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SCORNED 2

A-Pix

I missed Scorned, which starred Shannon Tweed and Andrew Stevens (Stella’s son). No. 2 stars Tane McClure, an equine, upstart rival to Tweed’s “Erotic Thriller Queen” crown. You may remember McClure from such films as Illicit Dreams 2 and Midnight Tease II. Or maybe not. The big-boned McClure plays a woman haunted by a vague trauma. Erotic thriller king Stevens is the producer and gives himself a “special appearance by” credit, which is not entirely special. He did hire a Stevensish actor to play McClure’s husband, whose most casually gratuitous of casual affairs brings back McClure’s memories of when she was a psychopath. Naturally, she reverts to form and seeks revenge on a variety of people who don’t quite deserve it. Just who’s scorning who is not entirely clear. But is it asking too much that the makeup department cover the leg bruises during the “love” scenes? EJECT.

BLACK SCORPION II:

AFTERSHOCK

New Horizons

I missed Black Scorpion, which also featured Joan Severance. You may remember Severance from her many Playboy pictorials and Red Shoe Diaries episodes on cable. Now co-producer, Joan returns as the titular cop turned leather-clad crimefighter to avenge her father’s murder. Comic-book movies should never be multimillion-dollar events. They should all be like this: action, angles, attitude, primary colors, and as low-budget as newsprint. Energetically directed by Jonathan Winfrey, BSII is all Dutch tilts and swish pans, and takes the juvenile comic-book philosophy seriously—which is to say stupidly—never hampering it with “meaning.” True, the black gang members mug with a shamelessness not seen since Mantan Moreland, but they seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. And it’s Garrett Morris’ best work in years. PAUSE.

POISON IVY 3: THE NEW SEDUCTION

New Line [CC]

I missed Poison Ivy with Drew Barrymore. Missed Poison Ivy 2 with Alyssa Milano. But Ivy 3 star Jaime Pressly has a feral Rebecca DeMornay quality that makes me guess this is the best Poison Ivy of all. Because to the question, “Do you always swim in the nude?” the answer seems to be, “Yeah, buddy!” The concept has been stripped, literally, to the obligatory sequences. The scarily dissipated Michael Des Barres (ex-husband of supergroupie/author Pamela) plays another philandering husband whose infidelity dooms a houseful of innocents. Years ago, Daddy caught his mistress—the maid, mother of the Poisonous One—cheating on him with the pool boy. So daughter inexplicably returns to use her extraordinarily impressive body to wreak unjustified revenge. Anyway, it’s Susan Tyrell’s best work in years. FREEZE-FRAME.

LIFEFORM

Live Entertainment

“This thing is not a monster! It’s a visitor!” screams the lady scientist, who’s just had a bonding moment with the Kongishly doomed, E.T.-eyed creature. Actually, it is a monster. Silicon-based, we’re told, but apparently corduroy-covered. And tapioca-filled. Even though Alien’s influence is still being felt, the surprise success of Species—especially on video—added fresh fuel to the creature-among-us genre. Thus we have Lifeform. The idea is worthy of a better Star Trek episode. In fact, it is a Star Trek episode. In 1983, the Viking II spacecraft we sent to Mars disappeared. Suddenly, it returns. That’s interesting. The mumbo-jumbo factor is kept in check, and the mystery almost carries. And I like tapioca. PAUSE.

INVASION OF PRIVACY

Vidmark [CC]

What is Naomi Campbell doing in this movie? Not modelling. Not acting. She’s definitely not naked. In fact, she has no business here, because this is a fairly thoughtful film that’s trying to be about something. Many things, actually: abortion, fathers’ rights, battered women, media manipulation, shirtlessness. The often shirtless Johnathon Schaech is a charming psycho who abuses his girlfriend and when he learns she is pregnant kidnaps her so that she must bear his child. Stylish split-screen sequences and convincing acting lurk behind the exploitation title and box art—not to mention Charlotte Rampling’s best work in years. PAUSE.

MR. RELIABLE

Polygram

This low-key Aussie film is supposedly based on a true story. During the summer of ’68 in Sydney, a good-natured small-time ex-con lifts some knickknacks from a junkyard as gifts for his girlfriend. This prompts an absurd overreaction that becomes a huge media event. How huge? It lures “all three channels.” Mostly the affair just disturbs the neighbors, who’d rather watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Hostage negotiations become marriage planning sessions, and everything unravels in a satisfyingly deadpan fashion. Hearing Cream songs is nice. Using “For What It’s Worth” is probably a bit much. Using Joe Cocker’s version of “A Little Help From My Friends” is definitely too much—especially since it wasn’t a hit until 1970. But hey, I like tapioca. PLAY.

CANNES MAN

Rocket Pictures

Seymour Cassell is one of “those guys.” You may not know his name, but you’ve seen his distinctive, craggy face often—full head of white hair, bushy matching mustache under an enormous nose—usually playing mobsters and wiseguys. In big films he’s a small-time hood. In small ones he’s the big guy. Here, he’s a big Hollywood producer who scams everyone at the Cannes film festival. Filmed guerrilla-style at the 1995 fest, this is basically a home movie for industry suits. It probably plays well at company parties. A surprising array of names agreed to be dragged in for good-sport cameos: John Malkovich, Jon Cryer, Treat Williams, Lara Flynn Boyle, director Jim Sheridan, and many others. While Cassell is a natural, appealing presence, there is much squirmy flailing by the pros called upon to improv the story line. An engaging exception is Ann Cusack, who must become my wife. The best performances are from executives: producers Robert Evans and Menacham Golam, and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman. The most successful sequence is an odd encounter with Jim Jarmusch and Johnny Depp. But Chris Penn relays a brutal Madonna joke that is worth the price of admission. PAUSE.

INVISIBLE MOM

New Horizons

Does the name Barry Livingston ring a bell? You may remember him better as Ernie Douglas. Yep, Chip’s little brother from My Three Sons is all grown up—well, he’s gotten older. Now he’s playing Dad to a supposedly cute kid. There’s another surprising name on this genial PG family film: director Fred Olen Ray. You may remember Ray from such films as Bad Girls From Mars, Droid Gunner, or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. Also curious is that the producer is—again—Andrew Stevens (yes, he hired his mom for a bit part). And the writer is William C. Martell, the Robert Towne of low-budget genre scripts. Martell revealed to Hollywood Scriptwriter that he took the job as a favor, and apparently all three men desired a professional change of pace. He also explained that in the world of low-budget DTV, there are 12-, 18-, and 24-day films. That’s the entire length of production. Invisible Mom is a 12-day film. The invisibility effects would not fool Georges Méliès’ audience, but kids may like the concept. PAUSE.—Dave Nuttycombe

Next month: The Plan’s the thing. (This time, I mean it.)