Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 7 - Blood Debts [1985]

The cover of my VHS copy of Blood Debts

Blood Debts (1985)
Director: Teddy Chase
Starring: Richard Harrison
Format: VHS (Force Video)

This weak Death Wish rip-off is a Philippines-Hong Kong co-production, filmed in The Philippines and starring a pair of American actors better known for working in Italy in the 60s and 70s.

Richard Harrison, who starred in Italian sword-and-sandal flicks in the 60s and moved on to a seemingly-unending series of ultra-cheap ninja flicks in the 80s, plays Mark Collins, a man pushed over the edge when he his daughter is raped and murdered.

He becomes a vigilante (what else?) and sets about hunting down muggers, rapists and other ne'erdowells. This brings him to the attention of a crimelord with a name that sends fear coursing through the veins of anyone who crosses his path... Bill. Bill is played by the other Italian movie regular, Mike Monty from the vastly-superior ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS).

Look, there's really not much more to it than that. Woman gets attacked, screams for help, Mark Collins comes to the rescue in his styley red sweatsuit jacket and dispatches bad guy(s). Rinse and repeat. End with the prerequisite showdown with the mob boss.

The acting is bad (sadly in a bland way rather than a cheesy one), the action is unexciting and as I already mentioned the plot is predictable and unoriginal. Harrison mails it in big time - it's like he can't wait to get his paycheck and hit the Manilla titty bars.

About the only good, cheesy parts are the over-dubbing (which is distractingly echoey, but so campy in parts that it brings some laughs) and a couple of the kills (one involving a game of golf is mildly inventive). But it's not enough for me to recommend sitting through Blood Debts. Avoid.

November 30 - Forced Vengeance [1982]

The cover of my VHS copy of Forced Vengeance

Forced Vengeance (1982)

Director: James Fargo
Starring: Chuck Norris, Mary Louise Weller, Camilla Griggs

Format: VHS (MGM/UA)

I have a confession to make. Despite being a lifelong fan of action movies, good and bad, I've only seen one or maybe two Chuck Norris films. I've definitely seen The Octagon (which I own on DVD) and I think I watched Lone Wolf McQuade back in the mid-80s, but I can't be too sure about that one. I think the few glimpses that I saw of his TV series Walker: Texas Ranger probably scared me away from the guy.

But good ol' Chuck has become something of a pop culture icon in recent years (if you get a chance, check out Ian Spector's book "The Truth About Chuck Norris", it's hilarious). With a handful of Norris vehicles in my VHS collection asking to be watched, I sidestepped the more obvious choices (McQuade, Delta Force etc) and went for the one with the coolest cover - 1982's Forced Vengeance.

Now, as I've just admitted, I don't have much knowledge of other Chuck flicks to call on, but I imagine Forced Vengeance is pretty standard fare for his movies. Norris plays a good, moraled guy who is wronged by some shady types and kicks their asses. Ha, I guess I just described every action movie of the 80s, right?

Norris is Josh Randell, an American working as head of security at a small family-owned casino in Hong Kong. The casino owner (veteran actor David Opatoshu) is like a father to him. When the casino owner's real son gets into debt with another, shadier casino boss named Stan Raimondi (played with pompous delight by Michael Cavanaugh, ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN), father and son are killed.

You'd think that would be the moment when Randell would open up a can of whoop-ass, but no. Sure, he's bummed about it (it's hard to tell with Norris' acting range), but he's more worried about protecting his dead boss's daughter (the beautiful Camilla Griggs) and snooping for answers than kicking butt. Shame.

Things meander along with the odd bit of chop-socky, but it's only when Raimondi's men kill his 'Nam vet buddy (Bob Minor, who played a similar role opposite Arny in COMMANDO) and rape his girl (Mary Louise Weller, who I didn't even recognise as the same actress who played straight-laced sorority queen Mandy Pepperidge in ANIMAL HOUSE) that he finally brings forth the sweet, sweet vengeance. We know it's coming because... we get a montage! Even Rocky had a montage.

As an action flick, Forced Vengeance comes good on its title in the final act. Before that there's too much talking and not enough kicking. But what action there is is well shot by director James Fargo (who'd previously worked with Clint Eastwood on The Enforcer and Every Which Way But Loose) as Norris kicks, punches and shoots various Asian hoodlums with glee. The good news is there's lots of humour (some intended, most unintentional) and cheese to keep the b-grade action fan happy, and a small amount of nudity (although it's mostly of the non-fun, rapey kind).

I honestly don't think I've ever seen a movie with this many mustaches. Not just Chuck's famous lip-sweater either - three out of every four bad guys has a mustachio, and some of them are faker than a politician's smile! The fashions, the acting, the music (for the most part good, but then you get a synth knockoff of Super Freak in a night club) - it's all cheesy good fun.

The dialogue is hilariously bad a lot of the time (Chuck: "Never let your girl hold your piece"). About the only annoying thing is the Norris narration that opens and closes the film and pops up throughout. It's badly-read and corny, but not in a good way. The best intentional humour occurs when Chuck takes on a guy with nunchucks, who sees his gun and slowly backs out of shot, only to return with two buddies.

If the fashions, hair and abundance of lip-hair don't do enough to give away Forced Vengeance's place in time, soccer fans will have a chuckle as Josh and his adopted family sit down to watch a "championship cup game" pitting Brighton against Nottingham Forrest - two teams that haven't been top clubs for a long time.

Again, I can't judge if Forced Vengeance is one of Norris' better films, but all I know is it's entertaining. A little too slow-paced in parts, but the cheese factor and the action in the last third make up for that.