Deadly Breed (1989)

Deadly Breed (1989)- * * *

Directed by: Charles T. Kanganis

Starring: Blake Bahner, Addison Randall, Robert Gallo, Michele Berger, Rhonda Gray, Joe Verroca, and William Smith

Jake Walker (Bahner) is a parole officer with a heart of gold. Even though he works with the ex-cons of L.A.’s mean streets, he gives his parolees money out of his own pocket and gets them jobs working on cars with his Uncle Tony (Gallo). (Doesn’t everyone have an Uncle Tony?) He loves his job so much, it’s even causing marital problems between him and his wife Lana (Berger). Jake’s job suddenly becomes even more complicated when Kilpatrick (Randall) enters his life. Kilpatrick is a slightly creepy cop by day, and leader of a KKK-like white supremacist group by night. When Jake starts to notice that his beloved parolees are dropping like flies, he tries to figure out why. He enlists the help of fellow officers Vinnie (Verroca) and Alex (Gray) to get to the bottom of things. But he may have to go all the way to the top instead – perhaps to Captain (Smith) (That’s all he’s credited as). Has the KKK infiltrated the LAPD? And will Jake Walker be able to come face to face with – and put a stop to – this DEADLY BREED?

Deadly Breed is a quality PM outing from the golden year of 1989. Not only does it feature Blake Bahner at his absolute best, it also has Addison Randall at his absolute best. For those two reasons alone it is worth seeing. All the PM mainstays are behind the camera as well, and if you know and love PM movies (as we do) you will be comforted by this and recognize the familiar style. While most of the action is saved for the climax, the performances (especially Bahner and Randall), the interesting idea (psycho cult leader in the LAPD becomes obsessed with a humble parole officer), and the good pace by director Kanganis all add up to solid entertainment.

The great William Smith puts in a sit-down role (technically he stands up once), but it’s an excellent one. He truly was the B-movie Jack Palance and the man has charisma. You’ve got to love his “I gargle with razorblades” voice. We were certainly happy he was here to anchor things. The sidekick, Vinnie, looks like a more weathered Jason Bateman, and Alex, the female officer tasked with getting closer to Kilpatrick, resembles Karen Sheperd. Rhonda Gray, who played Alex, had a great year in 1989 (didn’t we all?) – that same year she was in the fantastic Shotgun (1989).

You know Kilpatrick is evil because he plays the piano intensely and shirtlessly. When he gives his pep speech to his fellow skinheads, the audience is struck by two things. One, how ahead of its time this movie is, and two, connected to that, how the makers of American History X (1998) MUST have seen this movie and gotten inspiration from it. That always happens – major movies borrow or steal ideas from B-movies, and the lowly B-movies never get the credit or accolades they deserve. Well, hopefully now, because of websites like ours and others, that can be rectified, and video store-era gems like Deadly Breed can finally have their time in the sun.

It’s a joy to watch Blake Bahner as Jake – who really does put in an engaging performance here – transition from the office-bound PO with silly ties to his black-leather-jacketed revenge outfit. His turn as “action parole officer” is a far better role than his prior Brad Spyder movies, though you would never think so because Brad Spyder is such a cool name. Guess you can’t judge an action star by the name…at least not this time, anyway.

In the end, Deadly Breed is a fine example of what PM can do – an enjoyable movie made with a low budget, but with a lot of heart. We recommend it. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Vengeance Cops (1971)

Vengeance Cops (1971)- * *1\2

Directed by: Ivan Hall

Starring: Dawid Van Der Walt, Helga Van Wyk, Chris Du Toit, Roland Robinson, and Peter Tobin

When a nefarious gang of bank robbers led by arch-criminal Boy Jacobi (van der Walt) steps over the line and begins killing the police officers that are trying to stop them, Col. Aucamp (Tobin) unleashes his best men to stop the criminal gang – Captain Nick Jansen (du Toit) and Constable Johnny Peters (Robinson). A game of who can outsmart the other then ensues, but the police may have an advantage in Rene Visser (van Wyk), Jacobi’s girlfriend. Based on some events that happened to her in the past, she begins working with the so-called Flying Squad, AKA the VENGEANCE COPS. Will the good guys get revenge for their fallen brothers? Will they be able to stop Jacobi’s gang before they embark on a diamond heist so they can flee the country? Which side is Rene Visser really on? All those questions and more will be revealed…

Vengeance Cops is a fairly standard cops-and-robbers drama. The filmmakers probably threw all the resources they had available into the production, which were surely limited for South Africa in 1971. The overall tone fits in well with some of the older movies we’ve talked about previously, such as The Opium Connection (1966), or Slaughter Day (1973). The action is somewhat mild – there’s a bunch of car chases (which a movie alternately called Flying Squad couldn’t really avoid having), one of which is at an abandoned drive-in theater. There’s also a car flip, a couple of tame shootouts and some beat-ups. Maybe the idea was to eventually have this be on TV, which would explain the 78-minute running time.

It’s all very “normal” and nothing particularly wacky (or particularly interesting) happens that would make it stand out. For that reason, despite its brief length, it gets dull at times. For example, both the cops and the robbers refer to something called a pantechnicon, which sounds very futuristic and we thought it may be some sort of unique deadly weapon. Upon closer inspection, a pantechnicon is, according to the dictionary, “a large van for transporting furniture”. What a letdown.

It was different that our heroes are uniformed officers the whole time, rather than the normal plainclothes, and the fact that it is South African gives it a unique feel. The Bank Job (2008) even seems influenced by some of the robbery aspects of the plot. The ace up the movie’s sleeve, however, is the music – both the score by Andre Viljoen, which is extremely enjoyable and highly appropriate for the cop dramas of the 70’s – and the incredibly catchy main titles/closing credits song by a group called Sgt. Stephen Pepler’s Squadron. Information on the group is scarce, but Mr. Pepler, if there is such a person, seems to have made himself an official member of the Flying Squad, if for no other reason than his love of the Beatles. His song was released as a single in South Africa in 1971 and it seems almost like children’s music. You won’t be able to get it out of your head for days…or maybe ever!

It appears Vengeance Cops didn’t have that much penetration into the marketplace. There was no VHS release in the U.S. or in many other territories. Consequently, the movie remains rare, but for whatever reason, as of this writing, it’s now available on Amazon Prime. Director Ivan Hall later went on to make Kill Or Be Killed (1976) and Kill And Kill Again (1981), which became much more well-known, at least in America. Maybe some of the reason that Vengeance Cops remained so under the radar is the fact that – as eagle-eyed readers will have spotted by now – they misspelled the all-important word “vengeance” on the poster. If you read or type that word as much as we do, it stands out as a glaring error.

In the end, nothing particularly stands out that would make Vengeance Cops a must-watch, but it’s certainly not bad and there’s a ton of worse stuff out there. Viewers with a particular interest in the roots of action movies in the 70’s in South Africa are probably the target demographic here. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty