Thursday, May 13, 2010

EVIL TOONS: 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

The films of director Fred Olen Ray are sorely underrepresented here at the Late Show, and that's a real failure on my part. The prolific Ray is a true master of late night schlock cinema, and I'm a great admirer of his movies. Among my favorites is 1992's EVIL TOONS, the film that resulted from the director's idle thought while watching WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT that people would probably pay money to watch an animated cartoon character tear off a woman's top. This pay cable and VHS classic has just been re-released on DVD this week as a 20th Anniversary (?) Special Edition.

Four attractive coeds are hired to clean up an old house before it can be sold. Of course, this means spending the weekend in the place while lounging around in lingerie, eating pizza and drinking beer. That evening, there's a knock on the door and a Mysterious Stranger (David Carradine, CIRCLE OF IRON) hands the girls a package containing a strange book. The book is filled with drawings of monsters and arcane incantations, and before long, one of the drawings comes to life, leaps off its pages, and sexually assaults one of the girls. She then becomes possessed by evil spirits and begins to stalk and kill her friends....

EVIL TOONS is an enjoyably silly low budget exploitation effort that has no ambition greater than giving the discerning (or non-discerning) viewer 86 minutes of sexy, nekkid girls, salacious cartoon demons, and a handful of familiar character actors picking up checks for a day's work. The girls are played by porn stars Madison Stone and Barbara Dare (billed here as Stacy Nix), Fred's then-girlfriend Suzanne Ager, and B-movie vixen/Penthouse Pet Monique Gabrielle (ANGEL EYES, DEATHSTALKER II). Joining Carradine in brief cameos are Arte Johnson and Dick Miller, and buxom Michelle Bauer (PHANTOM EMPIRE, NIGHTMARE SISTERS) shows up briefly to provide a little extra cleavage to the proceedings.

The animation and its integration with the live-action is actually pretty decent, considering the film's reported budget of about $150,000. Ray (who also scripted under the name "Sherman Scott") keeps everything moving at a quick pace, Gary Graver's cinematography is professionally competent, the girls are beautiful, and if the story ultimately makes no sense, it's at least entertaining.

Previously released on DVD under Ray's Retromedia label back in 2001, this new "20th Anniversary Edition" (counting from the flick's 1990 shoot, I guess) is a marked improvement over the earlier disc, beginning with a new, 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer (the old disc wasn't enhanced for 16x9 displays). The original extra features have been ported over, beginning with Fred's "Nite Owl Theater" intro, the original trailer, and short "Making of" featurette. New to this edition is an informative and entertaining director's audio commentary, a portion of the original workprint, and composer Chuck Cirino's "Evil Toons Suite."

EVIL TOONS is great fun. Stupid, lowbrow, cheesy fun. Highly recommended.

BUY: Evil Toons