Rapid Fire (1989)

We couldn’t keep away from the movies of David A Prior, dear reader – sadly (for us and you). We’ve been aiming to do them in chronological order, but it gets a little messed up around here as we did 1990’s “Invasion Force” last year, and did “Future Zone” as part of our “future-movies” series a few months ago. But by the time we get to 1991 it should be smooth sailing from then on out – that is, if exactly chronological explorations of the filmography of trashy B-movie directors is remotely important to you.

From before the days when the Armed Forces had final script approval over anything that used their stuff, we start off on the USS Alabama, berthed near David A Prior’s regular filming location, Mobile, Alabama. It’s very obviously a retired ship, and Prior very obviously couldn’t afford enough Navy uniforms so half the people on board are Army guys, but never mind that! Strolling on board with a Navy outfit and a ludicrously large steel briefcase is one Eddy Williams (Michael “son of John” Wayne, whose entire acting career consists of a couple of tiny roles in his Dad’s movies and a couple of starring ones for Prior). He’s there to bust out the guy being held in the brig, Mustapha Ahmed (Del Zamora, who was half-Mexican, half-Apache), and does so with almost embarrassing ease, using the super-gun he carries round in the briefcase.

I think it’s important, if you’re a movie director, to pay attention to stuff. Prior had made ten movies by this point? Enough that he really ought to have had a clue. But the same couple of guys get shot twice, and there’s lots of scenes where people just run around randomly, perfectly calm expressions on their faces. Could he not have said “look like there’s a bad guy on board who wants to shoot you?” Would that have been too much? Anyway. The most important thing we learn from this scene is that, once again, in a David A Prior movie, no-one can shoot worth a damn. People stand, stock still, with trained gunmen firing at them, and not a single bullet so much as grazes them.

Our hero is a man who looks like every other 1980s B-movie leading man gave some DNA to the creation of the most generic-looking guy imaginable, Mike Thompson (Ron Waldron). Hero and both villains have the most generic names imaginable, too, almost like it was a joke. But it wasn’t. Anyway, he’s in some random bar, and he helps out a woman who charms him, so he follows her out to the parking lot, where he’s coshed and taken away to be tortured until he agrees to help out the CIA by killing Ahmed and Williams and stopping whatever diabolical plot they have. Turns out Thompson and Williams are hated enemies so he agrees to do the job straight away. Why not just lead with that?

This is all in the first twenty minutes, and you’ll already notice some Prior fetishes.

* Torture

* Flashbacks to trauma in an unspecified war

* Untrustworthy authority figure

There are plenty more to come, though.

We then meet the great sidekick, “Pappy”. He’s bald, has a magnificent beard and is surrounded by beautiful ladies in his pool, which happens to be shaped like a penis. Now, if you’d told me this, I’d not believe you, so here’s a screenshot:

Pappy doesn’t like Eddy either, so agrees to help him out, after Pappy’s wife walks in with a shotgun and interrupts them (fun fact: this woman owned the house they were filming in, and let them film there on the proviso she get a part in their movie). So it’s the two of them, and the hot CIA agent Corey (Dawn Tanner, who only has two credits so I’m assuming is a union actor moonlighting under a different name), against Eddy, Mustapha and their legion of goons.

On the surface, this seems quite generic – the good guys and bad guys circle each other, escalating their tactics, coming to an explosive conclusion – but as with other Prior movies, it’s all about what’s going on underneath. Mustapha, the reason Eddy and Mike are in conflict, is absolutely 100% irrelevant to the plot, operating as a MacGuffin of sorts. In fact Eddy, who was paid to bust him out of jail, dismisses him as a “fuckin’ sand monkey” at one point.

Eddy and Mike served together in an unnamed war. Tired of his heroism, Eddy shoots Mike in the back and steals his special gun (the one we see at the beginning), and then we see him shoot Mike a few more times. Now, this certainly looks like it’s all over for Mike, and indeed no explanation is given for how Mike survived, how Eddy was unaware of this, etc. The gun, also, despite looking like magic space-age tech, never has its provenance explained. I feel like this stuff is kinda important, you know?

