The Last Ride (1991)

The Last Ride (1991)- *1\2

Directed by: Karl Krogstad

Starring: Dan Ranger, Michael Hilow, Ron Ben Jarrett, Amy Nohavic, Renn Richards, George Dietrick, and William Winship

"Debbbbiiiiieeeeee!!!!!!"- Bart

A man named Michael Smith (Ranger) finally gets out of jail after eight years. He seems like a nice enough guy, and he claims he was innocent. After saying a heartfelt goodbye to his long-time cellmate Adams (Jarrett), Smith hits the road to soak up his newfound freedom. Unfortunately, Smith’s life on the outside takes a dark turn when a psychotic trucker named Phil Holtman (Hilow) picks him up while hitching. You’ll understand the reason for the italics momentarily. Meanwhile, our old buddy Phil is off acting crazy and killing people. Local waitress Debbie (Nohavic) is at risk. While initially a suspect, Smith ends up working with the authorities in the area, Sheriff Bolt (Winship) and policeman of the year Bart (Dietrick). Will Michael Smith get out of this jam? Or will this be his LAST RIDE?

The Last Ride is AIP’s take on The Hitcher (1986). The plot, the structure, and even individual scenes are, let’s say, HIGHLY influenced by it. Because it’s all done in that inimitable AIP style, imagine a cross between The Hitcher and Maximum Breakout (1991). If you ever watched The Hitcher and thought its one impediment is that its budget was too high, this is the movie for you.

Dan Ranger has an awesome name. We wish we were Dan Ranger, or even had his name, We would be sitting pretty. The original Dan Ranger, or Daniel P. Ranger as he is credited here, never seems to have capitalized on his fantastic name. He was only in this movie and Cop Out (1991) the same year. What a year that must have been for Mr. Ranger. Of course, during the filming of Cop Out he had to contend with David Buff, who challenged his supremacy in the awesome name sweepstakes. Ranger must have felt humiliated and left the movie industry forever. Ranger looks a lot like Jan-Michael Vincent and he does his best.

The main baddie, Phil, is more annoying than scary. And the doctor who comes to save the day, Dr. Jim Rouchet (Renn Richards, in, amazingly, his only screen role to date) looks like a mustachioed Dick Clark. It appears all his dialogue was post-dubbed, and by a stage-trained master thespian with a lot of gravitas. Speaking of master thespians, that brings us to George Dietrick as Bart, one of the police officers. At one crucial point in the story, he realizes this is his “Streetcar Named Desire” moment and he gives it his all. We commend him for that.

The usual AIP mainstays are here, of course – the movie was written by Ted Prior and co-produced by David A. Prior, and it was shot in and around Fall City, Washington. It retains that regional vibe, and the whole thing is 75 minutes long, not including the world’s slowest end credits crawl. Despite its brief length, it feels longer because this is not one of AIP’s more creative or energetic outings. It feels almost like it’s going through the motions. Sure, there are a handful of standout moments, but that’s all they are – moments. Sadly, director Krogstad and most of the rest of his cast never developed their talents beyond this initial venture. It would have been interesting to see that evolution, but here we just get a taste of what could have been.

In the competitive world of DTV in the early 90’s, you had to be on your game, and it seems The Last Ride just didn’t have what it takes to survive. Thus it became, unfortunately, just more video store shelf-filler. It didn’t have to be that way, but more twists, surprises, verve, or originality might have helped.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Blood On The Badge (1992)

Blood On The Badge (1992)- * * *

Directed by: Bret McCormick

Starring: Joe Estevez, David Harrod, Todd A. Everett, and Rocky Patterson 

When a Libyan terrorist group called the Hand of God are running around killing politicians, detectives Neil Farrow (Harrod) and Bill Marshall (Everett) are on the case. Captain Burton (Estevez) is constantly demanding answers from them, and after Marshall ends up in a coma, Farrow goes rogue – and also goes to Texas – to find the perpetrators. While somewhat of a fish out of water in the small town of Morgan County, Texas, Farrow has a spirit guide – his comatose partner Marshall himself! Dressed in a white T-shirt and bathed in white light even though he’s not dead, he gives Farrow cryptic clues as to what to do next. Doubtlessly it’s because of this intervention that Farrow comes across local powermad good ol’ boy Milo Truscott (Patterson) and his gang of nogoodniks. After traveling to the local “survival camp” and being mercilessly mocked and ridiculed by the local doomsday preppers, Farrow decides enough is enough and takes the law into his own hands to unravel the mystery. But will there be BLOOD ON THE BADGE?

Shot the same year as Armed For Action (1992) and featuring almost the exact same cast and crew, Blood On The Badge is more low-budget, Texas-set, Joe Estevez-infused DTV wonderment. Out of the two, we prefer Armed For Action, mainly because that has a higher mullet-and-Gatling-gun ratio, but it’s probably a matter of taste.

David Harrod returns as the hunky Himbo hero. His favorite outfit is what appears to be a homemade New York Yankees T-shirt tucked into acid washed jeans with a black belt. When he’s not wearing that, he likes to lounge around in a towel, showing off his ultra-manly Woody Woodpecker tattoo. He’s so much of a Himbo, he makes Dan Cortese look like William F. Buckley. Naturally, the ladies can’t get enough of him, and that includes Monique Detraz of The Dangerous (1995) fame. While the movie as a whole suffers from pacing issues, Joe Estevez appears right on time.

Rocky Patterson also returns, along with everyone else, from Armed For Action. In that outing he strongly resembled Joe Piscopo. In this movie, he strongly resembles Greg Kinnear. The man is a true chameleon. While his name here is Truscott, it sounds like everyone is calling him “Triscuit”. Thankfully, this movie isn’t quite as dry as his namesake cracker. Speaking of which, Truscott is a racist bigot who spews racial slurs constantly. That and the sax on the soundtrack are the hallmarks of a type of film which is not made anymore. While in many respects, Blood on the Badge is a relic of its day, it is actually quite ahead of its time. The plot revolves around Islamic terrorists, and there is a subplot that involves the Israeli ambassador. They should re-release this back into theaters today.

While there are a healthy amount of funny lines and silly situations, the plot is slow going. There is a machine gun shootout in a warehouse, and even an exploding helicopter, so in that respect it’s pure AIP. It all ends on a classic freeze frame and under the closing credits are wedding pictures. You’ve gotta hand it to director McCormick and his band of regulars. It may be rough around the edges, but, darn it, he made these movies and released them into video stores. You can tell plenty of effort was put into making them as good as possible under very, very limiting circumstances. It’s probably important to keep that in mind while watching.

In the end, if you liked Armed For Action, or even One Man War (1990), and you appreciate that down-home style, you’ll more than likely enjoy Blood On the Badge. If not, you probably won’t, though it is just entertaining enough to satisfy VHS junkies who are familiar with this type of material.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty