Today, I thought I’d take a slight detour and explore some non-horror B-movies. If you will, take a step with me into the world of Albert Pyun. Ready or not, let’s jump on into this bizarre collection of visual delights. Hold on tight. You’re in for one hell of a ride.
Vicious Lips (1986) is the story of the band of the same name trying to make it to the top. They take a spaceship to another planet for a gig at Radioactive Dreams. When they have a near miss with a meteor, they crash land onto Passion Planet where the bizarre almost ethereal sets look like a garage that they threw sheer drapery around.
Vicious Lips has everything I could ask for in a B-Movie: gooey-gloopy cheese, great hair, awesome clothes, amazing sets, strange creatures, and delightful special make-up effects. However, the real star is the music, and since I’m a lover of 80s New Wave, it took my admiration of Vicious Lips to a different level. There is also a horror element that at points turns into exploitation, but it’s cool it doesn’t distract from the cheese. The entire movie is like a strange music video, making me remember the early days of MTV. Vicious Lips is a spectacular film that you must see.
Alien from L.A. (1988) stars Kathy Ireland as Wanda Saknussemm, a nerdy girl with an annoying voice. Is that her real voice? Her boyfriend dumps her, and then she finds out that her father fell into a bottomless pit and is presumed dead. In this film, there’s an interesting blend of Wizard of Oz and Journey to the Center of the Earth, and, maybe, a dash of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Wanda’s transformation from nerd to the hot chick is as strange as her journey to Atlantis. The storyline isn’t anything spectacular, but the cleverness on how Pyun presents it is absolute magic. I wish it had a soundtrack like Vicious Lips, Radioactive Dreams, or even Journey to the Center of the Earth. The score was like any other movie, and to me, what makes Pyun movies stand out is the music.
Some of the cleverness that I referred to earlier is the use of actors for multiple characters. I saw them individually, and I didn’t notice. But when General Rykov and Shank were in the same scene, my eyes widened with the realization that Janie Du Plessis was both of them. She also played one more, but I’ll leave that to the Easter Egg Hunt; no cheating…wait, you can, I did. Another bit that is amusing is how characters openly make fun of Wanda’s voice, and she takes it in stride.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1989) is the follow up of sorts, not really a sequel, maybe, continuation is the best way to put it, to Alien from L.A., and the way this film ended, I wonder if Pyun had planned to continue this freak show; from what I can tell there wasn’t anything else. The characters in Atlantis are the same, there’s one that was changed a bit, but I guess time moved on. If you’ve seen the 1959 adaptation with Pat Boone, don’t have any expectations of this one being anything like that (let’s pretend the 2008 film didn’t happen). Though the sets at the beginning are similar, and the plot echoes Jules Verne, there’s a quick twist that is strangely beautiful: a dystopian Atlantis. Ilan Mitchell-Smith from Weird Science is in this, and I’m curious if he still has that strange nuance in his voice.
As the climax comes and goes, I can’t stop laughing, and I’m left with the question, What the fuck is happening? Without seeing this film, you cannot appreciate the genius of Pyun’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Even if I were to write out a synopsis of this movie, there are so many details that my words would miss. I recommend seeing the entire film, and not just the ending, don’t take things out of context.
Check out Albert Pyun’s website for more information about all his movies. https://www.albertpyun.net/