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Good And Bad Die Hard Rip-Offs

When it was released in 1988 (happy 30th), Die Hard was a revelation in action films. It took a lot of the clichés most other action films were guilty of overusing and turned them on their head. Die Hard blew film-goers away and can still hold it’s own against other actions films released now. It became as massive success and went in to spawn a huge franchise in it’s own right, not just with movies – the sixth of which (called McClane) is in production as I write this. But there were Die Hard games, comic books and all sorts of memorabilia. And I’ve been celebrating three decades of Die Hard all this year with numerous articles covering the film. 

Die Hard Art

Credit to Chris Weston over at Xombiedirge.com for this amazing fan-art.

The staggering success of Die Hard gave birth to an often used motif in action cinema, the Die Hard rip-off. For years and still even today, whenever an action film is released that features a usually lone hero going up against bad guys and normally in a confined setting, it gets lumbered with the “Die Hard on/in/at a…” label. So in no particular order or preference, here are some good and bad Die Hard rip-offs. 

Skyscraper – (A.K.A Die Hard In A Skyscraper)

Skyscraper

No, not the recent Dwayne Johnson flick of the same name, this is the 1996 Skyscraper  that took the idea of Die Hard and set it in a skyscraper… like Die Hard. Implementing the now often overused idea of the gender swap and making the hero and heroine. Starring cough “actress” Anna Nicole Smith and swapping the human and everyday main with a heart characteristics of John McClane with big tits.

Anna Nicole Smith plays Carrie Wink, a helicopter pilot who finds herself caught up in a plot involving terrorists and something to do with electronic devices… I’m not 100% sure what the plot is about to be honest or of there really is one. I’m pretty sure this film only exists to show-off Ms Smith’s breasts, at least they are the only two things I remember about the film anyway.

This is bad, this is really, really bad. But I guess Anna Nicole Smith was nice to look at.

Sudden Death – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Sports Stadium)

Sudden Death

This Jean-Claude Van Damme starring flick came out in 1995 and has “The Muscles From Brussels” taking on bad guys till Sudden Death. Released when Van Damme as at the top of his game and making a name for himself as a bankable action hero.

Set in a hockey arena, Van Damme plays fire marshal Darren McCord (its almost McClane) who attends a big hockey game with his son and daughter. While at the game, a group of terrorists arrive and hold various V.I.Ps  hostage in a luxury suite. McCord steps up to save the day and the lives of his children as the terrorists plan on blowing up the stadium when the hockey game ends unless their demands are met. 

To be honest, this one is half decent. I do love some JCVD and while this is far from his best, it’s also far from his worst. Plus you get to see JCVD kick a penguin.

Passenger 57 – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Passenger 57

From 1992 comes this high octane and cliché ridden (such as using phrases like “high octane” to describe and action film set on a plane) picture with Wesley Snipes. At the time Snipes wasn’t really known for action flicks but soon became an action star after this one… a bit like Bruce Willis with Die Hard really. 

John McClane… sorry, John Cutter played by Snipes is a retired United States Secret Service agent who now teaches self defence to flight attendants. While struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife during a botched robbery, Cutter is offered a new job as the vice president of a new anti-terrorism unit. Cutter is the 57th passenger on a flight to Los Angeles (where was Die Hard set again?) to attend a meeting regarding his new job. Oh and on the same flight is psychopathic terrorist Charles Rane being escorted by two FBI agents. Shortly after take off, things go wrong when Rane and his cohorts take control of the plane leaving Cutter to save the day.

Snipes is a good action star and this was his first proper stab at the genre. The plot is very predicable but it’s a good film overall. Always bet on the one that isn’t red.

Air Force One – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Air Force One

Yes even the Die Hard rip-off begin to rip-off the rip-offs eventually. This one is from 1997 and stars the legend that is Harrison Ford. An impressive all star cast join Ford in this high octane (sorry) action flick set in on the most famous plane in the world.

So Ford plays U.S. President James Marshall (J.M, John McClane?) who after attending a diplomatic dinner in Moscow, boards Air Force One to return to America. Only for Russian terrorists posing as the press to seize control of the plane and take hostages. Marshall is rushed to an escape pod for his own safety… only he never leaves and stays on-board to save the lives of his wife and child along with the other hostages.

So you’ve got Harrison Ford, a legendary action hero – going up against Gary Oldman, a legendary bad guy. Ford mumbles his way through the film as Oldman chews the scenery like he’s not eaten in a month… and it’s glorious.

Con Air – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Con Air

Okay so now the rip-offs are ripping off the rip-offs that are ripping off the rip-offs… I think. Also from 1997 comes this other high octane (last one I promise) plane based action film. With Nicolas Cage in the main role.

Cage is Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger who’s honourably discharged after killing a man who tired to attack his pregnant wife. Poe serves ten years in prison but is paroled two years early. He has to take his final trip home to reunite with his wife and see his daughter for the first time, as a prisoner aboard The Jailbird – a flying prison transport along with several other prisoners being transported to other jails. Of of course the bad guys take control of the plane leaving Poe to clean up the mess.

Of all the Die Hard on a plane rip-offs (there’s a lot of them), this is my favourite. Cage is brilliant as the hero with a heart plus you have John Malkovich playing the main villain. 

Under Siege – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Boat)

Under Siege

“I’m just a cook”, Steven Seagal liked to tell people back in 1992 as he continually punched people in the face on board a Navy battleship in Under Siege. At least it made a change from a plane right?

So Seagal plays Casey Ryback, he’s just a cook (honest) on board the USS Missouri. A musical band land on the battleship to entertain the troops… only they turn out to be a band of mercenaries who take control of the ship. As it turns out, Ryback is a little more than just the cook (he lied) as he’s a highly trained and experienced Navy SEAL who specialises in anti-terrorism tactics. So of course he kills the bad guys, gets the girl and saves the day. Not bad for a cook.

Perhaps one of the most famous rip-offs when people knew who Steven Seagal was. Again an enjoyable romp, nowt too special but fun… just avoid the terrible sequel.

No Contest – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Beauty Pageant)

No Contest

Yeah you read that right. Just think of all the locales already mentioned and where one could set a Die Hard rip-off… would you think a beauty contest would work? This one is from 1995 and stars very soft porn actress Shannon Tweed… she’s married to Gene Simmons you know?

Yeah this is as bad as it sounds. Tweed plays kick-boxer/actress Sharon Bell who while at A Miss Galaxy beauty pageant, fends off a gang who take hostages. The gang demand diamonds as a ransom or they’ll… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry dozed off for a while there. Oh errrrr, Robert (“Agent Johnson, no the other one”) Davi from Die Hard is in it.

This is fucking atrocious, I mean – this is Die Hard 4 & 5 levels of bad. Even worse, they made a sequel… don’t look it up.

Icebreaker – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Ski Resort)

Icebreaker.png

It’s time to hit the piste as Sean Astin plays Matt Foster – the cough “hero”. Released in 2000 a year before people would finally recognise Sean Austin as a Hobbit.

So everything is going great at the Killington ski resort. Foster, one of the resort’s Ski Patrol is seen as a bum by his soon to be father-in-law. Enter terrorist Carl Greig who takes control of the ski resort/. The plot has something to do with radio active material stolen from Russia or something. I really lost interest in this one, can’t really remember the plot if I’m honest. But whatever happened in the plot, Foster gets the chance to impress his fiancé’s father when he saves the day.

Dull film with a bland plot. Still, Bruce Campbell plays the main bad guy and that’s the only good thing about the film.

Speed – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Bus)

Speed

Very few of these Die Hard rip-offs are any good. Some of them are terrible, most of them are okay and a handful of them are fantastic. Speed is definitely one of the greats. Released in 1994 when the Die Hard rip-off still felt fresh and starring John Wick, sorry Keanu Reeves.

Reeves plays Jack Traven a young SWAT officer who finds himself trapped on a bus armed with a bomb after he thwarted a previous attempt to extort money via the use of a bomb by madman Howard Payne. When the bus hits 50 MPH, the bomb is armed and if it drops below 50, it blows up killing all on board. Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do? Traven teams up with plucky bus driver, Annie to save the hostages on board the bus as well as themselves.

The chemistry between Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven and Sandra Bullock as Annie is wonderful. The action is exiting and well directed. Plus you have legendary Dennis Hopper playing the mad bomber. When it comes to Die Hard rip-off, they don’t get better than this… the sequel though?

Command Performance – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Live Gig)

Command Performace

From 2009 comes this written by, directed by and starring Dolph Lundgren flick. The film is said to be (very loosely) based on a true story where Madonna performed a special live gig for Vladimir Putin… only with a large sprinkling of fantasy.

So the Russian President asks pop sensation Venus (Madonna/Venus, get it?) to perform an exclusive gig as his daughters are big fans. Lundgren plays Joe, an ex-biker, turned drummer who has to save the day when terrorists turn up at the concert and take the President, along with others as hostages. Joe teams up with young Russian agent Mikhail Kapista to kill the bad guys and save the hostages.

Dolph Lundgren is a drummer in real life and I’m pretty sure the only reason this film exists is so Lundgren can show people he can really drum… and do it well too. Just a shame the film isn’t as good as his drumming. This is one of those very mundane Die Hard rip-offs. It’s not terrible, its far from great – it just kind of is.


 

Well there you have it, a few good, and more than a few bad Die Hard rip-offs. Trust me, there’s a lot more out there – I’ve only just touched on a handful of the more famous ones as well as highlight some of the not so famous ones… Die Hard at a beauty pageant, seriously?

Die Hard Art Feet

More stunning fan-art from Chris Weston at Xombiedirge.com

Next up in my celebration of 30 years of Die Hard, I’m tackling the big one, a subject I’ve avoided for a long time. It’s December so it just seems right that I offer my own opinion on that yearly debate and eternal question that is, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

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But The Joker Doesn’t Have An Origin!

I actually meant to write this one a few weeks ago… but the Red Dead Redemption II release kind of took over my blog for a while and all I’d been doing was RDR related articles. Still, semi-normal service has now resumed.

So anyway, there’s a new film telling the origin story of The Joker being filmed right now called Joker as shown in that above early/test footage. Set to be released next year and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular Clown Prince of Crime. the film will be a stand alone picture not connected to the existing D.C. movie universe (thankfully). Yet some people are getting all annoyed with the fact that in the comics, The Joker has never had a definitive origin so a film version should not exist. Even the man himself either does not know or refuses to remember the person he was before he became Batman’s arch-nemesis. I suppose this article could be thrown in with my Comic Book Fans Have Short Memories article from a while back. I mean, It’s not as if Joker hasn’t already had an origin story on film is it?

How about Batman: Mask of the Phantasm? It was an animated film from 1993, a continuation of the very awesome animated T.V. show. This film shows one possible origin of The Joker. the fact the movie is also pretty damn amazing and a huge fan favourite helps… oh and it was nominated for an Annie (animation equivalent to the Oscars), sadly it lost out to The Lion King – but still goes to show just how respected the film really was and still is. People love this flick and it has an origin for The Joker.

Batman Mask of the Phantasm Joker.jpg

2016’s The Killing Joke also offered a possible origin for The Joker. Based on the graphic novel of the same name. When a struggling stand up comedian finds it hard to support his pregnant wife, he turns to crime and that lays down the basis for becoming The Joker. Oh and let’s not forget this…

Batman 89.jpg

Still my favourite Batman movie and yes, The Joker is given an origin. Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989 was a pretty bold movie in that regard as (correct me if I’m wrong)  The Joker had never been given an origin before, at least not on screen. I really loved the origin here too as it was Batman who created The Joker… but it was The Joker who created Batman first. They are two sides of the same coin.

Batman 89 Joker

Besides, we don’t really know all the details for this new Joker film as the plot is being kept tip-top secret. All we know is that Joaquin Phoenix is playing Arthur Fleck before becoming The Joker. But here are a couple of ideas off the top of my head of how the film could handle the origin story.

He’s lying. The film being made is just a lie told by The Joker. Kind of how Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight told a different story about how he got those scars. This film really could be The Joker just telling a fable of who he once was.

Or the film could be an anthology telling more than one origin story within one film. Look at the comics, they have a similar idea as The Joker has had multiple origin stories and none of them are definitive, they are just possibilities. Maybe that’s the plan to tell different origin stories in one film or even make multiple Joker films all telling a different origin and this is just the first one?

Joker 2019.jpg

Either way, point is. I don’t understand why some people are against this new Joker movie telling his origin… or at least one of his origins. It has been done before in the comics and movies several times over and this is just another version. This is a flick I’m looking forward to… so far at least. I have been stung by D.C. films in recent years so I’m very concerned about whether that can deliver a worthy movie or not. But at this early stage, I really like Joaquin Phoenix and think he could be a perfect bit of casting. It’s all very hush, hush right now with no one really knowing what the film will be about other then it being an origin story. The early test footage shows very little but I’m sure we will see more of the flick over the next few weeks and months.

Anyway, calm down folks. All these fans getting upset because its an origin and The Joker doesn’t have one. It’s been done before, pretty damn well too. This could be the start of something great… or it could be another D.C. movie disaster.

 

40 Years Of Halloween: Part II

Today is Halloween and I’m back with the second part to my Halloween retrospective. After several years of terrible, terrible sequels, will things get any better?

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Halloween H20 20 Years Later

So here we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original Halloween film with a film that was released to celebrate the 20th anniversary. (Ohh, we’re half way there
Oh-oh, livin’ on a prayer!) Released in 1998 and directed by Steve Miner (known for his work on the Friday the 13th franchise). This ones sees the return of Laurie Strode who was killed off in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and the first film in the continual story of Michael Myers without Dr. Loomis.

So the film begins with Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) who was the assistant of Dr. Loomis from Halloween and Halloween II. She finds her home has been broken into. Marion discovers the file on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has gone. The missing file held info on the presumed dead Laurie and her new identity of Keri Tate. Michael soon turns up, kills Marion and escapes with the file.

Now living in California Laurie Strode/Keri Tate is the headmistress of Hillcrest Academy, a private boarding school. She has moved on with her life after faking her death via a car accident to put her history behind her. Still haunted by the events of 1978, Laurie/Keri finds it hard to adjust to her new life fearing her brother Michael could return… and he does. Most of the students and teachers of Hillcrest Academy have gone on an overnight field trip to Yosemite National Park leaving only a skeleton staff at the school. However, a few of the students stayed on at the school to have a secret Halloween party in the school’s basement.

Of course the inevitable happens as Michael Myers arrives at the school to hunt down his sister… again. Michael sets about thinning out the student population and eventually comes face to face with his sister for the first time in twenty years. Laurie soon finds herself fighting for her life once more as well as trying to protect her teenage son.

My View

So this one kind of confuses me a little. Its said to be a sequel that ignores anything from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and is a direct sequel to Halloween II – which is fine, I have no problem with them doing that. There is no mention of Laurie’s daughter, Jamie from the previous three films which of course there shouldn’t be if the events of the other films didn’t happen in this timeline… but they do point out that the car crash that supposedly killed Laurie in Halloween 4 was faked. So there is continuity with the previous films. But if the previous films never happened, then why make that connection?

Well turns out that there was a direct connection. The original script was written with a scene where a student in one of Laurie/Keri’s classes does a report on the “Haddonfield Murders” and even goes into detail about Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s daughter from the previous films. The report also details how Laurie “died” in a car accident and how Michael Myers eventually tracked down his niece and killed her. At this point, a clearly shocked Laurie/Keri leaves the classroom and throws up. Its also worth noting that John Carpenter was even set to return as director as Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to reunite, but when he asked for a $10 million directors fee (after believing he was cheated out of royalties), he walked when a deal could not be made.

Halloween H20 20 Years Later Laurie

Anyway, this was released during the resurgence of the slasher film in the 90s thanks to Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). The difference is though that Scream was self-aware, it was making fun of the genre while also paying respects to it. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later just is not that clever and comes across as another bog-standard slasher flick. Don’t get me wrong, its not a bad film at all and definitely one of the better sequels in the franchise but its also nothing special.

Its great to see Jamie Lee Curtis back in the role that made her famous two decades previously and you know what? I’ll even go so far as to say the story idea is a good one too, but overall the film just needed “something”. The previously mentioned Scream had that “something”, that hook to pull you in. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is just very one note, very mundane and lacks punch. Its predictable, its a bit bland and really offers nothing new. Michael Myers turns up and kills teenagers… that’s about it. Its all very 90s with predictable jump scare after predictable jump scare. The last 10 minutes or so is pretty good though.

As I said, Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant well worth watching. Plus she has the best scene in the film and one for a horror nerd such as myself to enjoy that is full of trivia. Jamie shares some screen time with her real-life mother Janet Leigh. Of course Janet famously played Marion Crane in Psycho. The character Janet is playing this film is called Norma, which was the name of Norman Bates mother from Psycho, plus the car Janet has in the scene is the exact same car she had in Psycho and even has the same license plate. Then (if you listen carefully) you’ll hear a few bars of the Psycho music play in the background.

“He sat in a sanitarium for 15 years, waiting for me. Then… one rainy night, he decides to go… Trick or Treating”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween: Resurrection

Halloween Resurrection Title

Released in 2002 from director, Rick Rosenthal who also directed Halloween II. This one picks up a few years after the previous film with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) now a patient at Grace Andersen Sanitarium after accidentally killing paramedic at the end of the previous film whom she believed was her killer brother, Michael Myers.

Acting in a catatonic state, Laurie is secretly readying herself for the return of Micheal. On Halloween night 2001, Michael breaches the security at the sanitarium and gets to Laurie. She lures him into a trap on the roof and is moments away from killing her brother (again) when he gets the better of her. Michael stabs Laurie and drops her off the roof – finally completing his mission of over twenty years. Yes, Laurie Strode is now dead.

The next year and some university students win a contest to appear on an internet reality show called Dangertainment and is set to be filmed in Michael Myers’ childhood home. The show is directed by directed by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes). Of course Michael turns up and systematically kills the students while everything is being broadcast on the internet.

My View

This is bad, this is Halloween 46 level of bad. So lets get the only good thing about the film out of the way first. Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode for the final time (in this continuity anyway). Yeah she’s good. Its only a small cameo role in the opening but at least it is the opening so once she’s gone you can switch the film off and watch something else instead. Jamie only agreed to do this film as long as they finally killed Laurie off as she didn’t want to appear in any more Halloween film after this… yeah, about that…

Even then, her death is not 100% definite as while she is stabbed and dropped of a roof, you don’t actually see her die on screen. She just disappears into a tree during the fall. The writing of this film is god awful and you can tell that from the terrible way they retcon the ending of the last film to suit this one. It turns out that Laurie didn’t kill Micheal at all and he swapped places with a random paramedic. You know you’re in for a bad time with this when the continuity is so damn bad that the recap at the start of this shows Laurie and Michael (not really him) drive off in an ambulance that looks nothing like the one from the end of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, its not even close. Let this lack of detail be a warning for just how lazy and incompetent the rest of the film will be.

Halloween Resurrection Michael Myers

Stupid characters doing stupid things being killed by a stupid killer. The film is stupid. I mean, there a scene were one of the students throws black pepper in Micheal’s eyes to stop him… and it works too. This is the same Micheal Myers who has been shot multiple times, blown up, stabbed in the eyes and still kept going – but black pepper is his weakness? Halloween H20: 20 Years Later was hardly a great film, it was watchable with some okay moments and a pretty good ending. This film does away with all of that, the retconing of the good ending of the previous film is an insult and the finale to this with Busta Rhymes getting into a fistfight with Micheal Myers while saying “mother fucka” a lot is embarrassing.

There was an idea to make a sequel to this with Laurie Strode’s son from Halloween H20: 20 Years Later seeking out Micheal for revenge over killing his mother. But as this film flopped hard, the producers quickly abandoned that idea and decided to go a different route…

“You’ve heard of the tunnel. The one we all go through sooner or later. At the end, there’s a door. And waiting for you on the other side of that door is either Heaven or Hell. This that door.”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween

Halloween 2007

So the last film all but killed the franchise off, plans to make more sequels were scrapped in favor of a remake. Enter director Rob Zombie to get this film released in 2007. The baisc plot is the same as the original flick, but this one mixes in a little Halloween II as well. Young Michael Myers kills his older sister Judith and is sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he becomes a patient of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).

Fifteen year later, Micheal escapes the sanitarium and makes is way back to his old home in Haddonfield to continue his killing spree. Dr. Loomis teams up with  Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) to try to track Micheal down. Along the way, Loomis learns that Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is really the sister of Micheal and soon works out that she will be is next victim.

My View

I said in the first part about the original film that I’m not a huge fan. I like the film, I think its damn good… but I just don’t love it. So get ready with the pitchforks Halloween fans because I think this remake is a better film than the original. Yeah I said it. Not that the film doesn’t have its problems, it does. Some of the dialogue is a joke with every other word being “fuck”, a lot of the redneck characters grate at times and at a little under two hours it can be a long film for what it is. But that said, there’s a hell of a lot of great stuff in the film too.

You’ve got amazing actors such as Malcolm McDowell who is the perfect replacement for Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis. Honestly, he’s brilliant in the role. Then you have Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, William Forsythe and Ken Foree. There is a great cast here. I  love how this is really a film of two parts. The first part telling the history and backstory of the young Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) and just why he turns put the way he does. Then the second half is pretty much where the remake kicks off proper with grown up Michael killing teenagers.

Halloween 2007Michael

The film can be tense at times with some genuine scares, something not seen in a Halloween film since Halloween III: Season of the Witch back in 1982. Where as the original was mostly bloodless, this one turns up the gore factor to eleven… but its a Rob Zombie film so what where you expecting? The picture is clearly made by someone who loves and respects the original but still wanting to do their own thing with it. Its a good film, its a good remake and for me, its better than the original as this version has a story that extends to more then just killer killing teenagers.

