Vigilante Force (1976)
“They called it God’s Country till all hell broke loose!”
With Dirty Harry and Death Wish leading the way in a new type of screen justice, exploitation producer Gene Corman (yup he’s Roger’s brother) gives us this nasty tale that borrows heavily from the western and casts two likable actors from the era.
Jan-Michael Vincent stars as an honest hard working garage owner in a mid west town. A town which is going through an oil boom leading to all kinds of rowdies causing havoc in the streets and bars. Prostitution rings and gambling houses are taking over leaving Mayor Brad Dexter with little choice but to take up Jan-Michael on what seems to be a good idea. Hiring Jan-Michael’s brother Kris Kristofferson as a town tamer.
Think of the 1959 western Warlock gone real bad.
Kris is a decorated Vietnam veteran who hasn’t found his place in society upon his return from the war. It’s a cliched plot device but Kris fits the role well. He jumps at the chance to go back to his hometown where he isn’t exactly welcomed by all those who live there. Kris himself seems to have a score to settle with those he feel slighted him in the past.
Bringing along a gang of vets, Kris quickly makes is presence felt in town by taking out the local gambling halls and sending the call girls packing. All those except Bernadette Peters whom he quickly takes a liking to. Cue the clip from the film’s trailer, “Broadway’s Bernadette Peters dazzles as Little Dee who loved not wisely but very well indeed.”
The script from writer/director George Armitage takes a violent turn when Kris and his band of brothers start to use their muscle to run the town how they want to. Meaning graft and protection money, doing as they damned well please. This leaves Jan-Michael little choice but to confront his brother and put a stop to the senseless violence that has resulted in outright killings.
One of which is filmed in a brutally cold style that paints Kris as a rabid dog that needs to be put down. Is Jan-Michael up to the task?
Enlisting a young Andrew Stevens and a few other rednecks, Jan-Michael fights back with his vigilante force bringing the jungle warfare of Vietnam to the back woods of middle America. There are plenty of explosions both real and some rather poorly faked while our two brothers face each other down in a fiery “White Heat” styled climax.
Both Kris and Jan-Michael had movie star looks during the seventies and you could argue Kris has never lost that look. On screen they make for a good pairing and are totally believable as brothers. The classic tale of the good brother versus the bad. Just not so classic this time out. More like a poor man’s drive in classic.
Jan-Michael seemed to be making a name for himself in the vigilante market. He also starred in a classic “B” movie titled White Line Fever taking on the establishment and Defiance which had a very Death Wish 3 styled theme to it.
Also turning up you’ll have a chance to see a young Victoria Principal as Jan-Michael’s girl friend and the always welcome face of Dick Miller. The Corman brothers always seem to find a way to cast Miller into practically any movie they had there name attached to back in the sixties and seventies.
A recent release through Kino Lorber allowed me to re-visit this seventies time capsule. It’s only been a good 25 years since I last saw it on a late night TV airing. The blu ray disc also includes the trailer for this, Defiance and Kristofferson’s Convoy as well as commentary from director Armitage himself.