8/30/2013

Out Of Reach (2004)

Out Of Reach (2004)- * * *

Directed by: Po-Chih Leong

Starring: Steven Seagal, Matt Schulze, Ida Nowakoska, and Agnieszka Wagner











William “Billy Ray” Lansing (Seagal) is an ex-military, ex-government agent who now spends his time wandering around the woods of Alaska aimlessly and being a penpal to a 13 year old Polish girl. Seems like a natural career transition. When Billy Ray senses something amiss, he heads to Poland to see if Irina (Nowakoska), his penpal, is alright. While there he teams up with local law enforcement agent Kasia (Wagner)...and discovers a nefarious human trafficking operation led by the super-evil Faisal (Schulze). Luckily, he taught Irina how to create and read secret codes (which is perhaps why she signed on to this penpal program in the first place, why else would she?) - so they continue to communicate via code even though they are separated and he’s hot on her trail. Will Billy Ray find her and take down the baddies in the process?

Seagal’s hair in this particular outing is just silly. It’s a black, strange-looking mullet of some kind. Perhaps he caught it in the wilds of Alaska where he now lives. By “him” we mean Billy Ray, of course. This movie might even make an ideal double feature with Radical Jack (2000), because that features one Billy Ray Cyrus. And it’s not just his odd hair and choice of winter coats that’s funny. A lot of his dialogue is overdubbed by someone who is clearly not Seagal. The guy they chose to do this voice-over work has a much higher-pitched voice, not to mention the fact that he speaks clearly and doesn’t slur his words. So that’s funny, and there are many scenes that are clearly not Seagal in front of the camera as well, most notably his “walking around in the woods” scenes. Did they think the audience wouldn’t notice it’s some other guy?


But while the movie gets off to a very strange start, it eventually falls into a cross between Taken (2009) and the TV show To Catch A Predator, with a little Seagal on top for good measure. (Also, Seagal is some sort of master of disguise in this movie and goes by a bunch of different fake names, one of which is “Nikolai Rachenko”. This is also Dolph Lundgren’s name in Red Scorpion, 1988. Could this be just a coincidence? But if not, the writers really shouldn’t remind the audience of a far superior action star). Schulze makes for a good baddie, and you know he’s evil because A. He has evil blonde highlights, B. He plays chess and enjoys fencing and C. He seems to live in an M.C. Escher painting. But don’t forget that there’s an illegal Polish internet. And to never eat sushi without decoding the secret message invariably buried within the California rolls.



But this is another slyly insulting title for a Seagal movie, along the lines of Belly Of The Beast (2003) and Shadow Man (2006). Who’s titling these things? And are they getting a good chuckle? And is Seagal getting wise to it? Isn’t it a bit too easy -- “Out Of Reach” -- for a sandwich? For a donut? Make up your own fat joke. And the fact that some of the movie was set in Turkey can’t be an accident. The filmmakers probably asked Seagal where he wanted to shoot the movie and he just blurted out “Turkey”. But odds are he was just going to blurt that out anyway and wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying to him. But to be fair, there is some cool camerawork and good shots in this movie. But Out Of Reach needed more Martial Arts. Fencing battles and gunplay is all well and good, but we want to see Seagal do more of his classic slap-fighting. Isn’t that why we’re all really on board?

In all, Out Of Reach is a pretty entertaining entry in the 2000’s DTV canon of Seagal. There’s enough out-and-out silliness to keep you engaged, and that’s more than you can say for a lot of his other work.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and The Video Vacuum!

8/28/2013

The Fight (2001)

The Fight (2001)-* *1\2

AKA: Shadow Glories 

Directed by: Ziad H. Hamzeh

Starring: Marc Sandler, Sarah Rachael Isenberg, Michael Denney, and Linda Amendola










Simon Penn (Sandler) is a terminally depressed former kickboxer and now trainer. He feels a lot of sadness and has some regrets about his life as a fighter, one of which is the dissolution of his relationship with his wife Jenny (Amendola). He tries to channel his negative feelings into positive ones by training and mentoring children. His partner running the dojo is a woman named Cathy Jean “CJ” Keyes (Isenberg). Because of traumas in her past, she decides to put herself to the ultimate test: fighting a man in the ring. But not just any man, the brutal Killer Kuzinski (Denney), a man who has killed two men in the ring, and who has a tumultuous past with none other than Simon. So she trains hard and both she and Simon fight their inner demons along the way. Then fight day arrives. What happens next will change everyone’s lives forever. Who will win THE FIGHT?

The Fight is an interesting little movie. It’s highly dramatic, even melodramatic at times, and feels like it potentially could have been a play. It seems like it was made by people more interested in creating high drama than a Martial Arts film. For a low-budget independent movie about broken people trying to find solace in a harsh world, and using Martial Arts as a vehicle to do that, The Fight does stand out among the myriad Meathead movies.



