Hollow Gate (1988)

Hollow Gate (1988)-* *1\2

Directed by: Ray Di Zazzo

Starring: Addison Randall, Katrina Alexy, Patricia Jacques, J.J. Miller and Richard Dry

“I think I could live off of submarine sandwiches!!!!” - Billy

When Mark Bater was a kid, he and his friends had a Halloween party. Everyone was enjoying the holiday fun, when Mark’s father interrupted things and severely criticized his son’s apple-bobbing technique. The man takes bobbing for apples very seriously. So seriously, in fact, it led to Mark becoming a murderer. After jumping ahead 10 years, then again 2 years, now Mark lives in an old mansion with his grandmother (and now Mark is played by Addison Randall). When four teens on the way to a rock concert get convinced by the local costume shop owner to deliver costumes to his house, they find themselves  being stalked and killed one by one by Mark, who dresses up in various outfits and takes on various personas as he does his killings. Will the local police get wise to what’s going on at Hollow Gate?

Pepin, Merhi, and the gang at City Lights strike again. This time they’re trying their hand at a horror movie, seemingly at this point in their careers sampling a bunch of different genres to see which fits best. As it turned out, action movies were their forte, and PM more than proved that. But maybe at this point in time, that future wasn’t so clear, so they tried different styles to get a hold of the booming video market of the day. The result is Hollow Gate, a silly and amateurish movie, but fans of 80’s horror may still be interested.

None of the actors that portrayed the teens in trouble (Katrina Alexy, Richard Dry, Patricia Jacques and J.J. Miller) went on to any other City Lights or PM movies, or really anything else at all. Out of all of them, we felt Richard Dry could have had an acting career, and seeing as how we called him “Egon” during the movie, he at least could have played a young Harold Ramis in any of his projects. But the standout star here is unquestionably Addison Randall, who unsubtly plays the psychopath with gusto, and shows a lot of range with his various murderous “characters”. Randall maintained his relationship with PM, acting, writing, and doing various other jobs with them. He even directed Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs in Chance (1990) and the one and only Malibu in The Killing Zone (1991).

Hollow Gate isn’t exactly scary, but it once again shows determined people, pursuing their dream of making a career in the movie industry. Yes, there is a ton of stupidity on display, and whatever isn’t totally derivative makes absolutely no sense, but it shouldn’t be judged too harshly, in our opinion.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Ripper Man (1995)

Ripper Man (1995)-* *1\2

Directed by: Phil Sears

Starring: Mike Norris, Timothy Bottoms, Bruce Locke, Sofia Shinas, George "Buck" Flower, and Charles Napier

Mike Lazo (Norris) is a former San Diego cop who decides to try his hand at becoming a nightclub hypnotist. The club manager where he works, Harry (Napier), is sympathetic towards him, as is cocktail waitress Gena (Shinas), but for Lazo his act just isn’t coming together. One day a mysterious man named Charles Walkan (Bottoms) asks Lazo to hypnotize him. While under hypnosis, Walkan seemingly becomes a man named George Chapman, a man thought to be Jack the Ripper. Soon, Walkan/Chapman is off on a killing spree, but all of Lazo’s former buddies on the police force don’t believe the “he became a serial killer under hypnosis” theory, and to boot, they blame the killings on Lazo! So now Lazo must clear his good name and take down Walkan. Or Chapman. Or whoever he happens to be that day. Can he do it?

Ripper Man is a bit of a different role for Mike Norris. It’s a blessing and a curse: on the one hand, it’s good to be different every once in a while. But on the other hand, it seems like certain things are missing. There’s almost no Martial Arts (but we didn’t expect there to be any in a movie called Ripper Man) - but there are some cop movie cliches. Probably the movie highlight was the shootout in the hospital. That was an action scene. The rest of the movie is pretty much your standard mid-90’s thriller, despite the fact that it tries to be a little more intelligent at first. Despite, at the outset, trying to inject some smarts, it soon devolves into a standard cat-and-mouse kind of situation and all the pretenses are out the window.

As for the rest of the cast, Timothy Bottoms, sporting a sillier-than-usual haircut, looks like a cross between Kevin Kline, Steve Guttenberg and George W. Bush. And normally he just looks like George W. Bush. He’s even played “W” numerous times. His Lone Tiger (1999) co-star Bruce Locke - yes, Kurenai himself! - appears as a San Diego cop and friend to Lazo. It was nice to see him again. It’s funny to think he did this and Lone Tiger back to back. Charles Napier is under-used, as is George “Buck” Flower. It’s director Phil Sears’ only film to date. It’s almost a shame, really, because our guess is that video store patrons in the mid-90’s didn’t really give this movie much of a chance. Not that they’re missing all that much, but somehow this got lost in the shuffle and we feel just a tad bit bad about it. No one ever talks about Ripper Man (and how they never saw it). It should at least go in the cultural lexicon. Maybe somewhere towards the back.

Maybe it was the title, maybe Mike Norris scared people off, but no one seems to have seen Ripper Man. We can’t suggest you expend really any effort on finding this VHS, but if you happen to see it cheap somewhere, it can’t hurt too much to add it to your collection.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Epitaph (1987)

Epitaph (1987)-* * *

Directed by: Joseph Merhi

Starring: Flint Keller, Natasha Pavlovich, Jimmy Williams, Liz Cane, Linda Tucker-Smith, Delores Nascar, and Richard W. Munchkin

A family - high school student Amy Fulton (Pavlovich), her mother Martha (Nascar), her father Forrest (Williams), and Forrest’s elderly mother Virginia (Kane) - move into a house in southern California. The problem is, they’re constantly moving from place to place because of the completely unhinged Martha. This evil non-stepmother is a psychotic lunatic, and her drinking problem only exacerbates the situation. Everyone knows she’s mentally unstable, so Forrest visits a psychiatrist, Shirley (Tucker-Smith), on Martha’s behalf. Shirley then decides to go undercover and pretend to be Martha’s friend so she can see what’s really going on. But what’s really going on is DEADLY! Meanwhile, personable, athletic high school student Wayne Hollander (Keller) takes a shine to Amy and they begin to forge a relationship together. But Martha fanatically insists that Amy not speak to any boys at school, much less have a normal relationship. Wayne seems to be the last link to reality that Amy has to try and escape the smothering household she comes from. Will she do it?

We’re fans of the proto-PM outfit City Lights, and we believe this is one of their best. While its low-budget look may put off some superficial people, we found Epitaph to be engaging, unique and even fascinating at times. Writer/director Merhi blended a melodramatic family drama with some classic horror elements. It wins the audience over when we can see that the filmmakers and performers were earnestly trying. Maybe that’s what’s so endearing about the City Lights phase in Pepin and Merhi’s careers. While some technical aspects may be somewhat lacking, effort certainly isn’t, and that should count for something. But that aside, we think this trumps their other horror title, Hollow Gate.

Delores Nascar, not to be confused with the popular racing organization, does indeed put in an over-the-top performance. While Nascar did a more-than-competent job, we also felt Karen Black or Sean Young could have played the mother. But while she was busy with her histrionics, Natasha Pavlovich quietly steals the movie. Pavlovich basically carries Epitaph - you relate to her, you feel for her, and she shows a lot of emotion. And this was one of her first roles, she’s clearly a natural actress. She also has good chemistry with good old Flint Keller, who that same year, 1987, got more of a starring role in Fresh Kill (1987).

So while the dialogue may be delivered in a way that many viewers are unused to hearing (especially when there’s tinkling piano behind most of it), we say that’s all part of the charm of Epitaph. It’s a solid, worthwhile movie, and features a torture scene unlike any other we’ve seen. Add that to the 70’s-style downbeat ending, and you have an under-the-radar horror concoction that more people should see.  Although, granted, only a certain segment of the viewing populace, especially today, is likely to truly appreciate Epitaph. That’s a shame - if only more people got a chance to see it, more people would appreciate it and talk about it. So that’s what we’re trying to do here, shine some light on an all-but-forgotten gem.

Featuring a show-stopping cameo by Richard Munchkin as a guy at the mall named Warren, we say check out Epitaph.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Outfit (1993)

The Outfit (1993)-* * *

Directed by: J. Christian Ingvordsen

Starring: Lance Henriksen, Billy Drago, J. Christian Ingvordsen, Rick Washburn, Josh Mosby, and Martin Kove

Set in the 1930’s, The Outfit is a tale of gangsters and prohibition. The notorious Legs Diamond (Mosby) is at odds with equally-infamous Dutch Schultz (Henriksen). Lucky Luciano (Drago) is trying to hold it all together so their bootlegging and other illegal activities can “become as big as U.S. Steel” (which is based on an actual quote). Sensing the brewing hostilities between the two “public enemies” and their camps, G-Man Bone Conn (Ingvordsen) infiltrates the operations and sets off a mob war. Conn’s boss, Agent Baker (Kove) doesn’t necessarily like his rogue ways, but he needs results to show J. Edgar Hoover. But will playing both ends against the middle get Bone in a whole heap o’ trouble? It just may, because you don’t want to get on the bad side of some of the most feared gangsters in history. Dare you try on THE OUTFIT?

Ignore any negative things you may have heard about this movie (if you heard anything at all - it seems to be one of the lesser-seen movies in the canons of Henriksen, Drago and Kove). For a DTV item that clearly took its cues from Bugsy (1991), Mobsters (1991), and The Untouchables (1987), the latter of which also featured Billy Drago, but with a fraction of the budget of these Hollywood movies, The Outfit comes out an entertaining and worthwhile piece.

