Friday, July 28, 2017


Cops in action movies of the 1980s were an interesting breed.  They largely abandoned the cynical, downbeat tone of ‘70s cop movies like THE FRENCH CONNECTION and DIRTY HARRY in favor of one that paid less attention to realism and morality and more to excess and explosions.  Cops in the ‘70s cheated to get around search warrants and due process.  Cops in the ‘80s didn’t know what those words meant.  Rules were made to be broken, if there were rules at all.  ‘80s cops did whatever they needed to bring the villain to justice, and justice was best served from a gun.  Filmmakers had to create super criminals to stand up to the lawless lawmen and women.  Terrorists, army sized street gangs, drug cartels, ninjas, anything went, as long as they were flashy, well-armed, and indiscriminately dangerous.  Action director extraordinaire Craig R. Baxley closed out the decade by one upping them all, pitting Dolph Lundgren against drug dealers of both the terrestrial and extra variety in 1990’s DARK ANGEL (aka I COME IN PEACE).

The Capsule:
After losing his partner in an undercover sting gone bad, Houston PD detective Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) will stop at nothing to take down the man responsible, sleazebag yuppie drug lord Victor Manning (Sherman Howard).  He has to put his vengeance on hold, though, when a new player in the drug game literally explodes onto the city.  The newcomer (Matthias Hues) is seven feet fall, has white eyes, shoots razor sharp CDs, and steals endorphins straight from people’s brains.  Due to the strange nature of the case, Caine is saddled with a straight laced F.B.I. agent Smith (Brian Benben).  As the bodies pile up around the city, Caine and Smith start to suspect their target is more than your average drug dealer.  He’s a drug dealer…from space.

I caught this strange little sci-fi/drug war action mash up when it was going by the slightly hokey but more relevant title, I COME IN PEACE.  That was the US title, since they didn’t want American movie goers confusing it with THE DARK ANGEL, the 1935 relationship drama set against World War I.  I can see how that could happen.  While DARK ANGEL is a classier title, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Is the endorphin stealing alien the dark angel?  He did fall from the sky, but that is as close as he gets to anything angelic.  He’s a big blonde German-looking dude, so the dark part doesn’t really fit either.  I COME IN PEACE, on the other hand, is entirely appropriate.  That line is a running gag in the movie.  It’s the alien’s standard greeting to people just before he stabs them in the heart with a heroin pumping harpoon.  Either he has a terrible translation guide, or he’s just being a dick.  Either way, he doesn’t really come in peace.

Dolph Lundgren is one of my favorite B list action stars.  He had the muscles and stature of a Stallone or Schwarzenegger, but there was something enigmatic and veiled about his performance that worked equally well for playing the hero or villain. At the time, his two biggest roles were from ROCKY IV and RED SCORPION, so most people thought of him as a dour Russian.  DARK ANGEL gave him a chance to show he was neither.  At first glance, Jack Caine seems like the stereotypical maverick cop. The kind you would expect to first meet waking up from a hangover in a messy bedroom, knocking over beer cans as he tries to answer the phone.   Baxley plays around with that assumption a bit, letting Lundgren’s natural intelligence shine through (IRL he has a masters in chemical engineering, he’s not dumb).  To Agent Smith’s surprise, as well as ours, Caine has a tidy, nicely furnished apartment and has an appreciation for wine and art.  He has a bad habit of putting his job ahead of his sexy coroner girlfriend, Diane (Betsy Brantley), but when she’s not slapping him, he’s quite the romantic.  There is more to Caine than his 6’5 karate Viking appearance.

Even though Caine keeps a neat apartment, F.B.I. Agent Smith is the Felix in this odd couple.  Uptight, inflexible, and critical, this character could easily have come off as an insufferable jerk or the butt of all the jokes.  Brian Benben, who I consider woefully underrated and underused, offsets Smith’s irritating qualities with endearing ones.  Benben has a talent for being sympathetically insecure; he brings a wonderfully immature quality to his roles.  It’s like he was the kid in a body swap movie who suddenly wakes up as an adult, but never got to switch back.  Once Smith starts to loosen up to Caine’s laissez-faire style of policing, that child-like enthusiasm begins to peek out, especially when he gets a hold of one of the alien guns that shoots explosives.  His transition from worrying about chain of command to gleefully blowing up cars is very satisfying.

Caine and Smith’s relationship is one of the strongest elements of the movie.  Their first meeting when they are forced to work together is clearly antagonistic, and they butt heads over procedural styles throughout, but they warm up to each other surprisingly quickly.  Even though their squabbling never stops, they do seem to like each other.  It takes on a brotherly dynamic, where Caine is the cooler older brother that Smith pretends not to admire.  The rather glaring size difference adds to the comparison.  There is even a scene where Smith borrows an old football jacket from Caine.  Smith is impressed that it fits him.  Caine explains it was from when he was 12.

It’s hard to compete with a 7 foot tall alien endorphin harvester, but Baxley comes close with his ridiculous hometown bad guys, The White Boys.  They are the ‘80s action movie equivalent to the Baseball Furies from THE WARRIORS, a group that could only exist in film.  The yuppie drug dealers are so far removed from reality that the alien seems more plausible.  All the White Boy goons wear fancy suits, drive expensive sports cars, and have douchey slicked back hair.  They are a blatant personification of evil capitalists: Wall St. scumbags with Uzis instead of cell phones.  These guys are just below Nazis and white supremacists on the easy to hate villains scale.  

Now that I think about it, I bet I know where Donald Trump got the template for his cabinet. 
Sherman Howard plays head asshole Victor Manning as far from DAY OF THE DEAD’s lovable zombie, Bub, as he could get.  The smugness radiates off of him in waves.  He is completely unconcerned that his murder of an undercover cop was caught on tape.  Just like CEOs in real life, Manning gets away scot free while is underlings catch all the shit, which in this case means getting blown up by a giant alien.

Sam Anderson is even more fun as the number two corporate hood, Warren.  Caine busts in on him as he’s chairing a heavily armed board meeting.  Warren tells his goons to put their guns away, not because they are threatening a cop, but because he doesn’t want to get blood on the swank carpeting.  Caine gets to throw his weight around for about thirty seconds before Warren turns the tables on him.  He even forces Caine to be a drug mule for them by holding Smith hostage.  And just like Victor Manning, Warren gets no comeuppance at the end.  The Houston PD should really re-evaluate their anti-organized crime tactics, because they ain’t cuttin’ it. 

This movie shares a lot of similarities with another alien-hunting-criminals-in-the-city movie from the same year, PREDATOR 2.  They both involve drug cartels being slaughtered by an alien, an exotic projectile found by the cop hero, and murdered partners.  DARK ANGEL beat its more famous sibling to the punch by a couple of months, so it can’t be accused of stealing from that one.  It can be accused of stealing from TERMINATOR, though, since Matthias Hues’ massive space drug dealer is clearly modeled after Arnold’s unstoppable cyborg.  Hues is even more impressive than Schwarzenegger, in my opinion.  Not only is he just as physically intimidating, he is remarkably athletic as well.  He doesn’t just run, he leaps over car hoods parkour style, before parkour was even a thing.  For such a huge guy, he is amazingly nimble.  He also seems to be naturally fire resistant, since he shares practically every scene with an explosion.

And unlike Schwarzenegger’s scowling, all business robot, Hues’ character is having a fucking blast.  There's a barely contained grin on his face every time he unleashes a bit of destruction.  His first fight with Caine is also a great source of amusement.  The big Swede unleashes a barrage of punches and spin kicks on the space invader that is as effective as a four year old swinging a cardboard tube.   He gives Caine the chance to go through all his moves before demolishing him.  How can you not have fun driving a stolen police car through a mall?  It’s always nice to see someone really enjoying his job, even if that job is sucking brain juice through some poor sap’s skull with a giant, wrist mounted hypodermic needle.

It should also be noted that Hues is such a badass alien that he doesn’t even need a spaceship.  A fireball lands on an irate businessman’s Mercedes (Baxley really hates yuppies), and Hues struts right out of the crater without even needing to dust himself off.  I think he just jumped from orbit.

Even though it came out in 1990, DARK ANGEL is 100% of the ‘80’s.  Movie cops in the ‘80’s followed their gut, made their own rules, and got results.  Smith’s obsession with proper procedure is portrayed as a flaw.  He badgers Caine about silly things like warrants, chain of evidence, and police brutality until he learns to relax and just roll with the violations.  

The thing is, no matter how cool we think Caine is, he is objectively a terrible police officer.  He never catches Manning or stops the White Boys, despite knowing exactly where they hang out and having a ton of evidence on them.  He only figures out what is going on with the bad alien because the good alien who was hunting him (while obeying Alien Cop regulations, no doubt) sneaks into Caine’s car and gives him all the key details before croaking.  

That’s not the worst of it.  Victor Manning may have been the one to pull the trigger, but Caine is the real reason his partner is dead.  First of all, he and Ray (Alex Morris) seem to have set up the whole undercover drug sting by themselves, with no backup or even a mention to their boss, Captain Malone (a perpetually beleaguered Jim Haynie).  The real kicker is that at the very moment Ray needs him most, just before Manning calls him out for being a narc, Caine gets distracted by a convenience store robbery and abandons the surveillance to beat up some meth heads.  By the time he gets back, Ray is already dead.  His last words should have been “My partner is such an asshole.”

Ultimately, though, Caine does take down the alien his way, only proving that rules are completely worthless.  Caine, Smith, and Diane walk away triumphantly, and we leave Houston a marginally safer place.  Still plenty of drug dealers, considerably less cars, but absolutely no aliens.  

As a wise man once said, “Fuck you, spaceman.”

C Chaka

Friday, July 21, 2017

Stay Scared - DAY OF THE DEAD

Normally around this time of year, the week of the San Diego Comic-Con, I would tap into the nerdgeist and talk about a superhero movie, like I did last year with SPIDER-MAN 3.  I’m breaking that tradition (of the one time I did it) because an even bigger—and considerably sadder—event derailed my plans, the death of director George A. Romero.  Romero made a profound contribution to cinema, horror in particular, and he is an incredibly important artist to me.  He created biting commentary under the guise of blood soaked genre spectacle.  His movies didn’t focus on the monsters or the madness, but on how normal people cope with an impossible situation.  He literally wrote the book on how to make a modern zombie film, and inspired countless folks to pick up a camera and give it a go.  He was the first to send me down the horror movie rabbit hole with the ultimate "job from hell" parable, DAY OF THE DEAD.  

The Capsule:
Sarah (Lori Cardille) has a rough working environment.  She is a determined, confident woman in a male dominated occupation.  Her co-workers attitudes towards her range from dismissive to openly hostile.  Even though she does not have the resources she needs to effectively do her job, her unreasonable boss, Rhodes (Joseph Pilato), keeps demanding results.  Her co-worker Logan (Richard Liberty) is a loose cannon who's ¨off the book¨ projects could get them terminated.  Her relationship with a resentful boyfriend (Anthony Dileo Jr.) is falling apart.  As if all that wasn’t bad enough, she is also surrounded by thousands of walking corpses who want to eat her. Yes, it’s hard to be a woman in a (dead) man’s world.

DAY OF THE DEAD wasn’t my first Romero film.  I was traumatized by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on TV as a wee youngster, and CREEPSHOW (also on TV) shook me up a few years after.  It was DAY that had the most impact on my cinematic tastes, however, and it happened long before I’d even seen it.  Back in 1985, when the movie came out, I was a total pussy when it came to blood.  No matter what kind of movie it was, I would cover my eyes at even the hint that something gross was coming.  I had a visceral reaction to the thought of viscera.    

