Archives for posts with tag: Streets

Cannibal Mercenary

Mercenary aka Cannibal Mercenary (1983) ****

This Thai film, titled to capitalize on the success of then-recent Italian gut-munching horrors Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Cannibal Ferox (1981), finds a ragtag team of sleazy and mentally damaged mercenaries venturing into VC-infested territory to assassinate a drug kingpin who commands an army of “Draculas”, cannibal tribesmen sort of like Indochinese hillbillies.

Clearly inspired by Apocalypse Now (1979), Mercenary opens with post-traumatic battle flashbacks intermingled with a shot of a ceiling fan like the one that transfixes Martin Sheen. After a little hokey, English-dubbed melodrama to set the plot in motion, Mercenary gets down to business – and brutal, nasty business it is, with the outnumbered protagonists encountering the Viet Cong, quicksand, booby traps, and (speaking of booby traps) a treacherous, manipulative jungle bitch who threatens the cohesiveness of the group.

Idiosyncratically edited, Mercenary has scenes of high-stress, noisy, tension-ratcheting quick cuts that appear to be designed to strain the viewer’s nerves to the breaking point, such as when a henchman threatens to waste a whining kid and initiates a death countdown. Standout imagery includes a beheading, eye-gouging, maggot-eating, face-urinating, a skull being split open by a spike, and subsequent hungry brain-gobbling. Horror watchers will also enjoy the tacky, uncredited appropriation of Goblin’s music from Dawn of the Dead (1978). Recommended to cannibal movie videovores and other perverts, who, however, should not get their hopes up about seeing the pictured Aryan super soldier spring into battle, as no such figure appears in Mercenary, an all-Asian affair, alas.

4 out of 5 stars.

Devastator

The Devastator (1986) ****

Directed by low-budget action specialist Cirio H. Santiago, a master of what Joe Bob Briggs has termed the “exploding bamboo” subgenre, The Devastator is yet another generic 80s ‘Nam vet vigilante movie – or, in other words, a classic! Richard Hill, better known for playing the title part in Deathstalker (1983), stars as Deacon Porter, a vet who just wants to get on with his life, but finds himself thrust back into the fray when his old commanding officer is murdered. In the rural California community of King’s Ransom, drug lord Carey (Crofton Hardester) rules his roost with a hell-raising paramilitary force and even has the sheriff (Kaz Garas) on his payroll. When Deacon and a few of his ex-soldier buddies assemble in town, however, Carey’s days of 80s drug tyranny are numbered.

Not much in the way of plot, The Devastator is primarily wall-to-wall action – largely set to chintzy synthesizer music – with some truly impressive stunt work along the way. The most fun, however, is probably to be had from Deacon’s burly compatriot Ox (Jack Daniels!), a growling party animal who greets his old teammate by punching a hole through his door (!) and who clearly delights in over-the-top mayhem for the kicks. The villain has a healthy, thriving marijuana field, which, when Ox assaults it and sets it on fire, results in an even more humongous marijuana holocaust than the one in Up in Smoke (1978) – that, and a funny variation on Duvall’s famous line from Apocalypse Now (1979), with Ox taking big, deep breaths of the stuff and exulting like some victorious barbarian.

Rock-jawed Hill is only so-so in the charisma department, but with his muscular build the actor definitely has the look of the all-American action hero. Jack Daniels, as noted, is quite the hoot as Ox, while foxy item Katt Shea, who co-stars as Hill’s love interest, spunky gas pump attendant Audrey, would go on shortly after The Devastator to become a director of some note, creating stylish thrillers like Stripped to Kill (1987) and Streets (1990). The Devastator would make a perfect double feature with funky Gary Busey actioner Eye of the Tiger (1986), an entry to which this programmer bears a thematic resemblance. 

4 stars. Check it out!

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Stripped to Kill

Stripped to Kill (1987) *****  The first in a series of seedy adult fairy tale collaborations between writer-director Katt Shea and co-writer Andy Ruben, Stripped to Kill is among the finest erotic thrillers of that genre’s late 80s/early 90s peak period. Kay Lenz brings a valuable earnestness to her exploitative role as an L.A. policewoman going undercover as a stripper at the Rock Bottom, a club whose talent is falling prey to a mystery maniac. Greg Evigan plays her charmingly unshaven, doughnut-scarfing, zen-aspiring partner and, inevitably, love interest.

Shea, Ruben, and crew imbue Stripped to Kill with a convincing but expressionistic visual sensibility, a nocturnal air of stylized grime and neon magic that sets it apart from its thriller cohorts. “Deny the Night,” a moody, low-key rock song written by Ruben and performed by Larry Streicher, burns over a glorious opening credits strip sequence, perfectly establishing the darkly beautiful tone and themes of the film. Night, wet streets, red light, flashing knives, and fire dimly illuminate the dangerous world of this film and give it much of its personality.

Tawdry it is, but never at the expense of its humanity, with each character granted a more or less believable individuality. The supporting cast is especially strong. Three’s Company‘s Norman Fell is adorably sleazy and jaded as the strip club manager, while all of the dancers are captured at their expressive and memorable best both on stage and in their dressing room moments. Diana Bellamy also deserves special mention for her minor supporting role as Shirl. Icy and tough but also funny and almost warm at times, Stripped to Kill is a unique experience not to be missed by fans of murder thrillers and the female form in motion.

Stripped to Kill 2

Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls (1989) ***1/2  This disappointing sequel, again from the team of Shea and Ruben, fails to recapture the right combination of elements in writing, cast, and design that made Stripped to Kill such a special film. As a stand-alone piece, however, and without its classic predecessor to throw it into such an unflattering contrast, Stripped to Kill II is a passable if mopey and fairly predictable piece of trash.

Maria Ford, who developed a following for her willingness to appear naked in such films, is a picture painted from a gaudier palette than Kay Lenz and is less capable of carrying a demanding dramatic feature. She is, however, a more accomplished dancer than Lenz, more convincing as a stripper, and is actually at her best as an actress in her surreal dance and dream sequences, which, along with the other dancers’ periodic interludes, constitute Stripped to Kill II‘s strongest suit. Of particular note is Ford’s cat routine with roommate Karen Mayo-Chandler as the lion tamer.

Stripped to Kill II‘s cast is adequate, but – as with nearly every other aspect – falls short of the bar raised by the original. Eb Lottimer is innocuously low-key in his turn as the police detective who falls for Ford, the prime suspect in this installment’s series of stripper murders. All of the strippers are physically gifted artists and fine in action, but less than charismatic in dramatic scenes. Norman Fell, had his character returned, would have been a welcome source of seriocomedy, as would Greg Evigan or Diana Bellamy, sorely missed, the endearing role of Shirl having passed to ghastly Virginia Peters.

Shea, focusing on a more sundazed set of characters, would return to form and further develop her sleazy L.A. fairy tale aesthetic with Streets (1990).

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