Young Rebels (1989)

The late great Amir Shervan made 5 movies in English – “Hollywood Cop”, “Killing American Style”, “Samurai Cop”, this, and “Gypsy” (which we’ve yet to cover). They’re a strange bunch, for sure, and while “Samurai Cop” is clearly the best of the bunch, being entertaining, deeply odd, and really funny (both accidentally and on purpose), they’ve all got something to recommend about them.

Although I’m still not entirely sure what that something is about “Young Rebels”. It’s a revenge story, sort of? But one where both main players, plot-wise, die long before the end of the movie so you’re left with people who you’ve not really been following to wrap things up. For large portions of its run time, it’s one group of anonymous white guys looking sternly at, then shooting, another group of anonymous white guys, with a subplot about migrant workers getting sacked for wanting the minimum wage (a plot line that is borrowed for “Gypsy”, apparently) that goes nowhere.

But I shall bring my (minor) film analysis skills to bear to try and piece together just what happens in “Young Rebels”. By the way, there are no particularly young people in this movie, nor could they be said to be rebelling against anything. Sidetracked again! The first scene is a b-movie classic, the “Drug Deal Gone Wrong” (as if drug deals ever go right in B-movies). Showing up briefly here as “goon no. 3” is Eric Freeman, whose name you won’t recognise but whose most famous scene you probably will:

The person buying the drugs is none other than Shervan regular and ISCFC favourite Robert Z’Dar, and he wants to keep both the drugs and the money, and also to ensure that no-one else will ever sell him drugs again. Of course, the double-cross turns into a bloodbath, and Z’Dar has to return to his father, Mr Vincenzo, with his head hung in shame. I feel like this exact plot was used in “Killing American Style”, but my brain is refusing to let me go back and check.

This brings in, not the hero of the story, but the idiot brother of the hero (or if not hero, then the person whose image adorns the video box) – aka Ben, who rather foolishly borrowed $25,000 from Vincenzo some time ago to gamble with, and lost it all. So, he’s kidnapped, and told that unless his brother Charlie, an expert helicopter pilot, flies down to probably Mexico, picks up a couple of guys and flies them back, he’s a dead man. Luckily, Charlie isn’t that busy so agrees sharpish.

It’s around here that things become confusing. When Ben goes to get Charlie, he’s in a house with the woman you assume is his wife, but it turns out to be Ben’s fiancee? Then, when he goes to Mexico to pick up the two guys, the criminals down there are all “you’ve flown so many missions for us before, Charlie, you’re the best at human trafficking”. Wait, what now? I thought he was doing his dodgy brother a one-time favour? What on earth is going on? But you’ve hardly got time to warm to this thoroughly confusing story before Ben and his fiancee are both murdered and it’s all about Charlie and the two guys who were at Ben’s stag night at a strip club, vs. Vincenzo and his goons. Endless, generic, ugly looking goons, about whom it’s almost impossible to form any sort of opinion.

Well, this isn’t quite all. There’s some of the worst acting I can remember, primarily from Ben (whose name is listed wrong on the IMDB and I can’t tell which non-photo, never-acted-again cast member he’s supposed to be) but also from Joselito Rescober, who you’ll remember as the ultra-camp waiter from “Samurai Cop” and from the fact he’s probably rich and bought his role in these movies as he’s listed as the producer. There’s a chainsaw torture scene which manages to produce very little blood. There’s the way that punches sound like a bomb going off and are so ludicrous that I can’t even imagine a late 80s no-budget action movie seriously going “yes, this is effect we’re going for”.

Or how about a Japanese poster for “Hollywood Cop” on the wall of Vincenzo’s office, which indicates he’s either a fan of fine cinema or they filmed it at Shervan’s house – the framed publicity photos of strippers and hideous indoor jacuzzi would sort of indicate it’s the latter. Talking of strippers, there’s a heck of a lot of nude female flesh on display, long past the point (reached at about 30 seconds) when you’re just begging Shervan to get on with it. How about the meal eaten by Charlie about two-thirds of the way through the movie, which consists of nothing but a raw courgette and some crackers? Or the sheer number of chase scenes which have people firing randomly out of car windows?

What about my favourite thing in the entire movie, the random “Free Puppies” sign that’s propped up in one of the houses they fight their way through? Where are those puppies? I want to see the cute dogs! Puppies >>>>> this movie.

I’ve perhaps made it sound more “so bad, it’s good” than it really is. It’s mostly boring and vaguely incomprehensible. The way that characters abruptly changed relationships didn’t make me laugh, it just made me annoyed. The way Charlie went through pretty much every villain without breaking a sweat, but Vincenzo turned into a super-fighter despite being old as the hills and out of shape, left me bored.

It’s ugly as hell, too. The three sets they could afford are just shabby houses, and the scenes that aren’t in one of them are in random scrubland that provides nothing for the eye to find interesting at all. None of the actors are fun to look at, either, neither beautiful or odd. Just sort of doughy and not remotely like they should be in front of a camera (which, with a very few exceptions, none were again). Z’Dar tries his best, and is a presence to be sure, but he’s not in it enough.

I’ll give it credit for some truly magical bizarre choices, though. The final scene is given to a cop who’s barely been in it, but I can see why Shervan did it – he delivers a line beautifully, and his last two are: “Go call the fucking coroner!” followed by a pause as the camera pans in slightly, then “I’d better watch my fucking language!” The end!

Rating: thumbs down

Night Wars (1988)

Our voyage through the movies of David A. Prior (and his brother, actor Ted) brings us to an interesting movie, which – while not spookily similar – predates “Jacob’s Ladder” by two years, and poses some interesting questions about the psyche of the fellow making it.

For those keeping score (in other words, me) this is the third of Ted Prior’s six movies to date to feature Vietnam, people getting tortured in the “jungle”, and a main villain who’s an American soldier who collaborates with the enemy, Amazingly, it looks like three of his next four movies – “Operation Warzone”, “Hell On The Battleground” and “Jungle Assault”, all continue the trend (the other – “Death Chase”, looks like another riff on “The Most Dangerous Game”, but set in an actual city!) Although biographical info is in short supply, it seems Prior did indeed serve in the military in Vietnam, so perhaps something he saw or did there traumatised him to the extent of working through it, over and over again, in his movies.

The level of darkness to these scenes is certainly unusual among his b-movie brethren, where war is rarely portrayed as such unremitting hell. It starts off with Trent (Brian Edward O’Connor) having a terrible dream about his time in Vietnam – he escapes from his torture room, frees his friend Jim (Cameron Lowery) but before he can free his other friend, the sadistic American who’s helping out the Vietcong, McGregor (Steve Horton), shoots him. The torture isn’t particularly graphic, but it it feels weirdly real, like it’s not a photogenic Hollywood actor getting beaten up but surviving it manfully. They look like they’re genuinely in pain.

Anyway, the two men meet up and discuss their trauma, and how it’s happening to them both. Jim is married and his marriage starts to suffer, there’s perhaps the world’s sleaziest car salesman in a fantastic cameo, and Grizzly Adams himself, Dan Haggerty, shows up as a particularly unconvincing psychiatrist. His part, much like that of Cameron Mitchell in “Deadly Prey”, feels tacked on and a little unrelated to the rest of what’s going on (plus, his actions – tying the men up and holding them at gunpoint til they snap out of it – seems super-unethical). I mean, I’d worry too if a guy produced a severed finger which could be matched back to a guy who’d been officially dead for 20 years, but still.

In its second half, it sort of pivots to become “A Nightmare On Elm Street” – McGregor realises he’s a figment of their psychosis but still wants to kill them both, over and over again, as “death doesn’t exist here”, and even decides that if they can visit him, he can visit them; and Trent and Jim start arming and preparing themselves for battle over in the dream-Vietnam, figuring that if the injuries they get over there transfer themselves back to the real world, then they can rescue their friend and bring him out too.

I’m not sure it’s all that good a movie, but it’s interesting in a way that a more big-budget movie might not be, as it feels very personal. If Prior had to go through anything like this in Vietnam, then I feel deeply sorry for him (while still appreciating the USA should never have been there in the first place), but the repeated use of these tropes in his movies goes beyond just wanting to get it right and goes into the idea that he can’t get past those images. I have to assume his friends at A.I.P were going, “hey David, want to try some different genres? I think we’re good for dark Vietnam stories for a few years, thanks”.

While budgets are obviously a concern, with Vietnam still looking like the Alabama backwoods it was undoubtedly filmed in, there’s some visual fun, like the juxtaposition of the grotty jungle camp with the flowery bedroom the two men are performing their sleep experiments in; and of course, the old ISCFC favourite, the

WOODEN GUARD TOWER!

As we all know, it only has two variations – it either gets blown up (because if you make a movie, you don’t build a wooden guard tower for the hell of it) or someone gets shot out of it and tumbles to their just-off-camera-crash-mat death. This is version B, and I’m glad to see it.

Just because something’s earnestly made, doesn’t necessarily make it enjoyable to watch, and it’s safe to say that “Night Wars” isn’t going to be in anyone’s top 10 war movies list. But, it’s different. It has a twist-ish ending that you’ll never see coming, and the way it messes with reality is quite interesting too.