So imagine when I saw DAY OF THE DEAD on the marque of my small town theater, followed by the rating of X.  It was the first time I ever realized a movie could be rated X for violence.  Additionally, the only trailer for the movie was a teaser showing one scene, the opening dream where an entire wall full of arms burst out at a woman.  That was creepy enough, and apparently it was the only thing safe enough to show on television.  I was horrified by the thought of what that movie held in store, and completely obsessed by it.  If R rated gore was too much for me, what would happen if I saw X rated stuff?  My head would explode like that scene in SCANNERS that I never watched but knew was there.

Eventually, I decided the only way to deal with my mounting anxiety/fascination was with flooding therapy.  I forced myself to watch all the gruesome scenes I had avoided in movies like JAWS and ALIEN.  To my surprise, I found that nothing I saw on screen even remotely compared to the orgy of blood my imagination filled in while my eyes were closed.  Incidentally, I didn’t just embellish the gore of horror movies, I did it with everything.  Do you remember that ridiculously extreme decapitation-by-rotary-saw-yoyo scene in OCTOPUSSY? If you watched in my brain you would.  I was an unconscious gorehound all along!  

After that revelation, I began to devour horror movies.  NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREETS, FRIDAYS THE 13TH, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRES, EVIL DEADS, an entire wonderful world had opened up and I could stomach it all.  It was like I discovered I could see a new color.  No matter how excessive, bloody or innovative the effects got, they still couldn’t hold up to my ghastly imagination.  Finally it was time for the one that started off the whole experiment, DAY OF THE DEAD in all its X rated (technically Unrated) glory.  And my imagination said, “Fine, we’ll call this one a draw.”

Anyone familiar with Romero’s work will know that the effects, which are superb, are only part of what makes the violence so effective.  Romero was a master of atmosphere, and more specifically, mood.  DAY has the bleakest, most claustrophobic mood of his films.  The tone is set perfectly right from the start.  A helicopter touches down in the deserted street of a Florida town.  In case you haven’t seen the preceding films, all the backstory is beautifully summed up by the headline of a discarded newspaper, “THE DEAD WALK”.  The search party, including Sarah, Miguel, pilot John (Terry Alexander, sporting a fake Jamaican accent), radio man McDermott (Jarlath Conroy, sporting a real Irish accent), attempt to make contact with anyone left alive.  Aside from a few lounging alligators, all they find are zombies.  The party’s reaction is not of fear, but of deep disappointment.  There is no one left to rescue.

This is the only one of Romero’s zombie films (and possibly any zombie film) where no additional characters are introduced after we meet the initial roster.  The entire crew of the underground research facility has been there since the project was founded.  Communications has been cut off and their numbers have steadily dwindled without a single government or civilian replacement.  They have searched 100 miles up and down the coast without finding any survivors.  The bikers from DAWN OF THE DEAD might have been a bunch of assholes, but at least they were alive.  There is a real sense that these guys could be the last living people on Earth.  Just imagine being stuck at work with the biggest jerks at your office, and multiply that by the rest of your life.  See what I mean about bleak?

Ask most people—even Romero fans—about DAY and they will probably go right to the overacting.  Which is valid, as Joseph Pilato attacks his role as Rhodes like a Doberman digging into bunny.  I don’t consider that a bad thing.  Pilato’s performance only ratchets up the claustrophobia.  Rhodes is so virulently unpleasant the zombies start to look like better roommates.  I don’t think DAY gets as much social commentary credit as Romero’s previous films, which is a bit unfair.  It’s metaphor my not be as important as calling out racism in NOTLD, or as self-reflective as DAWN’s satire of commercialism, but DAY OF THE DEAD’s take on the soul crushing futility of bureaucracy was just as appropriate for its Reagan era release.  

Sarah and Fisher (John Amplas) try to find a way of reversing the zombification, even though it is clearly too late.  Doctor Logan is super excited about domesticating the zombies into pets just like his star pupil, Bub (Sherman Howard), but his one on one training technique amounts to moving a beach one grain of sand at a time (while the rest of the sand tries to eat you).  The soldiers care only about orders and accomplishing one bullshit directive after the other.  Rhodes is constantly threatening to cancel the project if the scientists don’t provide him with results, as if the apocalypse was a war game that could be called off.  This blind dedication to their roles might provide a sense of purpose and a way of ignoring the reality of how truly fucked they are, but it also makes them waste the only precious resource they have left, their lives.

Only the contract workers, John and McDermott, have the right idea.  They stay away from the main facilities and have made a little oasis amongst the RVs and speedboats and other useless artifacts tucked away in storage.  John doesn't get a line as good as Ken Foree's "When there's no room in hell," but he does see through the delusion that their mission is going to fix the world.  He tries to convince Sarah that the best thing to do is for them to take the helicopter to an island and spend the rest of their days getting back to living.

Of course, Sarah is the worst workaholic in the bunch, because she has to be.  She is by far the most competent, driven, and fair character in the movie.  Without her, the entire compound would tear itself apart.  As frequent readers know, I love films starring ass kicking women.  I tend to highlight the literal ass kickers, fighters like Salma Hayek's Everly or Geena Davis' Charly Baltimore, but Sarah may be an even more impressive character.  Though she's able to defend herself from the dead and the living, her strength comes through in attitude alone.  Sarah takes no shit.  She is the only female in the facility, potentially in the world, and she is surrounded by knuckle dragging brutes toting machine guns.  It doesn’t faze her. Even in the face of their constant sexual innuendo and not so veiled threats, she stares every one of those motherfuckers down.  She even tells the insecure dictator Rhodes to go fuck himself (I'm paraphrasing, her actual line was "Yes sir, fuck you sir!").  He has to order one of his flunkies to shoot her before she backs down, and even then it is just to avoid a WILD BUNCH style firefight between the camp’s factions.  She does allow herself a few vulnerable moments when she is alone with John and McDermott, and she is obviously anguished to watch her boyfriend Miguel crack up under the stress, but she turns the badass back on with the flick of a switch.  

As usual with a DEAD film, the zombies are an ever present symptom of the larger problem. Keeping with the bureaucratic metaphor, they would be the paperwork.  A staple in zombie movies is finding a descriptor so the characters don't have to use the word "zombie".  They have been called "walkers", "biters", "infected".  DAY keeps it classy and calls them "dumb fucks".  Occasionally there is a spectacular one, like the jaw-less, tongue lolling beauty from the opening, but for the most part, Romero keeps the make-up simple.  He lets his taste for satire show with the occasional novelty zombie, though.  In DAWN he had a Hari Krishna zombie.  This time we get a football player zombie, a ballerina zombie, a cigar chomping zombie, and a clown zombie.  They are charmingly goofy reminders of how absurd the whole thing is.

Clearly, Romero has so much more going on than just gut munching gore.  Holy shit, though, the gore.  Greg Nicotero, who did make-up effects along with Tom Savini (in addition to acting as a soldier and a soldier’s head), has created more technically impressive gags in the decades since, but the gore in DAY has not lost its punch.  Much of the impact has to do with the setting.  Blood under the flat, harsh florescent lights of the compound has a disturbingly realistic look.  The sterile environment of Dr. Logan’s lab, along with his clinical detachment at vivisecting a moving body, give all his scenes an dank verisimilitude.  All the blood and guts seem like something you could see in a hospital if you poked your head into the wrong room.