Just the fact that the title of the movie was changed from Shadow Glories - which is a more evocative and appropriate title - to the dumbed-down, bland and forgettable “The Fight” tells you all you need to know, really. The movie seems to be a labor of love from all involved, especially Marc Sandler. We were unfamiliar with his work prior to seeing this. He resembles James Gandolfini and always tilts his head down. It’s mainly during his overly-heartfelt voice-over narration that the movie seems like it’s trying too hard to be gritty, or just trying too hard in general. Plus at almost two hours, the movie is far too long and overstays its welcome. There’s only so much goodwill this movie can hope to have, and by trying our patience with an extended running time, it expends its capital with the audience. How much time are we supposed to want to spend with these troubled people and their sad lives?

Fans of more traditional action movies (like us) will find the pace slow, and the copious use of slow-motion only slows things down to a crawl even more. But the movie predated Million Dollar Baby (2004) by a solid three years, and Sandler (who we are guessing isn’t related to Adam...or maybe just hoping) has a great yell. Killer Kuzinski, not to be confused with Killer Kowalski, or Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, is an appropriately evil and heartless man, unafraid to be put in the impossible position of fighting a woman in an exhibition bout. If he wins, he looks like a jerk, if he loses, he was beat by a girl. But perhaps CJ’s mighty cry - from a crowded audience - of “I can beat you!!!”, which he somehow heard from the ring, really got to him.

A movie highlight occurs when two elderly men in Karate Gi’s have a conversation. They don’t seem like guys that would be wearing those outfits or be in a dojo. It looks like two grandfathers named Sid and Morty and they should be at a deli discussing Matlock. It’s a funny scene, watch out for it.

Shot in Lewiston, Maine, The Fight is something of an oddity. There’s too much drama for your standard Punchfighter (or almost-Punchfighter), but too much hand-to-hand combat for patrons seeking a standard drama. It seems only very specific audiences will warm to The Fight.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


8/26/2013

Without Mercy (1996)

Without Mercy (1996)-* *

Directed by: Robert Chappell

Starring: Frank Zagarino, Martin Kove, and Ayu Azhari












 John Carter (Zagarino) is an ex-Marine, ex-’Nam vet and ex-UN soldier who is now living in Indonesia scraping by as a Punchfighter. He gets wrapped up with fight promoter and all-around jerkwad Wolf Larsen (Kove), and his girlfriend Tanya (Azhari). Going into Larsen’s world proves to be dangerous and now the two men, in some sort of love triangle, have to fight it out for Tanya. Who will win? Who will care?

The “Low-rent Lundgren” himself, Frank Zagarino, returns in this typically lackluster effort. Sure, the beginning of the film may have the classic “flying sideways while yelling and shooting” move we all know and love, along with an exploding helicopter, but the movie as a whole lacks excitement and never seems to get off the ground. The pacing is off, the energy is not there, and the whole exercise is paint by numbers. The whole plot of a guy in a foreign country scraping by fighting seems very familiar, but then that whole aspect of the plot seems to just fall away. There’s also the prerequisite torture scene, but for some unknown reason, Zags had to be naked, and that’s just more Zags than we needed to see.


 Without Mercy appears to be Zags’ first Punchfighter, if you can call it that. After this, he never really went down a Punchfighting-based career path. In the movie, they even call them “Kumites”. But he seems to have met his match with Martin Kove: they were both Marines, both Vietnam vets, and they both have names made famous in other movies (Zags is the ORIGINAL John Carter. Disney should have noticed this, because he’s just as flat, boring and uninspired as the multi-million dollar version. Kove plays a man named Wolf Larsen, and the producers should have known about the Expect No Mercy, 1995 star - even if he spells it Larson with an O. Interestingly, Expect No Mercy and Without Mercy, though similarly titled, both came out the same year).


Though we don’t know who created the song or what its title is because it receives no credit, the main theme of the movie seems to be called “Lost In A Foreign Land”. The makers of the song seem heavily influenced by The Police. It’s played more than once, just to really emphasize that the blonde, blue-eyed Zagarino isn’t a native Indonesian.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

8/23/2013

Ransom (1977)

Ransom (1977)-* *

Directed by: Richard Compton

Starring: Oliver Reed, Stuart Whitman, Deborah Raffin, Paul Koslo, Jim Mitchum












Near Phoenix, Arizona, there’s a small town with the highest concentration of millionaires living there. When a psychopath in full Native American regalia (Koslo) sets up shop there and begins killing people with his bow and arrow, the townspeople soon realize he’s going to continue sniping people from long distances until he gets the millions of dollars he’s requesting.  So naturally Oliver Reed, Stuart Whitman and Jim Mitchum are called in to use their manliness to put an end to the madness. Will they succeed?

“Give me back my son!!!!!!”...is what you won’t be hearing in this tame, mediocre outing. Once again we’ve fallen prey to what we call “Lone Tiger Syndrome” - that being where we see a movie because of its stellar cast, and then are disappointed because many familiar B-movie names do not necessarily a good movie make. Fan favorite Jim Mitchum is decent as the cowboy Vietnam vet Tracker (great name) but he doesn’t get enough screen time to develop his character, a common problem in these “star-studded” affairs. We also love Oliver Reed, but, inexplicably, he resembles Jerry Lewis in the scenes where he wears sunglasses. A lot of his dialogue concerns his drink orders. We’ll leave it at that. Stuart Whitman is always a professional, and Deborah Raffin of Death Wish 3 (1985) fame is onboard as the classic (and pretty cliche) female reporter. The standout character, once again, is Paul Koslo as the baddie. He strongly resembles Kurt Russell, and does a great job (not quite as great as his turn in The Annihilators 1985, but once again, he actually had screen time in that one).
While there are a handful of okay kill scenes and maybe a few chases (and one exploding helicopter), this movie is filled with, well...filler, and the whole outing is stodgy, kind of like The Hit Team (1971). The movie doesn’t fulfill the potential of the cast, and it’s just not exciting enough. The killer Indian should have had some goons, but perhaps the budget couldn’t allow for them because all the stars had to be paid first. Yet again we come back to the fact that there’s no one, singular character we care about. It’s all kind of a jumble with the multiple characters. Sure, Koslo tells his enemies they have to “pay the wind”, which is a precursor to Red Scorpion 2 (1994), but sadly the proceedings are slow and yawn-inducing.

As for the tape itself...no one sings the praises of Vestron more than we do, but they botched this one. It’s a horribly obvious pan-and-scan disgrace. They make it seem like the camera is resting on the seat of an exercise rowing machine that someone is tipping up, then tipping back. At least they used one of the more accurate of this movie’s many titles. Most of the others make it seem like it’s going to be a horror movie of some kind. If you do ever check this movie out, unfortunately we recommend NOT to view the Vestron tape.

Featuring the song “Victor’s Theme: Shoot Him” by none other than Roger McGuinn and Patrick Ferrell, Ransom leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve certainly seen a lot worse, but we wish the powerhouse cast would have done something more worthy of their talents.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

8/21/2013

Blink Of An Eye (1992)

Blink Of An Eye (1992)-* *

AKA: First Light

Directed by: Bob Misiorowski

Starring: Michael Pare, Janis Lee and Jack Widerker










Sam Browning (Pare) is a soldier that trains with the Psychic Warfare Operations Unit. In other words, he’s developing his psychic abilities that he may already have for the field of battle. When the wife of the Director of the C.I.A. has a dream in which her daughter, Kathryn (Lee) is being chased by terrorists, she tells her husband to do something about it. Working from this dream/tip, Alan Baker (Widerker of American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, 1993 and The Order, 2001 fame) contacts Sam Browning and tells him to go to Turkey, where Kathryn is doing volunteer work. Wary at first, Browning agrees and ends up shadowing Kathryn. Since the terrorists keep attempting to kidnap her, the unlikely pair have to go through many travails to try to avoid them or kill them, while attempting to leave the country alive. Will Browning’s psychic powers play a central role in all of this?

If you liked the Michael Pare-based stupidity (and we mean that lovingly) of Deadly Heroes (1993) and Killing Streets (1991), here’s another one for you. Blink of an Eye is still much better than Warriors (1994), however. But then again, so are most movies. It features Pare in a generic Middle Eastern country setting, shooting terrorists. On a more positive note, because Sam Browning does go into some sort of psychic trance, the role is perfect for Pare because he can be as wooden as he wants to be. There are definitely some moments where he’s very tree-like.



The movie is oddly directed and has a strange rhythm. Even though it was his first film, this shouldn’t be surprising as it was directed by Bob Misiorowski, the man behind the horrendous Derailed (2002). Sadly, we felt not enough was done with the “Psychic Soldier” concept. It’s a good idea that went largely to waste. Just Michael Pare putting his fingers on his face wasn’t enough to carry the idea. Plus there was no strong, central villain for him to fight. This is an easily avoidable problem, but still some action movies manage to screw this up. Another common pitfall this movie falls into was the fact that it slows way down before the climax. Unfortunately, points must be detracted for the lack of creativity for Pare’s character and absence of a major antagonist. Blink Of An Eye could have been more than a machine gun shoot-em-up/Prerequisite Torture/guard tower fall/blow-up movie, but it doesn’t rise above that.

If that’s your thing, fine, but this movie seems to be TRYING to rise above it. But we do always love seeing Michael Pare, and we also enjoy movies shot in Israel, so those were pluses. And, after all, some action goods are delivered. Of course, there’s also the “Yay!" Kid, one of our favorite characters in the movie. If you’ve seen it, you may remember him. If not, watch out for him.

