Thursday, December 20, 2012


 Here are "The Sheilas" popping in out of nowhere and rocking out, laying down a fucking flute solo in the process.  Where is the soundtrack LP?  ARGGGGHHHH!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching low rent Erik Estrada vehicles, whether his turn as an evil doctor in Alien Seed (1989), or as an evil arms dealer in Andy Sidaris’ Guns (1990), it’s that Erik seems uncomfortable without a motor scooter. This is especially true in the dogshit gutter epic The Deadly Enforcer, where Erik plays an incredibly awkward priest who reads all of his lines off of a newspaper while seated at a breakfast table. You can tell he just wants to get the hell out of there and hit the open road, riding around and popping his trademark smirk in the direction of a couple of 16-year-old girls out driving daddy’s car. 

Therefore, it comes as a wise bit of casting by our friends at PM Entertainment to cast Erik as a biker. Not familiar with PM Entertainment? They were responsible for a gaggleful of direct-to-video action movies in the late 80’s and 90’s that, when on point, succeeded in squeezing the most amount of action entertainment value out of the least amount of action cinema cash. They also excelled in capturing the late 80’s/early 90’s Los Angeles aesthetic on film (apart from just shooting all of their movies in LA., which certainly helps). My personal favorites include L.A. Heat (cop actioner with Jim Brown as the captain), the ludicrous Angels of the City (where high school girls dress up as hookers and accidentally start a war between pimps and cops), Night of the Wilding (with Estrada again as a lawyer defending a young gang of rapists), Ring of Fire (a kickboxing actioner starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Maria Ford), The Art of Dying (Wings Hauser as a cop investigating a snuff film ring), Final Impact (kickboxing actioner starring Lorenzo Lamas), and Ice (Traci Lords gets revenge against the mob). 

Oh, and The Last Riders. You see, Erik Estrada is a stone cold biker, living the biker mantra of open road exploring, brewski pounding, and intermittent showering. He is forced to clean up a drug deal gone wrong that several of his biker compadres fucked up in glorious fashion and, in doing so, becomes unfairly pegged for the murder of a DEA agent. Note to the reader: do not ever try to clean up a friend’s botched drug deal, no matter how close you might be. Make up a story if you have to. You know, like you have to immediately go out of town to attend your second cousin’s funeral after he died in a bizarre toaster accident.   Anything.

But I digress. The opening title features a stacked chick showing off her lovely G-string outfit to the denizens of Venice Beach. This is par for the course for low budget action cinema, a perfect example of the hidden B-movie concept of production value through scant clothing. She’s also blasting an electro funk tune on her ghetto blaster, which we quickly find out is actually a front when she heads into a psychic bookstore and smashes open the boom box to reveal a giant bag of coke. 

Maybe that seems like an overly conspicuous way to set up a drug deal, but maybe it's a reverse psychology thing, like a plan so insane and out in the open that no one would suspect it. Anyway, she’s selling the coke to two of Estrada’s biker buddies, but they try to rape her for fun, so she karate kicks them into oblivion.  She then takes back the coke as well as their money (rape tax), and then tells them “you guys wanted to get fucked…well you just did”. Badass. Yes, she’s still wearing the bikini. Genius folks. 

It’s at this point that the astute viewer will have figured out that she is played by kickboxing action star Mimi Lesseos, she of direct-to-video actioners like Pushed to the Limit and Streets of Rage. She even gets to show off her wrestling moves in a scene where she wrestles a dude in her boyfriend’s backyard, predictably implementing the airplane spin at one point.  I don't know why, but it seems like only female wrestlers used the airplane spin.  Anyway, I like that it’s a legitimate wrestling match that isn’t even staged, with a referee and real rules and shit. It’s another way of showing what a badass she is, although she isn’t as crisp an asskicker as your Jean Claude Van Dammes and such. Not because she’s a woman, mind you, but probably because she has big tits. Put big tits on Bruce Lee and some of his moves are going to be a bit awkward looking, although, admittedly, it’s a little late to outfit Bruce with tits considering he’s dead. Maybe that was a bad example…and awkward. Definitely awkward. 

But all of this is really besides the point. Erik ends up wanted by the DEA, so he becomes a lone wolf biker that goes on the lam (wolf on the lam…there’s a joke in there I think…oh fuck it). He hides out in a small town, working as a grease monkey for his buddy (biker movie veteran and general badass William Smith, not to be confused with that dude that raps about his parents). He helps out a broke woman and her daughter, fixing their car for free and letting them stay in a trailer. She seems completely unfazed by the trademark Estrada smirk, and instead just usually yells at him even though he’s doing huge favors for her. Maybe her jeans are on too tight. 

They do get to know each other a little bit over a homemade Japanese dinner, showcasing the worst chopstick skills in human history, courtesy of Mr. Estrada. Seriously, a trailer park 5-year-old with cerebral palsy could put forth a better effort. Eventually, they spend a night at a bar and make out while William gets into a bar fight, because that’s what real men do. A couple days later, they get married in Vegas. It’s amazing how one kiss can turn an annoying customer into a soulmate, but such is the irresistibility of a former star of a mediocre cop show. 

