The Profundity of 1980s Schlock Soundtracks

The decade of the 1980s still holds a gargantuan treasure chest of blissfully stupid B-movie actioners and schlock science fiction. Travel back to your earliest memories of going to the cheapest, flimsiest video shop you can think of and there they were: the back catalogue and often straight-to-video fare of some of the most obscure and unknown studios in Hollywood (or, as was often the case, elsewhere), usually accompanied by beautiful artwork that in no way captures the nonsense of the film itself and soundtracks far more wondrous and delightful than the Tesco Value celluloid to which they were committed.

Cannon Films, Troma and even some of the actual studios loved to churn out whatever sludge could technically count as a ‘film’. Most B-Movies are either forgettable or drab rubbish, but the best of them skate a perfect line between genuinely horrible and that hallowed, nigh-erogenous zone of “So Bad It’s Good”. And a bad movie is nothing without an appropriately overblown soundtrack.

Easing in to the genre, one can’t go wrong with early Chuck Norris vehicle Lone Wolf McQuade, a film which bears more than a passing resemblance to Walker, Texas Ranger (so much so that it led to lawsuit in the mid-nineties). The film is victim to some hazardously on-the-nose product placement (Chuck Norris practically fondles a Coca-Cola can in several scenes), hilariously inept villainy (David Carradine perpetually chewing a cigar, aided by a little-person mob boss who literally rolls into the film) and the most clichéd comedy sidekick of all time (a young Robert Beltran, later of Star Trek Voyager fame). The laughs come thick and fast, most notably in a scene where Chuck Norris, buried alive in his 4×4, pours beer all over himself and supercharges out of his own grave. The main theme is suitably pretentious and belongs in a much better Western, but it’s absolutely worth a mention and a listen.

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When it comes to producer/director Andy Sidaris’ “Triple B Series” (“Bullets, Bombs and Boobs” [sic]), Hard Ticket to Hawaii is the cream of the crap. A convoluted action epic that takes place almost entirely in sunny Hawaii and features all manner of tomfoolery, not limited to a seemingly unstoppable super-snake (bitten by “cancer-infested rats”) with a penchant for flying out of toilets and two buxom leads who do almost all of their detective work while topless in a jacuzzi. It is a relentlessly stupid film, perfect for a lazy Saturday night viewing over some cheap beers and friendly company. Musically, the film is blessed with a perfectly adequate 80s synth score, with riotous overuse of this ballad, played over the main credits, several times throughout and again over the end credits.

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Most of the films listed above are bad movies, but Deathstalker II never even tries to claim to be anything else. Made in the wake of Conan the Barbarian, D2 is one of the tidal wave of swords-and-sorcery-sploitation films made for several dollars to turn a profit as fast as possible. The plot is utterly incomprehensible – there’s an evil witch, a princess, some spells, lots of zombies and some excellent bad-swordplay. But the best part of the film is undoubtedly this title sequence, wherein the excellent, oft-used theme tune is brought out like fine silverware.

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Returning to the majestic filmography of the Bearded One, Delta Force is probably the most unapologetically flag-wavey of Chuck Norris’ entire filmography. A particularly bizarre film, half of which is taken up by a group of plane hijackers, characterised as sympathetic freedom fighters, the other half of which is taken up entirely by scenes of Chuck Norris mercilessly killing them with his trademark roundhouse kicks and a motorcycle that fires rockets.

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The Captain America films are some of the very best of Marvel Studios’ near-constant output, but the completely unrelated 1990 straight-to-video film is rather a different story. Even outside of its curious deviations from the source material (Nazi villain the Red Skull is inexplicably Italian for no apparent reason and stops having a red skull after the first act, looking instead like someone who has grafted porridge to their face), the film is utterly impotent, featuring a hero whose sole superpower seems to be the ability to steal people’s cars by pretending he’s about to get sick.

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The film is terrible, but it’s not without its cheerfully crap charm and while the cast is generally miserable (interestingly, Cap is played by J.D. Salinger’s son Matt Salinger, complete with fake rubber ears, presumably to avoid chafing…or something?) the never-not-good Ronny Cox saves us from total despair. The film’s only actual superhuman feat is undoubtedly the end-credits song ‘Home of the Brave’, the most flag-waving, mullet-having, shotgun-wielding piece of redneck trash I’ve ever heard in my entire life. It’s fucking beautiful.

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