Death Chase (1988)

Death Chase (1988)- * * *

Directed by: David A. Prior

Starring: William Zipp, Jack Starrett, Reggie De Morton, Bainbridge Scott, and Paul L. Smith

Steven Chase (Of course his name is Steven Chase) (Zipp) is just a mild-mannered resident of Riverside, California who is out for a bike ride with his sister. Seemingly at random, violence erupts and there are car crashes and shootings. One of the mysterious men who gets shot hands Steven Chase a gun and says to him, “you’re it”. Now a pawn in a deadly “game”, Steven Chase goes on the run, having to shoot and/or beat up all the goons that are suddenly after him. Thankfully, he has the help of Diana (Scott) and his buddy Eddie (De Morton). Lt. MacGrew (Starrett) of the LAPD is also on the case. On top of all that, a large man named Steele (Smith) seems to appear wherever the “Death Chase” is going on. Will Steven Chase survive this…Deathsport? Sorry, DEATH CHASE? Find out today!

Before Deathfight (1990), before Fugitive X: Innocent Target (1996), before The Game (1997), and certainly before The Tournament (2009), Death Chase was first in the “innocent guy caught up in a game where people try to kill him” sweepstakes. Leave it up to David A. Prior and AIP – sure, they might have small budgets, but they have big ideas. Entertaining ideas that were used later in other forms. Will Prior and the gang ever get the proper credit? Probably not…except on sites like ours.

If you’re familiar at all with AIP, Death Chase delivers a look and style that you may be used to. Having seen most of AIP’s output at this point, we found it comforting. Low-budget stunts, shootings, and chases (of course) are the order of the day. Chase is chased by car, by motorbike, by boat, on foot…pretty much any way a human being can be chased. One thing you can’t deny – the movie lives up to its title. 

AIP stalwart William Zipp is well-cast as Mr. Chase, our hero. Fan favorite Paul L. Smith brings more life to the proceedings as Steele, and veteran actor/director Starrett is interestingly cast as MacGrew. While Reggie De Morton should have been given more to do, actually the movie felt overlong at 93 minutes. This basic idea could have gotten its point across at maybe 80-85 minutes.

Yes, there is a lot of mindless shooting, and pure silliness with a lot of people talking in funny voices that are post-dubbed in an amusing manner. But that being said, the idea of the corporate overlords in a smoky back room playing a real-life version of Risk with actual people’s lives is a good and interesting idea. The makers of the aforementioned The Tournament must have thought so. Also, the two female assassins playing “the game” was an idea we enjoyed. The idea of a bunch of people tasked with killing Steven Chase and he doesn’t know who to trust or where to turn put us in mind of John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017). Could it be that the makers of the John Wick franchise have seen Death Chase? We may never know…

Once again, some ace Steve McClintock music is on the soundtrack. Songs like “Running With The One I Love”, “What’s Goin’ On”, and “Can’t Get Enough” are movie highlights. McClintock always delivers the goods.

So, for an adventurous AIP outing that probably won’t change your life but fits squarely in the AIP canon (and was quite ahead of its time), do check out Death Chase.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a review from our buddy Keith From The Unknown Movies!


The Glass Jungle (1988)

The Glass Jungle (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Joseph Merhi

Starring: Lee Canalito, Diana Frank, and Frank Scala

Cutler Irving (Canalito) is a lovable lunkhead who drives a cab by day and practices his boxing moves by night. He’s a simple man who never done nothin’ to nobody. Trouble finds him in the form of Tate (Scala), a mob boss who forces him to drive around L.A. with five million dollars in the trunk of his cab. The exact reasons for this aren’t made entirely clear, but the FBI and LAPD are wise to Tate so they try to use Cutler to bring him down. Meanwhile, Cutler has many flashbacks involving Mary (Frank of Mankillers), a French student who he becomes involved with. Will Cutler Irving’s checkered past catch up with him, or will he be saying fare-thee-well…to his own LIFE?

Perhaps the ultimate “taxicab confession”, The Glass Jungle is another low-budget labor of love from Joseph Merhi and the City Lights crew. Like all the City Lights films, and even the later PM outings, we as viewers can readily see that what these movies lack in finances and technical excellence, they make up for with heart and a scrappy charm. In other words, you can sense that Merhi and the gang were young, hungry, and just wanted to make entertaining movies. They succeeded time and again, and here, in spite of some of its flaws, is no exception. 

Cutler Irving is a somewhat unorthodox action hero – a mild-mannered cabbie who, yes, is a boxer (as Canalito is in real life), but is soft-spoken (less charitable people may say unintelligible) and more of a lover and not a fighter. However, that all changes during the final face-off with Tate. Irving finally gets to show that he’s a master of weaponry after all.

The location of the confrontation appears to be the same place where Jeff Bridges and Andy Garcia battled in 8 Million Ways To Die (1986). Of course, that movie didn’t have Frank Scala as Tate, a man who seemingly has modeled his life after the style of Kenny G. And that includes how to be a scary and intimidating mob boss. That being said, The Glass Jungle is filled with fun characters, which is one of the movie’s strengths.