“Inside every one us, there exists a dark side. Most people rise above it, but some are consumed by it. Until there is nothing left, but pure evil.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween II

Halloween II 2009 Title

Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake was panned by critics, yet it still pulled in an impressive $80 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. Success meant sequel and Rob Zombie returned to continue his vision in 2009. Pretty much all the cast from the first film returned and this one picks up directly where the last film left off. After killing Micheal Myers, a shocked Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is found covered and blood wandering around the streets by Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and she is taken to hospital. Michael’s body is put in the back of an ambulance and taken to the hospital, only he’s not really dead. He wakes up as the ambulance crashes into a cow.

The film jumps ahead two years and Laurie is now living with Sheriff Brackett and his family. Laurie begins to have nightmares of Michael and the events of the first film. Meanwhile Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) writes a book based on the events and his experiences of the previous film. Micheal Myers has been in hiding and having visions of his dead mother and his younger self who tell him to bring Laurie home. So he heads back to Haddonfield.

My View

I really enjoyed the first film (and I mean Rob Zombie’s first Halloween film), but this? What a fucking mess. Its trying to be clever, psychological, cerebral and it fails at all three. I’m pretty sure the only reason the idea of this film came about was because Michael’s mom is played by Rob Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie. As he always puts her in his movies and as she died in the first one, I’m sure the thought process was ‘Need to get the missus in the film, but she died in the first one… make her a ghost. Problem solved’. Then the film was written around the idea of Michael’s mom’s ghost.

Honestly, the whole film makes little sense. The plot is nonsensical, the story is pathetic. Its just all over the place with no clear direction. How did Rob Zombie mess this up so badly when he nailed it first time around? Its a real shame as the film gets off to a great start, the opening and scenes in the hospital are really well done. Its just a shame it all goes very wrong very quickly after that.

Halloween II 2009 Michael

The good bits? Obviously the performances from both Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif and that’s about it really. Oh the soundtrack is pretty great too. Other than that, best to avoid this one. I didn’t like it when I first saw it back then, I like it even less after re-watching it for this retrospective. I’m not damning the film for doing something different, I like different, that’s why Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my favourite in the franchise, because its different. But this, this is just pretentiously silly and stupid.

For almost a decade, that was it, no more Halloween. Until…

“Hey, world! Guess what. I’m Michael Myers’ sister! I’m so fucked!”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween

Halloween 2018

Okay so this is the third film in the franchise to be simply called Halloween. The 1978 original, the 2007 remake and now this. Directed by David Gordon Green and sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. Set forty years after the original and ignores every film in the franchise except the original flick. So really this is Halloween II but a different Halloween II to the 1981 sequel and 2009 Halloween II sequel of the remake. Phew.

So Michael Myers has been locked away in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium since he was stopped at the end of the first film and captured. Dr. Loomis dies years ago and so Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has taken over as Michael’s doctor. Two true-crime podcasters turn up at the sanitarium to interview Michael armed with his original mask form forty years before. They fail to get anything out if him despite mentioning the very person who stood up to him and survived his killing spree four decades ago, Laurie Strode.

Still desperate to get a story, the podcasters go to interview Laurie herself. This is when we learn of her PTSD, failed marriages and that she has a daughter and granddaughter. The family is strained and the relationship between mother, daughter and granddaughter broke down several years earlier. Laurie is given the chance to speak to Michael before he is transferred to a maximum security prison, which Laurie declines.

Dr. Sartain accompanies Michael Myers as he is transferred along with several other prisoners. Only for the bus carrying the inmates to crash, Michael escapes, tracks down those annoying podcasters, kills them and gets his mask back before heading back to Haddonfield and to Laurie. Meanwhile, Laurie learns about the crash and finds herself fighting for not only her own life but also those of her daughter and granddaughter. But Laurie hasn’t been sitting quietly knitting for the last forty years, she’s been preparing for Michael’s return.

My View

Okay so to be completely honest, I’ve not yet seen the new film. Since becoming a father last year, my cinema visits have been cut back to pretty much none. I managed to go see Bohemian Rhapsody a few days ago and that was my first time in a cinema since I watched Logan in March 2017 over a year earlier. So as I’ve not seen the film, I can’t really offer a view of it can I? I was hoping to squeeze in a viewing before doing this retrospective but it didn’t work out.

Still, while managing to avoid spoilers, I have read a few reviews and the feedback has been largely positive. The film sounds pretty damn good and Jamie Lee Curtis has been getting a lot of positive praise too. I’ll most probably have to wait until the home release before I do get to watch Halloween. At least they got John Carpenter to return for this one. Even if only as composer, executive producer, and creative consultant. He’s been directly involved in the franchise for the first time since 1982. I’m looking forward to this one if/when I eventually get to see it.

“Michael Myers killed 5 people. And he’s a human being, we need to understand. I’m twice divorced, and I’m a basket case.”

– Laurie Strode


 

Well there you have it, the entire Halloween franchise. forty years of films that are mostly terrible. I have a great deal of respect for the original even if I’m not its biggest fan. I fucking love Halloween III: Season of the Witch and think Rob Zombie’s remake was fantastic… but that’s about it for the whole series. A total of eleven films and only three that I think are truly worth watching. The new film does look and sound great, but as I’ve not yet seen it, I can’t really pass judgement – that will have to wait for later.

As an overall franchise, Halloween has many more disappointments than worthy pictures. Pretty much all horror franchises get tiresome fairly quickly with bad sequel after bad sequel and in that respect, Halloween is not one of the worst offenders. Even the absolute worst of the films still have some redeeming quality be it Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, Jamie Lee Curtis returning several times or even the opening 10-15 minutes of the god-awful Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. Its a decent franchise, I just wished they had gone the anthology idea route after Halloween III: Season of the Witch as we could have had a great variety of Halloween based flicks for the last few decades instead of the same old crap of Michael Myers killing teenagers.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

40 Years Of Halloween: Part I

Yup, its that time of year again. Its getting colder, the nights are drawing in, the clocks have gone back,the leaves are turning golden brown and falling from the trees and October is coming to an end. Halloween is just around the corner once more, so its time to watch some scary flicks. But what to write about this year? Well, it has been 40 years this year since one of the most influential horror films ever was released and right here for my 2018 Halloween celebrations, I’m going to take a look at the film that changed horror cinema forever…

The Bees

Directed by Alfredo Zacarías in 1978, starring John Saxon and John Carradine. The Bees was a Mexican horror film about killer South American bees that have been imported to the U.S. where they wreak havoc. Yeah I don’t know why I’m even attempting to fool you either. You’ve read the title, you’ve seen the main image of the iconic Michael Myers. You know what this is all about. Halloween.

40 years ago this year and John Carpenter unleashed his now immortal and influential slasher picture, Halloween. It may not have been the first slasher horror film, but its the one that the sub-genre is held up to and the template many, many films would follow for four decades. Halloween changed cinema forever and its importance can not be overstated. Right here I’m going to take a look at every film in the franchise from the original up to the latest in the series. I’ll do a quick synopsis of each film and then offer my own views and opinions for each one. To paraphrase Dr. Loomis…

“I’ve been writing this article for fifteen days, sitting in a room, staring at my laptop, not seeing the laptop, looking past the laptop, looking at this night. Inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger me off. Death has come to this little blog. Now, you can either ignore it, or you can help me by reading and sharing it.”

Halloween

Halloween Title

Released in 1978 (happy 40th Halloween) from legendary writer/director John Carpenter. Halloween tells the story of Michael Myers. Beginning in 1963 when Myers was only six years old, dressed as a clown for Halloween. Michael grabs a kitchen knife and stabs his older sister, Judith to death. No rhyme or reason, he just murders his own sister with no remorse or explanation. Michael is then institutionalised in the Warren County’s Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.

Fifteen years pass and on the 30th of October, 1978. The now adult Michael Myers escapes the sanitarium, returns to his home town of Haddonfield to continue building his body count. Enter the shy and retiring Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her school friends who are preparing to celebrate Halloween.

Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) who is Michael’s psychiatrist, tries to track the deranged murderer down before he can kill again. Loomis attempts to get help from the local police, but they find his story a little unbelievable… until the bodies begin to show up. Laurie babysits one of his neighbours kids watching scary movies, carving pumpkins and the like. Michael sets about killing her friends one by one until Laurie is the only one left. All leading to a classic showdown between unstoppable killer and scared babysitter.

My View

Halloween is an undisputed classic and I’ll happily argue against anyone that states other wise. John Carpenter is a genius for not just his minimalist writing, masterful direction but also THAT music score. Yup, the music of Halloween is just as much of a character as Michael Myers himself.

I respect Halloween, I fucking adore John Carpenter as an artist. He’s one of my favourite writer/directors ever. And yet, I’m not a huge fan of the film. Yeah this all sounds a little contradictory right now eh? Yes I think the film is a classic, yes I have the up most respect for it and yes I like the film… but I just don’t love it. Of the big three hitters of the classic slasher film genre, those three being Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, of those iconic trilogy of horror films – Halloween is my least favourite. Its just a tad boring. I don’t mind a slow paced film and this is slow paced. What John Carpenter does with the time in the film is commendable. There are times when its tense and suspenseful sure and the atmosphere created is still some of the best in any horror film even today. But overall, I feel the film unnecessarily drags on as if there is just not enough story for a full feature film. Perhaps this would have been better as a shorter 40-50 minute piece over a feature?

Halloween Laurie.jpg

Yeah I know what I’m doing here. I’m saying that the all time classic Halloween is not all that classic. But hey, that’s how I feel. When it comes to John Carpenter films, I’d just rather watch They Live, Escape From New York, The ThingBig Trouble in Little China and even the massively overlooked In the Mouth of Madness. Quite honestly, Halloween would struggle to make it into my list of truly great Carpenter classics. And as I previously said, I’d even choose other horror films over this one too.

Again, I respect Halloween, it is a classic but its just not an all time classic for me and I feel that John Carpenter made several other films that are far superior. Still with all that said, I’m more than happy to sit down and watch Halloween. I just did to do this whole retrospective and I have a lot more films to get through.

“You’ve got to believe me, Officer, he is coming to Haddonfield…Because I know him! I’m his doctor! You must be ready for him…If you don’t, it’s your funeral.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween II

Halloween II

This 1981 sequel saw the return of a lot of the cast and crew from the first film, sadly no John Carpenter in the director’s chair. Taking on the main role this time around is Rick Rosenthal. Though Carpenter did come up with the story and pen the screenplay, plus he was a producer on the film too. Picking up directly after the events of the first flick, Michael Myers is alive and well while Laurie Strode is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after her ordeal at the end of the previous film.

Dr. Loomis continues his search for Michael in Haddonfield until the governor orders Loomis to go back to the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. While on route back to the sanitarium, Loomis learns that Laurie Strode is the younger sister of Michael Myers and realises that Michael is heading to the hospital where Laurie is to kill her.

At the hospital, Michael has already begun pilling up the bodies in his search for his sister. Loomis turns up just in time to save Laurie as everything ends with a bang finally putting an end to Michael’s murderous ways.

My View

John Carpenter himself has said that he didn’t want to make any sequel to the film as this interview with Deadline points out.

I didn’t think there was any more story, and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween, there shouldn’t have been any more! However, I couldn’t stop them from making sequels. So my agents said, ‘Why don’t you become an executive producer and you can share the revenue?’ But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do any more.

– John Carpenter

Carpenter has never made any secret about the fact that he really didn’t want to make this movie, that’s why he refused to return as director. But seeing as the studio were going to make the film with or without him, he thought he may as well write it and earn some cash regardless. The film is a bit of a mess and clearly hastily thrown together just to cash in on the massive success of the first film. It lacks the spark Carpenter brought to the table with the first film. Its not as atmospheric, not as scary, not as moody. Watch the two films back to back (as I just have) and you can really see a decline in the quality of direction. Where as the first film used atmosphere and suspense to great effect, this sequel negates all of that for a higher body count and more gory deaths. I don’t mean to rag on Rick Rosenthal but he’s clearly no John Carpenter. Oh and the wig they put on Jamie Lee Curtis (she cut her hair for another role) is terrible…

Halloween II Laurie

The plot is stupid, the characters are dull and the dialogue is terrible. Carpenter has admitted that he was drunk while writing this film and it shows too. Yet despite all of the troubles behind the scenes and the problems on screen, overall this is not a terrible film. Yeah its hokey, yeah its cheesy but for a sequel to a slasher film, its still watchable. Its nowhere near as good as the first film, not even close but its not a terrible sequel either. We’ll get plenty of those later.

I kind of like Halloween II. Its a stupid flick yeah, but its a good stupid flick.

“He was my patient for fifteen years. He became an obsession with me until I realized that there was nothing within him, neither conscious nor reason that was… even remotely human.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Halloween III Title

So this is a major departure over the previous two films. Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and released in 1982. Where as the first two films followed the story of Michael Myers, this sequel has nothing to do with him at all. Its a whole new story about Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) who turns detective when a patient is murdered on his ward while clutching a strange Halloween mask while ranting about people dying when he was admitted to the hospital.

The daughter of the victim, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) joins Dan Challis in his investigation which leads them to a small town called Santa Mira where the Halloween mask originally came from. The masks are made by Silver Shamrock Novelties, a toy manufacturing company headed up by Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).

As Dan and Ellie dig deeper into their investigation, they soon learn that Silver Shamrock and Conal Cochran may not be as sweet and innocent as they first appear to be and a strange plot involving Stonehenge and the killing of children emerges.

My View

Okay so maybe a little backstory first. Halloween II was meant to be the end of Michael Myers, they killed him off, they killed him off good. But there was a problem, that problem was the fact that the Halloween name was a major draw to the box office, it made money and lots of it too. The studio wanted more Halloween films but they didn’t have Michael Myers anymore cos he dead. John Carpenter was approached and asked if he would return to the franchise, he declined so the studio offered him a fuck load of money. Carpenter agreed to come back as a producer but only if the film is not a direct sequel to the previous one. So the the idea came about to turn the Halloween films into an anthology thing with a new film every year, only the stories would be separate and that each subsequent film from this point on would be a new story and new characters. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was set to be the start of a whole new franchise concept… only that’s not how it all worked out.

Anyway of all the films that bear the Halloween name, this is my all time favourite. Yeah I just said that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my favourite of the whole franchise. The film was slated when it was originally released and the fans hated it. No Michael Myers, no ticket sales and the film bombed. Due to the poor critical response and commercial failure the film ended up being, the idea to continue the whole anthology idea was scrapped and Michael Myers would be brought back for all future Halloween film form this point onward.

Halloween III Masks

As I said, I love this one and the reasons I do love it is for all the reasons most people hate it. Its not about Michael Myers and I applaud the film for that as I was bored of him anyway. The plot is a more than a little stupid if you stop and think about it… so don’t think about it. Its a stupid film, a very stupid film but its also thoroughly entertaining. I never felt bored watching this one as I have with the previous two in palaces. Its just a damn shame the general public only wanted more of the same and more Michael Myers as I’d loved to have seen what this franchise could have become if it did turn into an anthology series.

There are some genuinely terrifying scenes in this one coupled with some stunning effects work. I mean, the scene with that woman at the motel messing around with the microchip found in the badge on the mask, or the bit where the kid wears the mask and Conal Cochran reveals his nefarious (and asinine) plan –  pretty shocking stuff. Dan O’Herlihy as the main antagonist is brilliant, he’s charming but slimy, warm but twisted all at the same time. Tom Atkins playing the lead role hold the film together nicely and he has an awesome moustache too. The film has an eerie and unnerving feel about it especially when we get to Santa Mira and the Silver Shamrock factory. As I said, the plot is silly, but its a good silly and a bloody entertaining film from start to finish.

Halloween III TV Mask

There’s also an interesting social commentary in regards to consumerism running through the film, but people don’t want subtle and clever satire, they just want to see Michael Myers slowly walking after stupid teenagers cos that’s much more interesting…

Its a damn shame this picture flopped as it did because the idea of expanding the franchise into an anthology series was great. Each year a new Halloween film with a new story? The idea was limitless, but people just wanted to see the same thing over and over instead. People are stupid. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is dark, moody, atmospheric and had some great scares in it too. Just judge it on the film it is and not the film Michael Myers fans wanted it to be. Oh and also be on the look out for a few Halloween cameos too inducing, Nancy Loomis who played Annie, Laurie’s friend in the first film, Jamie Lee Curtis has a voice cameo and yes even Michael Myers himself appears.

“Halloween… the festival of Samhain! The last great one took place three thousand years ago, when the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.”

– Conal Cochran

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers Title

Directed by Dwight H. Little in 1988. This one sees the return of Michael Myers (now there’s a title) after the box office bomb that was the previous flick. So Michael has been in a coma for a decade (which makes no sense) following the events of Halloween II. As he is being taken to his old haunt of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, he wakes up. The now conscious Michael overhears that his sister, Laurie was killed in a car accident but had a daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Michael Myers now has a new target and heads back to Haddonfield in search of his niece.

When Dr. Loomis, who also survived the explosion from Halloween II (also doesn’t make sense) learns Michael has woken and gone to Haddonfield, he quickly follows. Jamie is living with foster family. The elder daughter of the family is left to babysit Jamie and that is when Michael turns up with Dr. Loomis not far behind him.

My View

You know, just writing that synopsis up there just made me realise how pointless do so it is from this point on. See, pretty much all the Halloween films from now forward all follow the same basic plot. Everyone thinks Michael Myers is dead, turns out he’s not. Michael goes out looking for victims and Dr. Loomis follows. There you go, that’s pretty much all the films covered from this point onward.

This is not a good film and it still annoys me they dropped the anthology idea for this crap. Its just bland, predictable and lifeless. The only real saving grace is Donald Pleasence returning as Dr. Loomis. In fact he’s the only reason to watch any of the films in the franchise he was in from this point. Pleasence is just too damn good for a film this poor. They even almost tempted John Carpenter to return with this film. He was originally on board to write and direct. In fact Carpenter wrote a treatment to be turned into a script. His idea centered around a more psychological concept based on the idea of what effects the events of the first two films had on the residents of Haddonfield. It sounded pretty interesting and would’ve been a more cerebral flick. But the idea was rejected in favour of a standard slasher movie and so John Carpenter sold the rights to the franchise and walked from the project. This is the first film in the franchise that didn’t involve Carpenter in some way after serving as writer, director and producer from the first film to the third and it shows. You know things are bad when they mess up the iconic mask…

Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers Michael Mask

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a lazy and poor imitation of the first film and follows many of the exact same beats. Michael escapes and steals a mechanic’s overalls, Dr. Loomis spends a lot of time with the sheriff, the daughter of the sheriff is one of Michael’s victims, Michael kills and eats a dog, there’s a bullying subplot, etc. Honestly, this is a remake of the original with many of the same scenes repeated beat for beat. It even copies some of the dialogue directly form the original film too. And they dropped John Carpenter’s original more clever idea for this?

I read this film took eleven days to write and seeing as its a blatant rip-off of the first one, that seems like about ten days too many. Just watch the first film, its like this one only far, far better and the ending is not as stupid either.

“We’re not talking about any ordinary prisoner, Hoffman! We are talking about evil on two legs.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

Halloween 5 The Revenge of Michael Myers Title

Yes he’s back (again). Released in 1989 and directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard. Not only is Michael Myers back but so are Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris reprising their respective roles from the previous film. This one picks up a year after the events of the last one. So this time, Michael falls into a coma (again) after the ending of the last film. He is found by a hermit and nursed back to health. After killing the hermit, Michael returns to Haddonfield to kill his niece Jamie (again), who has been committed to a children’s hospital.

Of course Dr. Loomis turns up (again) to try and stop Michael Myers (again). Some strange man in back keeps popping up. There’s some telepathic link crap thrown in between Michael and Jamie because everybody knows that uncles and nieces are telepathically linked right? So Jamie begins to have visions of Michael and his murders and Loomis uses this link to lure Michael to his demise… of being locked up in prison. Yes Michael Myers is arrested in the film.

My View

Well at least this works as direct sequel to the previous film and doesn’t just rip-off the original… though it also retcons a few things along the way. If I was asked to choose the worst film out of this one and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, that would be next to impossible as they’re both equally shit. Both badly written, both unoriginal, both boring. Yeah Donald Pleasence is on top form again and the only real reason to watch the film too.

Its not scary, its not tense. Its a typical 80s slasher flick with very little effort put into it. The ending is stupid, Michael Myers arrested? Yeah cos after being shot multiple times, blown up, dropped down a mine shaft not to mention all the other damage he has received over the course of the films, I’m sure a pair of handcuffs will stop him. Also, why is is allowed to keep his mask while locked away?

Halloween 5 The Revenge of Michael Myers Title Michael

It bad, its really bad. But you’d better get used to that because the age of good Halloween films is long over and things are not likely to improve soon either. Also, why is it called The Revenge of Michael Myers? What revenge, he’s the bad guy, he’s the one going around killing innocent babysitters. Is he getting revenge on Jamie because she’s done nothing wrong other than be his niece? I don’t know.

“I prayed that he would burn in Hell, but in my heart I knew that Hell would not have him.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers

This one took a while to come out as the last film damaged the franchise so much, it was left dormant for six years until 1995 when Michael Myers was finally brought back. Directed by Joe Chappelle, this film marks the final film appearance of Donald Pleasence before his death in 1995. The niece of Michael Myers, Jamie Lloyd (J. C. Brandy) is now grown up and gives birth to her first child. She is held captive by a strange cult known as Thorn and her child is taken away by the mysterious man in back from the previous flick who is the leader of the cult.

They do some kind of ritual to the baby before a nurse grabs it, gives it back to Jamie  and helps them escape the cult. As Jamie and baby escape, Michael turns up and kills the nurse. Jamie runs for her life only she is chased by uncle Michael. She does get away and calls a radio station to warn them that Michael Myers is back but they don’t believe her. The now retired Dr. Loomis hears Jamie’s call to the radio station and quickly heads to Haddonfield. Michael eventually tracks down Jamie and kills her, only to discover the baby is gone.

