Crash and Burn (1990)
CRASH AND BURN
WRITER: Screenplay by J.S. Cardone
DIRECTOR: Charles Band
STARRING: Paul Ganus as Tyson Keen
Megan Ward as Arren
Bill Moseley as Quinn
Eva Larue as Parice
Jack McGee as Winston Wickett
Elizabeth MacLellan as Sandra
Katherine Armstrong as Christie
Ralph Waite as Lathan Hooks
QUICK CUT: A group of people band together to weather out a storm and make some television, while playing with robot toys.
Arren - A 16 year old girl, who has a surprisingly advanced set of skills with computers and the internet, considering the oppressive corporate government banned robots and computers some time ago. She's precocious, smart, easy going, and likes getting into trouble.
Lathan - Arren's grandfather, and it's easy to see he's where she gets a lot of her personality from. He's anti-authority, a loudmouth but in the right way, speaking truth to power when no one else will.
Tyson - A glorified delivery boy for Unicom, who is basically just a corporate stooge because he needs the money. It's not the job he wants, and he's way more on the side of freedom than towing the company line, which is good for the people at Lathan's tv station.
Quinn - The engineer and overall handyman at Lathan's little studio. He runs the systems behind the scenes, makes sure things don't break down, and fixes them if they do. He's close friends with Arren, probably a surrogate father or older brother figure in her life, and good with machines.
Winston Wickett - Bill O'Reilly before there was a Bill O'Reilly, at least as we know him today. If Lathan is the good kind of loudmouth, Winston is the worst. He's a braggart, obnoxious, and someone who thinks he knows everything. He's a bit of a pervert, and a sarcastic shit.
Sandra and Christie - A pair of sex workers, who don't have a *specific* job description, but at least they do porn. But there are jokes about them doing other things, and they could be anywhere from classy escorts to low grade hookers. They show up because Winston has them on his show to make fun of them, and then date them. But hey, money.
Parice - A schoolteacher who works at the television station, running with that idea from the 90s we had that learning would be off-site, with just one teacher broadcasting to a wide audience, with no need to go to schools or classes, and you could stay home. She's good with kids, attractive, and smart, although she gets short shrift in this story for any real characterisation.
THE GUTS: Hello Triskelions, and here we are. We have found ourselves in Full Moon Land and...um, if I had remembered sooner that Re-Animator was an Empire Pictures movie, the precursor to FM, I might have bumped this movie, since I like to spread the Charles Band love a bit, but maybe not. I'd bumped the last movie, AND this week's movie so many times, I probably would've rolled with it.
Anyways, here we are with Crash and Burn, the last of Charles Band's giant robot trilogy. And by trilogy, I mean series of three movies that are not at ALL related to the point that they can't even exist in the same universe for a myriad of reasons. But they all have giant mechs in them, so they're related. In fact, in some markets, C&B was released as Robot Wars 2, despite not being any kind of sequel whatsoever. And sometimes, even released as Robot Wars *3*. Asides from that, the only other connection is that "Crash and Burn" is the 'break a leg' style catchphrase from Robot Jox. Which I still want to make into a thing. But the phrase has an entirely different context with this movie, as we'll see. Eventually.
I have fond memories of all three of these movies, excitedly waiting to see all of them, and they were high on my list of movies to showcase at Trisk, so this review is a long time in coming. As was this movie coming out. It was one of many infamously delayed movies of Full Moon's that came out ages after they said it would, if I remember correctly. This and Arcade were endlessly being promised. In fairness, I will say my brain may be conflating memories of a distant past, so I won't hold this against the movie now, but MAN the wait was killer!!
But enough of the setup, let's get right into Crash and Burn. And hope that isn't prophetic of what the movie does.
We dive right into THE FUTURE of 2030, with Tyson Keen stopping to fuel up his bike, before continuing onto Plotville Junction. He works for Unicom, and is on his way to a local tv station to talk to the owner. It is refreshingly to have a movie set in the future that is actually still the future right now. But fun fact, we are now closer to 2030 than we are to the year this movie came out.
Yes, that is a young Virgil Travis almost ten years before Blood Dolls came out. But don't worry, he's not really in this movie aside from being weird for five seconds at the start. But I wasn't going to let that cameo slide.
So, what makes this 2030 so terrible? Well, they ran with the fear in the 1980s and 90s that we were destroying the ozone, the temperature is unbearable, UV radiation is plentiful, and corporations are running the show! So y'know, we've got 14 years to go, and are well on our way there.
We really need to get on that building giant mechs thing, guys. We are NAILING everything else. I want my giant mech, and I want it NOW.
There's also a resistance group fighting against the corporate oppression of Unicom, the Independent Liberty Union, or the ILU. Awwww! I love you guys too!!
Lathan Hooks, the owner of the station, is a huge supporter of the ILU (Aww!) and you would think that is why Unicom is sending out Tyson to see what's the deal. And for some reason, Unicom sounds really familiar to me, but I digress...
But enough of the setup, Tyson heads to the station, and we get introduced to Winston Wickett. To call him a Rush Limbaugh wannabe would be generous. He's a loudmouth, he's a know it all, he's a braggart, and he likes the ladies, as his guests for today's show are a pair of porn stars/prostitutes he's asked onto the show just to date them.
Check out that set, people. BEHOLD, THE FUTURE! Mystery Science Theater 3000 had better production values. I could seriously sit here and write an entire rant up JUST on how low budget this entire thing is. They must've blown all their cash on that giant robot they prmosed on the cover, so you know it's gotta be good when that shows up!!
And again, to be fair, there is SOME level of deliberate design going on there. The channel is supposed to be no budget, just doing what they can to get the news out and fill the airwaves in this garbage dump of a future. But come on! You could still make it look cheap but not that laughably awful. And really, the entire set looks like a backstage office they just happened to have.
Lathan sees Tyson lurking about and the meeting is full of sparks, since Lathan hates the Unicom stooges always watching over him...but Tyson is only there to make a delivery, and isn't a spy or nothin'. Really! No really. Spoilers, he actually isn't. So, he's a glorified delivery boy, bringing freon out to keep a loser tv station in the middle of asscrack nowhere cool...how does this lead us to giant robots?
Oh, and there's also Lathan's granddaughter Arren, played by Megan Ward, who has turned up in just a few Trisks so far. And you know how you can tell this is the future? Lathan! Arren! Who needs normal names in 2030?? Oh no, I just realised, if this future is actually coming, Arren would have to have been born two years ago.
Tyson and Arren head out to unload the freon, and oh! The tv station is right next to a junkyard! Which just so happens to house a giant robot! Yeah! There we go! Let's...let's...why is it just laying there? It's nonfunctional?? ... Okay, fine, but it'll be working soon, yeah! Robot action! Bam! We'll get it fixed up and it'll be rock 'em sock 'em robots! Real Steel 2!
Oh and oops, there's a storm coming, that they call a 'thermal' that will keep Tyson stuck there for a few days until it blows over! But fortunately, the place is stocked with a few bedrooms...nice, so everyone who works at the tv station sleeps there. What even is the plot of this movie?! The cover promises me giant robots, damnit.
So Arren shows Tyson around the place, and we meet Quinn the handyman and engineer, and Parice, the school...teacher...what? The schoolteacher also lives and works here, apparently, because why not!!
The crew sits down to dinner, has a nice chat about the state of the world, and it is still eerily prescient. Oh, and because of the thermal, Winston and his hookers are also trapped there, and join the party. So that's a lot of people all hunkered down in a repurposed power station for several days...is this going anywhere? Is anything happening?
During the night, Lathan is messing around with some equipment, when he gets surprised by someone he recognises, and then given a railing death onto the station's equipment, shutting down power and cooling. FINALLY something is happening.
A temperature alarm eventually wakes everyone up to discover the power is out, and Quinn figures Lathan was poking around at stuff and broke the power supply. Well...he's not wrong...
They look around to fix things, and discover Lathan's body, and Arren is certain that Unicom had him murdered. Now, that's all fine, and makes sense, but she then proceeds to be absolutely warm, fuzzy, and trusting of the ONE guy in the room that *actually works* for Unicom.
But we are now at a point where the cast is trapped in one labrynthine location, there is a killer somewhere amongst them, the heat is steadily rising making everyone cranky...Okay, I can get behind this as a plot, even if it took us a long time to get here. Not sure where giant robots come into it, but here we are.
So Quinn and Tyson fix the power, while the women moan about the water not working, and Arren checks on her illegal computers in the basement. Because computers were also made illegal by Unicom, along with robots.
And possibly one of the most painful lines is spoken by one of the prostitutes when the power comes back on, "Oh thank god for big, strong men!!" Even by 1990, that is outdated and ugh.
Since Arren has gone missing, the movie dives into it's 'running around the halls calling out names' portion of the story. Tyson finds her and she shows him her computers from the 90s, because of course that's where they're from. Oh, she also slices into his arm to prove he's not a synthetic human. Everyone believes they've been destroyed, but Unicom still uses them as spies, and one was sent to the station because Lathan was a secret member of the ILU (Aww!).
Lathan had found a way to jam the signal that Unicom uses to program the androids, but they traced the signal, and sent a minion to kill the guy. Oh, but robots can't kill humans, you say? Well, unless the protocols are overridden by the crash and burn virus. Yep, there it is.
But since Tyson isn't the synth, they still need to find it, and Arren has everyone gather in the mess hall to cut at them and see who doesn't...bleed...blo....wait. Wait wait wait.
...Oh for Kaufman's sake. This is The Thing all over again. But in a desert. And lame. At least it's a plot. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE GIANT ROBOT.
So we go around the table cutting everyone, until we get to Quinn and Arren says, "Aww, if I can't trust you, who can I trust?" Well, now that you've said THAT? NOT HIM. NOT HIM!!
Everyone gets cut, everyone bleeds, so everyone heads back to bed. Well, that was a spectacular waste of time and yelling! If only we could be stomping around in a giant mech...
Following a forced sex scene between Tyson and Parice, because nothing says time to get down like stabbing everyone with a scalpel, everyone wakes up the next day. During which Tyson grabs a gun, grabs the freon, and discovers that it's the same colour and consistency of blood. Or close enough. Because why not! It's a handy way around the Thing problem, but eh.
Meanwhile, Arren is messing around with the computers again, and loads up the giant robot's Awake program. Yeah! Giant robot! Let's do this! GO! Awake! ARISE.
...Or not, as she shuts it down almost immediately. Well, thanks for reminding us this movie has a giant robot in it. THAT YOU ARE NOT USING.
Arren hears something and hides, and just as she thinks it's safe, she gets grabbed by Quinn, right as Tyson shows up with the shotgun. Because gasp, surprise, Quinn is the Thi...er, the synth.
She stabs the synth in the face with a hair pick to escape, and let the two guys hug it out. Casting Bill Moseley might seem like the obvious choice to be evil these days, but back then when he was lesser known, it probably worked better. And he does chew good scenery once he gets to be evil, while also having just enough nice guyishness to him.
We also get a monologue about how synths have a conscience circuit in their heads, but because of the virus, or maybe getting bashed in the skull three times, has broken the chip and now Quinn is all set to make stabby all across the Antarctic base...er, desert power station, sorry!
So Quinn zooms off to have some fun and kill people wantonly, leaving our...heroes to try and deal with him, while a giant robot rusts outside.
The first thing he does is find Winston, rips off his arm, and electrocutes him in a nearby light. And the Winston Wickett Show is off the air.
Arren can't find the second hooker, and assumes that maybe Quinnbot won't find her either. So cut to him immediately finding her naked in the shower. He makes out with her before killing her...by um...grabbing the shower head? Not uh...not sure sure what happened there.
Quinn takes out the power again, so I guess he won't be electrocuting people anymore, andhe finds everyone in the studio, and shotguns the other hooker in the stomach.
Tyson puts a few rounds in the synth, and it looks like he might be down, so they decide to make a run for it to safety. TAKE THE ROBOT. Climb on it's giant metal shoulders and ride that sucker like he's fuckin' Treebeard and y'all are godsdamned hobbits making a run for the Shire.
Arren grabs some photographic evidence of the illegal synth attacks and the survivors pile into a not-giant-robotish truck, but Quinn falls on the hood to stop them. For the love of all that is holy, forget the junk cars, take the robot!
They shake the synthing lose, and Tyson runs him over, grabbing the shotgun to finish the job, but not before the thermal storm knocks over one of the girdery towers and drops it right on the two. They manage to survive, but Tyson and Quinn are both pinned underneath the giant structure.
Oh no. However can we free them? Or at least Tyson? Whatever shall we do? Arren grabs the power pack from the truck, uses it to get the computers running, and fires up the giant robot.
GIANT ROBOT! INFRACELLS UP! MEGATHRUSTERS ARE GO!!
Yeah! GIANT ROBOT! Finally!
Giant...giant robot...being used...used to lift a giant girder off a guy's leg. That's it. That's what y'all have sat through 70 minutes to see folks. That's your giant robot, and that's it. A whopping two minutes of thwumping across the screen to reach the girder.
Are you shitting me? That may be the biggest waste of a promise of a giant robot. Yes. Even more than Transformers, because at least Michael Bay had them DO stuff. Stupid, offensive, stuff, but still.
Okay, in fairness, the mech DOES also stomp on Quinn, finishing him off. Which is actually a nice parallel to Quinn stomping on Lathan's hands to make him fall to his death. That's actually some solid symmetry.
But let's look at this. The robot, promised on the cover, and in promotion, and shown repeatedly throughout the movie, as a promise of robot being fixed as a B plot to show up later, shows up to lift a heavy object and kill a guy. They seriously could have replaced the mech with an inanimate carbon rod, and gotten the same effect, have it leverage up the scaffold, and bash in Quinn's face. Or anything else. It was so wholly unnecessary, so wasteful, and just...it was *literally* used as the machine of a deus ex machina.
Oh right, there's still movie left. Arren goes back to her computer, looks surprised, and we cut to Tyson and Parice wandering around. They find a note left by the kid that...THERE WAS TWO.
Really? Did we have to jump through hoops to get the false drama of finding a NOTE? She couldn't *tell* Tyson? She couldn't run in all panicky and telling him to get away from the schoolbot? There's just really no good reason to impart information this way.
But oh, right, the school teacher is another synth, right. There's a brief fight, and by fight I mean 'Parice tosses Tyson around'. It finally ends when Arren shows up with the shotgun.
So the bad synths are deactivated, and after a brief stop at Bud's gas, Tyson and Arren pack up their weird sexual tension into the truck and head off to find ILU (Aww!) headquarters to spread the word of Unicom's evil plots. Which everyone knew they were evil, but now they know they know they're evil! I guess.
But they also didn't take the giant robot with them.
What a colossal waste.
Video: This is rough. It's a transfer literally taken from old film reels, and it looks like it, right down to the cigarette burns. Also it does the letterboxed non-anamorphic thing I hate and makes for poor image quality.
Audio: It's honestly not terrible, but could be better.
Sound Bite: Rather than our usual sound bite, let me just give you a video of Quinn's speech about the Jimminy chip. It's fun, it's campy, it's Bill Moseley.
Body Count: A small number this time around, but a high percentage.
1 - Lathan suffers a classic railing kill 24:30 minutes in.
2 - Winston gets his arm amputated, and then electrocuted.
3 - Quinn escorts Christie off this mortal coil...somehow.
4 - Sandra gets taken out by a shotgun to the chest.
5 - The giant robot finally does something and stomps Quinn
6 - The giant robot stops functioning. And I am most sad about this.
7 - Parice gets her head exploded by a shotgun.
Best Corpse: Winston gets the award this time, for having a hideously grotesque hand from freon poisioning making it swell up, which then gets amputated, and he then gets his head shoved into a light socket to electrocute him.
Blood Type - C+: I feel like the grade would be higher if the video was better. There's a decent amount of blood, especially with everything that happens to Winston, and all the slicing, but it's so dark, you can't see squat. The makeup effect on Winston's hand is good, as are the effects on Quinn's beaten and broken body.
Sex Appeal: Every single female gets naked, save for Arren.
Drink Up! Every time you see the giant robot.
Video Nasties: Two! Two videos! Yes, that's right. I gave Moseley his spotlight, and now you get to see the entirety of the robot's scene. Yes, this is the entire thing in all it's puppety glory.
Movie Review: Wow, did this ever not live up to my childhood memories of it. First off, let me be frank, the plot? The plot of what the movie actually is? Is not bad. I mean, it's The Thing in the desert. That's a proven formula. But it oversimplifies the plot in some ways, like not really playing up the paranoia angle. While at the same time, it overcomplicates things in other ways, such as bringing in the corporate overlords trying to micromanage a tv station in the middle of nowhere. And dropping in a giant robot that has zero actual point. Yes, I am bitter about that. But the plot is fine. The filmmaking is competent enough, although the production value is slapdash at best. This defines low budget. The acting is dodgy, the story wanders around, and it takes too long to really know what this movie is, and it's not what is promised. But I do love Moseley in this, and it has it's moments. Sadly, the bad outweighs the good, and this only gets a two out of five Jiminy Chips.
Entertainment Value: I should be more entertained by this. But I obsess over the lack of robot, and misuse of it once it is there. This could've been a huge movie for Full Moon, there's SOMEthing there, but something didn't come through in the final product, and I wonder what went wrong? The robot IS cool though, and again, Moseley. The movie sure does have it's moments. And seeing a young Jack McGee who would go on to be a character actor in a ton of stuff (Most notably for myself, Rescue Me), is a treat. The campiness and silliness of this botched effort actually manage to work better than the actual movie, so it just ekes out a three out of five giant robots.