3/29/2011

Stunt Rock (1980)

Stunt Rock (1980)-* * * *

Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Starring: Grant Page, Monique van de Ven, Phil Hartman, and the band Sorcery



"Death Wish At 120 Decibels!"








Grant Page is our personal hero. An Australian stuntman known for his unbelievably dangerous stunt work, here he gets his own movie so he can display his charm to the audience as well. Director Brian Trenchard-Smith fashioned an innovative cross between a documentary, a fictional film and a concert film, and its ahead-of-its-time (even today) nature ensures pure entertainment that will appeal to any generation.  What’s so cool about Stunt Rock, besides the stunts and music, is that the filmmakers were smart enough not to weigh it down with an involved plot. There’s really no time for that, it has to be packed full with stunts and the music of the L.A. rock band Sorcery.

What happens is, Grant comes to Los Angeles to work on a new TV show starring Monique van de Ven, called Undercover Girl. Interestingly, her smarmy agent is played by Richard Blackburn, the director of the great Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973). The director of the show is played by Ron Raley, whose student film at UCLA was photographed by none other than Jim Morrison of The Doors fame when Morrison, Raley and Blackburn were at UCLA film school together. A very early appearance by Phil Hartman as the assistant director passes in a flash. Anyway, Grant ends up in a relationship with a magazine reporter (Margaret Gerard, wife of Trenchard-Smith) who is doing an article on stunt men. Meanwhile, Grant’s cousin is in the stage show for Sorcery, who re-enact cosmic battles between good and evil featuring wizards and demons while the band crank out their rockin’ tunes.


 This hugely entertaining film is just too awesome for words. The great Trenchard-Smith blasted out a tour-de-force of music and action - a majority of the movie is footage of Page’s death-defying stunts while Sorcery music blares on the soundtrack. Page’s insane, awe-inspiring work is so eye-popping, Trenchard-Smith puts it on split screens because one screen just isn’t enough!


The movie also has plenty of humor, as evidenced by the masked keyboard player with the funny voice (Doug Loch). Pure fun, the simplicity of the execution, married with the powerful combination of the music and the action, guarantees Stunt Rock the status of cinematic masterpiece. Trenchard-Smith described this gem as “a love letter to stuntmen in general and Grant Page in particular”, and that love comes through in spades, and the overall upbeat, positive vibe is totally winning.


Much of that has to do with the presence, music and magic tricks of Sorcery. If the filmmakers had gone with Foreigner or Van Halen (two other potential choices), it just would not have been the same, and Stunt Rock would have been an entirely different experience.

If you don’t like Stunt Rock, please seek psychiatric help immediately. You are a danger to the community.

NOTE: A lot of the information in this review came from the excellent Code Red 2-DVD set. Buy it right now.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

3/27/2011

Above The Law (1986)

Above The Law (1986)-* * *1\2

AKA: Righting Wrongs

Directed by: Corey Yuen

Starring: Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock, Corey Yuen, Roy Chiao, Siu-Wong Fan, Peter "Sugarfoot" Cunningham, Melvin Wong, and Karen Sheperd











The great Yuen Biao plays Hsia, a prosecutor who is tired of seeing the bad guys go free and the justice system constantly protecting villains and ignoring the victims of their crimes. Some seriously bad dudes are out there annihilating entire families to keep them quiet. So Hsia decides to go after the baddies in his off time, which works out well because this lawyer is also an incredibly skilled martial artist. Cynthia Rothrock plays Cindy, a CID agent who is constantly on Hsia’s tail. Their conflict is about the nature of justice and law in society. Her partner is Bad Egg, a slovenly cop played by the director, Corey Yuen. But will Hsia or Cindy triumph in the final battle with the super-evil bad guy (who I can’t reveal because it is too close to a spoiler)?


Above the law is simply awesome. It delivers the goods to the audience in spades with slam-bang action right from the first minute. The pedigree of the film is impressive, with not just familiar names such as the amazing Yuen Biao and Cynthia Rothrock (who also delivers one of the better performances we’ve seen from her), but the producers got some American fighters to fly to Hong Kong such as Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham and Karen Sheperd, who have both gone on to good careers since.




