Every other week, The A.V. Club offers a look at a film that slipped through history's cracks, perhaps with good cause. Here are some of that feature's most memorable installments, plus some recently unearthed information on the films themselves.
Director: Robert S. Fiveson
Also Known As: Parts: The Clonus Horror, The Clonus Horror
Tagline: "The only thing they don't use is the scream."
Plot: At a sinister compound in California, a group of clean-cut, well-muscled, dim-witted clones prepare for their eventual trip to a paradise called "America" by jogging, doing push-ups, wrestling, and generally behaving like overgrown summer campers, while lab-coated science types in front of rows of blinking lights and primitive computers monitor their every move. The cloneketeers' elaborate ruse begins to falter, however, when a curious clone (Tim Donnelly) stumbles upon an empty beer can marked with the enigmatic word "Milwaukee." This sends Donnelly on a journey of discovery, and while scavenging for information, he fortuitously happens upon an orientation video with a brief history of the cloning operation, right down to its use of lobotomies to wipe out the plague of individuality. He also learns that he is to provide spare parts for a cantankerous old professor. Surely only evil scientist Dick Sargent (or possibly Dick York) could execute such a diabolical plan. Donnelly flees the compound, only to discover that America is not the gleaming utopia he was promised, but rather a scuzzy, low-rent 'hood full of porn shops. Donnelly seeks his "other part" and blows the whistle on the secret lab, but ends up chilling in the deep freeze back at the clone farm anyway.
Key scenes: Before leaving for "America," one clone's mate robotically intones sweet nothings like "I've grown accustomed to you. I like having you touch me." At a Sargent-led class, the clones watch a slide show informing them what to expect in paradise; it ends with the cryptic phrase "America: The happiness of your New World forever!" The same slide show also suggests that "America" is occupied solely by psychotically happy folks clad in white.
Can easily be distinguished by: It's that movie where clones behave like mildly retarded fitness buffs.
Sign that it was made in 1979: The Farrah Fawcett hair of female lead Paulette Breen and the prominence of goons in dope tracksuits.
Timeless message: Always maintain a healthy level of skepticism, as a promised glorious future might in fact be a clone-farm holding container.
Memorable quotes: At his going-away party, a guileless clone wishes that all the revelers will soon "be joining me in America, for that is where good friends live and are always happy." —Nathan Rabin
UPDATE: Time may have forgotten Clonus, but Michael Bay and company did not. At least that's the contention of an ongoing lawsuit filed against the makers of the 2005 film The Island, who allegedly lifted key plot elements from Clonus. Hey, at least someone wants credit for The Island.
(Available on DVD from Mondo Macabro.)
Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare (1987)
Director: John Fasano
Tagline: "Sex, Death And Rock 'N' Roll!"
Plot: A child living in a Canadian farmhouse watches his parents get killed by what seem to be possessed kitchen appliances. Years later, a remarkably well-behaved heavy-metal band called The Tritonz, led by long-haired muscleman Jon Mikl Thor (who also scripted and produced the film), retreats to the same farmhouse to finish its latest album. But The Tritonz's creative efforts are interrupted by a monster that looks like a cross between E.T. and an erection. Possessing one of the band members' girlfriends through the classic "drooling in her cup when she's not looking" technique, evil forces begin to take down one rocker after another.
Key scenes: Apart from the absence of drugs stronger than Canadian beer, the film offers a believable portrayal of the recording process, with the musicians dividing their time among composing, performing, and having sex. Sadly, this means they never leave the house to confirm one member's claim that "Toronto's where it's happening, man: the music, the film industry, the arts!" In fact, the band is slow to respond to everything, including its manager's disappearance. (One Tritonz member notes, "I'm sure Phil's not dead or anything, or he would have called.") After the demonic midget interrupts the music-video-like recording sessions and badly simulated sex, Thor reveals that it's all been an elaborate ruse: He's actually an archangel trying to lure the devil into a fight.
Can easily be distinguished by: It's the movie where all the monsters look like they were left over from other projects.
Sign that it was made in 1987: A traditionalist to the core, Thor spends a quiet moment enjoying a can boldly emblazoned with the "Coca Cola Classic" label.
Timeless message: If you are the devil, be careful which heavy-metal bands you pick on, because some members might be archangels in disguise.
Memorable quotes: Announcing his post-coital plans, The Tritonz's inexplicably Australian bassist states, "I'm jes' gonna go shake the monkey and drain the dragon." —Keith Phipps
UPDATE: As crazy as it sounds, 2005 will see the DVD release of Intercessor: Another Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare, again starring Canadian strongman/metal god Jon Miki Thor. Full details can be found at intercessormovie.com.
The Apple (1980)
Director: Menahem Golan
Also known as: Star Rock
Plot: In the far-future year of 1994, gold lamé, helmets, and underwear-as-outerwear are everywhere, and disco—which apparently merged with glam rock and Rollerball during some lost night in the Studio 54 men's room—is plowing ahead, stronger than ever. Enter a pair of Canadian innocents (Catherine Mary Stewart and George Gilmour), first seen performing an unbearably treacly ballad called "Love, The Universal Melody." Their act brings them into the shadowy orbit of satanic super-agent Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal), around whom orgies and/or Vegas-style production numbers (featuring clowns, little people, and/or magicians) are constantly threatening to break out. Of course, an epic battle between good and evil ensues.
Key scenes: Sheybal takes the young lovers to what appears to be a Broadway version of hell, where Stewart is serenaded by a strapping, g-string-clad fellow who sings the immortal couplet "It's a natural, natural, natural desire / To meet an actual, actual, actual vampire." Gilmour experiences a psychedelic disco freak-out after his drink is drugged and he encounters scores of homely transvestites rendered in trippy kaleidoscope vision. Then he falls in with a tribe of cave-dwelling hippies, reunites with and impregnates the chastened Stewart, and is led into an extraterrestrial paradise by a white-suited supreme being, in what's either the best or worst ending of all time.
Can easily be distinguished by: This may be the only musical in history that's gayer than Can't Stop The Music and Myra Breckinridge combined.
Sign that it was made in 1980: The strange belief that disco and Vegas would dominate the fashion world for decades to come.
Timeless message: Before selling their souls to evil incarnate, viewers should contemplate the disadvantages as well as the advantages.
Memorable quotes: At one point, Stewart sings "America, the land of the free / Is shooting up with pure energy / And every day she has to take morrrrrre—speed!" in what's either a peppy tribute to the nation's vitality, or a bleak warning about its apparent meth addiction. —Nathan Rabin
UPDATE: Here's how the cast and crew actually spent 1994:
Menahem Golan (Director): Directing Deadly Heroes, starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Billy Drago.
Catherine Mary Stewart ("Bibi"): Filming the TV movie Out Of Annie's Past, co-starring Family Ties hunk Scott Valentine, for the USA Network.
George Gilmour ("Alphie"): The Apple is Gilmour's only film credit. He shone once, but shone brightly.
Vladek Sheybal ("Mr. Boogalow"): Dead.
Karate Bear Fighter (1977)
Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Plot: Fresh off his triumph killing a bull barehanded in the aptly titled Karate Bull Fighter, Sonny Chiba returns as a renegade martial artist who runs afoul of the violence-hating head of a fighting academy, then becomes the bodyguard for a mobster, only to turn on his boss. Like all pacifists, the head of the karate school inevitably reveals himself to be a deranged sex fiend who kills one of Chiba's friends during an attempted sexual assault. Chiba gets revenge by seriously injuring the offending teacher, and later befriends the wide-eyed son of an injured drunk. To raise money for the boy's family, Chiba agrees to delve back into the shadowy world of inter-species bloodshed by going one-on-one with a big old bear. Chiba kills the bear with his bare hands, then finishes his mission of vengeance, taking another bold stand against pacifism by killing the fighting academy head's brother.
Key scenes: The film opens with Chiba putting the smackdown on a bull as rambling narration explains that he was expelled from Japan's Karate Circle, forcing him to seek "the true art of karate by himself," adding, "he was trying to make his fists the world's strongest." When the karate academy head's brother takes over the school, he illustrates just how much its attitude towards violence has changed by beating the crap out of all of his students for no discernible reason beyond blind rage. Also, there's some hot man-on-bear violence.
Can easily be distinguished by: It's the movie where Sonny Chiba fights a bear.
Sign that it was made in 1977: Chiba's look during his high-rolling bodyguard days—long sideburns, big sunglasses, a flashy white suit with a matching long coat—can only be described as "Late Elvis."
Timeless message: Never trust anyone who speaks out against violence.
Memorable quotes: The goody-two-shoes head of the karate academy self-righteously informs Chiba, "A fight that ends in blood is out of date. Karate is a clean sport to help young men grow up strong." —Nathan Rabin
UPDATE: May have inspired the man-on-bear violence of the David Mamet-penned 1997 film The Edge. To date, neither Yamaguchi, Chiba, nor the bear have filed a Clonus-style suit.
Director: Frank Kramer (a.k.a. Gianfranco Parolini)
Also known as: Big Foot, Yeti: The Giant Of The 20th Century
Plot: When a block of ice washes up off the coast of Newfoundland, a brilliant scientist (John Stacy) and the grandchildren of a wealthy, badly dubbed industrialist (Eddie Faye) are delighted to discover that it contains the frozen body of a giant ape-man. Although it looks like an oversized hippie in an unfinished ape suit, Stacy informs all who will listen that it's actually a yeti (or, to Americans, Bigfoot). To bring the yeti back to life, Stacy hoists it into the air with a helicopter. When the plan goes predictably awry, the yeti angrily forces the helicopter down. After kidnapping Faye's grandchildren—comely Phoenix Grant and mute Jim Sullivan—the yeti decides to be cool, not act so uptight, and let Stacy take him to Toronto.
Key scenes: As a sign that he's bonded with his kidnap victims, the yeti signals for Grant to comb his hair with the bone of a giant fish. Having apparently dated many men who've liked to have their hair fish-combed, Grant huffs, "Men, they're all the same." Later, when the yeti shows up in Toronto, he's greeted with a confusing display of enthusiasm, including footage from a parade that appears to have nothing to do with his arrival, and of a screaming crowd of people inexplicably wearing Toronto Blue Jays caps. When his handlers' decision to let him loose on the top of a skyscraper proves ill-considered, the yeti terrorizes his new hometown with a frightening rampage of rear-projection window-smashing and slow-motion attacks on model buildings. He also displays his power to heal Sullivan's mortally injured dog with his saliva, and to change size from shot to shot.
Can easily be distinguished by: Apart from a score that borrows liberally from Carmina Burana while adding Yeti-specific lyrics, Frank Kramer's directorial signature is his frequent, creepy use of shots of the pint-sized Sullivan as seen through the yeti's hairy legs.
Sign that it was made in 1977: Sullivan's little-boy-in-a-bow-tie look may have been a short-lived '70s fashion statement, or it might just suggest he's a twerp.
Timeless message: Tampering with the forces of nature seldom works out well. Also, yetis are better left frozen.
Memorable quotes: Grant may edge out Chief Seattle as environmentalists' bumper-sticker-motto generator of choice, thanks to her eloquent farewell to her yeti friend: "This world is not for you. Go back to the wilderness, to the mountains, where life is like you knew it." —Keith Phipps
UPDATE: The yeti was never seen again. Please e-mail email@example.com with any yeti sightings. Suggested subject line: "I've seen the yeti."