Ted Prior didn’t act in this one, but he did get a co-writing credit and serving as art director (not sure what that means in this instance, but good on him). There’s also a rather surprising link to a previous ISCFC review series, with Joe Lara (of “Final Equinox”, “Hologram Man” and “Steel Frontier”) showing up as one of the American army extras in the Vietnam scenes. Join us in a few days for “Death Chase”!

Rating: thumbs in the middle

Hellcat’s Revenge (2017)

Long-term readers will remember our Len Kabasinski fandom – he’s one of the stars of low-budget genre filmmaking, and definitely a friend of the site. Bear in mind, though, that we’ve had problems with a few of his movies, and I didn’t exactly love his last one, “Angel of Reckoning”. So, with all that out of the way, I reckon Len has made his best movie to date with “Hellcat’s Revenge”, a tight, fun, sleazy throwback to the biker movie era – with a bit of “Sons of Anarchy” thrown in, I presume (never seen it).

A cold open where we see a woman chased round some empty streets by a few bikers handily illustrates one of the chief problems with low-budget movies – the lack of a closed set. I was all “hey, why doesn’t she get help from that car that’s slowly driving past?” until I realised it was just a car on the street where they were filming and I shouldn’t worry about it. But, this is the only example that springs to mind, which is completely understandable when you’re trying to film on an empty street, at night, in the rain, and need to get your shot quickly.

Anyway. She’s accused of stealing by the extra-sleazy Repo (Mark Kosobucki, one of the main behind-the-scenes guys) and killed, then we discover that she’s the head of the Hellcats, one of this town’s two biker gangs – the others are the Vipers, led by Snake (Kabasinski himself) with Repo one of his main lieutenants. The plot becomes Kat (Lisa Neeld, former Playboy playmate) taking over the Hellcats and trying to figure out who killed her friend and why. There’s a friendly-ish detente with the Vipers, as Kat and Snake have some unspecified history together, so it’s not just all-out war.

I know how difficult it is to find actors when you’ve got no money and never enough time to film, but Kabasinski has done really well here. Along with trusting himself with a larger role (he’s great), he got some great supporting performances from regular Frederick Williams as local mechanic Frank; Adele Crotty, who is presumably a friend of Len’s as she only appears in his movies, as Viper lieutenant Stone; Kosobucki, who you genuinely believe is a wrong ‘un; and Donna Hamblin as tattooist and local gossip merchant Rosie.

When you see a drug deal about to go down, I’d honestly be more impressed if, just once, a movie had one where everyone shook hands, paid for their product and walked away smiling. That would be unusual. But no. Still, it’s a classic scene, and Kabasinski shoots it well. There’s one other classic scene template I wanted to talk about – the strip club. After hoping those ladies were paid well to disrobe, I noticed that Snake really doesn’t seem into it, as a character, and Repo was looking at his phone the entire time a couple of nude women were grinding on him. Was this just the blasé attitude of powerful men or do they realise, it’s 2017 and this sort of thing, while expected of us as the bosses of a biker gang, really ought to be consigned to the history books? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a quiet beer and just talk to these women, find out about them rather than just see their boobs close up?

Or maybe that’s just me. I don’t know. But I feel it’s a reasonable read of the several strip club scenes, and would be an interesting idea for some future biker movie. The reason I even brought this up is it’s Len’s best script, by miles. Often, it seems like he had a title before he had a script – for instance, “Swamp Zombies” pretty much writes itself – but here it feels like something that came out of his fandom and interests, where he tried to give things a little subtext along with delivering on the violence and nudity.

There’s a great denouement in a disused building, some interesting dialogue and a decent final scene. It’s not all perfect (obviously), as some of the fight scenes could either use more skilled performers or slightly tighter editing, but there’s a heck of a lot to like here, and I wouldn’t be opposed to a sequel.

“Hellcat’s Revenge” is just about to have its public world premiere, so if you’re in the area, go along and say hello for me. If not, then KillerWolf Films is a hive of industry at the moment so I’m sure a digital or DVD release will be coming soon.

Rating: thumbs up

Fags In The Fast Lane (2017)

What a glorious movie this is. A celebration of all that makes human beings what they are, plus wonderful home-made sets, sleazy rock n roll music, ultra-violence, a psychedelic colour scheme and never a dull moment. It’s very obviously a labour of love for all involved, and if it comes to a festival, blu-ray store, or streaming service near you, you should definitely watch it.

In the town of Dullsville, a bunch of sleazy methed-out assholes invade a gay bar and beat the crap out of everyone inside – but the manager has a business card for someone who’ll be able to help. That someone is “The Cockslinger”, aka Sir Beauregard, aka Beau, and his Maritime Muscle Services, which in the beginning is just one man – Reginald Lumpton III, aka Lump, a character who the promotional materials say is based on a legendary 19th century prize-fighter and dandy. Off they pop to help out the people of Dullsville, and an indication this isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill movie is when the fight turns into gore-drenched mayhem. I’ve not seen a baseball bat so violently rammed somewhere it shouldn’t be rammed for quite some time! Beau and Lump leave the homophobes a bloody and beaten mess, and kidnap one of them…I’m not entirely sure why, if I’m being honest.

This isn’t the real plot, just a delightful place-setter for a story about Kitten Navidad (B-movie legend who was last seen by the ISCFC in “Red Lips”) as Beau’s mother. She’s in charge of a whorehouse where GILFs satisfy the needs of the rich and powerful, with her fame and fortune the result of owning the Golden Cock, which isn’t a metaphor, it’s a magic penis made out of gold. Turns out the cock belongs to Hijra (played by rock-n-roll superstar King Khan), who’s part of some Asian porn ring but is a good guy…only the cock is stolen by Kitten’s second-in-command Billie Jean, who takes it to Wanda the Giantess, her lover, who has all sorts of world domination plans.

The rest of the movie is every bit as lurid and amazing as that paragraph would have you believe. Beau enlists his old friend Salome and works on turning the kidnapped homophobe, one Squirt, to the side he’s been repressing, and tries to restore his mother’s fortunes by fighting Wanda and taking back the golden cock and all the other jewels that were stolen from her. There’s literally never a dull moment.

Think of it as mix of Derek Jarman and Ted V Mikels, with a healthy dose of good old rock-n-roll mixed in. Writer/produer/director/designer Josh Sinbad Collins has made videos and worked with a who’s-who of underground r-n-r’s finest – Billy Childish, The Cramps, The Trashmen, The Mummies, The 5,6,7,8’s, and The Monks. The Mummies make a brief appearance in “Fags…” and I was cheering the entire time – they’re one of my favourite bands ever; plus, a majority of the cast seem to be drawn from that same milieu, in similar bands and burlesque troops (most notably the great King Khan, of course). He’s also worked with Ray Dennis Steckler, maybe the sleaziest of all the old-school b-movie directors, featured by us in “One More Time” and “The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher”. He’s worked for Derek Jarman, too, way back when (I just discovered). Basically, it’s good stuff from queer cinema, sleazy b-movies, and rock-n-roll, thrown in a pot and stirred with a gold cock.

The invasion of “Freaky Town” at the end is great, showing the model work off to its fullest. It’s not remotely realistic, it’s better than that – grungy and home made and wonderfully colourful. I have very little even slightly negative to say about this wonderful movie.

All manner of lifestyles are shown and enjoyed, although gay ones are obviously front and centre. Beau and Salome indulge in some very athletic and public sex, and then Beau walks through his mother’s knocking shop and seems comfortable round all the hetero action going on in there. Even though every lesbian in the movie is a villain, they seem to have a fine time with each other too – and there are many unclassifiable creatures enjoying themselves in every way. It’s a riot of gender and sexuality and it’s wonderful! Plus, you know, there’s people getting their heads caved in with a golden cock, shown in grotesque detail.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the sheer amount of stuff on display – the numerous gangs, the cult who think Salome is the resurrected god/dess “Shemali”, El Vez, the Bollywood number, just what Beau is packing “down there”, and so on. I guess if you’re going to make movies as rarely as Collins (his other directing effort was 1997’s “Pervirella”), you’d better make the most of it.

Kudos to everyone involved, because I bet they didn’t make much money and they must have worked hard as hell. Chris Asimos is superb as Beau, King Khan is great and Aimee Nichols as Wanda the Giantess is really good too. But really, apart from Kitten Navidad (who never could act, even when she wasn’t just phoning it in in stunt-casting gigs like this), it’s a fine cast.

With people like Chuck Tingle re-inventing the erotic gay novel, and movies like this showing us what a wonderful rainbow world we could be living in if we just abandoned our small-minded morality, it shows how diverse entertainment has become – that we can have weird parodies of and homages to gay entertainment, and not ones that need to exist in any sort of ghetto. But scumbags – rich, powerful scumbags – are trying to roll back the gains that have been made by exceedingly brave and dedicated LGBT+ activists, so we ought to have a grand time watching movies like “Fags In The Fast Lane” and then be devoted to making sure we can live in a future with many more movies like it.

Rating: thumbs up

 

PS – I’m not super-versed in this world, so if I’ve said something stupid or offensive (I hope not, but you never know) please consider it a teaching moment for me and not that I’m an idiot. Also, any homophobes reading this can stop visiting this site for ever.