From the team of Ingvordsen and Kaman, the dudes behind Comrades In Arms (1992), they’ve upped the ante and admirably attempted - and succeeded - making a period piece with a low budget for the Direct-To-Video market. Ingvordsen once again stars as the hero/badass named Bone (just like he did in Comrades), and Kaman, who shot the movie, does a nice job using some lenses and grain that help with the period feel. As long as Kaman isn’t directing, he usually does a good job. Drago was a great choice for Lucky Luciano - Drago has made a career of being a professional villain, why not try him as a real life gangster?

Plus there’s the currency Ingvordsen and Kaman could leverage from Drago’s turn as Frank Nitti in The Untouchables. Fan favorite Henriksen goes all-out in his portrayal of Schultz. It’s great to see him get angry, yell and be tough and intimidating in that role. Kove is also winning in his relatively small role as the FBI boss. Together with Josh Mosby as Diamond and the aforementioned Ingvordsen as Bone, not to mention Rick Washburn and others, the strong cast helps a lot and puts this movie in the winner column.

There was obviously an attempt to get some authenticity and some real-life events in, and the writing shows that. But they also didn’t skimp on the Tommy guns. It’s really a nice mix of good writing and action violence, and if they had more money, they would have made Public Enemies (2009) 16 years before Public Enemies. 

Some minor negatives include: the film starts to lose focus at times, especially in the brief Punchfighting scene (yes, there is some quick Punchfighting - it did exist in the 30’s), and some of the acting from a few of the non-principals and some staging got a bit wonky at times, as it is wont to happen in some DTV products. But really that’s all we can say as to a down side to this movie. We applaud their ambition to make a historically-based period piece with the resources they had.

If you’re seeking some different fare but with some familiar faces, do check out The Outfit.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Amsterdamned (1988)

Amsterdamned (1988)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Dick Maas

Starring: Huub Stapel, Tatum Dagelet, Edwin Bakker, and Monique van De Ven

A mysterious serial killer is stalking the canals of Amsterdam. He wears a black wetsuit and diving mask, and he kills with a harpoon. As the body count rises, detective Eric Visser (Stapel) is assigned to catch him. It’s not going to be easy, as this particular baddie is extremely clever and crafty. Soon, the full force of Amsterdam’s police are chasing down the man terrifying their beloved city. Visser must not only catch the killer, but also protect his young daughter Anneke (Dagelet) and her friend Willy (Bakker), not to mention girlfriend Laura (van de Ven of Stunt Rock fame). Can he do it?

Amsterdamned, as you might be able to surmise from its great title, is an extremely enjoyable movie with a dark sense of humor. It takes Dutch culture, everything from its red light district, to Rembrandt paintings, to Amstel beer and of course its famous canals and architecture, and injects a malevolent, murdering presence into it. That, and the idea that a killer can use the canals to kill and escape, is excellent, original and crowd-pleasing. The whole venture has a great vibe and thus is a winner.

Huub Stapel as Visser is your typical quirky, unshaven cop who gets results. To our eyes he resembles a Dutch Jean Reno, or perhaps a Dutch Cobra (AKA Marion Cobretti). He also has a cool jacket and there are other wonderful 80’s fashions on display as well. Writer/director Dick Maas not only uses the city of Amsterdam to its full effect, but he also loads the movie up with inventive moments and unique camera angles. This keeps the pace of the movie on track, although at times it is hard to sustain the nearly two hour running time. And even though most of the characters dubbed their own voices, if the movie had been trimmed of a bit of fat, and subtitled instead of dubbed, we’d be looking at an ultimate classic. As it stands, it’s merely great. So not a huge loss there.

But we see why Maas decided to dub the movie, he was clearly going for the international (and especially the American) market. And he had every right to be successful in it, as the movie has some great chase scenes, as well as its unique concept and location. So he was able to formulate a winner, and Vestron must have agreed, as they released it on VHS here.

Featuring the wonderful end-credits title song by Lois Lane, we strongly recommend Amsterdamned.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Scanner Cop II (1995)

Scanner Cop II (1995)-* * *

Directed by: Steve Barnett

Starring: Daniel Quinn, Patrick Kilpatrick, Julian Neil, Jewel Shepard, Kane Hodder, and Robert Forster

***700th Review***

Det. Sam Staziak (Quinn) is not simply a Cop On the Edge, he’s a scanner Cop On the Edge. As a member of the L.A.P.D., he’s used his scanning abilities to thwart bad guys city-wide. His Captain, Jack Bitters (Forster), supports him, but Staziak is having some personal issues, as he’s trying to find his mother. Towards this end, he’s enlisted the help of fellow scanner Carrie Goodart, who runs the Trans-Neural Resource Center, sort of a non-profit group by and for scanners. But a new threat looms in the form of Karl Volkin, an evil, malevolent scanner who’s going around the city killing other scanners in his quest to be the ultimate scanner. Like a vampire, he feeds off their power and is growing more and more strong by the day. Looks like it’s time for the ultimate showdown: Staziak vs. Volkin in a mind-melting duel to the death. Who will prevail?

We liked Scanner Cop II (or Scanners: The Showdown, as the VHS we viewed has it). As a sci-fi sequel, we went in expecting the worst. But it’s really not bad. There are a lot of interesting scanner-based ideas, such as using scanning power for good or evil, the vampiric scanner, and the scanner killing other scanners for scanner domination. Did we use the word “scanner” enough yet? There are other ideas woven into the plot as well, which helped immensely. If there are ideas that are reasonably well-thought-out, it’s hard to go totally wrong, and thankfully the writers knew that so they developed certain thoughts. It’s all perfect for the video stores and pay cable outfits of the 90’s. On top of that, there are some cool and gory effects, making Scanner Cop II better than expected.

Patrick Kilpatrick usually plays a baddie and here you get to see him at the height of his evil powers. Robert Forster does almost a sit-down role but he adds color and professionalism to the proceedings. Kane Hodder and Jewel Shepard appear in small roles, but the true star of the show isn’t Quinn, it’s a man we think is named Julian Neil (but we’re not sure) who plays “Kidnapper Leader”. This bad guy who is not important to the plot at all, gives an insanely over the top performance. He has a highly comical Muppet voice and he just about steals the movie with his brief screen time. This guy should have gone far.

We have a screener copy (not to be confused with a scanner copy) of this on VHS from Republic Pictures. In a packaging move we haven’t seen anywhere else, there’s a gatefold flap that unfolds from the left hand side of the box. We don’t know if it reached stores with this added value piece. It might be just for the screener, or perhaps just for the Canada VHS, which is where it was released as Scanners: The Showdown. We thought this was worth mentioning because it was so unusual.

In all, Scanner Cop II was way better than we thought it would be.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Black Mask 2: City Of Masks (2002)

Black Mask 2: City Of Masks (2002)-* * *

Directed by: Tsui Hark

Starring: Andy On, Traci Lords, Jon Polito, Andrew Byrniarski, Rob Van Dam, Tyler Mane, Tobin Bell, and Scott Adkins

Moloch (Bell) and King (Polito) run a wrestling federation with a stable of “wrestling superstars” that include Thorn (Mane), Iguana (Bryniarski), Claw (Van Dam), Wolf (Erhuero), Snake (Mukes), and Chameleon (Lords). However, thanks to some DNA modification, he’s giving them the power their character might really have, but in a wildly mutated fashion. But now they’re running wild. Black Mask (On) not only has to stop them, he’s got to race against time to correct his own genetically-related problems. He’s going to need the help of Dr. Marco Leung (Herrera), and a young boy, Raymond (Marquette) that looks up to Black Mask because he saved his life from a rampaging evil wrestler. Pulling all the strings is evil puppet master Dr. Lang (Adkins). Black Mask sure has his hands full this time!

Okay. Anyone who reads this site knows how we feel about CGI. We think it’s the scourge of the movie industry and all traces of it should be wiped from the earth. It does nothing but ruin movies and make them look bad, only serving as a crutch to lazy filmmakers. Meanwhile the arts of makeup, monster effects, stunts, and Martial Arts - typically the things CGI is replacing - fade further into the distance. And while we’re not changing our stance anytime soon, we still liked Black Mask 2. It has CGI in seemingly every scene, but this movie is so wildly silly, we don’t really care.

What the filmmakers were obviously trying to do was make a live-action comic book. In 2002, CGI was still relatively new, so the adventurous Chinese makers of this movie decided to try to use this new technology to advance their vision. While it doesn’t always gel, it’s done so un-cynically and with such verve, we’re willing to give them a pass.  Director Tsui Hark, who we’re a fan of, brings that off-kilter, kinetic style and plenty of cockeyed angles, as well as a zooming, constantly in-motion feel to complete the comic-booky fun. We liked the idea of combining ideas from the worlds of wrestling, comic books and genetic engineering (!)  - we felt that was creative and original so we’ll look the other way at some of the dodgier aspects of this movie.

On top of that, there are actual Martial Arts fights, as well as wire-fu and more traditional stunts, all overseen by the great Yuen Wo-Ping. And though this was Andy On’s debut film, you’d never know it. He completely holds his own with the cast of more experienced actors. Joining him as the Kato-like Black Mask are fan favorites such as Rob Van Dam (Bloodmoon, 1997), Tobin Bell (Best Of the Best 4, 1998), and Traci Lords who looks...odd...and we prefer her in things from her classic non-porn DTV era such as A Time To Die (1991), Raw Nerve (1991), and Intent To Kill (1992), but she did liven things up in an already pretty lively movie. Super fan favorite Scott Adkins is unrecognizable as Dr. Lang, a character that looks like it wandered off the set of a Jeunet & Caro movie. But we did appreciate the presence of Adkins, as we usually do.