I’ve mentioned before that Prior, to a greater or lesser extent, has a gay subtext to his movies, but here it’s so blatant that it almost becomes the only way you can look at it. The two men are only interested in each other, and their animosity seems to come from nowhere. Is it poor scriptwriting or were the two men lovers? It certainly explains a lot, if they were.

I was sort of toying with the other idea, that Mike doesn’t actually exist. Eddy is suffering from severe war psychosis, and keeps seeing himself, dressed in military fatigues, giving a hostile running commentary to his actions. Is he so guilty over the wartime death of his friend he takes on increasingly dangerous missions til finally he gets killed? Is Mike’s backstory, with a weirdo best friend who owns a penis-shaped pool, completely fictitious? I doubt it. But I think the people of 1989, picking this off a video shelf expecting a normal slice of military-themed revenge, will be a little puzzled about how dark it goes.

The gunfight at the end is amateurish, even by Prior standards (they shelter behind a few casually stacked wooden pallets at one point, which deflects every bullet headed their way), and the CIA guy seems drunk throughout his small part (this is Joe Spinell, who died 6 weeks after filming wrapped, so perhaps he was just ill). And then.

I say “most X Y of all time” quite a lot on here, but this must have the all-time most puzzling coda. We hear a bit of ADR from Pappy saying he was thinking of getting into wrestling, so we cut to him, in the thrift store clothes he bought at the beginning of the movie, in a bar, wrestling a bear. What? Best guess, is they were drinking in a bar one night after filming and saw an advert for bear wrestling, and asked the guys running it if they could film a little bit of it for their movie. If you can think of another reason, I’d love to hear it.

Anyway, another extremely entertaining, if somewhat baffling, movie from David A Prior. Next up is one he only wrote, “Born Killer”, but it does star Ted Prior and their regular collaborator Fritz Mathews, so I think it ticks enough boxes to qualify. See you soon!

Rating: thumbs up

Advertisements

Savage Vengeance (1993)

maxresdefault

Also known as “I Spit On Your Grave 2”.

I was a bit conflicted about even reviewing this. I love Donald Farmer and his wonderfully odd shot-on-video work, but there’s really not a lot to like here, although it’s got such a weird story to it that I had to cover it. Camille Keaton had the fortune / misfortune to star in the original “I Spit On Your Grave”, a grindhouse piece of filth from 1978 with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. She barely worked after, the odd appearance at the bottom of credit lists notwithstanding, until 2010, when she got hired by a new generation of filmmakers who wanted some of that old-school sleaze kudos.

 

This movie represents her one and only starring role for over 30 years, and by all accounts she didn’t enjoy it, walking off the set before the end of filming (resulting in a rather oddly edited denouement). Meir Zarchi, the director of the original “I Spit On Your Grave”, sued, causing it to sit on a shelf between 1988 and 1993 and forcing several changes to be made. The main character’s surname was altered, resulting in some rather clumsy dubbing, Keaton herself had her name taken off it, and some re-editing had to be done (presumably to remove footage from the original movie). This scrabble for extra footage, though, does give us the rather wonderful opportunity to see a scene lifted directly from “Scream Dream”, Rikk-O-Shay (with Melissa Moore on vocals) performing “Ball Buster”. But more on that later.

 

As if to add an extra layer of weirdness to proceedings (and to give evidence to the idea this went unreleased for a long time), this has the pre-title title “I Will Dance On Your Grave vol. 1”. “Cannibal Hookers”, released 4 years before this, was vol. 3! I do sort of admire that level of laziness, and will report back when I find out what vol. 2 was, or why entirely unrelated movies were made part of this non-series.

hqdefault

 

