The Mummy – 1999 – United States
The Mummy is allegedly a remake of The Mummy (1932) but not really. Although the original is a horror movie, the remake is a pulpy action/adventure story more like Indiana Jones. But you probably know that already. The Mummy was an international smash hit, and everyone on the planet has already seen it.
Egypt, 1920s: A gun-crazy soldier, a nerdy librarian, and a bumbling thief team up to find a lost Egyptian city. In doing so, they wake up an ancient mummy with the power to destroy the world. Everything about The Mummy is outrageously big and epic. The opening scene, set in the ancient Egyptian empire, features monolithic cities teeming with extras. Following that is a shootout between dozens of soldiers on horseback. And the massive set pieces never stop. There is a battle aboard a burning boat. And, later, a biplane tries to outrun a sandstorm. The mummy himself is also apocalyptically powerful. He summons swarms of locusts, spit beetles, and transforms into a whirlwind of sand. He also commands an army of undead soldiers, and at one point, calls a meteor shower onto a whole city.
Gatchaman: The Movie – 1978 – Japan
Gatchaman is one of those Japanese superhero team shows like Voltron (but with less mecha) or Power Rangers (but animated and with less mighty morphing). Its full title is Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, which sounds pretty amazing. Gatchaman follows the Science Ninja Team, five high-tech superheros in costumes that resemble spacesuits mixed with birds. They have cool gadgets and weapons like boomerangs and bladed yo-yos as well as a fighter jet that can transform into a ball of fire. Basically, they are everything a child could want. In fact, one of them actually is a child.
Gatchaman: The Movie edits part of the 1970s anime TV series into a theatrical-length animated movie. In the near future, a mysterious alien terrorist named Leader X lands on Earth and builds a secret base in the Himalayas. He creates mutant generals to lead his army of clones and mecha. One of the villains looks like an androgynous version of Batman, and the clone troopers all have long, shaggy hair. The movie follows the Science Ninja Team as they track down Leader X and thwart his plans to destroy the Earth.
Head of the Family – 1996 – United States
I say this all the time, but there is something special about the 80s and 90s movies of Full Moon Entertainment. With their colorful visuals, cheerful music, and wacky humor, they remind me of a children’s television show but with a lot more sex and violence.
Head of the Family is pure Full Moon. It’s about a family of wealthy mutants living in a mansion. One of them has an enormous head, and he telepathically controls his brain-dead siblings to kidnap people and murder them for some mad science experiment. When a local discovers the killings, he tries to blackmail the mutants, and it goes wrong in various comedic and violent ways.
The Scorpion with Two Tails – 1982 – Italy/France
The Scorpion with Two Tails has a pretty good title, but otherwise, there isn’t much to say about it. That’s not really fair. It isn’t so bad, but it is sort of unremarkable.
Scorpion with Two Tails is about a woman named Joan whose archaeologist husband is murdered after discovering some ancient Etruscan ruins in Italy. As Joan investigates her husband’s death, she starts having hallucinations of ritual sacrifices and rocks full of maggots. As Joan learns more, more murders stack up, and clues suggest the culprits might be an Etruscan cult or heroin dealers. Then there is the mystery of Joan herself. What’s up with her visions? I don’t want to spoil it, but I will if you keep reading. Yup, it turns out that Joan is the reincarnation of an ancient Etruscan deity.
After the Thin Man – 1936 – United States
fter the Thin Man (sequel to The Thin Man) is the second movie about Nick and Nora, the wealthy, retired, detective couple that we all wish we could be. They solve crimes while drinking, partying, and making witty, sarcastic, and loving quips at each other. They also have a cute little dog. Basically, their life is perfect.
This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse – 1967 – Brazil
This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse is pretty extreme for how old it is. There isn’t a lot of gore, but the movie is depraved in a really in-your-face way. It is the second of three movies about Zé do Caixão (a.k.a. Coffin Joe), a megalomaniac, atheist, undertaker and serial killer who hates women and God but loves children. Did I mention this is a religious movie?
Master of the Flying Guillotine – 1976 – Hong Kong
Some people might be hesitant to call Master of the Flying Guillotine a masterpiece of martial arts cinema, but I’m not one of those people. Although its martial arts action isn’t that impressive, and a lot of it is obscured by awkward shooting and editing, Master of the Flying Guillotine overcomes all that with sheer verve and imagination. This is one radical movie!
Everything about Master of the Flying Guillotine is delightfully over-the-top. In the opening scene, a monk swears vengeance against a man who killed his apprentices. Before setting out on his quest for revenge, the monk exits his house by leaping through the roof, and then burns down the building with a fire bomb. The most notable part of Master of the Flying Guillotine involves a tournament where martial artists pit their eccentric styles against each other. A man uses his extremely long ponytail to trip and strangle his opponent. A woman uses her “Eagle Claw” style to tear her opponent’s clothes off. Two fighters duel while standing on upright logs over a pit of spikes. There is an Indian “yogi” who can stretch his arms to superhuman lengths. He is almost certainly the inspiration for Dhalsim in the Street Fighter video game series. But my favorite is the monkey kung fu master who fights while imitating a chimp. It’s a tragic shame that he loses so disgracefully.
The Devil’s Advocate – 1997 – United States
The Devil’s Advocate depicts a world where Satan walks the Earth as the owner of a New York law firm full of demonic lawyers. The movie mixes elements of courtroom drama and supernatural horror, and the two genres mesh remarkably well. The story follows Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves), a criminal lawyer who is recruited by John Milton (Al Pacino), the head of a prestigious law firm. Of course, John is actually Satan in disguise, and he convinces Kevin to abandon his morals in pursuit of wealth and power.
Robowar – 1988 – Italy
I guess I should say something about Robowar. Well, it’s a copy of Predator (1987) but with a robot instead of an alien. Actually, I’m going to spoil the ending right now. The robot is actually a man. He was turned into a killer cybernetic zombie as part of a highly secret and highly unethical experiment by the U.S. military.
Robowar follows a special commando unit known as B.A.M. (Big Ass Motherfuckers). These tough dudes have names like “Killzone”, “Blood”, and “Diddy Bopper”, although their leader isn’t afraid to wear a sexy midriff shirt. They say “fuck” a lot, and shoot way more bullets than they need too. One of them also says at least one shockingly homophobic thing that I won’t repeat here. B.A.M. is deployed into a jungle warzone (maybe Nicaragua) to destroy a nearly indestructible robot with a gun that melts the flesh off people. Along the way, the B.A.M. dudes shoot whole villages of enemy soldiers as corny, out-of-place rock music plays on the soundtrack.
Zombie Genocide: Legion of the Damned – 2012 – United States
I’ve seen a lot of amateur zombie movies, and most of them are boring and totally unimaginative, so I didn’t have much hope for Zombie Genocide: Legion of the Damned. I’m not even sure what inspired me to watch it. But it turned out to not be so bad, and that’s pretty high praise for this sort of thing.
After a mysterious biological weapon attack, the dead come back to life as flesh-eating zombies. The story swaps between various characters as they struggle to survive the immediate aftermath of the attack. The best of these characters is a down-to-earth mom, but all of them are likable enough. Most of the movie takes place in one night, but the final scene is six months in the future. In this scene, the survivors speculate on their uncertain future and wonder if they are the only survivors left. The ending is surprisingly contemplative for a horror movie.