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Joe Bob Briggs

The Official Home of America's Drive-In Movie Critic Extraordinaire

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The Devil Inside 2012

This latest in the string of exorcism flicks trying to capture that Linda Blair Anderson’s Pea Soup Magic Formula follows big-eyed Isabella as she tries to find out if her mama is possessed or just a whack-job.  You see, Mommie Dearest killed three people during an attempted exorcism (on her, which everyone reminds us repeatedly) back in 1989, was committed to a Vatican-sponsored insane asylum—who knew the Vatican ran loony bins?—and now her grown-up daughter has agreed to be part of a documentary about the whole thing.

Daughter Isabella travels to Italy, attends an exorcist class, meets some exorcist priests, and, well, I dozed off there for a while, but when I woke back up, Isabella’s mom was freaking out, screaming crazy demon-possessed things at her that only a demon would know, I guess. Then Isabella’s priest friends, who run an underground exorcism service, convince her that the only way she can truly recognize demonic possession is if she goes to an exorcism with them. So she does, and they do the whole cross-and-holy-water-demon-be-gone routine on a woman who twists herself into a pretzel. Now that Isabella’s seen the real thing, they decide to go to the hospital to do a demonic possession evaluation on her mom, only they have to kind of sneak around becausethe Vatican doesn’t approve of unauthorized exorcisms, except the hospital seems to have no problem with them doing it, so that part didn’t really make a lot of sense.

Anyway, Mom seems unpossessed for a couple of minutes, but then she seems really, really possessed, which gets the priests all excited because now the Vatican will have to recognize that they have video proof of possession! Except the Vatican refuses to talk to them, the documentary filmmaker guy whines about how he’s feeling left out, one of the priests loses it, Isabella loses it, and pretty soon we’ve got a car full of possessed people careening down the Eyetalian highway toward an extremely annoying ending.

Let’s take a look at those Drive-In Totals:

Five bodies. Zero breasts. Three, maybe four beasts, if you count the possessed people. One house that belongs on Hoarders. One police shaky-cam. One crazy woman in the crawlspace. One exorcism gone bad. One field trip to the Vatican School for Exorcism. One foreshadowing of “transference.”. Multiple head slamming. One underground exorcism ring. One extremely limber possessed woman. One desperate need for feminine hygiene products. Priest-flinging. One whiny documentary filmmaker. Attempted baby drowning. One motor vehicle crash. Gratuitous documentary cam. Gratuitous talking heads. Gratuitous focus on pupil dilation. Demon-possession Fu.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Fernanda Andrade as Isabella, for being named Fernanda, and for saying “I really need to understand what happened” and “Exorcism has defined my life”; Suzan Crowley as Isabella’s possessed mother, for being creepy and saying “Do you know how to connect the cuts?”; Evan Helmuth as David the priest, for declaring “The entity in your mother has disciples!” and “Of course I mean demonic transference!”; and Pixie le Knot for putting the “ewwww” in the exorcism scenes as the “contortionist double.”

One and a half stars

Joe Bob says check it out

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Rumpelstiltskin (1995)

Have you noticed how closing times at bars get earlier and earlier?

What’s going on here? Certain cities and states now have bars that close at MIDNIGHT, just like in Communist countries like Sweden.

Didn’t we already find out in the 1920s what happens when you monkey around with a man’s drinking habits?

He gets GRUMPY. He starts beatin’ bunny rabbits over the head with baseball bats.

He rips the legs off frogs and feeds them to his sister-in-law. He picks at scabs, runs nekkid across the golf course and sings the theme from “Green Acres” out loud on the subway.

There was a time when Texas bars were open all night long, just like in New Orleans. Now they close at 2 a.m. And you usually can’t even find any ILLEGAL ones after that.

Closing time in Atlanta was 3 a.m. the last time I checked. That’s a LITTLE more serious bar town.

New York still has a healthy regard for tradition. Closing time is 4, and if you’re still revved, you can generally find a party after that.

But if you wanna talk about a place that takes its drinking and dancing and carrying on DAMN SERIOUSLY, look no further than…Arkansas. Legal closing time: 5 a.m.

A couple of weeks ago I was hanging out with some party animals from Little Rock who took me to this warehouse at the end of a gravel road down by the Arkansas River.

Once you get inside, it’s a combination rave club/gay bar/transvestite performance-art space/beer garden/blissed-out, ecstasy-trance, Kool-Aid-head scene.

There were, like, THOUSANDS of brain-damaged individuals in this place, all dancing their politically-incorrect little tushies off, less than two miles from where Billy Clinton once presided over the Arkansas state government.

And everybody kept saying to me, “I guess this is no big deal to you, Joe Bob, because it’s only Arkansas, and you’ve been EVERYWHERE.”

And I would say, “I’ve been everywhere and I have NEVER seen anything like this.”

And the most amazing thing of all was the drag queens. I’ve seen drag-queen lip-synch acts in San Francisco, in New York and-the horror! the horror!-even in Key West. These were the most COMMITTED drag queens I’ve ever seen. Even the ugly ones.

In fact, the UGLIEST ones were the MOST COMMITTED. And people would say, “I guess you’ve seen a lot better than this, Joe Bob, ’cause, you know, it’s the best we can do in Arkansas.”

But I’m here to tell you something. If you wanna be a drag queen in Arkansas, you better know what you’re doing. These he- gals want it BAD.

Their acts were so good I wanted to propose marriage to three of ’em, including a guy with a five o’clock shadow, dressed like Madonna, singing “Like a Virgin.”

You had to be there.

But my point is, KEEP THE DANG BARS OPEN. It’s good for society. It’s good for the soul. Look what it did for Arkansas.

And speaking of deformed creatures, we finally got a decent horror flick this year. It’s called “Rumpelstiltskin,” and it stars Max Grodenchik as the deformed midget from the fairy tale who steals babies and eats body parts.

In the 15th century, the vengeance-seeking townsfolk-you know, the ones who always carry torches-set Rumpelstiltskin on fire and turn him into an ugly green rock and throw him into the ocean.

But 400 years later he turns up in an El Lay antique shop, and pretty soon we’ve got a nasty troll swiping the newborn baby of a cop’s widow and absconding to Bakersfield.

Actually, he can never quite KEEP possession of the baby, so Mommy flees to Bakersfield in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, forcing the cigar-chomping demon to hijack an 18-wheeler by decapitating a redneck.

Fortunately, a trash-TV daytime-talk-show host is on his way to the lake in a sport utility vehicle, so he picks up Mama and Baby, lures the troll into an over-the-cliff header and helps her bust out of jail when they’re arrested for killing a cop who actually died when the troll, with burns over 100 percent of his body, ripped off his own head and used it to eat the cop’s neck.

Obviously, there’s way too much plot getting in the way of the story here, but, basically, this is the old “Troll Wants the Soul” plot, with Rumpelstiltskin trying to get eternal life by dancing around and chanting a rhyme while the stolen baby rests in a zombie’s arms.

What makes the whole thing work is that Grodenchik, as the twisted, nasty little demon, is both hilarious and scary-he’s got that whole Freddy Krueger thing going for him, even one step better.

Fifteen dead bodies. No breasts. Flaming baby. Mace-clubbing. Eyeball-ripping. Eyeball-eating. Multiple ancient curses. Exploding demon. Close-up gunshot wound to the head.

Finger-hacking. Knife to the forehead. Broom handle stuffed in the mouth, exiting in rear.

Arm-hacking, with maggots. Neck-chomping. Flag through the stomach.

One shoot-out. Four motor vehicle chases, with two fireballs. Gratuitous zombie attack. Head rolls.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for …

* Max Grodenchik, as the pointy-eared, jug-nosed, cackling midget from hell, for saying, “Come, bring the pain!” and, “Thy future is harsh on thy throat!” and “I smell a baby!”

* Allyce Beasley, as the best friend who puts her hand on the ancient talisman and wishes for “an exotic male dancer.”

* Kim Johnston Ulrich, as the young mom running from the “satanic little freak with pointy ears.”

* Vera Lockwood, as the scary-looking antiques dealer who says, “Next time an old witch tells you not to buy something, you listen!”

* Tommy Blaze, as the talk-show-host-turned-demon-fighter who knows he’s a jerk and loves himself for it.

* And Mark Jones, the writer/director, for doing things the drive-in way.

Four stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.


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Rumble in the Streets (1996)

Everybody in Hollywood is a cynic, of course, so I have a question.

How come, no matter how cynical they are, no matter whether they’re producers, directors, actors or grips, no matter how many horrible casting stories they’ve seen, they still believe-all of them, no exceptions-in the concept of Talent. I mean, some call it talent, some call it genius, some call it acting ability. But they all believe there’s some mysterious quality that separates the good actor from the bad one.

So when an actor goes to an audition, and doesn’t get the part, they’re often crushed because “I KNOW I could do that part. I KNOW I could do it better than anyone else. I KNOW I could do it better than the guy they gave it to.”

And the point is, all of that is PROBABLY TRUE. But they gave it to some guy they had heard of, because they think by putting his name on the video box, they can sell more copies, even though the last hit he made was in 1981 and so he’s “just a name” but maybe it’ll be worth a few bucks. And the fading star may have a drinking problem, and may not even CARE about acting anymore, but it doesn’t matter, and the producer doesn’t care, because they’re not buying his acting, they’re buying his name.

There are literally HUNDREDS of examples of this, and yet the frustrated aspiring actor still believes in the idea of “being discovered.”

What’s even worse, the guy who keeps getting jobs on the basis of an old TV series thinks that he’s being hired because of HIS talent.

And the director thinks: “Wow, we got this talented guy. I’ve HEARD OF HIM.”

The fact is, for every great Hollywood part, there are probably 500 actors laboring in university theaters and regional opera companies and community playhouses who could do it BETTER than the star who’s actually hired. And I think the audience knows this. What’s amazing is that HOLLYWOOD DOESN’T KNOW IT.

I mean, Hollywood HAS to know it, right? Because Hollywood INVENTED it.  But you’ve still got all these old cynical directors and producers talking about “star quality”-which, let’s face it, is half good looks and half good lighting, “performance of a lifetime”-which means the star finally did something different from what she did in her last 10 movies, and “that special magic.”

“That special magic” usually means she’s 17 years old, gorgeous and willing.

Of all the key players who combine to make a movie-writer, director, cinematographer, sound man, art director, editor, composer-I would put the actors about eighth or ninth in order of importance. And as movies get more sophisticated, and more visual, the actor’s role diminishes. It will never diminish on the stage, of course, but in film you can sometimes do the same thing the actor does with animation or effects or old footage. As Robert Mitchum once said, “Rin Tin Tin was the greatest actor Hollywood ever had.”

So my question is: Why don’t they just cut the crap?

Does anybody know what I’m talking about here?

And speaking of guys who have NEVER been impressed by stars, drive-in king Roger Corman is at it again this week, recycling a script he made seven years ago and making everybody but me think it’s a brand-new movie.

Remember “Streets,” the minor cult classic starring Christina Applegate as a teen-age runaway heroin-junkie hooker trying to escape a maniac cop? Well, that story made its way back up to the top of the stack as “Rumble in the Streets,” but this time Roger hired my buddy Bret McCormick, an ultra-low-budget Fort Worth filmmaker, and Bret did it like a documentary on homeless street kids who live at the Fort Worth Stockyards. Of course, we all know the Fort Worth police would never ALLOW any homeless at the stockyards, because it would scare off all the tourists, but Bret kinda makes it work.

Actually, the box cover says, “The streets of Dallas have been cruel to Tori….” But there’s not a single Dallas scene in the whole deal. This is Fort Worth all the way. I guess Roger just couldn’t bring himself to say, “The mean, nasty streets of Fort Worth….” Somehow Fort Worth doesn’t cut it as a Quentin Tarantino-type location.

Other than changing from El Lay to Fort Worth, thereby throwing in a few cowboy references and having a man ride a steer through two scenes for no reason at all, it’s the same dang movie. Kimberly Rowe is the junkie teen hooker who refuses to have sex with anybody she actually likes. David Courtemarche is the singing cowboy who tries to love her. And Patrick DeFazio is the cop who tries to kill her, then kill her again, then kill her again, as he grows progressively uglier from scars and burns on his face, forehead, legs and arms. He’s sort of like a uniformed, motorcycle-riding Jason.

This one is actually a little easier to watch than the original. After watching “Streets,” you had to go rub the sleaze off your eyelids. This one still has the gross-out heroin-needle scenes, which are a little hard to believe when Kimberly Rowe looks as healthy as a vegetarian clog dancer, but the emotional stuff is done a lot better.

Good work, Bret. Bret has always been the one-man Fort Worth film industry, but I remember the ole boy when he was making monster flicks for 30 bucks in his cellar.

Seven dead bodies. Six breasts.

Attempted rape. Face-clawing.

Dirt clod to the eyes. Bloody Scotch-glass crunching. Hand-slicing. Hand-smashing. Hand-burning. Hand-crushing.

Close-up heroin injections. Little-girl torture. Blood-licking.

Guy executed by gunshot in a place where…naw, we’re just not going into it.

Leg-stabbing. Flaming cop.

One motor vehicle chase, with crash. One mugging. Aardvarking. Electrocution.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for…

Peggy Ann Mitchell, for writing and singing the main theme song, “She Tries To Fly,” a great song in a genre that usually thrives on bad songs.

Kimberly Rowe, as the teen hooker who says, “I keep thinking I know you from somewhere-I always remember the guys on bikes” and “I don’t do that much heroin-just enough to get straight.”

Mike Nicol, as the scruffy, wisecracking drug connection who says, “My name’s Bob, but I spell it backwards.”

Randy Rostetter, for riding around on a Longhorn steer for no reason.

David Courtemarche, as the lovestruck homeless singing cowboy.

Patrick DeFazio, as the sick, perverted, twisted street cop.

And Bret McCormick, the director, co-writer and producer, for doing things the drive-in way.

Three and a half stars.
Joe Bob says check it out.


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Road Kill USA (1993)

I guess I’m the last guy in the world who thinks cigarettes are okay.


Lately there’s been a slew of articles and news magazine shows about how EVIL the tobacco companies are. They’re actually trying to get people to SMOKE CIGARETTES.

Listen up, you guys. THAT’S THEIR PURPOSE IN LIFE. I already KNEW this. I didn’t need Diane Sawyer to tell me about it. Every time I see a big tobacco leaf come up on the screen, and giant letters that say “THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY,” somehow I already know the next words are NOT gonna be “Friend of the American Consumer.”

In the fifties and sixties, there were documentaries on tobacco that actually tried to let BOTH SIDES speak. They don’t even TRY anymore. If they do have any interviews with a tobacco company spokesman, they set the camera down at around shoelace level, shoot up into the guy’s nostrils, and zoom in for closeups of the sweat oozing out of his neck. This is so we’ll all know HE’S A LIAR.

Why bother? It’s like watching a show on the Ku Klux Klan. We don’t sit there in suspense, wondering who’s side the network is on.

Anyhow, as a person who sometimes still sits in the smoking section–PLEASE DON’T KILL ME–I wanna say a few things in favor of the Wicked Weed People.

Numero Uno: A cigarette is only ONE of the legal things that can kill you. Jack Daniels, Budweiser, and Beanee Weenees are equally lethal. And, in every case, you die in the same way. You USE TOO GOLDANG MUCH OF IT. When John Candy died, I don’t think anybody called for a ban on pasta.

Numero Two-o: It says on the package, “This here cigarette can kill you.” Since only grown-ups can buy it, IT’S NONE OF OUR BUSINESS.

Numero Three-o: Tobacco was the first American crop. It’s historic. It’s part of our heritage. And for the first 300 years we grew it, NOBODY CARED. You can’t ask people to invest in a business for 300 goldang years, and then suddenly tell em, “Okay, that’s it–WE’VE CHANGED OUR MIND.”

Numero Four-o: The reason the tobacco companies are so powerful is that, in the early seventies, tobacco advertising was banned on TV, the first time the First Amendment was steamrolled and stomped on in this country. That means that ONLY THE BRANDS THAT EXISTED IN 1971–Marlboro, Winston, Kool, and the lighter ones owned by those same companies, like Virginia Slims–could survive. Nobody else could get into the market, because they couldn’t get their advertising message out. So you had four or five huge companies completely controlling the market, making more and more money each year, spending millions on tennis tournaments, charity events, stock car races, and anything else they could put their names on, becoming more and more identified as permanent immovable objects, until today they’re among the biggest companies in the world, and they have subsidiaries that own everything from cranberry juice to missile guidance systems.

If you don’t like the tobacco companies, then you shouldn’t give them a monopoly on the market.

The regulators were stupid. The censors lost. The tobacco companies won. Game over. Now leave em alone.

Speaking of things North Carolina should be proud of, Tony Elwood, the one-man Charlotte film industry, has made a new flick, and this time I think he’s qualified for the Drive-In Olympics. You might remember Tony as the guy who made “Killer” two years ago for $9,000. I called it the cheapest drive-in movie ever made, but other people have come forward since then to claim they made em cheaper. Anyhow, it’s still the cheapest drive-in movie that you can ACTUALLY SIT THROUGH. I put it on my cable show, it had a video release, film festivals showed it–and everybody’s been waitin to see what Tony would do next.

And here it is–“Road Kill USA”–the story of a typical psychotic white-trash couple careening across the back highways of the South with a hapless good-ole-boy teenager in the back seat, trying to figure out why they keep driving all through the night and giggling about whoever they just carved up, clubbed to death, or crushed to death with a hydraulic lift.

This is a great funny sick weird road movie, and Tony did two things to move up into the big leagues:

1) He hired actual professional actors.

2) He included a scene in “Joe Bob’s Drive-In” in order to suck up to me and get a good review.

It worked.

This movie is so good that if I tell you what happens, it’ll spoil the whole thing, so lemme just say it’s the story of a twisted maniac with two much time on his hands, the small-town Texas girl who loves him as much as her Spearmint, and the small-town South Carolina kid who, even after the fourth murder, still thinks he’s just riding around with some ECCENTRICS. (I guess he HAD to be from South Carolina, didn’t he? Anybody from NORTH Carolina would have been considered too intelligent for the part.)

Anyhow, just when you think you know what’s happening in this movie, you DON’T. And just when you realize you don’t, you STILL DON’T.

Great job. Best of the year. And even though Tony doesn’t want me to tell you how much he spent on this one, lemme just say it was less than “Schindler’s List.” In fact, it was less than “Schindler’s Grocery List.”

Nine dead bodies. Two-by-four to the forehead. Steel pipe to the skull. Throat-slitting. Neck-slicing. Kneecap-shooting. Gratuitous foul-mouthed hitchhiking circus clown. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Andrew Porter, as the sneering redneck ringleader, for saying “Living is the key to all knowledge”; Jeff Pillars, as the sleazeball motel owner and rapist who dies by having his mouth and nostrils Super-Glued shut (it’s not a pretty sight); Sean Bridgers, as the kid whose idea of a felony is to sneak up on top of the K-Mart dumpster so he can see the drive-in porno movies for free; Deanna Perry, as the bimbo nympho who says “I was abducted by aliens once–at least I think I was–there was this weekend when I was about 18 years old that I don’t remember nothing about”; and, of course, Tony Elwood, the young whipper-snapper who is well on his way to the Drive-In Hall of Fame.

Four stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.


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Ring of Fire 3 (1993)

This week I’m wondering why those fat, cow-faced husbands on “Oprah” never defend themselves.

You know the guys I’m talking about? They bring out some chunky, ticked-off Jenny Craig dropout with a lab experiment on her head, resulting in Blonde Meltdown, and she says, “Oprah, I found out he was sleeping with three of my best friends, and sometimes all four of them would make love on the couch while I was sleeping in the next room. I had NO IDEA this was going on.”

In other words, they’ll tell this white-trash story that’s purt near impossible to believe, then they’ll ambush the guy by bringing out all the secret girlfriends, and all the time the guys will sit there with his elbows on the arms of his plush daytime talk show studio chair, twiddling his thumbs, grinning like a cheetah at a parrot show.

And all these women will scream for a half hour, and the guys says NOTHING. Nada. Zip. He doesn’t even act like it BOTHERS him that this is happening to him on national TV.

And then, when they finally DO calm down long enough for the guy to say something, he says, “Uh, well, uh, yeah, I guess I did, uh-huh. I guess I, uh, shouldn’t have did that. But I still love Trisha.”

And then the audience screams at him for 15 minutes about how “You don’t love her!” and “You don’t know what love is!” and “You’re a dirty slimeball!”

And the guy STILL just sits there like a catatonic lab animal. And maybe, at the very end, he’ll offer some explanation like, “I couldn’t decide which girl I wanted.”

Where do these guys come from?

I mean, I’ve heard of guys who score a lot. I’ve heard of guys who sleep with a lot of women and don’t have any conscience about it. I’ve even heard of guys who lie to every woman they sleep with. But this is something different.

This is a guy who has a big sign on him: Most Disgusting Male Who Ever Lived. And he’s ENJOYING IT. He’s eating it up. It never occurs to him to say either, “I’m sick,” or else, “I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with having group sex with the neighbors while my wife is sleeping.”

The guy doesn’t say he’s WRONG, and he doesn’t say he’s RIGHT. He just sits there, grinning, twiddling, contemplating his next Dorito. It’s like it’s happening to someone else.

And it’s not like there’s just one of these guys. There’s an UNENDING STREAM. Jerk of the Week. Male Pig of the Century. You could probly call these guys up and say, “Hello, I’m from the Oprah Show, and we think you’re the scummiest human being we’ve ever heard about. Would you like to be on the show?”

And they would just say, “Yep.”

Somebody explain this to me, cause I’m punting.

Speaking of guys who look out of place, Don “The Dragon” Wilson returns this week as the mild-mannered doctor who heals by day, kills by night, and takes on the Italian Mafia AND the Russian Mafia while rescuing his real-life son, Jonathon Wilson, from vicious rednecks, biker gangs and KGB hitmen, while falling in love with Desert-Storm-veteran-turned-forest-ranger Bobbie Phillips, while uttering the minimum amount of dialogue.

Of course, you know what I’m talking about.

I’m talking “Ring of Fire III: Lion Strike.”

They said it could never happen. They said that, after “Ring of Fire Uno,” one of the worst kung fu movies ever made, there could never be even ONE sequel, much less two. But never underestimate Don The Dragon, the Energizer Bunny of martial arts, to keep going, and going, and going, no matter how many times he walks down an alley and is surrounded by six stupid goons in sweatshirts who stand still while he kicks them in the head one by one.

Gangsters from Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bogota, Moscow and, of course, El Lay are meeting in a secret mansion, trying to dominate the world by selling nuclear weapons to the Third World. Unfortunately, Don The Dragon keeps getting in their way by machine-gunning helicopters from the roof of the hospital where he works, kung-fuing hitmen who get in his way while he’s driving home, and going fishing in the mountains with their secret computer disk in his bag. So the Italians and the Russians team up to hunt him down, terrorize his girlfriend, kidnap his little boy, and cause the obligatory face-off in a warehouse at the end.

We’ve seen it all before, but have we seen DON do it before?

As a matter of fact, yes we have.

Thirty-eight dead bodies. No breasts. Exploding helicopter, with fireball. Three motor vehicle chases, with crashes, burns, fireballs. Car through a mobile home. Finger-breaking. Dart to the neck. Strangulation. Exploding cabin, with fireball. Neck-snapping. Eleven Kung Fu scenes. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Robert Costanzo, as the pompous gangster who announces “We are the future of the new world order!”; Bobbie Phillips, as the forest ranger love interest, who says “I feel like I’m closer to heaven up here”; Morgan Hunter, as the Russian mobster who says “That is a very loud smelly man, no?”; C. Nelson Norris, as the ex-KGB hitman who says “The doctor will see his last patient”; and, of course, Don The Dragon, for keeping that torso greased.

Two and a half stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.


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R.I.C.C.O (2002)

There’s a guy named Rico in the movie “R.I.C.C.O.,” except it’s not his real name, and there’s a reason he calls himself Rico, because he’s daring the government to bust him under the RICO statute, except that statute is spelled RICO not RICCO, and when we finally find out what “R.I.C.C.O.” really means, it turns out to be Regional Covert Crime Organization, except that would be spelled RCCO or, at best, RECCO.

Welcome to Detroit filmmaking, where one of the good guys is a loanshark who sells money for two weeks at 100 percent interest and the love interest is a stripper in the skankiest club this side of Tijuana. This is low-budget blaxploitation in the “Shaft” tradition, with Walter Harris as a small-time criminal defense attorney whose life takes a wrong turn the day he gets lost in a warehouse district and notices two guys unloading a bound man from the trunk of their car. (Shortly thereafter, we watch the man executed with a battery cable in an attempt to duplicate the “Reservoir Dogs” ear-hacking torture.)

Pretty soon our dapper counselor is running from two donut- chomping hitmen, playing Strip Trivial Pursuit with the hot honey he rescued from a kidnapping, then going to his cool cousin J.T., who takes a break from shaking down lowlife deadbeats to loan his bro some firearms and give him some advice about the contract that’s been put out on him by Mr. Big, otherwise known, of course, as Rico or R.I.C.C.O. or Reco.

There’s a whole lot of cell-phoning in this movie, which is one of my pet peeves, since every time a cell phone goes off, it sounds like your cell phone is going off, besides which it’s one of the lamest ways to advance the plot since those scenes in screwball comedies where the maid explains why her master is not home yet.

At any rate, if you make a gangster movie in Detroit, you’re bound to be compared to “Action Jackson,” which in my opinion is one of the greatest exploitation flicks ever made, and the producing/writing/directing team of Marcus Canty and Shawn Woodard obviously didn’t have the budget for enough car chases or, for that matter, heroin needles to get the job done. There’s a certain charm to watching scenes that are supposedly set in a diner, where folding tables have been set up along a brick wall, or a topless club that has one dancer and one table, but it only goes so far. The movie also starts out with voiceover narration that is abandoned about halfway through, and the big revelatory final scene depends on someone having a laptop computer available in the warehouse where the gangsters have gone to torture and kill the entire cast–but first let’s check this mysterious computer disk!

They don’t call em exploitation flicks for nothing, do they? I liked it in spite of myself.

Let’s take a look at those drive-in totals. We have:

Fifteen dead bodies. No breasts. Four gunbattles, including one shootout in the dense forests of urban Detroit. Dead-cop- robbing. Battery-cable torture. Three motor vehicle chases. Whiskey-bottle head-smashing. Jelly-donut mugging. Gratuitous Witch Doctor dance, with voodoo dust. Gratuitous romantic flashback. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Sophia Taylor, as the squealing stripper with a heart of lead; Cedric Demps, as the kind loanshark who says “She ain’t no good for ya”; and Walter Harris, as the naive young lawyer who learns to kill (not really).

Two stars. Joe Bob says check it out.


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Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

Last week I was in New York City again, doing research on geek liberals, and I went down to 42nd Street and Times Square to check for slime and found out there’s a full-scale Communist Assault going on, with three of the finest exploitation moviehouses in American about to be condemned, closed up, rebuilt by guys that wear goat beards and wire-rim glasses, and given to gay symphony organizations to make 300 bad PBS specials a year.


The lead Communist is Tony Randall, who came up with this plan where the city of New York is taking away the theaters from their rightful owners, including the one that’s been showin “Three Giant Kung Fu Hits” for the last 10 years.  The city says they’re condemned, but they don’t tear em down.  They give em to lesbian ballet companies to put on shows called Asphalt: A Retrospective.

This kinda thing couldn’t have happened in the golden days of The Deuce.  On the day that MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY premiered, they had to bring in mounted police to control the line that went around the block.  If you’d walked up to those people and said, “Hey, Mayor Koch says you shouldn’t be watchin this stuff.  You need to be attending plays about Vietnam veterans that yell at their mothers all the time and then commit suicide”–if you’d told those people that, I’ll tell you what would of happened.  You would of had some Bernhard Goetz Treatment on every wheelchair-basketball theater company in New York.

But they have been having these hearings for several months now, where Tony Randall comes and talks about the “cultural zone” he’s gonna create where the great 42nd Street theaters used to be, and where Mary Tyler Moore comes and talks about how she just loves Times Square and how she’d like to go on taking people’s money forever for the Broadway shows she puts on about middle-aged women whining at one another, and usually the New York subscribers to the Joe Bob Briggs newsletter show up and sit on the back row and try to get the chairman of the committee to listen to their statistical comparisons of (a) how many people go to those theaters to see SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY and (b) how many people would go to those theaters to see an Iranian acrobatic troupe perform the love theme from DAS BOOT.  You see, the numbers are on our side.

