Shadow Of The Dragon (1992)

Shadow Of The Dragon
(1992)- * *

Directed by: Jimmy Williams 

Starring: Robert Z'Dar, William Smith, Gerald Okamura, Sandy Palm, Donna Cherry, Trudy Adams, and Jimmy Williams

Vietnam, 1974: Three soldiers on patrol, Tony Baker (Williams), Brian O'Malley (Palm), and Eric Brunner (Smith), come across an ancient Buddha statue. Unbeknownst to Baker and O'Malley, Brunner later steals a priceless ruby from the statue's forehead, then slaughters a local family. After this intro, we're now in Los Angeles, present day. Baker and O'Malley have become LAPD officers, and they're hot on the trail of some warehouse heists.

While Captain Washington (Z'Dar), their classic WYC, wants results, it appears their job is going to be tougher than they thought. A mysterious, ninja-like character known only as Mekong Dragon is ruling the streets. So our two detectives turn to a man known only as Temple Priest (Okamura) for help. Things come full circle when members of the Vietnamese-American community also pitch in so our two heroes can finally unmask Mekong Dragon. But who will it be? And why are they doing what they're doing? Who is in the SHADOW OF THE DRAGON?

What Jimmy Williams, the man primarily responsible for Shadow of the Dragon, should have done, is cut the first hour of the film. Just highlight it and press delete. It should have started with the final, whackadoo 37 minutes, and then they could have fashioned something after that for another 40 minutes or so.

The post-dubbing of all the characters' voices, and the rock-bottom budget are not the problems here, although they may put some people off. Asking audiences to sit through 97 minutes of almost-total technical ineptitude is a tall order, however. To say this movie has pacing problems is a huge understatement. Fan favorites William Smith, Robert Z'Dar and Gerald Okamura are not in it enough to raise the quality level. Most people's home movies are shot and paced better. Hell, they're even plotted better.

Before you watch a movie called "Shadow of the Dragon", you think you will be getting certain things. That's why it's fairly surprising when the film takes time out to show a man who looks to be in his seventies eating a chocolate ice cream cone.

One of the better aspects of 'Shadow is that our two heroes are senior citizens. Rather than follow the modern-day trend of getting young kids like Sean Locke and Sean Faris to do all the action, they seemingly got some extras from Keaton's Cop (1990) back on screen again. O'Malley and Baker look very much alike, so it's hard to tell which one is the dad from Seinfeld and which one is the elderly Dan Lauria. Their love interests, Margie McGee (Cherry) and Ellen O'Malley (Adams) look to be about a third of their ages.

The movie takes some crazy and long-winded diversions, such as when one of our heroes goes to Chicago for no discernible reason. 97 minutes may not seem like a long running time for a "normal" movie, but Shadow of the Dragon is not a normal movie. That's why these asides should have been cut entirely. They just slow things down. If you went out of your way to watch Shadow of the Dragon, this is not how you should be rewarded.

The main baddie, Mekong Dragon, is basically a ninja with a voice box. His voice and his mysterious nature are very "Dr. Claw" from Inspector Gadget. There are some amusing and ridiculous moments in the movie overall, but they're swimming in a soup of stupidity that really tests the viewers' patience. Yet, somehow, this got into video stores in America and abroad. It is rare now, but, as we sometimes say, sometimes things are rare for a reason.

The end-credits title song by Curt Harpel is probably the best thing about the whole experience and shouldn't have been saved for last. It should have been played during the movie at least once. It's not at all uncommon for the best thing about a movie to be the final song. This is a contender for one of those times.

In the end, Shadow of the Dragon is an amateurish oddity that should have been shorter. There's cult potential somewhere in there, but it's obscured by some serious incompetence.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Red Mob (1992)


Red Mob
(1992)- * * 1\2

Directed by: Vsevolod Plotkin

Starring: Vladimir Menshov, Sergey Veksler, Dmitri Volkov, and Aleksandr Rozenbaum

Oleg (Menshov) is a toughguy who, on his return from the Russian war in Afghanistan, becomes the lead instructor of a survivalist training camp. It's here that he trains anyone who signs up in how to survive in rugged terrain, shirtless horse riding, and other valuable tricks of the trade. When his young son Yura (Volkov) is kidnapped by the evil Jaffar (Rozenbaum), both Oleg and his second-in-command Nick (Veksler) snap into action. They employ all the warrior skills they've got on their mission to save Yura from the clutches of the RED MOB. Will they survive another day? Do find out...

We're very happy that Vinegar Syndrome rescued Red Mob from certain obscurity in the U.S. Now that it's available on their DVD/Blu-ray combo package, we can see all the Russian blow-ups, Russian shootouts, and Russian helicopter explosions for ourselves. One of the best aspects of the movie was the dubbing, which is pretty entertaining in its own right. Especially for Yura, who looks like he's about twelve years old but his voice sounds like a 35-year-old man. Red Mob gets off to a bang-up beginning and we're definitely interested in seeing what happens...

The biggest flaw with Red Mob is the 113-minute running time. If it was 85 minutes, we might be dealing with a new classic, but it's filled with a lot of extra stuff and the audience isn't always exactly clear on what's going on. But, on the flip side of that, a lot of time is allotted for blow-ups, including multiple helicopters. All in all, it's an interesting product of its time and place, and for that it's definitely worth seeing.

The soundtrack has plenty of synthy moments and Nick steals the show when he does the classic 'screaming while shooting a machine gun.' Red Mob is light years better than Solo Voyage: The Revenge, the so-called "Russian Rambo" movie from 1986, which we watched but decided not to review for the website because of its extreme dearth of action. That's certainly not the case with Red Mob, which delivers a lot of action goods.

Despite any language or cultural differences, if nothing else, Red Mob proves that action truly is universal. So, yes, it is a bit on the long side, but we would encourage any interested parties to check out RED MOB.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Circle Of Fear (1992)


Circle Of Fear
(1992)- * * *

 Directed by: Clark Henderson 

Starring: Patrick Dollaghan, Wesley Pfenning, Joey Aresco, Joe Mari Avellana, Marilyn Bautista, Paul Holmes, Candy Courtier, and Vernon Wells 

Tom Price (Dollaghan) is a certified toughguy who apparently used to work as an enforcer for the mob. After surviving all the chaos that occurred at the end of the Vietnam War, all he wants to do now is shirtlessly lounge around at his Newport Beach, California home. But he's forced to go rogue when he travels to the Philippines to investigate the death of his brother Charlie (Holmes), which, obviously, happened under very shady circumstances.

On top of that, Charlie's daughter Jocelyn (Courtier) has been kidnapped by drug-dealing thugs. The Mr. Big at the top of this ladder of criminality is Allan Bainbridge (Wells), and his number two is the gangster Joey Conti (Aresco). As Tom Price powers through Manila, taking down Bainbridge's illicit businesses and dodging their baddies as he gets closer and closer to the truth, they get more and more angry. Price also runs into underworld characters such as Miyamoto (Avellana) and Elena (Bautista) - but will Tom Price ever escape this CIRCLE OF FEAR?

Patrick Dollaghan - at least here in his role as Tom Price - looks like he could be Michael Douglas's brother. I mean, he really looks like he could be a member of the Douglas family. He also has some Asher Brauner-esque qualities. Oddly enough, he resembles his Circle of Fear co-star Vernon G. Wells, so when they're on screen together it's almost impossible to tell who's who. It's a bit like Harris Yulin and Art Garfunkel in Short Fuse (1986), or David "Shark" Fralick and Frank Zagarino in Project Eliminator (1991). 

Thankfully, Dollaghan and Wells have distinctive voices. If Dollaghan didn't have that Douglas-esque rasp that sounds like at any moment he's going to say, "Greed is good", and Wells didn't have his Australian accent, it would be terribly confusing for the viewers.

Circle of Fear is a step above - but very similar to - the type of actioners Cirio Santiago was pumping out at the time. It's filled with many absurd and very entertaining action sequences, and the music by Jeff Mar keeps things rolling along. A lot of cues don't exactly match the action, but that's part of the fun.

Dollaghan, with his classy mullet and "I'm a long-lost Douglas brother" ways manages to carry the movie and keep eyeballs on the screen. One minute he's fighting Hector the punk (who wears a Beethoven jacket, has an orange mohawk, and carries a boombox next to his ear blasting hip-hop), and the next minute he's at a cockfight, the venue for which has at least three tiers of seating. They must have been very popular.

While it seems that no one really mentions Circle of Fear - apparently it's an undiscovered gem - it had a major studio release on VHS by MGM. It has one of those great, overblown plot descriptions on the back of the box, even saying that it features "mind-bending plot twists". Hmmm...well, we'll let you experience that for yourself, but you should see Circle of Fear. It's a lot of fun.

The official release year for the film is 1992. While watching it, we noticed that it seemed very 80's and we were not surprised to see a copyright date of 1988 after the end credits. That would also explain the Smash Hits-style pictures of Pet Shop Boys and Cyndi Lauper on Jocelyn’s walls. 1988 is the year director Clark Henderson directed Saigon Commandos, so maybe there's a rights issue at play here? Nevertheless, it appears Circle of Fear, despite its studio backing, didn't get a very wide release into video stores at the time.

Besides the Jeff Mar soundtrack, there are many very catchy songs included as well, each seemingly more catchy than the last. Our two favorites were "Can't Get Away" by Kristina Nichols and "One Step Closer" by Billy Martin. The former is very much in the mold of the theme song for Silk (1986), so what's not to love there?

In the end, we do recommend Circle of Fear. It delivers the goods on the 80's action front and there are plenty of positives on display. Seek it out if you can.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Lady Avenger (1988)

 Lady Avenger
(1988)- * * *

Directed by: David De Coteau 

Starring: Peggy McIntaggart, Bill Butler, and Michelle Bauer

While Maggie (McIntaggart) is locked up in jail, a gang of street toughs murder her brother Kevin (Butler). Maggie is allowed a temporary release so she can attend the funeral, and then it's not long before she puts on her red revenge bandanna and aviator sunglasses in order to get tough with the baddies responsible. Maggie reconnects with her old friend Annalee (Bauer), and goes through some family drama as well, but she also finds time to get involved in some shootouts and car chases. Can anything stop Maggie as the LADY AVENGER?

While we prefer director DeCoteau's American Rampage (1989), Lady Avenger has plenty to recommend it as well, providing you have a taste for low-budget 80's action. You likely do, or you wouldn't be reading this site. It's a little bit surprising that Massacre Video didn't pair American Rampage with Lady Avenger on their recent Blu-ray release, instead pairing the former with the Dan Haggerty outing Danger USA (1989) - which is also an entertaining movie in its own right, but the DeCoteau action double bill seems to make sense. Oh well, it must have been a rights issue.

Anyway, we wouldn't necessarily recommend newbies of 80's cult action to watch Lady Avenger - it seems like the type of thing you already have to be a fan of - but, then again, who could fail to love the junkyard fight, the blowing-up of cars, the classic flat line readings by just about everybody, the nudity, and the otherwise down n' dirty vibe of the whole thing? It's a bit like a cross between Cyclone (1987) and Death Feud (1987).

Peggy McIntaggart AKA Peggy Sanders doesn't exactly scream "tough" in the way that Brigitte Nielsen might, but perhaps that was the point. That maybe a woman who isn't a bodybuilder and is slight of stature can still blow away the bad guys. Even though Michelle Bauer provides the eye candy, as she always does, it would have been nice to see her get into the baddie-killing fray alongside Peggy.

I think it's worth mentioning the context into which Lady Avenger was born. In 1988, video stores were hugely popular and always needing product to put on the shelves. It was also a time when the action/revenge genre was at a high point. It was only natural that filmmakers big and small would try to get in the game. One of the joys of going to the video store and perusing the aisles was when you'd come across a VHS tape such as Lady Avenger. It provided something you couldn't get in theaters. We would look at the box art and want to see how Lady Avenger dispensed justice. Now how can that be wrong?

Released on the classic South Gate label on VHS in America, Lady Avenger is well worth checking out for not just 80's VHS fiends such as yourself, but also it's ripe for rediscovery in the Blu-ray era.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty