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Best of Schlock 2002
BY G. NOEL GROSS | December 20, 2002

Jack Frost the Killer Mutant Snowman is nipping at Shannon Elizabeth's nethers, so it must be that treasured time again when yours truly reveals the year's finest genre titles. But first, I'm pleased to announce that MGM's Return of the Living Dead special edition was overwhelmingly voted CineSchlockers' Choice for THE top DVD of 2002! Congrats to director Dan O'Bannon and production designer William Stout who made this fan-favorite disc a reality! There's no doubt it's also high on MY list along with nine other standouts in very particular order:

1. I Spit On Your Grave
(Read original review)

Elite Entertainment actually deserves the first THREE slots on this honor roll for its juiced up "Millennium Edition" re-issues of Night of the Living Dead, Re-Animator and now, their best yet, I Spit On Your Grave. The disc boasts commentary by infamous auteur Meir Zarchi along with a bonus track with legendary drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs among other goodies. Mr. Zarchi made THE most universally reviled exploitation flick of the '70s, heck, maybe of all time. It's revolting, and it's SUPPOSED to be. It's the story of a young woman (Camille Keaton) who escapes to the peace of the country only to be repeatedly and brutally raped by rednecks. Zarchi's camera is unflinching, forcing viewers to endure every excruciating moment of Jennifer Hill's hell. After she's left for dead, Jennifer acts as if nothing happened, yet secretly plots her vengeance. Luring them with their lust, she executes each of her attackers one-by-one. The most fitting revenge is when she coaxes one of the rapists into a bubble bath and emasculates him with a carving knife, then locks the bastard in the bathroom to bleed to death. Drive-in audiences CHEERED every time one of these sleazeballs got theirs -- and it's ONLY because Zarchi made them suffer right along with her. Jennifer's justice became THEIRS. Pure B-genius. Two breasts. Four corpses. Knife pitching. Biting. Wangdoodle whittling. Gratuitous shower scene. Jenny offers Stanley a gut full of outboard motor, "SUCK IT, BITCH!!!"

2. Savage Beach
(Read original review)

Andy and Arlene Sidaris prove they can STILL out hustle the majors when it comes to skillfully cultivating a fan base. Every disc of their explosive guns 'n' babes collection overflows with enough drool-worthy extras to boggle the mind. Savage Beach features the quintessential Sidaris scenario: Playboy Playmates Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton are stunning federal agents who, in order to deliver medicine to dying kiddos, make a harrowing landing amid a tropical storm and then fly BACK into the squall, engage the auto-pilot and opt to shimmy out of their wet, clingy clothes. Bless you, Andy! Mechanical problems then force the gals to ditch their plane on a seemingly deserted island. Meanwhile, there's a shady Filipino diplomat (Rodrigo Obregon) obsessed with gold the Japanese looted from his homeland during WWII and Playmate turned boisterous porn queen Teri Weigel is his ever-frisky revolutionary girlfriend who joins his quest to get stinking rich. This leads them, oh-so coincidentally, to the very SAME island where our heroines are spending an unscheduled vacation. Jiggle-friendly gunplay naturally ensues. 12 breasts. 15 corpses. Cocaine-stuffed pineapple. Surf side hara-kiri. Excessive gold fondling. Gratuitous five-minute deathbed confession. Ms. Weigel warbles, "My ideology means more to me than fame and adulation. The good of the party is my reward!"

3. Starship Troopers
(Read original review)

Paul Verhoven is a latter-day exploiteer whose fiendishly subversive, gloriously gruesome space opera goose steps with an infectious twinkle in its eye. This two-disc special edition is definitely loaded for bug! When Mormon settlers colonize the wrong planet, mankind finds itself at odds with a nasty insect race who take to hurling meteors at our puny planet. Such unruly critters must be squashed. Enter four friends: Square-jawed Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) itches to slide into home with buxom honey Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) who won't wave him in til he joins the service. Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer) is ga-ga for Johnny, who's clueless, and Doogie Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) just likes to play mind games with his pet ferret. Soon they blast off to kick arachnid keister with good ol' fashion MACHINE GUNS and the occasional well-placed nuclear pineapple. Unfortunately, the hide tanning doesn't quite go the Earthlings' way lending to a flick that OOZES with grue. Heads tumble. Legs fling through the air. Insect innards splatter. There's even coed showers to wash all the unsightly gack away. Six breasts. Way more than 125 corpses. Fiddle playing. Insect mind meld. Hiney slapping. Massive acid loogies. Rico's squad leader barks, "We're going in with the first wave! Means MORE bugs for us to kill! You SMASH the entire area!!! You KILL anything that has more than TWO legs!!!"