Jennifer (SURNAME REDACTED) decides, one day, to drive into the middle of nowhere, take her magazine on a walk into the wilderness, then sit and read it. For reasons which never become apparent, a car full of four guys (see their album cover pose above), one of whom looks a little familiar, also drive to the same spot, track Jennifer down and rape her. But this rape isn’t the average traumatising, violent screen depiction of rape – everyone keeps their clothes on (although Jennifer does get her top ripped open at one point); so you get the curious image of a guy with his jeans on rubbing against the upper thigh of a woman with her jeans on, which is clearly supposed to be a full-on penetrative rape. One of the men, all of whom are unarmed, even forces Jennifer to give him oral sex, which seems a risky proposition given you’ve just brutalised the poor woman. She’s left lying on the ground, sobbing, then…

 

Five years later! Jennifer is now a student at law school, despite being 41 at the time of filming (although she aged remarkably well). The professor in one of the classes talks about her crime as an example of vengeance being an admissible defence in court these days, and makes a few “hilarious” jokes about rape and revenge murder, which naturally upsets our heroine. She decides to take her friend Sam (Linda Lyer) off for a trip to some other wilderness somewhere, to get away from it all, and after she agrees to buy the beer, Sam agrees.

 

At the same time, a woman rejects a man’s advances in a bar (Tommy, played by Farmer himself), so he waits for her to leave and then brutally butchers her in the car park outside. His performance is, to put it mildly, over the top, and here’s a screenshot:

Rapist1

The band in the bar is Rikk-O-Shay…hold on! Their curly haired backing singer, the “star” of “Scream Dream”, was one of the rapists at the beginning of the movie! To see him bouncing about in the background, five years after he had his penis chopped off, is an odd moment, and these two performances represent the entirety of Nikki Riggins’ career in the movies. I can’t get bogged down in the details, though, we’ve got plenty more movie to get through.

 

Unlike the rural idyll it’s portrayed as in many movies, the wilderness here is just overgrown and ugly, and much more believable as a result. Stopping off at a gas station for supplies, they run into Tommy, who makes an inappropriate advance on Sam, only to be stopped by the guy who works there, Dwayne. Dwayne acts like a gentleman, but it turns out he’s the good cop to Tommy’s bad cop and they’re a rape gang! Now, I don’t know a lot about the world, but to completely accidentally fall foul of two different rape gangs in the space of five years seems the worst luck perhaps ever, or just incredibly lazy writing.

 

Later, Sam decides to go for a walk in the woods, gets lost, and happens upon Dwayne’s house. Bad move, Sam. She is raped, killed by Tommy in a fit of rage, then the two men have their way with her corpse before eating her. All this happens with clothes staying on, in case you were wondering. Jennifer waits til the next day before trying to track down her friend, but luckily Dwayne is at the store again and offers to take her to where Sam is. I appreciate I’m a bit of a cynic, but if I’d been the victim of a crime as horrific as Jennifer’s, I’d be much slower to trust a couple of sleazy scumbags who I knew nothing about. But we’ve only got 64 minutes, so those sort of niceties are right out of the window.

maxresdefault (1)

So there’s yet more rape, and another long chase through the woods, culminating in what looks like Jennifer’s death…although it turns out when our two villains go back to the store to gloat over what they’d done, that she was fine, and didn’t have a scratch on her. It’s at this point that they clearly didn’t have Keaton for filming, as someone else has to tell Dwayne that she’s been buying chainsaws and guns and wants to meet them tomorrow. All this, given that the police would almost certainly believe her (they appear to be looking for an excuse to arrest the gruesome twosome), really makes no sense. Tommy’s degenerated into a full-blown necrophile by this point, although the impression is ruined somewhat by one of the corpses blinking several times while the camera focuses on her.

 

This is a horrible movie. Given how short it is, a really large portion of its running time is women either running away from rapists or being raped, and there’s nothing to distract from the grim spectacle of that. It’s poorly shot (on video, naturally), poorly lit, the acting is shocking, and there’s barely a script; plus the music, never a strong suit in Farmer’s stuff, is unbearable, tuneless noodling from beginning to end. I really don’t understand what Farmer was aiming for here – there’s nothing particularly graphic, with everyone being fully clothed at all times, and apart from one fantastic effect when Dwayne gets his head split open with a chainsaw there’s not any gore either. There’s no sense of humour and precious little sense of humanity.

 

Rating: thumbs down

hqdefault (1)