Made in STL: Death Kick (1998) and Gun’s Eye (1989)

The St Louis Video Society does great work, finding old and obscure movies which were filmed in St Louis and shining a light on them, organising public showings and so on. Please check the tag “Made in STL” for the other reviews in this series; and please join STLVS head James, myself and the other low-budget movie afficionados of this fine city at a future showing.

First up is a surprising reunion with one of the ISCFC’s favourite figures, one David Heavener. Heavener was the star of “Border Of Tong” (aka “Massacre”) and produced the Donald Farmer movie “Blood and Honour” – the rest of his filmography will be a future ISCFC project. He produced this, too, which was largely filmed in a tile warehouse in downtown-ish St Louis (as well as having the opening credits pan over Union Station, when it wasn’t the rusted out hulk that it is today).

So, a movie called “Death Kick”, with the tagline “this guy kicks people to death”. Would you surprised if I told you no-one kicks anyone to death, and kicking is among the least important of the action moves on display? I would also like to apologise for the lack of names in this review – the cast don’t have IMDB photos or, indeed, character names.

A criminal plots his revenge on Adrian Lane, the prosecutor who, I guess, prosecuted him successfully? He gets three other failed criminals together, and gets them to each hire a “champion”, a good fighter I guess. At the same time, he kidnaps Lane, takes him to a tile warehouse, and ties him up. The three criminals each get a chance to have their champion beat the prosecutor to death. Well, they untie him first, to make it…fairer? Apparenty, the movie mentions he’s a cross-trainer and therefore ought to be quite fit, but zero indication is given that he can actually fight, so when he successfully knocks his first assailant out, my “huh?” levels started to rise.

So, it’s a weirdly over-the-top performance from the main villain, while Lane acts slightly puzzled rather than afraid for his life. He even gets to reunite with his ex-girlfriend! He’s also the writer and producer of the movie, and writes two exceptionally long and boring scenes where women threaten him with different torture weapons – I do love a good example of someone sneaking their fetishes into low-budget movies!

I think maybe, just maybe, someone realised how silly the entire thing was and aimed the production towards the camp end of things. Check out the pro wrestling guy that one of the villains hires to slap Lane about! But it’s equally possible that William Hartig (the writer/producer) knew a few high-level martial artists – much like the “Bloodfist” movies, the martial arts credentials of the main cast are listed over the closing credits – and had a pile of money and a desire to star in his own movie where he gets to kick ass. That makes him the sort of person we want to know!

Anyway, it’s short, which is a plus, but it’s incredibly stupid and the fight scenes are all lame as hell, which is a minus. But it’s got energy to it, and for that I salute the people who worked on this movie, for almost all of whom it’s their only credit.

Second up is a far different proposition, a slasher movie with a fascinating central premise and some strong body-horror elements, which has sadly passed into almost complete obscurity. Only available as a Dutch VHS tape and, realistically, not the sort of movie that’s going to get a loving blu-ray re-release from a company like Vinegar Syndrome, you’ll need to be dedicated to track it down. There’s not even a single screenshot available online to show you!

“Gun’s Eye” is the sole lifetime credit for writer / director / producer / editor / star Jerry Koch. He plays Vick, a young man who goes into a pawn shop one day to sell the engagement ring he was going to give to his girlfriend, who (presumably) left him. The leering weirdo in charge of the store is testing his WW2 Luger pistol, Vick sees it and becomes fascinated with it, for no visible reason. One trade later and he’s out of there, new pistol in hand.

Then it pivots towards classic slasher territory, as Vick, and a group of his friends go to his parents’ home on Lake Of The Ozarks (about 4 hours drive from St Louis) and Vick becomes increasingly divorced from reality. The gun has possessed him, you see, and in the spirit of the title, we see a lot of history from the gun’s point of view, literally down the barrel of the gun. Lots of Nazis, obviously, but also hints about its previous owners. The body-horror manifests itself when the gun begins to literally weld itself to Vick’s hand and there’s some horrific (and rather well-done) special effects as his body begins to produce bullets. Or perhaps Jerry Koch is one of those sticklers who hates it when movie guns fire too often?

I don’t want to go over-the-top with my praise of “Gun’s Eye”, because it’s slow and the acting isn’t great and the alleged mega-amounts of gore ended up not amounting to a great deal of anything. But. That a guy only ever made one movie and it was this – a dark, complex, ugly bit of horror with a fascinating premise and an unusual central visual motif – means it’s worth our time. That it’s disappeared so completely while many many worse movies have special-feature-laden re-releases is a shame.

ISCFC ONE-TIMERS AWARD: I’ve retired this award in recent years, as listening to a commentary with Donald Farmer made me realise that lots of my single-credit actors and directors were just moonlighting under different names in non-union productions to earn a few dollars. But “Gun’s Eye” is one of those rare movies where all the actors and every member of the crew listed on IMDB has this as their only credit, which leads me to believe it’s true for them. Well done “Gun’s Eye”!

 

Rating: come to St Louis Video Society

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