Underrated 1986: Steve Q reviews bad films at http://zerostarcinema.blogspot.com Of the 1000 posted there so far, 27 were released in 1986 and the top 10 of those make up this list. You can tell him off on Twitter at @Amy_Surplice.
Shot on video by Tim Kincaid, who's made several bad films, this one starts after the title holocaust is over, in a world with one city ruled by "The Dark One" and his tremendously overacted assistant Valaria. Rebels, including a Conan-like muscleman, a whiny amazon, a stupid Mad Max-type warrior and a silly guy in a bad robot suit, take a perilous journey that includes hand puppet sewer worms, just the claw of a giant spider, an Alien-ripoff stomach-bursting monster, the room of questions, the pleasure machine and the vault of beasts. The effects are terrible. The dialogue is terrible. The acting is beyond terrible. Everyone involved obviously knew they were in a turkey, but stayed just this side of self-parody and "look at me" theatrics.
This is an unheralded piece of great garbage, shot on videotape. The three minutes before the credits roll show everything you're going to see, with a waking-up-from-a-nightmare shot repeated dozens of times, all with a terrible synthesizer soundtrack. If you survive this, you'll enjoy the film. A sick woman is watching a televangelist, then coughs up a tumor and is well. While sleeping, her son eats the tumor! It reproduces and grows and is soon filling the house, with the son finding new victims to feed the monster. Parts of the monster come up out of really unlikely places, which is most of the fun of the film, along with the H. R. Pufnstuf/Little Shop of Horrors monster. Nothing really makes sense and the film doesn't appear to have a resolution until the final credits roll and all is revealed (or is it?), both improving and ruining the film at the same time.
Black River Monster
As far as I can tell, there was in real life a summer camp in Michigan called the Black River Ranch, where the workers made a series of short films meant to be entertainment for less-than-discerning children. This one is mostly fat jokes and country bumpkin jokes (one character's name is "Sleaze!") and it moves along briskly for all of 48 minutes. The monster doesn't show up until two guys try to steal horses and they get strangled for a full minute and then the monster's sort of forgotten about, as are the dead guys. Believe it or not, it's charming in its way.
The Mines of Kilimanjaro
In this Italian travesty, a college student in the 1930's seeks a lost diamond mine that no one knows about, except Nazis, Chinese gangsters, some English and Dutch guys and the local murderous tribesmen. There are scenes that make no sense, suggesting editing errors. There are enormous plot holes, such as the ending, where they walk off into the sunset... without food, water, compass, maps, or anything useful. There's a white actor playing a Chinese man and another playing the empress of an all-female tribe. The bad guys just give up when it's convenient.
I'm a bit behind on the East Asian film world, discovering Weng Weng after everyone else, for one thing, and this film escaped me until just recently. It's bad guy Rainmaker vs. good guy Stabilizer due to drug trade and revenge. The star has the most 80's look imaginable, and that includes the Asian Mr. T that's in this film. There's a rape scene that's funny (I'm really sorry I laughed at such a time) because of a poster in the background. A guy eats a lizard - and then another one. There's ridiculous stunts, weird fights (our hero defeats attackers with his hands tied), a very cheap boat chase and women martial artists. It's quite watchable.
Never Too Young to Die
George Lazenby plays a James Bond-type (remember "On Her Majesty's Secret Service?") that gets killed early by Gene Simmons (remember "KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park?") who plays a hermaphroditic rock-star super-criminal. Then Simmons plans to poison L.A.'s water supply with radiation, so he has to be stopped by secret agent Vanity (remember 1986?) and high school gymnast John Stamos ("Full House" was next year). Robert Englund plays a computer whiz. This ends up being a "Road Warrior" clone, like a thousand other films of the time, but the beyond-over-the-top performance by Simmons makes it worth seeing.
King Kong Lives
The 1976 King Kong was not great and certainly didn't require a sequel ten years later, but it does get one wondering how they'd make it, given that Kong died in the original. It turns out that Kong survived the fall and was in a coma, awaiting a heart transplant. Linda Hamilton plays the doctor who puts a ridiculously large artificial heart into the beast, using transfusions from a lady Kong, recently discovered. Then - get this - it becomes a love story, as Kong and bride break free and head to Honeymoon Ridge, where they encounter scale problems and Hamilton has her own romance. The bride of Kong lays down on a barn and gives birth to a son, just as Kong's new heart gives out. Trying to turn a monster movie into a romance is a silly idea and this film does not make it work.
Alone in the T-Shirt Zone
Mike Anderson made this film before he started directing episodes of "The Simpsons" and obviously after seeing "Eraserhead," which gets referenced a couple of different ways. A guy lies comatose in a hospital after going insane while designing t-shirts. Though not particularly interesting, he's apparently irresistible to women and even his female doctor rapes him in his coma. There's flashbacks to how he got to where he is, most of which are somewhat surreal scenes involving t-shirts: people's emotional states and personalities are reflected in their shirt designs, some of which are amusing. The plot meanders and relies on unlikely coincidences - he goes to a party with a guy who turns out to be his girlfriend's father, for example. A memorable example of the weirdness is a surgery where t-shirts are pulled from a man's chest that have pictures of his organs on them. Anderson directed one other film, which I haven't seen, but this one shows him to be competent if unoriginal, even when making a film of pure weirdness.
The first time I saw this, I absolutely loved it. Since then, it's shown up on broadcast television repeatedly and I find it yet another dull stupid Fred Olen Ray-directed film; the only thing I know they cut is a gratuitous topless dance by the aging, very top-heavy Kitten Natividad (you expect to hear loud slapping sounds when she dances), so I don't know why it doesn't work now. The film is based on a story by Bram Stoker and involves an Egyptian princess being resurrected and seeking an amulet taken from her tomb, which will give her immortality. Cameron Mitchell, John Carradine, Sybil Danning and Michelle Bauer are in it, giving this more star power than usual for a Ray film. It tries to be both funny and scary, which doesn't work and the 1980's hair and clothes look more ridiculous each year.
(Dis)-Honorable Mention: Alien Warrior, Golden Temple Amazons, American Anthem, Ratboy, Neon Maniacs, Girls School Screamers, Dreamaniac, Star Slammer, Star Crystal, Nightmare Weekend, Korkusuz, The Jet Benny Show, Hardbodies 2, Commando Mengele, Howard the Duck, Hamburger: the Motion Picture, Sloane