4. Return of the Living Dead
(Read original review)

While I balked at its sometimes dicey image quality, fellow zombiphiles eagerly feasted on this bargain-priced gem. "Hey, there's something really cool in the basement. Wanna see?" Now there's a question that usually ends badly. Here it's pickled zombies from the REAL night of the living dead that were misplaced by the military and ended up in a medical supply warehouse. It's when Frank and Freddy (James Karen and Thom Mathews) are ogling the strange containers that one ruptures, choking them unconscious with the thick, rancid gas that spews forth. When the two wake, well, they're not the ONLY ones, as they're soon mighty busy rassling a reanimated cadaver who refuses to comply with that "kill the brain, kill the ghoul" stuff. They turn to their boss (Clu Gulager) for guidance whose best idea is to chop the guy into itty-bitty pieces. When THAT don't work, Ernie the undertaker (Don Calfa) and his cremation oven spring to mind. Bad move, fellas. A gaggle of punks skulking around a nearby cemetary are first to benefit from this miscalculation when the dead burrow from their graves with a chronic case of the munchies. The twists get zanier, but none so memorable as when CineSchlocker idol Linnea Quigley snarls how she loves to fantasize about being clawed to death by geezers and then peels out of her clothes for an impromptu interpretive dance atop a tombstone. Two breasts. Way more than 41 corpses. Reanimated split dog. Hacksaw decapitation. Unbridled spazzing. Copious brain gobbling. Among the most beloved lines in horror, "SEND. MORE. PARAMEDICS."

5. Play-Mate of the Apes
(Read original review)

Seduction Cinema and director John Bacchus have created a cottage industry with wacky pop-culture spoofs that skirt the line between lesbian-friendly softcore and classic sexploitation fare. This being their most ambitious, and BEST, flick to date. B-sensation Misty Mundae stars as Gaylor, an astronaut who crashes on an unknown planet when her frisky crewmates wake from hibernation and lose control of the ship along with their inhibitions. After wandering around in raincoats, er, spacesuits, they encounter other humans who can't speak, but are incredibly friendly. Just as an all-out petting party gets underway, TALKING APES throw nets over and haul them off to Dr. Cornholeus' (Debbie Rochon) laboratory. Gaylor must share a cramped cell with a lovely human (Darian Caine) who she soon finds is also VERY affectionate. Cornholeus is stunned that Gaylor -- whom she calls "White Thighs" -- has the ability to speak. This fact also draws the attention of General Lade (Bacchus) who insists that even if a human COULD talk, it still has no SOUL. He then proceeds to express his philosophy in song! As this is also a MUSICAL!!! Eight breasts. No corpses. Advanced lesbian tongue rasslin'. Tin-foil'd sneakers. Nipple patty cake. Tree humping. Misty as Miss Fix-It, "It's amazing what a little bit of gum and snot can do!"

6. THEM!
(Read original review)

At last, the king daddy of radioactive creature features! Marshal Dillon (James Arness) rassles ordinary desert ants who got themselves value-sized and bloodthirsty after repeated exposures to atomic blasts. One-by-one folks start turning up MISSING as the buggers scavenge for, gulp, people food. Well, sugar actually, but hapless humans keep standing precariously close to the stuff. Joan Weldon and Edmund Gwenn are the father-daughter bug docs who go nosing around where they shouldn't and upon discovering the critters' hideout Ed howls the immortal, unintentionally riotous line, "GET THE AN-TENNIE! GET THE AN-TENNIE!!!" And a Tommy-gun toting James Whitmore kindly obliges this cogent advice. Despite the additional introduction of about a half-dozen or so bazooka rounds, these incredulous critters miraculously manage to scurry from the desert into the Los Angeles sewage system to freak out hobos and nab some kiddos most CineSchlockers will wish they'd go ahead and eat. No breasts. Nine corpses. Bow-tied cops. Drunken babbling. Flame throwing. Sugar pilfering. Call him Doctor Sunshine, "We haven't seen the end of them. We've only had a close view of the beginning of what may be the end of us!"

7. 24: Season One
(Read original review)

Woefully lean on extras as the FOX TV series was purposefully fast-tracked to the marketplace ahead of its sequel's debut. This whirlwind of zips and twists proves there's no shame in a great gimmick and stands as a rare example of when the Hollywood buzz machine actually turned out to be warranted! Heck, CineSchlocker fave Kiefer Sutherland even got himself a GOLDEN GLOBE for refusing to clear his throat for 24 hours as counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer. And while it's true the novelty of a series that plays out in "real time" was certainly its hook, the drama's real backbone is in its skillfully manufactured tension and savvy twists on time-honored action/spy genre cliches -- episode after episode, minute by minute. No breasts. 55 corpses (plus an ill-fated 747 jetliner). 162 conspicuous notations of time. 152 cellphone calls. 29 references to "My wife and daughter." Yummy Ms. Elisha Cuthbert goes berserk, "SHUT UP!!! I've been listening to this CRAP all day about how I get everything I want and how my life is so great and everyone else's SUCKS! Well, you don't know ANYTHING about me! Last night, I was KIDNAPPED! Tied up in the back of a TRUNK and then I got to see your friend Dan get shot in the HEAD! You take all the bad luck you've had in your entire LIFE and it wouldn't fit into HALF of what's happened to me in the past 24 HOURS! So messing me up may not be as EASY as you think! But if you want to try BRING IT ON! Here. Outside. ANY PLACE YOU LIKE!!!"