Deadly Prey (1987)

As great painters refined their work, going back to the same set of ideas time and again, so it is for filmmaker David A. Prior. After making the thoroughly confusing “Killzone”, he still clearly had something to say in the “guy chased through forest by group of mercenaries” genre, so he wrote and directed “Deadly Prey”, his first cult-movie classic. Well, classic is perhaps stretching it a bit, but it’s certainly beloved and is every bit as entertaining on rewatch as it was when I first saw it.

Returning is Ted Prior, as Mike Danton, who we see in the very first shot do one of those poses like you saw at the end of “The Breakfast Club” or “Red Dawn”, so the entire movie is a flashback from that moment, or something. More crucial to the first few moments is David A. Prior’s love of grenades. If real grenades produced a pitiful flash and did as little damage as they apparently do in his world, I’m not sure anyone would ever bother using them, but he clearly worked out a way to do the grenade effect on the cheap, and uses it a heck of a lot (they’re a constant throughout his early movies, at least).

Anyway, it’s all just a ripoff of “The Most Dangerous Game”, where bored hunters decide to let humans loose in the forest and hunt them instead. This is one of the most enduring of B-movie templates, because it’s cheap (you only need a small cast, and sets can be kept to a minimum). A group of mercenaries, led by Colonel Hogan (Prior regular David Campbell) have decided the best way to train is to grab guys off the street and hunt them. Okay, I guess? Confusion comes from them filming a few scenes among a mass of military hardware, tanks and so on, that don’t really get used. I know why – they probably just borrowed the stuff from the local National Guard and weren’t allowed to use it – but it makes their low-rent training methods look even weirder.

In the grand tradition of bad movies, there’s a coincidence so monumental that you’ll either cheer it or abandon the movie in disgust. Danton is sleepily taking out the trash when some of Hogan’s men, looking for a new subject for their training, happen to be driving past. They see him and grab him, and even leaving aside the extremely simple questions “why not get homeless guys? Mexicans trying to sneak over the border? Literally anyone other than a guy from a rich looking suburb who’s more likely to have people who want to find him?” it’s a heck of a weird one. Turns out Danton is a former special forces soldier, trained by Hogan, who says when he finds out that he was the best soldier he ever trained! Come on! That one of the other soldiers is Danton’s friend from the army (thus keeping the “one of the bad guys is a secret good guy” streak going in Prior’s movies) is small potatoes compared to this.

While this is going on, we get a couple of B-movie legends showing up in small roles, an indication of Prior’s increased budgets. One is Cameron Mitchell, sure to be an ISCFC Hall of Famer (“Toolbox Murders”, “Raw Force”, “Demon Cop”); and the other is Troy Donahue, who was a teen heart-throb in the 1950s before a later career in such gems as this and “Hollywood Cop”. Mitchell is the Dad of Mrs Danton, and Donahue is the guy bankrolling this mercenary army. They have parts purely because Prior could afford them and wanted the star power – they’re billed first and second despite appearing for maybe three minutes each.

Of course, Ted is the star, and is great. I know I’ve speculated about David A’s sexuality before, as he has zero nude ladies (almost unheard of in the b-movie world he inhabited) but lots of ripped shirtless dudes. Here, he pans up the ripped shirtless body of his own brother, which might just be him doing his action-director job, but certainly could be seen as psychologically…a little odd? You do you, though, David A!

What’s perhaps most surprising is how it gives us an entire movie’s plot in the first third – Danton is captured, figures out who’s in charge and slaughters a lot of people, while wearing nothing more than jean shorts. He’s got a heck of a line in home-made booby traps, though (another recurring Prior theme). My wife, half-paying attention, said “there’s an hour to go? Seriously?” at this point, but the rest of the plot is the bad guys kidnapping his wife, and Danton just strolling out of the woods and going home to find her missing. Seriously, they say they’re 75 miles south of LA at one point, and they don’t even show him hitching a ride or getting on a bus or anything. There’s a couple of redneck locals who get involved in things, despite this being completely the wrong part of the world for rednecks – another trend making a repeat appearance in the Prior oeuvre.

The reason it’s so beloved is to do with how much weird stuff goes on, I think. Mitchell offers to help look for Danton, and he’s a retired cop, but evidently none of the other cops are interested in the rogue mercenary group operating on their territory as he’s the only guy who shows up to help. There’s the way our heroes slaughter many people, but keep leaving Colonel Hogan alive, for absolutely no reason. There’s the way one of the soldiers goes “we’re not hunting him…he’s hunting us!” and doesn’t even wink at the camera. There’s a guy getting beaten up with his own severed arm. There’s an embarrassment of riches in “Deadly Prey”.

Factor in a genuine “what the hell?” ending and you’ve got yourself a bad movie classic you should all try and watch. There’s a way OTT performance from Ted Prior and a crazily bad one from his wife (and a surprisingly good one from his old friend William Zipp, who deserved better than this), all sorts of fun and never a dull moment. There’s so much cold-blooded murder in this movie! And someone gets scalped! Low budget craziness for ever, I say.

Rating: thumbs up

Karate Warrior 2 (1988)

That’s a fine pout

Making its third appearance in an ISCFC review is a new favourite low-budget Italian movie trick, the “boat in New York harbour”. Want to look like you filmed there, despite you not having the money to do so? Well, sail a boat with one or two actors in it to Manhattan, get a nice shot of them against the skyline, then go back to whichever cheap location you had – in this case, Miami – and make the rest of your movie. If you’re anything like director Fabrizio De Angelis, you’ll film palm trees and stuff that says “Miami” on it in big letters and not even worry one bit!

Or, you know, he could have been going from New York to Miami at the beginning of the movie, and the terrible dubbing might have tricked me. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. But we’re back with part 2! Of a series that I only checked out because Ted Prior has a tiny role in this one! Fun fact – he must have realised he wasn’t going to get much screen time, as there’s a scene in a dojo where he’s wearing a gi with “Ted Pryor” (his screen name at the time) written on the back. Good work Ted!

But as he’s barely in it, so we’re not going to talk about him too much. Kim Rossi Stuart returns as Anthony, who’s gone back to the USA to visit his grandparents then go to college – his parents, who were also USA-bound, are never mentioned again, and he (I think) breaks up with his Filipino girlfriend in a phone call right at the beginning. If you were wondering if he’s as big a dick to everyone around him as he was in part 1, then the answer is “yes, only more so”. He knocks over a couple carrying their shopping and causes the arrest of a few guys by kicking their car as he bikes past, which makes them chase him – he ducks out of the way while they get stopped by cops, then bikes past them with a cheeky “have a nice day”.

Then…gets a new car from his grandparents, and while he’s taking it for a drive (in the middle of the party, which is never referred to again) he annoys a group of local thugs and they run him off the road into a pond. Car destroyed! He hitches a ride with someone who insists, before he gets in, that they become friends – he goes to the same college, although as they’re on a random stretch of highway nowhere near anywhere, I’m not sure why either of them assumed that about the other. Anyway, new best friend Luke (Winston Haynes) also puts him up in his huge mansion and serves him food – the only thing he has in the entire mansion is champagne and caviar. Perhaps this is how the director thinks all Americans live? Luke also tells Anthony that the group he messed with are “The Tigers”, college bullies – not sure they’re a thing that exists, but whatever – and are all karate experts too.

If you thought the plot of part 1 was thin, then part 2’s is positively transparent. He goes up to the gang of toughs (who, remember, were minding their own business until he pissed them off) and challenges their leader to a real in the ring style fight – their leader being the charmingly named Dick (Christopher Alan). And Anthony hits on Dick’s girlfriend too, to the point he dumps her and allows his friends to physically threaten her – just stopping short of rape, so, thanks movie!

So anyway, he wins the fight despite the Tigers cheating, and gets the girl despite her not particularly wanting him at any point, so the Tigers hire the founder of their evil organisation, who I think is called Tommy Bull, to come back to town and kick his ass. To get him to fight again, they threaten to break Luke’s neck – Tommy holds said neck while talking about defending the honour of the Tigers, which is a curious juxtaposition of image and dialogue. But whatever.

Master Kimura comes to town to spout more of his rotten philosophy, we get another fight, etc. And that’s that for another in this series of “Karate Kid” / “No Retreat No Surrender” (but only the first one) ripoffs! Anthony remains among the least likeable of all movie heroes, but in this, unlike the first, there’s no-one to cheer on as the bad guys are also super-evil.

Everything’s ugly and sort of poorly filmed and dubbed, and the budget is probably even lower than the last one as Anthony does his special punch…but the rubbish blue light effect doesn’t show up. I mean, how can you tell he’s performing what is essentially magic? And how does the blow that can knock a tree over not instantly kill the person he’s doing it to?

Annoying git wins and wins and wins, is the lesson of the first two parts of this franchise. Parts 3-6 were so unwanted by the American viewing audience that they’ve never been translated into English – the only way you can watch them is on an Italian DVD, which only comes with Spanish subtitles. So that’s the end of all that nonsense, and we can move on to “Deadly Prey”. *

Rating: thumbs down

  • I just discovered that part 6 is available in English but life’s too short.

Karate Warrior (1987)

Our stroll through the career of the Prior brothers continues, sort of. In 1988 Ted would appear, extremely briefly, in “Karate Warrior 2”, so for fun I decided to watch the first two “Karate Warrior” movies – there are, apparently, six of them and given parts 3-6 only appear to be available in Italian-language DVDs, I’m probably going to pass. Coming up next in the official Prior canon is “Deadly Prey”, aka “the one every bad movie enthusiast has already seen” so I’m putting that off for a few days.

Manila looks legitimately filthy and miserable, and poor Anthony Scott (Italian actor Kim Rossi Stuart) is having a rough time of it, getting beaten up and having all his stuff stolen after he’s only been out of the airport for a few minutes. He’s off from the USA to visit his Dad, a campaigning journalist who can’t possibly get on a plane himself and visit his own damn family. That Dad is Paul, played by Jared Martin (“Rome 2072: The New Gladiators”, lots of American TV) and their dialogue when they meet is the sort of stilted you can only get when an American and an Italian who can’t act are both dubbed by people who can’t act either. But still, it’s a nice reunion I guess?

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Anthony meeting a nice girl, Maria (Janelle Baretto, one and only credit), and then having a run-in with local gangster Quino (Enrico Toralba) – oh, and Quino is also the national karate champion, having learned from Master Kimura (Ken Watanabe) before he disappeared some years before. Anthony decides to antagonise the man who could 100% have him killed with no problem, and luckily for him Quino just decides to kick his ass and leave him in the woods.

This has really taken an unacceptable amount of screen time – something like 38 minutes of an 80 minute movie. Reading the VHS cover will reveal to you that Anthony learns karate from that same Master Kimura, so you either need more of a plot in your act 1 (like, a reason the Dad can’t leave the country, or why Quino is so evil), or you need less of an act 1. Then, act 2 where Anthony learns from Kimura, including some of the most poorly scripted philosophical musings of all time; and an act 3 which is revenge!

Only it’s all messed up. The training doesn’t start til 54 minutes, and act 3 really involves…nothing? I guess? Maria’s little brother is trapped in a burning building, which is apparently Quino’s work, and then Anthony rescues him and goes off to compete in the national karate championships. Well, he just turns up at the and challenges the actual champion, Quino, who’s just fought four other guys on his own so must be feeling a bit tired. Also, if you’re feeling picky, the title it’s known by in the USA, “The Boy In The Golden Kimono”, is super-irrelevant until the last five minutes when he puts it on, and then plays zero role in the rest of the action. It’s like calling “Grease” “The Girl In The Leather Jacket”.

It’s not so much awful as it is really, really boring. Director Fabrizio De Angelis, a minor figure in the Italian exploitation cinema story, seemed like he could barely be bothered here, and certainly couldn’t be bothered to make the hero remotely likeable. You’ll be cheering for Quino from the first time he appears on screen, and although we all know how it’s going to end, we’re all still a little sad when he gets his. Plus, Anthony uses the magic punch he gets taught to knock out a cow, which is a crappy thing to do so screw him.

I would like to talk about the training segment, though, a segment we bad movie fans have seen a million times. Kimura tries to sort Anthony’s twisted neck by shouting “Don’t worry, just relax!” at him multiple times, to the point where he’s screaming it in his face – if it’s a joke, it predates Seifeld’s “serenity now!” by almost a decade. Oh, and Anthony does the whole “can I ask you a question?” to which Kimura replies “no”, which I rather liked too.

The fighting, what little there is of it, is interesting, being properly stylised karate (I’ll leave it to the experts to talk about it in more detail – it has an interesting visual to it, anyway). But it’s badly edited and badly shot and terribly badly acted and has justifiably disappeared completely without trace since its release.

Part 2 is apparently set in the USA, so even though it’ll be mostly filmed somewhere in Italy and will suck out loud, we’ll watch it anyway. Then “Deadly Prey”! You’d have to go out of your way to find “Karate Warrior”, so my advice to you is don’t. Just leave it to sink ever further into obscurity and fill your mind with more joyful works.

Rating: thumbs down

Mankillers (1987)

Because I’d like some of that sweet Twitter recognition, here’s my 140-character review of an almost completely forgotten movie by a director whose recognition even in cult movie circles is pretty patchy – in other words, guaranteed to get countless thousands of retweets:

“It’s the Dirty Dozen, only with women. Except they’re just normal convicts, not military ones, and also the movie is rubbish”.

Now please stay with me for another thousand words or so of largely the same thing. Yes, we’re back in the land of David A. Prior, for his first movie without any involvement from his actor brother Ted (who was possibly working on “Surf Nazis Must Die” at the time). I’m beginning to notice some themes creeping into Prior’s work, so we’ll discuss them, should you be remotely interested.

We’ll also get into one of my favourite new topics – “Bad Guy Economics”! Yes, dear reader, it’s that time where I single out something a bad guy does and wonder just how economical it really is. Our villains in this epic are led by renegade agent John Mickland (the wonderfully named William Zipp). Anyway, he’s trading three women to some sleazy guys for a suitcase full of cocaine, but rather than do the deal he suspects a double-cross and kills them all – turns out he was right to suspect that, but it’s not important to our discussion. The number of double-crosses in drug deals in bad movies are super-frequent, which leads me to wonder, if you were a drug dealer, would you go and do business with a guy who slaughtered the last lot of salesmen who went to his place? How would Mickland, in the world of the movie, ever be trusted to buy drugs again? This is a question that can be asked about hundreds of movies, and one that’s never satisfactorily answered.

Our hero is Rachel McKenna (Lynda Aldon), described by the head of the CIA as too much of a loose cannon – she’s crazier than the criminals! But as she has a previous relationship with Mickland – she went rogue when he did, although he double-crossed her and left her for dead – she’s called in as the only person who can bring Mickland down.

She says she’s going to need a team of 12 women, which inspires the wonderfully dismissive line “how in the hell are you going to pull off this mission with women?” (her response is sort of reasonable for the genre and year). However, when you’ve finished watching the movie you realise that the gender of the strike team is entirely irrelevant – maybe they were going to go undercover as “merchandise”? Nope they’re just there to fight, and apart from maybe one tiny scene, you realise Prior had an idea for a female Dirty Dozen but couldn’t be bothered to provide any justification for it.

Nor could he be bothered to write a scene where McKenna picks her team – to all intents and purposes, it looks like she wanders through a prison and picks 12 women at random. Luckily, they’re all skinny model-types, and unluckily about two-thirds of them are blonde and look very similar to her, which would’ve been a problem if they’d bothered trying to give them any character. We get a training montage and one character – the really mean woman who becomes the most dedicated member of the team after being whipped into shape; and then the CIA guy tells them they only have 12 more hours to finish their training. Why not just hire 12 women from the army if they needed them combat-ready so quickly? Sorry, more questions the movie chooses not to answer.

The fighting and gunplay is genuinely pitiful, like I felt sorry for the people who had to do it. At least Ted Prior, bless him, could throw a punch – neither women or men in this movie look like they’ve ever fought or shot a gun before. There’s a scene where the women set off on their mission and just run into the bad guys in the middle of the woods – neither group is in any sort of cover, but the death rate is remarkably low.

A quick mention of how un-titilating “Mankillers” is. I know I normally complain about the preponderance of T&A in these things, but a trashy 80s movie about a gang of women with absolutely zero nudity is unusual enough to be worth commenting on. This was one of the very first movies from A.I.P., the production company that specialised in action-trash from the late 80s to the mid 90s, and with Prior being one of the founders, he presumably had a lot of control over what went into his movies. Another producer might have demanded nudity? I certainly can’t accuse him of being a feminist, or of lingering on the male form either, so who knows. Perhaps he was too cheap to pay women to disrobe – although given one of the gang, Edy Williams, is very well known for getting naked on camera, even that sounds unlikely.

There are times when this feels like it’s using sets or plot ideas left over from “Killzone”. Someone is tied to the wall of a corrugated iron shack and tortured. It’s yet again about a large, heavily armed group living in a bunch of shacks out in the woods. Yet again, precious little information is given about why they’re doing what they’re doing or why the authorities are so desperate to bring them down. It’s safe to say that Prior had a central set of ideas he liked working through multiple times, much like Andy Sidaris or Coleman Francis. Given I’ve seen the next movie we’ll be covering, “Deadly Prey”, years ago, I can confirm that these themes will show up again. Making its first appearance, though, is Prior’s love affair with grenades, although the explosions they cause here are a little embarrassing.

The final fight is fun, as it starts with Mickland getting shot in the chest and just goes on from there – he’s one surprisingly resilient fellow. But the rest of it is just a waste of time. It feels like he had about half an hour’s worth of money that he stretched to 90 minutes – there’s no variation to anything, no logic, and no fun. It has none of the surreal touches that made previous Prior movies so entertaining, but it does have plenty of plot holes. Kudos to some fine overacting from lead villain Zipp, though, who looked like he was doing cosplay as porno legend John Holmes.

Probably one to avoid if you’re selecting a Prior marathon for some masochist film festival.

Rating: thumbs down