Most of us already know that there is nothing like a good movie. There is also nothing like a good bad movie, but it takes a special kind of bad to make one good enough for my particular, already-far-too-drastically-low standards. Fortunately, there are companies like Synapse Films - who not only specialize, but excel at releasing a variable assortment of venerable b-movies from all walks of life (or living death, perhaps). Under scrutiny here are three of Synapse's older releases, which I sat on for a really long time before a recent move unearthed them - much like the films themselves pretty much did before Synapse got a hold of them.
First, and perhaps most notably, we have 1988's Red Scorpion, starring the one and only Dolph Lundgren. Made after the famous Swedish action star made a killing in Rocky IV (ha-ha, the funny!) and prior to his descent into direct-to-video features that were far worse than anything he helmed in the '80s, he took on this cult favorite - which could best be described (in a rather unflattering way) as "Dolph Lundgren's Missing in Action". Heck, the title even has the same director and co-star, M. Emmet Walsh! But the onscreen violence and language - not to mention the overall campy, what-the-fuck-where-they-on? aura the moving picture emits is much more euphoric.
Here, the Dolph is a Soviet special forces fellow who gets sent into one mess after another in Africa, and is eventually tortured by his own commanding officers when his mission goes tits-up. Escaping, he befriends a local bushmen tribe, who sort of adopt him. OK, so maybe it's "Dolph Lundgren's A Man Called Horse" instead. Eventually, our disgraced hero regains his strength and joins the very people he was originally sent in to destroy - wherein it becomes "Dolph Lundgren's Rambo". Either way you slice this guilty pleasure from Joseph Zito class-ick, though, it's still Grade-A Swedish meatball cheese. (Ew.)
Synapse presents Red Scorpion in a previously-unseen extended, international cut of the film, which features more bloody effects by gore guru Tom Savini. The Blu-ray/DVD combo also boasts a number of special features that contain tawdry reminiscing by various cast and crew, as well as other more-than-you-would-think-a-title-like-this-should-get extras - which Synapse included with great care.
Next up is another war flick. Stryker's War, to be precise - better known to some under the alias Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except. Originally conceived as a shot-on-Super-8 calling card to investors with a then-unknown guy named Bruce Campbell (who was also one of the story's co-writers) as the lead, the project morphed into a feature-length tale of a group of ex-Marines who wind up going head-to-head with a bloodthirsty gang of rampaging cultists - two of whom just happen to be former big-shot director Sam Raimi and his ever-present brother, Ted. Did I mention the makers of this one - Josh Becker and Scott Spiegel - are close friends and/or regular colleagues of the aforementioned moviemaker and his projects?
Synapse brings this outrageous low, low-budget homemade action flick (which actually received a limited theatrical release in 1985, before finding a place - as well as fanbase - on home video in 1987) in a startlingly stunning presentation wherein they went far beyond anyone's expectations. Naturally, they upped the ante with a number of special features, including two audio commentaries, a making-of retrospective featurette, an interview with Mr. Campbell, two excised/alternate scenes, trailer and - wait for it - the original Super-8 short film that inspired the whole bloody affair to be commissioned in the first place. Yup.
And, since we're on the subject of short films that inspired outrageous feature length versions of same, our last entry on this list is the Special Meltdown Edition of the almost-impossible-to-believe 1987 gorehound's dream-come-true, Street Trash. Here, the demented duo of Roy (Document of the Dead) Frumkes and James Muro handcuff our hands to theirs and lead - nay, force - us into the furthest recesses of all that is sleazy and impure. The movie begins with a liquor store owner in a total slum neighborhood discovering an old case of Viper - a cheap-ass wine even as far as cheap-ass wines go - and putting them out for sale at a buck apiece.
Trouble is, this particular batch of Viper is way past its sell-by date, as anyone who consumes it is doomed to a particularly nasty, messy, and horrific death. Those who do partake of it either meltdown or explode - leaving their own remaining ooze volatile and dangerous enough to start the cycle anew on anyone it lands on. Ick, right? Well, fortunately (?), writer Frumkes keeps things fresh (!) by adding in such noteworthy and definitely memorable moments such as gang rape, necrophilia, a bloodthirsty crazed Vietnam vet who rules over the slums, and another segment where the aforementioned individual hacks off a homeless bum's manhood and the entire neighborhood joyously toss it around while the victim of said procedure attempts to retrieve it.
Oh, did I mention that this is a comedy? It should go on the record that Frumkes himself once went on the record to state that he deliberately made this one as disgusting as he could. Interestingly, a young Bryan (X-Men) Singer worked as a grip on the title, though there's no confirmation as to whether or not he kept the penis prop. James Lorinz (star of Frankenhooker!) shines above all in a minor role as a wisecracking doorman here, and fortunately, there's a special feature of outtakes with him adlibbing like mad. Synapse goes the extra mile by even more bonus materials, including a feature-length documentary for the very film that made me have to watch Cannibal Holocaust immediately afterward, just to get the bad taste out of my mouth.
Now that's bad - but oh-so-good.