As you may know, Yuen Biao came from the same Opera School that produced Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. His skills in fighting and stunts are at least equal to his classmates. But for some reason, outside of action circles, he never reached their level of fame. Notably, an uncredited Sammo choreographed the final fight. Siu-Wong Fan, who plays the character of Wen, a teenage witness, went on to play the title role in Story of Ricky. The reason Melvin Wong looks so muscular and pumped up here is because he trained under Bolo Yeung.



Above the Law features, on top of the ace fighting and stunt work, the same crowd-pleasing wacky comedy and lovable characters known in Hong Kong productions. (Interestingly, some scenes were shot in Auckland, New Zealand).  Also featuring some killer music, the movie is just a blast, an incredibly fun rush of fast-paced action setpieces.

For an over-the-top 80’s HK action film, it’s hard to top the first-rate Above the Law.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Check out a write-up from our buddies at 10k Bullets!





3/24/2011

Getting Even (1986)

Getting Even (1986)-* * *

AKA: Hostage Dallas

Directed by: Dwight H. Little

Starring: Edward Albert, Audrey Landers, and Joe Don Baker














Here is the on-screen crawl viewers of Getting Even will read when they pop the tape into their VCR:

Afghanistan: The Spring

A new lethal weapon has been developed. It kills silently by ravaging the body. It is a poisonous gas that destroys the flesh. There is no known defense.

The U.S. Government has recruited the one man capable of capturing and disarming this weapon.

His mission: PROJECT VIPER

His name: TAGGAR

This describes the plot of Getting Even better than we possibly could. But there are a few other things this helpful intro left out. Taggar, or “Tag” for short (Albert) is a Bruce Wayne-like industrialist/adventurer from Dallas who wears power suits during the day while in his massive skyscraper, Taggar Enterprises, and at night travels with an elite band of special ops and gets into action-packed scenarios.

Taggar Enterprises specializes in “Chemicals, Robotics and "Microtechnology”. Plus they have their own book, their building has a “TE” helipad for the official “TE” chopper, and they even have stylish “TE” jackets for their employees to wear in their downtime. Tag even zooms around in his rockin’ sports car with “TAG ENT” as the license plate. All this success must have really cheesed off rival Texan chemical researcher King Kenderson (Baker). He acts like a classic cowboy but deep down is an insecure man, constantly afraid of being labeled “a loser”. The flashy, capable and awesomely-named Taggar gets his goat so much, he steals canisters of the deadly gas weapon described above and threatens to release it over Dallas unless he gets fifty million dollars.


So, with the help of Paige Starson (Landers), Taggar snaps into action in a series of stunts, fights and chases in a variety of different vehicles in order to take down Kenderson and save Texas. Can he do it?

Here, Edward Albert throws his hat into a fairly crowded ring as another camouflage face-painted, rocket launcher-toting hero. He resembles a cross between Tom Selleck and Robert Goulet, and the whole affair is classic 80’s action fun. The plot is a bit bizarre, as rival chemical researchers battle for supremacy, but this different take makes Getting Even (not to be confused with the other Getting Even, 1988 with Harrison Muller, Jr.) worthwhile. The war between the suave city man and the “country bumpkin” is a tried-and-true “country mouse vs. city mouse” tale, but this one has lots of classic 80’s computers and a blasting theme song.

In the dialogue department, we get gems such as the shouted “Adios, Russkies!” during the opening action scene, and the ultimate moment in this film, or perhaps in all of Edward Albert’s career (and yes, I am aware we’re talking about Punchy himself) is when he yells at top volume and intensity, “KENDERSON!!!!!!!!!!” Great stuff. Great I tell you.

Perhaps the film is set in Dallas to try and capitalize on the popular TV show of the time, but with an eye on giving action fans a reason to visit that city. It seems Taggar would have fit in well on that show.