Meanwhile in Haddonfield, Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) who was the little boy being babysat by Laurie in the first film, finds Jamie’s baby and take it into his care can calls him Steven. Tommy meets up with Dr. Loomis and they team up to take care of Michael  once and for all while trying to save baby Steven.

My View

Okay so this is just a complete mess of a film. My synopsis my seem a little all over the place, but that is only because that film is all over the place. The story is bat-shit insane and the editing is horrendous with all these quick jump cuts and flashing images making scenes extremely hard to watch. Honestly, watching this film gave me a headache. I don’t really know what is going on. The story is nonsensical, I think Michael Myers is part of this Thorn cult and he’s the father of his won niece’s baby… or something. I have no idea what the aim or point of the Thorn cult is, they just do bad things as far as I can tell. Nor do I know why Michael is part of it, he just is.

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers Loomis.jpg

You know, people have said that Rob Zombie ruined the Halloween franchise with his remake (I’ll get to that later). No, no he didn’t. The franchise has been ruined from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and this film is just another twist of the knife. I have problems with the last two films – they’re not very good… but at the very least they were semi-competent films. This, this picture is a car crash of terrible story, awful acting and vomit enduing editing.

Of course it goes without saying that Donald Pleasence is once more the only saving grace of the film and its a sad note that this was his final film as he died before it was released. But there is a kick in the balls to the whole Donald Pleasence thing. See he originally had a bigger role in the movie, only the studio decided to cut him out of most of it. How about that for paying respects to a recently deceased legendary actor? But I’ll get onto all of that next…

Honestly, I given the legend that is Donald Pleasence much more respect in this article by using his character’s quotes from the previous films than this film does in its entirety.

“I knew what he was, but I never knew why.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: The Producer’s Cut

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producers Cut

Okay so I don’t think I really need to do a synopsis of this one as its the same film, only a different cut. Yes there are some changes between the theatrical cut and this version and I’ll cover those in my view. But by and large, the plot is pretty much the same between both films.

So lets crack on with the story of the butchering of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

My View

The story goes that this version of the film was tested for an audience and they hated it. So the film was cut, re-edited as well as having to go through some re-shoots. The final result was the complete mess that is Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. But do you happen to know why they audience hated this cut of the film? Because the test audience was full of 14 year olds and of course 14 year olds know all about making a good film right? So yeah, the studio fucked up the film because some spotty teenagers didn’t like it.

Well I’m more than happy to say that this cut of the film is better then the released theatrical cut, but to be honest its still got a good film – just a better one. As I said, the plot is still pretty much the same but I’ll take a look at a few of the differences here.

I guess the first difference should be the title, see the film was originally called Halloween 6: The Origin of Michael Myers as this teaser trailer shows.

The biggest differences worth noting are the fact that Jamie doesn’t die… well at least not in the same way as as in the theatrical cut. Her death comes later in this cut and you know what? I actually makes sense within the plot. There’s more detail on the whole Thorn cult and explains what they are. Then editing is much better and gone are all the jump cuts and flashing images, it now looks like a film.

The opening narration in the theatrical cut was provided by Paul Rudd’s Tommy Doyle character, even though he had not been introduced to the film yet. In this version, its Dr. Loomis covering the backstory – which make so much more sense. The overall style and atmosphere of the film is also much better and there’s actually some pretty tense scenes.

As for Donald Pleasence? He has a hell of a lot more screen time, more scenes and more dialogue that fills in backstory and even covers plot holes that exist in the theatrical cut due to his part being edited down. Then there’s the ending. The theatrical cut’s ending make no sense. Dr. Loomis says he has business to take care of and the film then cuts to Michael Myers’ mask with Loomis screaming in the background. The ending here actually wraps things up and resolves the whole Thorn cult thing too. Its still not a great ending, but it makes coherent sense at least.

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producer's Cut Loomis.jpg

The film just has better pacing despite it being longer than the other version. There’s more story, more suspense and more atmosphere. In every way, this cut is far, far superior and why the studio decided to cut the shit out of it I do not know. As I said, I can’t say that this is a good film but it most definitely is better. If you really want to watch Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers then get hold of the producers cut. You’ll thank me for it later.

This is a fitting tribute to Donald Pleasence and shows respect to a masterful actor who dedicated seventeen years of his life playing the character of Dr. Loomis. A man who died before his final film was released and had his part massively cut in the theatrical version and was disrespected for all he had done. This film is bad, but at least you can watch Donald Pleasence acting and acting well.

“I feel great! I had surgery, plastic surgery. Skin grafts. It cost a fortune, but at least I don’t frighten people anymore.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producers Cut Michael


 

I think I’ll split this one up into two parts and seeing as the next film marks an anniversary, this seems like a good place to take a break. See you in Part II.

Bohemian Rhapsody: Is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy?

So I watched the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody a couple of days back. I wrote this one not long after watching the film but didn’t publish it until now as I didn’t want to break my Red Dead Redemption II saga of articles (they’ve been going on for six weeks or so). But now that damn long awaited cowboy game is released, I can resume (almost) normal service.

So I’m a huge and long time Queen fan. I grew up with their music and when Freddie died back in 1991, the world music lost one of its greatest. There can never, nor will there ever be anyone quite like Freddie Mercury. He was so unique that the word “unique” doesn’t do him justice. He was able to do things with his voice that no one else on the planet could manage and that’s not just personal opinion from a fan, its now scientific fact. But before I get into my feelings about the film, a quick history lesson of how this film came to be.

The History

This film has had a long and troubled production with it being originally announced in 2010. Back then, Sacha Baron Cohen was signed up to play Freddie. But Baron Cohen left the project in 2013 due to “creative differences”. Partly due to the fact he felt that the producers and remaining members of Queen wanted to make a family friendly picture while Baron Cohen wanted to make a more adult look at Freddie going deeper into his sexuality and lifestyle, a more honest biopic of you will. A more recent story has come out suggesting that Baron Cohen wasn’t taking the film seriously.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Sacha Baron Cohen

Then in 2013 Ben Whishaw was being tipped to play Freddie while Dexter Fletcher would be in the director’s chair. Both Whishaw and Fletcher left the project by 2014 with both of them citing “creative differences” (the go to excuse for leaving a film project). In 2015 it was suggested that Sacha Baron Cohen could be back as Freddie but that was proven to be false information. For a while, the film was stuck in development hell with numerous writers, directors and actors all hitting the rumor mill over the next few months.

In 2015 the film was confirmed to be back on track and a title was revealed for the first time – Bohemian Rhapsody. All new scripts had been written with Brain May and Roger Taylor attached as consultants and producers. Then in 2016 film was suddenly a-go when Rami Malek was announced to star as Freddie Mercury. Pre-production on the film began in early 2017 and filming started on September 2017 with Bryan Singer as director. Things were going well until filming ground to a halt when Singer stopped showing up to film. Exactly why this is open to speculation, one source says Bryan Singer left the film due to an illness in his family but another suggests that Singer’s poor behaviour on set got him removed from the film. Either way, the production lost it’s director with around two or three weeks still left of filming to do. So re-enter Dexter Fletcher to finish the film who was originally attached to the project back in 2013.

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Now with the film having two directors, that caused a problem as rules state only one director can be given credit. It was announced earlier this year that despite his leaving/firing that Bryan Singer would still be credited as director as he did shoot most of the film before Dexter Fletcher stepped in to finish it up.

So then finally after eight years in film development hell, the movie was released on the 24th of October here in the U.K. while our American cousins will have to wait until the 2nd of November. And I was there opening day wearing my Freddie Mercury shirt, with my mom to see this long troubled film. But was it worth it? A quick synopsis before I offer my view…

Queen Shirt

The Film

It opens up with Freddie (Rami Malek) preening himself, trimming his moustache just before heading out on stage for the famous Live Aid gig from 1985. It then jumps back to the early 70s with a teenage Freddie working at Heathrow Airport as a baggage handler where he puts up with racial abuse for being a “pakki”. Young Freddie dreams of bigger things and while at a bar enjoying a pint, he listens to the student band on stage, a band called Smile. With Brain May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) as the lead guitarist and drummer respectively. When the lead singer leaves the band to join Humpy Bong (a folk band founded by former Bee Gees drummer Colin Petersen) Freddie steps in to offer his vocal talent, this is when he first meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton).

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Freddie And Mary

The band then hire bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) and change their name to Queen. They record their first album for EMI and perform their first live gig as Queen. Freddie and Mary grow closer and become lovers as the band also grow from student gigs to tours. Queen begin become a little tired of performing the same type of music over and over so begin to experiment and from that experimentation comes their most famous song, Bohemian Rhapsody. EMI executive Ray Foster (Mike Myers) hates the song and refuses to allow Queen to release it. So the band walk out and take the song elsewhere getting it played by Kenny Everett (Dickie Beau) on his radio show. The song is a smash hit and Queen become huge.

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While out on tour in Rio Freddie begins to show an interest in men and when he returns home he confesses to his then girlfriend that he is bisexual. The pair split but remain very close friends. As Queen begin to rise in the world of music, Freddie’s life begins to unravel. Keeping his sexuality from the press despite continual intrusion. Freddie begins to find comfort in drink, drugs and sex with anyone who shows him even the slightest bit of interest. Cracks begin to show in the band as Freddie grows increasingly out of control and he keeps turning up late for recording sessions often drunk, high or both after a heavy night of partying. Eventually, Freddie feels stifled by Queen and decides to go it alone by signing a solo contract behind the back of the other members at the suggestion of his manager. Queen (unofficially) split and go their separate ways.

Freddie moves to Germany to work on his solo music. After a visit from Mary who gives him a few home truths, Freddie returns home after sacking his backstabbing manager and meets up with the other members of Queen to ask them to reform so they can do the Live Aid gig as a way to say goodbye properly. They agree and the film ends with an amazing recreation of (almost) the entire Queen set from Live Aid 1985 and they cement themselves into rock music history.

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My View

I’m a huge Queen fan so obviously there is going to be a little bias in my view. The film is utterly brilliant. Now its not perfect and hardcore Queen fans (like me) will spot several flaws especially if you have seen as many Queen documentaries and interviews as I have. This is a biopic and like other biopics certain aspects are exaggerated, changed and twisted to make the film more entertaining. What I’m trying to say is that not everything in this film is 100% factual. But creative licence has to be expected with these kinds of movies, they are not documentaries, they are films. I’m not going to concentrate on the half truths in the film but will highlight a few issues.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Poster Freddie and Brian.jpg

First, the film is rated 12A here in the U.K. and if you know anything about the life of Freddie Mercury then you’d know aspects would’ve had to have been diluted to fit that 12A rating… and diluted the film is. Things like the drug usage is not explicitly shown and only hinted at, Freddie’s bisexuality is lightly shown with a couple of gay kisses and that’s about it. But I didn’t go the film to watch gay sex, I went to watch a film about Freddie’s life and that is what I got. There is a scene where Freddie throws one of his infamous lavish parties and even that is watered down from reality. The real parties are legendary in the world of music with Freddie having naked dwarfs (sorry, little people) with trays of cocaine on their head for the guests, performers biting the heads off live chickens, rampant sex and so much more. The party scene in the film shows none of this though and is not as wild as the real things were. Freddie led such an overtly hedonistic lifestyle that even the Roman Emperor Caligula would have suggested that Freddie tone it down a bit. Plus the film shows Brian May not enjoying the party when in reality, he was one of the people who would suggest them and enjoyed himself as much as Freddie.

Second, I didn’t like when the film ended. Note I didn’t say “how” it ended but “when”. To be honest, the recreation of the Live Aid set is stunning, those last ten minutes or so of the flick that show an abridged version of Queen’s now legendary performance is jaw dropping. But there is so much more to the story of Queen after Live Aid that is not shown in the film. Live Aid was their turning point, they had all but broken up and were thought of as a washed up band (especially in America) with nothing left. After that gig, Queen went on to become world dominating and there is so much more story to be told about their music. Plus there is the relationship between Freddie and his lover Jim Hutton to explore which is only lightly touched on in the film, his continual relationship with Mary Austin to the point where Freddie became godfather to her son. And of course there is the death of the man himself and how he kept recording despite the fact he was in so much pain and discomfort right to the very end. There really is so much more story to be told about Freddie/Queen and this really feels like only half a film. Its a fantastic half a film, but still only half of the story. I’ve seen a tone of these biopics and always felt satisfied at the end but this film left a bit of a gap and needs a sequel, there must be a Bohemian Rhapsody 2. Just having a bit of text at the end of the film pointing out Freddie died of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS didn’t really cut it for me.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Live Aid

That’s about it for the negatives really. On to the positives.

The cast have to be addressed here. Of course Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury is amazing. He has the voice, the mannerisms and everything. There are times during the Live Aid finale when a few long shots are shown and I’m not sure of it was Rami or Freddie himself using actual Live Aid footage. In fact, I’m pretty sure I spotted a cheeky cameo from the real Freddie during one shot. The strutting on stage the arm waving/air punching, Rami has it all nailed. I said earlier how there can never, nor will there ever be anyone quite like Freddie Mercury and I stand by that – but Rami Malek is pretty bloody close. I’d like to see a side by side comparison between the actual Live Aid footage and the end scene in this film to see just how close it all was. Everyone is talking about Rami Malek’s performance and rightly so to as its (almost) flawless, but I think he’s already getting enough praise. He deserves every ounce of it too and any recognition or awards he may get along the way. But there are other equally as great performances too.

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The other three band members of Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon played by Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello respectively are all brilliant. Four great actors coming together to reunite four of the best musicians in music. After Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee’s Brian May was the stand out performance for me though. Brian in the film is just as spot on as Freddie is and I just feel that Rami Malek (as deserving as he is) will overshadow the other actors here. Gwilym Lee deserves just as much praise. Then there is Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin, Freddie’s former girlfriend and long time friend. Yet another strong performance that I feel will be overlooked. You really feel her pain as she loses her boyfriend but refuses to give up on him at the same time.

But my absolute favorite bit of casting? Its really just a glorified cameo from Mike Myers as Ray Foster the EMI records executive who turns down the Bohemian Rhapsody record after listening to it. Now I can’t remember the exact quote, but after hearing the record he says something along the lines of, “Teenagers won’t be banging their heads to this”. Seeing as it was Mike Myers who introduced Bohemian Rhapsody to a new legion of fans with his movie Wanye’s World in 1992 and helped get the song to the top of the charts seventeen years after its original release, its a great in-joke…

As a quick aside. Freddie actually got to see the above scene before he died in 1991 as the film was completed before his passing and released a few months following his death. Brain May has said that Freddie loved the scene and gave Mike Myers his blessing to use the song too. So Mike Myers being the guy to turn the song down its a fitting tribute as well as an ironic joke.

I’m sorry but I must break out an overused cliché here. The film is a roller-coaster of emotions. There are funny and light hearted moments that will leave you with a smile on your face. Such as the band discussing the merits of the Roger Taylor penned “joke” song I’m in Love with My Car or Freddie continually telling Roger to go higher and higher on the “Galileo!” when recording Bohemian Rhapsody. Then you’ll have tears in your eyes during the more heavier scenes. Two such scenes that spring to mind are the one where Freddie finally comes out as bisexual to Mary while the song Love of My Life plays in the background, a song Freddie wrote specifically for Mary. The scene features some sterling acting from both Rami Malek and Lucy Boynton. Then later, toward the end of the film another scene has Freddie attend a hospital where he is told he has AIDS. Such a powerful scene with very little dialogue (I think there’s only one line) but the powerful and emotive Who Wants To Live Forever plays in the background. Honestly, I was welling up.

Yeah of course it goes without saying that the film’s soundtrack is sublime… but I’m going to say it anyway. Its Queen, of course its a brilliant soundtrack. It was great to hear some of the very early stuff such as Keep Yourself Alive, one of my favourite early Queen songs that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Seeing how some songs were slowly created and evolved such as Brian May slowly building We Will Rock You with the iconic foot stomps and claps was joyful.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie We Will Rock You

As for the Live Aid finale. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. I have very strong memories of watching Live Aid live back in 85. Both myself and my mom sat there staring at the T.V. in awe while Queen did their thing. I think I was only about 8 or 9 at the time but that twenty odd minutes watching Queen at Wembley Stadium left a lasting impression on me. Then there I was, a now 42 year old man sitting in the cinema with my mom next to me reliving that same experience 33 years later. Honestly, one of the best moments I have witnessed on the big screen. Then as Queen were in the midst of belting out Radio Ga Ga, mom leaned over to me and simply said “it has to be done.” and I knew exactly what she meant, so up went the arms and we both clapped along to the chorus. So there were me and mom doing the Radio Ga Ga bit and as I looked around, other people in the cinema joined in. It was almost like being there live, a genuinely amazing experience. The seats in the cinema gently rocked back and forth as people tapped/stomped their feet and clapped along. A special thanks to my mom for reliving a childhood memory with me.

The re-enactment of Live Aid at the end of this film is stunning and clearly done with passion, worth the price of the ticket alone.

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If you’re a Queen fan, of course you are going to watch the film and you’ll enjoy it too. Just remember that it is a biopic and some elements have been altered to make the film more interesting. Its not a factual documentary but its still telling the story of the greatest front-man ever and one of the greatest rock bands to ever grace a stage. So then, is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy? It’s a bit of both really, but more real life than fantasy. If you’re not a Queen fan, I still suggest checking the film out. Its funny, its emotional and above all, it rocks! You never know, you might just end up becoming a fan of Queen yourself.

A cracking film with laughs, tears, awesome music and some truly amazing performances from the entire cast. It Will Rock You!

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Live Aid Crowd

We just need a sequel to finish the story up.

“I pity your wife if you think six minutes is forever.”

– Freddie Mercury

East Bound And Down: Farewell To A Legend

Its funny – I was writing an article covering the Smokey and the Bandit films (its one of the many articles I have in my backlog) when the sad news about Burt Reynolds death hit my news feed. So I’ve put the Smokey and the Bandit article on hold for a while as I remember the man that made Bandit such a memorable character in the first place.

Born Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. on the 11th of February, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan. In 1946 his family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida where Reynolds attended Palm Beach High School and he quickly made a name for himself as an American football player. Looking to peruse a career in the sport, Reynolds received multiple scholarship offers and after graduating from high school he attended Florida State University on a football scholarship. He suffered a knee injury in his first game of his sophomore season so had to sit out the rest of the season. The same year, he was involved in a car accident and lost his spleen and severely injured his other knee as a result, which brought a swift end to his professional American football dreams.

Burt Reynolds Football

Later, he attended Palm Beach Junior College and studied English under Professor Watson B. Duncan III. It was Duncan who suggested that Reynolds try a bit of acting and cast him in a play he was producing, Outward Bound. Reynolds won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance and got bit by the acting bug. Burt Reynolds made his Broadway debut in the play Look, We’ve Come Through and received many positive reviews for his performance too. He went on to act in several more plays. It was the late 50s when Burt decided to move to Hollywood and try for a movie career but found it hard to land any roles. So he took jobs working in restaurants waiting tables and washing dishes to make ends meet.

Burt Reynolds Young

Reynolds eventually landed some very small TV show roles before making his film debut in 1961’s Angel Baby. More TV roles followed including parts in Riverboat and Gunsmoke, his TV jobs led to starring roles in low budget flicks like Navajo JoeImpasse and Shark! through the 60s. In the late 60s, Burt was even offered a huge role from legendary film producer Albert R. Broccoli in when he was offered the James Bond role after Sean Connery announced his retirement from the prestigious part, a role that would have shot him to super-stardom. Obviously Burt never took the Bond role stating…

An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.

– Burt Reynolds

It was in 1972 when Reynolds would make his big breakthrough in the movie Deliverance. Based on the novel of the same name, Deliverance is a tense and taught thriller that earned three Academy Award nominations. Full of brilliant and memorable scenes such as the awesome Dueling Banjos and the controversial “squeal like a pig” moments. The film tells the story of four city men out on a canoe trip down a river. Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds) and Ed Gentry (Jon Voight) are the experienced ones of the four who are more than conformable with the outdoor life. While Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty) and Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox) are virgins to wilderness. The quartet cross paths with some locals and rub them up the wrong way. The guys head to the area where they aim to start their canoe trip and that’s when things begin to unravel.

Burt Reynolds Deliverance

Deliverance is an amazing flick and Reynolds really comes across as a leading man in it too. Burt even went on later to say that he felt Deliverance was the best film he ever did. Despite the serious tone of Deliverance, through the 70s Reynolds became mostly known for his comedic roles. Films such as 1973’s White Lightning and Lucky Lady from 75 and of course the picture that would cement him as a true Hollywood star and comedic actor, Smokey and the Bandit.

As I said earlier, I’m actually writing a dedicated Smokey and the Bandit article where I will go into the film(s) in more detail. So just a light glossing over here but Smokey and the Bandit is one of the all time great and classic flicks. A fast paced car chase movie full of action, comedy and some light racism…it was a different time in the 70s. The film was written and directed by Hal Needham. Reynolds and Needham would become close friends and the two would form a great partnership collaborating several times from this point onward. In short, I fucking love Smokey and the Bandit and it was the film that made me a Burt Reynolds fan.

Burt Reynolds Bandit.jpg

Reynolds also made his directorial debut in 1976 with Gator – the sequel to his earlier film, White Lightning. More films with Hal Needham followed though the late 70s and 80s including Hooper where Reynolds plays “The Greatest Stuntman Alive” Sonny Hooper. Smokey and the Bandit II followed in 1980. With The Cannonball Run from 1981 being another Needham/Reynolds classic team up.

The Cannonball Run is about a group of car enthusiasts who take part in a cross country race. JJ McClure (Burt Reynolds) teams up with Victor Prinzi (Dom DeLuise) and his alter-ego Captain Chaos to take on some of the biggest names in entertainment to win the big race. This film really is star-studded, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. all feature in this one, oh and Jackie Chan in one of his first American film roles too. The sequel Cannonball Run II came out in 1984 and its just as high octane and madcap as the first film.

Burt Reynolds Cannonball

Reynolds career remained fairly steady though the 80s as he appeared in multiple films trough the decade. But his star power started to wane though the 90s and his film roles became smaller or he just starred in some pretty bad flicks. It got to a point when in 1996, Burt had to declare bankruptcy. Partly due to his over extravagant lifestyle and partly due to his divorce from then wife Loni Anderson. Then in 1997, he made an amazing comeback and burst back onto the big screen with the Paul Thomas Anderson directed Boogie Nights. A film that was inspired by the story of real life porn star John Holmes.

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Boogie Nights is a brilliant film that focuses on the porn industry without actually being about porn. With a multitude of characters all crossing paths to tell an interweaving story about the rise and fall of porn star Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) plays the porn film director who struggles with the changing times and falls from grace as the film progresses.

After Boogie Nights, Reynolds had a career boost, He’d never reach the highs of that late 70s and 80s era again, but he was getting more and more work as the 2000s approached. He not only got roles in movies and TV, but video games too when he played Avery Carrington in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and with Saints Row: The Third where he played himself. Burt also played a small role in The Longest Yard from 2005, which was a remake of his 1974 film of the same name. He maintained a steady career though the 2000s and even landed a role in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…but sadly that’s a role he never got to play.

Burt Reynolds Tarrantino

Burt Reynolds died in the 6th September, 2018 of cardiac arrest after suffering from heart problems in recent years.

Burt was good looking, charming, talented and had a laugh that will remain in my head forever. I’m going to miss that moustache sporting, cowboy hat wearing sun of a gun. A true legend and one that will leave a huge gap in the world of movies.

Burt Reynolds Hat

Marriage is about the most expensive way for the average man to get laundry done.

– Burt Reynolds

The Best And Worst Of JCVD

Since doing my retrospective on The Karate Kid a while back, I’ve been on a bit of a martial arts film kick (pun fully intended). I grew up watching this stuff, as far back as I can remember, I watched the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Biao Yuen, Chuck Norris, Benny Urquidez and Cynthia Rothrock to name a handful. Then in the 80s, I was introduced to The Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme and became a bit of a fan.

He had a screen presence that no one else at the time could match. He was good looking with a chiseled body that was hard to ignore (am I starting to sound a little gay here?). He couldn’t act well at first yet he would hold a film together nicely. His on screen fights were in a different league as there was a brutality to them, yet they seemed so elegant at the same time and his splits soon became a trademark. Van Damme was a martial arts actor at a time when the genre was beginning to wane slightly. The 70s were the pinnacle of martial arts cinema largely thanks to Bruce Lee who made the genre massively popular in his heyday. In Asia, the genre had always been popular, but it was Lee who spread that love worldwide and when he died, so did a big chunk of martial arts film in general. While they still remained popular in Asia, the rest of the word began to distance themselves from “chop-socky flicks”. But for me, that love for the films never died.

Bruce Lee

I still remember my brother Rob renting out low budget and often badly made martial arts VHS tapes from a local shop, little gems that the bigger VHS stores just didn’t stock. I was introduced to Jackie Chan long before he became an international star. New Fist of FurySnake in the Eagle’s ShadowMaster with Cracked Fingers – these were the type of films I grew up watching thanks to my older brother. One day, Rob came home with a new film, one that featured a strange plot about Bruce Lee returning from the dead and that was the day I was first introduced to Jean-Claude Van Damme, it fast became one of my favourite films and still is to this day.

Right here, I’d like to celebrate JCVD and take a look at some of his best and worst films, a fun trip though my childhood, and even adulthood. I’m not going to cover every JCVD film as he’s done a fuck load over the years and the article would go on for weeks (it already going to be a long one). I’ll just select some of the best and worst…maybe do a few honorable mentions throughout too.

Very Early Appearances

Jean-Claude Van Damme began competing in full-contact karate tournaments in Belgium through 1977 – 1982 where we was hugely successful and managed an impressive record of 18 victories (all knockouts) and only 1 defeat. Along the way, Van Damme landed an uncredited role in a Belgian/French co-produced film called Woman Between Wolf and Dog starring Rutger Hauer from 1979. After retiring from competition in 1982, Van Damme moved to America in hope of carving a movie career for himself.

Young JCVD

His first American film appearance was in the break dancing film (yes we had those in the 80s) Breakin’ from 1984. He was hired as an extra and can be seen dancing in the background in one scene wearing a very tight, black spandex leotard. While in America, Van Damme struck up a friendship with future internet meme legend that is Chuck Norris and even worked as a bouncer for a while at a bar Norris owned. That friendship also landed him a stuntman role in the Chuck Norris classic Missing in Action. Then in 1986, JCVD secured his biggest (but still small) role yet in that film I mentioned earlier about Bruce Lee returning from the dead.

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No Retreat, No Surrender. Oh how I love this film. Okay so the plot is about Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney) who is an avid Bruce Lee fan and martial arts student studying at his father’s dojo. When the dojo is threatened by a local crime syndicate, Jason’s father is attacked leaving him with a broken leg thanks to the Russian henchman Ivan Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme). The Stillwell family move away from New York to Seattle to get away from the crime syndicate.

After being harassed and beat up by martial artist Dean Ramsay (Dale Jacoby), Jason goes to the grave of Bruce Lee and asks for help. Later that night he gets that help in the shape of Bruce’s ghost who agrees to train Jason to make him a better martial artist. Long story short, Jason attends a local full-contact martial arts tournament where the Seattle team are set to square off against a New York team. Only before the tournament can start the crime syndicate appears and state that they will put up just one man against the entire Seattle team and will win too. That one man, this awesome machine of annihilation is of course the Russian Ivan. After Ivan kicks the asses of the entire team, Jason gets in the ring to fight Ivan.

JCVD No Retreat No Surrender

This film is terribly low budget with some awful acting and cringe-worthy scenes and yet I can’t help but love this film so damn much. Its basically a rip off of The Karate Kid (which is a rip off of Rocky) as about 90% of the film’s plot is taken directly from The Karate Kid – you have the young kid moving to a new city, the mentor training him, there’s a love story involving a jealous ex and of course everything comes to a head at a tournament. Van Damme’s role is minuscule as he only appears in the opening for a few minutes and then again at the end for the big fight, plus I think he only has about three small lines in the entire film. As tiny as the role is, its still a damn enjoyable and memorable one that shows a lot of promise. There’s some great fight scenes in the film too from lead actor Kurt McKinney and of course Jean-Claude Van Damme himself.

No Retreat, No Surrender hardly made JCVD a major star and the film is mostly forgotten about now (but check it out if you can find a copy…preferably uncut. Its awesome!). But it did at least showcase his talents and very slowly opened a few doors. In 1987 Van Damme did manage to land himself a role in a genuine, big budget blockbuster with the biggest action star in the world at the time. He got himself a part in Predator alongside that other mound of muscle Arnold Schwarzenegger. Die hard Predator fans will already know this story, but for those now scratching their heads while reaching for their Predator Blu-rays to try and find JCVD in the film…you won’t find him.

JCVD Preadator.jpg

See, he was hired to play the titular alien in full costume and everything, he did shoot some of the film too. But the alien design was later changed and the new suit didn’t fit Van Damme so he was replaced with Kevin Peter Hall. Plus there was the fact that JCVD hated the role and via some misunderstanding, he didn’t know he would be stuck in an alien suit for the whole film. It has been said that Jean-Claude Van Damme could very well still be in the film somewhere as some of the shots may have been left in but I don’t know how true that is – plus he would’ve been in costume and most probably doing that cloaking thing too so you wouldn’t recognise him anyway.

His Breakthrough

If there is one film that began to put Van Damme on the map and get him recognised, then it has to be 1988’s Bloodsport. Said to be based on the true story of real life martial artist Frank Dux (that’s a whole other article in itself). The film follows Frank (Jean-Claude Van Damme) as he takes part in a no holes barred, underground, full-contact kumite tournament in Hong Kong.

JCVD Bloodsport

Bloodsport is a cracking flick and Van Damme is brilliant in it too. The film has loads of great fights showcasing numerous fighting styles from around the world and of course the final fight is a belter too. Outside of all the fighting, the film still has some memorable scenes such as Frank and Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) playing the arcade classic Karate Champ or when the mighty Bolo Yeung playing the main villain Chong Li says the line “Brick not hit back” to JCVD in which he is paraphrasing a line Bruce Lee said to him in Enter the DragonBloodsport was a big hit and put people began to notice Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Just as a quick aside. You know how they’ve made several films based on and inspired by the game Street Fighter II? Am I the only one who thinks Bloodsport is a better SF II film than any of the real ones?

Anyway, Van Damme was now a bona fide martial arts/action star. Yeah he was still only appearing in low budget flicks, but he was being recognised. Through the rest of the 80s he began to appear in more films in starring roles including Cyborg from 1988, which is pretty poor to be honest and best to avoid. The much better Kickboxer from 1989 is a film worth checking out though and one JCVD wrote the story for too.

JCVD Kickboxer

Telling to story of American kickboxing champ Eric Sloane (Dennis Alexio) who travels to Bangkok to face the best fighter they have. Eric takes his younger brother, Kurt (Jean-Claude Van Damme) along for support and as his cornerman. Its during a fight against the Thai champ Tong Po (Michel Qissi) when Eric is badly beaten and Tong Po deliverers a particularly vicious elbow to Eric’s back which ends up leaving him in a wheelchair. Kurt swears revenge for his brother and demands to fight Tong Po, yet no one will train him out of fear he will get killed. Until Kurt meets Xian Chow (Dennis Chan) an old expert in Muay Thai who agrees to train Kurt for his big fight against Tong Po.

Kickboxer is perhaps JCVD’s most famous film up to this point. Its good, but I think it lacked the punch (pun still intended) that Bloodsport had.

As the 90s began, Van Damme had a busy and full work schedule for the next few years starting with Death Warrant from 1990. A pretty bog-standard action romp that is not really bad nor good, its okay. Oh and the film is also the first writing credit for David S. Goyer who would go on to pen some of the biggest superhero movies much later like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Also from 1990 was Lionheart where JCVD played French Legionnaire Leon Gaultier who goes A.W.O.L (an alternate title for the film) from his duties after receiving a letter about his seriously injured brother. Finding himself in Los Angeles, Leon enters the world of underground fighting to raise money for his extended family. Its worth noting that this film also features Michel Qissi from Kickboxer.

Jean Claude Van Damme

I quite like Lionheart or Wrong Bet or A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Leave or Leon or Full Contact…yes this film has that many alternate titles depending on where you are from and when it was released in your country. Its a fairly decent flick with some solid action and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s acting is actually pretty damn good as if he’s finally getting the hang of this acting thing.

Double Impact was released in 1991 and JCVD plays two roles. The twin brothers Chad & Alex Wagner who are made orphans as babies by the Triads. The twins are separated and raised differently, one is a gruff, cigar smoking bad-ass and the other is softer and more gentle…but still able to kick some ass. Years later and they learn of their past, team up to track down and get revenge on those who killed their parents. Double Impact is pretty damn good fun and its interesting to see Van Damme in the dual role playing two sides of the same coin. Oh yeah and man mountain, Bolo Yeung is in the film as the main bad guy which he plays with great relish. This one is worth watching.

His Even Bigger Breakthrough

Its only 1992 and Jean-Claude Van Damme is knocking out films faster than he was opponents in Bloodsport. Next up is his biggest and most successful film up to this point – Universal Soldier.

JCVD Universal Soldier

Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is an army vet along with Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). While on a mission in Vietnam, 1969 where Luc and Andrew as tasked with clearing out a small village, Andrew snaps and kills two innocent civilians. A shocked Luc turns his gun on Andrew just as he reciprocates and the two end up killing each other. Their bodies are recovered and cryogenically preserved. Decades later and the two corpses are reanimated as super advanced “UniSols” who are genetically enhanced with cybernetics giving them super strength and self-healing abilities while their memories are erased.

These UniSols are used for counter terrorism work and its while on a mission at Hoover Dam to save some hostages when the flashbacks to their previous lives begin and things start to unravel. Luc escapes his creators with the help of TV journalist, Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker) and Andrew Scott is sent out to bring him back…only Andrew’s mind is still stuck in Vietnam, 1969 and he thinks the war is still going on. Things get bloody and brutal as Luc just wants to go home to his parents while Andrew wants to kill any and everything in his way.

Oh man, I love this film. Its got just the right blend of sci-fi, martial arts and all out action. Van Damme is fantastic as the slightly confused and lost Luc Deveraux and gets a chance to show a rage of acting skills including some great comic timing. Ally Walker as the TV reporter is even better, a little ballsy mixed with a damsel in distress kind of thing. But the person who steals this film has to be Dolph Lundgren as the utterly psychotic Andrew Scott, perhaps one of my favourite action villains ever? If you get a chance, watch this one its a blast. The chemistry between Van Damme and Lundgren is pure gold.

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Universal Soldier was a hug box office hit and catapulted Jean-Claude Van Damme to stardom after several (mostly) modest hits in low budget films.

After making a fun cameo in the massively underrated and clever satire of action films that was Last Action Hero, JCVD starred in 1993’s Nowhere To Run a rather shallow and bland film not really worth bothering with. And followed that up with the far, far better Hard Target also from 93. In this one Chance Boudreaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a  Cajun merchant seaman looking for work. He helps Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) who is being attacked by a bunch of thugs and she hires him to help find her missing father. But when they discover Natasha’s father is dead, this leads Chance into a very dangerous game.

JCVD Hard Target

Hard Target is thoroughly entertaining even if the plot is one used a ton of times in the past. But what lifts it above most other action flicks of the time is the man behind the camera. This was the first American film directed by legendary Hong Kong action film maker, John Woo. Woo’s blending of American and Chinese cinema is masterful and makes for some great action well worth checking out. Oh and JCVD punches a snake.

Rising Star

By 1994, Jean-Claude Van Damme could be counted among other big action stars of the day such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis. More starring roles were on the horizon too. Timecop was a sci-fi/action picture with a silly plot that’s actually a damn good watch and entertaining from start to finish. Still in 94, Van Damme landed the lead in Street Fighter based on the hugely popular game series…and its awful. Though its worth checking out just for Raúl Juliá in his final film performance as Bison before his death. Honestly as bad as the film is Juliá is amazing in it.

JCVD Street Fighter

95’s Sudden Death was one of those countless Die Hard rip offs that were becoming increasingly more popular at time. You know the kind, a bunch of terrorists show up and take control of a building (in this case a sports stadium) and only one man can save the day. Its okay, above average, one of the better Die Hard rip offs but there are far better films of its ilk out there…like Die Hard. In 1996, Jean-Claude Van Damme not only starred in but also wrote the story for and even directed The Quest. Not a great film at all, in fact its pretty awful – but a lot can be said for the cinematography that showcases the beautiful locales and the wide range of various martial arts on show. Its a lot like his previous flick Bloodsport only not as charming or as 80s.

The Decline

JCVD’s stardom began to dim in the latter part of the 90s, after The Quest he had a couple of below average films followed up with some absolute stinkers and his career would never reach the highs of that early/mid 90s era. Double Team from 1997 was his first real box office bomb. I mean, its a film where he teams up with basketball player Dennis Rodman. That’s like mixing Jack Daniels with orange juice a terrible combo. This was followed up with 98’s Knock Off where his co-star was Rob Schneider…seriously, what the fuck happened Van Damme? You were riding high and then thought doing films with a basketball player and a crap, unfunny comedian would be a good idea? Both Double Team and Knock Off were and still are atrocious.

Oh but he wasn’t done with the bad decisions yet as next up Jean-Claude Van Damme made Legionnaire, a (wait for it) period costume action movie set in the 1920s. Its not very good.

JCVD Legionnaire

In 1999, he made a sequel to one of his most successful film with Universal Soldier: The Return. Set seven years after the events of the first film, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is no longer a UniSol, he’s now human after having his implants removed. Luc now works as a technical expert for the government to help create more advanced UniSols. The program is overseen by S.E.T.H. an artificially intelligent computer. But when S.E.T.H. learns the UniSol program is being shut down, it attempts to protect itself by unleashing a horde of the advanced UniSols as a defense.

The first flick was brilliant, still is. This sequel is trash and boring that lacks everything that made the original so damn great.

Through the 2000s, JCVD had a steady stream of direct to DVD films or films that saw a minimal theatrical release in countries like Spain, Mexico, etc. Films such as; The OrderIn HellThe Hard Corps and Until Death to name a few, made little to no impact and are mostly forgotten about if they were even known to exist in the first place. His career was dying out fast and the name Jean-Claude Van Damme no longer drew in the audience it used to in the 90s.

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Then in 2008, JCVD starred in the film JCVD. An interesting Belgian drama in which Van Damme plays a semi-fictional version of himself caught up in a robbery at a post office where his is taken hostage. I don’t want to say too much about this one other than to express how fucking good it is. Its a film one should watch and experience for yourself. Its not an all action, high kicking kung fu flick that you’d normally associate with Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is something very different, a tense drama that’s highly unique with a mesmerising and engrossing performance from JCVD which shows that he really can act well when needed. Perhaps the most notable scene in the film is when Van Damme breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience in a one shot, six minute monologue. Some critics at the time even suggested that Jean-Claude Van Damme should’ve been nominated for an Oscar for his performance…and you know what, he should’ve. Brilliant film.

2009 saw him return to one of his biggest hits once more with Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Okay, so this one ignores the previous and awful Universal Soldier: The Return and works as a direct sequel to the original film. Reuniting Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his arch nemesis Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren).

JCVD Universal Soldier Regeneration

Luc Deveraux is in Switzerland undergoing rehabilitation therapy from his UniSol days in an attempt to reinsert him into society. However, he is used by the government to take part in a mission involving a group of terrorists who’ve taken over the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and are holding hostages. The terrorists threaten to detonate a bomb if their comrades are not freed. When the prime minister gives into the demands of the terrorists, Dr. Colin (Kerry Shale) of the UniSol program is not impressed and sends in a cloned and upgraded version of Andrew Scott who’s severely mentaly unstable and reactivates the terrorist’s bomb. Enter Luc Deveraux to clean up the mess and face his adversary once more.

You know what? This ain’t half bad, in fact it pretty damn good. Its pure low budget b-movie stuff, but its bloody entertaining none the less. The showdown between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren being a particular highlight. If you liked the original flick, then check this one out too.

From 2010 Onward

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s direct to DVD film career continued through the 2010s with a few more notable highlights. He wrote, produced, edited, directed and even starred in Full Love from 2010. The film was screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival but its not yet been released, though it has been given a 2019 release date along with some more recently shot footage. I have no idea what the film is about, but I hope its something different like JCVD that will showcase his acting a bit more. I’ll certainly be looking out for it next year. Van Damme provided the voice for Master Croc in Kung Fu Panda 2 and its sequel.

Then in 2011, JCVD also took part in his own reality TV show Jean-Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors.

JCVD Coors Light

Since 2012, JCVD been seen in ads for Coors Light. Also in 2012 Van Damme played Jean Vilain in the ensemble action romp The Expendables 2 where he rubbed shoulders with classic and much revered action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus his old friends Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Norris. Still in 2012 and Van Damme slid back into his role of Luc Deveraux for Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning where he once more crosses paths with Dolph Lundgren’s Andrew Scott, and this one is also pretty good too and a great way to end the trilogy.

JCVD Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning

Several more direct to DVD films followed but nothing really worth mentioning. Until 2016 when JCVD was part of a remake of one of his much loved films with Kickboxer: Vengeance. But instead of playing the main hero, he plays the teacher role as Master Durand. Kurt Sloane is played by Alain Moussi this time around with villain Tong Po played by Dave Bautista. Then in 2018, JCVD returned for the sequel, Kickboxer: Retaliation with several of the cast also coming back. I’ve been writing this article just after watching the the two films and have to say how much I enjoyed them. Van Damme still looks great and has that magnetic personality and charm, acts very well and even gets to kick some bad guys in the face too. Its great to still see him doing what he does best and doing it so well.

Then production is said to start this year is the third film, Kickboxer: Armageddon. Its not been confirmed whether Jean-Claude Van Damme will be in the film or not, but I strongly suspect so (I hope so anyway). It also seems like we may be seeing JCVD return as Leon Gaultier in a sequel to Lionheart, which is also said to begin production this year.

JCVD Lionheart 2

Well that’s pretty much yer lot. As I said at the start, I’ve not covered every film of JCVD’s career…but I think I’ve got most of them here and certainly the ones well worth watching if you get chance.


You know, I really do genuinely like this guy and I’d love to see him in bigger and more mainstream films. Whenever I’ve seen him in interviews, Jean-Claude Van Damme always comes across as very likable, charming and humble. I know he’s had a few demons in the past involving drugs and money issues and I sincerely hope JCVD is over the worst of it all. He may not be an Oscar worthy actor but can still really surprise with just how good he can be at times (see JCVD for proof). I’d love to see him as a celebrated action star as he was in the 90s.

Some of his early flicks are stone cold classics. The likes of Bloodsport, KickboxerLionheartUniversal Soldier and of course the utterly awesome No Retreat, No Surrender are still damn fine films and ones I love to watch every now and then.

I really did grow up watching Van Damme films and have a lot of happy memories surrounding them too. Thanks for all the entertainment JCVD.

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Believe me – I’ve done very good stuff and very crazy stuff, and I don’t regret the crazy stuff.

Jean-Claude Van Damme