Blink Of An Eye makes too many missteps to warrant an enthusiastic recommendation, but it’s relatively decent “Sunday Afternoon” viewing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


8/19/2013

The Lost Idol (1990)

The Lost Idol (1990)-* *1\2

Directed by: P. Chalong

Starring: Erik Estrada and Christoph Kluppel













In the jungles of Kampuchea in 1975, 19 soldiers were left behind. While trying to get to Thailand in the hopes of being found, they come upon a cave with a golden statue. Instead of taking it with them, they decide to hide it in the cave and come back to get it later. This whole initiative is spearheaded by the interestingly-named Lt. Oliver Reed (not the actual Oliver Reed, though that would have been interesting). Many years after the end of the war, Reed decides to go and find the idol, and while he’s assembling the team to do so, he realizes he needs the help of Sgt. Kurt (Estrada), now a civilian living with his wife and daughter on a farm in Thailand. Kurt wants no part of the operation, so Reed kidnaps his daughter and forces him to take part. Now strongarmed into Reed’s expedition, the whole gang is captured by the local army and tortured (in the time-honored Prerequisite Torture sequence). Now everyone is fighting to retrieve the “golden idol” - who will actually get it?

Ah, P. Chalong. We hardly knew ye. He had a great streak as director going in the 80’s with this, Gold Raiders (1984) and In Gold We Trust (1991). The dude really liked gold, apparently. Like Gold Raiders, this is an overlong jungle slog. Sure, the climax of the movie is cool, with all the exploding huts, guard towers, shooting and tanks you could hope for, but by that point it’s too little too late. But despite the movie’s length, it’s not all THAT bad: for instance, on the bright side it has characters such as Won Ton Gool (?) and Christoph (Kluppel). The line readings/dubbing are great, and there are silly musical stings on the soundtrack. But all in all this movie needed to be sillier even than what it was, and shorter.


Speaking of Christoph, this hulking, mustachioed brute helps things along nicely. He gets not one, but two great entrances in the movie. Before the prerequisite barfight, Christoph emerges with an especially tiny midget, like a Nelson De La Rosa type. Then again he re-emerges later on in spectacular fashion, but we won’t spoil how he does it here. And let’s not forget about fan favorite Erik Estrada. Sure, he’s a genre mainstay, but it seems Won Ton and Christoph outshined him here. This movie does have some bright spots, but the length of the movie and uninspired plot work against those better moments like when you push both of your hands together in resistance training.

We presume the rural Thai audiences that saw this movie weren’t as sophisticated as today’s modern viewers, that’s why Chalong included plenty of unmatched day-for-night shots, stock footage and laughable, primitive green screen effects. But we don’t fault him for this, his country most likely just didn’t have the resources and budget for it to be otherwise, and we actually applaud him for getting his movies off the ground despite the odds against him.

Interestingly, The Lost Idol was released on a stand-alone VHS release (on Shapiro-Glickenhaus) and as a double feature tape with the Danny Aiello and Lyle Alzado movie Shock Troop (1990). The “two-fer” tape is much rarer so if you see it anywhere, grab it.

In all, The Lost Idol is decent enough, but really, Erik Estrada is a name that usually stands for better.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

8/16/2013

The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984)

The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984)-* * *

Directed by: Chia-Liang Hu

Starring: Gordon Liu, Chia Hui Liu, Sheng Fu, and Ming Ku













 The Yang family are masters at fighting with spears. During the Battle of Jinsha, against the evil Tartars, all the brothers are cruelly massacred except General Yang Wu-lang (Liu), known to his family as “5th Son” and Yang Liu-lang (Fu Sheng), known as “6th son”. When 6th Son returns home, he goes insane after witnessing all the horror and treachery foisted upon him and his family by the evil Pan Mei (Ke Ming Lin). His mother and sisters have to now care for him and deal with his mental illness. Meanwhile, General Yang goes on a soul-searching quest. Because Pan Mei was once close with the Yang family, even bestowing upon them the honorific title of “Family of Loyalty”, after he defected to the side of evil, he officially became a traitor. Yang, saying, “I can’t go home, and I can’t avenge my country”, is caught in a limbo of sorts and ends up at a remote monastery for Buddhist Monks.

He wishes very much to become a monk, but he keeps being rebuffed by the Abbot, saying he’s too warlike, too angry, too confused, and most importantly, too concerned with worldly affairs. Nevertheless, noting his ability with spear-fighting, they remove the blade and teach him all over again to fight with just the pole. The ultimate test is to “De-fang the wolf”, using wooden wolves for practice. Now sufficiently trained, he must face off against Pan Mei and his Tartar goons - and reunite with/save his sister - in the ultimate final showdown.


Even though we really don’t review them (hopefully that will change in the near future), we love 70’s and 80’s Martial Arts cinema, especially the output of Shaw Brothers. Eight Diagram Pole Fighter stands out as an excellent, highly enjoyable example of the genre: the sets and costumes are artistically and beautifully designed, the choreography and fighting is superb, and there are plenty of cool battles. Additionally, fan favorite - nay - HERO - Gordon Liu puts in an emotional, intense performance as General Yang, a troubled man and lost soul - until he finds his purpose in life. This thoughtful performance shows there’s much more to these kinds of movies than just “chop socky”. Plus the plot is accessible to a general Western viewer, without too many cultural idiosyncracies that sometimes make foreign films of this kind hard to understand. Everyone should see this fine film!

