Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988) Review by RevTerry

I never really got into professional wrestling. I'm not really a sports guy and I am ashamed to say at some point I may have said something about it being fake in a derogatory way. Over time, though, I have learned to respect the love the fans have for the medium and now look at it in a different light. While it may not be my style the product itself holds many parallels with the genres that I indulge in and I can no doubt relate to the passion for something many may regard as corny or just plain stupid. Judging a person based on the fact that they are devoted to a dated media sensation is throwing rocks in my glass house at the very least. More than that, just (really) listening to a fan explain the sweaty ins and outs gives insight to the fact that our life's loves reside in similar unexplainable, ridiculous areas in the slice of bologna called life. It also helps that there has been quite a bit of overlap when it comes to wrestling and cult films. “Rowdy”Roddy Piper is a great example of being both a legend in the ring and one for genre fans. Most notably for taking on the alien status quo in John Carpenter's They Live but in that same year he was in another one of my favorites, Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988).
The movie takes place in the ravaged post apocalyptic remains of all out nuclear war. Fallout has mutated human life in various ways including the inclusion of frog-like people and mass sterilization. With population dwindling fertile men are a hot commodity and the government (now mostly run by women) sets up a group, MedTech, to aid and monitor fertility. Enter Max Hell(Piper), who since the big war has pretty much just been running from town to town having sex and getting into hi-jinks. When news of a few women getting pregnant after hanging out with Max gets back to MedTech they dispatch a unit to enlist him. Papers are signed, electronic exploding chastity belts are engaged, and he’s sent on a mission to Frogtown, the toad mutant reservation, to rescue some fertile females. To make sure nothing happens to his rare swim team he is accompanied by attractive duo of Spangle(Sandahl Bergman) and Centinella(Cec Verrell). The three make the trek into frog town to rescue the ladies and ultimately save the human race. Along the way we find out that after the apocalypse no woman can resist Rowdy Roddy Piper, MedTech offers training in lingerie, and that mutant frog people have three dicks.
While the plot is a little loose and the logic slightly bonkers the cornball action and science fiction concepts play well together in the horny mess. It takes its cues from some of the more remembered dystopic 80s flicks but it's more than unique. There is a lot going on in there but it never feels like someone is throwing shit at a wall to see if it sticks, more like a small glimpse at a imaginative original-content universe that someone has been plotting on Tumblr. Standard wasteland get-up for the cast but combined with some fun rubber frog heads. Each frog person or “greener” has specific details built into the design that hint at a cartoon-esque personality. Plenty of attempted one liners and the bulk of the dialog misses in the best kind of ways. Lots of gunplay and action but surprisingly low boob count for the subject matter, and the fact that it's a New World Pictures production.
I don't know anything about wrestling but I do know Roddy Piper is awesome. A lot of the films dialog and moments are only saved from a rapey vibe by the lovable confused tough guy facial expressions. Supposedly the part of Max Hell was written with legend Tim Thomerson, while i'm always down for more Jack Deth (dry hair is for squids) I don't think I would trade him for Piper in this one. His inclusion is not only one of the highlights but most often the reason this movie gets remembered and watched. 80s Fantasy great Sandahl Bergman, as she does in other flicks, elevates her role from the depths of eye candy despite plenty of awkward scenes. It’s a little strange to hear Nicholas Worth’s voice coming out of a rubber frog head but you couldn't pick more of an iconic villain for your bad guy. Cec Verrell plays an attractive lady with a gun, which she is good at (see Silk 1986).
Hell Comes to Frogtown is an ambitious, entertaining oddity in the sea of 80s post Apocalypse films. Plus it's a great example of what professional wrestling has given trashy movies and even if, like me, the wrestling gig is not your normal flavor, that is a pretty fucking cool thing. So if you are not the wrestling friend in your crew then I implore you to let that dude rant at you for a little while, the cheesy plots and characters might seem familiar or at the very least the excited obsession will mirror that of your common cult Cinema enthusiast. If you don't have a wrestling friend then ask the Pokemon guy if he can hook you up with one, it's my experience that they know each other. If that sounds too social for you, maybe there is a podcast you can skim through or some shit, but really how judgmental can you be after reading 5 paragraphs of some nerd’s feelings about a dude fucking his way through frog land? 
Rest in peace Roddy Piper, thanks for the awesome flicks!
| 1988

Directors: Donald G. Jackson, R.J. Kizer
Writers: Donald G. Jackson (story), Randall Frakes (story)


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Deathrow Gameshow (1987) Review by RevTerry

For a while there it seemed like reality TV was going to fully engulf the entire viewing schedule when it came to broadcast television. I assume it was easy money. Nudging attention starved loose cannons in entertaining directions must be an easier task than say, writing a story worth watching for any reason. Although it seems to have been suppressed a bit (taking a back seat to its online counterpart) lately, the channels are stilled filled with shows “observing” the day to day of “real” people. Whole channels once dedicated to PG sex-ed and general education programs have now become 24-hour hubs for fake swamp people and Alaskans. The '80s didn't really have that problem per se, but it did have inklings in the way things would go down, through the state of sports, sensationalist news, etc., as well as a good idea about how far someone would go for capital (or fame). The concept of entertainment taken to extremes manifested in this time as several classic trash films that showed the era's current trends in media, game shows, and competitive sports, being pushed to deadly limits. Maybe the most remembered of all, Roger Corman's Death Race 2000, based very loosely on a short science fiction story with similar subject matter which predicted a world in near ruins. Its people disillusioned but active spectators of cross country blood sports possibly motivated by population control. Another less mentioned entry, Deathrow Gameshow (1987) took the thought experiment down a different route.
After some spirited animated musical credits (think Ruthless People’s intro but cartoon people playing for their lives instead of scheming for money) the movie starts with TV game show host Chuck Toedan escaping a mob of protesters outside of the TV studio. Chuck hosts a TV show called Live or Die, where death row inmates can compete for various prizes but usually end up getting fucked up and dead in some silly ass way. The show, which broadcasts the deaths live on television, complete with cliché price is right rollouts and a house band is extremely well watched but of course, also catches the zealous moral wrath of a number of righteous crusaders. Along with the dividing politics of the program, Chuck also has been marked for assassination by a very general mafia group for killing one of their patriarchs on the show. After a one-sided debate on a talk show, he is confronted in the parking lot by one of his opposition's front-runners, the prudish Gloria Sternvirgin (, and yes Stern-Virgin). An attempt on his life is made during their argument and she is forced to flee with him in his car. The two have some adventures together where they bicker back and forth, there are some cool commercial segments,  style, and we all learn the errors of our ways. Oh and an old lady explodes.
The tone very casually goes from a Leslie Nielsen slapstick to a more confined comedy throughout the film. Although it shares the nihilistic notes of other trash-tastic jabs at society from that era along with their light outlooks on death, the culture depicted in the film is more bright and forward thinking in its corruption. Through the neon blurred lens of the '80s, it chooses to focus on man's obsession in the spectral and blurred moral lines as opposed to the economic or more outward collapse. The slyness of the commentary varies, but sometimes it is subtle enough that the delayed reaction magnifies the chuckle a little. The writing and dialogue remind me of early 90's late night sitcoms with a hint of RoboCop (1987). Characters are goofy clichés on par with the times and genre but it makes sure to take a moment to point that out about itself and never really takes itself very seriously. The surreal moments and the loose grip with reality help move the dark comedy to almost a coke-fueled vintage Loony Toon level. Although the satire loses its bite a little with the films out of character optimistic wrap up, it walks the line between commentary and dark comedy well enough. 
The film is directed by , whose breakthrough was the low budget gem A Polish Vampire  in Burbank, did some time on television and looks like he is still working today. He also brought us the random ass Curse of the Queerwolf, which is kind of a what-the-fuck kind of watch if you have an extra hour and some games on your phone.  plays our main character. His plastic features and fake smile work for the cheesy host and he got the part despite what I can only imagine was some heavy competition for roles in the douchey white guy department of the '80s.  does great with a role that works out to be pretty much a stereotypical ice queen to be melted. Everyone matches the motif well and seems to be utilized properly. 
There was no way(I know of) that the writers of the '80s could have predicted social media and the effect it would have on people. Almost on accident Deathrow Gameshow comes pretty close, showing a society polarized between extremes and obsessed with being the one in front of the lens. Better yet it's good stupid entertainment and I guarantee it's better than watching another show about some lady with too many cats or whatever the fuck is on right now.
1h 23min | 1987
Director: Mark Pirro
Writers: Alan Gries (additional material), Mark Pirro 


The Substitute (1996) Review by RevTerry

Movieland has some funny views on high school. Some tropes reached a point of stupidity due to overuse, loosing the grip with high school experience that it originally held due to excessive replication. Others are less based on experience to begin with and use the element as a backdrop for generic action, horror or sexy comedy. 90's era Hollywood was sure all the kids of the poor neighborhoods needed to be able to turn life around was a transplanted substitute that didn't mind cracking a few skulls. It pumped out a few well meaning but ultimately silly savior out of water tales during the VHS era ranging from fake nuns to marines. All playing the ultimate ingredient to uncovering  the diamonds that lay hidden in the human ruff aka the working poor's troubled kids. I hated high school. It was crowded dirty place (not in the fun way) stocked with all flavors of asshole and filled with the threat of mental/physical violence at any time (not in the fun way). My freedom loving ventures and dedication to my VHS collection led to my ejection from the normal schooling program. Because high schools are like strip clubs and your choices progressively get worse with every expulsion you receive, I saw some of the more seedy areas of the education system as I moved from school to school until someone handed me a diploma. If these commandos of enlightenment where running around uplifting the ruffians and body bagging evil gangsters I would have run into them at some point. Reality aside just because a story element is stupid and culturally deaf does not mean it can not be fun, case in point The Substitute (1996).
When we first meet Jonathan Shale () he is just making his get away from a black ops mission that seems to pretty much have gone to shit. The politics involved with the incident lead to his group of men being scapegoated so, jobless and blacklisted, he heads back home. In Miami he surprises his girlfriend () when she comes home after a long day of teaching at Columbus High School, which seems to consist of watching kids get beat up and being threatened by Marc Anthony. After their reunion his fiance, Jane Hetzko, tells him that her drive for education has caught the unwanted attention of the local gang’s leader Juan Lacas (). Of course Shale doesn't like what he hears and when the two are attacked during a romantic stroll, breaking Jane’s leg, Jonathan has no choice but to pose as a substitute to get to the bottom of all the troubled youth madness. After laying down some crazy-vet-uncle style knowledge on his class, the situation escalates and he decides to recruit (some) of his old crew to take down the violent gangsters. Using his gruff wits and military training he faces off against the crew of gangbangers to avenge his wife and reform the public school system.
While it's no The Principal (1987) the plot moves along at an entertaining pace, with adequate fight scenes sprinkled in to keep things going. Like the Belushi film it devolves into an Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) type situation using the school as the confined space and battlegrounds. Although the story has been done(possibly better) a few times over, the movie makes it through the 90's action cinema checklist in a enjoyable enough way. As long as you do not put too much importance on logic it's well worth its time limit using its actors well enough for the most part. It had a theatrical release in its day, but can feel a lot like a Straight To VHS Revenge or Death Wish (1974) clone minus perhaps their graphic rape scenes. While not as brutal as some proper trash it doesn't really skimp on the action and sports the semi-nihilistic tone of the best 90's genre flicks. More to its credit it has for the most part a coherent and satisfactory ending not falling into the common trappings of several others in its type. It's not going to grab you by the curlies as far as the drama goes, all imposed peril comes with a guaranteed avenging. Sure there is a vague social issue in there somewhere but it's violent no brain fun.
Our main character is Tom Berenger who has no trouble in the lovable badass role. Admittedly it's my favorite role of his and he seems to work well in a film that doesn't take itself too seriously. His fiancee is played by Diane Venora, who does well enough but seems like she could kick more ass than the script allowed. Luis Guzmán pops in for comedy and William Forsythe shows up to show us how friendship works in disbanded blacks ops groups. The school principal is played by my favorite Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddmore. I'm always glad when he shows up in shit.
While hardly scholastic The Substitute is a lot of cornball fun and reminds me of the good times spent in front of a television during TNT’s action marathons. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in active pacing and fun characters. I can't really speak for much lower quality TV movie sequels that replaced Tom Berenger with , but excuse me while I go watch them all.
| 1996
 Director: Robert Mandel

Writers: Roy Frumkes, Rocco Simonelli, Alan Ormsby

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