Retrospective: 30 Years Since we Learned ‘The Secret of the Ooze’ By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Growing up a kid in the ’80s, I completely devoured everything the decade had to offer a kid my age. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were my world, and the films spawned by the latter of course became a monumental event for just about any kid around at the time.

Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the ‘heroes in a half-shell’ first came to life when their first comic book was published via Mirage Studios in 1984. But like many kids at the time, they didn’t appear on my radar until the animated TV series appeared a few years later in 1987, after which they became a household name, and a full-on worldwide phenomenon. From then on, every kid in America was clamoring for the action figures and having Ninja Party-themed birthday parties, where each kid wanted to be their personal favorite turtle (which most of the time was Michelangelo).

By 1990 the franchise was at it’s peak, and we were finally treated with a feature length film. It was an event that every young boy just had to take a part of at the time, and we all thought we were in on something ‘cool’ that our parents were just not hip to (in some cases movie goers were even given small promotional posters upon arrival to the theater, something I wish I had held on to til this day). Then just one short year later, we were given a second film when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, was released upon our young minds on March 22, 1991. Again I was right there in the theater watching the sequel with one of my older sisters, not knowing at the time it would ultimately be the beginning of the end of my Ninja Turtles craze.

Directed by Michael Pressman, the second Ninja Turtles film was much lighter in tone in comparison to it’s predecessor. And while many of the actors from the first film returned for the sequel, there were some changes to the cast, most noticeably Paige Turco taking over for Judith Hoag as April O’ Neil, and Adam Carl stepping in for Corey Feldman as the voice of Donatello. The turtles also befriend a new alley in the form of Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) in a role similar to Casey Jones (who is strangely absent without any explanation). Another difference those with a keen eye might spot is the limited use of the turtles’ weapons. This was done purposely by filmmakers in an effort to reduce the violence in the movie.

Donatello at Vanilla Ice show at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, FL on 5/22/21 (Photo by Brooke Striewski).

In this entry, the turtles discover that The Shredder (Francois Chau) survived their final battle at the end of the first film, and still has a few remaining loyalists of the Foot Clan in his corner. They also learn their own origins when their master, Splinter (Kevin Clash) explains their mutation was the result of direct contact with a radioactive substance (i.e. the ‘ooze’) manufactured by a company called TGRI. The Shredder of course learns of this, and creates two mutants of his own, Tokka and Rahzar, in an attempt to combat the turtles (for whatever reason, these characters were used in place of Bebop and Rocksteady from the cartoon). The inevitable conclusion finds the turtles facing off and defeating The Shredder and the new mutants in a club where rapper Vanilla Ice (in his film debut) happens to be performing, and conveniently introduces the song “Ninja Rap.’

The Secret of the Ooze grossed over $78 million at the box office domestically, and was followed by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III two years later in 1993, which was panned by critics and signaled a decline in Ninja Turtles popularity. This was further cemented when a live action TV series, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (which introduced the first female turtle, Venus de Milo), came and went briefly in 1997-98.

The franchise laid dormant for several years until 2003, when a new animated series produced by Fox appeared. This helped lead to another feature film, the animated TMNT, in 2007. The series lasted until 2010, and was followed by yet another animated show, this time produced by Nickelodeon, from 2012-17, as well as a reboot film in 2014 starring Megan Fox and produced by Michael Bay, which in turn had it’s own sequel, Out of the Shadows, in 2016 (audiences finally saw the appearance of Bebop and Rocksteady on the big screen for the first time with the latter).

Today, the franchise is still in the hands of Nickelodeon, with Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being the latest incarnation as of 2018, and the Ninja Turtles are more popular now more than ever. This was evidenced when just this month, Vanilla Ice threw a Secret of the Ooze 30th anniversary show in Cocoa Beach, complete with appearances by both Michelangelo and Donatello on stage (see attached photos) that my family and I were in attendance for. It was a reminder of both a brief moment of time that those of us who were there ‘back in the day’ experienced together, and validation that that moment was truly something special to be a part of.

Vanilla Ice (center) performing onstage with Michelangelo (among others) at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, FL on 5/22/21 (Photo by Brooke Striewski).

Retrospective: 35 Years Since ‘Critters’ Invaded Theaters By Jesse Striewski

The ’80s were no doubt full with an abundance of creature feature flicks to choose from. Being younger at the time, Freddy and Jason were usually off the table unfortunately while I was growing up (though I still managed to sneak them in whenever and wherever I got the chance to). But slightly tamer, more “family-friendly” horror/Sci-Fi films like Poltergeist (1982), Gremlins (1984), and Critters (1986) were still fair game in our household, and I can vividly remember watching many of these titles on a couch with my siblings (and/or the other kids in the neighborhood) and a tub of popcorn, often times in awe.

Critters was originally released in the U.S. by New Line Cinema on April 11, 1986, and almost instantly drew comparisons to the previously-mentioned Spielberg romp Gremlins (although Director/Writer Stephen Herek has maintained that he and co-screenwritter Dominco Muir had the script in the works long before either of them had ever heard of or seen Gremlins). The film stared veteran actress Dee Wallace as Helen Brown, who was already known for her appearances in a sleuth of horror films including The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Howling (1981), and Cujo (1983). M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine van der Velde, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, and a young, then-unknown Billy Zane also rounded out the main cast.

The plot was simple enough; vicious creatures from another planet land in the middle of rural Kansas and wreak havoc on the Brown family farm. But two out-of-this-world bounty hunters (played by Mann, and eventually Opper as well in future installments) throw a monkey wrench in their gears, ultimately saving the day from the destructive vermin. In October of 2020, I interviewed Wallace on behalf of Rewind It Magazine, who declared of the film, “It was just such a simple, but harmlessly fun movie to be a part of. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Multiple follow-ups continued the original series, with only Opper and Mann reprising their roles in all of the next three films (although Grimes did return as Brad Brown in the first sequel). 1988’s Critters 2: The Main Course (which was one of the first times I can recall ever seeing so much, ahem – female anatomy – on screen while watching it on cable TV at a friend’s house) was the last film of the series to be released theatrically after a disappointing $3 million box office return (the first entry had grossed over $13 million on a budget nearly equivalent to the sequel’s intake), but remains a cult/Easter classic among many to this day. The next two additions to the franchise, 1991’s Critters 3 (notable for starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio in his first film role) and 1992’s Critters 4 (which featured Brad Dourif and Angela Bassett), promptly received straight-to-video treatment, and saw the titular monsters taking on the big city, and outer space itself, respectively.

It would be nearly three decades until the franchise would be revived, with a reboot film titled Critters Attack!, and a web series Critters: A New Binge, both dropping in 2019. Wallace returned for the former (in a role that may or may not have been the same as her character Helen Brown from the original). Regarding her return to the series, Wallace told Rewind It Magazine in the same 2020 interview; “It was a lot of fun. My first question for them was, ‘Are you doing the critters CGI?,’ because if they were I wouldn’t have done it, and I think the fans would have been disappointed. But I read the script, and met with the director, and I got to go to Cape Town, South Africa, so how bad could it be?!”

Critters have even found themselves as the punchline in random pop culture; the 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles features a scene where one of the turtles, Raphael, is seen walking out of a movie theater (with the film’s poster displayed in full view) and proclaiming in disgust, “Where do they come up with this stuff?!” The song used in the original film, “Power of the Night” by the fictional Johnny Steele (also played by Mann) has also taken on a small life of it’s own as well in some underground circuits and online (had it been released as an actual single at the time of it’s original release, it could’ve possibly even been a hit).

No matter where the franchise goes from here, there’s no denying the lasting impact this campy series has had on multiple generations of Sci-Fi/horror fans for well over three decades now. Thirty-five years on, the original still remains the perfect film for late night viewings as it ever has.

Retrospective: ‘My Bloody Valentine’ at 40 By Jesse Striewski

It’s not hard to find holiday-themed horror movies of one’s choice; Halloween, Christmas, and even New Year’s Eve have a number of options to choose from. But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, My Bloody Valentine has been the no go-to for more than four decades now.

Released by Paramount Pictures at the early stages of the ’80s slasher craze on February 11, 1981, the film takes place in the small fictional mining town called Valentine Bluffs (the film was actually shot in Canada), and centers around the return of the town Valentine’s Day Dance after a twenty-year absent. But former deranged resident and miner Harry Warden vowed revenge if the dance ever took place again, and wields it in grisly fashion with his pickaxe.

Written by John Beaird (with a story originally by Stephen Miller) and directed by George Mihalka, the film may not have featured the most original of concepts (one can even draw several comparisons between Valentine and Friday the 13th, released just one year prior). The film also received trouble from the MPAA, something Director Mihalka attributes to the death of John Lennon shortly before its release. In a 2020 interview with cheatsheet.com, he said; “I could understand the collective cultural despair at the time. Unfortunately, as is always the case, there was backlash, and this time it was against senseless violence.” But the film was still a modest success, grossing over $5 million dollars at the box office on a $2 million budget.