Make sure you get the Dragon Dynasty DVD, as there have been inferior quality versions floating around for many years now. This is the definitive way to see this great movie. Because it is so well-shot and even operatic at times, it would be a shame to see one of those horribly pan-and-scanned, dubbed atrocities. It’s because of those bootlegs (and even many legitimate releases) that Martial Arts movies of this kind get a bad rap. 8 Diagram Pole Fighter can stand with any kind of foreign film. But the snobby crowd will never think to even recognize that. But it’s easy to see why rappers like Wu-Tang appreciate this kind of movie. They were certainly ahead of the curve, as RZA expresses his appreciation for this movie in his book.

Also thanks to the dynamism of the movie, and Liu’s compelling performance, many people stole from it. Just see American Shaolin (1991). Everything from the plot about the guy who desperately wants to become a monk but faces opposition, to the training sequences, was recycled by this and later films. But it’s done so well here, and is so enjoyable to watch, especially with the unique wooden wolves, it’s best to come to the original source.

For fans of Martial Arts cinema, this is a must-see. For non-fans...well...this is a must-see. Recommended.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

8/13/2013

Violent Protection (1976)

Violent Protection (1976)-* * *

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Maurizo Merli, John Saxon, Barry Sullivan, and Massimo Deda













Betti (Merli) is a Cop On The Edge who is brought to Naples to help bust up the protection rackets plaguing the city. The top brass doesn’t necessarily approve of his unorthodox methods, but you can’t argue with his results! It seems the crime wave Betti has been called upon to stop is being promulgated by “The Generale” (Sullivan), and he’s intertwined with businessman Francesco Capuano (Saxon). Along the way, Betti befriends a sassy young boy, Gennarino (Deda, who reprised this role in the Violent Protection spinoff movie Weapons Of Death (1977)). Now Betti must wage a one-man war on crime and the baddies are going to wish they had some protection from this violence!

Violent Protection is an entertaining and worthwhile entry into the Poliziotteschi genre. Italy in the 70’s was having some real problems with crime and kidnappings, and these hard-hitting cop movies came along to exploit that situation. Luckily, most of them are actually good movies that are highly watchable. Umberto Lenzi, like many of the directors of his generation, was a journeyman-style artist, a man versatile in every genre - Spaghetti Westerns, Giallos, Crime movies, Peplums, War movies and more - but is seemingly most known for his horror output in the 80’s, like Cannibal Ferox (1981), Eaten Alive (1980) and the wonderful Nightmare City (1980). He brings his best attributes on board for Violent Protection, and the results are worth seeing.



Maurizio Merli was a mainstay of the genre, and it’s no wonder, he’s perfectly suited to the part of the determined and mustachioed cop. John Saxon also pops up a lot in these genre movies, and Barry Sullivan rounds out the cast of well-known names. There are plenty of memorable action setpieces, from the high-speed motorcycle chase to the scenes in the bowling alley and the train. The dubbed version has some interesting choices of dialogue, where characters call each other “You crud!” and “Ya fathead!” in that classic yell-y dubbed way we’ve all come to know and not love. But the excellent score by Franco Micalizzi pastes everything together nicely.

While the movie was released on one of our favorite VHS labels, Paragon, seeing as it’s a dubbed and pan-and-scanned release, a cleaned-up widescreen DVD would do the presentation of this fine movie a lot of good. Maybe MYA or Raro will take the case soon. There is a great end-credits song, “A Man Before Your Time”, which, confusingly, is said to have been played by The Bulldogs, but recorded by The Blue Jeans. We’re not entirely sure what that means, but check out the song at the end.

In all, Violent Protection should please both fans and newcomers to the Poliziotteschi genre.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

8/12/2013

The Exterminator (1980)

The Exterminator (1980)-* * * *

Directed by: James Glickenhaus

Starring: Robert Ginty, Steve James, Dennis Boutsikaris, Christopher George,  Ned Eisenberg, David Lipman and Samantha Eggar












 Best friends John Eastland (Ginty) and Michael Jefferson (James) survived the horrors of the Vietnam war together. Michael even saved John’s life. After the war, both men work at a packing plant in New York City’s South Bronx. One day, Michael is assaulted and put in the hospital by a gang called The Ghetto Ghouls. Eastland then begins his quest for revenge in the seediest parts of the city - and in his attempt to clean up the streets he becomes vigilante hero The Exterminator. Everyone from street punks to child molesters to upper-class mobsters become the target of The Exterminator’s retribution. He becomes so effective, he attracts the attention of Detective James Dalton (George), a man who wants to find and stop him. Even the CIA is interested in stopping Eastland. Will they catch him - or will Eastland live to flamethrow another day?

Yes! We here at Comeuppance Reviews HQ LOVE The Exterminator. As you can tell from the name of our site, we have a special fondness for revenge movies, and they don’t come much better than this. Movies of this type, from this place and time have a special fascination, and The Exterminator does not disappoint one iota. Everything from its killer opening set in Vietnam all the way through to the end, this movie delivers the goods in spades.


James Glickenhaus is a quality filmmaker, and we’re fans of his work. We also recommend The Soldier (1982) and Shakedown (1988), but this is the money movie. There’s more sensitivity and intelligence behind The Exterminator than most people give it credit for. There are subtle comments about Vietnam vets and their treatment once they came home, and the shoddy Jimmy Carter presidency if you care to look for them. Plotwise there is plenty of subtext and parallels - all of which add to the texture and interest of this fine film. It’s rare that a movie can entertain and please an audience on an intellectual and a visceral level. But The Exterminator achieves this rare feat. While the movie does have elements from Taxi Driver (1976) and Death Wish (1974), Glickenhaus brings this style into the gritty 80’s, with fantastic results. According to the DVD commentary, he shuts down critics that wrote off this movie as a Death Wish knockoff by saying he didn’t see Death Wish before filming. Glickenhaus has plenty of other interesting comments, such as when he says that Joseph Bottoms, brother of Timothy, almost played Eastland, or when he says he imagines First Blood (1982) as the ideal continuation of the Eastland story, not so much Exterminator 2 (1984).


Speaking of the DVD, Synapse knocks it out of the park with its excellent DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack. While I’d seen the film before on VHS, it was like I was watching it for the first time here. It looks amazing and you have to go on Amazon and buy this right now.

Being fans of stunts and stuntmen, we appreciated how in the end credits, it showed specifically which stuntman did what stunt. You don’t see that very often. As for the more recognizable stars, it’s great to see two fan favorites, Robert Ginty and Steve James together. They have great chemistry and really seem like friends. The Christopher George-Samantha Eggar plot is interesting because it slyly implies that Dalton is not exactly rushing to stop Eastland, he’s doing it rather leisurely because he secretly approves of  what he’s doing, but he has to keep up appearances. There’s actually a lot of sly moments, such as the use of the song “Disco Inferno” by the Trammps, among others. Anyone who watches Law & Order will recognize Dennis Boutsikaris and Ned Eisenberg who often play lawyers, as well as David Lipman, who often plays a judge on the show.

In the 42nd street scenes you can see the famous Lyric theater, where Glickenhaus says The Exterminator played to sold-out houses for 24 hours at a stretch. The Lyric is also featured in Shakedown, where the movie marquee is showing The Soldier, and The Exterminator. So Glickenhaus has some history there. We love seeing 42nd street and the movie marquees of the time, and you can see theaters playing Beyond The Door (1974), Cauldron Of Death (1973), and the O.J. Simpson vehicle Firepower (1979). It truly was a time when O.J. Simpson was simply an athlete/actor, and the World Trade Center was still standing in all its glory. There’s a gigantic nostalgia factor at work here, and it just shows we need The Exterminator now more than ever.

The Exterminator simply rocks and is a must-see. Go Eastland!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out reviews by our buddies, Tars Tarkas and The Video Vacuum!

8/09/2013

Thunderfist (1973)

Thunderfist (1973)- * * 1\2 for the movie, ZERO for the transfer

Directed by: Wing Cho-Yip

Starring: Angela Mao, Sammo Hung,  Jhoon Rhee, Anne Winton, and Andre Morgan













Lee Chung-Dong (Rhee) is a Tae Kwon Do expert and leader of the “Resurrection Movement of Koreans”, a resistance group focusing on fighting back against the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 30’s. It seems the Japanese are constantly harassing Lee, and he teams up with some other fighters, such as Miss Wai (as she’s known in the English dub) (Mao), and the American (or French, depending on the version you’re seeing) Mary (Winton). Mary’s uncle, Father Lewis (Morgan) is a Catholic Priest who is kidnapped and tortured by the Japanese. Even though he disapproves of her Martial Arts, she trains at Lee’s school. After his abduction, she becomes a nun, but then continues on with Lee’s group to get revenge on the people who wronged her. The final fight features Lee forced to become the “Kickmaster” (one of this movie’s alternate titles) we know he is, because his hands are in chains. Will Lee and his motley band get justice?

Thunder Fist is just one of many titles this movie goes by, and the VHS under review today was released by New Pacific, a label not known for quality. The movie is transferred amazingly poorly, with horrendous picture and sound quality, and even jagged, unprofessional reel changes. It even repeats part of a reel to further drive home how badly done it was. Plus the movie is dubbed, and the music is louder than the dialogue in many cases. Most of the time the “music” is just pounding drums, which gets annoying after awhile. But there is one funky tune that should be singled out. ALL that being said, it’s very tough to judge this movie on its true merits. The awful presentation hurts the movie, and makes it seem like your standard “chop-socky” outing. But we’ve been informed that a foreign DVD release fixes most of these problems, and some fans consider this movie, mainly known as When Taekwondo Strikes, as a minor classic. It may seem hard to believe if you suffer through the New Pacific VHS, but we can tell there’s something here that’s buried by the uncaring treatment of this particular release.


There are plenty of lengthy Martial Arts sequences, including some swordfighting. The movie is also somewhat hurt by its minimal locations, but fan favorites Angela Mao and Sammo Hung are strong, as is Rhee in his only film credit to date. It’s also Anne Winton’s only movie. Interesting legacy.  It’s fairly unusual at this time to see White people in a hard-core Martial Arts film like this, and Andre Morgan, who plays the Priest, was a frequent collaborator with Sammo, even appearing with him in Comeuppance Reviews favorite The Man From Hong Kong (1975). Adding to the flavor of this Golden Harvest production is some classic racism, featuring such dialogue as, and we quote, “these Japs can’t be trusted!” We’re guessing this movie wasn’t widely distributed in Japan.

One of the more “memorable” aspects of this particular VHS release is the box art. These adonises are not in the movie and are clearly models. Just why these dudes were chosen as models remains unclear. Were they meant to draw in crowds of video store patrons? And the insanity/stupidity isn’t only visual. Just read that “description”. Whoever wrote that never saw the movie. It doesn’t even begin to address the racial tensions of the Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and Americans/French that simmer and boil over. “high finance and international smuggling”? “priceless treasures and bloodthirsty killers”? “turn me on”? What’s this guy talking about? I guess in the 80’s you could get away with this stuff. It was before the internet. No one’s going to look up this movie, much less check into the accuracy of boxcover copy.

Martial Arts aficionados should check this movie out, but AVOID the New Pacific release.

Also check out a review by our buddy, Tars Tarkas!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

8/07/2013

Double Deception (2001)

Double Deception (2001)-*

Directed by: Shundo Ohkawa

Starring: Louis Mandylor, James Russo, Rei Kikukawa, Maya Hoshino, Udo Kier, and Joe Estevez












Luke Campbell (Mandylor, not the guy from 2 Live Crew) is a bodyguard hired to protect Lisa Ozaki (Kikukawa), the daughter of a wealthy Japanese businessman. Due to a recent spate of kidnappings perpetrated by the evil Snake (Russo), Mr. Ozaki hired a lookalike named Maria (Hoshino) to confuse the kidnappers and keep his daughter safe. However, when a two million dollar ransom is at stake, things get very confusing indeed as allegiances and alliances change and shift, while Luke and Lisa go on the run. Will this kidnapping plot go as planned?

Double Deception is a junky, low-budget film that feels low budget. Many times, thanks to quality acting and writing, movies can overcome a lack of funds. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. There are plenty of stupid fights and chases, and some amazingly moronic dialogue thus making this movie a tough sit. It’s a standard plot that you’ve seen before, but this time there are Japanese actors with extremely thick accents that are hard to understand. The quality of the tape is muffled and there’s plenty of wooden acting on top of that. So, from an audio standpoint, there’s a lot to be desired.




From the minute, early on in the movie, when we see some baddies with those cheap plastic glow-in-the-dark Jason-style hockey masks, it’s easy to see there’s trouble brewing. Udo Kier seems to take things somewhat seriously, but it’s hard to tell as his role is basically a cameo and is nothing more than an all-too-brief walk-on role. Same thing with Joe Estevez. It’s hard to believe this is the second time we’re saying this, but: This movie needed more Joe Estevez! Apparently he’s more important to the structural integrity of movies than we heretofore believed.

There’s a guy in the movie that’s like a stupider Gary Busey, and there’s plenty of 90’s-style high-waisted pants, and a large dose of “90’s tech” cell phones. It’s hard to believe this movie came out in ‘01. It feels more mid-90’s. Rei Kikukawa is attractive, but she should have been subtitled. It would have been more coherent and possibly some entertainment value could have been gained from her trying to communicate with Louis Mandylor. As it is now, Double Deception suffers from a lack of just about everything, with cohesiveness being the main casualty.

It’s hard to imagine anyone renting this in a video store back in the day, but here it is. We can safely say, this movie exists. That’s pretty much all there is to say.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


8/05/2013

Beyond The Call Of Duty (1992)

Beyond The Call Of Duty (1992)-* *

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: Jan-Michael Vincent, Eb Lottimer, Henry Strzalkowski, Nick Nicholson, and Jillian McWhirter












In South Vietnam, 1975, the war is winding down. However, ex-military man Len Jordan (Vincent) is “waging his own war in the Mekong Delta!” (to take a quote from the movie). Along with Lt. Henderson (Lottimer), and some other soldiers, Jordan heads a crew on a boat heading down the aforementioned Delta. To increase the danger and risk, the men are escorting a nun, a gaggle of orphans - including the precocious Mickey (Redillas) who warms the hearts of the hardened soldiers - and filmmaker Mary Jackson (McWhirter), who is making a documentary on Jordan. Will this boat trip dock successfully?

Cirio never seems to tire of the jungles of the Philippines, so here we are again with yet another shoot-fest with some exploding huts and helicopters on the side. We suppose this outing is a little different, because it involves a boat and is a little more aquatic than most other ‘Nam jungle epics, and the kid that plays Mickey is actually very good and steals the movie, but this doesn’t offer all that much new to the “jungle slog” genre.

The film features Philippines mainstays Henry Strzalkowski and fan favorite Nick Nicholson (in a criminally tiny part), as well as Jillian McWhirter, who’s no stranger to the DTV world, having starred the fellow Corman title Hard Way Out (1996) as well as PM’s Rage (1995) and the excellent Last Man Standing (1996). McWhirter puts in an especially P.J. Soles-like performance as the documentarian. What’s good about her role is that it’s not another stupid reporter, like so many of the token female roles we see. There’s actually a bit of substance to her character. So she was probably happy about that.

But the true star of the show is undoubtedly the one and only Jan-Michael Vincent. Here, he’s obviously the coolest and most badass 48 year old kid to ever brandish a machine gun. When he’s not rockin’ some awesome shades, he’s rockin’ some awesome eye-squints and some awesome hair. Even though he single-handedly takes on half the VC, and they all have machine guns, somehow NONE of them can hit the only dude out there with blonde hair and a blue tanktop. Sure, he wears the blue tanktop for 98% of the movie’s running time, but hey, once you’ve found perfection, why mess with it? Plus, JMV looks jaggedly - even randomly - cut into the footage of this movie. The fact that it was edited from Nam Angels (1989) might explain that.

Additionally, the sound quality of this movie is not good. Add to that a blurry-sounding VHS tape, and a drunken JMV slurring his speech, and most of what he says is not comprehendable. He’s about 10 times more unintelligible than Mako, but English is JMV’s first language, so what’s his excuse? And don’t say alcohol. But we don’t mean to beat up on the guy. We love seeing him, and we especially love his more besotted roles, which this one seems to be.  You cannot do today what JMV did. He truly is one of the last of the “man’s man” actors.

So while Beyond the Call of Duty lacks originality, a strong, central villain, or JMV parachuting out of an airplane on the box cover (couldn’t they at least have super-imposed his head on the cover model’s body?), there might be barely enough meat on the bone for fans of JMV or Cirio to check this one out, but don’t spend too much money doing so.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


8/02/2013

Rulers Of The City (1976)

Rulers Of The City (1976)-* * *

Directed by: Fernando Di Leo

Starring: Jack Palance, Edmund Purdum, Vittorio Caprioli, Harry Baer, and Al Cliver












Tony (Baer) is a young and ambitious guy who is currently working as a money-collector for Mafia boss Cherico (Purdom). But he’s not a bad guy, he dreams of getting out of this racket and traveling to Brazil, a country he’s seemingly obsessed with, probably because it represents his ultimate escape from the grime and seediness of the Italian street life. His way of achieving his goal is extremely risky: he hatches a plan to steal a ton of money from the most feared gangster in Italy: “Scarface” Manzari (Palance). To execute his scheme, he calls in his buddies Rick (Cliver), and the eccentric Napoli (Caprioli). Scarface is obviously not happy about this so he releases all his goons to stop our three heroes. But is there a personal vendetta between Tony and Scarface? Find out today!

Rulers of the City is an excellent and highly entertaining movie from the golden age of the Italian-made action/gangster drama. Fernando Di Leo is a top-quality director who only now seems to be getting his long-overdue recognition. Thanks to his skill, the movie is not only well-directed, it’s also well-shot, in the Italian style, with very cool locations and a magnificent score from another underrated genius in his field, Luis Bacalov. Put that all together with some fistfights, shootouts, and car chases, and you have a total winner on your hands.


Di Leo was always trying to achieve a certain level of realism in his films, and it is quite fascinating to see the gritty, underground Italian street life of the day. But the movie isn’t without humor, either; it seems no ingredient was left out in its quest to totally entertain the audience, and we respect that. Thus, the movie never stops being good or entertaining. Even the decor of Tony’s apartment, and his awesome dune buggy provide food for discussion and interest. Naturally, it all comes to a head not in an abandoned warehouse, but at an abandoned abattoir. The ending is great and gives you what you want. It’s nice to feel you’re in the hands of experts who know what they’re doing when you’re watching a movie.

As far as the cast, Di Leo was, interestingly enough, trying to go for an international one with the British Purdom, the American Palance, the hometown Italian cast, and the Germans Baer and Gisela Hahn. Hahn was in a movie called White Pop Jesus (1980), in which the description is “Disco Jesus comes back to earth and takes on the Mafia.” Has anyone out there seen this movie? Can you get a hold of a copy? This seems like something that must be seen.  Digressions aside, the whole cast totally works and it’s a joy to watch.

Now, you would never know any of this if you based your sole viewing of this movie on the Vidcrest VHS or any of the budget DVD’s floating around out there (most of which are under the title Mister Scarface). To properly see Rulers of the City, you must get the Raro DVD. We had previously seen the Vidcrest tape, but seeing it again in the Raro version was like seeing it for the first time. It’s widescreen with subtitles, and it looks great and feels like a real movie, unlike the dubbed, pan-and-scan Vidcrest abomination. So make sure you see the right version, it makes a world of difference.

We definitely recommend Rulers of the City.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up by our buddy at The Unknown Movies!