More importantly, the actual (non-zombie) deaths are incredibly brutal.  With the exception of Rhodes, who totally gets what he deserves (and a legendary last line), I kind of felt bad for the soldiers.  True, they were racist dickholes, but without Rhodes pushing them around, all they would have done is smoke pot and tell dirty jokes.  It’s hard not to feel just a little sympathetic when one of these poor schmucks is getting his face peeled off.  The one that that still gets me is not so much due to the visuals—which are gross enough—but the sound.  One dude gets his head pulled off by a mob of zombies, and his scream is pitched up as his vocal cords get stretched out.  It’s those extra anatomical considerations that really bring the heebie jeebies.  

[Spoiler Ahead]  The irony is that Romero’s darkest movie also has his most optimistic ending.  George really makes us sweat before we get there, though.  As Rhodes makes his escape plans, he tosses Sarah and McDermott, unarmed, into the dark cavern where the zombie test subjects are corralled.  Even when a pistol packing John goes in to help, all of the intercut scenes of bloody soldier slaughter give the distinct impression that no one is getting out of this one alive.  Surprise!  After a jump scare at the helicopter, Sarah awakes from her bad dream on a peaceful beach.  John and McDermott are there too, fishing and soaking up the sun, without a dumb fuck in sight (although it would have been sweet if they had taken Bub along).  All of the same questions about the state of the world are still unanswered, but these guys are done asking.  They are making a new life and will enjoy it for as long as they have left.

Romero seemed to have taken that message to heart.  From the couple of times I met him and the stories I’ve heard, the man really enjoyed his life.  He loved talking with his fans and trying new ways to entertain them.  “Stay scared” was the classic line he added when signing pictures or posters or DVDs at horror conventions.  I think it was his way of telling people to wake up and appreciate life.  We certainly appreciated his.     
Farewell George.

C Chaka

Friday, July 14, 2017


The French came up with a little thing called the auteur theory.  The gist is that the director is the singular voice in the creation of a film, greater to its identity than the actors, writer, cinematographer, or any other element.  While I don’t entirely buy into that idea, there are some filmmakers whose instantly identifiable stamp defines the movies they work on.  Stanley Kubrick is a classic example, as is Francois Truffaut, or Steven Spielberg.  There is no mistaking their work.  Nowhere is the auteur theory more evident, however, than with John S. Rad.  He may not have been the most famous of directors.  He may not have been as skilled, knowledgeable, or comprehensible as the great ones.  Or the mediocre ones.  However, John S. Rad had an unrelenting passion that could not be duplicated.  His unique style is written all over DANGEROUS MEN, his action masterpiece of the ‘80s—and ‘90s, just as clearly as his name.  Which is also written all over the movie.

The Capsule:
Daniel (Michael Hurt) and Mina (Melody Wiggins) find their blissful engagement cut brutally short when they are attacked by a couple of bikers on the beach.  Daniel kills one of the bikers, but the other stabs Daniel to death in front of Mina.  Thirsty for revenge, Mina lures the murderous biker into an unnecessarily long and drawn out ruse which (eventually) leaves him dead on a hotel room floor.  From that moment on she dedicates herself to ridding the world of other trash like him, no matter the cost.  Soon the streets of L.A. begin filling with the bodies of would-be rapists, sleazy johns, and random dudes waiting in line for a hot dog.  Her noble pursuit eventually attracts the attention of the police, including her fiancee's brother, David (Michael Gradilone), who is hot on her trail.  Black Pepper (Bryan Jenkins, probably), the roughest biker in town, might also be involved in some vaguely defined way.  Mina finds out the hard way that no matter how many she murders, she just cannot get away from dangerous men.

Right from the beginning, DANGEROUS MEN is a treasure.  It has some of the most entertaining opening credits of any movie.  Not the opening credit sequence, which is just a shot of waves crashing on a beach, but the credits themselves.  First of all, there is an exploding title, which is always a sign of a quality action film.  Secondly, every single credit is the same name: John Rad.  Writer, Director, Producer, Executive Producer (which I assumed would be redundant if you are the only producer), Editor, Music & Lyrics, all John Rad.  He was a man of many talents, though not many of them actually relate to filmmaking.  Still, any man named John S. Rad was destined to direct action movies.  And yes, he totally made it up, because he was really an Iranian architect named Jahangir Salehi. 

Filmed over a period of 20 plus years, DANGEROUS MEN borrows elements from many classic action films, chops them to pieces, and mutates them into something unlike anything else.  The closest comparison would be to fellow Iranian director Amir Shervan’s SAMURAI COP, but without that film’s lucid plot or authentic performances.  Rad exemplifies that magical case when a director has no experience or even a basic understanding of how movies are made (in America, at least), but fills in the gaps with pure enthusiasm and a total lack of self-reflection.  The result can be a beautiful, unpredictable disaster that can’t help but to astonish.  That is certainly the case here.

This movie has it all.  Dialogue that sounds like it was recorded through cheap walkie talkies, fight choreography in the style of two 10 year-olds playing in the backyard, and characters who almost seem like human beings.  Oh, and I hope you like Casio demo loops with goofy light rock guitar flourishes, because you will be hearing it A LOT.

Rad, who was also the casting director, assembled a band of actors whose credits mostly start and end with this movie.  It’s hard to identify everyone, even on IMDB, because aside from Mina and Daniel, none of the characters are listed by name in the credits, just by role description (Biker, Hotel Manager, Mina’s Dad).  Even the lead characters like David, whose name is said over and over in the dialogue, is only listed as Police Detective.  Just consider it part of the charm.

As incredibly entertaining as the parade of technical goofs are, it is the plot that makes this such a brain melting joyride.  I’m fairly sure the screenplay was just a transcript of Steven Seagal’s dream journal.  The movie starts with perpetually off duty cop David having a poorly dubbed romantic dinner with his wife (who we never see again) before switching to a non sequitur convenience store robbery.  Because all action movies must contain at least one foiled convenience store robbery.  

Then David disappears for a while and the movie is all about Daniel and Mina, as they go from one romantic montage to the next.  We get to see Daniel ask Mina’s dad, who appears to be the exact same age as his daughter, for her hand in marriage.  Now its nothing but long drives up the coast.  Everything is coming up aces for these two.

Obviously that can’t last.  While holding hands on a beach, the happy couple is descended upon by a couple of bikers up to no good (as all action movie bikers are).  A fight ensues, and Daniel strangles the one wearing ear flaps and Confederate soldier pants, only to be stabbed to death by the bald biker right in front of Mina. 

Things become a little strange at this point, as Mina enacts her incredibly drawn out, overly complicated revenge.  She fools baldy, who had moments ago been trying to rape her, into believing that stabbing her fiancĂ©e was a real turn on for her.  Then she lures him to a motel, were they have a pleasant dinner at the restaurant, allowing Mina to pull a Marion Ravenwood and swipe a steak knife.  Back in the hotel room, Mina takes a quick shower while baldy gets in the mood by licking Daniel’s blood off his knife.  Finally, after hours of setup, Mina distracts Baldy with some very specific foreplay (“gently rub my knees and lick my bellybutton”), pulls the steak knife from between her buttocks (no, seriously), and goes psycho on his tighty-white ass.  Having a taste for retribution, she vows to rid the world of trash like him, and sets off on a dangerous man-hunt.

It might be an extreme reaction, but her low opinion of men is immediately confirmed when the very next dude she encounters, the middle aged businessman who gives her a ride, decides to use the opportunity to rape her.  This doof, listed as Truck Driver in the credits but more accurately described as Inconsistently British Fake John Cleese, gets as far as undressing before Mina has a knife to his dick.  She steals his truck and leaves him stranded naked in the desert.  Now, in any normal movie, that would be the last we saw of him.  But thanks to the mad genius of John Rad, we ignore Mina and follow this bumbling nitwit through the desert FOR FIVE FULL MINUTES.  He covers his naughty bits with branches, argues with himself, gets made fun of by passing motorists, and does an impromptu fan dance to “The Blue Danube”.  It sort of defies description.  And just as I was hoping the movie would become a ‘60s sex farce revolving around this sad sack, he is gone.

Meanwhile, Mina interviews a prostitute to learn the secrets of attracting horny men, such as making eye contact and, well, that’s really all she needs.  Eager johns follow her back to her apartment where she just as eagerly murders them.  But throughout all the wanton bloodshed, she still has flashback montages of her life with Daniel, like the time she gave him a googly-eyed shell sculpture which she insists was handmade and not bought at any cheap beach souvenir shop.  Eventually all of the john stabbing and would-be rapist shooting (this movie is like an after school PSA against hitchhiking) gets the attention of the cops, who scour the city looking for her with ‘70s stock footage of police cars and helicopters.   She eludes the dragnet until an undercover cop, whose badge just reads “Policeman Police”, arrests her while she casually walks around the city in broad daylight.  Thus ends—somewhat anticlimactically—the story of Mina.

Except that the movie has another half hour left to go, so now it becomes all about David.  He is still determined to track down his brother’s killer, even though everyone knows his killer is dead and the person who killed his killer has been arrested.  Undeterred, he goes on a hunt for Black Pepper, reportedly the most badass biker of them all and not a stripper like his name would imply.  The first step is to nab Black Pepper’s friend, Dutch (credited as Head Biker).  Dutch is also bald, but can be distinguished from the previous bald biker due to his prominent forehead tattoo (or decal).  David lays a trap for him using his new friend Darts Playing Woman, as bait, which is a scummy thing to do given that he just saved her from Head Biker in the last scene.  Seriously, the title of this movie should be RAPEY MEN, though thankfully none of the many, many rapists are ever successful and they are all either arrested, humiliated, or killed.

Ironically, the most dangerous of the dangerous men, Black Pepper, turns out to be a fairly decent fellow, despite looking like the lead singer of a Winger cover band.  He’s introduced making out on the couch with his girlfriend while a belly dancer shakes and shimmies around the living room (at this point in the movie, that doesn’t even count as weird).  Then he compliments the dancer on her routine and makes tender love to his girl, focusing on her needs first, if you know what I mean.  He doesn’t have any visible connection to crime and doesn’t seem to even be aware of what happened in the beginning of the film.  So it’s a little confusing when the entire police force raids his house.  He does have a bunch of armed guards, but even though he tells them to do whatever it takes to keep the cops from getting in, they all surrender without firing a shot.  At least his sassy girlfriend stalls the cops long enough for BP to escape.

The big fist fight between David and BP is all you could hope for and more.  Hilariously, Rad uses the exact same punch and grunt sound effects over and over, no matter who is swinging.  Punch, ow, punch, ow, punch, ow!  It’s like a live recreation of playing Double Dragon in the arcade.  In a turn that is both surprising and completely justified, BP wins the fight, leaving David unconscious but alive on the desert ground.

But John Rad isn’t done with us yet.  David's boss, Chief (Carlos Rivas), who until this point has been a side character, mostly talking on the phone and reading from the script on his desk, now steps into the newly vacated hero role.  I must admit, I did not see that one coming.  The old man single-handedly chases Black Pepper across the desert, up hills, through a cave, and into a residential neighborhood, all while shouting dialogue, but not moving his lips.  When Black Pepper finally breaks down and does something villainous by terrorizing a blind homeowner (who is packing a gun under her needlepoint work!), it’s Chief who busts in and [Spoiler] arrests him.  MOVIE OVER, ROLL CREDITS!

Trust me, I’ve only touched on a fraction of what this movie has to offer. Every minute has some bit of delicious ineptitude.  Regrettably, John Rad did not have another 26 years left to make another film.  Who knows what other wonders he could have given the world.  At least we will always have this one.  I think the credits say it all with its lone Special Thanks dedication... to John Rad.

C Chaka