Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Exact change only.

It was April 15th and it was a lovely 72 degrees in Los Angeles that Saturday afternoon, and I would've been able to enjoy it, were I not at that moment driving down Melrose Ave -- a particularly shitty stretch of city street with a right lane that every other block or so alternates between drive-able road and literal parking space.

Drivers like me who know better stick to the left lane, while those on the right lane wait for the last possible moment to switch onto the left in a panic, either because they're new to Melrose and weren't aware of what waited ahead of them, or the much more aggravating reason: Because they're assholes in a rush, switching back and forth to get past as many cars as possible just so they can get to their unimportant destination even faster, so that they have more time to do nothing.

I wish I could crash into these children of God, pull the dazed fucks out of their vehicle, and calmly tell them that mine is a daily battle to maintain good vibes towards my fellow humans while accepting all their frailties, because I too am human, so I too exhibit faults. But you know what fault I don't have? Driving like an inconsiderate piece of shit. And it takes so much of my life force to forgive flippant scumbags like them who with their flippant scumbaggery are needlessly causing me to waste this precious energy I'd otherwise save for the truly appreciative. 

Then I'd throw them onto the path of an oncoming bus in the opposite lane and watch the bus explode that person's body, showering the entire Melrose District in blood, bone, piss, shit, viscera, and fast fashion. Then horrified onlookers would notice my joy and have the unmitigated gall to call me a monster -- which I would then justify by grabbing and shoving them onto the path of other oncoming buses, and before their brief painful transfer from this miserable world into Oblivion, those people would learn the most important lesson of all: Don't be judgmental on Bus Day. 

But I didn't have time for any of that, because I was on my way to Fairfax Ave, to what used to be known as the Cinefamily's Silent Movie Theater, a pretty awesome place up until it became known that the men in charge did with their authority as most men in charge do with their authority: Abuse the fuck out of it in a sex-type way. (I would've done something about it myself, except the buses weren't running that day.) 

The place closed down for a few years, but has since returned under new ownership and management, and has been re-moniker'd Brain Dead Studios, after the clothing company behind it. One can only hope that the Brain Dead crew will come correct as human goddamn beings for the time being. But because I assume everybody is a secret scumbag, I figure we'll have a few good years of great times before brand new bombshells drop onto this regime.  

What I found upon arrival was the same building but with a totally different look, feel, and vibe inside and out -- even the staff seemed friendlier. But to be fair, I was a lot more standoffish back in the Cinefamily era, whereas this time I walked in with a cheery disposition, which might explain why my interactions were more pleasant with the employees as I asked about the parking situation and as I bought candy at the snack bar to help me with the later hours of this marathon. 


Oh yeah, I forgot: I was here for CyberJunk, a 12-hour movie marathon of low-budget science-fiction fare  from the 1980s, presented on 16mm film prints, thanks to Secret Sixteen's Mike Williamson who presents features in that format at various cinemas all throughout the Southland. Each film was a mystery title that we wouldn't know about until it actually screened, and the cherry on top of this sundae was that the marathon would begin at 2pm and end by 2am; as I learned from last year's Sunshine and Noir marathon at the Aero Theatre, the only thing better than an all-night marathon is an all-day marathon, especially when you're old like me.

Because I had arrived early, I walked around the premises to take in the new era; upstairs was a shop featuring Brain Dead clothing as well as vinyl records for sale, and in the back was Slammers Cafe, a nice shaded outdoor patio area where one could step out to have a Vietnamese iced coffee or avocado toast, among other eats and treats. 

I then sat down and passed the time silently judging each new person who walked in, until Williamson went up on stage, joined by Josh Miller from Friday Night Frights, and Bret Berg from AGFA and the Museum of Home Video. We were told that all the films -- except for one borrowed from a friend -- were from Williamson's collection. We were also told that they normally hold a horror movie marathon in October, and while that will continue, they will also continue to have marathons in the Spring focusing on other genres, joking that they were looking into showing dramadies and 1930s Westerns.

Williamson then talked about how the 1980s were his favorite era when it came to the visual representation of fantasy on film; this was the height of the use of animatronics, models, and matte paintings, all of it done directly by hand, rather than programmed into ones and zeroes. The films that we were about to watch, he said, were examples of filmmakers who had meager budgets to execute their grand visions, but nevertheless did their best to make it work.

Before the film, we were treated to a pre-show consisting of trailers for Tron, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Return of the Jedi (under the original title "Revenge of the Jedi"), Endangered Species, The Visitor, and Galaxy of Terror

Following that was a curious short film from the 1950s titled "Bitter End", starring a young DeForest Kelley as a man who is out of work, out of money, and he's about to be out on his ass for not paying his overdue rent. There's only one thing left for him to do: Commit suicide. He turns up the gas on his stove and waits for the sweet smell of death to take him, only to be interrupted by a telegram from the gas company: Due to his unpaid bills, the gas has been shut off. Then he looks at the camera and laughs, saying "What do you know? I can't even afford to die!" and that's it, fade to black.

We were told that the first mystery film was directed by someone who recently passed away, and who in his career put out so many dystopian low-budget fare in the 80s and 90s, he could very well be considered "the king of Cyberjunk". The late director in reference turned out to be Albert Pyun, and the film in question was 1989's post-apocalyptic kick-puncher Cyborg, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. 

It's a shame that this print -- which otherwise looked and sounded great -- cuts off the first half of the opening narration, because it's that narration that makes this one of my all-time favorite openings to a film; the narrator tells us about how civilization has collapsed and a plague has decimated the population, but now there's news that work has begun on a cure. Except it turns out that the narrator doesn't want there to be a cure, because the narrator is in fact, the hero of this film (in my humble opinion), who makes it very clear by screaming "I like the death. I like the misery. I LIKE THIS WORLD!"

His name is Fender, and he's played by Vincent Klyn, who makes quite the visual impression with his jacked bod and creepy-looking eyes that he hides behind a pair of wraparound sunglasses that he only takes off when he's about to fuck somebody up. As he said in the narration, and as he says again a couple minutes later to a soon-to-be-victim, he sees a silver lining in the deaths of billions of people, and that's why I totally relate to Fender as a fellow misanthrope. 

Hell, I'm really just a diet & exercise regimen and a pair of sunglasses away from becoming Fender. I mean, we can all pretend the pandemic is over but it's probably just doing what comic book villains do when they get defeated -- declare that this isn't the last time we'll see them. And so, now that the virus gods have seen what we are willing to sacrifice -- which is to say, very little in the grand scheme -- they're gonna come back and fuck our asses harder than the Iron Sheik in Humble mode. And once this world is decimated by the remix, that's when I go into Fender mode. 

(In the meantime, I'm taking applications for anyone who wants to be part of my gang. But understand that I will occasionally have to kill one of you as punishment for failure, and as way to show others that I mean business.)

In the way of Fender's plans is what the film and everybody else who watches this movie has wrongly designated the "hero", and that is Van Damme's character Gibson, who's some asshole all in his feelings because my boy Fender killed Gibson's wife and kid -- sparing the world more humans who will just take up space and use their phones in a movie theater. So he's on a mission of vengeance, following my dude as he and his crew forcibly escort the titular cyborg from New York to Atlanta, because her cyber-cranium contains important info that could help a group of doctors in the land of Coca-Cola and the '96 Summer Olympics find a cure to the plague. 

Oddly paced and edited fight scenes ensue, but they're enjoyable because they break the dreariness involving sad-ass Van Damme's monotonous attempts to emote. He doesn't have that much dialogue to begin with, and yet, even scenes of him just staring felt like work to get through, and maybe someone with a little more acting ability -- or hell, Van Damme a few years later, once he started doing coke -- could've made the non-action scenes less of a slog. But like I said, every time he stops being a morose mope and starts putting foot to ass -- in slow motion and multiple angles -- everything feels all right.

The other problem is the same problem I have with many of Pyun's films; they're just sometimes too downbeat. It's why I prefer his more upbeat work, like Alien from L.A. or Brain Smasher: A Love Story. I feel he often mistook abject misery for Drama, which would often result in an oppressively bleak tone that dampened any possible enjoyment. I always wondered if Pyun's favorite entry from the Alien series was the third one, simply because of how it begins and ends.

Otherwise this is an OK Z-movie given some aesthetic punch by Pyun, who in collaboration with his cinematographer, production designer and costume department, sometimes make the film look and feel like a live-action Fist of the North Star. The bad guys in particular scream Generic Post-Apocalyptic Anime, while the main bad guy just screams -- specifically during the rainy climax where Fender and Gibson face off.

That's the best part of the whole movie, by the way, and honestly, while I might not recommend watching the entire film, I do feel the climax is well worth looking up online. I doubt I'll ever watch this film again, but I am interested in watching Pyun's director's cut, titled "Slinger", and which reflects his original vision of the film before Van Damme and his partner Sheldon Lettich recut it. 

In conclusion, the screenplay is credited to Pyun's cat, Kitty Chalmers. They say if you put a hundred monkeys in a room with a hundred typewriters, eventually one of them will write the works of Shakespeare. But give one cat a computer, and you'll get Cyborg.


During the break, I went to Slammers Cafe; my strategy for movie marathons is to go in with an empty stomach, sticking only to water and black coffee, so as to limit discomfort and/or sluggishness. I usually wait until the last couple movies to indulge with snacks and sugary drinks. But because this was an all-day marathon, I decided to indulge a tiny bit of the sweet along with my caffeine fix, and so, for the first time in my life, I had Sno-Caps, the little chocolate drops with nonpareils of sugar on them. I loved them, and can't believed I waited so long to finally get around to trying them out.

I then returned to my seat, chomping on Sno-caps and sipping on a hot Americano, while Williamson introduced the second movie by telling the audience that it was the one he was most excited to watch with us. He said that it came out in 1989 -- the same year that Cyborg was released -- and had a decent rollout of 500 screens in the United States, only to crash and burn at the box office, opening at number 12. He excitedly told us about how it represented all the things he loves about lower-budgeted sci-fi; models, robots, and opticals, as well as a strong hook that reminded him of something you'd see on "The Twilight Zone". 

The second film was Millennium, directed by Michael Anderson of Logan's Run and Around the World in 80 Days fame, and written by John Varley, who adapted from his own short story "Air Raid". It stars Kris Kristofferson as Bill, an investigator for the NTSB who arrives at the scene of a fatal jetliner crash, where he listens to the black box recording and sifts through the wrecked remains, and more importantly, makes the carnal acquaintance of lovely ticket agent Louise (Cheryl Ladd). 

This entire section is both intriguing in regards to the investigation of the plane crash, and amusing in the casual way Bill and Louise get to know each other, flirt, and eventually hook up -- mostly because Louise is fast-forwarding to the good parts, so to speak. There's a moment that has to be an improv by Kristofferson; as he and Louise walk off together, his hand hovers over her ass as if were about to give it a nice grab, before finally moving away. The audience had a real laugh at that.

So Bill and Louise get down, and the following morning, she disappears from his hotel room, which I'm certainly used to having happen to me; every woman I've slept with leaves in such a rush afterward, and they're usually crying and muttering things like "I hope my friends don't find out" or "How could I have been so desperate" or "I'd never seen one that small before" and I have no idea what any of that means, but you try making sense out of drunk talk. Then I try calling them back and they're like "oh I forgot I'm lesbian thank you goodbye". Fickle-ass broads.

But to Bill, it's an unpleasant and unnerving surprise; he likes this lady and now she's gone. So now he has three mysteries to solve: What happened on-board that ill-fated flight, where the hell's his chick, and what's with this weird silver handheld contraption with blinking lights that he just found in the wreckage? To say more would be spoiling this 30-plus year-old movie, but suffice it to say, it turns out that Louise is from the future -- and the future's environment is all kinds of fucked up. (Thanks Republicans!)

The story plays out as if we were watching three consecutive short films -- all of them very entertaining. The first plays out like a mystery/romance, the second is post-apocalyptic future shock as we see the world Louise comes from, and the third is a fun time-travel flick where we revisit the events of the first third of the film from a different perspective. The structure kept me interested in seeing where the filmmakers were going with this, giving just enough info with each passing minute to prevent me from getting impatient or confused. 

Sidebar: If you're a fan of undercover Canadian productions that try to pass themselves off as being all-American, then put this film on your watchlist. Sure, for the leads, you have Kris Kristofferson, who is a true American hero, and you have Cheryl Ladd, who is a true American beauty, and you have Daniel J. Travanti, who played a true American pig on "Hill Street Blues". But our red, white, and blue trio are an island of Freedom surrounded by a sea of socialized maple syrup in the form of Canuck character actors who at one time or another have appeared in either a David Cronenberg or Atom Egoyan film, or at the very least attended a dinner party with either or both in attendance. 

Anyway, this played well with the crowd, we laughed at funny moments both intentional and unintentional. I think the unintentional laughs came from this feeling like a 1950s science-fiction movie, and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways, because there are plenty of classic sci-fi films of that era that remain great while being hilariously dated in one way or another, and they usually present outlandish scenarios that are played out in the most ultra-serious manner by everyone involved. Even the opening title of this film looked and felt like something from a 50s drive-in flick; it comes flying towards the screen while the music score blares in a style usually reserved for Quatermass joints.

As for the intentional laughs, they came mostly from the interplay between Bill and Louise, and I think the best compliment I can give those characters is that I would have liked to have seen them in a different movie, or a slightly different movie, like maybe she's just a time traveler who goes to 1989 for fun, you know, she just wants to shack up with a real man's man like Kristofferson while smoking all the cigarettes and driving like some scumbag on Melrose. There's also an android from the future named Sherman (Robert Joy) whose quite the sassy backtalker to Louise, and I always got a kick out of watching them together as well.

I remember this film playing on cable all the time in the early 90s, but for some reason I always ignored it, which is weird because sci-fi was my peanut butter & jam back then. Maybe I wanted a little more jazz from my sci-fi, or maybe I looked at Kristofferson and Ladd and thought to myself "who the fuck are these oldsters?" But that's all on me, I was being a little shit and I'm pretty sure I would've dug Millennium back then, had I given it a chance.

Which brings me back to Williamson's intro to the film; he admitted that the benefit of programming Millennium as part of the marathon is that he has a captive audience, whereas if he had given this film its own separate screening, there would be very little turnout. I believe he's right, because if I didn't bother watching this for free from the comfort of my own couch 30 years ago, I probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble of dealing with L.A. traffic in order to catch this movie on the big screen today. So I'm glad he forced this one down our throats, because it was good for us, kind of the same way you force fruits and veggies down a child's throat, whether they want 'em or not. At least that's how *I'd* feed a kid, fucking little fun-sucking burdens. 

