Transmorphers! Morph than meets the eye! Wait a minute, that’s the theme to Transformers, not Transmophers, another in the long line of “mock”busters from The Asylum. We previously encountered them in the first Dragon Slayers team-up with FantasyFilmscapes.com in the movie Dragon, which was mysteriously named similar to Eragon. In addition to having elements similar to Transformers, Transmorphers borrows from several famous science fiction movies, the most obvious will be The Terminator and The Matrix. We’ll point out the rest as the references happen. Before we can get to the plot, first we must address the disk. Simply put, the Transmorphers DVD shipped with an incomplete movie. Large swaths of the film are out of sound sync, and many effects are incomplete. Guns shoot silently or no lasers exit the end. CGI at times is embarrassingly bad. In fact, the film is so bad that The Asylum went back and completed the film and fixed the sound problems, and any new DVDs are supposed to have the completed film. Well, I’m not about to track down another copy of the film to play Russian roulette to see if I got a corrected version. Transmorphers was filmed under the title Robot Wars, but everyone working on it pretty much knew it was going to get a new title that would sound familiar to a certain big budget film coming out.
Ignoring those major flaws, how is the film? Actually, it is pretty entertaining. Giving the budget constraints and time spent on the film, it was amazing what was produced. Writer/Director Leigh Scott gives a few tidbits of information from his interview on YourVideoStoreShelf.com about production for The Asylum and why he won’t be working for them anymore. Scott is known for creating a large bulk of The Asylum’s mockbusters and for going on message boards and arguing with irate watchers of his films. As for now, humanity is driven underground thanks to an invasion of alien robots.
Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy
SciFi Channel is a breeding ground for ridiculous creature features like the swamp spawns mosquitoes. Some mosquitoes just eat nectar, some make you itch, and a few give you malaria. We are in nectar territory here. It is not perfect, it has many plot points that are ludicrous, but the entire production is saved by Jeffrey Combs. He is allowed to overact to his heart’s content, and turns a semi-boring picture about a shark man into something you can mention as among SciFi Channel’s better offerings for the year 2005. Produced by the illustrious Nu Image Films, who have given us Gryphon, Raging Sharks, and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Nu Image originally sold a block of films at the same time involving animal/man hybrids, except the block of films eventually dissolved and went their separate ways. The others include Mansquito (later released as Mosquitoman on DVD), Morphman which became the surprisingly not terrible Larva, and Snakeman (aka The Snake King) which I haven’t seen. Nu Image has done blocks of related films before, notably their Nature Unleashed and American Heroes series. It allows them to bulk sell films, which equals cash. Usually few of the films are memorable, but in this case we grabbed on to something to tell the grandkids about.
As stated above, the winning formula in this movie is ridiculous monster+Jeffrey Combs. Jeffrey Combs is familiar to every B movie fan because odds are they have seen several dozen movies he has been in. He was also a regular on Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Star Trek Enterprise in addition to guest shots on many other genre shows. In every performance, Combs consistently delivers. He can range from excellent to eccentric to over the top wacky, and his name on a movie automatically bumps it up a few ratings points. The SharkMan is a guy running around in a shark suit. Seriously. And we get perilously close to shark/human sex. I am not making that up. Sadly, things don’t go as planned. But we do find out you can cure cancer by being turned into a shark. It’s one of those natural cures “they” don’t want you to know about. None of the good parts of the film can be blamed on the director Michael Oblowitz, the only winning efforts were the special effects guys and Jeffrey Combs. The rest of the film flops around like a fish on a boat, but SharkMan or Jeffrey keep popping up to throw the fish back in the ocean.
Astro Boy – Fuhrer ZZZ
Astro Boy is a Japanese manga/anime created by Osamu Tezuka in Japan in 1951. He is one of the most recognizable faces in cartoons, not just manga. A string of projects have been created over the years, including the popular 1960′s cartoons that spread Astro Boy throughout the world. What is of most interest to us now is the 1958-59 live action TV series on Japan TV developed by MBS. In 1962 they released either a continuation movie or a string of TV episodes that follow the Fuhrer ZZZ story in the manga as a movie, which still circulates today in bootleg format. Thus, we got blurry scenes, no subtitles for the Japanese, and little or no information about the film or any of the actors. We don’t even have an accurate array of the character names, especially since the Peg Leg guy doesn’t even get a name in the manga this is based on! But it is a good window into Japanese TV of the late ’50s and how it was turning into the groovy 60s with superheroes and other fun effects. And where else are you going to see a kid dressed up as Astro Boy fighting villains? Certainly not on Cnn.com!
As stated before, the film has no subtitles, so certain things are inferred by actions or deduction. There is precious little information about this film anywhere. There isn’t even a definite explanation on where it came from, if it is some TV episodes strung together or a movie sequel to the TV series. The series dates from 1958-59, but the few sources date this film as 1962. That could be an error, or a movie could have been strung together from episodes a few years later to capitalize on the cartoon series. Or maybe a sequel movie was greenlit. What is important is we don’t know.
In addition, I am not that familiar with Astro Boy the cartoon, so many of the characters I had to look up their back stories. It also matters that this TV adaptation doesn’t have some of the main characters from the comic, and uses its own versions of some main characters as well. So the Roll Call is as accurate as possible, but TarsTarkas.NET does not guarantee accuracy. But we did the best we could, and this should be the best review of the Astro Boy Movie to ever hit the net. We can’t even locate an imdb.com entry (but that is not unusual for a film here.)
The Swamp of the Lost Monster
aka El Pantano de las ánimas aka Swamp of the Lost Souls
Directed by Rafael Baledón
Mexican Cowboys meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon! That’s essentially the plot, except there is a murder mystery thrown in and, of course, the Scooby-Doo ending. Hey, did I spoil things? Not really, but before I reveal who the villain is I will give some spoiler warnings, I guess, despite the fact it is really obvious to anyone who hasn’t replaced their brain with a moldy turnip in the past year. But the reason to watch this film isn’t the mystery, it is the crazy cowboy vs. monster action!
This imported schlock is brought to us by the king of importing trash from Mexico, K. Gordon Murray! (hereafter called KGM) We have previously encountered some of his imports with Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy and Night of 1000 Cats, and there are at least two more of his films in the pipeline. He is also responsible for the classic Mexi-trash Santa Claus getting distributed in the US.
TarsTarkas.NET strives to give a diverse range of the movies we cover, and up until now the only western film featured was the Marx Brothers epic Go West. Western Horror is a genre that hasn’t received much love, its few entries include Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (which usually played on a double bill, but I’ve only seen the former with Joe Bob Briggs commentary.) There are also a few dinosaurs and cowboys films such as Valley of Gwangi and The Beast of Hollow Mountain. Finally, one can’t talk about western cross-genres without mentioning the Gene Autry serial The Phantom Empire, where our favorite singing cowboy fights the evil people of Mu. There is also a companion movie to Swamp of the Lost Monster, filmed in 1958 entitled El Grito de la Muerte (literal translation – The Cry of Death) and imported by KGM as The Living Coffin. It is again a Western Horror, starring Gastón and Pedro D’Aguillón, with a copout ending. I have not seen it so I do not know if Moonlight the horse appears.
Obviously, due to the monster design, this is a quick attempt to ride the coattails of the 1954 movie Creature From the Black Lagoon. Just change the setting and people won’t know or care! Plus it is in color, even if it is washed out color, and that is one up on the original film. Thanks to redubbing, several of the characters have vastly different names than their Mexican counterparts. In addition, the print of the film looks like it was stored in the bottom of a porta-potty for a few weeks, with the grimy yellow tinge and the overall scratchiness. Some of the Turkish films have better prints, and they had the army trying to wipe them out. But for us, we only have each other to save us from the Gillman knockoffs that try to terrorize us. From a look at these monsters, a three year old could take them out, so we jump from frightened to laughing hysterically. That’s what I look for in a good film, so at times this is charming.