Released on VHS in the U.S. on Vestron, if you see it somewhere, pick up Getting Even.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

3/22/2011

Samurai Cop (1989)

Samurai Cop (1989)-* * * *

Directed by: Amir Shervan

Starring: Matt Hannon, Robert Z'Dar, Joselito Rescober,  Mark Frazer, Melissa Moore, and Gerald Okamura












 Attempting to describe Samurai Cop is not easy. It’s like director Amir Shervan and everyone else involved made this movie without having ever seen another movie before. Only having HEARD of something called a “movie” and trying to make one themselves, sight unseen, with nothing to compare it to. Thus, Samurai Cop is chock full of non-actors giving hilarious line readings, absurd dubbing, and hacksaw editing consisting of various scenes of strange-looking people attempting to communicate with each other in ways human beings have not yet seen.

This is probably pointless, but  here’s the plot: the evil Katana gang is causing all sorts of trouble in the L.A. Area. Chinese and Japanese gangs are at war and there is violence everywhere. Luckily, the LAPD has an ace in the hole: Joe “Samurai” Marshall (Hannon), a long-haired, orange-skinned freak who just learned English a few weeks ago. They called him in from San Diego because of some sort of expertise in Japanese culture, hence his nifty nickname. They team him up with Frank (Frazer), presumably because of his mastery of reaction shots.  Peggy (Moore, who apparently has taken this film off her resume) is a female cop helping them out, because Yamashita (the non-Japanese Z’Dar), Fujiyama (Rescober), and Gerald Okamura as...wait for it...OKAMURA are a serious gang to be reckoned with  Back at the police station, the angry chief to end all angry chiefs is Captain Roma, the apoplectic but somehow lovable boss.

This movie is absolutely hilarious. The dubbing alone is worth the price of admission. Supposedly found languishing in a vault in Italy and brought to light by Italian cinephiles which led to its eventual DVD release on Media Blasters (complete with a funny Joe Bob Briggs commentary track), Samurai Cop stands alone in its charming, winning, violence-and-nudity-packed ineptitude.


But top honors must go, not to stalwarts Robert Z’Dar and Gerald Okamura, but to American hero Matt Hannon. Not credited with any other movie, and supposedly a one-time bodyguard for Sylvester Stallone, this man is amazing. Perhaps the ultimate meathead, he makes Chip Mayer look like Joe Lara, whatever that means. The fact that “Samurai” Joe Marshall is supposed to be this great womanizer is too funny.  He’s so unbelievably wooden, he makes the Amazon rainforest look barren. And his quasi-nudity doesn’t help matters. (Nor does the quasi-nudity of Z’Dar and Okamura, but it is balanced nicely with some softcore porn-type scenes that pad out the inexplicable 96-minute running time).

Perhaps director Shervan was going for a Lethal Weapon/Miami Vice sort of thing, but the stunning lack of continuity or any sort of pacing make the movie seem like a complete absurdity, almost a surrealist film. Due to its breaking of just about every rule of filmmaking, it seems like a child made it. While watching the movie, you can’t help but ask yourself “where did they find these people?” Apparently it was named Samurai Cop to cash in on the whole Z’Dar-Maniac Cop connection - but just ignore the misleading box art. Comparisons could also be made, at least in the buddy cop department, to Action U.S.A, but Frank is no Panama, sadly. Naturally it all ends in the time-honored “Final Field Fight” after Frank and Joe have killed all the mulleted goons around.


An awesome, one-of-a-kind movie that seems like it was made on another planet, Samurai Cop is a classic for the ages.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty



3/19/2011

The King Of The Kickboxers (1990)


The King Of The Kickboxers (1990)-* * *

Directed by: Lucas Lowe

Starring: Loren Avedon, Richard Jaeckel, Don Stroud, Keith Cooke, Han Soo Ong, Jerry Trimble, Sherrie Rose, and Billy Blanks











