Hangfire (1991)

Hangfire (1991)-*

Directed by: Peter Maris

Starring: Jan Michael-Vincent, Brad Davis, Lee De Broux, Kim Delaney, Yaphet Kotto, George Kennedy, Ken Foree, Lyle Alzado, James Tolkan, and Lou Ferrigno

Kuttner (De Broux) is an inmate at the New Mexico State Penitentiary. At his parole hearing, he is determined by the board, including by psychologist Maria Slayton (Delaney), to be an extremely dangerous psychopath.  During a freak accident involving a poison gas cloud that is a really stupid pretext for a prison escape, Kuttner, along with his eyepatchioed right-hand man, uncannily enough named “Patch” (Tolkan), kidnap a bunch of people  - one of which is Maria - and take an entire Western-style town hostage. 

Maria’s husband, Isaac “Ike” Slayton (Davis), who is a Vietnam vet and also a town sheriff,  teams up with his buddy Billy (Foree) to take down the baddies. But the National Guard is called in, and their leader is the hard-headed Lt. Col. Johnson (Vincent), who doesn’t approve of Ike and Billy’s methods. Who will prevail: Johnson, the local cops (headed up by Yaphet Kotto who is insultingly only credited as “Police Lieutenant”), or the bad guys?

In 1981, The Rolling Stones released their song, “Hangfire”. Most people would agree that by that point in their career, they were past their prime. So it seems fitting that this movie under review today would have the same moniker as a less-than-fresh source. Hangfire - the movie - is a shameful waste of an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime cast. You might think, looking at the cast list, that you can’t lose. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that you definitely can. 

We’ve been burned before by movies with awesome casts that turned out to be not so awesome. The least punishing example being Lone Tiger (1999), the most punishing being Detour (1998). It’s truly a case of “too many cooks spoiling the broth”. Don’t be fooled by the stellar cast. It only makes you wonder: “Why would they all agree to this?”

The talent of pretty much everyone in the cast is completely wasted in this cliche-ridden (in a bad way), lackluster, unfun, overly-serious slog. George Kennedy has a throwaway role as a prison warden. Nothing is done with it. Same with Kotto as the cop. Kim Delaney says almost no dialogue in the movie. JMV inexplicably smokes a pipe, which, sadly enough was a movie highlight. You usually don’t see the gruff, beret-ed, uniformed commander lighting up his meerschaum. 

And here’s the ultimate waste: Lou Ferrigno and Lyle Alzado as prison buddies Smitty and Albert (respectively). They almost could have carried an entire movie on their own, but their scenes together are pointless and incredibly dumb. Along with JMV’s pipe, Alzado’s mullet is the only other bright spot in this otherwise lifeless movie.

The problem is, this movie is not well-written, and thanks to an almost total lack of character development, you really don’t care about what happens. Any one or two of the characters should have had time spent by the filmmakers on fleshing them out. But Maris splits the difference and spends no time on any. That’s the danger of a super-cast. Hangfire is so paint-by-numbers, and so painful to sit through, we coined a new term, “pain-by-numbers”

Did we mention the similarities to the also-awful Fear (1988), the dank, dark lighting, and the annoying musical stings? A few humorous crossbow shots and Brad Davis prancing around in zebra makeup (presumably to hide from the bad guys?) isn’t enough to save this dud.

But what’s really insulting to the audience are the unspeakably horrendous gun muzzle flashes. Here’s where it gets to “Sci-Fi channel original movie” territory, with crudely-superimposed “flashes” that aren’t even laughably bad, they’re just bad. Muzzle flashes are one of the joys of action movies, and Maris duly crosses that off his “I made this suck” checklist. Perhaps fortunately, it’s not like these crimes against muzzle flashes ruin an otherwise good movie. 

In this case there’s nothing to ruin. So structurally it’s no harm no foul. Visually it’s just foul. This is the fourth Peter Maris movie we’ve seen to date (though we’re not planning on seeing any more) - the others being Terror Squad (1988) - which featured fan favorite Chuck Connors - Ministry Of Vengeance (1989), and Diplomatic Immunity (1991). Let’s put it this way: we’d trade this whole cast for one Chuck Connors.

The excellent cast is just a distraction - even a misdirection in true grifter style - to the fact that Hangfire is a movie you must avoid.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Fresh Kill (1987)

Fresh Kill (1987)-* *1\2

Directed by: Joesph Merhi

Starring: Flint Keller, Del Zamora, Pamela Dixon, Ron Preston, Tricia Parks, and Robert Z'Dar

Allen Chester (Keller) is an aspiring actor who moves from his hometown of Chicago to Hollywood to pursue his dream. While he works on breaking into the movie biz, he works at a butcher shop. His co-worker is blonde weirdo Carter (Preston) who assesses his work performance by how many times he sneezes in people’s meat purchases. One night while waiting until midnight for the meat truck to arrive (is this common practice?), a mysterious woman pops into the shop and asks for Allen’s help. Her name is Leona Alexander (Parks), and it seems she’s trying to escape the clutches of criminal overlord Manny (Z’Dar). After accidentally killing some goons, the pair go on the run. Manny is especially mad because he believes Leona has two million dollars worth of his money and drugs. Meanwhile, Allen and Leona work through their mistrust issues and form a bond. Eventually Allen, Carter and a friend of theirs who is a street swindler act as makeshift mercenaries and stage a raid on Manny’s compound. Who will then become the FRESH KILL?

Fresh Kill is one of the better City Lights titles we’ve seen in terms of quality of acting, and technically as well it’s an improvement over past efforts. As we’ve discussed before, we find something inexplicably alluring about City Lights movies, and despite no-nothings bashing some of the more amateurish aspects of their output, we’ve seen almost all of them as of the time of this writing. Many of the CL regulars are in front of and behind the camera, and John Gonzales’ score is one of his best and helps the movie a lot.

Flint Keller as Allen Chester (or is it Allen Chester as Flint Keller?) is actually a likable main character, as opposed to the unlikable central characters in City Lights’ Mayhem (1986). He even goes through a character arc. Like Allen Chester, The Flintster should have done more in his acting career. Another draw for this movie is the presence of the great Robert Z’Dar. It was an early role and he looks svelte. Better things were yet to come in his career, but he does add a lot here. Also adding to the strength of the cast is Steve Welles as Mike, who runs an airplane hanger. This man is an American hero, as well as an American treasure.

Besides Mike, Fresh Kill is filled with odd characters and off-kilter situations. This comes through in the scene when Allen and Leona go to hide out at Leona’s mother’s house, and she and her mother smoke a pipe while the three of them watch torture porn. It seems pretty awkward for Allen. And the way writer/director Joseph Merhi depicts L.A. as crime-ridden, even lawless is also very entertaining. Merhi once again seems influenced by the classic Film Noir era - but Fresh Kill was shot during the L.A. big hair era. The mashup is amusing. And while the film does get a bit boring before the climax (a very common problem), there is also some over-the-top violence to keep things afloat.

Featuring the pounding song “Lost In the City“ by Gonzales (sung by Paul Shortino) - not to be confused with L.A. Crackdown II‘s “Lost In the Night”(doesn’t every City Lights movie have a song like this?), we want to know when a CD is coming out of all these songs. After all, this one is a movie highlight, and even plays during the first couple of scenes in the movie! Also it should be noted that there is a trailer for Heat Street after the movie. Fresh Kill remains one of the better gems in the tennis bracelet that is the City Lights Canon. It probably won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there are those of you out there who will want to check it out, if only for Robert Z’Dar. You know who you are. Flint Keller, we hardly knew ye.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Hands Of Steel (1986)

Hands Of Steel (1986)-* * *

AKA: Queruak

Directed by: Sergio Martino

Starring: Daniel Greene, Franco Fantasia, George Eastman, Janet Agren, and John Saxon

A big thank you to Sutekh from Explosive Action for providing us with a copy!

In a post-apocalyptic city, Rev. Arthur Mosely (Fantasia) is the man controlling things. With posters pasted all around that scream “You Have No Future”, the populace is understandably despairing. Enter a hulking brute named, inexplicably, Paco Queruak (Greene). Queruak is 80% cyborg and has been programmed to kill Mosely. After seemingly completing his mission, Paco goes on the run and ends up in rural Arizona. He stops at a road house run by Linda (Agren) and begins working there, as well as developing a relationship with her. But her joint is known for its rowdy arm-wrestling competitions. A man named Raul (Eastman) sure does love to wrist-wrassle. All the while, a mysterious businessman named Turner (Saxon), as well as his goons, are after Paco because they want to stop him, and they will stop at nothing to do so. Dodging danger at every turn, what will happen to Paco Queruak?

Paco Queruak. That name is really all you need to know. The minds that could come up with that applied their talents to an entire movie. How do you even pronounce that last name? Is it like Jack Kerouac? Because if so, Paco Queruak is the real “beat poet”, if you know what we mean. Hands of Steel is director Sergio Martino’s take on the movies of the day - it’s sort of a melange of The Terminator (1984) and Robocop (1987) if they were to walk into a Road House (1989) and go Over The Top (1987). Impressively, Hands of Steel pre-dated all those movies except The Terminator. Martino would go on to use Daniel Greene in American Tiger (1990) a few years later, but here he’s cast perfectly as the lead, because he can be as robotic as he wants to be.

In the future there are plenty of abandoned warehouses, signs warning against acid rain, and, perhaps most dangerously, John Saxon with a laser cannon. It seemed like Saxon was going to have a sit-down role for most of the movie until this scene occurred. It’s worth watching this movie for this part alone. Plus there’s an evil cyborg named Susie that is uncredited in the movie but looks a lot like Daria Nicolodi. But as for the lead, Daniel Greene as - one more time - Paco Queruak - for a guy with “Hands Of Steel” he sure ends up in the right place. That being a place where arm wrestling is king. And during a computer run-down of his attributes as part man and part machine, this is seen on the screen: “Negative Characteristics: None”. So he really is the perfect man. But the strange coda at the end of the movie just may confuse things. You’ll just have to see it to know what we mean.

Highlighted by some great music by Claudio Simonetti, Hands Of Steel is a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out.

Also check out our buddy, RobotGEEK's review!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Mannigan's Force (1988)

Mannigan's Force (1988)-* * *

Directed by: John Ryan Grace

Starring: George Nichols, David Anderson, Tsing Tsai, Jim Moss, and Mike Monty

“Red alert for the fiesta!”

Real American Hero Jack Mannigan (Nichols) assembles a team of fellow “American Wardogs” to overthrow an evil dictator (is there any other kind?) in the Central American country of Cenagua. Their mission also requires them to save four American hostages and recoup crates of guns. The target is General Alfuero (Monty), and Mannigan’s team consists of  Hang Sang Kook (Tsai), Frank Stack (Anderson) and Bill Peters (Moss). Machine guns will be shot. Jungles will be trekked through. Huts will explode. Will Mannigan and his team achieve their mission? Find out today!

As indicated above, Mannigan’s Force is a combination jungle/Exploding Hutter crossed with the ever-popular “El Presidente” theme of the day. What sets this movie apart, if anything, is the complete and total lack of anything even remotely resembling character development, or even plot development. It’s just  shooting, blow-ups and other violence, for its own sake. And when it comes to the opening of the film, it totally works. It may not scale the awesome heights of the opening of Phantom Soldiers (1987), but really, what could equal that? This is, in its own way, a triumph. Watching an oiled-up George Nichols (is there any other kind?) screaming while firing two machine guns in slow motion is worth the price of admission right there. But, inevitably, there is a slowdown later in the movie and things get dull. Luckily it doesn’t really stay that way, it’s more of a roller-coaster kind of situation.

George Nichols (here credited as George Nicholas) of Sakura Killers (1987) fame is truly a treasure. It’s a shame he kind of got lost in the shuffle during the 80’s action boom. When everyone from Sylvester Stallone to Edward Albert were shooting, kicking and car-crashing away, Nichols should have had more time in the sun. But the market was very crowded then. Only now, with the passage of time and the advent of the internet, can action fans see another contender for the meathead throne. Perhaps only Nichols, manly as he is, can play a character named “Mannigan”, who’s undoubtedly all man - again.

Speaking of names, the movie was directed by a man named John Ryan Grace, in his only credited movie work. It’s a shame, he should have done more and developed his talent. Interestingly enough, in his credit on the movie itself, the “Ryan” has an apostrophe and is “R’yan”. How is that supposed to be pronounced, “Err-yan”? Maybe it’s lost in translation. And even Mike Monty as the General is here Mike “Monti”. While we always love seeing Monty, Mannigan’s Force really belongs to the great George Nichols.

For utterly brainless Exploding Hut fun, it’s hard to beat Mannigan’s Force.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Hitter (1979)

The Hitter (1979)-* * *

Directed by: Christopher Leitch

Starring: Ron O'Neal, Bill Cobbs, Sheila Frazier, and Adolph Caesar

Otis (O’Neal) is a down-on-his-luck ex-boxer who is trying to escape his past and start afresh with a new life. As a drifter, he ends up in Baltimore, and he crosses paths with pool hustler Louisiana Slim (Cobbs). But he’s going to wish he hadn’t. Meanwhile, he also meets an older gentleman named Nathan (Caesar), a man who has lived his life as a slickster, a fast-talking hustler who’s always looking to make a buck and can talk his way into - or out of - any situation. 

Nathan offers to be Otis’ manager and take him around to the bare-knuckle fighting circuit. Otis reluctantly agrees, and along with Lola (Frazier), a prostitute also seeking a better life, the three of them hit the road encountering different trials and tribulations. But just when things are looking up, the specter of Louisiana Slim rears its ugly head again, and Otis must face his fate - a fate that could get everybody killed. What will happen?

The Hitter is underrated, understated, and an entertaining and worthwhile movie. Notably, it’s one of the first - if not THE first - Punchfighter. Back in 1979, crowds yelled and held their cash in their hands as two men punched each other without gloves. Seeing as how the genre is still going strong today, although crud like Never Surrender (2009) is a far cry from the nuanced performances herein, The Hitter can legitimately be called a Punchfighting pioneer.

Of course, since the genre was still being born and finding its legs, the formula wasn’t yet perfected at this time - in fact the first half-hour of this movie more resembles a sex comedy than a Punchfighter. Even on a technical level, there are some issues, as the boom mic is painfully obvious not just in one scene, but in many scenes. 

But the cast is of a very high quality, with O’Neal, Caesar, Frazier and Cobbs making this more a gritty, realistic character study than anything else. Future Punchfighters such as Last Man Standing seemingly took a page from The Hitter’s playbook.

Helping the movie immensely is Garfeel Ruff’s soundtrack. It’s truly excellent, and on top of having a winning title song, individual characters have their own songs, where the lyrics are about them. It’s novel, it’s funky, and the songs are very well-performed and catchy. There was a soundtrack that was released on LP back in the day, but someone really should reissue it on CD. Come on Dusty Groove, where are you on this one?

The great Ron O’Neal reminds us all just why he’s so great with this one. He’s a trained actor who can also Punchfight. That’s rare. He has a cool hat, a very cool coat, and of course a cool attitude as well. He’s much better here than he is in Super Fly (1972), but The Hitter doesn’t get any of the attention. As Far as Adolph Caesar, he’s superb as Nathan. He’s more than the folksy comic relief we believe him to be at first, he later shows true depth. And we just knew him from the Bruce Lee cash-in The Dragon and The Cobra (1980). In an interesting coincidence, Caesar says here to a Karate fighter, “You may not be Bruce Lee, but he did it all with mirrors anyway.” This links Adolph Caesar to Bruce Lee in TWO movies to date. Weird, eh?

But The Hitter is more than just a “Blaxploitation” movie, it’s just a solid movie with good performances that transcends that term. And it’s from the director of Border Cop, of all things.

It has that great 70’s drive-in feel, and anyone wishing to see the origins of Punchfighting should check this movie out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Street Hunter (1990)

Street Hunter (1990)-* * *1\2

Directed by: John A. Gallagher

Starring: Steve James, Reb Brown, John Leguizamo, Valerie Pettiford, Tom Wright, and Frank Vincent

“The more people I meet, the more I like my dog” - Logan Blade

Logan Blade (James) is an ex-cop turned bounty hunter who always gets his man. He drives around New York City in his tricked-out van, and always has his trusty dog Munch by his side. Blade gets caught up in a gang war between the Diablos, led by the energetic Angel (Leguizamo) and the Italian mobsters led by Don Mario Romano (Vincent). But Angel and the Diablos (interesting name choices) have an ace up their sleeves: the emotionless, rigid, ex-Special Forces mercenary Col. Walsh (Brown), who demands victory at all costs and is a history buff constantly referring to historical battles. Things come to a head when Blade’s girlfriend Denise (Pettiford) is kidnapped. Add to this his many troubles with his old police contacts, and it sets the stage for a serious confrontation with the STREET HUNTER!

Street Hunter is classic 90’s action as we all know it and love it. Plus it features a top-billed Steve James, finally. James even co-wrote the screenplay. We’ve always touted his work, and this is just further proof of our contention that he was one of the best and most underrated action stars of the day. He gets a great introduction, and there are plenty of shots of him looking cool and/or saying cool things. In case you ever forget how cool he is, his name is Logan Blade. So James’ coolness factor is turned up to 11, and why not? It’s his project. He even wears a Jack Abramoff-style hat throughout most of the movie. And lest we forget his duster coat with sleeveless shirt underneath. Reb Brown as the baddie provides the ultimate nemesis for him. This is one of our favorite Reb performances, he’s just great as the history-loving killing machine, and the movie wastes no time giving us his famous yell.

We enjoyed the New York City settings, and there are plenty of shots where the World Trade Center is clearly visible. It certainly brings us back to a certain point in time, especially when Blade says “Now it’s personal”, which in 1990 - hard as it is to believe now - wasn’t the cliche it is known as today.  It’s thanks to movies like Street Hunter that it became the classic cliche we all take for granted these days. If we have any complaints about the movie, it would be that it is a tad bit too long - if the film had been tightened up by only a few minutes, it would have helped and made it seem more intense. Also the movie suffers when Reb Brown isn’t on screen. We realize he can’t be in every scene of the movie, but his performance and presence is so magnetic you want to see more of it.

Thanks to the presences of Reb Brown and Steve James, two titans of the DTV industry, and some better-than-average acting, Street Hunter comes out a solid winner. It’s a consummate example of 90’s video-store action so go and see it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Wild Pair (1987)

The Wild Pair (1987)-* * *

Directed by: Beau Bridges

Starring: Beau Bridges, Bubba Smith, Creed Bratton, Raymond St. Jacques, Lela Rochon, and Lloyd Bridges

Benny Avalon (Smith) is an L.A.-area cop who is beloved in his neighborhood. He’s very close to taking down drug kingpin Ivory (St. Jacques), but then FBI agent Joe Jennings (Beau Bridges) enters the picture. It seems Ivory is connected to an extremist group called “The Sentinel”, whose leader is the fanatical Hester (Lloyd Bridges). Now forced to work together, the hulking Black cop with a heart of gold, and the somewhat nerdy White agent truly put the “odd” in the phrase “They’re the original odd couple!”

Buddy cop movies featuring a Black guy and a White guy, along with some comedic elements were huge at this time. The Lethal Weapon series, Downtown (1990), Running Scared (1986), and many others showed us that differences in race don’t matter as long as you’re working together to take down the bad guys. So they obviously struck a blow for civil rights. The Wild Pair does this especially, because the supposedly racist hate group headed by Hester actually does business with Ivory, a Black guy, showing the hypocrisy of hatred. Okay, I’m being a tad facetious, but it’s all there. Beau Bridges shows off his acting and directing prowess here. He should have been in more action movies. He even has an homage to Psycho (1960) in the mix as well to show off his talents behind the camera. But no one really knows Beau as a director.

Complementing Beau is the great Bubba Smith as Avalon. Known primarily as Hightower in the Police Academy series, here we see another side of Bubba. He’s still a cop, but he loves kittens and the children in his neighborhood all know and love him. He even engages poor kids in strange activities such as something called “The Emotional Orchestra”, where a conductor with a baton directs groups of kids to laugh or cry on command. Keep in mind this was before iPads and the internet, so kids had to do something to pass the time. Another great facet of Bubba is his high socks. He wears white socks pulled up to his knees consistently throughout the movie (so it can’t be a coincidence). This must be a factor in getting kids to love him. Or bad guys to hate him. We’re not sure yet.

There are a lot of funny details in the movie, such as the WYC (White Yelling Chief) and his office at the police precinct with a poster that declares “Terrorists”. Plus, Hester’s grandson (presumably another of the Bridges family) has a My Pet Monster. And as Avalon and Jennings travel through a variety of seedy locations to catch the baddies, they go to an adult movie theater showing Laure (1976) and there’a a poster for Sex World (1978). But there are a lot of the cliches we all know and love as well, including (besides the aforementioned WYC), the prerequisite torture, the barfight, the fact that Avalon and Jennings don’t get along at first and are forced to trust each other, and the sax-drenched soundtrack by John Debney, among other examples. If you like this sort of thing, it’s here. If not, steer clear. Hey, that rhymes.

Also noteworthy is a small part by Creed Bratton and the fact that the movie includes the mano-a-mano fight we’ve always wanted to see: Bubba Smith vs. Lloyd Bridges! What other movie can claim that? It really is a sight to see. Finally, The Wild Pair seems to have initiated the box-art formula of “Son-funny name-father”. Here it’s “Beau Bridges. Bubba Smith. Lloyd Bridges” used to draw in the video store patrons. For The Ultimate Fight (1998) it was “Ernie Reyes Jr. Kimo. Ernie Reyes Sr.” It’s truly a winning formula guaranteed to bring in the viewing public.

So while The Wild Pair does seem a bit like a TV show or movie at times, and isn’t the most cutting edge of all movies, for an unchallenging, mildly amusing Saturday afternoon watch, this should fit the bill.

Also check write-ups from our buddies, The Video Vacuum and Cool Target!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Mayhem (1986)

Mayhem (1986)-* *1\2

Directed by: Joseph Merhi

Starring: Raymond Martino, Pamela Dixon,Wendy MacDonald, and Robert Gallo

Ziggy (Gallo) is a man who sends his wife Misty (Dixon) out to “meet” other men but continually maintains he’s not a pimp. Dino (Martino) is a painter, health nut and real nut who’s obsessed with the loss of his wife Rachel (MacDonald). Together the two men make money by killing people they’re assigned to kill. When Misty is kidnapped, it forces the men, especially Ziggy, to reassess their lives. Ziggy’s dream is to move away from L.A. and resettle in Alaska. Will they escape the seedy underbelly of the city?

Mayhem is one of the earliest City Lights titles we’ve seen to date. It has all the names we’ve come to recognize: Pepin, Merhi, Driver, Munchkin, Gonzales and more. Most people would probably dismiss movies like this, writing them off as mere crud. But for us, there’s something intriguing about the City Lights universe. They have a particular style that is unusual. Yes, it’s not to everyone’s taste, but we’re willing to not just give them a chance, in an odd sort of way, we really like these movies. Perhaps you can see that they’re made by a group of people who were really trying to make it in the movie business. Effort goes a long way here. There are so many DTV efforts that seem like they just don’t care. City Lights movies are the antidote to that, despite their flaws.

Even though Mayhem is mercifully only 78 minutes, there is a ton of filler, as characters walk around L.A. But we do get to see a movie marquee showing Top Gun, an unknown arcade game, and that gas was 72 cents a gallon back then. Ziggy and Dino sit around having “shirtless discussions” that are not at all gay (don‘t you do that with your friends/partners in crime?),  while Robert Gallo looks like a cross between Scott Baio and Joe Mantegna, and Raymond Martino looks like a cross between Richard Grieco and Curtis Armstrong. A lot of dialogue has that silly, overdubbed ADR feel to it, and if you’ve seen other City Lights movies, you know what to expect in the cinematography (videography?) department.

Technical issues aside, one of the main problems with Mayhem is that the two leads are unlikable. If you cared more about them, it would have gone a long way. Plus the structure of the plot is a mess, with constant flashbacks, all topped off by the aforementioned filler.

If you’re curious about City Lights titles like we are, you’ll get into Mayhem. It may take you back to the golden 80’s as you fantasize about seeing this in a video store back then. Others may want to exercise more caution. But if you see it somewhere, we say pick it up.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Chance (1990)

Chance (1990)-* * *

Directed by: Charles T. Kanganis and Addison Randall

Starring: Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Dan Haggerty, Roger Rodd, and Jastereo Coviare

Det. Jon Leroy Chance (LHJ) is an L.A. Cop On The Edge. After he is put on suspension by your classic WYC (or White Yelling Chief), who tells Chance that he’s “made a lot of enemies because of your freewheeling style!”, he reconnects with old partner Zachary “Zack” Chamberlain (Haggerty). Zack is an alcoholic who’s fooling the world that he’s now sober. He now works for a repo company for a living. After a diamond heist orchestrated by arch-baddie Kingsley (Rodd), the loot is hidden inside a Plymouth Barracuda. Zack, unaware of the connection to the diamond heist, repo’s said Barracuda. 

Now Kingsley is angry and is willing to send his entire army of goons after whoever has the diamonds, and he believes it is Zack, and by association, Chance. So now Zack, Chance and mysterious Indian Bear (Coviare) must fight for their lives and to clear their good names. Can they do it?

If you’ve been following the Chance series - and if you care at all about good movies, you are - those of course being today’s movie at hand, plus L.A. Vice (1989), L.A. Heat (1989) or the similar but non-Chance outing Quietfire (1991), clearly you will want to check out this final installment of the cinematic works of one Jon Chance. 

If you happened to have seen any of the aforementioned movies, you will know what to expect, it’s more of the same (in a good way). If you haven’t, let’s just say they have a unique cinematic style. The acting, action, and technical aspects will transport you to a more innocent time. That being the early-90’s video store, of course. PM always provides entertainment in one form or another, and they don’t disappoint with Chance.

Chance features two powerhouses teaming up. LHJ has a lot of great quips and one-liners (he even gets a credit for “Additional Dialogue”), and his all-black “NOW I’m ready for action” outfit makes a reappearance. He really seems to care about Chance and how he portrays him, after all. Dan Haggerty plays the bearded, long-haired, chunky action hero who hides his Jack Daniels in the toilet tank. 

We applaud whoever thought it was a good idea to take a man who looks like a young Santa Claus and put him in physically demanding situations like running, climbing hills, punching, chasing, gun-shooting and more. Haggerty proves he can still hack it with the skinnier action stars of today.  You might even say his team-up with LHJ makes them the Laurel and Hardy or Chris Farley and David Spade of action.

It should also be mentioned that Zack has his own nickname for Chance, “BuddyPal”. Just simply “Buddy” or “Pal” can’t truly convey the man-to-man love he has for him, so he combined the words for maximum effectiveness. While we haven’t, at the time of this writing, seen Repo Jake (1990), it seems Chance is an extension of the Repo Jake storyline or characters. But here Haggerty is “Repo Zack” instead.  LHJ has his own dialogue inventions, as every time he answers the phone, instead of saying “Hello” like some kind of nerd, he coolly intones “You’re On.” It’s a shame the Chance trilogy had to end here.

Jastereo Coviare returns as a rural Indian, this time named Bear. Not to be confused with the Bear from fellow PM movie Maximum Force (1992). I guess if PM is going to introduce a foreigner of some kind, they’re only allowed to use one animal name. While we don’t know who he is, a man named simply Gold plays a character in the movie called “Red”. If anyone out there knows who the enigmatic Gold is, please write in today. Speaking of classic names, Roger Rodd plays the ponytailed baddie Kingsley. You can tell he’s evil because of the ponytail and some kind of faux-British accent.

After this, co-director Addison Randall went on to work with Malibu in The Killing Zone (1991), which is on DVD and worth checking out. The other director on this project, Charles Kanganis, went on to work with Traci Lords on A Time To Die (1991) and Intent To Kill (1992). So Chance was a springboard for their careers and they both ended up giving us more choices in our local video stores. It truly was a golden time.

While it’s probably been said before, we encourage those with a sense of humor to take a chance on Chance.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Supersonic Man (1980)

Supersonic Man (1980)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Juan Piquer Simon

Starring: Jose Louis Ayesteran, Antonio Cantafora, Diana Polakov, Jose Caffarel, and Cameron Mitchell

"What kind of Tomfoolery is this?"

Supersonic Man (Ayesteran) has been sent from his home planet somewhere far away in space to save Earth. A sinister baddie, Dr. Gulik (Mitchell), is developing a weapon that could destroy the planet. To help him, Gulik kidnaps scientist Dr. Morgan (Caffarel) but Morgan refuses to cooperate, and they get into philosophical discussions of the nature of good and evil. Meanwhile, Morgan’s daughter Patricia (Polakov) gets into a relationship with Paul (Cantafora)...but who is Paul really? Throughout many travails - from goons with ray guns to a very slow-moving, flamethrowing robot, only one man can properly save the day...SUPERSONIC MAN!

Being fans of director Simon, based on his Pieces (1982) and Slugs (1988), as well as being dedicated Cam Mitchell fans, we were excited when we came across a VHS copy (on the under-appreciated Star Classics label) of Supersonic Man at our local Goodwill store. We were not disappointed, as Supersonic Man is a hilarious treat of a movie. We feel sorry for anyone who cannot appreciate unintended genius like this. Obviously this is “inspired” by the 1978 Superman movie - everything from the main theme of the soundtrack, to the very humorous “flying” scenes, to the relationship aspect - but without even a fraction of the budget of that Hollywood picture. But lack of funds didn’t stop Simon, as this wildly wacky adventure proves.

As for the aforementioned fan favorite, Cam Mitchell, he wears a killer bad-guy outfit as he takes on the role best described as a Mr. Big, Dr. Evil, or Dr. Claw-type of villain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be Cam’s own voice in the dubbing. But in the back-and-forth between Cam’s character, Gulik, and the scientist, Morgan, Gulik continually calls him “old man” and makes cracks about his age. This is quite funny because it’s not like Cam is some young punk teenager. He’s likely older than the other guy! And that barely scratches the surface of the utter absurdity of Supersonic Man.

There’s also a bit of Star Wars (1977), as Supersonic Man must say the phrase “may the force of the galaxy be with me” in order to activate his powers. Plus, in the movie, he’s simply “Supersonic”, no “Man”. There’s even some pre-politically correct humor involving the town drunk. We can’t possibly go through all the wonderfully silly moments, you’ll just have to experience this gem of comic-booky, childish fun for yourself. You’ll more than likely have a blast watching this movie with your friends.

Also check our buddy John Baxter's review at Knifed In Venice! 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Code Name: Zebra (1987)

Code Name: Zebra (1987)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Joe Tornatore

Starring: James Mitchum, Mike Lane, Joe Donte, Timmy Brown, Chuck Morell, Charles Dierkop, George "Buck" Flower, Robert Z'Dar, and Frank Sinatra Jr.


Carmine Longo (Lane) has just been released from prison after a seven year stretch. He’s a dangerous Mafia hitman who’s going around L.A. killing members of a secret squad of justice-doers named “The Zebra Force”. Longo blames them for his incarceration. When Frank Barnes (Mitchum) gets wind of this, he’s not happy. With the help of second in command Jim Bob Cougar (Brown), who, despite the redneck-sounding name is actually a Black guy, he re-assembles the Zebra Force to rally the troops against Longo, his benefactor Voce (Donte) and a whole panoply of baddies they’re now embroiled in a war with. On the side of the law, Lt. Dietrich (Morrell) is tired of the corrupt system that lets criminals back on the streets, so he secretly applauds what The Zebra Force is doing, as does cop Bundy (Flower). Will the awesome power of The Zebra Force and their too-tight black bomber jackets prevail?

Now this is the type of movie we’re always championing here at Comeuppance Reviews - a street-level revenge actioner from the 80’s that got lost in the video-store shuffle of the day, with a ton of unintentional comedy and amateurish gaffes, that’s hugely entertaining and a complete product of its time. Movies like Code Name: Zebra will NEVER be made again and are windows into a world long past, never to return.
 They should be treasured, or, if not that, at least given a fresh look today.

Starting with alternating white-on-black, then black-on-white credits (get it?) with some classic 80’s blaring sax on the soundtrack, before the movie even properly starts, we’re totally in the spirit. Then we see a street scene with some kids breakdancing, and we’re in VHS heaven. And once we realize a bunch of Vietnam vets are fighting the Mafia, which includes Frank Sinatra Jr. and Robert Z’Dar (playing a character with the classic Italian name of “Shigaru”) of all people, you just have to surrender to the charms of Code Name: Zebra. There’s also a character named “Crazy” (played by Charles Dierkop of Blood Red, 1989 and Liberty & Bash, 1989) - not “Crazy Jim” or “Crazy Uncle Stuart”, just Crazy. You gotta love it.

Plus there is some priceless dialogue which is filled with odd turns of phrase and confusing malapropisms. Gems include “He’s the finger”, “Let’s go bye bye” and personal favorite “He’s a thumbs-up guy.” Not a stand-up guy, a thumbs-up guy. Who wrote the dialogue, the afore-quoted five year old who’s not a baby anymore? Because if so, he should get a Writer’s Guild award. Eggheads with Master’s Degrees in writing couldn’t come up with such priceless material.

And it’s not just the lines being said, it’s how the audience hears them - the ADR is truly laugh-out-loud funny here. Voices come out of nowhere, from odd directions, and are certainly not being said by (or matched to) the actors on screen. Thankfully fan favorite George “Buck” Flower was not a victim of this, because his voice in the movie is very unique and memorable. We also like Jim Mitchum, but to most people this probably wouldn’t be considered his finest hour. We tend to disagree. He puts in such a hilariously phoned-in, uncaring performance, you have to respect the man. We haven’t seen such obvious disdain and contempt for even having to be on set since Burt Reynolds in Malone (1987). Totally awesome.

The VHS tape released by TransWorld is sharp, bright and colorful even today. They did a great job.  Much more fun than The Zebra Force (1976), the movie that this is a sequel to, we definitely recommend Code Name: Zebra.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Chinatown Connection (1990)

Chinatown Connection (1990)-* * *

Directed by: Jean-Paul Ouelette

Starring: Lee Majors II, Bruce Ly, Art Camacho, and Brinke Stevens

“If a cop ain’t got an attitude, he’s dead”- Warren Houston

 Warren Houston (Majors II) is an L.A. Cop On The Edge or COTE for short. He has a serious attitude problem. Also he plays by his own rules. When batches of poison cocaine start killing off the local drug-taking population, Houston wants to find out who is responsible. But he is teamed up with John Chan (Ly), a Martial Arts expert with a thick Chinese accent. Chan is running an experimental program at the police precinct, where instead of suspending officers with anger issues, he teaches them Martial Arts moves in the gym. Sort of a cross between anger management and Karate class. 

The latest recruit into the program is Estes (Camacho), an ally to Houston and Chan. They are searching for an underworld figure known only as “The Scarface Man”. I guess simply “Scarface” was taken. Will these unorthodox “Kung Fu Cops” get to the bottom of the CHINATOWN CONNECTION?

You thought you loved Lee Majors. You thought he was the only Lee Majors. You thought wrong. Not only is there a son to the great Keaton’s Cop (1988) star, but his name is not simply “Lee Majors” or even “Lee Majors Jr.” it’s Lee Majors THE SECOND. Kind of like Pope John Paul II. And not only that, in this movie he’s teamed up with not Bruce Lee, Bruce Li, Bruce Le, or (personal favorite) Bruce Rhee, but with yet another “Bruce”, this time Bruce Ly. Add Art Camacho and Brinke Stevens to the mix and you have a movie that should be a bit more well known, both for the cast and for the fun moments it contains.

Sure, the movie is plotted and paced weirdly, and maybe not all the punches and kicks connect, but so what? The Houston/Chan team-up (either by accident or design) actually avoids some of the “you don’t speak English” cliches we’ve seen many times in the past. They get along well together, as best evidenced when they’re both speaking with a drugged-out informant known as “PCP”. But the only acid on display is the wash in Lee Majors II’s jeans. Though it is curious that no one ever comments on John Chan’s super-thick accent even once. It’s all just taken for granted.

It should also be noted that the police chief is the time-honored WYC (or White Yelling Chief), and Houston is known as “That Crazy Cop” (kind of like “That Darn Cat”?) and that he hates Slime. He calls criminals Slime at least twice in the movie. He has an awesome fashion sense, from his mustache down to his high-top Nike’s. Additionally, it being the 80’s, he even, inexplicably, has to face off against a Ninja at one point. 

Luckily his house is well-equipped with weaponry (this will remind watchers of The Office of how Dwight has various weapons hidden around the office). As if that wasn’t enough, one of the baddies is none other than Malibu, AKA Deron McBee. Sadly, it’s an uncredited role, but finally now we’re shedding light on it.

Despite (or, more accurately, because of) Chinatown Connection’s more amateurish qualities, there’s a lot to like about this movie. Released by South Gate to video stores in 1990, and featuring the song (which gets no credit so we don’t know who it’s by or the precise title but we think it’s called) “You Decided To Play”, Chinatown Connection is ideal for action fans that don’t take themselves so seriously.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty