Tuesday, March 17, 2015

From Earth Sand to Space Sand: Highlighting "After Dark" and "Voyage to the Planet of Teenage Cavewomen"

Two of my Facebook friends have movies currently available for viewing! All I can say is, I'm trilled to bits with each endeavor and thought I'd offer some reflections on them, since the productions are indisputably worthy of attention. 

First up is "After Dark", directed by Rico Johnson, who co-scripted the film with Carl Earhart: a taut thriller starring my pal, Jesse James Youngblood!

"After Dark" is a horror film devoid of supernatural trimmings, relying instead on circumstances that might befall anyone who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

In this instance, a group of raucous youths embark on an Arizona motocross sojourn, not long after a man accused of slaughtering other such youths escapes from prison. The kids get a flat tire, and without a spare are left to wait during the nocturnal hours while one ventures off for help. 

In their accompaniment is a man named Hector (Hector "Bone Collector" Torres, to be precise, and--surprise, surprise--played aptly enough by Youngblood), who they've met (after harassing him a tad, no less) on the road. Oddly enough, the rugged stranger initially meshes well in their company, indulging in their campfire chat, but when he tells how other youngsters were murdered under similar circumstances, they get nervous, especially when Hector disappears and one-by-one, they meet their demises. 

"After Dark" offers the same gritty edge one finds in James Landis' "The Sadist" (the legendary film with Arch Hall, Jr.), wherein a no-escape atmosphere permeates. The isolation of the dark, desert setting also makes the youngsters' predicament all the more harrowing, for they never know how and when the madman may strike next.

As Hector, Youngblood becomes the focus, carrying the tension with his enigmatic glint and imposing physicality. He deftly swings from being affable to intense, projecting a disquieting, memorable persona.

The film also offers an interesting twist, which for the sake of a second viewing, will surely grant one an entirely different perspective on events.

On the whole, "After Dark" is a chilling excursion, which unlike other independently produced slasher films, relies more on character and suspense than silly hi jinks. It also stands as an essay on perseverance, which makes it often as inspiring as it is unsettling. 

Youngblood is bound to gain more than a few fans with this one. I, for one, would love to see him tackle further endeavors along these lines, where he not only gets to flaunt his tough-guy exterior, but demonstrates his acting chomps, as well.

("After Dark" is currently available for rental through Amazon; I'm sure its availability will expand in the near future. By the way, check out Youngblood in the latest Mercedes-Benz "Road Warrior" tribute commercial. It's super cool, particularly the final scene.)

On the lighter, erotic side, my pal, Rock Baker has co-scripted a wonderful endeavor called, "Voyage to the Planet of Teenage Cavewomen". It's now available on DVD for purchase through Oldies.com and is worth every cent!

Baker is known to fans for his lovely girlie illustrations and "Femforce" contributions. In this instance, he combined his talents with a young man named Joshua Kennedy, whose appreciation for outer-space women flicks is most evident. 

In fact, Kennedy (in addition to sharing writing credits with Baker) produced, directed and stars in the film. He's the lead scientist/astronaut, actually, and accompanied by his high-school friends, pays homage to the likes of "Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women", "Assignment: Outer Space", "Cat Women of the Moon", "Flight to Mars", "Missile to the Moon", "Queen of Outer Space" and "Rocketship X-M", to name but a few.

The scientists must travel to a set of conjoined planets, which are heading fast toward Earth. To prevent collision, the scientists board an interstellar craft in hopes of deterring calamity, but first must touch base with (and hopefully rescue) the inhabitants of one of the worlds, which holds...well, heavenly bodies of its own right--teenage cavewomen! Hot dog!

The planet attached to the cavewomen world is populated by belligerent men in dark clothes and glasses, who can't stand the light. Thank goodness our intrepid explorers are there to fight the invaders off, save the cavewomen and still take care of the mission at hand, all in the amazing span of thirty-nine hours! 

The film also commences with a introductory scientific monologue by a university physicist, which invokes the opening of Jack Arnold's "Mole People", but as in the latter's case, the justification for the story we are about to see is at best forced, adding to the dry humor.

Yes, "Voyage" is funny, but as Baker has pointed out to me, it was written in a straight, non-comical fashion. It's the elocution that makes it funny, playing itself off as a dubbed, foreign film, with the English voices not quite in synch with the mouth movements. Also, like an Ed Wood film, the sets and decorations are makeshift (e.g, featuring CDs on the spaceship walls). And to amp up the camp, the film features a number of Herman Stein musical cues and colorful, albeit crude, effects that offer limitless fun.

"Voyage" runs about thirty-five minutes, making it a joyful short that (at least for me) works as a nice, pre-slumber sojourn. It's a labor of love, not to be taken too seriously in one sense, but when one considers the time and effort invested into the production, nothing but respect can be attributed to it.

(As a companion piece to "Voyage'"s DVD release, Oldies has included Derek Zemrak's "Bikini Planet": a wild, amazon-oriented, black-and-white/color feature, introduced by Ed Wood legend, Conrad Brooks. The film offers loads of statuesque ladies and silly shenanigans. Check both movies out when you can. They're guaranteed to deliver you from the doldrums.) 

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