On Saturday 19th March 2016 I attended ‘TRASH: A VHS Festival’ at the Custard Factory, in Birmingham, with fellow Blueprint reviewer Andrew Skeates. This is the first, of what we hope will become many, mini-film festivals based there, which sell their uniqueness on actually screening films from the VHS tape format.
On arrival we were greeted by lots of colourful posters depicting various video covers from times gone by and a couple of creaking stands selling video cassette tapes (many quite rare), along with video covers, and an interesting selection of movie quad posters, mainly from Thailand and the Philippines.
Avid video collector and festival organiser Dale Lloyd had also concocted a couple of interesting quizzes for festival participants along the way in the form of guessing which film a particular stylised film title letter came from – more difficult than it first seemed. I was hopeless at this, although Andrew got a few of them right.
Dale wanted to share his passion for the VHS format by putting on TRASH to showcase some old cult favourites on the big screen. Attendees were a little thin on the ground, but those that did attend where all VHS enthusiasts and the atmosphere was warm and friendly, with lots of video banter in the café/ bar between screenings.
Five films were screened and Andrew and I soon realised that, unfortunately, we wouldn't be able to stay for the last one, Never too Young to Die, due to train times, but that still left us with four film screenings that we were very much looking forward to. Here are my capsule reviews of each…
The Imp (aka Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama)
Director: David DeCocteau
Running Time: 80 mins
The Imp starts off with a couple of young women wanting to join a university sorority and, to prove their worth, agreeing to break into a local mall and steal a trophy to present to the frat sisters. A few young men, who’d been spying on the sorority antics, are forced to go along for the ride too.
When the trophy they decide to nick falls on the floor it releases an ‘Impish’ genie who agrees to grant the group three wishes. However, the saying: ‘beware of what you wish for’ springs to mind as pretty soon terrible things start to befall the youngsters and before long they’re fighting for their lives in the mall, which the Imp has turned into their prison.
The Imp was a good start to the mini-festival, and was full of cheesy one-liners, soft focus T & A, and pretty tame, by today’s standards, gore and violence. Linnea Quigley turns up as tough street girl ‘Spider’ and pretty much steals the movie from the rest of the game cast, along with some cash from the bowling alley’s cash register. It’s a pity Linnea never really broke out of her 'scream queen' roles as I think she’s actually a fairly decent actress.
It all bowls along (see what I did there?) nice and briskly, leading up to a fairly satisfying conclusion and, even though the picture quality was pretty dark (probably due to its small budget), the film delivers on its limited promises.
Director: Peter Manoogian
Running Time: 96 mins
A former pilot rebels against the mad scientist who rebuilt him, bionic man-like, and, after escaping from said scientist’s jungle-set evil lair, he teams up with the scientist responsible for the original android technology, her pet robot Spot (who’s very good at tracking things, supposedly), a rough-and-tumble, low-rent, Indiana Jones-type riverboat guide, and a martial arts warrior who's after revenge for the murder of his father by the crazy scientist.
On the way back up river to tackle the mad science, the Mandroid, the female scientist and the Indiana Jones-lite dude encounter angry competitor boatmen, mercenaries, and a tribe of cavemen - brought into the future by the madman’s experiments with time travel. And if, at this point, you think the filmmakers must have thrown everything including the kitchen sink into the mix for this film then you’d be right!
Eliminators is great fun, and never takes itself too seriously – well, you couldn’t really with this crazy plot! The action sequences are well staged, the acting is decent and the characters’ chemistry with one another feels just right. It also helped that the film looked and sounded great, even though it was from a VHS copy.
This screening was introduced by a talking-heads video of actor Patrick Reynolds, who plays Mandroid in the film. He’d created the video intro himself for Dale and in it he talks about the making of the film and his own experiences – all interesting stuff. Apparently the original version of the video was much longer so Dale had to cut it down, but it was still a lot of fun, although you get the impression that Patrick’s acting career never really went the ‘Whole Nine Yards’ and we got a sense, from the video, of his regret over this turn of events.
