4/02/2012

Killzone (1985)

Killzone (1985)-* * *

Directed by: David A. Prior

Starring: Fritz Matthews, Ted Prior, David Campbell, Simon Rhee, and William Zipp




 “Cut the chatter and listen hard”



Welcome to “Scare Camp”, a military training area designed in every detail to resemble the horrors of Vietnam-era POW camps. It even includes torture. All this to prepare the minds and bodies of soldiers for potential capture. The camp is run by Col. Crawford (Campbell), but Crawford gets a bit over-zealous, and one of the soldiers, McKenna (Matthews), finally snaps and totally flips out. He now thinks he’s actually back in ‘Nam and begins killing everyone in sight. Now Campbell has a big mess on his hands and he feels the best way to deal with it is to have McKenna eliminated. But one of McKenna’s buddies, Sgt. Mitchell (Prior) believes in him, and wants to bring him back to reality safely and not kill him. So now it’s a race against time between the two buddies and the people that want to destroy them. THIS military training exercise just got real.

This effort was only the second movie from the Prior brothers, and the first in a long line of jungle war tales. While resembling the same year’s Missing In Action II: The Beginning (1985), it couldn’t possibly be a knockoff, though Killzone has a much lower-budget feel to it because it didn’t have Cannon money financing it. Even AIP had technically yet to be born. But besides the Priors, it has other mainstays of their movies such as Fritz Matthews (who would really come into his own with Hell On The Battleground, 1989), William Zipp, and David Campbell. Even Simon Rhee is credited as being one of “Crawford’s Men”.


Combine the aforementioned MIA II with later Prior movie Deadly Prey (1987), and you have some idea of what’s going on here. Killzone is most definitely a dry run for the wonderful Deadly Prey, seeing as it has a similar cast, a similar plot, and some of the same silly violence. But DP is probably the pinnacle of the AIP/Prior canon, so it’s hard to compare anything to it, really. The first half-hour of Killzone is the Prerequisite Torture we’ve seen many times before, but here they get it all out of the way right off the bat. It makes sense, because we need to see what would make McKenna go nuts. Thanks to the way it was shot, Killzone has a more professional look than some of the later AIP output. And considering they were just starting out, this is a really great effort. Looking back today, you can see the direction they would later take, and that’s quite interesting.

Just check out that great cover art for the VHS release. How could you not want to rent that? And the icing on the cake is that it was released on one of our favorite labels, Vestron. To date it has not been released on DVD so if you see it anywhere, definitely pick it up. AIP fans or fans of low-budget action/war cinema also take note.

Killzone pointed the way forward for AIP so even as simply a historical lesson, it’s worth seeing. But put Ted Prior and Fritz Matthews in the woods with some machine guns, and there’s your movie right there.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

17 comments:

Explosive Action said...

You know, I actually didn't like this one too much as I found quite a lot of it pretty boring. I started to review it a year ago and it sits here unfinished.. I just couldn't find the mustard to finish writing about it! Oh well, can't win them all.

Ty said...

Hmm, it does get better as it goes along, as a companion piece to Deadly Prey...almost a prequel.

thevideovacuum said...

AIP April! Sounds awesome. That's why you guys rock. You spotlight stuff that needs to be spotlighted!

Ty said...

Thanks for the kind words! We found some funny AIP gems!

venom said...

A.I.P. sure did have some great films, one my favorite films of theirs was The Firing Line.

Ty said...

We definitely agree about that! Will have to watch The Firing Line soon.

robotGEEK said...

Man, I really need to get on the ball with these Prior films. I still haven't even seen Deadly Prey!! Another thoroughly enjoyable read. Thanks guys!

Ty said...

Thanks once again! We are definitely looking forward to your take on Deadly Prey. It is awesome!

force_field said...

Here are some words from producer Jack Marino about 'Killzone.' I asked him about this and other films on Facebook and he sent back some interesting notes. I hope you enjoy reading them:

'I came to LA to be an actor and I met Dave Prior on a movie set called Hometown USA. Dave was from the Baltimore area and I was from the Boston area. Dave and I hit it off because we liked the same films and had the same political ideals.

I went back to Boston in the spring of 78 to get married and by 1980 I moved back to LA with my wife to pursue an acting and or filmmaking career. Stallone was the biggest thing around and we all felt he was like our patron Saint and he showed us how if can be done. Once I came out here Dave and I hooked up with my friend Ernie from college and Ernie knew Fritz so the four od us formed a production company called Spartan Productions, Inc and we began to come up with ideas. Now Dave was willing to write the scripts but I was the idea guy. I have hundreds of films in my head and I could mx them all up and come up with a unique stories. Which Dave would love and get excited and began to write them.

So for the next four years we tried to make films by shopping them around to the studios. During this time and time is the killer of idealism and friendships. We all decided to go our own way so in 1983 we split up because it was costing too much to keep the company going so it was better we all break up and move on. Fritz was working as a bartender, I was going from job to job in video post production, Ernie went back to Boston to get married and dave was working for an answering service and writing scripts.

In 1983 Dave met a guy name Nick and they made SLEDGEHAMMER and Dave called me to come down to his place to see them shooting a film. I was kicking around in my head the Killzone idea. Dave wanted to get back with me to make films and he didn't want to stay with Nick.

I remember later calling him up, I was on Hollywood Blvd at a pay phone, I think he was editing SLEDGEHAMMER and I told him the idea called KILLZONE. We both had seen RAMBO FIRST BLOOD but not together. He loved the film as I did so I would tell him it is a low budget Rambo. The idea for Killzone has been done time and time again throughout the years. I just made it so different and I would tell Dave as he wrote the script to keep the first half all Asains so the audience will think it is Vietnam and when it is revealed that Campbell has this training camp gone haywire that will be the surpise for the audience and keep their interest for the rest of the film.

Dave loved the idea and he began to write it. Dave and I always shared writing credit because I would act out the parts in his apt and he would bang out the script with a butt hanging out of his mouth and a cup of coffee on the table.'

force_field said...

'I remember later calling him up, I was on Hollywood Blvd at a pay phone, I think he was editing SLEDGEHAMMER and I told him the idea called KILLZONE. We both had seen RAMBO FIRST BLOOD but not together. He loved the film as I did so I would tell him it is a low budget Rambo. The idea for Killzone has been done time and time again throughout the years. I just made it so different and I would tell Dave as he wrote the script to keep the first half all Asains so the audience will think it is Vietnam and when it is revealed that Campbell has this training camp gone haywire that will be the surpise for the audience and keep their interest for the rest of the film.

Dave loved the idea and he began to write it. Dave and I always shared writing credit because I would act out the parts in his apt and he would bang out the script with a butt hanging out of his mouth and a cup of coffee on the table.

We had lots of fun in those days when were were young and not knowing what we were doing. Once the script was done we came up with a budget and art work for the package and we went around as everyone does and nothing happen.

My Dad had come out from Boston at that time to see his new ganddaughter. Dave and I told him what we were doing. That we were raising 50,000 to make KIllzone and we needed 50 people with a 1000 dollars. Well my Dad commited to the first 1000.

That was the beginnng of SpartanFilms Ltd the NEW production company with Dave, Fritz and myself. Fritz had bought a home and he borrowed 15,000 against his home and in the meantime I was calling everyone I knew back east and then money started to come in.'

force_field said...

Dave loved the idea and he began to write it. Dave and I always shared writing credit because I would act out the parts in his apt and he would bang out the script with a butt hanging out of his mouth and a cup of coffee on the table.

We had lots of fun in those days when were were young and not knowing what we were doing. Once the script was done we came up with a budget and art work for the package and we went around as everyone does and nothing happen.

My Dad had come out from Boston at that time to see his new ganddaughter. Dave and I told him what we were doing. That we were raising 50,000 to make KIllzone and we needed 50 people with a 1000 dollars. Well my Dad commited to the first 1000.

That was the beginnng of SpartanFilms Ltd the NEW production company with Dave, Fritz and myself. Fritz had bought a home and he borrowed 15,000 against his home and in the meantime I was calling everyone I knew back east and then money started to come in.

We found Victor Aleander for the DP and eventually the editor. Victor was really the only one who knew what to do. We all worked together and in Sept of 84 after four years of struggling Dave, Frits and I were actually making a 35 mm feature film. we were all in our mid to late 20s. Victor was late 30s. It was a fun shoot and i am still in touch with Larry Udy and Victor.

force_field said...

Dave loved the idea and he began to write it. Dave and I always shared writing credit because I would act out the parts in his apt and he would bang out the script with a butt hanging out of his mouth and a cup of coffee on the table.

We had lots of fun in those days when were were young and not knowing what we were doing. Once the script was done we came up with a budget and art work for the package and we went around as everyone does and nothing happen.

My Dad had come out from Boston at that time to see his new ganddaughter. Dave and I told him what we were doing. That we were raising 50,000 to make KIllzone and we needed 50 people with a 1000 dollars. Well my Dad commited to the first 1000.

That was the beginnng of SpartanFilms Ltd the NEW production company with Dave, Fritz and myself. Fritz had bought a home and he borrowed 15,000 against his home and in the meantime I was calling everyone I knew back east and then money started to come in.

We found Victor Aleander for the DP and eventually the editor. Victor was really the only one who knew what to do. We all worked together and in Sept of 84 after four years of struggling Dave, Frits and I were actually making a 35 mm feature film. we were all in our mid to late 20s. Victor was late 30s. It was a fun shoot and i am still in touch with Larry Udy and Victor.

force_field said...

We never at the time thought we were making a film that would change the entire low budget market and end up becoming a cult film. Dave and I were looking to make a low budget film, in the woods off the road somewhere were no one would bother us and we keep the cost so low.

Once the film was done, Victor editied the movie and we sold it to Shapiro because they were the only ones to offer a cash up front deal. Everyone wanted the film and saw things in it that I never saw. Maybe Dave did but I don't remember at the time. We were riding the wave of the AFM 85.

We never really were thinking of making more of these low budgets action war films at that time. However, once we got some recognition Dave wanted to do KILLZONE II which I hav always felt was really DEADLY PREY.

What we did was from the Spartan Group to make three films, Killzone II by Dave, Forgotten Heroes by me and Hostages of Fear by Victor. We never got the funding to do three films and we all started to drift apart because we all got a taste of some success at a low level of filmmaking.

Dave was convinced that the low budget action drama was the way to go and he wanted to put Ted in every film the 'we' made and neither Victor or I had that in mind. I felt Dave can make all the films he wanted with Ted and we do our own. Then came David Winters who approached Dave to make films like Killzone and Dave jumped at the opportunity and that deal eventually became AIP and Dave's first film for AIP was Deadly Prey.

Fritz and Dave went to AIP and Victor and I remained friends, I formed the Marino Film Group to make FORGOTTEN HEROES and Victor made a few other films on is own more like art type films. We worked on a thriller for 3000 dollars but I was hired as a producer and the people involved with that film screwed that up. After 1985 everyone wanted to make a KILLZONE film but 'better' No one ever did. However, KILLZONE changed the entire market for this genre and Dave beause of AIP was the only one cranking out the same type of film with the same cast of actors with a different story and locations.

force_field said...

It worked for ten years and Dave became known as the prolific low budget director for low budget action films. Then the market dried up and we were all screwed.

We never planed to make these kind of films after Killzone. Dave was more or less forced into it but he felt safe and they were easy for him to crank out these types of film and he could use Ted and anyone from the cast of Killzone over and over again.

I had other plans to make a studio level film with FORGOTTEN HEROES and I came very close but after 1990 things went bad for the market and I still have a 24 year old film that I am still trying to sell. I never could raise money to do another Killzone because that market died by 1995 or so.

Dave didn't work for ten years and he had 30 plus credits to his name. It has been a tough road for all but now because of the internet KILLZONE and his films are finding a new audience which for me is surreal.

Dave has just finished Night Claws and is about to get Deadly Prey II off the ground.

It was an excitng time, Dave and I were close friends we had a falling out and now since we are older that past doesn't matter anymore. Dave and I talk on FB and I still encoruage him as i did when we were younger to get out there and make films.

He now lives in Alabama and I am still here in LA. No one knows where Fritz or Bill Ziipp is. Victor is out there making his little 'Fellini' films that he can't sell but he is shooting film.

At that time when we made KILLZONE we were all convince we were going to be big and work our way up into the big time. We all learned a lesson about distribution and how they destroy filmmakers, friendships to get rid of the competion. The one thing I had a smle over was that Dave and AIP cranked out close to 50 films, they glutted the market with cheap low budget films and put a lot of these companys that tried to screw us because they were making 3 to 5 million dollar films and Dave was making his films for 100k to 300k and bring in more money.

So in a way he stuck it to the AFM bums that stuck it to us.

I hope this fills in some of the blanks of that time period for you. I have always told dave to write a book about everything. I hope one day he does.

Thank you for your service to the Country. Good luck to you and God Bless

Ty said...

Wow! Thanks for all that amazing information. We really appreciate it you taking the time and effort to share that with us and our readers.

force_field said...

No problem. It got a bit messed up because of the word limit and I was forgetting where I had left off, so I copied the same info twice and may have left some out. But being a huge fan of these films I just had to know how they originated and what their motives were. I was more than happy with Jack's response!

Ty said...

No big deal about the repeated paragraphs.

Jack's response was comprehensive and interesting!