Death Row Diner (1988)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

The Noid does not live comfortably today. His royalty checks from Domino’s Pizza dried up long ago. Nintendo won’t even return his calls. But at least he has this movie.

What else does Death Row Diner have to offer besides an appearance from the Noid? This is a 68-minute, tongue-in-cheek take on the motion picture industry, as well as a 68-minute, tongue- in-cheek take on mustaches. It’s also SOV. If you love the word “fuck” and Elvis impersonators and Asian stereotypes, you will love this movie.

In the late 1940s, movie mogul Otis Wilcox was sent to the electric chair for a crime he didn’t commit. Present day. Wilcox’s studio has fallen into the hands of flamboyant director “Wild” Bill Weston, who is currently filming in the very same prison where Otis was executed. Leading lady Julia (Michelle Bauer) lounges around in lingerie while a reincarnated Otis begins to murder everyone. Industry in-jokes are thrown around, but none of them stick. A girl is strangled. Blood gushes out of her neck. Otis knocks a guy’s eyes out with a ping-pong paddle. That made my day. So did the post-credit blooper reel.

Death Row Diner is in dire need of some A.D.R., a soundtrack that doesn’t sound like a four-year-old playing a Casio, and a joke editor. However, any SOV film that features a narrator saying, “Soon, she would come face to face with the toughest critic of them all — THE TRUTH!” can’t be that bad. And it’s not. This may be a moronic horror-comedy, but the defects endear it. From the onscreen plugs for Video Violence and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers to the over-the-top performances, it’s clear that one-time director B. Dennis Wood and friends just wanted to have fun. Production values are higher than most SOV escapades, but the editing and camera work stink. That’s the cincher.

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