The jury is still out on the status of GROOM LAKE, the William Shatner directed sci-fi thriller that Full Moon produced earlier this year. Production of the modestly budgeted feature (shot on digital video) wrapped several months ago - after running far over budget - yet the title remains listed as "in post-production." While there has been no official announcement, it would seem likely that Full Moon's inability to finish Shatner's film will bring an end to Full Moon Theater, a planned syndicated TV airing of Full Moon movies to be hosted by Shatner.
As reported here previously, Full Moon has been battling severe financial setbacks that threaten to shutter the doors of the independent, genre-oriented production house. In dealing with its current crisis, the studio has suspended expensive effects work on several completed films and instead relied on several "long-on-the-shelf" titles to maintain their direct-to-video release presence. Full Moon movies, such as MORGANA and VENGEANCE OF THE DEAD, had been gathering dust at the studio but have recently found their way into the video release cycle, simply because they could be released with minimal additional cost. If GROOM LAKE ends up in long term, post-production limbo, it won't be the first Full Moon title to do so. THE PRIMEVILS, the dream project of the late special effects wizard David Allen, completed principal photography several years ago but the ambitious fantasy adventure has yet to be seen by the public.
Later this month, Roger Corman's New Concorde Home Video will release BLACK SCORPION RETURNS, the first of what will likely be a series of video releases culled from episodes of Corman's flop, sexy female superhero TV series. The tape features two episodes of the rather dreadful series and can only hope to ride the coattails of the earlier, more serious and successful BLACK SCORPION features, which featured Joan Severance in the title role. Having moved all feature production to his studio in Ireland, Corman had staked hopes of keeping the doors open on his Venice Beach facility by utilizing the complex for TV production. When the series tanked on the Sci-Fi Channel, Corman shut down his historic studio and later destroyed it, filming the demolition for use in a future film.
AENIGMA is one of the lesser efforts
THE NEVERENDING STORY remains one of the most magical and enjoyable family features of the past couple of decades. Director Wolfgang Petersen, then best known for the tense DAS BOOT, created a fantasy world that rivals Oz in terms of visuals and imagination, but keeps his story centered on the adventures of a young boy. The effects are marvelous and Fantasia truly seems like another world, but Petersen isn't afraid to offer some tense, even frightening scenes in his "kids" movie. His main purpose, however, is clearly to drive home the message that as much as one might enjoy this movie reading a book is the greatest flight of imagination of them all. It's a theme that seems even more revolutionary today than it did in 1984.
THE NEVERENDING STORY 2 was the inevitable sequel to the international hit and, while falling far short of the magic of its predecessor, the film is acceptable family fare. Teen heartthrob of the moment Jonathan Brandis toplines this return to the storybook land of Fantasia. A third, direct-to-video sequel followed and brought a weak end to the series.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE: SPECIAL EDITION is director Rob Reiner's hugely enjoyable fairy tale which relies on true love, humor and a charismatic cast to garner audience attention rather than special effects though co-star Andre the Giant just might qualify as an "effect" himself. This one should entertain any audience member with a heart or an imagination, and might shame the others into a much-needed self-appraisal.
IT CAME FROM THE BOTTOM SHELF
Now it's time for our periodic look back at genre titles we somehow overlooked first time around. Most are lame, direct-to-video dreck that were released with no announcement, let alone any fanfare, to alert us to their arrival. Still, some worthwhile titles do occasionally emerge from the muck.
One such very-rough gem would be 7 DAYS TO LIVE. A small yet highly effective cast, consisting of little more than Amanda Plummer and Sean Pertwee, makes this derivative haunted house tale seem far more effective than its muddled and improbable story would be in most other hands. The cast is considerably better than the material here, but the director manages to conjure up an effective atmosphere, some chilling sequences and an impressive, if unmotivated and unlikely, denouement that makes this one worthwhile entertainment for undiscerning fans.
I mentioned Brian Yuzna's FAUST in last weekend's column because I was disappointed I hadn't received a screener to the film, which I had been eagerly anticipating. Having now rented the feature, I fear my expectations for the film were a wee bit high. The picture, based on a graphic novel series, is a mishmash of elements that often work quite well on their own but fail to gel into any kind of cohesive work or theme. Still, the women are sexy, the Faust "costume" original and the closing black magic ceremony one of the best I've ever seen. FAUST is well worth a look, but don't make my mistake and expect too much.
KILLER INSTINCT, on the other hand, is much more the kind of idiotic, unimaginative gruel we've come to expect from the direct-to-video factory. Veteran performers Corbin Bernsen and Dee Wallace Stone are trapped in this idiocy that pretends to be about small town secrets being uncovered by visitor from outside, but is really just another excuse to put a bunch of teens in a house and kill them off, one by one. While the kids are supposed to be the children of the town fathers, we never see the offspring in the same shot with their parents, or anyone else from the town, making this seem like two separate movies, tenuously linked by a few threads of dialogue.
VENGENANCE OF THE DEAD tries hard, through title and box art, to present itself as a sequel to the earlier Full Moon Video hit PRISON OF THE DEAD, a film which rode the video zombie wave created by the studio's THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING. Shot under another title, VENGENANCE is really more of a ghost story, and a little too slow and uneventful to grab one's attention. But, it's hard to understand why the film got stuck on the shelf for so long. It's a perfectly competent effort.
EASTER EGG HUNT
The fine folks over at the DVDReview website just posted news of a hidden goodie on the recently released MANIAC: SPECIAL EDITION which we're happy to pass on to Cinescape readers. If you select "extras" from the menu screen and then press the "right" arrow key on the remote, it will place an "X" on Caroline Munro's face. If you then press "enter" you'll get double "Bill-ed," with an audio discussion between MANIAC director William Lustig and EXORCIST director William Friedkin.
Next week, a look the original cheapie that inspired an upcoming, big budget remake, more animated robots and FLASHDANCE meets FRANKENSTEIN.
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.