In this Seasonal Films production, the insufferable Loren Avedon plays Jake Donahue, a New York City undercover cop with, you guessed it, a bad attitude, who, you guessed it, plays by his own rules. He is sent by his Captain, O’Day (Jaeckel) who is working with Interpol, to Thailand to bust up a snuff film ring. While there he meets up with his contact in the area, Anderson (Stroud) and mannish love interest Molly (Rose, who must have stretched every acting muscle in her body to pretend she actually was into Avedon). However, it seems Donahue has a history in Thailand, as his brother was murdered there by the mysterious  Khan (Blanks). Coincidentally, the nefarious Khan is the star of these films where the martial arts is so real, you die on impact. The producers of the films recruit young fighters from tournaments, promising them stardom, and when they get to the set, Khan kills them. So, seeing as Donahue is also a kickboxing man, he goes undercover as a naive punchfighter with stars in his eyes so he can get a shot at Khan and get revenge. The only problem is, he’s not as good as Khan, so Prang (Cooke) takes him under his wing and trains him. Will Donahue get the closure he seeks?


Loren Avedon in this movie is so annoyingly cocky, and so devoid of one ounce of humility, you actually, weirdly enough, like Billy Blanks more as the evil Khan. Sure, Khan is pure malevolence, but he’s secure in his total diabolical-ness and you love him for it. It’s a lot harder to get behind the weaselly Avedon as the main hero.

The plot aside, there is excellent fight choreography and some punishing blows. Fans of fast-paced, well-executed moves will find a lot to appreciate here. Richard Jaeckel plays the classic ‘yelling police captain’ with aplomb, and the husky-voiced Sherrie Rose of Maximum Force (1992) fame is a serviceable love interest who calls Avedon’s character “Jack”. Perhaps she wished he was someone else that badly. The Pauly Shore-like Cooke does a good job as the trainer of Donahue and has the patience of a saint. His sidekick, a lovable chimp, practically steals the movie. Cooke does have some awesome moves - also check him out in China O’Brien (1990). Billy Blanks is great as the big heavy. His bulging eyes and funny faces are present and accounted for. Jerry Trimble appears in the opening, prerequisite “abandoned warehouse” scene simply as “Drug Dealer”. Han Soo Ong, of Last to Surrender (1999) fame, who plays a local kickboxer, gets one of the best lines of the movie when he tells Donahue “You’ve never faced a real kickboxing”. Loren Avedon, with his jean jacket with fringed sleeves and fanny pack, is simply an unlikable jerk, but he does get some winners in the dialogue department, as well as some memorable yells. This movie overall could have been improved if the audience actually liked the hero.


The pure silliness of the whole outing comes to the fore at the final confrontation, when Avedon tops his previous ridiculous casual outfits with a formal getup that can only be described as an “elf jester” suit. When you see it, you’ll know what we mean.

Entertainingly insane, for a punchfighting mini-classic, check out King of the Kickboxers.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

3/16/2011

Blood Ring (1991)

 Blood Ring (1991)-* * *

Directed by: Teddy Page

Starring: Dale "Apollo" Cook, Andrea Lamatsch, Don Nakaya Neilsen, Cris Aguilar, and Nick Nicholson









 

 Max Rivers (Cook) is an underground kickboxer with a drinking problem. His former girlfriend Susan (Lamatsch) is now with fellow kick-fighter Philip (Tartalia). When evil gangsters kidnap (or possibly kill) Philip, Susan runs back to her former love, Max, for help. Unfortunately, Max doesn’t realize the caliber of what he’s getting himself into, as this army of punks is led by the sinister fighter Don Carlio (Neilsen).

Caught and imprisoned by Carlio, they force Max to fight for them in order to save Susan. Upon escaping their clutches, Max and Susan head out to the woods so Max can train for the final battle with Carlio. Will love and kickboxing prowess conquer all?

Released by AIP but produced by Davian International, the company behind the majority of Dale “Apollo” Cook’s career, “Blood Ring” was directed by the infamous Teddy Page. Besides Cook, it also features Nick Nicholson, a man fast becoming a familiar face around the Comeuppance Reviews headquarters for his bad guy roles. Cook continues his penchant for pink and/or purple tank tops and shorts, while the cute Lamatsch has an extremely thick German accent which is never explained plot-wise. Neilsen isn’t much in the acting department but you can tell he’s a fighter in real life because his moves are well-executed. The plot all comes to a head with one of the bloodiest final fights in recent memory in a barbed wire ring and there’s even a pre-Mike Tyson ear bite.

Max has some stupid one-liners, the “punch” sound effects sound like some dude hitting a snare drum, and the plot is pretty minimal. Additionally, seeing as there are many kicks and punches to the crotch in the film, it seems like they spent more energy on the genital trauma than on the storyline. Nevertheless, there are some cool camera moves and some good energy overall. There’s also some decent humor, such as the big opponent with the executioner’s mask that yells continuously, and the fact that it really seems like the main bad guy's name is “Garulio”. When we found out it was not, in fact, “Garulio”, we were disappointed. But on the bright side, that name is now usable for someone else...

All told, Blood Ring is a decently entertaining movie that gets better as it goes along.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty







3/14/2011

Raw Target (1995)

Raw Target (1995)-* *1\2

Directed by: Tim Spring

Starring: Dale "Apollo" Cook, Ron Hall,  Nick Hill, Mychelle Charters, and Nick Nicholson











Johnny Rider (Cook) is a kickboxer who accidentally kills his opponent during one of his matches.  His brother Gabe was working with DEA agent Susan Wells (Charters) to take down the evil, sadistic, drug-dealing Rod Sparks (Hill). Unfortunately, Sparks found out Gabe was undercover and killed him. Now Johnny wants revenge, so he follows in his brother’s footsteps and works with Susan to infiltrate the Sparks gang.  Meanwhile, Johnny and Susan develop a romantic relationship, and the main cop working the case, Bill Williams (Hall) complicates matters because he’s involved as well. Can Johnny use his kickboxing skills to get some closure regarding his brother?

It’s a good thing kickboxers and cops have brothers, or most low-budget action movies would not get made. Luckily, Johnny Rider does, so he comes into town to get justice. It seems the filmmakers at least tried to make Dale “Apollo” Cook likable this time around. For Rider, shirtlessness is a way of life, and he always seems to run into trouble and having to kickbox his way out of it.

Because the film is under-lit and most scenes are extremely dark - this is probably the darkest film we’ve seen, darker than American Dragons (1998), Raw Target seems to have pioneered a new genre: Darkfighting. This variant of punchfighting happens when few, if any, lights are on. Perhaps this was a conscious choice by director Tim Spring, thinking that an audience would be hard-pressed to tell if punches and kicks are connecting if you just can’t see anything. But the problem is, well...you just can’t see anything!

Luckily you can see Nick Hill’s wardrobe in the film. Rod Sparks is one snappy dresser. Hill is better acting-wise in Death Match, 1994 (and Fists of Iron, 1995 for that matter), but his martial arts looks good. He tries to play an over-the-top crazy villain, but it doesn’t really come off, he seems more suited to playing the “nice guy”. But though Raw Target falls prey to such common problems for movies of this type such as some horrendous acting and some really terrible editing, once again these things don’t matter. I would assume most people that rented this from their local video store back in the day weren’t concerned with the copious padding of the running time and serious pacing issues. What fans want to see is Cook beat people up, and that definitely happens. Watch out for Nick Nicholson in a small role as well. 


After all the mindless fighting that has gone on, during the final confrontation, the same guitar riff plays over and over again in the background. Could they only afford one riff? But the movie redeems itself from that with a freeze-frame ending and an amazingly groan-inducing, dated final line. And the title song by Gracy Carlson is perfect for the movie, falling perfectly in with other songs such as “No Exit” (from Fatal Combat, 1997) and "White Fury” (from the AIP film of the same name).

Released on Vidmark on VHS in the U.S., as was most of Cook’s material, you could certainly do worse than Raw Target.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty



3/10/2011

Sticks Of Death (1986)

Sticks Of Death (1986)-* * *

AKA: Arnis: The Sticks Of Death

Directed by: Ave C. Caparas

Starring: Roland Dantes, Rosemarie Gill, Anita Linda, Mario Montenegro, and Rusty Santos







Johnny Guerrero (Dantes) is a guy on the mean streets of the Philippines who tries to control his drug territory by night and plays basketball with his team the Slumboys during the day. When his rival Ricky has him shot, Johnny goes to his grandfather’s house in the countryside to recuperate. While there, the old master teaches him the ways of Arnis, or Stickfighting. After some rigorous training in this deadly art, Johnny turns his life around and becomes a police officer. He even brandishes a special weapon, a metal, unfoldable stick, much like a baton. His passion for stickfighting continues after he finishes his convalescence and enters the force, and he starts not only the first stickfighting training classes in the academy, which prove to be extremely popular, but also inaugurates a large stickfighting competition. Under Johnny, stickfighting goes from being practiced only in “the sticks” (heh heh) to becoming huge. They have a character arc all their own.

Of course, Johnny faces many obstacles along the way, and his quest for revenge against Ricky still burns, especially since Ricky killed Johnny’s father long ago. Also, his new girlfriend, Vicky Lopez, has a father that doesn’t approve of him. Can Johnny use his expertise in stickery to win the day?

One of the best things about Sticks of Death is the dubbing. Presumably, since it’s being dubbed in English for an English-speaking audience, you’d think that whoever dubbed it wouldn’t have incredibly thick accents. One would believe they would get some native English speakers to dub the film. Crazy, I know. But the stilted dialogue and awkward syntax is really, really funny, so it all works out.

The poverty of where they shot the movie is emphasized, and it’s no surprise stickfighting was big, as it is certainly a rural weapon. No technology needed. All you’ve got to have is sticks. And some skill of course. Our main man Roland Dantes based much of his career on stickfighting, as there is the movie under review today, another one called Stick Fighter, and he plays the stickfighting guy in Ron Marchini's Forgotten Warrior (1986). Apparently he also turns up in Under The Gun (1995), after he moved from the Philippines to Australia. Dantes has probably done more than any other to spread the knowledge of stickfighting around the world, and he should be recognized for that.

Also it’s great how the filmmakers try to show that the sticks (of death) are far superior to any weapon, including guns. If someone breaks out a gun, Johnny just raps them on the wrist with his sticks and the gun goes flying. Much like The Wiz, nobody beats the sticks.

Sadly, this was director Ave Caparas’ only directorial effort. It’s an example of true Filipino DIY filmmaking, shot on the streets with many non-actors, and filled with the smash-cuts and other rough-and-tumble qualities that come with the territory. It can be compared in this regard to Search for Vengeance (1984), among other examples.  Though it was released in 1984, the whole film has a very seventies vibe, with great outfits, mustaches, and notable music, including a live disco band (is it the same one from Revenge of the Bushido Blade?) that does a pretty smokin’ eight-minute version of “Dancing in the Moonlight” that you won’t soon forget. The other music was done by Jun Francisco.

Much like a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy from your childhood, Sticks of Death is cheap but fun and provides a lot of winning entertainment against all odds.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

3/07/2011

Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe (1990)

Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe (1990)-* *1\2

Directed by: Damian Lee

Starring: Jesse Ventura, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Damian Lee, Francis Mitchell, Majorie Bransfield, and James Belushi












 Jesse Ventura, at a point in his career when his nickname was transitioning from “The Body” to “The Mind” and he had yet to go off the rails as a batty conspiracy theorist, plays Abraxas, an 11,862 year old Finder. What’s a Finder you ask? Well, they are the “cops of the universe” - alien beings sent around the galaxy to police things. When the evil Secundas (Thorsen) impregnates Sonia Murray (Bransfield) with a child, Tommy (Mitchell), with the goal of obtaining the “anti-life equation”, Abraxas’ superiors tell him to eliminate them. But Abraxas develops feelings for the woman and boy so he decides to battle Secundas instead. This all occurs in a small “New York” town, Thornbury (actually in Ontario, Canada) patrolled by two cops, one of which has an inexplicable Uzi. Will Abraxas prevail? Or will the world be destroyed?

The plot is lifted wholesale from The Terminator (1984), and the bleak direction by director Lee and reminders of American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993) are the least of this movie’s problems. Abraxas is a really funny movie, as the two meatheads battle it out for the “Komader” (?) and there are many nonsensical moments and hilarious line readings. The most memorable occurs when Abraxas intones “Run Tommy RUUUUUNNN!” and the disturbing moment when Tommy enters his bedroom only to find, with zero setup, a shirtless Ventura in his bed saying “Want me to read you a story?” All this is overseen by what we called “The Exposition Brothers” - Abraxas’ commanders Hite (Levitan) and Dar (Lee) who stand in one position and explain plot points.


Interestingly, James Belushi REPRISES his role as Principal Latimer from The Principal (1987)! According to Imdb, he did this cameo as a favor to his then-wife Bransfield. Wait. He’s supposed to be the same guy? That’s just odd.  Despite his brief screen time, his face is featured prominently on the back of the Prism VHS box.

Tommy and his fellow kid actors are amusing, Ventura looks ridiculous wearing ill-fitting sweatshirts and World Gym attire as he talks into his bracelet, and the role of Secundas should have been played by Schwarzenegger, but perhaps that would be a bit too on the nose. But did they have to remind viewers of the similarities by hiring a man with a similar accent? Still, this is Thorsen’s crowning achievement, much better than as Darcona in Lee's Fatal Combat (1997). Add to the fact that the whole movie is like a sci-fi version of Maury (“you ARE the father!!!”) and the fact that Abraxas is not, technically, the “guardian of the universe” as is claimed, and top it all off with some truly cheesy FX, and you have an entertaining night of VHS fun.

Silly in every way imaginable, it’s hard to imagine the filmmakers not realizing how funny this was as they were making it. Luckily it’s out there for the world to see so we advise you to check it out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


3/03/2011

Three The Hard Way (1974)

Three The Hard Way (1974)-* * *

Directed by: Gordon Parks Jr.

Starring: Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, Sheila Frazier, Jay Robinson, Corbin Bernsen, Jeannie Bell, Irene Tsu, and Alex Rocco












When diabolical racist/fascist/evil white cracker Monroe Feather (Robinson), with the help of fellow evil whitey, scientist Dr. Fortrero (Richard Angarola) invent a red serum that is harmless to whites and lethal to blacks and plan to dump it in the water supplies of Washington D.C., Detroit and L.A., they didn't count on one thing - the awesome power of Jimmy Lait (Brown), Jagger Daniels (Williamson) and Mister Keyes (Kelly)! Can this team of righteous soul brothers take down Feather's budding, red-beret wearing neo-Nazi organization, or will millions of African-Americans perish?

They really, truly do not make them like this anymore. Films like this should be treasured. Just look at the tagline on the poster above. Can you imagine a movie coming out today that proudly, in big red letters, proclaims that they are going to save their race? Three the Hard Way, besides being a clever title (three dudes, three cities that must be saved, and three dominatrixes, but more on that later), is a golden age of blaxploitation gem. It is filled to the brim with jive talk, fly threads and funky tunes. It also has plenty of action, and who better to dispense it than the three coolest men in cinema at the time - all in one place!


Jim Brown as Lait is a successful record producer. He's so good at what he does, his collars are bigger than pizza slices, he drives a Rolls Royce with "LAIT" as the license plate, and tells the Impressions what to do in the studio. He even produces his own theme song, sung by the Impressions! The action kicks off when Feather's goons kidnap his old lady, Wendy (Frazier), and Lt. Di Nisco (Rocco) is more interested in Lait than in the bad guys. So Lait calls in his buddies Daniels and Keyes to dispense some justice with a blue van filled with automatic weapons. Mister Keyes even predates Mr. T as being a legal name, and they even have the same reasons ("so people will have to call me Mister" - although T might have the edge because his legal middle name is a dot).