In all, if you’re charitable enough to forgive its trespasses, Black Mask 2 is a silly good time.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Death Raiders (1984)

Death Raiders (1984)-* * *

Directed by: Segundo Ramos

Starring: Rodolfo "Boy" Garcia

Deep in the jungles of the Philippines, an evil band of baddies is attempting to overthrow the government. The group is led by the dastardly Kalamot (we’re just guessing on the spelling). As part of their nefarious plan, they kidnap a bunch of people, including a local Governor. In response, a commando team is assembled to rescue the hostages. Led by a man named Freddy, he is joined by Elmer, Jose and Brandon as an elite team of machine-gunners and Martial Arts fighters and the only people who can successfully execute this mission. Also a girl named Jasmine has been kidnapped by Kalamot and she holds a special place in the heart of one of the commando team members. Will the commando team be successful in extracting the hostages and neutralizing the threat to their country? Or will Kalamot prevail? Find out today!

When the title for the movie first comes on screen, and an animated spray of bullets hits it, you know the filmmakers have their hearts in the right place. For a low-budget jungle blow-up/shooting movie from the Philippines, Death Raiders is surprisingly crowd-pleasing. Yes, it has your standard exploding huts, but there’s some nice humor to keep the audience afloat, including some Martial Arts scenes infused with a certain light touch that is very amusing. In the same way our weather reports say things like “cloudy with a chance of rain”, in the Philippines, it must be very common to hear things like “sunny with a chance of exploding huts”. They’re that much of a daily occurrence. 

Because it was the 80’s, the villain has a red imitation-Kangol hat that makes him look like an evil Filipino LL Cool J. There are plenty of Members Only jackets and open-necked, wide-collar shirts on display as well. There are multiple scenes at a disco, which we always love seeing. Thank goodness disco didn’t die in other countries around the world like it did in the U.S. There are also the prerequisite waterfall shots when outdoors.

While the DVD is shoddy at best, and even is an unmastered copy directly from a VHS (complete with tracking issues, making it one of the only DVD’s out there with VHS-style lines that you cannot fix - didn‘t anybody watch this before releasing it?), Death Raiders is still worth seeing, especially if you have a penchant for Filipino jungle actioners. It’s actually one of the better ones we’ve seen, because, as far as we know, Cirio Santiago had nothing to do with it. There is a VHS available, with a silly cover with a dude who is not in the movie, which is always fun.

We say go forth and raid some death if you ever get the chance, or can figure out what that means.

Also check out a review from our buddy, Paul Cooke! 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Zombie Vs. Ninja (1989)

Zombie Vs. Ninja (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Pierre Kirby

“I Can Taste The Power!!!!”

Ethan is a mild-mannered guy just minding his own business - until one day his father is murdered by a gang of baddies and his gold is stolen. Ethan ends up meeting a man named Master T, a coffin maker and undertaker, who agrees to take him under his wing as an apprentice. He then trains him in the ways of Martial Arts so he can get revenge on his father’s killers. But he does this in a pretty unorthodox way - by using the resources at his disposal such as long hikes carrying coffins, digging graves, and fighting zombies to improve his Kung-Fu skills. On the other side of the patchwork, a group of White guys in absurd outfits and headbands are going after a cruel land-grabber named Titus and his backer named Mason. Thankfully there’s a hero named Duncan (Kirby) who has stellar fighting abilities. Will any of this fit together and make any sense whatsoever? Find out today!

Here we have another Godfrey Ho patchwork concoction. You really can’t judge his movies by the same standard you judge other movies. They come from a singular and incredibly wacky world of their own. Keeping this in mind, despite what some wags on the internet think, we tend to like Mr. Ho’s oeuvre - but it’s not for everyone because you have to have a high tolerance for insanity and nonsensicality. If you take your logical hat off for about 90 minutes or so, there is enjoyment to be had.

For instance, while there are some standard chop-socky elements at work here, at least every 10 minutes or so, something weird, wild and wacky happens. Whether it comes from the funny dubbing, nutty sound effects, the toothy Master T and his in-and-out Jay Leno impression, the sped-up footage, the intentional “humor” or the cadre of White guys in flashy ninja gear, there’s always something to keep your interest, no matter how incoherent the final product may be. And sure, there are characters named Lin and Tiger, but how many movies have a ninja master named Ira? Or Duncan for that matter. And why do they all have mustaches and headbands proclaiming that they are “Ninja”s or in some cases simply just “Nin”? Since the movie went back and forth between the “White Ninjas” plot and the “Undertaker” plot, we much preferred the White Ninjas side of the quilt and it was always a bit disappointing when it went to the other side. And there’s some killer music to, in theory, tie it all together.

Seeing as movies like this must surely have limited appeal, we applaud Imperial Home Video for releasing this. But if they ever were going to take a gamble, surely it would be in the golden year of 1989. Video stores were booming, ninjas were booming, zombies were booming, everything was booming. All they had to do was sit back and let the demented mind of Godfrey Ho work its magic. All that being said, this epic probably isn’t worth the current $100.00 asking price on Amazon.

Godfrey Ho fans: you know who you are. If you can find this movie cheap or rent it somehow, please do. Everyone else: this would be as good a place to start as any with the work of Mr. Ho, but confusion will certainly reign. In the end, movies like this, if nothing else, further cement the truth that the 80’s ruled.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Malevolent (2002)

Malevolent (2002)-* * *

Directed by: John Terlesky

Starring: Lou Diamond Phillips, Kari Wuhrer, Jack McGee, Edoardo Ballerini, Carmen Argenziano, and Steven Bauer

Jack Lucas (LDP) is an LAPD cop on the edge. Putting him even closer to the edge of the edge is the fact that a psychotic criminal mastermind is trying to frame him for a series of murders. The obnoxious and annoying Oliver “Ollie” Chadwicke (Ballerini) has it in for Lucas and is going to slyly and shrewdly send him up the river. Fighting for his life against the bogus charges actually perpetrated by Chadwicke, Lucas must use his wits to defeat him at his own game. Teaming up with a stripper with a heart of gold, Jessica (Wuhrer), as well as his father, Warren (Argenziano), Lucas must not only defend himself against Chadwicke, but from the mistrust growing amongst his co-workers. Especially with Captain Pruitt (Bauer) breathing down his neck. Will Lucas get justice?

Malevolent is a surprisingly solid and entertaining cop drama/thriller. It was smart putting LDP in the lead role, because he can easily carry a movie like this with his charm, charisma and acting ability. You could even say this is the continuing story of Jeff Powers from Extreme Justice. This isn’t really an action movie, in fact all of the action was edited in from The Corruptor (1999) and Marked For Death (1990). Anyone who has seen those movies will surely recognize the footage. But at least Malevolent is open and honest about it, in its own way: both footage sources get large, easy-to-read screen credits at the end of the movie. Other DTV items don’t do that. They try to hide their patchwork nature. So we give the movie credit for its openness.

You have to take this movie for what it is, it’s not going to change the world but it’s really not bad either. In its quest to be gritty, or perhaps different, there are some horribly (intentionally horribly) edited sequences that are trying to be “cool”. If the movie was just edited normally, that would have helped. Plus there are some highly cliched, even stereotypical characters, such as Lucas’ partner Carla, played by Gwen McGee. But Ballerini did a great job as the baddie, he really makes you hate him. It’s always nice to see Kari Wuhrer, we were happy she was on board. It was also cool to see Jack McGee, of The Quest (1996) fame as the bartender. Steven Bauer should have had more screen time as the captain. Also, Simon Rhee is credited as one of the stunt players.

LDP even wrote the lyrics for the movie’s most memorable song, “Pray For Dawn”, a bluesy-type number. He should get more credit for being multi-talented. Fans of any of the cast members involved, DTV cop dramas, or fans of stock footage (we know you’re out there), or anyone with some spare time on their hands might want to check out Malevolent.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero (1995)

Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero (1995)-* *1\2

Directed by: Rick Jacobson

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Jonathan Fuller, Michael Blanks, Art Camacho, Catya Sassoon, and Wynn Irwin 

 “See ya on the surface, gramps.”

It’s “Die Hard in a missile silo” as U.S. Air Force courier Nick Corrigan (The Dragon) is inadvertently pulled into a hostage scenario. When the “Brethren of the Party of Allah”, a terrorist sect led by Fawkes (Fuller), commandeers said silo and threatens to release the nukes if they don’t receive 100 million dollars in gold, it’s up to Corrigan alone to stop them. Luckily, Corrigan is a former Special Forces soldier. On the outside, General Carmichael (Irwin, in a career-making performance), doesn’t trust Corrigan and wants to launch an air strike on the whole compound. Now in a race against time with not just the baddies, but the Air Force itself, will Corrigan use his wits - and his fighting abilities - to save the world?

For a low-budget Corman movie with minimal locations, Bloodfist 6: Ground Zero (again, it probably should have just been called “Ground Zero” as it has no connection to the first two Bloodfist movies), is a reasonably entertaining and fast-paced “Diehardina” movie. We coined another term! It’s no use pointing out ALL the similarities to Die Hard, but it even features a main villain with a sinister accent.

Many cliches are out in force: dudes screaming while shooting machine guns, dialogue you’ve heard thousands of times before, including Comeuppance Reviews classic “we’ve got company”, and a multi-ethnic team of evil terrorists. The band of anti-Western Islamic jihadists you could never do today, so it’s always nice to see things you couldn’t get away with in the modern, PC age. Another movie highlight is the great Wynn Irwin as Carmichael. His super-disgruntled attitude and amusing, old-timey racism gives a window as to what it might look like if Archie Bunker commanded the U.S. Air Force. For a man with the word (or at least the sound) “win” in his name TWICE, he really...well...gives a winning performance. Irwin actually appeared in Die Hard 2, so perhaps this all felt a little...familiar...to him. Or maybe that’s why he was originally cast, to give the proceedings as much of a “Die Hard”-y feel as possible. Nevertheless, the man’s clearly a national treasure.

Back to the baddies, familiar faces Art Camacho and Michael Blanks are on board, and the aforementioned Fuller looks like a cross between Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe, enhancing his evilness. One of the other antagonists has a hat that we think was Richard Roundtree’s hat from Bloodfist 3 (1992) Because, for whatever reason, the team of bad guys must resemble a Benetton ad, they included a man of Asian descent - but they picked one that happens to resemble Don “The Dragon” Wilson. We dubbed him Ron “The Wagon” Bilson. Maybe in bizarro world, he could be Out For Blood's(1992) infamous “Karate Man”. We may never know. Additionally, we have Cat Sassoon from Bloodfist 4 (1992) - where do her allegiances lie?

Director Rick Jacobson has worked with Don The Dragon a lot in his career, so surely he knows that his shirtlessness was integral to the plot. But there are a lot of (probably) unintentionally silly fight scenes, and Wilson’s moves are as good as always, but they’re not put to their best use here. This movie as a whole probably exclusively appealed to Don The Dragon’s fanbase back in the video store days. It’s hard to imagine a layperson deciding to rent Bloodfist 6: Ground Zero at their local video store when there are so many other options available. But now, thanks to DVD, action fans can make up their own mind. This movie most likely isn’t the best use of The Dragon’s talents, but he gives his all and his personality raises the level of the movie, which is okay, no more no less.

Bloodfist 6 is decent, thanks to The Dragon, but not really a rousing success.

Also check out a review from our buddy, DTVC!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Bloodfist V: Human Target (1994)

Bloodfist V: Human Target (1994)-* *

Directed by: Jeff Yonis

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Steve James, Don Stark, Denice Duff, and Joe Son

Jim Stanton (The Dragon) is a thug working for a crime syndicate...or is he? After a gunshot wound to the head, Stanton loses his memory. While trying to put back the pieces of his life, he runs into Candy (Duff), a streetwise young woman who seems to share Stanton’s concerns about what his past life may have been. Soon they go on the run, trying to figure out why people like Marcus (James) and Agent Blake (Stark) are inserting themselves in, and disrupting, their lives. After many twists and turns, Stanton gets to the truth...but will it be too late?

We love Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Steve James, so naturally we were excited to see this movie. Unfortunately, in our opinion, it’s one of the weakest in the Bloodfist series. The plot is so disjointed, it’s impossible to have any investment in the characters and their plight. It just adds layer upon layer of dumb, unwarranted plot twists, like some nonsense about plutonium once we’re already deep into the movie. It falls into the same traps many movies fall into, with an annoying kid/woman, this time the Denice Duff character. From a visual perspective, it’s way too dark and pseudo-stylish. We’re glad you were trying to dazzle us with your style, but we can’t SEE anything, so what’s the point? The low budget is plainly obvious in threadbare set design of just blank walls with no decoration.

We’re truly sorry to be so harsh, that’s not normally “us”, but we’re disappointed. There are some positives, however: Joe Son yelling and shooting a machine gun, the Steve James/Don The Dragon fight which was nice to see, the musical theme which sounds exactly like the MASH theme song “Suicide is Painless”, and the fact that this is an ideal role for Don - because of his amnesiac status, he can look as confused, stunned and out-of-it as he wants, and it actually works towards the plot. But sadly, there’s no escaping the fact that this movie is a waste of Steve James’ talent (and heartbreakingly, his last movie role before his untimely death) - and even Don’s awesome long hair doesn’t last and he gets a haircut.

Although Don forgets everything, thankfully he doesn’t forget how to do Martial Arts. That part of his brain remained intact. And while Joe Son is credited as “Beefy”, no one ever calls him that on screen. So many wasted opportunities. Well, except for the time-honored opportunity Don takes to get unnecessarily shirtless, an opportunity he seems to take as often as he can. But either because this movie has a conscience, or because it was Corman policy, the movie doesn’t go on too long, it’s around 80 minutes. So there’s some mercy there.

Bloodfist V: Human Target sadly goes in the “disappointment” column. We recommend spending your time elsewhere.

Also check reviews from our buddies The Video Vacuum and DTVC

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Blood Debts (1985)

Blood Debts (1985)-* * *

Directed by: Teddy Page

Starring: Richard Harrison, Ann Milhench, Catherine Miles, Willie Williams, Jim Gaines and Mike Monty

Mark Collins (Harrison) is a Vietnam vet whose daughter, Sarah  (Miles), and her fiance, are both shot dead by thugs.  Taking matters into his own hands, he searches all over the Philippines to find and execute the culprits. But while he was carrying out his revenge missions, he was being watched by two mysterious figures, Peter (Gaines) and Bill (Monty). They like his style so much, they hire him to kill some more criminals. They even team him up with a former mob hitwoman named Liza (Milhench). You’d think Collins would be in hog heaven, now being paid to do what he loves best. But all is not as it seems, and after some twists and turns, we truly see who has to pay up on the BLOOD DEBTS...

This movie kicks off with what might be one of the best openings ever. We certainly won’t spoil it for you, but it sets the scene perfectly. But then, why wouldn’t it - this is a gem from fan-favorite director Teddy Page, a man known for killer openings. He directed Phantom Soldiers (1987) after all. But here he reunites with his Fireback (1983) stars Harrison and Milhench and the results are silly fun at its best. His use of slow motion, seemingly one of his trademarks, is on full display here.

Funny dubbing, classic clothing, funky music, and that timeless Filipino sense of incoherence reign, and these are all the things that make a great time in front of the old VCR. The movie is clearly inspired by Death Wish (1974) but it takes the formula in some interesting directions. Plus, Harrison’s wardrobe, the staple of which seems to be “track suit with no shirt”, can best be described as the “Casual Bronson”. After all, you want to be flexible and comfortable if you’re tracking down and killing large numbers of people. Harrison is credited with being a co-writer of the movie, I wonder if any of that was in the script? And did we mention the dubbing?

It was nice seeing Harrison in a non-ninja role, and there’s even a scene at a liquor store called “Harrison house of wine”. Is that just a coincidence? His foil, Ann Milhench, is beautiful as Liza, pronounced “Leeza”, apparently pre-dating the meteoric rise of talk show host Leeza Gibbons. Milhench has only been in six movies, and we’ve seen four of them (this and the aforementioned Fireback, plus Nine Deaths of the Ninja (1985) and the awful Sloane (1986). ) 1985 was a great year for her, as she did half her career in that golden year. It should also be mentioned that Willie Williams has a small role as Julius, Collins’ informant and confidante.

You’ve just got to love Continental Video for releasing this. Just for the two wacky on-screen title cards seen in the movie, it’s worth seeing. For the sillier side of the revenge drama, do check out Blood Debts.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Hunter's Blood (1986)

Hunter's Blood (1986)-* * *

Directed by: Robert C. Hughes

Starring: Sam Bottoms, Kim Delaney, Ken Swofford, Mayf Nutter, Lee De Broux, Joey Travolta, Clu Gulager, Billy Drago, Mickey Jones, and Billy Bob Thornton

Five men decide to go on a hunting trip in the backwoods of Arkansas: David (Bottoms), his father Mason (Gulager), Uncle Al (Swofford), their buddy Ralph (Nutter) and die-hard “city boy” and hunting newbie Marty (Travolta). Things seem to be going well, until they run afoul of some murderous “rednecks” who feel these city folk have intruded upon not just their land, but their illegal meat processing operation. So now it’s a deadly game of hide and go seek with David, Mason, Al, Marty and Ralph versus their rural counterparts Snake (Drago) Wash Pot (Jones), Red Beard (De Broux), and Billy Bob (Thornton of all people). When the baddies kidnap David’s girlfriend Melanie (Delaney), it’s an all-out war for survival. Who will come out on top?

In the 80’s, Deliverance (1972) knockoffs and Wilderness Horror movies were huge in video stores. So it would be the most natural thing in the world to combine them. Hence, Hunter’s Blood was born. It was co-written by the writer/director of 9 Deaths of the Ninja (1985), Emmett Alston, and released in a very bright, clean-looking VHS by Embassy. It would make a nice double feature with Rituals (1977), if you can get a hold of both.

When the movie opens, the music on the soundtrack is a guy playing/bending ONE NOTE on the guitar, over and over again. Could this be a sign that the movie itself is a one-note? But then we get to know the protagonists of the piece, the only really likable one being David, portrayed by Sam Bottoms of Ragin’ Cajun (1991) fame. He does a decent enough job, but there are so many characters he doesn’t get enough time to shine. Then the “male bonding” occurs, and it seems like a 90-minute Jack Links commercial, and the fact that all the men sit around a fire and eat a pepperoni stick only reinforces that. There’s a ton of inane potty humor/dialogue, a lot of which underlines the Deliverance-style homosexual nature of the proceedings. In fact, at times Hunter’s Blood seems to aim to out-gay Deliverance. It was the 80’s after all, they probably figured they had to ramp up the gay from the way it was in the 70’s.

But once the plot kicks into high gear, there are a lot of nice surprises and worthwhile moments to raise Hunter’s Blood above the pack. And let’s not forget Joey Travolta is on board. A great moment comes when he guilelessly blurts out the line “I love TV!” Not any one particular show, just TV. There are plenty of country tunes that continually appear throughout the film, and the first credit after the movie ends shows this (seemingly a rarity), but the credit only lasts on-screen for about a fraction of a second. But we were able to determine the songs on the soundtrack are by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Weber. We can only assume this is the same group that sang the great song “Don’t Pull Your Love”, but that was Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds. Either Reynolds was replaced by Weber, or, mirroring the “Deliverance knockoff” scenario, there’s a “band knockoff” going on. Either way, no song herein is as good as “Don’t Pull Your Love”.

In the end, Hunter’s Blood is solid entertainment, especially if you are a fan of survival-type movies.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett