That’s Action (1990)

Welcome to one of the more curious entries in the canon of AIP and David A Prior, a documentary made in the middle of their most prolific period (late 80s / early 90s) about their own movies. Well, I say documentary, it’s like a “greatest hits” collection from a band that didn’t really have any hits.

Robert Culp, a legend of TV – “I Spy” and “Greatest American Hero”, to name but two – and a not-so-much legend of movies – “Xtro 3” and “Silent Night, Deadly Night 3”, for instance – is the host for this wander through the filmography of Action International Pictures. Almost all of them are from our old friend David A Prior, but a few others sneak in there, such as “Code Name Vengeance”, “Phoenix the Warrior”, and most memorably, “Space Mutiny”.

So the basic gist of things is – Culp will read the terrible script, and say “here are some movies with X in them”, then a clip, completely devoid of any context, will play. Some of the clips are ten seconds long, some three or four minutes. The areas covered are:

* Car chases

* Gunfights

* Fistfights

* Ladies

* People on fire

* Stuff in the sky

* Pyrotechnics

* Bad guy deaths

There’s one rather crucial problem with this endeavour. If you’ve seen these movies before, then unless you’re some weird masochist, you’re not going to want a VHS tape with random scenes from them on it; and if you’ve not, then the it’ll be more confusing than anyone else. The final fight scene from “Born Killer” is shown at great length, and my wife, who had never seen that particular gem, despite accompanying me for many Prior epics, said “why is that guy covered in red paint? Why are all the cops stood round watching?”

Some scenes are half-explained, like Culp will go “these soldiers are actually vampires” about “The Lost Platoon”, and so on. But most of them aren’t, and some of them are so short – like, we get a shot of a person being blown up, then move on to the next thing – that explaining them would be kind of impossible.

Culp sort of very slowly undresses over the course of proceedings. Like, he comes on in an immaculate suit, but before he’s even finished with the first link he’s unbuttoning his jacket, which is just weird, visually speaking. By the end his tie is loose and his jacket is wide open, as if the sum total of all these amazing clips had a very slight effect on him.

We get one scene repeated, for reasons which presumably made sense at the time (Kalgon kicking the dude on fire out his way in “Space Mutiny”) and lots of scenes which were adequate in their original context, but suck out loud when apparently being used as an example of a classic of their kind – like, a really dull car chase from “Death Chase”, not even the funnest example of a chase from that movie. The “star power” of AIP is represented by a few seconds of a clearly drunk / high Oliver Reed, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss him shot of Dan Haggerty. Can Cameron Mitchell even be called star power?

They proudly show one of the more embarrassing moments in AIP history, where the villain tries to crush a prop beer bottle in his hand and fails the first attempt, which gave me a good laugh. Imagine having twenty movies to mine for material and picking that!

I wish I had more to relate to you, dear reader. But, it’s a TV actor reading a bad script and introducing random clips from mostly average movies. You try and write a good review about that!

Rating: thumbs down

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