Anyhow, the owners of all the great theaters on The Duece have found a way to fox Tony the Wimp and his tutti-frutti friends.  Since all the old Times Square theaters were built by George M. Cohan and Flo Ziegfeld, the owners have been applying for “historic building” status.  This means that, from now on, the city can’t mess with em.  Koch did get three of em already, though, which means we’re gonna have the “cultural zone” side-by–side right next to the drive-in zone and so we’ll have a chance to see just exactly which form of entertainment the American public really wants.  We got the movies waitin.  Bring on your best North Korean Hand-Puppet Street Mime Midge Music.  We’ll win.

Speaking of zombies on Broadway, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II came out a few days back and had James Karen and Thom Matthews robbing a cemetery in one of the first scenes–even though the already got turned into brain-eating zombies in Part One.  You know, it’s this kind of stuff that makes you not trust the movies anymore, like they hired the guys and then said, “Whoops!  You know what?  The story doesn’t make sense!” but then decided, “Oh well, nobody’ll notice.”  We noticed.  These guys can’t get zombified.  They already got zombified.  It’s like casting John Wayne and Liberace in a 1988 movie.  It wouldn’t be a pretty sight, would it?

Anyhow, what happened is that evidently three or four cans of teh secret zombie gas survived the nuclear explosion at the end of Part One, and now some Bozo Army truck drivers bounce a can of it into a suburb where some little kids open it up and watch it seep into the cemetery, where zombies claw their way up through the dirt and start demanding brain salads.  The only people that can stop the world from being taken over are a 12-year-old, his aerobic-leotard sister, and, of course, a cable TV installer.  Their plan–lure the zombies to an electric power plant by leaving a trail of cow brains, then hose em down, hit the juice, and barbecue em from the gizzards out.

The question you got to ask yourself in any good zombie movie, though, is, “What kills the zombies?”  In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the only thing that’ll kill em is a gunshot to the brain.  In THE EVIL DEAD, you got to have total dismemberment–arms, legs, head, everything.  And I only got one thing to say about these latest zombies–total dismemberment doesn’t work.  You ever try to kill a snake with a hatchet?  That’s what it’s like.

Zombie-rama.  No breasts. (New disturbing trend in horror flicks.)  16 dead bodies.  27 undead bodies.  Head-hacking.  Heads roll.  Hands roll.  Fingers roll. Zombie aerobics..  Multiple brain eating.  Spike through zombie heart.  Shotgun to the zombie face.  First recorded instance of someone’s face being punched out—literally.  Gratuitous aerobics.  Gratuitous pet-eating.  Screwdriver through the ear Fu.  Screwdriver to the throat Fu.  Drive-In Academy Award nomination for Suzanne Snyder, for excellent whining, right up until the moment her brains are chewed up by her boyfriend, and for saying “Joey, I’m not into dead guys”; Philip Bruns, as Doc Mandel, for diagnosing two zombies as having “chronic intractable rigor mortis”; Thor Van Lingen, as Bill the child zombie, for saying “You told, you told, now you die like me”; and Marsha Dietlein, as the Jamie Lee Curtis Survivor, for saying “they’re ugly and they’re dirty and they’re dumb and I don’t even care if the are dead, they’re not touching me.”

Three stars.  Joe Bob says check it out.

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Immortal Combat (1994)

Listen up, hon.

Whoops! I called you HON.

I do this a lot.

I say “hon” so much to women that I probably qualify for some kind of Clarence Thomas scholarship to Bob Roberts University.

Actually, I have to say, I’ve never had a single woman get mad at me for callin’ her “hon,” and I’ve said it to THOUSANDS.

What’s the deal here? Shouldn’t I have at least 37 lawsuits filed against me by now? Shouldn’t I at least get sent to Vassar Sensitivity Training or something?

How can I say “hon” with impunity?

Now I admit, I’ve never tried it out on a 300-pound lesbian bodybuilder, but if I ever MET a 300-pound lesbian bodybuilder, I’m SURE that at some point in the conversation I WOULD call her “hon.”

I can’t help it. I’ve done it all my life. It’s a family thing. It’s a Texas thing. I’ve never been around people who DIDN’T call one another “hon.”

But it’s one of those words that’s being PHASED OUT.

By the time I’m 70, there will be people who will be absolutely APPALLED that I still say “hon.” I mean, there are people who are appalled NOW, but they’re not numerous enough yet. When I’m 70, I’ll be an example of What’s Wrong With This Country. It’s all those Old Guys Who Still Say “Hon.”

The closest I ever got to real trouble is one time when I called Linda Blair “hon” on TV. She acted a little surprised, then CALLED ME “HON” RIGHT BACK!

I think the whole “hon” thing is overrated, myself.

“Hon” is not a putdown, hon.

“Hon” is an American tradition of saying to a woman, “I like you. YOU’RE OKAY.” Just like you say “bud” when you talk to a guy.

Am I the only person who knows these things?

This one I am NOT givin up. The only person I won’t be calling “hon” is an actress I sometimes work with. And the only reason I don’t call HER “hon” is that her name . . . is Honey.

After all, she might get offended. She might think I was SHORTENING HER NAME.

And speaking of women you don’t wanna mess with, Meg Foster is back, she of the cold green eyes and the attitude, scariest woman in the movies. How many movies has she made where she controls an army on a remote island where she’s plotting to take over the world? This time it’s the old story of the ancient Mayan secret of chasing men through the woods until an incredible amount of adrenalin is shooting through their bodies, killing them, injecting them with cortisone and stuffing a plant down their throats, and turning them into unkillable warriors. By the time the movie starts, Meg has already gathered up an army of these Mayan Steroid Monsters, but what she doesn’t count on is Rowdy Roddy Piper and doing body slams on em.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but Piper is the ONLY ex-pro wrestler who can actually act–as Hulk Hogan has proven time after time–and this time he plays a cop who teams up with a grief-stricken Japanese samurai patrolman who accidentally shot his wife to death but lived to fire again, and once he gets to Meg Foster’s island, he teams up with fearless reporter Kim Morgan Greene, who wears a lot of expensive short skirts and stands around the jungle while stuff blows up.

Unfortunately, Meg has captured the most notorious serial killer in history, killed him, shot him up with Mayan steroids, and turned him loose.

Fortunately, he looks like a pro wrestler.

Yes. That’s right. The final scene is just like Wrestlemania VI, but with a lot more full-body impalements and exploding character actors.

Thirty dead bodies. Two breasts. Neck-snapping. Killer Chippendale dancer. Head-butting. Throwing stars to the forehead. Dart to the head. Throat-ripping. Flaming Mayan (it’s not a cocktail). Fifteen Kung Fu scenes. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Meg Foster, as the cold-blooded mad archeologist, for saying “When I close my eyes all men are the same”; Roddy Piper, as the goofball cop, for saying “There is no jurisdiction when it comes to a killer, Captain”; Kim Morgan Greene, as the frigid reporter, for saying “In the future, I’d appreciate you staying out of my business”; Woon, as the ultimate Mayan kung-fu filler, for being named Woon; and Sonny “J.J.” Chiba, as the Japanese samurai cop, for speaking no English but not letting that stop him from doing long scenes of English dialogue, including the line “I love you, but I am a warrior.”

Three stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.



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Rescue Me (1992)

I’ve been reading this best-seller called “Secrets of Seduction: How To Be the Best Lover Your Woman Ever Had,” which right away gets depressing, because it implies that, if you’re reading the book, you already HAVE a woman. Don’t they realize that only LONELY GUYS read books like this?

Anyhow, it’s by this woman named Brenda Venus, which I don’t know about you, but the name sounds like somebody who works with a snake in the Trocadero Lounge in Reno.

But she describes herself as an “actress/dancer/model”–a triple threat–who lives in Beverly Hills and was once “a close friend and confidante of Henry Miller in his later years.” If you know what she means, and I think you do.

Okay. I read the whole dang thing. And here’s my observation about ALL books like this, but especially THIS one.

First of all, it’s too dang much to remember. How can you keep 150 rules in your head? And even if you could, they’re all OPPOSITES.

On one page she tells us dunderhead guys to ALWAYS be perfectly groomed, because there’s nothing that’s more of a turn-off to a woman than a stinkmeister. She says buy those little electric doohickeys that you stick in your nose and ears. She goes into armpits, shaving, hair, cologne–the whole nine yards.

And then, 50 pages later, she says NEVER BE TOO CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE. There’s nothing that’s more of a turn-off to a woman than a guy looking in the mirror and caring what he looks like.

Well, WHICH IS IT, honey?

Another thing she says is, “Never ask permission.” Women don’t like mealy-mouthed weenies mooning around em, waiting for a signal to start kissing.

And then, 50 pages later, she says, “Never do anything until you’re absolutely certain it’s what a woman wants.” But don’t ASK for this information. In other words, you’re supposed to pick it up from her musky scent or something.

To which I say, what if you’re just stupid? What if you go sniff sniff sniff, look into her eyes, and CHOOSE THE WRONG DANG THING? What do you do? Say “Oh, sorry, I thought you were asking me to ravish you. In retrospect, I can see that was the signal to take you out for a ravioli dinner.”

And the book is FULL of this stuff. Send gifts, but don’t send too many gifts. Send flowers, but don’t KEEP sending flowers. Always compliment her outfit, but NEVER say anything you don’t mean. (What if her outfit sucks?) Whenever you’re having dinner, always give her your complete undivided attention, but never STARE at her. (Now I’ll be a basket case: “Whoops! Better change eye position here. She might think I’m STARING.”) Always “act like it’s the first time,” but “be in control.” (Evidently it’s been YEARS since this woman had a “first time.” “Control” is not a word you normally associate with “first time.”)

And my favorite–if she screams at you, it’s because of a hundred things you’ve ALREADY done leading up to the time she screams at you. My question: Why didn’t you scream on the first 99 instead of waiting to nuke me?

In other words, way too complicated for me. If I REALLY started thinking about this stuff, it would be a full-time job.

That’s the point, isn’t it?

A full-time job.

Brenda, you sneaky rascal you.

And speaking of women who know how to wrap you into a pretzel without you ever figuring it out, Ami Dolenz is the star of “Rescue Me,” and this little gal (what is she? four-foot-seven?) is making a whole new B-movie career out of playing the smart-mouth little rich-girl bitch princess. In this flick she’s a cheerleader Prairie Queen at a Nebraska high school who drives the yearbook photographer and school nerd Stephen Dorff crazy every time he sees her. In fact, he starts following her around, taking her picture all the time, until he accidentally gets photos of her being kidnapped by a couple of Beavis-and-Butthead crooks, and pretty soon he’s driving cross-country on a motorcycle with grizzled Vietnam vet Michael Dudikoff, stopping at whorehouses to Grow Up, exchanging a whole lot of gunfire, and basically doing the “Thelma & Louise” thing but without any women along to SCREW IT UP.

The great thing about watching MEN in a road picture is that you know they might do many things, but they would NEVER drive into the Grand Canyon.

It’s a really decent one–kind of an action/adventure/comedy/teen nookie/road movie with a few crying scenes tossed in.

Three dead bodies. One chemistry-lab fire. Four shootouts. One motor vehicle chase, with crash. Gratuitous pep rally. Gratuitous Dee Wallace-Stone. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Ami Dolenz, as the kidnapped cheerleader, for saying “My father will pay a lot for me–he owns the bank” and “So what kind of car do you drive?”; Michael Dudikoff, in one of his best performances, as the Nam vet who says “Now you kissed a girl, kid–the rest is all downhill”; Peter DeLuise, as the dimwit kidnapper who explains why he has an unconscious woman over his shoulder by saying “She just got Rolfed”; Kimberly Kates, as the hooker with a heart of lust, who says “I like watching a man eat good”; and Stephen Dorff, as the yearbook photographer who says “I know exactly who I am! I’m the geek who’s gotten straight A’s since the third grade who still can’t get a girl to kiss him!”

Four stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.


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Repossessed (1990)

Since it’s turkey-hunting season again, I know I’m gonna get major flack from Wanda Bodine as soon as I whip out the old full-choke twelve-gauge, jump into a camouflage jumpsuit, and put on my hat with the little ear flaps.

For the last three, four years, Wanda’s been on this animal-rights binge which includes TURKEYS. Like they’re not gonna die anyway! Like the zoos of America are gonna close because there aren’t enough TURKEYS to look at!

I told her, “Wanda, there is nothing strange or perverted about blowing the head off a gobbler and splattering a little turkey flesh on a tree trunk. The whole country was founded on this principle. The Pilgrims did it.”

But she won’t listen. She thinks a human being with a twelve-gauge shotgun has an ADVANTAGE over a turkey. And I’ve told her, “Wanda, there’s more turkeys that escape than there are getting wasted. We only kill the stupid ones. It’s important that the stupid turkeys die. Darwin said so.”

But you can’t use logic on this woman. So this year I’m gonna set down the complete rules and procedures of turkey hunting so that all you un-American Pilgrim-haters can understand.

1) We don’t chase down the turkeys. No man could move that fast while luggin a beer chest. We sit in a hollowed-out tree log with bushes on our head, and we make a female turkey noise with a little reedy rubber gizmo that sounds like a fat man blowing his nose. If you’re a male turkey, this sounds like a female turkey is saying, “Hey, Rambo, wanna party?” When you hear a gobble, that means a tom turkey is answering back, “I’m gonna clean your transmission, honey”–and, as soon as he gets close to you, you unload both barrels of buckshot and watch him crumple to the earth and bleed to death. In other words, it’s like working Times Square.

2) But let’s say you don’t want a tom turkey. You want a female. Most females are smarter than the males, so about the only ones you have a chance with are the jail-bait female turkeys, the ones that were hatched this spring. You can buy a honker called a “Kee Kee Run” that will make em think they’re going to an M.C. Hammer concert. Sometimes ten or twenty of em will run up to you together, like you’re the New Kids on the Block road manager. You can kill a lot more of these, because they’re smaller. We professional turkey hunters call this the Roman Polanski Technique.

3) But the true turkey-hunting experts want to get old gobblers, the ones that are so old they don’t mate anymore, and so you don’t have a chance using the singles-bar line. They’re just like human old people, though. All they wanna do is sit around and talk to other old turkeys and complain about their children. So what do you do? You make these HORRIBLE yelping sounds, which is what old gobblers sound like when they’re whining, and makes the elderly turkeys think YOU are an elderly turkey, too, and so you MIGHT be willing to listen to him. You’re making these noises that, to the turkey, sound like, “Have I told you about my kidney problem?” And so they slowly wander over to you, but they’re ornery. They don’t trust you. You’ve got to keep talking forever–and it’s worth it, because they’re the biggest turkeys you can kill. And so you throw in stuff like “There hasn’t been any decent music since Tommy Dorsey died,” and “That Sid Caesar–now THERE was a comedian.” And pretty soon the turkey comes over to bore you–only, as soon as he does, he gets three tons of shotgun pellets in his cute little elderly Mr. Grandpa Turkey face.

And Wanda thinks this is cruel to animals.

This is an ART FORM.

And speaking of huge turkeys, “Repossessed” sounded like a great idea: Leslie Nielsen performs an exorcism on Linda Blair. But it’s one of those deals that can’t decide whether it wants to be a pure-dee “Naked Gun” ripoff, with 9,000 sight gags, or have a real honest-to-God comedy plot, and so it’s neither fish nor fowl, turkey nor carp. It’s got some horse laughs in it, but you keep going “Shouldn’t I be laughing again by now?”

I don’t wanna be TOO hard on it, though, because Linda Blair IS the ultimate drive-in star of the eighties. As rassling announcer Gene Okerlund says, “Nice breasts, but a face I wouldn’t wanna wipe my feet on.” (Actually, he doesn’t say breasts. He doesn’t say atomic duffel bags, either, but he should have.)

Actually, even when Linda Blair is spewing vomit all over her family, like she is in this movie, she gets more attention from red-blooded American males than Playboy Playmates do. Whenever we wanna pump up the ratings on my cable show, we show a Linda Blair movie. I’m not kidding. Something about that East German shot-putter look that just drives the guys WILD. For once in my life I’m stumped. I can’t figure it out.

Four breasts. Chunk spewing. Poodle dog ground up in a tree-branch compactor. Fire-breathing. One motor vehicle chase. 745 sight gags. Evian holy water. Gratuitous rap song. Gratuitous Wally George. Gratuitous Jack Lalanne. A 54 on the Vomit Meter. Split pea soup Fu. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Anthony Starke, as the Catholic priest who motivates himself by reading “Believe in Yourself, by Charles Manson”; Bob Logan, the same writer and director who made that timeless video classic “Up Your Alley,” for having the courage to put an Oliver North joke in a 1990 movie; Leslie Nielsen, as Father Mayii, for saying “Luke, remember, when you fall on your face you’re still moving forward”; and, of course, Linda, for caking on the cracked-skin makeup, ratting her hair, puckering up again after all these years, turning herself into a giant ice-cream cone and screaming “Lick me! Lick me!” What an actress.

Two and a half stars. Joe Bob says check it out.


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Joe Bob Briggs is a film critic, writer and comic performer. He has appeared on The Tonight Show , Larry King Live and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” amongst others.

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