Jaguar Lives! (1979)


Jaguar Lives!
(1979)- * * *

Directed by: Ernest Pintoff

Starring: Joe Lewis, Christopher Lee, Barbara Bach, Woody Strode, John Huston, Donald Pleasence, and Capucine

Jonathan Cross (Lewis) is The Jaguar. He's an international man of action who globe-trots all over the place to stop the baddies using his Karate-fighting ways. When Anna Thompson (Bach) sends him on his latest mission, Cross leaves Sensei (Strode) (That's all he's credited as), and travels to the following places: New York, Hong Kong, Madrid, Rome, and Macao. He also goes to El Habbab, Santa Fortuna, and Belmonte, which may be made up locations. Along the way, he encounters characters such as General Villanova (Pleasence), Zina Vanacore (Capucine), Ralph Richards (Huston), and, of course, the main baddie, Adam Caine (Lee). Most of the above have goons, and Jonathan Cross beats them up. But will he finally falter in the fatal face-off at the finale?

In 1979, Karate and Kung Fu were red hot. Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and also James Bond ruled the action universe. So it was only a matter of time until a film like Jaguar Lives! (Can't forget that exclamation point) made it to your local drive-in in '79. Joe Lewis has the emotionless deadpanity of Chuck Norris, the rough-and-tumble ways of a young Gary Busey, and the facial features and hair of Michael Dudikoff. We as the audience basically like him, but not because of any real effort on his part. At least he's not annoying like Sloane (1985). He doesn't have enough of a personality for that, which we mean in the nicest possible way, of course. He's a Martial Artist, and that's that. He acquits himself well in the action scenes, which are quite entertaining.

The whole thing has a Kill Or Be Killed/Kill And Kill Again vibe, with a few dashes of Mr. Deathman (1977) or a 70's telefilm thrown in for good measure. Sure, it's rated PG, but the filmmakers probably hoped to distract us with its dizzying array of location changes and cavalcade of star-power. When it all kicks off, we're just kind of thrown into the middle of the plot, or so it seems. Then there's a gas station fight that's reminiscent of The Instructor (1981). A bunch of yay-hoos inexplicably throw a bunch of Native American-based racial slurs at Woody Strode. Why they do this to Sensei, of all people, remains unknown.

Then we get some James Bond connections with Bach, Pleasence, Lee, and Joseph Wiseman. Pleasence is one of those "El Presidente"-style South American generals. The great John Huston plays a wheelchair-bound dude for not a lot of reason that we can glean, but so what? He was here. Same for fan favorite Christopher Lee. Hey, if he can be in wacky comedies starring opposite Eddie Deezen - such as Desperate Moves (1980) - then surely he can be here for this. Simon Andreu and Capucine round out the very impressive cast. Then Joe Lewis kicks some goons off some motorcycles. It's not bad. There's much worse stuff out there.

Yes, surprisingly, Jaguar Lives! seems to have gotten a lot of negative reviews out there, but don't listen to them. It's solid, it delivers the action, the star-studded cast, and a variety of colorful locations. That's more than many movies of this sort can boast. If you saw that awesome poster, or that killer VHS box art, wouldn't you want to rent it? We say give Jaguar Lives! your time.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Captive Rage (1988)


Captive Rage (1988)- * *1\2

Directed by: Cedric Sundstorm

Starring: Oliver Reed, Lisa Rinna, Claudia Udy, and Robert Vaughn

In the small South American town of Parador, the maniacal General Belmondo (Reed) rules the roost. When his son is arrested for dealing cocaine, Belmondo decides the best course of action is to kidnap a bunch of young women and hold them captive until his son is released from prison. What he - and his sidekick Chiga (Udy) - didn't count on was the resourcefulness, know-how, and, well CAPTIVE RAGE of Lucy Delacorte (Rinna). She and some of her female compatriots break out of their captivity and go on the run in the jungle. While Lucy's father Eduard (Vaughn) is trying to figure out what's going on, Lucy and her friends are busy shooting their way out of the situation. Will Lucy and the gang triumph over Belmondo and Chiga?

In much the same vein as Mankillers (1987), Toy Soldiers (1984), or perhaps Sweet Justice (1993) or Hired to Kill (1990), Captive Rage is another in a series of films made in the 80's and early 90's that featured women getting kidnapped and then fighting back. The Grenada incident was still fresh news in the public's mind back then, and, in true exploitation tradition, a spate of movies sought to capitalize on that.

While largely lackluster, Captive Rage has a couple of things going for it: Oliver Reed, who did this the same year as the similarly-titled Rage to Kill (1988 of course), is here in a similar role. He has a beard, sunglasses, and speaks in a ridiculous French (?) accent. Surely it was a nice paid vacation to go to South Africa and spend time with a bunch of ladies, including fan favorite Claudia Udy. Lisa Rinna also stands out as the leader of the girls. She was almost unrecognizable without those puffed-up lips she later became known for. Of course, Robert Vaughn is here, as he usually was around this time. His role is small. His hair is questionable.

Director Cedric Sundstrom, who action fans may know because of American Ninja 3 (1989), American Ninja 4 (1990), and Comeuppance Classic The Revenger (also 1990), delivers a mostly-mediocre movie that makes you wait for the majority of the blow-ups and guard-tower falls. There is gun-shooting throughout, though. But there are plenty of slow moments as well. On the whole, Captive Rage could have been tightened up, including having a shorter running time.

Of course, we don't mean to say it's all bad news of course. There is a classic Drug Deal Gone Wrong in a warehouse, a geologist that looks a lot like Christopher McDonald, and the highly politically-incorrect plot point that the girls have to continually shoot and kill the native population of the Paradorian jungle.

While Captive Rage remains video store shelf-filler, non-U.S. residents will want to take note of the fact that the film, under the alternate titles of Blood Ransom and Fair Trade are both cut. While we agree the movie should have been trimmed down for a leaner running time, they shouldn't have gotten rid of the sleaze. That's one of the only things Captive Rage has going for it.

In the end, despite a handful of bright spots, Captive Rage will probably only appeal to die-hards of this sort of thing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum! 


Cold Heat (1989)

 Cold Heat (1989)- * * *

Directed by: Ulli Lommel

Starring: John Phillip Law, Britt Ekland, Chance Corbitt, Roy Summersett, Joanne Watkins and Robert Sacchi

R.C. Mallon (JPL) and his ex-wife Jackie (Ekland) are in the middle of the mother of all custody battles, if you'll excuse the expression. The fighting over their young son Kenny (Corbitt) has set in motion a chain of events that spiral into fairly outlandish proportions. Mr. Mallon hires a 1940's-style gangster named Mikey Musconi (Sacchi) to kidnap Kenny. His uncanny resemblance to a certain classic Hollywood actor notwithstanding, the former Mrs. Mallon also hires some outside help - the much more likable Mace Dawson (Summersett). Dawson is an alcoholic stunt driver of some sort. Inadvertently, Dawson also nabs Mallon employee Nancy (Watkins), and Kenny grows to like them far more than his embittered parents. Of course, all this is just window dressing so extended car/plane/motorbike chases and blow-ups may occur. Will the COLD relationship between the Mallons produce some real HEAT on the streets of Las Vegas? Dare we all find out?

Famed director Ulli Lommel is no stranger to action, having also been behind Overkill (1987) and The Big Sweat (1991). Here he combines those titles with Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979), if you can believe it. The whole thing, as you might expect, is odd and off-kilter. That's the best aspect of Cold Heat, by the way. The fact that there's some footage from The Junkman (1982) kind of sewn in there for good measure only helps with the unusual ambience.

Of course, there's a very long and drawn out chase, as Lommel did in The Big Sweat. But other possible touchstones to get across the overall feel of the film could be Hollywood Cop (1987) or Beverly Hills Brats (1989). 

Inexplicably, the whole thing is narrated by Sacchi's character. Thankfully, the score by Corneil Rivett is nicely synthy and the 'AIP film from 1989' vibe is reinforced, much to the audience's delight.