8. Rock 'n' Roll Frankenstein
(Read original review)

Who even knew it was still possible to make an original, outrageously hilarious spin on ol' Boltneck?! Writer/director Brian O'Hara's slyly irreverent creation does just that. When his last client walks, music promoter Bernie Stein (Barry Feterman) cajoles the family mad scientist, Frankie (Jayson Spence), into a grisly scheme to create the perfect rock star -- one piece at a time. They cannibalize the crypts of Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Sid Vicious, Keith Moon and even Elvis Presley. Frankie dutifully stitches all the bits together. Jimi's hands. Sid's hiney. The King's 'do. Then Bernie proclaims his made-to-order star MUST also have sex appeal! So Jim Morrison's pickled manhood is lifted from the world's most extensive collection of celebrity phalli. But an errant dip in a jar of acid wilts said weenie forcing the thieves to IMPROVISE with comically inspired results. While Frankie's Monster, affectionately dubbed King (Graig Guggenheim), is indeed ALIVE, he's also deeply conflicted. As King so aptly whines, he's been saddled with a "fruity pecker." One that soon starts TALKING to and coercing King into indulging its "unnatural urges." Four breasts. Five corpses. Sack O' fetuses. Head crushing. Gratuitous urination. Giant crucifix to the hindquarters. King finds solace in his music, "I got a funny urge / I don't know how to purge / I'm of two different minds / Giving conflicting signs / I'm feeling so confused / I got the B-O-N-E-R blues."

9. Dog Soldiers
(Read original review)

Sadly, stateside fans don't get commentary by writer/director Neil Marshall and his cast, but producers David Allen and Brian O'Toole admirably counter that void with an enthusiastic track of detailed insights on the flick's production. A British military unit training in the Scottish highlands finds itself in the ransacked camp of troops they were sent to engage. Then up from the bloody rubble pops a frantic officer, his chest slashed in a claw-like pattern, and in his terror he babbles, "There was only supposed to be ONE!" Fighting darkness, the team evacuates the injured Capt. Ryan (Liam Cunningham) and sets out in search of shelter only to be attacked themselves -- by a pack of WEREWOLVES! A fact not quickly embraced by the troopers. Instead they focus on finding a defensible structure and prepare to reenact the best bits of Zulu -- except with MUCH furrier adversaries. It's a goldang grim situation, but one with a perverse undercurrent of wry wit that'll leave CineSchlockers unsure whether to projectile vomit or laugh their keisters off. No breasts. Seven corpses. Point-blank canine execution. Involuntary cannibalism. One flying cow. Tree branch impalement. Darren Morfitt on his future as werewolf chow, "I hope I give you the [email protected]#%s you f#@%ing wimp!!!"

10. Satan Was A Lady
(Read original review)

Exploitation cinema lost its grandest lady when Doris Wishman died on August 10th. This disc arrived just three days later with a rare peek at the filmmaker's unusual style. Doris doesn't merely sit behind the camera and yelp "Action!" and "Cut!" No, she's right up with the actors. Pantomiming action. Mouthing dialogue. It's FASCINATING! Especially when intercut with scenes from the film and one realizes how she's just BARELY hovering off camera. Red-headed Honey Lauren (as Cleo Irane) is a wannabe ballerina who, by night, eeks out a living peddling her bod and horsewhipping dirty old men. By day, she drools outside a Miami store window whilst longing for "that touch of mink" -- both literally and metaphorically. Cleo really, really wants this mangey fur coat, so being a woman of the Wishman universe, she goes about getting it in an excessively scandalous way. Down to his ill-fitting wig and black shades, venom-spewing lounge singer Glyn Styler's smarmy turn as Cleo's beau is a terrific archetype from '60s grindhouse roughies. But none of those surly sleazeballs could SING like this guy!!! He's a significant part of the bizarre time-traveling charm of this picture that becomes a familiar echo of exploitation past. Six breasts. Four corpses. Coronary inducing phone call. One crippled cat. Ashtray as a deadly weapon. Seductive thigh smacking. Cleo growls while standing over the bloodied corpse of a once gorgeous rival, "You're not so PRETTY anymore!"

G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.

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