rubbish “Smokey and the Bandit” ripoffs, and then almost 20 years later came this. I've been racking my brain and can't think of any trend he was capitalising on, unless it was made when "Police Academy" but was never "released" until the mid 90s?

For those curious movie buffs among you, the first question might be “why?” Why did Mr Cardoza, seven years after his last job in the movies (line producer on something called “Crime Of Crimes”), and almost twenty from his last directing job, want to make another one? I’m going to go out on a limb here and give you one of my patented unfounded movie theories!

Dave Fuentes, writer / star (and, if we’re being honest, probably financial backer), was a big fan of Ed Wood. He wanted to make a movie and approached the star of “Plan Nine From Outer Space”, Conrad Brooks, then in his early 60s and still working in the same sort of bargain-basement entertainment that had made him “famous” almost 40 years previously.  Brooks had met Cardoza while working on “The Beast Of Yucca Flats” in 1961, his last movie before taking a twenty year break from the movies, and as Fuentes needed a director called his old friend, who accepted. Or the original director pulled out at the last moment and Cardoza stepped in to protect his own investment, as he was also listed as producer. Or something else. Like I’ve said, I’ve really got no idea how any of this works but I like to speculate. This was Fuentes’ only movie, though, which at least hints at it being a vanity project of some kind. Oh, and there’s the fact he wears heels in a bunch of scenes so he can appear taller than his female co-star.

“Misfit Patrol” was never released, anywhere. I contacted the writer, Baltimore journalist “Buzz” Beeler, still working and generous with his time. Sadly, he didn’t even have a copy (or didn’t want me to watch it) so I gave up, mentioning my fruitless search to a friend who used to run B-Independent, a site like this only better, back in the very early days of the internet. He also helped distribute micro-budget movies back then, and casually mentioned that he had a copy, obtained from Conrad Brooks himself at a convention many years ago! A little while later, and a package arrived in the mail, more anticipated by me than any hot new Marvel epic.

The tape itself is unusual (to me, anyway) – a finished product, sent to potential investors to secure investment and distribution. As well as playing the trailer, it features a little segment with all the positive words people said about it at the time and a “hey, you could make money with this great movie” bit.

I may be the first person to watch this movie in 20 years, and I appreciate it’s not exactly going to drive traffic to this site as it’s almost impossible that you’d be able to track it down based on my recommendation, or lack thereof. So I’ll have to try and paint a word-picture of this absolutely 100% forgotten, zero reviews on the internet, buddy cop comedy, and hopefully it’ll be entertaining. Let’s journey through “Misfit Patrol” together!

There are two cops, Dave (Fuentes) and Murphy (Brooks) and they suck. No particular reason is given why they’re so dumb, they just are – answering a grenade like a telephone, sticking a shotgun in their own face to see why it’s jammed, etc.  – and are hated by both their co-workers and boss, Captain Cook (Vernon Wells, who must have owed someone a favour). All the other cops look like old bums who got pulled off the street and given uniforms, like you can see one person in white sneakers and trousers that are 6 inches too short for him in the background of one scene.

There’s so much miserable comedy misfiring on display here. Like getting “gynecologist” and “geologist” mixed up, which might be the best joke they have. Or when they mock a midget by talking to her like she’s a child. Or a bit where Dave is busted down to crossing guard and uses his Stop sign like he’s riding a horse. Or the way they seem to not really understand how human beings talk or behave. There’s a courtroom scene where the judge just accepts a bribe in full view of everyone, then lets the murderer off.

There’s a plot, kind of, which leads me to the most curious thing about “Misfit Patrol”. Dave and Murphy stumble upon a turf war between rival gangs of drug dealers, and find, pretty much by accident, a witness prepared to testify against them. She happily comes down to the station, and you assume a romance is on the cards – she’s a nice, normal looking woman of around 35. Then, we find out she’s a high school student? What? Then they still sort of get together? But if you read the IMDB profile of the movie, you’ll know that she’s actually (SPOILER, BUT YOU’RE NEVER EVER GOING TO WATCH THIS MOVIE) an undercover DEA agent, and might actually be age-appropriate – in movie terms – for Dave. But then why was she so willing to help the cops against the people she’s undercover with? Why go undercover as a student when there’s no indication those particular drug dealers are operating in schools?

I appreciate this will be curious to you, dear reader, as you’ve never seen it. I’m really trying to get across how wrong-headed “Misfit Patrol” is, how devoid of anything approaching laughs, or dramatic tension, or sense.

Conrad Brooks gives it his all, but he’s not a natural comedy actor, so his mugging comes across as vaguely offensive, only I can’t figure out to who. Jeff Celentano, who’s been featured by us before in “American Ninja 2”, “Puppet Master 2” and “Demonic Toys”, tries his best but is subject to maybe the worst gag in this or any other movie, as the Captain keeps getting his name wrong. It has no pay-off and isn’t remotely funny the first time, let alone the twentieth. Another ISCFC regular, Jimmy Williams (“Samurai Cop”, “Cybernator”, “Silent Night Zombie Night”, among others) shows up as the villain, should you be a completist of his.

There’s perhaps a good reason why some movies never got official releases. Made cheaply as vanity projects, tax dodges, or misguided investment attempts, they have nothing going for them at all and every distributor, mercifully, leaves them well alone. Perhaps even some of them are comedies, like this, just with no jokes in them. But I feel even the lousiest self-produced never-released effort would struggle to approach the dismal beyond-failure of “Misfit Patrol”. It’s so bad that it becomes fascinating, not the sort of fascinating I’d ever want to watch again, but fascinating anyway.

I’d like to spend a little time, after we’ve thoroughly trashed the movie, talking about how it was marketed. One of Brooks’ VHS tapes has made it to Amazon, and someone decided to write a product description for it. I’ll give you a few highlights.

“Every once in while moviegoers are treated to a wholesome family entertainment. That's when film producers decide that movie watchers, especially those who like to bring their family along, have had enough of crime, sex, drugs and violence for a plot.” –
literally the entire plot of the movie is about crime and drugs, and there’s a shootout with multiple deaths in the first fifteen minutes.

“Misfit Patrol fits that once-in-a-while wholesome family entertainment to a tee.”
 Once in a while. I love it!

“The zany duo 's pairing with sultry Sheila (Hope Kelley), who plays undercover DEA agent, who later displays her affection for Bryant, provides more solidness to the zany and comical plot upon which this comedy revolves. There is no gain-saying that the horizon is bright for this very talented former Texan beauty to get more action roles in the immediate future, not to mention comedy roles,”
 Is she a former Texan or a former beauty?

And these gem scame from the reviews they quoted:

"The wackiest film to date" -- Dusty Brandel -A.A.R.W.B.A   
That would be the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association (Brandel is its president). Wackiest? Did Ms Brandel never see “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World”, which at least bears more of a relationship to the sport she’s spent her life covering?

"... as we track this weekend through the last eight years, "Misfit Patrol" grossed better than previous years with more traditional product." -- D. Edward Vogel- Bengies Drive-In Theatre  
I’d love to know why this wasn’t considered “traditional product”.

“My two thumbs up for this zany comedy flick's plot and its worthy lessons...” -- Noel T. Castorillo- L.A. Free Press 
One of those worthy lessons is “ if you’re a middle aged cop, develop an inappropriate relationship with a high school girl, on the off chance she’s an adult undercover DEA agent”.

One last thing – go back to the top of the screen and check out the poster. That indicates it’s some sort of Police Academy-style everyone’s-crazy cop comedy; only it’s not, at all. I’d be annoyed at the false advertising, if it had ever actually been released.

Rating: thumbs down