Amidst all the familial in-fighting and seemingly random blow-up footage, a new star has come out to shine. One of the police officers in the extended chase sequence is named Captain Bonk. That's right, Bonk. And he was played by a National Treasure named Zeph Hymel - if that's his real name. Shamefully, this is his one credited role. He gives an Academy Award-ready performance as Bonk. We wanted more Bonk. Sadly, we didn't get more Bonk. He should have teamed up with Don Niam and they could have chewed some scenery to shreds. That would have been amazing, but he does work with a fellow officer named McBean (the actor is uncredited). The fact that Bonk & McBean did not spin off into a TV show in 1989 is a crying shame. But, as always, we should be thankful for what we've got.

In the end, if you like car chases and blow-ups (and who doesn't?) but combined with the oddness of John Philip Law, Britt Ekland, and Robert Sacchi all together, combined with Bonk & McBean, and a peculiar and baffling overall tone, do check out Cold Heat. It may not be for everyone, but we suspect it may be for you.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Commando Squad (1987)

Commando Squad
(1987)- * * *

Directed by: Fred Olen Ray

Starring: Kathy Shower, Brian Thompson, Sid Haig, Marie Windsor, Robert Quarry, William Smith, and Ross Hagen

Kat Withers (Shower) is an L.A. narcotics agent who cleans up the trash on the streets and asks questions later. Her boss, Milo (Quarry) informs her that a "renegade federal agent" named Morgan Denny (Smith) and his sidekicks Iggy (Haig) and Cowboy (Hagen) have not only moved their drug operation south of the border to Mexico, but that they've also kidnapped Withers's boyfriend Clint Jensen (Thompson). Never fearing a fight, Withers goes in search of her beloved Clint. Along the way, she faces many obstacles and challenges - but will Kat and Clint stop the baddies and their drug running? Is Kat Withers a one-woman COMMANDO SQUAD?

Fred Olen Ray is certainly no stranger to the action genre, having directed Armed Response (1986) and Operation Cobra (1997), among others. While Commando Squad boasts a strong first half, Ray seems to have lost interest around the halfway mark. Still, 'Squad has plenty to offer the 80's action film fan. For one thing, the cast of B-Movie favorites is incredibly strong. It's almost literally an all-star cast as Shower, Quarry, Smith, Hagen, Haig and Thompson are backed with Mel Welles, Russ Tamblyn, Ray regular Dawn Wildsmith, and Tane McClure and Michelle Bauer in small roles.

Perhaps the most inspired casting choice was Golden Age actress Marie Windsor as the Machine Gun Joe character, Casey. Not only that, she uses her employment at Hollywood Book & Poster as her cover! A poster for the John Savage film Soldier's Revenge (1986) is clearly seen in this scene, as are other notable background posters. Also, instead of a sign that says either Open or Closed, theirs says We Be Here or We Be Gone. Maybe locals to the area can tell us if that's their real sign.

Despite the slowdown of the second half, this is still a great role for Kathy Shower. Finally, we get to see her shooting many people and really getting in on the action. To show that she's undercover and serious, she wears a black-haired wig that gets her resembling Pat Benatar more than you might think. Interestingly, on the American VHS box cover we see Shower's blonde hair. On foreign issues, she had the short black hair. It must be a cultural thing.

From the outset, we're taken in by the sleazy backdrop, the sax and wailing guitar on the soundtrack, Shower's attitude and her shooting of baddies, and of course the fact that this is "One Last Job" for her, a cliche we always love. There's also a coke deal gone wrong, naturally enough. After they're ensconced in Mexico, we do get some action and blow-ups, including an exploding helicopter. We also get some classic Prerequisite Torture of the hero, in this case Brian Thompson. We're happy he was playing a good guy, similar to his role in Hired to Kill (1990). Sid Haig wears a Miami Vice-style white suit (remember this was 1987), and William Smith's voice is its normal, gravelly self.

A movie highlight occurs when we see that Kat Withers has what they call a Vengeance Knife. Apparently, this is a knife with an acid-filled blade. That could be the title for a film on its own.

While, overall, the whole of Commando Squad should have taken place on the streets, as it did in the first half, and things become a bit soft after that, there still is plenty of 80's charm and other noteworthy aspects that make it worth checking out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty