Death Wish 3 (1985), Jagged Edge (1985), When Nature Calls (1985), Rent Control (1984), The Supernaturals (1986), The Cover Girl and the Cop (1989) and Lifeforce (1985). What do all these films have in common? That was the question Chris presented to me a few weeks ago. He presented me with the challenge of watching all these obscure films, reviewing them and figuring out what their common factor is. Come on, this will be fun. How hard can it be?
The most obvious connection is all the films came out in the mid-to-late 80s but there’s no way it would be that easy. Nah, Chris has something else in mind. The first film I watched is Death Wish 3, a film about Charles Bronson’s mustachioed vigilante who comes to a neighborhood that even Detroit would fear and deals out justice to the gangs, who were tormenting the innocent civilians, with extreme prejudice. It’s a terribly acted, cartoonishly violent affair filled with a sloppy story, strange music and a tone that makes it impossible to tell if the film is serious or a joke. It’s your basic film from The Cannon Film Group—wait, is that the connection? I mean, I did just recently review the documentary about Cannon films for the site. Lifeforce is also a known Cannon film, maybe that’s what is connecting these features.
However, a quick Google search tells me that Jagged Edge has nothing to do with Cannon Films. I’m sweating a little bit at this point because I don’t know if I’ll find the answer but I moved onto Jagged Edge—a film about The Dude (Jeff Bridges) being accused of murdering his wife and the ensuing relationship he finds himself forging with the woman who comes to his defense in court (Glenn Close). When this film came out it got a lot of good reviews but, after watching it, I’m not sure why because the story is boring, the ending is predictable and, despite the great performances from Close and Bridges, the movie can’t quite get a story that can mix together the love story and the murder mystery. At this point, I am at a loss for what is connecting all the films and I am really starting to get nervous.
Now we move onto When Nature Calls—no, it’s not the sequel to Ace Ventura but rather it’s Troma’s answer to Airplane and The Kentucky Fried Movie—and something I was only able to find on YouTube and not at my local library like with the last two movies. It’s a wacky comedy about a man who gets fed up with life in the city and uproots his family to live in the middle of the woods. Of course, I use “wacky” in an ironic way because the movie is just a non-stop barrage of terribly unfunny gags, spoofs, one-liners, standup and jokes about racism and inter-species dating. The film is a horrid mess that is only made worse with bad acting and terrible sound editing. How could this painfully unfunny film have anything to do with the accidentally funny Death Wish 3 or the shockingly un-shocking Jagged Edge? My first thought was that Troma somehow tied all the films together and that maybe the company’s founders; Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, had some hand in all the films. Was Kaufman an assistant on Death Wish or was Herz an extra or head of the food table on Jagged Edge? Nope. A quick inquiry on Google and Ask Jeeves tells me that Troma was NOT the connection.
I’m still at a loss at this point in the challenge and am really worried that I will fail at this game Chris gave me. Still, unperturbed, I pressed on and returned to YouTube for my next film, Rent Control—a tale about one man trying to find a decent apartment on the cheap for his family in New York City and then accidentally stumbles upon a murder plot. Hey, we’ve all been there, amirite? This one was particularly hard to watch because it claims to be a comedy but I never found the terribly uninteresting story that amusing or the boring characters that interesting. Nor did I find any humor in the ending which just sorta farted itself out. However, what made this film even worse to watch was the fact that I could only find it on YouTube and it was of terrible quality and had German subtitles hardcoded with it. One thing that did stand out to me though was the fact that it starred Brent Spiner—more commonly known as Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. This stood out because I can’t remember the last time I saw Spiner in a role that wasn’t Data or a man who signs autographs at a convention… who will, by the way, give you the dirtiest look if he catches you sneaking a photo of him and not coming over to pay for an autograph—not that I would have any intimate knowledge of this behavior from the man and that totally didn’t happen to me at San Diego Comic-Con in 2013.
At this point, I’m really thinking that I’m not going to find the connection but I decided to press on anyway and remained on YouTube for my next film, The Supernaturals—a film about a platoon of soldiers who set up camp on the site of a horrible slaughter of Confederate soldiers. It also has a boy with magic powers and uses them to make sure his mom stays young. Wait, wut? Yeah, this movie is strange. The performances are alright but the movie is just out-there. First off, it’s very alien to see a movie that has Confederate soldiers being the victims but matters aren’t helped by the scary scenes looking more comical than horrific. However, before I took the time to watch the film, I jumped onto IMDb to take a look at the cast and crew and see if the writer or director had some hand in all the other films but, before I can even get to this point, I notice that Nichelle Nichols is in the film. I said, “Hey, Lieutenant Uhura is in this.” I then scrolled down the rest of the cast and noticed that another Star Trek star was in the film; Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge—yes, Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton. At that point I started to sing the Reading Rainbow theme and, after it was over, I said, “That’s funny he’s in this because Data was in—”
And that’s when it hits me.
I go back to all the other films. Death Wish 3 had Counselor Deanna Troi, Marina Sirtis, in it. Jagged Edge saw a makeup-less Lieutenant Worf, Michael Dorn, in it. Dr. Beverly Crusher, Gates McFadden, was in the horrendously unfunny When Nature Calls and Brent “Data” Spiner was in Rent Control. Okay, what about my next movie, The Cover Girl and the Cop? Okay, I actually couldn’t find that one ANYWHERE on the internet but I decide to move on to my last film, Lifeforce.
I didn’t have to turn to my library, YouTube, torrent sites or even a streaming service for this one because I actually own this movie on DVD. Why would I own this one? No, it has nothing to do with the fact that the film’s leading lady (who only has a grand total of 7 minutes of screen time) is literally naked the entire time. Instead, I own this movie because it’s about space vampires—yes, space vampires. The movie is super cheesy and super silly and that makes it super fun to watch. Granted, the movie gets pretty sexist and that’s hard to overlook but when you see the weird puppet effects and remember the film is about freakin’ space vampires, it’s a lot of fun. More importantly, however, the film also stars Patrick Stewart. Yes, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is in this one and, it’s at this point that I’m no longer worried about finding the connection. In fact, I’m so confident that I accurately predicted who would be in the one film I couldn’t get my hands on.
At this point, I think, “I would put money on it that Jonathan Frakes—Commander William T. Riker—is in The Cover Girl and the Cop” and, sure enough after a search on IMDb, I see that Frakes is, in fact, in The Cover Girl and the Cop. Yes, ladies and gentlemen and loyal fans of The Robot’s Pajamas, the connection all these films share is that they all star crew members of the Starship Enterprise when it was under the command of Captain Picard. Death Wish 3, Jagged Edge, When Nature Calls, Rent Control, The Supernaturals, The Cover Girl and the Cop and Lifeforce all star actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation and all before they ended up in roles that would cement them into pop and geek culture history forever.
So, in the immortal words of Captain Picard, “Where the white women at?” I think that’s what he use to say, right?
Rev. Ron is a joker, a smoker and a midnight toker who really loves movies. He’s a wannabe movie critic who contributes by informing you what films are coming to Netflix (and if any are worth your time), doing this fun challenge (that really was a challenge because he is not a Star Trek fan) and, of course, movie reviews. You can read more of his reviews by following him on Twitter (@RevRonster) or just by heading to his blog at RevRonMovies.BlogSpot.com.