The point is, the stakes are raised, and now the chickens come home to roost and Estrada is forced to lay the smackdown (I’m purposefully being vague). Oh wait…the lone wolf goes on the lam as a grease monkey until the chickens come home to roost. That is one fucked up zoo. I’ll be here all week folks. 

"The Sheilas" provide a Greek chorus of sorts to the movie, commenting on the action by rocking the fuck out. It might seem like padding, but I could watch an entire movie of action scenes that constantly cut to a lady band rocking out. It would be like Vixen starring in a late 80’s version of the Australian cult movie Stunt Rock. That is genius. Plot is overrated folks. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Max Black is a typical movie studio head. The pictures he makes are just a way for him to get his grubby hands on a young starlet by offering her a part, and they’re also his ticket into the biggest Hollywood parties where he can raid the whiskey and cigars and grope the help. For the record, I would do the exact same thing in if I was in his shoes, but still. Oh, and then there’s the money. The actual quality of the pictures are meaningless; a picture is good if it makes money and it’s bad if it doesn’t. 

Well, Max has his eyes set on hot young starlet Marie, but she is engaged to wax museum owner Cameron Mitchell. No matter; Black sets fire to Cam and several months later offers Marie the leading role in his next big picture. However, things aren’t so simple. Marie is distraught that her interim actor boyfriend Tony has mysteriously disappeared, and has lost all passion for acting as a result. Oh, I should’ve mentioned that Marie left Cameron after he got all burnt to shit, but I don’t blame her in the least. Not only did the flame job leave Cameron completely covered in bandages except for one eye, it turned him into a total chain smoking asshole who would just yell at Marie when she would visit him in the hospital. I find it unbelievable that the nurses let him chain smoke after being set on fire to the point that he’s completely covered in bandages, but that was the 60’s for ya. 

Anyway, good ole’ Cammy Mitch has since recovered quite nicely and gone back to work at the museum, left with only some old chewing gum on his cheek and a busted eye he covers up with a patch. Lo and behold, Cam creates an astonishingly lifelike head of Tony right after he disappears in order to honor his great acting career. Max catches wind of this and decides that he can lure Marie into starring in his movie by having a wax figure of Tony co-star along with her, with the idea that she’ll be comforted by an approximation of her boyfriend. I guess that makes sense. It should be noted that the movie is apparently a suspense version of Chekhov’s "Three Sisters" directed by a Alfred Hitchcock knockoff named “Alfred Herrmann” (via Bernard Herrmann). I’m not quite sure how you could make a taut suspense thriller from a play of three Russian sisters yelling at each other, but maybe the wax figure is that key element that makes it all work. 

The astute viewer, or even the lobotomized viewer for that matter, should quickly figure out that Cameron is using real people as his wax figures. However, instead of simply killing people and covering them in wax, it looks like he injects them with some drug that makes them motionless, so some of the “wax figures” are just people standing still and occasionally twitching. Some of them are just human heads that occasionally talk and moan. Incredibly, these figures don't arise suspicion. Even some detectives who are looking for Tony visit the museum, but don’t even find it strange that a version of Tony’s head with perfect human skin is sitting there. Indeed, they only visit him to procure advice on how to solve the case. I don’t know why all wax museums don’t just kill people and use their corpses rather than take the time and cost to build wax figures if it’s that damn easy to get away with it. 

Nightmare in Wax is essentially a remake of House of Wax (1953), the 3-D Vincent Price vehicle, which itself was a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). This version adds a wonderfully ludicrous flashback backstage Hollywood structure, like someone with a head wound trying to ripoff The Bad and the Beautiful. There is also plenty of mid-60’s kitsch (making it oddly outdated considering it was released in 1969), especially in the amazing scene where Cameron visits a go-go club to try and lure an incredibly dumb redhead dancer to his museum. Then there’s the groovy hairstyles on the women, and the steamy sax solos anytime two people kiss. 

Most of all, the movie has a pretty cool dimestore Mario Bava candy colored aesthetic. The photography is especially effective in the scene where Cameron chases around the aforementioned redhead through the museum, what with the atmospehric lighting and distended camera angles. Cameron magically teleports around and pops up to scare her, even shoving a mannequin head in her face, and the real wax figures and wax limbs add to the creepiness factor. Granted, the rest of the movie is mostly dumb goofy fun, but it does have this nice creepy centerpiece that almost operates as a carny ride of sorts.  That is, if there was a carny ride through a wax museum.  Maybe you could just ride on through with a go kart or something.  That would be pretty awesome.

P.S. This was written as part of Project Terrible, hosted by Alex over at Mondo Bizarro.  This particular movie was picked for me to review by Maynard over at his Horror Movie Diary.  Check 'em out!