Bret Berg then came up on stage to intro the next movie, which he said was on heavy rotation on cable for years, then he went on to talk about how cable taught him more about filmmaking than any other film professor. It was through cable that he learned about various directors and their distinctive visions; he discovered David Lynch on cable, and recognized that his films looked like no other. It was also through cable that he cultivated his tastes in genre, as well as introducing him to offbeat movies like The Beastmaster and The Peanut Butter Solution.

What Berg referred to as a "serious movie for adults" turned out to be 1982's Android, a film set in outer space sometime in the later years of the 21st century. Directed by Aaron Lipstadt -- probably best known for MST3K favorite City Limits -- and starring everybody's favorite psychopathic sexual assaulter, Klaus Kinski, in what's really a secondary role as Dr. Daniel, a scientist holed up in a space station located somewhere far out in the boonies of the known universe. 

His only companion is his android assistant, Max 404 (Don Opper, who also co-wrote the film), and who is the real main character of this film. When not helping to maintain the space station and assisting Dr. Daniel with his work, Max whiles away the hours playing video games on his Vectrex and listening to oldies by James Brown and Bobby Moore. Max is not unlike an awkward teenage boy in both temperament and experience, which means that among his other human traits, we see him further develop curiosity about the opposite sex by looking up files on how men and women have sex.

And so, after taking in a ship in distress, Max starts to get all tingly upon finding that of the three crew members, one of them, Maggie (Brie Howard), is a g-g-g-girl. But what Max doesn't know is that these crew members didn't just find adventure, they brought it with them, because in reality they're escaped convicts with plenty of heat on their tails.

We watch as Maggie are her partners-in-crime try to get their ship fixed before Johnny Space-Law comes along; of the two, Keller (Albert Pyun favorite Norbert Weisser) is the more level-headed one, while the other one (Crofton Hardester) is hot-headed and prone to violence, because his name is Mendes, so of course he'd be that way. Despite being the more hateable of the three, I dug Mendes the most, because he reminded me of Fred Ward, and I like Fred Ward. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Daniel has been busy building a new and better female android, and what poor Max doesn't know is that as soon as the doc's finished with his new creation, he plans to send poor Max to the scrapyard. What Max does know is that Dr. Daniel also has eyes on Maggie, and I don't know how much of the uncomfortable tension I felt during those scenes between the doc and the lady had to do with what I know about Kinski's history. 

So as I'm watching Dr. Daniel peek into a video feed of Maggie stripping down in her bedroom -- surely for scientific purposes -- I couldn't help but wonder if this ex-Nazi didn't try to strong-arm the director into, at the very least, being on set for Howard's nude scenes.

Pervy Dr. Daniel subplot aside, everything else in this film has a curiously laid back feel to it, so that even the most dramatic or violent moments never felt anything approaching aggro or intense. Which isn't to say that Android is some kind of failure, because I think the low-key tone is intentional, a kind of holdover from the 70s, when plenty of sci-fi had similar muted vibes -- specifically something like Douglas Trumbull's film Silent Running or John Carpenter's Dark Star. Later towards the end of the marathon, Bret Berg commented that this felt kind of a like a 1980s Sundance movie, in that it was a clunky American indie that just happened to be set in outer space.

I get what he means. But for me, I actually felt that it was this movie, and not Millennium, that came off more like an extended episode of "The Twilight Zone", right down to the ending where I could practically hear Rod Serling's closing remarks over the final shot. Or maybe even an episode of "Tales from the Crypt", one of the more cutesy ones, you know, like the one where Malcolm McDowell played a vampire security guard. And by that standard, it's one of the better episodes of those shows, one that maintained my interest, made me laugh a few times, and had me caring for a couple of its characters.

It's nifty, is what this is; a short and simple movie containing some interesting ideas that have since been brought up and expanded upon in other films and shows, such as "Star Trek: The Next Generation", with its android character Data. We observe Max as he watches classic films and bases his identity on them, wearing a fedora while imagining being smooth with a lady just like the cool guys in the movies. So really, he's not that much different from the rest of us assholes, except I take my inspiration from movies featuring 1970s street pimps, which is why I've never had a relationship last more than six months, but goddamn are my pockets full of those bitches' money. 


At this point, I went outside to find a new place to park my car, because that's life in the big city, pal. As I stepped outside Brain Dead Studios, I was welcomed by a most pleasant mix of scents both tobacco and cannabis from the crowd of smokers taking the opportunity to smoke up and toke up between films. I'm not being sarcastic either, I love those smells. I also like the smell of exhaust fumes, which is why one day I intend to treat myself to a feast of that fragrance, preferably in a closed garage while listening to my favorite music.

As I returned to my seat, Williamson was on stage introducing the next film; like most of tonight's offerings, it was a cable discovery. He decided to give us a hint by telling us that it was from Charles Band, who has been producing cine-schlock for over four decades now. Williamson felt that this movie exemplified the (possibly cocaine-fueled) attitude of Band's company Empire Pictures of taking two or three separate ideas and merging them into one film. 

He also gave another hint that this featured an early role for someone who would later become very famous in film and television, and he then concluded by wishing us "Merry Christmas!" and that's when I got very excited.

The fourth film was in fact, the one I guessed and hoped it would be: 1984's Trancers, directed by Band. I first saw this on HBO back in the late 80s, and it has remained a favorite ever since. I've even made it part of my Christmas viewing rotation, along with other holiday classics such as Die Hard and The Silent Partner. I've always wanted to see Trancers on the big screen -- and there it was, looking every bit as fabulous as 16mm would allow.

The film, also known under the alternate titles "Future Cop" and "Juice II", begins in the year 2247 in Angel City, located near the sunken ruins of what used to be Los Angeles. Things seem to be going all right in this fair cyber-city where the people dress retro but carry ray guns. On the other hand, people don't eat meat anymore, steaks are made from kelp, and if you want some real coffee, you're gonna have to pay a heavy premium for it. 

The great Tim Thomerson stars as our hero, Jack Deth, a "trooper" for the Angel City PD who is hunting the titular cult of mind-controlled zombie-like killers. As Deth describes them, they're "not really alive, and not dead enough". Each time he kills or "singes" a Trancer, he or she vaporizes, leaving behind only a scorched imprint of the corpse on the ground. At first I thought it was Deth's gun that caused the vaporization, but as we see later in the film -- and it's five sequels -- that's not the case, Trancers just do that. 

Which leaves me to wonder what happens if a Trancer just grows old enough to die of old age. I'm guessing it would end with the Trancer on his deathbed surrounded by his Trancer wife and his Trancer children and his Trancer grandchildren, maybe he has a sad Trancer dog curled up beside the bed. Then the patriarchal Trancer growls his final goodbyes out his foaming black lips and expires, scorching up the mattress of his Craftmatic adjustable bed, which his family has no choice but to throw out with the trash, because who's gonna want that thing, it's got Pop Pop's charred silhouette on it.

So Deth is called up for a special mission to go "down the line", meaning he has to take a time-traveling serum that transfers his consciousness into his ancestor's body back in 1985 Los Angeles. See, Whistler, the man who created the Trancer cult (thanks Scientology!) has already gone down the line with the intention to kill the forefathers of the Angel City council who have maintained order, and Deth has to stop him. 

Once in 20th century L.A., Deth forces his ancestor's one-night stand, Leena (Helen Hunt, the aforementioned famous film and television actress) to help him find and protect the council's descendants from Whistler, who is currently taking up residence in his ancestor -- who also happens to be a lieutenant with the LAPD. We see later in the film that one of the cops assisting Whistler has been "tranced", but during this viewing I wondered if the other cops helping him were also turned into kill-crazy zombies, or if they were just typical police officers doing what comes naturally.

For what is in all intents and purposes a cheap cash-in on Blade Runner and The Terminator, Trancers is a hell of a lot better and way more fun than it has any right to be. Sure, it's cheesy in the most low-budget of ways, but it knows it's cheesy and for the most part doesn't take itself seriously. It's a visually appealing flick too, with a cool retro-futuristic look during the Angel City scenes, a nice neon-heavy aesthetic with the modern-day stuff in Chinatown, as well as a dark and gloomy atmosphere in the Skid Row sequences, and I also dug the electronic music score by Phil Davies and Mark Ryder.

In addition to being given a special serum that will allow Deth to zap his and Whistler's consciousness back to the 23rd century, Deth is also given a special wristwatch than can slow down one second into ten. And that's the only kind of "slow" in this 76 minute-film which feels more like 45 minutes, because Band and screenwriters Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo -- who went on to write the scripts for The Rocketeer and Da 5 Bloods -- knew how to keep things moving fast, so as to keep the audience from doing something stupid, like think too hard about it. It's also very funny at times, with Deth occasionally spouting off some witty old-school-style tough guy lines. 

I especially liked how Leena first reacts to Deth's fish-out-of-water behavior and his wild stories about time-traveling and brainless killers. Hunt plays her initial disbelief and eventual acceptance in a much more down-to-earth manner, rather than the kind of dumb hysterics I'd expect from this kind of cheapie genre flick. Because it's a movie, she and Deth eventually become an item, and even that doesn't feel too shoehorned; I think a big part of that is because Hunt and Thomerson have really good chemistry together and I enjoyed their interactions.

So yeah, I really dig this movie and have watched it multiple times, but I've never seen it beyond an audience of one. So it was a real treat to watch this in a packed house, with what seemed to be a majority of first-timers to the movie -- and an even bigger treat to find out that it plays great with an audience!

The crowd laughed when Deth had to face off with a Mall Santa who went full Trancer, they cheered when Deth singed Whistler's body in the future, ensuring his enemy would not be able to leave the past, and they went What The Fuck? upon the sight of the back of Leena's jean jacket -- which displayed a full-on Stars and Bars Confederate flag. But hell, if them Dukes can rock that loser symbol on top of their winner of a Dodge Charger, than Leena can use that stupid jacket to flaunt her edgelord punk-rocker credentials. 

But I'm glad to know that people -- at least in this corner of the country -- react negatively to that horseshit flag. Because fuck that flag, fuck the Confederacy, fuck the old South, and fuck any bitch-ass apologist who tries to Well Actually away the whole slavery thing in regards to the Civil War  -- which these assholes are probably hoping for a sequel to occur any time now. Well, if it ever happens, I hope those assholes and people like those assholes get shot up with bullets painted to look like bottles of Bud Light.

Where was I? Oh yeah, as far as I'm concerned, Trancers takes place in the same universe as the film Girls Just Want to Have Fun, which came out around the same time, and in which Helen Hunt co-starred with Sarah Jessica Parker. In that film, Hunt played a free-spirited high school girl named Lynne, and I find it really easy to believe that after graduating, Lynne said goodbye to the East Coast and moved to L.A., where she changed her name to Leena and took up the punk rock lifestyle, which included wearing colored streaks in her hair and scaring the squares by wearing clothing with Confederate flags on them. I just thought you should know that.

I guess now is as good a time as any to mention that all these 16mm prints looked pretty damn good for their format, some were a bit more scratchy and worn, but the colors were always bright and the image was pretty sharp. Each film had to have a break halfway through, so that the reels could be changed, and it lasted no more than half-a-minute; most people used the opportunity to check their phones or make a quick run to the restroom. The breaks actually reminded me of the side and disc changes one would make with laserdiscs; and like those disc changes, the film breaks were placed at very strategic moments that seemed like intermissions, rather than interruptions.

After the film, I went to the snack bar; most people were ordering pizza and burritos, but I'm more of an old-school guy and got popcorn instead. Upon finding out that they don't offer butter, I felt disappointed, but only briefly, because the popcorn was plenty salty and delicious on its own.

Before Williamson's next intro, Josh Miller mentioned that someone ordered a cheese pizza during the previous film and never picked it up. He figured that there must be somebody in the audience who ordered one -- possibly while high -- and then during the movie started wondering why they were still hungry. Nobody stepped up to claim that pizza, but goddamn it if I didn't consider making that claim myself. 

Williamson then came up on stage to sadly declare that despite her amazing performance in Trancers, we all have to cancel Helen Hunt now for wearing that Stars & Bars jacket. He then introduced the next mystery film by calling it the silliest one of the marathon, but intentionally so, because when you get right down to it, it's a kids movie, albeit a kids movie that features two beheadings, because that's how kids movies rolled back in the 80s -- like a severed head down an incline.

The fifth film of the marathon turned out to be 1984's space opera The Ice Pirates, directed by Stewart Raffill, a filmmaker of such, uh, varied projects like The Philadelphia Experiment, Mac and Me, and Standing Ovation. In this film, set in a galaxy far, far away, Robert Urich stars as Jason, leader of a rowdy group of space pirates who raid ships that transport ice between worlds. 

See, water is the most valuable resource around, and of course some evil overlord types called the Templars control the interplanetary flow, on some Immortan Joe bullshit. While I normally hate on pirates, I'm cool with Jason and the aquanauts pulling jack moves on these Templars. What I'm not cool with is what I hope was a joke by Jason regarding a lack of raping and pillaging during their raids.

He makes that "joke", by the way, after they discover Princess Karina (Mary Crosby) aboard one of the ships in hibernation. Cooler dicks prevail though, and instead wakes her up and takes her captive, hoping she'll be worth big bucks, if not big fucks. 

But I guess the good Princess was able to hear Jason talk that shit while she was sleeping, because soon she's got the upper hand when Jason is captured by the Templars and is almost castrated. The only reason he gets to keep his junk is because Karina allows it, because well, maybe she is attracted to Jason, but Karina is kinda like Andrew Dice Clay, and so nobody fucks Karina -- Karina does the fucking!

But she might want to hold up on getting some of that Vega$ cock, because it turns out Jason has Space Herpes -- OK, maybe not Jason, but his ship is infested with them and it's pretty disgusting, like most things in this purposely juvenile flick, because this was made during an era when children knew how to grow a pair and not get worked up or offended by stuff like space herpes or heroes who want to rape princesses. Kids today are fuckin' pussies that need their entertainment to be soft and safe, and I think some of those kids were in the audience during this screening, because you can practically hear their assholes slam shut when a robot pimp shows up speaking in the most stereotypical of black voices.

Eventually, with the help of the Princess, Jason escapes and they and the other pirates embark on a quest to find her father, who went missing during his quest to find a fabled planet that is mostly water. We watch them get into various misadventures involving robots, time travel, swordfighting, spaceship battles, the aforementioned space herpes, and Bruce Vilanch getting his head chopped off. 

It's all very goofy, and I got a kick out of Urich and the supporting cast that included Anjelica Huston and Ron Perlman as members of Jason's crew, but overall I found the end result just plain OK. The gags weren't particularly funny to me, and I was never really engaged with any of the characters, and the standard issue bad guys hardly stood out, they were just, well, there. 

But I did really enjoy the last ten minutes, when both Jason's ship and the Templars ship end up in a time warp that causes them to rapidly age as they face off with each other. It was then that The Ice Pirates actually succeeded for me in the kind of anarchistic wackiness that it had been trying for the entire film.

But I can see why this would be a favorite for many kids who grew up watching this on cable, and I'm sure this is to many in the audience what Trancers is to me. I'm not saying I hated it, it was just, you know, meh. I mean, I can't even find much else to say about it. I already mentioned the space herpes twice, and uh, oh yeah, John Carradine shows up in this, that was cool. Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that when it comes to films by this director, I'm much more of a Tammy and the T-Rex guy. There's decapitations in that one too.


Before the final film of the night -- which they called a "banger" and hinted as being something that everybody has seen -- Mike Williamson, Bret Berg, and Josh Miller discussed the previous films. Mike then asked the audience for their favorite movie of the night; most people said Trancers, because of course they would, it's Trancers, bro. 

Not that they're reading this, but I do want to express my gratitude to Secret Sixteen and Brain Dead Studios for essentially giving me one of my dream screenings with Trancers, a film I always wanted to see on the big screen, and to watch it with such a receptive crowd was a real bonus. 

I say that to them, so I can say this to them: Fuck Secret Sixteen and Brain Dead Studios, for ending the evening with a goddamn ringer, a heavyweight among welterweights, and thereby making it so that one can't easily call Trancers the best film of the marathon. I cannot argue with Williamson's opinion of this film being the greatest low-budget science fiction movie of the 1980s, this film which launched many A-list careers, birthed a franchise, and inspired some of the previous films of the marathon. 

(And that's when Josh jumped in and said how awesome would it be if the film we were about to watch turned out to be Mac & Me.)

But no, the sixth and final film of the Cyberjunk 16mm marathon was 1984's The Terminator, which was also the final film of the Arnold All-Night movie marathon I attended a few years ago at the New Beverly Cinema, and so I'll pretty much repeat myself with the same random thoughts, because it's not like there's anything I can say about this movie that everybody doesn't already know, we all know the deal: A cyborg from the post-apocalyptic future is sent to the past to kill Sarah Connor, a woman who is pregnant with the man who will lead the humans to victory against the machines in said post-apocalyptic future. We've got Arnold Schwarzenegger, we've got Linda Hamilton, we've got Michael Biehn, and we've got a former trucker as a director whose already got one Piranha movie under his belt -- and therefore really needs to prove himself.

The opening text tells us about the "ashes of the nuclear fire" reminded me of the low-grade anxiety people had back in the 80s that World War III could break out at any time. Then the Cold War ended and the sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day even had a character make a comment about how the Russians were now allies to the United States; that sequel came out when the Doomsday Clock was at 17 minutes to midnight -- the farthest it's ever been since its creation. 

As of 2023, that clock is at 90 seconds to midnight, and with Putin doing his thing, it's safe to say the Cold War is back, baby -- and the unthinkable isn't just being thought of, it's being casually tweeted, Facebook'd, and hell, probably TikTok'd as well. I wouldn't know, I don't have TikTok, fuck that shit.

Between this film and the nuclear holocaust scene in the sequel, I'm sure the Doomsday Clock is something director James Cameron has often thought about. I still remember a rumor about how supposedly Cameron spent New Year's Eve 1999 holed up in a private bunker with booze and an AK-47, in case the Y2K bug turned out to be legit and the world went shithouse come midnight. Then nothing happened and he was probably like, "shit, I guess I better get back to work on another movie now, but first, let me move to New Zealand", which from what I understand, is like the safest place to be when the world finally goes Titanic. That's why all the billionaires have places there, which is probably why they say cockroaches will be the only ones left after the apocalypse.

So yeah, it's 1984 and thanks to time travel technology, the man sent to protect Sarah Connor -- Kyle Reese -- arrives naked as the day he was born and so he needs some clothes, right? He ends up jacking a pair of pants from a homeless dude and for years I was like Ewww because let's be real, those homeless pants haven't been washed in who knows how long. So many permanently embedded scents and textures and stains -- boy oh boy, the stories those pants could tell. We haven't even gotten into what's in the pockets. But any port in a storm, though -- right Reese?

But then again, maybe it doesn't matter to Reese because he just came from a time where the word "bath" probably doesn't even exist anymore. Or maybe they have do take baths between Hunter Killer attacks and eating slop in dark rubble-strewn hallways, but you just know those baths are few and far between. At most, maybe every other week, and they're probably all washing in each other's filth anyway. Plus the survivors live with dogs because dogs can tell who's human and who's a Terminator, so you know there's unwashed dog stink on top of human stink. 

Christ, the lucky ones did die in the blast.

And Sarah Connor -- freak that she is -- falls in love with this filthy White boy whose been running around in sneakers minus socks.

Maybe Sarah's just too delirious with hunger to notice, because earlier in the film, she goes to have dinner and a movie by herself. Sounds like my kind of girl. So, yeah, she's at this pizza place, with a whole pizza all to herself (again, my kind of girl) and she's about to bite into a slice but then overhears the latest report of another Sarah Connor being murdered. She freaks out and never gets around to eating that pizza, which is a bummer.

So yeah, the T-800 cyborg shows up, there's shootouts and chases, and not once did I see her eat anything for the rest of the film -- not even a bullet. I didn't see any food come out of that grocery bag of supplies Reese brings to their motel room hideout, just ammonia, moth balls, and corn syrup. I don't know, maybe she scarfed down a couple doughnuts at the police station.

At least she survived to eventually eat something after the events of the movie; her roommate's boyfriend, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. He was about to enjoy an absolutely beautiful Dagwood-style sandwich, until he made the fatal mistake of attempting to bust up a T-800. He died hungry, which is a terrible way to go -- but at least he got to enjoy bang Sarah's roommate before being forcefully shuffled off his mortal coil. 

Speaking of Sarah's roommate, her murder is even more tragic because a woman who will lay you and then immediately go make you a sandwich is wife material, but here comes the pregnant asshole from Junior to unload his AMT Hardballer into her. She didn't deserve that, even if she was going to serve up that sandwich with a glass of milk, which is questionable at best and fucking gross at worst.

I mean, aside from inside a bowl of cereal or following a slice of chocolate cake, I do not understand milk being served with anything. But you'll see it, you'll see people having sandwiches, steaks, and mac & cheese with milk and I just, I just, I just can't, man, what is this, some fuckin' 1950s sitcom, why are you having milk with your dinner, you weirdos with your dairy depravity? 

Anyway, despite growing up watching horror movies about Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, it was this film -- a sci-fi action movie -- that felt more like actual horror to me. Because if you want to avoid Jason, you just have to stay out of the woods, and if you find Freddy in your dreams, you can just Dream Warrior that motherfucker out of your face. They never scared me.

But a machine whose sole mission to find and kill you no matter what, now that is the stuff of my nightmares. The only way for that nightmare to get worse is if it were combined with another nightmare, and so there I am at school standing in front of the chalkboard in front of my entire class and I'm naked, and now all the kids are laughing and pointing at me. By the time the T-800 walks in and shoots me in the head, death will be a relief. But then the other kids are going to have to deal with this new substitute teacher with a .45 long-slide with laser sighting and a ferret.

So yeah, for those new to the world, The Terminator is a lean, mean, and relentless flick that was awesome back then and remains awesome today. It was a cinematic gauntlet thrown onto the filmmaker's table by a badass motherfucker. His name? James Motherfucking Cameron, and you haters need to keep it out of your fucking mouths. Doubt him all you want, shit on him all you want, joke about how he makes sequels that nobody asked for and watch -- just watch! -- as they gross billions. The King of the World will always come out on top, laughing all the way to the bank. Probably some weirdo hippie vegan bank, because he's one of those. Ugh.


And so, the Cyberjunk movie marathon came to an end a little after 1:30am. The entire audience was invited to go outside for a group photo with Williamson, Berg, and Miller, so I, of course, made sure to stay away. But I had a great time watching mostly cool movies with a good crowd in a comfortable environment -- and it was nice to be finished at a time when most movie marathons are not even halfway through, it was nice to know that I can still get a decent night's sleep and still enjoy my Sunday. 

But first I stopped at Canter's down the street for a pastrami on rye. As I chowed down on my delicious sandwich, some drunk hipster stumbled onto my booth and begin to initiate a conversation I did not want to have. (Mainly because he was a man.) He asked where I just came from, and I wanted to say I came from his mother's bedroom but instead took the honesty policy, which I've been told is best. 

I told him that I just spent the past 12 hours watching science-fiction and fantasy films featuring killer viruses, fascist rulers, violent policemen, dystopian societies, streets filled with the homeless, cataclysmic damage to the environment, natural resources hoarded by the powerful, and artificial intelligence gone rogue. 

The drunk hipster then slurred something about how none of that sounded like science-fiction nor fantasy, then asked -- rather indignantly, as if I was at fault -- "How the fuck are those movies any different than what's going on right now in real life?" 

I put down my sandwich and got up, went over to his side, sat down next to him, scooched in close, and smiled as I put my arm around him and responded:

"They didn't have buses in them."