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  Raiders of the Living Dead Yawning Dead, More Like
Year: 1986
Director: Samuel M. Sherman
Stars: Scott Schwarz, Robert Deveau, Donna Asali, Robert Allen, Bob Sachetti, Zita Johann, Corri Burt, Leonard Corman, Christine Farrish, Nino Rigali, Barbara Patterson, Tex Tuttle
Genre: Horror, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: A tanker is driving along the highway when it is hijacked by a man in black armed with a machine gun; he orders the trucker to take the vehicle to the nearest nuclear power station where he proceeds to take a bunch of people hostage and hold them at gunpoint. But what is his motivation, what are his demands? That's what Morgan Randall (Robert Deveau) would like to know, but as he uncovers a plot involving zombies a teenage boy named Jonathan (Scott Schwarz) is taking his grandfather's faulty laserdisc player to pieces with the intention of putting it back together in an entirely new way...

Does that sound like a dog's breakfast? How about a hamster's breakfast? Raiders of the Living Dead (hey, inspired title!) was thrown together by veteran schlock producer Sam Sherman from about an hour of new footage wedded to half an hour of bits he had lifted from another, unreleased movie called Dying Days. Now, why he did not simply release that existing work under his banner is a mystery, unless he was really keen on putting his stamp on the material and as a result got carried away with concocting the teenage scientist storyline which fits about as well as an eighties kids' TV serial would when stuck onto what looks like an espionage yarn with added walking dead.

This is not, to put it mildly, a movie with a great reputation other than among those who like to stick something mindless on and kick back with beer and pizza of an evening, with the intention of laughing and hooting with derision at the ineptitude on display. Whatever Sherman's merits were for getting films out there and into America's grindhouses and drive-ins, there was a lot merely juvenile about his notions of what constituted a decent night's entertainment - needless to say, this did not see the inside of many cinemas, and was mostly discovered by the unwary when it was sold to television or later, put out on home video and DVD, including somewhat improbably a special edition.

Naturally, this gave rise to a degree of lunacy in the manner Raiders of the Living Dead unfolded as a narrative, most blatantly in the part about Jonathan's laser gun invention, which he knows will work when after a bit of tinkering he zaps the hapless Felix, his pet hamster, reducing the small furry creature to ashes. He doesn't even appear that bothered by this turn of events (Jonathan, not Felix), but the mere presence of this scene, which comes after a good five minutes of timewasting tinkering with the dismantled laserdisc player, is enough to put off the animal lovers in the audience: the little guy was a cute wee critter, as well. Schwarz graduated to low level infamy when grew from child star into porn star later in the decade, but there is nothing quite as objectionable to the imagination as that here.

What was more objectionable was the boredom threshold the average audience member might have to negotiate with personally as the patience-testing shenanigans continued. Sherman even included a scene where his leading lady (Donna Asali, who comes across like Randall's mother) visits a Three Stooges festival in a local picture palace just so he could crowbar in some padding of public domain nonsense with Larry, Curly and Moe (it's Disorder in the Court, if you must know - go for the obvious, one supposes). Other than that, there were an abundance of sequences which went nowhere in particular very slowly, and that was just the zombies who make your average slug look like Lewis Hamilton as far as speed went. Never mind trying to fathom what was going on (the most interesting element was the librarian played by Zita Johann of The Mummy fame, returning to the screen after a surely record-breaking fifty-two years), you were not offered enough reason to care - even the laser blasts were scratches drawn on the celluloid. Crazily hard to recommend, but the theme tune almost provides a motive.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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