Director: Rocco Karega & Hal Miles
Running Time: 80 mins
It’s hard to believe that this piece of film junk had two directors, but it did! I have to say that Demon Cop is sooo bad that my teeth ached after a while! Initially I was crying with laughter since the filmmakers had decided to break pretty much every rule of film making, but after about the half-way mark I started losing the will to live and started contemplating if it was raining outside… just so I didn’t have to try and work out what was going on in the film itself.
According to IMDB the plot summary is thus: ‘A former probationary officer, who is a patient at a mental asylum, escapes and prowls the city, looking for victims whose blood may cure the blood disease he has that has turned him into a werewolf-type monster.’ Mmm, well the probation officer bit is right and, I guess, so is the rest of it, I think, but after metaphorically repeatedly banging my head against the chair in front of me for most of the film's duration I no longer cared what was happening after the first ten minutes of this non-event of a movie.
Well, are there any plus points about the film I hear you tentatively ask? Certainly – it’s fairly short – about 80 mins. And, to be fair, the demon/werewolf make-up isn’t too bad really, given the film’s small budget; although there is a cameo of Cameron Mitchell, as an unpleasant psychiatrist, which must have taken most of the film’s meagre budget up! They certainly didn’t use any money on the script, cameras, microphones, actors or locations.
Avoid, unless you’re a trash film masochist like me; and then maybe still avoid it!
The Atlantis Interceptors (aka The Raiders of Atlantis)
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Running Time: 98 mins
Well, according to IMDB the plot should run as: ‘A team of scientists working to raise a sunken Russian nuclear submarine on an ocean platform off the coast of Miami, unearth an ancient Atlantean relic from the sea floor and bring in an expert to make some sense of it. But while attempting to raise the sub, radioactive leakage from its missiles triggers the re-emergence of Atlantis, and the resulting tidal wave destroys the platform and leaves only a small group of survivors.
‘Rescued by two Vietnam vets-turned-heavies, who are out relaxing after their latest job, their boat eventually runs aground on a Caribbean island nearby where, upon going ashore, it is discovered that everything has been destroyed and everybody killed. The culprits, a vicious group of well-armed raiders, and their leader, Crystal Skull, are descendants of Atlantis' original race who set about reclaiming the world and adding the survivors to the list of victims as they struggle to stay alive and defeat the raiders and send Atlantis back to the ocean floor.’
To be fair that’s not a bad summary of what happened, although it wasn’t really clear what was happening, or why most of the time, but don’t let that put you off experiencing one of Italian director Deodato’s best films. Atlantis Interceptors is a lot of crazy fun with some nutzoid biker gangs (replete with some very dodgy costumes), lots of vehicular mayhem, tones of OTT violence, stupid dialogue galore, bad acting, good acting, shoddy model work, fights, and some super stunt work. The film is like one of the Mad Max clones that clogged up video shops back in the day, but one that’s on Methamphetamine!
In fact the film is a weird amalgam of three films - one part Mad Max, one part Assault on Precinct 13 and another part Indiana Jones! Deodato does a great job holding all the different elements together, and the film rockets along at a fast pace and holds the interest throughout, although I did get rather confused at times – for example, nowhere are we given the idea that the biker thugs are ancestors of the original Atlanteans, they just seem to appear one day and start killing people in creative ways…
This is definitely worth a watch, and a listen to, since it has a really catchy score too. A great little movie to finish our festival on.
The final film of the day was ‘Never too Young to Die’ (1986), which both Andrew and I had seen before. The plot is pretty straightforward whereby a secret agent is murdered, and his son- a high school gymnast- teams up with a spy to catch the man who killed him. It’s all pretty goofy, if I recall correctly, but good fun – certainly one to check out… Gene Simmons is a hoot in it!
Overall the Trash video festival was a hit with a nice mix of films and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. I also really enjoy seeing the trailers between films, which all added to the wave of nostalgia that I was feeling throughout the event.
Please, Dale, can we have some more…
Finally, if you want to check out the trailers for any of these films follow the following links:
The Imp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VHcdmh6JwA
Demon Cop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwgfRHAj0Ys
Atlantis Interceptors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ0m-idDCLg
Never too young to die: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os0jHF4slps