Admittedly, there’s not really a theme to this week’s Zombie Club, but when my flatmate recently brought home an ex-rental VHS copy of Radioactive Dreams, a mid-80s post-apocalyptic private detective movie starring Michael Dudikoff and George Kennedy, I just knew it had a place waiting for it at a special Zombie Club evening.
Checking the tape for quality, I then noticed a trailer for another mid-80s mini-masterpiece of maniacal mayhem in the form of Neon Maniacs - featuring 12 mutant maniacs (Slash, Juice, Doc, Decapitator, Archer, Soldier, Axe, Thing, Biker, Mohawk, Hangman and Samurai) on the rampage in San Francisco.
So then, two films that none of us had seen (although Jim claimed he vaguely remembered Radioactive Dreams), both produced in the peak of trash film production, and both distributed in the UK by New Dimension Home Video. Grab your wine glasses, perch yourself on Zomblee’s broken futon and bring on the mid-80s mutants and maniacs…
This evening’s Zombie Club was brought to you by Rawshark and the Mid-80s Trash Preservation Society
Neon Maniacs (1986)
Plot San Fran teens discover homicidal Neon Maniacs, but unfortunately the authorities do not believe their story...
Rawshark Neon Maniacs certainly doesn’t take long to get going. After the obligatory introduction of several disposable teens gathering for a late-night sex and picnic party in the park, our Neon Maniacs soon arrive on the scene for some slice’n’dice action. One girl is decapitated whilst giving a guy a blow-job, a guy gets his foot ripped off (”I don’t understand how that happened, but I’ll go with it” - Zomblee) and the rest of the partying teens are similarly dispatched before the cops arrive on the scene to rescue the one survivor, a girl called Natalie.
However, the authorities are not prepared to believe her story of marauding ghostly Maniacs, so it’s left to Natalie, her dweeb guitarist boyfriend and a funky female film student (who is shooting a vampire flick no less) to team up and take on the gang themselves. And that’s pretty much you lot as far as plot goes, but surprisingly, Neon Maniacs rises marginally above it’s slight storyline to deliver a vaguely engaging movie, that will go down well with anyone who ever owned a pack of Monster Top Trumps.
Highlights include a swimming pool blood shower (”Blood showers are always good” - Jim), a decent subway chase sequence with the Maniacs taking control of a tube train and jumping theatrically out of the train’s doors (”I’m going to do that tonight when I get back to North Greenwich” - Jim), and the end sequence as the Maniacs converge on the Battle of the Bands evening to wreak vengeance on those troublesome teens, who are of course all attending in fancy dress.
It’s no classic by any means, but if you don’t care about plot explanation (at no point do we ever find out who the Maniacs really are, or where they come from), or decent acting, you may well get some enjoyment out of this one. File under interesting curio.
“Has anyone seen my dog?”
Jim "All the shit should drop out now! Apparently your bowels empty and you get an erection when you get hung," offered Rawshark as one unsuspecting teen is unceremoniously strung up over a tree branch, while getting a blow job. Don’t you just love Zombie Club?
Anyway, after the brief opening massacre is over (“It’s very economically done this massacre,” - Zomblee) the plot heads into middle-of-the-movie land, where I thought it took an unexpected twist. Natalie’s freaked at all the stuff she’s just seen and no one believes her because there were no bodies to be found, meaning there are a lot of worried parents out there who are happily freaking Natalie out by calling her house asking to know where their loved ones are. I dug that a lot; it’s not that often you get grieving relatives in slasher movies, so I thought that was a nice touch.
Then things get back to the predictable as we meet film girl and the dweeb guitarist who fancies Natalie (although why he doesn’t fancy the nubile film girl is beyond me). Film girl catches the Neon Maniacs on film in a mid-movie rampage, her and dweeb join forces with Natalie, and then film girl accidentally discovers that the Maniacs’ weakness is water by way of a decent bath melt scene, although I can’t remember how they wangled that into the script. Cue a montage involving water pistols being filled up and what have you, a mad race across the subway involving a sequence where the electric maniac electrifies a turnstile for no reason (“I don’t really know what to say!” - Zomblee), and then the inevitable showdown at a big school dance where – you guessed it – everyone is in fancy dress. Especially the guy dressed as Chewbacca.
So the Maniacs arrive, one-eyed midget frog thing goes on the rampage mumbling to himself constantly (“Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that?” - Zomblee), “swaying red pint girl” gets in the way of the principal cast on the dance floor, we get a few decapitations ( “I hate writing decapitation when I’m pissed” - Rawshark) and then, err, the movie stops as abruptly as it began, leaving lots of head scratching even after we rewound the tape and watched the last 5 minutes again. Nope, don’t really know who the Maniacs were or why they were living in San Francisco bridge (especially since they react to water), but I guess it doesn’t matter.
I can’t even remember what happened to Lt. Devon from the SFPD, even though we all instantly warmed to him in his first scene. Shame that was one of his last too.
“Lt. Devon here, I need more scenes!”
Zomblee It's agreed - Lieutenant Devon didn't get the screen time he so rightly deserved in Neon Maniacs. I was hoping that this character would turn out to be some kind of competition for the mighty Tom Aktins in the mighty Night of the Creeps but alas such competition was never meant to be.
It was actually me who voiced concern over capability of writing the word 'decapitation' when pissed but Jim, as ever, was on hand for helpful advice: "I just write 'decap'!" Makes sense huh? Speaking of decaps, Neon Maniacs features such a demise towards the finale and is notable for, well, I think Rawshark summed it up best, with "Hosepipe decapitation! I've never seen that before!"
Neon Maniacs has just enough going for it to make it worthy of a viewing if you can track it down. The multiple death scene at the beginning is a deftly executed affair, an interesting aspect of which being how silent the murders are, as if the Neon Maniacs are some sort of psychedelic horror ninja deviants. Although connections with the ancient Japanese warriors is highly improbable, you couldn't be blamed for considering it as an option when it comes to trying to figure out just who the hell these Neon Maniacs are, where they come from and why they're going about killing normal law abiding folk. Such is the 80's trashness of this film that the filmmakers fail to offer any sort of explanation for this motley dead bunch's raison d'etre and to be honest, this lets the entire show down in my humble opinion. Rawshark and Jim didn't seem to mind the 80'sness much though, with comments like "I hope the neon maniacs arrive at the next scene on BMX's!" (Rawshark), and "Is she following the green goo trail?" (Jim).
Green goo, bad hair, execrable music, an under-used cop, the black guy from Prince of Darkness and fuck all explanation about anything at all... Neon Maniacs ends up being a little more enjoyable than it should be.
"You called your dog, Dog?"
Director Joseph Mangine
Cast Clyde Hayes
Runtime 91 mins
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Radioactive Dreams (1985)
Plot Two private dicks and two red keys.
Zomblee Rawshark is trying hard: "What's his name? I can't remember his name!" Myself and Jim were quick to respond in unison: "George Kennedy! I can believe you don't know who George Kennedy is!" Unfortunately though, he ain't in this film much.
And so Radioactive Dreams begins. In 1986. With George Kennedy and an apocalyptic nuclear explosion that takes us to 2001 where the American Ninja himself - Michael Dudikoff and John Stockwell from Carpenter's not-so-scary car movie, Christine - are wannabe post-apoc private detectives, having been holed up underground on a strict diet of Raymond Chandler since the big blast. Now it's their time to explore what's on the surface.
Well, as Jim put it, a plot would be a good place to start. Instead, what we have here is an idly meandering piece of 80's trash that refuses us much in the way of, well, just about everything we want from a movie. "You might struggle through the 80'sness of this one man" were Jim's not-so-encouraging words about 15 minutes into this strangely misguided if intermittently amusing experiment. I can tell you little other than it's got something to do with two keys that provide access to the last remaining nuclear bomb. It features a lot of rubbish mutants, my favourite of which were the 'Disco Mutants' - a bunch of very impolite children dressed like John Travolta circa Saturday Night Fever who say 'fuck' as much as humanly possible (see quote at bottom). It's original, if anything, but nowhere near as good as it might sound.
"What's happening with this movie?" Rawshark asked at one point, and Jim was in as little a position to answer as me. Overall, it seemed to comprise hellishly protracted sequences of horrid 80's Bonnie Tyler-style power pop where nothing of note seems to happen onscreen and, according to my notes, this is where we started having a chat about how fucking brilliant Superman 3 is, in particular that wicked woman-robot transformation sequence.
Radioactive Dreams then? George Kennedy isn't in it enough and that's just not on. Company and alcohol is definitely required to get you through to the end of this piece of shit.
"Get out of the vehicle, fuck-face, before I blow your fucking brains all over the fucking car!"
Jim "Oh yeah, you're one slick dick!" said Michael Dudikoff excitedly as Radioactive Dreams opened with your standard post apocalyptic World War III montage, this time also featuring George Kennedy. “There’s gonna be a lot of dick quotes tonight guys!” replied Zomblee, just as excited. Don’t you just love Zombie Club?
Anyway, this movie is about two guys growing up in what I think is a missile silo in the wake of Armageddon. They are really into the pulp detective thing, and their names are Phillip and Marlowe (do you see what they’ve done?) One day for no apparent reason they decide to head outside into the real world, so they take those precious missile silo keys (yes, like the ones in Superman III) and off they go. But the world is not the kind of place they expected it to be at all; it being filled with mutants, bad 80s fashions and little midget guys dressed as Elvis who say “fuck” a lot.
It was Rawshark who was first to realize that this film was “all about the keys…”, and after that some resemblance of a plot kicks in for a bit as the assorted weirdoes of this bizarre world all attempt to steal the keys from the boys. At first they use cheap magic tricks to get out of tricky situations (“One of the keys was behind his ear all the time…” - Rawshark) but before long they’re surrounded. Is all hope lost?
“No breasts so far.” pointed out Zomblee. “Yeah, but they still have discos!” offered Rawshark. “Where the fuck is George Kennedy?” Funny you should ask that Zomblee, here his is now dressed in a lizard costume, just in time for the final shootout; a sequence which Rawshark described as “it’s suddenly gone good for a second.”
And that’s the problem, it’s all just a bit too weird, too 80s and too not-enough-George-Kennedy for my liking. Still, nice to finally get Michael Dudikoff to a Zombie Club, and I hope we see him again in a more crappy action movie type role soon.
“I’m George Kennedy, from the Airport films.”
Rawshark It promised so much, yet delivered so little. Ok, so the opening sequence to Radioactive Dreams is fairly post-apocalyptic cliché but still pretty good, what with text on screen setting the scene, flashbacks to stock footage of nuclear explosions, and a voice-over from our two heroes, all filmed in a nice silver / sepia sheen. And then the doors open unto the new world, the ’Atomic Dicks’ roll their car forward into the barren landscape and it all goes downhill from there.
The two detectives soon pick up a girl, she nicks their gun, there’s some kind of car chase and our heroes thwart two sweary kid Elvis’ before making their way to a totally rad disco that plays tunes that sound like Shakin’ Stevens. ”I had the tape Shaky!” revealed a perhaps over-enthusiastic Zomblee at that point. You know a film’s in trouble when the audience starts talking about Shakin’ Stevens.
Other stuff slowly happens, there’s a love scene interrupted by Danny from Withnail and I (not really, but it sure looked like him), and then some giant dog appeared, before quickly disappearing again. ”I think this film was written in 20 minutes” said Zomblee. ”I think this film was filmed in 20 minutes” replied Jim, and I think he has a fair point.
With only 20 minutes left, George Kennedy (I will not forget his name again ever!!) finally pops up again dressed as a lizard. Zomblee and Jim are rewarded with a brief glimpse of tits (”Hello! Tits!””), and all three of us cheer for the only time during the film when we treated to some slow-motion footage of George Kennedy firing a machine gun. It’s not enough to save a movie though, so instead the key / nuclear weapon storyline is quickly wrapped up in favour of dance sequence of our two insipid ‘Atomic Dicks’ dancing the Post-Nuke Shuffle. ‘Nuff said.
”Fuck this shit”
Director Albert Pyun
Cast John Stockwell
Paul Keller Galan
Runtime 98 mins
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Well, you can’t have every film at Zombie Club being a classic, and Radioactive Dreams certainly proved that point tonight. Despite featuring ‘Jim favourite’ Michael Dudikoff and whats-his-name (oh, yeah, George Kennedy), the movie seemed to be more concerned with discos that devastation, and no-one really wants to see a post-apocalyptic musical production now do they?
Neon Maniacs on the other hand proved to be a fairly enjoyable romp through 80s trash cliché, and despite their weakness for water (”Why not just piss on them” was one of Jim’s more helpful lines of encouragement during the climactic dance hall stand off), the Maniacs looked pretty cool, and it’s a small shame we never got to see them again. Neon Maniacs 2 anyone..?
Coming Soon: It’s another 4-film epic – as Jim lines up four classics that all feature the word ‘Force’ in their title.