Crime Stopper (1990)

Crime Stopper (1990)- * * *1\2

AKA: Lethal Killing Machine

Directed by: Teddy Page

Starring: Rom Kristoff, Jim Gaines and Ned Hourani

An evil South American dictator named Ortega runs a “drug camp” and former Vietnam buddies Ray “Smithy” Smith (Gaines) and Mark Mitchell (Rom) are called in by the government to shut it down permanently…using any means necessary. After Mitchell is captured and imprisoned by Ortega’s goons, Smith goes undercover in the drug camp to break him out. Once the men are reunited, no force on earth can stop them. But they’re going to have to be careful – Ortega then captures Mitchell’s sister Carol and now the mission of the two warriors has to alter to rescue her from the clutches of the sinister and nefarious Ortega. Will the mission succeed?

Crime Stopper (AKA Lethal Killing Machine) is an amazingly fun cocktail of wackiness and non-stop violence that only could have arisen in the Philippines in the early 90’s. We have been Teddy Page fans for a long time, and only now have we discovered that this is one of his best and most all-around entertaining outings. It’s also one of the all-time best “30% New Footage!” movies we’ve ever seen, putting most of Godfrey Ho’s catalog to shame, as Crime Stopper has recycled Rom footage from his other outings such as Blackfire (1985) and Double Edge (1986). Does any of it make sense? No. Do we care? No. Would we have it any other way? Of course not!

First there are some unknown men shooting at each other and chasing each other. Then some different guys are beating the snot out of each other in a kickboxing match (one of which is Ned Hourani). Then more unknown men shoot at them with machine guns. Then a car blows up. Then a grammatically-questionable title card appears on screen to explain (?) what we just saw. Then there are some more blow-ups. Then some tanks enter the picture, and some more unknown guys are fighting a war. The viewer doesn’t know who is who. There is no explanation for anything at all. That’s when you surrender and go with the flow. Once you submit to the nonsensical charm of Crime Stopper, you will have a fantastic time. We can just about guarantee it. All you have to do is throw logic out the window and embrace the absurdity of it all.

Mitchell is the White Guy and Smith is the Black Guy. Mitchell’s code name is Cobra. Smith’s code name is Black Mamba. That probably wouldn’t happen today. But maybe the Cobra code name makes sense because the filmmakers continually want to make the viewer think of Rom Kristoff as some sort of second coming of Stallone. Have you seen the poster for Double Edge? That should explain things. Even the title, Crime Stopper, seems to be a reference to Marion Cobretti’s obsession with crime statistics. Even though the movie has nothing whatsoever to do with stopping street crime, they went with that anyway. 

Just Jim Gaines walking down the street is an entertaining thing to watch in this movie because he looks cool, and you know something awesome is about to happen. He wears a T-shirt that says “Normal is Boring”, and when it comes to Crime Stopper, it couldn’t be more apropos. As far as the voices coming out of the characters’ mouths, there’s a lot of silly dubbing by silly men with silly voices. That alone is worth seeing. Or, more appropriately, hearing. Speaking of great stuff you hear, the score by Patrick Wales is terrific and deserves a CD/vinyl reissue. Hey, if they could do it for Striker (1988), they really should do it for this too. 

All in all, Crime Stopper is a movie right up our alley. It’s a non-stop parade of violence and nonsense. It’s fun, entertaining, and short. It makes no rational sense whatsoever, but something is always happening because the movie moves along at a fast clip. What’s not to love? Recommended.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Parole Violators (1994)

Parole Violators (1994)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Patrick G. Donahue

Starring: Sean Donahue, Pamela Bosley, Harvier Mims, Joe Edwards, and Lindsey Rhodeos

"It looks like you got into a fight with a pizza."- Tracy

Miles Long (Donahue) is a guy who really cares about his community. A former police officer, he now hosts his own TV show where he chases down PAROLE VIOLATORS, films them personally with his video camera, and, if need be, beats them up. He inexplicably wears a black ninja mask while taping even though he is the host of the show and everyone knows who he is. His night of filming usually ends with him duct-taping the baddies to a pole and writing the words “parole violator” on the bare chests of said baddies with a black marker. The area police are familiar with this local pole and check it regularly for the latest prey of Long, known in the community as “Video Cop.” Video Cop is in a relationship with policewoman Tracy Dodd (Bosley), and when her daughter Susan (Rhodeos) is kidnapped by some thugs that Long had put in prison in his former life as a regular cop, his raging hatred for parole violators kicks into full gear. Teaming up with Tracy, the pair go on a mission of rescue/revenge, and all the local baddies should know that their comeuppance is going to be MILES LONG!

Parole Violators is a wildly fun and entertaining gem in the vein of Samurai Cop (1991), Miami Connection (1987), or Geteven (1993). But would you expect anything less from the great and hugely underrated filmmaker Patrick G. Donahue? This wonderful man gave us the great Kill Squad (1982), as well as Savage Instinct (1991), also starring his son Sean, as this movie does. Both he and this movie as a whole are very Ron Marchini-esque. 

Miles Long is a scrappy Martial Artist who just wants to play horseshoes in the park while wearing his large purple windbreaker. Instead, evildoers are kidnapping girls all around him and he is forced to snap into action. He can take a lot of damage, as he is constantly being punched, kicked, thrown off multiple cliffs and run over by multiple cars. But nothing will stop him on his mission. His serious-minded mullet is all business and you better not get in his way. Naturally there is the time-honored barfight - featuring a bouncer whose name is…Bouncer (Harvier Mims) – and an awesome Final Warehouse Fight. There’s also a goon whose name is Goon (Edwards). There are many, many scenes of Martial Arts fights and shooting. Choreographing and staging them were clearly a labor of love and it’s downright charming to watch.

The thing is, TV shows like Cops and America’s Most Wanted were hot at the time. The Donahue family (including actor Mike) just postulates what might happen if the host went from filming and talking about bad guys, to actually fighting them himself, mano-a-mano. It’s a great idea and it’s executed in a fantastically entertaining way. This movie was even ahead of its time in many respects – it predates current shows like Live P.D. by many years, and Miles Long is like a cross between Dexter and Louis Bloom, the main character of the fine film Nightcrawler (2014), as portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Most of the cast were one-timers who weren’t in any other movies. But if you’re going to be in one movie only, make it a winner, and they clearly did that with this diamond in the rough. Unfortunately, this got little to no distribution on VHS. It desperately needs to find a bigger audience, so here’s hoping a company like Vinegar Syndrome grants it a Blu-Ray release sometime in the future. For that winning combination of silly/awesome that is so addictive, seek out PAROLE VIOLATORS!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Deadly Breed (1989)

Deadly Breed (1989)- * * *

Directed by: Charles T. Kanganis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Vengeance Cops (1971)

Vengeance Cops (1971)- * *1\2

Directed by: Ivan Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty