Crackerjack

Charm, gumption and a Yippee-ki-yay motherf*cker vaulted Die Hard into everyone’s favorite Christmas classics list. Crackerjack, by contrast, will do the opposite.

Die Hard on a mountain, this Canadian cheapie also has German baddies, and Christopher Plummer subbing Zs for Th’s as a Teutonic villain who favors starch collars and ugly racial politics as he takes a bunch of partiers hostage.

Luckily, a besotted Chicago cop (Thomas Ian Griffith of Karate Kid III fame) on vacation with his sister and bro-in-law is there to intercede, but not without a few J&B whiskey product placements and sound stage sullen set pieces along the way.

Crackerjack is bloody hilarious.

Its McClane is wound so tightly he punches out the organizer of his surprise party, and because this is knuckle-head action territory, he’s also been suspended from the force because he doesn’t see eye to bloodshot eye with the chief. And despite being able to knock back enough spirits to best Charles Bukowski, he’s still savvy and tough-as-nails enough to go toe-to-toe with his ruthless adversaries.

Genre fans will get a kick out of the Serpico nods, a Fredo-lite lifted right out of The Godfather and mise en scènes adorned with art depicting non-existent Chicago bluesmen, ’cause, you know…This is one Chicago cop who’s got the blues.

Crackerjack 3, the film’s equally hilarious (though unrelated) sequel, was a Koreatown DVD pick up by the authors of this site. In that one, Cold War spies reunite to take out a baddie threatening to lay waste to a German UN building. And its denouement reveals some subterfuge involving garden gnomes (!).

This one is a worthy series entry, with cable cars descending when they should be ascending, bizarre geographical blunders of bikinis and beach babes not normally present at such altitudes, and Nastassja Kinski as a deer-in-headlights love interest.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our Crackerjack discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

Death Ship

Isn’t the captain supposed to go down with the ship?

Not here. He survives, and according to the poster, “would be better off dead” for doing so. Death Ship, needless to say, is a weird disaster film / supernatural horror-hybrid that is set on the high seas (and by the looks of the insane premise, “high” being the operative word).

A sweaty George Kennedy plays Ashland, a bored cruise ship captain whose vessel collides with a mysterious rusted brown freighter. His takes on water, and disappears quickly, leaving but a handful of survivors on a raft. They float about for a bit before coming upon the rust-bucket boat in question, now anchored, and they hop aboard.

They go exploring, only to discover that the ship in uninhabited. It’s always a delight to see a bunch of people poking about on an abandoned vessel, which we have not seen since the wacky 90s Italian horror, Creature from the Abyss, aka, Plankton).

There’s a ghost in the machine, however, and one of the passengers (Saul Rubinek, the Daphne love interest from Frasier) is hoisted by a crane and dunked/keelhauled to his demise.

The survivors realize that something is seriously amiss and they really haven’t been rescued at all.

You see, the titular ship has been totally abandoned and is just drifting around as if it’s been possessed by some nefarious spirit. Spoiler alert: It friggin’ has.

Even though Death Ship isn’t a slasher, and is as far removed from the likes of Friday the 13th or Halloween as you can get despite coming out during the Golden Era of horror, it still manages to succeed because like those films, there’s a solid understanding that place matters.

***1/2

[Check out our podcast discussion of Death Ship!]