The legacy of My Bloody Valentine lives on to this day. Just two years after the film, a shoegaze band with the same name as the film popped up in Dublin, Ireland. And a remake, My Bloody Valentine 3D, appeared in 2009. There’s even countless screenings of the film worldwide every year. So whether you’re watching with your favorite guy or girl, or solo, grab a heart-shaped box of chocolates (and maybe a glass of wine), and settle in with one of the most essential Valentine’s Day films ever, My Bloody Valentine.

Retrospective: 35 Years of ‘The Return of the Living Dead’ By Jesse Striewski

Many will likely always point to such staple George A. Romero films like Night of the Living Dead or even it’s follow up, Dawn of the Dead, as their idea of the definitive zombie flick. But for my money (and I mean no disrespect to Romero, whose films I also hold in high regards), the cream of the crop will always be 1985’s The Return of the Living Dead. Prior to my first time seeing it, the closest thing to a zombie film I can even recall seeing was Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, so to say it holds a special place in my heart would be an understatement.

Originally released on August 16, 1985, the film brilliantly paired veteran actors Clu Gulager, James Karen, and Don Calfa alongside a host of then-young hotshots, including Thom Matthews, Linnea Quigley, Miguel A Nunez, Jr., and Jewel Sheppard (among others). And directed by Dan O’Bannon and based on an original story by John Russo (who also co-wrote Romero’s original 1968 opus), the film even rather slyly references it’s own source material, explaining early on the events of Night…to be based on actual facts.

The plot was simple enough; after a gas leaks out of an old military canister stored in a medical supply building, the dead begin to rise at a cemetery across the street from it, where a group of local punks happened to be gathered to party. All hell quickly breaks loose, with plenty of carnage and chaos along the way.

The film introduced several new concepts for the zombie film at the time; not only were they able to move fast as opposed to earlier films that see them just slowly shuffle along, they can also talk. And rather than just eating flesh, they seem particular to one delicacy; brains. This concept would be used in many other films since.

Linneas Quigley, who played the punk rock stripping Trash in the film, recently lent her thoughts on Return… to Rewind It Magazine; “I think it holds up really well! I’m always surprised, I get new people at conventions and shows all the time that love that movie, like it’s a brand new movie! But it doesn’t age, which I think is really cool. We should’ve known then (late director) Dan O’Bannon was a man to be reckoned with!”

The film sparked it’s first sequel, the very admirable (and equally fun) Return of the Living Dead Part II in 1988. Like the original, it also boosted a soundtrack of metal and punk bands, and actors Thom Matthews and James Karen also returned in new (albeit very similar) roles as well. Three more less-successful, made for video sequels would eventually follow.

In his August 19, 1985 review of the original film, critic Roger Ebert stated, “It’s kind of a sensation machine, made out of the usual ingredients, and the real question is whether it’s done in style. It is.” And how right he was. The film was a modest success, grossing just over $14 million in the U.S. But more than thirty-five years later, it’s still regarded by many as one of the quintessential zombie films ever made; there’s a good chance it will likely stay that way for a long, long time.

Retrospective: ‘Silent Night Deadly Night’ – A Look Back on the Classic Seasonal Slasher By Jesse Striewski

Christmas horror films were not an entirely new concept by the time Silent Night Deadly Night was released on November 9, 1984. Yet judging by the public reaction and outcry from parents across the country over the film, you would think the world had never seen anything like it before.

In the ’70s, …And All Through the House, a short film about an escaped homicidal manic dressed in Santa garb, crept it’s way into the 1972 anthology flick Tales From the Crypt. And 1974’s Black Christmas (which has since been remade twice) about a group of college girls being offed one by one on Christmas Eve and starring Hollywood stars such as Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder, became a surprise hit. By the early ’80s, it almost seemed like the norm in its own, odd way; Christmas Evil and To All a Goodnight were both released in 1980 with similar concepts of a killer in Santa gear.

Yet those films were largely ignored in comparison to Silent Night Deadly Night. Before it was even released, parents were shocked by the TV ads being shown in between “family” programming that were scaring their children. Protests were held at theaters and malls across America, and critics largely denounced the film. In a recent interview, scream queen Linnea Quigley, who played a victim in the film named Denise, spoke to Rewind It Magazine regarding her thoughts on the film’s controversy. Quigley says; “I thought it was great! I loved how everyone was so up in arms over it, and Siskel & Ebert were plugging it even though they thought it was horrible! Everyone was saying how terrible it was, which of course made people only want to see it more (Laughs)!”

Silent Night Deadly Night followed the story of Billy Chapman (played by Robert Brian Wilson), a teenage orphan who, after witnessing his parents brutality murdered at a young age by a man in a Santa suit, snaps and goes on a killing spree, shortly after he takes his first job at a department store and is asked to act as the store Santa. Needless to say, plenty of grisly carnage and gratuitous sex quickly ensues. At times the tone of the film ranges from hilarious (the scene where the sled rider is decapitated is still definitely worth a laugh!), to dark and demented (Billy’s transformation into a killer is nothing short of disturbing).

The film was the brainchild of TriStar Pictures, who, after seeing the power (and profit) being generated from slasher flicks at the time, quickly wanted to jump on the bandwagon. The studio chose Michael Hickey to write the script, and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. was given directorial duties. To get a more “authentic” feel, it was shot in the dead of winter in Utah in the frigid cold. After it’s release, the film was well on it’s way to becoming a success, earning over $2 million within it’s first week of release (against a budget of $750,000), before ultimately being pulled from theaters just ten days after it’s release.

Since it’s original run, Silent Night Deadly Night has spawned four sequels, starting with Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 in 1987 (which will forever be remembered for the famous line/catchphrase, “Garbage day!”), and a loose remake in 2012. These days, Christmas horror films have become a dime a dozen, with Krampus (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), Red Christmas (2016) just a few titles leading the way. Still, if not for the controversy of the original Silent Night Dead Night, the holidays would be just a little less bright. You ‘better watch out’ for our full interview with actress Linnea Quigley to post soon…and by all means, be careful if Santa really does drop down your chimney tonight! Season’s slayings…

Retrospective: 30 Years of ‘Home Alone’ By Jesse Striewski

I can remember it like it was yesterday; I was a typical 9-year-old kid growing up in New Jersey (and if memory serves me correct, there was even snow on the ground at the time) when my big sister took me one cold winter night to see this new film everyone was raving about, Home Alone. As soon as the opening credits rolled, I could tell (even then at my young age) I was watching something uniquely special. And being around the same age as Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin), it felt as though my own childhood fantasies were coming to life and jumping onto the big screen right before me. It was no doubt an event unlike any other, and by the next Monday morning at school, every kid was talking about and quoting Kevin’s lines.

Writer/Producer John Hughes, the mastermind behind such ’80s classics as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, and Uncle Buck, came up with the idea for Home Alone almost by accident, when, while packing for a family vacation, imagined what it might be like if he were to suddenly leave his ten year old son behind. In doing so, he manged to capture exactly what every red-blooded American kid has dreamed of since the dawn of time.

Rather than direct the film himself, Hughes gave the duties to Chris Columbus, who already had a couple of film credits under his belt, and was even originally slated to direct another Hughes-holiday production the previous year, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (before tensions with that film’s lead, Chevy Chase, lead to him dropping out of the project). But Columbus proved to be the right fit for Hughes’ new project, bringing his own sleek, youthful spin to the finished product.

The adult cast quickly included a number of veteran stars; the roles of bumbling crooks Harry and Marv were respectively given to Joe Pesci, who was hot off the tails of the hit blockbusters, Goodfellas and Lethal Weapon 2, and a young Daniel Stern, who was already gaining momentum with roles such as Little Monsters. Meanwhile the duties of Kevin’s parents were given to Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice) and John Heard (C.H.U.D.). John Hughes alumni, the late John Candy (Uncle Buck) also appeared in a bit part. But when it came to casting the film’s young star, Kevin, Hughes eventually turned to another Uncle Buck star, the young Macaulay Culkin, after a long audition process.

The story itself of course centered around Kevin being left completely alone at his house just before Christmas, as a series of hectic events leads his family to forget about him while rushing to catch a plane to Paris on time. Kevin is instantly left to his own devices; at first it’s an all-out party, but soon enough Kevin realizes he has to actually take care of himself and learn such mundane choirs (often with humorous results) as grocery shopping and doing laundry, while also dealing with unknown fears that include a creepy basement, and a strange old neighbor.

But it’s when Kevin discovers his house has been targeted by the Wet Bandits, Harry and Marv, that he’s truly forced to step up and defend his home. Using household items that includes everything from paint cans to mirco machines, Kevin constructs an elaborate series of booby traps throughout the house, fighting off Harry and Marv in almost cartoon-like, slapstick fashion. In a recent interview, actor Michael C. Maronna, who portrayed Kevin’s older brother, Jeff (best remembered for uttering the infamous line, “Kevin, you’re such a disease!”) told Rewind It Magazine; “It was a confluence of good factors (script, direction, actors, style) that added up to a good (if violent) family Christmas film.”

The film was an instant success, earning over $476 million worldwide, and becoming the highest-grossing live action comedy film of all time (a title it would hold for over two decades). It also spawned four sequels (with only the first two of them being released theatrically) and countless parodies (Macaulay Culkin somewhat reprised his role as Kevin in a 2018 ad for Google Assistant, and appeared on a Home Alone-themed episode of the webseries The Angry Video Game Nerd around the same time). Today, it is regarded as a classic, and is still played nearly around the clock on various cable stations til this day. As a husband and father now myself, I usually catch the film with my family at least once every Christmas season.

Regarding the film’s legacy, recent Rewind It Magazine interviewee Diana Rein, who appeared in the film as Kevin’s older cousin Sondra, reflected to us; “There’s so many people who watch it multiple times every year, it’s like their holiday tradition! I’m SO grateful it’s still around like it is!” You can check out our full interview with Rein from our Dec. 19 article; and be sure to look out for the rest of our full interview with Maronna, posting later this week!

Retrospective: 35 Years of ‘The Golden Girls’ By: Jesse Striewski

The Golden Girls: Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, Betty White, Estel

On September 14, 1985, Americans everywhere welcomed four irresistibly lovable ladies into their living rooms for the very first time when it premiered on NBC. The series was created by Susan Harris, who also served as executive producer, along with her husband, Paul Junger Witt, and Tony Thomas.

Set in Miami, FL, the show followed roomates Dorthy Zporank (played by Bea Arthur), Rose Nylund (Betty White), Blanche Devereux (Rue McClanahan), and Estelle Getty as Dorthy’s mother Sophia Petrillo, who was originally only slated to be a recurring ‘guest’ before testing so well with audiences she ultimately replaced the show’s original fourth character, a housekeeper named “Coco” who only appeared in the pilot episode (portrayed by the late Charles Levin).

Since my earliest memories of first seeing the series, I’ve often related the women on the show to the ones in my own life; airy but lovable Rose reminded me of my mother, Joyce; feisty Sophia bore a striking resemblance to my late grandmother, Mary; and sultry southern belle Blanche was the spitting image of my late Aunt Roberta, who actually lived in south, FL at the time the show was on the air. It wasn’t until I eventually met my lovely wife Brooke many years later, who also re-introduced me to the show after many years of being away from it (we now fall asleep with it on nearly every single night), that I would finally come full circle and find someone that represents the strong willed Dorthy.

Actress Deena Freeman, who played Dorthy’s daughter Kate on the season 2 episode “Son-in-Law Dearest” from 1987, can also relate to the same sentiment on an even more firsthand basis. In a recent conversation via email, Freeman, who currently runs a teen acting studio out of Los Angles with her husband, reflected on her time on the set to me; “It was a sheer pleasure to work on The Golden Girls; I was flying high. Working with Bea as my mom is a memory I cherish forever.”

Aside from it’s ability to produce witty one-liners at a rapid pace, the series was also timely throughout it’s run, touching on multiple topics ranging anywhere from discrimination, teen pregnancy, and homosexuality. Actor Monte Markham, who first appeared  as Blanche’s gay brother Clay Hollinsworth in the season 3 episode “Scared Straight” from 1988, took the time to speak with me over the phone regarding his appearances on the show. He says;  “The Golden Girls was probably one of the best on-camera experiences I ever had. I had actually known some of the ladies prior; Bea I had known from New York – her husband (Gene Saks) had directed me in (the Broadway production) Same Time, Next Year. And Betty and I had crossed paths many times over the years, so to finally get to work with her on camera after all those years was truly great. The set was brilliant, the writing was brilliant…and everything you could possibly want or need from a show was just there. Corralling all those ladies with such different personalities to work together like that was really quite amazing.”

Markham would later reprise his role again in the 1991 episode “Sister of the Bride,” and notes the subtle changes that had occurred on set since his last appearance; “When I went back for the second episode, there was a new director that was very abrupt, and the atmosphere had changed and just felt like it was more about ‘business as usual.’ I think they knew by then they weren’t going to be doing the show much longer.”

And indeed they would not, as the show would come to an end just one year later in 1992. A short-lived direct spin-off, The Golden Palace, would premiere in the fall of that same year. But despite having all of the actresses attached sans Arthur, it didn’t have the same effect as the former show, and would only run for one season before falling through the cracks by 1993.

With the series now on round-the-clock syndication and perhaps more popular now than ever in pop culture thanks to everything from board games to t-shirts, The Golden Girls remains an enduring classic that continues to gain new generations of fans. The one and only Betty White herself was kind enough to provide Rewind It Magazine with a brief quote (via her agent) reflecting on her time playing Rose Nylund on the show; “It was always great fun shooting each episode and I truly miss everyone involved.” One thing is for certain; no matter how much time may pass, the lasting legacy created from The Golden Girls will always continue to entertain and endure. Always.