As Cutler drives around, we get to see a lot of L.A. landmarks preserved in time, which, for us at least, was enjoyable as a time capsule. Some movie marquees are seen, so we know it must have been shot during 1987-1988, as Robocop (1987) is showing, among others. The theme song, “Warrior In A Glass Jungle”, by Lee Witherspoon and John Gonzales, blasts on the soundtrack and is a classic 80’s fist-pumper. Just why we’re supposed to be pumping our fist isn’t exactly known. Maybe because Canalito was a boxer and Rocky movies always had songs like this. 

The Glass Jungle is a small, modest movie and a good example of the independent filmmaking of the time. Just because it wasn’t recognized or appreciated by the hoity-toity film festival circuit (i.e. Sundance and the like) doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy and respectable addition to the independent-film canon. While it may not be as professional a product as our eyes are used to seeing today, we say check out The Glass Jungle for a glimpse of humble – and truly indie – filmmaking in late-80’s L.A.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Shadows In Paradise (2010)

Shadows In Paradise (2010)- * *

Directed by: J. Stephen Maunder

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Sofya Skya, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Bruce Boxleitner, Vernon Wells, Steven Bauer, Andrew Divoff, and Armand Assante

Max Forrester (Dacascos) is fighting in Iraq alongside Sasha Villanoff (Skya). As a fellow soldier and Max’s girlfriend, he feels especially inclined to protect her from the baddies all around her. Max is put to the test when Sasha disappears. He tracks her to a place called Paradise Island, found somewhere in the middle east. 

During the course of their perilous journey, they uncover an illegal arms-smuggling ring run by some corrupt soldiers called Shadow Company. Since Shadow Company is on PARADISE Island, that explains the title of the movie. Meanwhile, Col. Bunker (Sizemore) and Captain Dyer (Boxleitner) are at odds because of the activities of Captain John Santos, who goes by the code name of “Ghost” (Assante). 

Could he have something to do with the arms smuggling? Or could it be Matador (Trejo), Stronach (Divoff), General Ruth (Wells), or Agent Stubbs (Bauer)? While we desperately want to invest some intrigue into all of this, we really just wanted to highlight all the names involved here. Will the hot middle eastern sun eradicate all the SHADOWS IN PARADISE? And who else will be eradicated?

Shadows In Paradise is such a textbook example of what we call the Lone Tiger Effect (for those who don’t know, it’s when a movie features a bunch of the B-Movie names we all know and love – so we think the movie itself is going to be good – but it turns out to not be so hot) that we should really consider changing it to the Shadows In Paradise Effect. Yes, all our favorite people are present and accounted for but…at what cost? In other words, while it was enjoyable to see all our cinematic buddies all together in one film, we were disappointed at the final result. Which makes things all the more disappointing.

That being said, this movie is just too darn silly to really hate. While the overall feel is one of those modern-day DTV “Seal Team” movies (i.e. junky and none too involving), and the muzzle flashes on the guns are roughly on par with the ones in Hangfire (1991) (i.e. really stupid and fake looking), once you see Tom Sizemore’s “acting”, you want to say to the movie, in a loving and forgiving tone, “I can’t stay mad at you…”

Is it any wonder, then, that with the incoherent mumblings of Armand Assante, layered with the incoherent ramblings of Tom Sizemore, that the movie as a whole is, well…incoherent? Thankfully, Sofya Skya is on board, but Assassins Run (2013) offers up a better example of what she can do. She does sing the theme song, “Don’t Break My Heart”, but with its 90’s Lilith Fair vibe, even that indicates she is capable of better. She should have followed the example of Natalie Burn and done more of a rocker.

There’s a bunch of beat-ups and shooting, and even some light prerequisite torture, but what else would you expect from director Maunder, whose only other directorial credits are Tiger Claws II (1996) and Tiger Claws III (2000)? Trejo, Bauer, Wells, and Divoff – enough to carry a movie in their own right – have glorified cameos. We believe Bruce Boxleitner was here, but it could have been Barry Bostwick. We’re still not sure. 

In the end, Shadows In Paradise is a lightweight and unfortunate example of a modern-day DTV actioner. While we were happy to see all the great cast members, to say they weren’t all used to their full potential is an understatement. It’s all pretty disposable. Bring us back to the 80’s any day.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


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Young Rebels (1989)

Young Rebels (1989)- * * *

Directed by: Amir Shervan

Starring: Robert Z'Dar, Aldo Ray, Christine Lunde, Jon Greene, and Tadashi Yamashita

Mr. Vincenzo (Rivas) is a local California mob boss. His son Joey (Z’Dar) and his goons are causing havoc all over town. The Sheriff (Ray) (That’s all he’s credited as) is ineffectual against the reign of terror caused by the Vincenzo family. That is, until Charlie (Greene) shows up. And, to a lesser extent, his girlfriend Liz (Lunde). They decide to take on the mob family the only way they know how – extended scenes of mindless shooting. Of course, Joey Vincenzo is the scary final boss…will Charlie be man enough to take him down?

One of our favorite directors of silly movies, Amir Shervan, once again provides silly dubbing, silly editing, silly plotting, silly performances, and filmmaking that is from every angle – not to put too fine a point on it – just downright silly. Sure, while it may be a bit amateurish and repetitive, it’s also a ridiculous good time that you can’t help but love. Or at least appreciate, especially considering they really don’t make movies like this anymore. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you…well, we’re the ones writing the review, and we say it’s a bad thing that they don’t make absurd gems like this anymore. So there. 

Yes, there are countless shootouts, chases, barfights, and stripping scenes, and some unfathomable subplot about smuggling illegals into the U.S., but really a lot of the running time of the film consists of weird-looking people beating up other weird-looking people.

Aldo Ray is in two scenes, attired in an ill-fitting Sheriff’s getup. He steals both scenes. There should have been more instances where a confused and angry Aldo Ray yells at people. Shervan mainstay and fan favorite Robert Z’Dar is also here, as chinny as ever, but the real question is: why is this movie called Young Rebels? Who are the Young Rebels? And what are they rebelling against?

Maybe it was this unanswered question that caused the lack of a wide release for this movie (although it is entirely fitting because it makes just as little sense as anything else on show here). As far as we can tell, it never got any kind of release at all, even though it was made in the golden video store year of 1989. It’s available, as of this writing, on Amazon Prime, and pretty much nowhere else. For its rarity alone (if not any of its other qualities) it’s worth seeing.

So, if you’ve seen the other Shervan Classics and are missing out, you pretty much know what to expect. It’s funny, it’s ridiculous, it’s absurd, and…forget seeing a boom mike at the top of the frame or its shadows, those can be seen in lots of low-budget efforts. Only in Young Rebels do you see a crew member clack the slate before a scene begins (It happens towards the end).

For a laughable and ludicrous good time, do check out Young Rebels.


Banzai Runner (1987)

Banzai Runner (1987)- * * *

Directed by: John G. Thomas

Starring: Dean Stockwell, John Shepard, Charles Dierkop, Marylou Kenworthy, Dawn Schneider, and Billy Drago

Billy Baxter (Stockwell) is a likable Highway Patrolman who is getting fed up with two things: drunk drivers and so-called “Banzai Runners” – rich guys with crazy-fast cars who zoom by at 150-200 miles per hour between L.A. and Las Vegas. Perhaps one of the reasons Baxter has such a vendetta against them is that his brother was killed in a road accident and now he takes care of Beck (Shepherd), his son. When the top brass declines Billy’s request to soup up his police cruiser so he can keep up with the Banzai Runners, Billy decides to go rogue: he turns to friend and mechanic Traven (Dierkop) on the sly. The eccentric Traven agrees to put in a turbo engine, but then Baxter is forced to turn in his badge (we don’t think he had a gun).

Now free to take down the speeding suckers his own way, he goes undercover to infiltrate the shadowy world of Banzai Runners. While there, he comes face to face with Syszek (Drago), the evil ‘Runner. Now with Beck at his side, and their girlfriends (Schneider and Kenworthy) more or less against them, the time has come…will the Baxters put an end to all this Banzai Running once and for all?

Banzai Runner was a pleasant surprise and part of the reason why continually hunting down 80’s VHS tapes is still worth doing. Is the movie an earth-shattering experience that will forever change the way you look at life? No, but most movies aren’t that anyway. What Banzai Runner is is an unpretentious, enjoyable gem and a worthwhile way to spend 90 minutes or so. 

As some sort of cross between Midnite Spares (1983) and No Man’s Land (1987), Banzai Runner is a fast-cars-vroom-vroom movie of the type that the male gender is always accused of loving above all others. There’s actually a little more going on here than that description would imply, but it would be nice if Banzai Runner was given a bit of credit for being a precursor to the Fast and Furious franchise – and all at a tiny fraction of the budget of those blockbusters. 

It all starts with an appropriately high-speed intro, but the presence of Dean Stockwell as the main character gives the film some grounding and gravitas. The whole thing has kind of an off-kilter, unusual vibe that we really liked. It’s really the type of movie you can’t do today, and that’s a shame. 

Yes, it does drag (no pun intended) a bit in the middle, but that’s a common problem and easily overlooked. Especially in light of the introduction of “speed stripping” into the popular consciousness. Evidently this is when if the driver of a car stays over the speed limit for enough miles at a time, the passenger has to strip. This isn’t to be confused with another car movie, Strip N’ Run (2000) with Michael Madsen. Anyway, this can also be noted as yet another movie where Billy Drago plays the bad guy.

There is some really cool and catchy music on the soundtrack too, including by a band named Los Bad Jamming Gringos, who sound like a slightly more aggressive ZZ Top. The score itself isn’t bad, but it would have been perfect if it had a Tangerine Dream-style synth score. To date, neither the score nor the soundtrack songs have been released on any format, which is unfortunate. 

It was the go-go 80’s, so of course there are going to be movies about fast cars and fast women and all that. But the organic, straightforward, and almost unassuming charm of Banzai Runner make it worth seeing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty