Monday, December 14, 2009

Chopping Mall (Jim Wynorski, 1986)

Rendering the rent-a-cop obsolete with the simple flick of a switch, the mildly satirical, yet altogether entertaining Chopping Mall presents an off-kilter world where your average shopping centre (Sherman Oaks Galleria) is crawling with killer robots, replete with waitresses in red Lacoste shirts who are told to get "more butter" by greasier than usual customers, and features a gun shop called Peckinpah's Sporting Goods (a crisp tribute to the ordnance-friendly director of the same name). Hilarious and provoking hardly any mental exertion whatsoever, the Jim Wynorski directed film is a nimbly paced, mall-based action flick masquerading as an Eating Raoul sequel. Yeah, that's right, Paul and Mary Bland make a brief appearance near the start of the film as restaurant owners. Sitting in the front row at a well-attended demonstration for this new state-of-the-art security system, Mary Woronov (her long, slender legs on full display) and Paul Bartel (his trademark baldness neutralized by his well-nourished beard) are periodically called upon to deliver a barbed comment or two. Of course, it's not the same as having a full-length sequel, but it was nice to see that Bland's were doing well. So much so, that they can apparently afford to buy expensive killer robots to guard their classy eatery.

Designed to protect the sanctity of any merchandise that lies within a building's sturdy walls from would-be thieves and bandits, these robots aren't actually supposed to kill (the term "killer robots" is a bit of a misnomer). But like with most newfangled gizmos and gadgets, the robots start to misbehave. Sure, strangling middle-aged bookworms (Gerrit Graham) and electrocuting surly janitors (Dick Miller) ain't gonna set off any alarm bells at the companies public relations firm. (Their market value is quite low according to the device that measures corporeal merit.) On the other hand, the tension is amplified when a throng of horny teenagers are in danger of being slaughtered. (Adolescents buy more, therefore, are more important in the long run.)

Now firing head-eviscerating laser beams from their eyes, the robots (three to be exact) are hellbent on exterminating eight young people who had planned on partying the night away in the Furniture King (three of the guys work there). Splitting up according to gender, the six (head-eviscerating laser beams have quickly reduced their numbers) teens battle the robots utilizing anything they can get their hands on.

Campy without containing the properties of something that is necessarily campy, Chopping Mall may appear to be a mindless tale of robots gone amuck. However, underneath all the crazy mayhem and clever one-liners ("Fuck the fuchsia! It's Friday!" and "Let's send these fuckers a Rambo-gram.") lies a fortuitous vision of the killer robot future we're all going to be living in the tomorrow to come.

Whether this was the film's intention or not, the sight of a glorified vending machine blowing the head off a lovely lass, whose only crime was looking absolutely scrumptious in a pair of pale panties and possessing a boyfriend who loves cunnilingus, was a stark reminder that machines are becoming more militarized. That being said, the head exploding scene was pretty sweet– you know, in terms of chunk ratio and splatter girth.

Nearly falling into a giddy stupor when I first heard its groovy magnificence during the film's spirited opening credits sequence (where beauty pageant contestants, skate boarding brats, and video arcade enthusiasts literally collide with one another), the 100% electronic score by Chuck Cirino is hands down one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of movie music. The synthesizers, the drum machines, everything seemed in perfect harmony, as its chaotic throb washed over me. Seriously, it's an awesome score.

Quirky fun-fact: Chuck Cirino was the SUV driving host/producer of Weird TV, a wonderfully insane late night program that aired on Global TV in my neck of the woods back in 1995.

Proving that the excessive cuteness she displayed in Night of the Comet was not a fluke, and, of course, establishing once and for all that she doesn't need to sheath her firm body in a light-blue cheerleading outfit to get noticed, the adorable Kelli Maroney imbues her character with intelligence, heart, and, most importantly, a delicate grace. As Alison Parks, a clumsy waitress who is set up by her friends with Ferdy, a slightly awkward (though a night fighting robots should cure that) furniture salesmen played by Tony O'Dell, Kelli embraces her inner badass when the robots decide to strike.

Exhibiting a nice counterpoint to the irrational and hysterical behaviour of Barbara Crampton (From Beyond), Miss Maroney is comfortable with firearms (much like she was in the comet movie) and isn't afraid to spout cheesy one-liners before offing belligerent robots. In other words: yet another reason to worship the spunky splendour that is Kelli Maroney.

video uploaded by DEAD END DRIVE-IN


  1. God love Jim Wynorski, the man who brought us Deathstalker 2 and The Bare Wench Project, but mostly god love Barbara Crampton.

  2. Man, it's been years since I've seen this film. I especially loved the fact that the closing credits sequence froze on the exploding head scene to give us the actress's name. A real work of art.

  3. That robot apocalypse is really just taking forever to get here.

  4. I too love CHOPPING MALL--it has exploding heads, killer robots, movie in-jokes, and the one-two punch of Dick "God" Miller and Barbara "Zang" Crampton. Non-stop fun from one end to the other, asking no more of the audience than to sit back and enjoy the mayhem. Brilliant.

    My comment verification word: "trading." Obviously the blogger AI is making a comment on the rampant consumerism subtext of the flick. Society will eat itself!

  5. Maroney's look in the film may be, let's say, off, but she definitely makes up for it in spunk.

  6. The Goodkind: I'm thinking about tackling Return of the Swamp Thing as my next Wynorski experience.

    Jonny Metro: I like where your exploding head is at.

    Alex: Tell me about it.

    The Vicar of VHS: Call me a tad wonky in the head, but that Dick Miller fella has been shitload of movies.

    Cinema Du Meep: The first part of your sentence had me a bit worried, but you wrapped it up nicely by using the word "spunk." ;)

  7. Yums, you might like this:

  8. Cool. I wonder what I was doing on 10/21/86.

    Apparently Severed Heads and à;GRUMH... were the opening acts on that tour.

    The cover art for the bootleg album of that Bochum gig is the most un-Skippy Puppy thing I've ever seen.

  9. It's been a long time since I've seen this one. I don't remember a lot about it. It was cool to read your post.

  10. Well, one of those mannequins is missing an arm. That's Puppy-esque, eh?

    Tony O'Dell was on Head of the Class.

    Hey, did you see the Olympic torch thingy? In 1996, I took pictures of the torch when it was on its way to Atlanta. We didn't have any protesters, though.

  11. Yeah, I guess that makes it a tad more Puppy-esque. But the colour and font is, like, totally bogus. ;)

    I just saw Brian Robbins from Head of the Class on a rerun of Three's Company (it was the one where the girls misinterpret the words uttered by a couple of secondary characters speaking loudly in another room).

    Is that today? Wow, I must have forgot. Just kidding, I saw some of the coverage on the local news. Apparently the torch is gonna take a ride on a streetcar.

    Chucktown was a clue on Jeopardy today (Dec. 17). The three celeb contestants looked dazed and confused. I, of course, got it correct. :D

    Oh, and thanks, Keith. :)

  12. I am touched and inspired by this review. Thank you.

  13. Chopping Mall is my favorite film of all time. There is a super documentary about Jim Wynorski, following him as he shoots "The Witches of Breastwick" in all of three days. It's called "Popatopolis". Here's a Trailer for it.