A recent, rainy Saturday afternoon of slate grey sent me scurrying hither and thither in search of entertainment. Obviously, I was unable to go anywhere due to the ongoing virus crisis and the dismal weather only added to my despondency. I had been unable to join the latest Tuesday Night Cigar Club podcast due to the broken down condition of my laptop. Determined to be on the show, I took a trip to a nearby Target with the intention of purchasing a brand new, state-of-the-art device. Unfortunately, Target was entirely sold out of all laptops and tablets, not to mention just about everything else. The shelves were stripped clean like a dinosaur skeleton while sparse, masked shoppers wandered the aisles in a collective daze in search of a miracle carton of eggs or loaf of bread. Lost documentary footage of a Soviet Union grocery store couldn’t have been more depressing than that wretched scene. The Doctor usually solves most of his problems with drinking and free enterprise, so I went home and immediately purchased a new laptop from Amazon. While waiting for the MacBook to arrive and prior to the commencement of happy hour, I perused the Prime library for something with which to pass the remains of the day…
Reasoning that a sword and sorcery yarn could be fun – as well as reasoning that at least one sexy young woman would be involved – I started watching the classic Deathstalker 2 * from 1987. I had seen at least part of it many years ago, but I had very little memory of it, and I had no idea whatsoever that the movie had been directed by Jim Wynorski! Yessir, the king of super-entertaining exploitation flicks for the better part of the last three decades was behind Deathstalker 2, and that was all I really needed to know.
The inimitable John Terlesky stars as Deathstalker, a womanizer and professional thief who of course is going to get suckered into questing with Reena, a so called “seer” who is played by the lovely and luscious Monique Gabrielle, who according to IMDB was once in Penthouse magazine. Need I go on? Honestly, any further discussion of the plot would be pointless. Deathstalker 2 is replete with riotous fistfights and swordplay, a sort of comical mayhem that would have made the Marx Brothers proud. The action sequences are exhilarating, zany, and nearly continuous.
Some obvious dubbing is involved and there are a few set designs that might leave one wanting, but who is concentrating on such inanities when there is non-stop action featuring Pig Men, dwarves, and topless belly dancers? And topless mudwrestling?**
Terlesky looks the part as Deathstalker and delivers his share of cheeseball jokes. He even ends up competing in a no-holds-barred wrestling match – complete with round cards, no less – pitting Deathstalker against a giant, growling, Neanderthal woman! Such craziness is only one of many sight gags throughout the picture. Some of the scenes literally defy words, even for a long-winded gasbag like your favorite Doctor. If anything, my review is selling Deathstalker 2 short, but at some point you just have to take my word for it and start watching the movie.
The pace never lets up, and this movie is 88 minutes of cuckoo-nuts enjoyment. It’s reminiscent of an old-fashioned adventure serial, albeit one that features curvaceous vixens and John Terlesky’s hairstyle. The end credits sequence even includes a short series of bloopers! If you haven’t seen Deathstalker 2, then I wholeheartedly recommend you get to it at the earliest opportunity and, since you are likely living indoors for most of your hours, I would imagine that such opportunities abound. Still, the movie ended at 5:00 pm on a Saturday so it was time to pour a beverage into a pint glass and move on to another Jim Wynorski film…
Oh, if only we silly mortals had heeded the warnings of 1980’s celluloid. The movies tried to make us learned of the inherent dangers of technology run amok, and we failed to listen. Chopping Mall is a 1986 horror/comedy picture directed by Jim Wynorski and produced by the legendary Roger Corman that is every bit as prescient as The Terminator may someday prove to be.
The famous Sherman Oaks Galleria*** fills in for the fictional “Park Plaza” where the corporate powers-that-be (those assholes again) have contracted with a company named SecureTronics to provide the large shopping center with robot security guards. The “Protector 101” is a squat shaped device that is slightly larger than a household trashcan. Unassuming as they might be, a freak electrical storm literally strikes the wrong wire and causes the heretofore reliable Protectors to become murderous killbots for reasons that are never explained (and frankly don’t need to be).
Attractive and spunky 1980’s blondes Kelli Maroney and Barbara Crampton play Allison and Suzie, two young ladies who toil in a disgusting mall eatery that is not attached to the rest of the food court. Following the end of their shifts the ladies head over to the mall furniture store where several young men are planning to hold a beer bash after closing time. This is a courting technique ripped straight from the playbook of The Doctor’s salad years, proving once again that alcohol and the proximity of young ladies is more than enough to render young men stupid, regardless of the decade at hand.
The young men of Chopping Mall are the shy Ferdy, played by Tony O’Dell, the only member of the Cobra Kai who doesn’t have a line in the original Karate Kid; Greg, played by Nick Segal, who you can see as the smarmy college preppy in School Spirit, a film reviewed by the Tuesday Night Cigar Club; and gum-snapping ladies man Mike, played by John Terlesky of Deathstalker 2! I didn’t know this when I set out to watch Chopping Mall, so I was surprised to see Terlesky again, growing out his mane of hair in anticipation of the first film in our Jim Wynorksi double feature. The circle can now be closed. Cult film stalwarts Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, and the always enjoyable Dick Miller each appear briefly as well.
The Galleria is a great setup for a horror movie, leading one to question why a mall environment wasn’t used more often when indoor suburban malls were more commonplace. The closed mall as isolated utopia is used to great effect in Dawn of the Dead, one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and it works wonders in Chopping Mall as a multi-leveled cage of death once it is locked down for the night. Considering that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – which is really the nice way of saying that originality is a foregone concept – I am somewhat surprised that “mall horror” wasn’t more of a staple of the eighties.
Chopping Mall is a nostalgic time capsule of eighties horror/sci-fi, suspense, and fun with the normal décolletage expected of any classic Wynorski picture. The actors and actresses are all up to par, especially Maroney in an engaging and literally physical performance, as rumor has it that she did many – it not all – of her own stunts. Watch the movie and you will realize how impressive was such a feat.
There are many Jim Wynorski films out there to choose from, but both Deathstalker 2 and Chopping Mall are available on Amazon Prime as of this writing and I’ll be damned if I can think of a better double feature to chase away the doldrums. Added together the two films will not amount to three hours of running time, but they will add up to a lightning whip of glorious 80’s entertainment. Queue up either Deathstalker 2 or Chopping Mall the next time the Quarantine Blues have got you down. As always, my friends, The Doctor wishes you all a clean bill of health.
* There exists a total of 4 Deathstalker movies that were released between 1983 and 1991 – and the others may in fact be worthy of further study – but Part 2 is the only film in the series directed by Jim Wynorski.
** Editor’s Note: The TNCC has featured several highly entertaining movies over the years that all featured the magical touch of Jim Wynorski’s filmmaking wand on our podcast and I highly encourage you to check out our take on them here and here and here. We are hoping, for obvious reasons, to dig in to his later films The Hills Have Thighs and The Devil Wears Nada at some point in the near future…
*** The Sherman Oaks Galleria opened in 1980 and was featured in many popular films. In addition to Valley Girl and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (also with Kelli Maroney), the Galleria is featured prominently in the classic Arnold film Commando. For all Commando fans, which I assume is pretty much anyone who has ever enjoyed an evening with the Tuesday Night Cigar Club, you will immediately recognize the design of the elevators when you see them in Chopping Mall.