Kelly gets to make more of his trademark, pre-Billy Blanks funny faces and noises, and there's even a scene which must have fulfilled the fantasies of the urban, inner-city audiences this played to at the time, where a bunch of cops harass him and try to arrest him and he beats them all up with style and aplomb and rides away. Fred Williamson is as cool and charming as ever as the cigar-chomping Daniels. A standout scene occurs when three women, Countess (Pamela Serpe), Princess (Marie O'Henry) and Empress (Tsu) ride in on red white and blue motorcycles, with outfits to match. It seems they are a team of dominatrixes and this is how our Three the Hard Way boys get the information they need. Perhaps this was such an appealing concept it inspired the movie Ebony, Ivory and Jade (1976).


Three the Hard Way is a much better version of the team-up concept than the much later Williamson/Brown outing On the Edge (2002), and provides a lot of the obvious inspiration behind the parodies I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) and Black Dynamite (2008). Additionally, besides the impressive on-screen talent (we didn't even mention an appearance by TNT Jackson herself, Jeannie Bell), there are some big names behind the camera as well - director Gordon Parks Jr, cinematographer Lucien Ballard, and a stunt department that includes Hal Needham, Bob Minor and Buddy Joe Hooker, among others...you can really learn a lot if you read the credits! All of this came together in the end to produce an above-average blaxploitation film.

While it does start to drag a bit right before the climax, travel back in time to when cars were gigantic and boatlike, and when Williamson, Brown and Kelly were the undisputed kings of soulful action.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

3/01/2011

Hot Potato (1976)

Hot Potato (1976)-* *

Directed by: Oscar Williams

Starring: Jim Kelly, George Memmoli, Irene Tsu, Judy Brown, Yuen Biao, Sam Hiona, and Geoffrey Binney













It seems the nefarious Carter Rangoon (Hiona) has kidnapped the daughter of an American Senator (Brown) and has her held captive at his training camp for baddies somewhere in Thailand. Said Senator does the only rational thing he can do in that situation - he calls Black Belt Jones! This time around, Jones (he is simply known as "Jones" and no mention is made to his "Black Belt" status) enlists the help of comical fat guy Leonardo "Rhino" Pizzarelli (Memmoli), a competitive eater and all-around wild man, Johnny Chicago (Binney), the counterpoint to Rhino, a "hunk", if you will, and the local woman Pam (Tsu), enlisted to be their contact in Thailand. Will our mismatched team of heroes fight through an endless stream of wacky baddies, silly obstacles and childish music and sound effects to save the girl?

Basically an unfunny comedy that becomes really tiresome really fast, Hot Potato is Saturday-afternoon-style fare. With its PG rating, America's Funniest Home Videos-style sound effects and cartoonish score, it might be perfect for a kid in elementary school that wants to get into martial arts cinema but can't see the more violent entries in that genre. The extended (read: filler) fight and stunt scenes are filled to the brim with slapstick and have all the edge of the fights on the 60's Batman TV show. Again, that's fine if you're a kid, but these kind of juvenile antics will grate on the nerves of adults.



While Black Belt Jones (1974) is basically beloved by everyone that's seen it, and deservedly so because it has a certain verve, Hot Potato is just self-conscious. Yes, Kelly makes some funny faces, and there are some beautiful locations, shot very well in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and it is a professional, Warner Brothers production, but it is watered-down mainstream Kung Fu for the masses. No characters are even remotely developed and it becomes a slog at a certain point. It's a childish adventure picture, and while it is somewhat amusing to see people getting kicked, punched, maimed, and in some cases presumably killed in the name of high-spirits comedy and fun, somehow it never really gels or works.



If you ever get a hold of Hot Potato, simply fast forward to the end credits, as there is a montage of the "best" scenes in the movie. Seeing these highlights, you will get the same, if not a better effect as watching the movie and you will save about 90 minutes. Although you might miss the legendary Yuen Biao if you do. But then again, it's easy to miss him if you watch the movie straight through.

Anyone who wants their fond memories of Black Belt Jones unsullied should steer clear of Hot Potato.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett