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Portland’s forgotten movie history, from B to Z to WTF?

Portland’s forgotten movie history, from B to Z to WTF? (photo)

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Portland loves wallowing in crap.

At least, its moviegoers do. From regular screenings of Tommy Wiseau’s cult disasterpiece “The Room” at Cinema 21 to the Hollywood Theatre’s monthly B-Movie Bingo series, this is a city that appreciates Z-grade cinema. It’s not just hipster irony, either. Low-budget, creatively questionable filmmaking has a long, dubious history in the Rose City. With all due respect to Gus Van Sant, Portland independent film does not begin and end with Drugstore Cowboy. It’s just that a lot of the other movies to come out of here have not been — how shall I put this? — good. Or not good enough to remain in the public consciousness very long, anyway.

But quality should never be a burden to entertainment. Portland’s forgotten films deserve rediscovery — if for no other reason than they’re incredibly fun to mock. We enlisted critic, filmmaker, blogger and local schlock movie historian David Walker to help dig up just a few of these hidden turds…er, sorry, “treasures.” Track ’em down if you dare.

Courier of Death (1984)

Plot: A courier (Joey Johnson) overnights packages of certified vengeance to the gangsters who killed his wife, all while wearing a sweet Canadian tuxedo.

David Walker: “This is the work of Tom Shaw, considered by many to be the Ed Wood of Portland. Shaw only made two complete feature films, but he owned a ton of equipment which was used on many other films, including the early works of Gus Van Sant. Much of Shaw’s money came from porn, as he owned several porn theaters in the area during the 1970s.”

What the Internet Says: “This movie could have also been called “Stupid Conversations in a Small Plane”!” –

Ironheart (1992)

Plot: A kung-fu fighting L.A. cop infiltrates a Portland sex trafficking ring in order to avenge his partner’s death.

Walker: “This stars Britton Lee, a local martial arts instructor who also executive produced the film. His brother Julian also made Fatal Revenge several years earlier, but that film never went anywhere, as opposed to Ironheart, which beat a hasty retreat to the world of direct-to-VHS.”

What the Internet Says:
“Tough uncompromising martial arts trained cop turns up, speaks bad english and does stuff that does not make sense. Its utter tripe. But he does have a nice car.” –

Brain Smasher…A Love Story (1993)

Plot: Andrew Dice Clay, in the unawaited followup to 1990’s Adventures of Ford Fairlane, plays a nightclub bouncer protecting Teri Hatcher from ninjas who are actually monks, or something.

Walker: “This was made here during the height of the early ’90s filmmaking boom, which included films like The Temp, Dr. Giggles, Hear No Evil, Frozen Assets, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, Free Willy, and a bunch of other stuff.”

What the Internet Says: “It has a little of everything in it. Love, romance, guys in masks, large, scary strippers, ultimate power, and that one chick whose name I can never remember.” –

Unhinged (1982)

Plot: College girls on their way to a jazz festival get caught in a rainstorm, take shelter in a creepy old mansion and — as usually happens to college girls in creepy old mansions — get killed off one by one. Lesson: Don’t listen to jazz.

Walker: “Written, produced and directed by Don Gronquist, this is one of those early 1980s horror films that benefited from the explosion of home video. I heard it was banned in England, but that’s still just a rumor. Gronquist wrote and produced Rockaday Richie & the Queen of the Hop in 1973, the first all-Portland production to land an international distribution deal.”

What the Internet Says: “I dozed off at one point, but sat bolt upright with eyes wide when the second shower scene rolled around. Alas, alack, these are mere links in an overall rusty chain that is Unhinged, which comes off as part Bluebeard, part Sleepaway Camp, part Psycho and all garbage.” –


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.