Archive for February 12th, 2010

The best place to see a movie is in a cinema. Even the best home system won’t live up to the experience of the massive screen and great sound of a decent cinema. Watching most movies at the cinema I am making up for lost time as I didn’t go very often as a kid, instead watching most movies on video. There was a time in the late 80’s early 90’s that I really got into low budget Sci-Fi and Horror B movies. There was always a certain amount of risk involved in this as for every Evil Dead there were a hatful of crap like Alien Private Eye. Empire International Pictures were responsible for some surprisingly watchable movies. They were formed in the early 80’s by Charles Band as a small distribution company they also produced a few movies. The best known are probably the Re-Animator and Ghoulies movies but my personal favourite was always Trancers, it was also directed by Charles Band. Trancers is the holly grail of 80’s B movies and is actually better than a lot of the mainstream sci-fi films of the time. As such it deserves its own article, it will duly oblige one day. In the late 80’s the company ran into fanatical difficulties and I understand eventually collapsed. Shortly before it did it started making slightly higher budget movies. I don’t know if this is what bankrupted the company but it is possible. I remember seeing three of these movies when they first came out on video. None of them were particularly good but for some reason they stuck in my mind. Please forgive any inaccuracies in these descriptions, I am doing them mostly from memory and I haven’t seen them for nearly twenty years.

Arena: A space station set sci-fi movie about an interspecies fighting sport known as The Arena. A handicapping system is used, a beam of light that controls the competitors strength. Despite this a human has not won for fifty years. Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield) a cook, gets into a fight with an Arena fighter and is quickly picked up by his manager Quinn (Claudia Christian, best known for playing Susan Ivanova in Babylon 5). As he wins his fights Steve becomes a hero to humans on the station.  All the usual sporting clichés are present such as corruption and a hero fighting back against the odds.

Robot Jox: Following a nuclear holocaust the world is split into two giant superpowers that encompass all surviving nations. They are basically East and West/America and Russia. Fifty years after the holocaust the two sides agree to outlaw war, instead deciding conflicts with a one on one gladiatorial battle. The fights are between giant robots, piloted by men know as Robot Jox. The movie revolves around a fight for the natural recourses of Alaska and the subsequent rematch. The robot battle scenes use stop motion animation and look really dated after just twenty years. The movie should have been Empire International Pictures biggest film, when the company went under the rights were sold to Epic Productions who finished the movie.

Crash and Burn: Marketed as “From the makers of Robotjox and Arena” and sometimes called Robot Jox 2, Crash and Burn is not a sequel to Robot Jox. Unicom is a corporation that basically rules the world following an economic crash. Their motto is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic stability”. In order to achieve this computers and robots have been outlawed (for some reason) by Unicom who use robots or synthetic humans themselves. Set at a remote TV station where the workers are stranded by a deadly “thermo-storm” caused by the depleted ozone, they also have to one of Unicom’s killer robots (that borrows heavily from The Terminator) after them. There only help: a delivery man and his plan to resurrect an old eighty foot tall robot that (conveniently) lies rusting out back. There is a neat rip-off of the scene from The Thing where they cut themselves to prove they are human with a good twist. There is also some interesting casting, the main stars Paul Ganus, Megan Ward and Bill Moseley have had reasonable careers on TV and in B movies, Jack McGee is a respected character actor, Ralph Waite is best known as John Walton Sr. in The Waltens and is still working today aged 81, and Eva La Rue will be recognisable to CSI fans as Natalia Boa Vista form CSI Miami. Information on the subject is a little sketchy but my understanding is Crash and Burn was made by Empire International Pictures possibly as early as 1988 but not released by them. The production and distribution company listed is Full Moon Entertainment, another Charles Band company mainly responsible for horror movies.

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