Ah yes, the VHS/DVD rental era brings back so many fond memories for movie fans of a certain vintage. Meaning me. Much like the generation before me might recall the weekends of exploitation hits at the local drive-ins.
When the home video market took off it proved to be a great way for filmmakers not working for the majors to get their films seen and into the homes of would be fans. Horror titles were everywhere as were the action films. Sure we all knew what to expect when we rented the latest Chuck Norris flick and we’d all seen the majority of Arnie and Sly’s films on the big screen prior to their release at the local Mom and Pop video stores. But what about the likes of these action stars who to be honest, I’m not even sure I’d seen let alone recall aside from a long time favorite in the fifth film below and our first action star spotlight who will always have his fans thanks to both a legendary wrestling career and a kick ass John Carpenter flick.
Tough and Deadly (1995)
Produced by James (The Exterminator) Glickenhaus this above par action flick teams Roddy Piper with martial arts specialist, Billy Blanks, in a kick ass buddy/buddy outing with superior choreography to keep us action fans smiling.
CIA agent, Billy, “kicks” off the proceedings when he’s ambushed by a team of elite killers. Sure he lays most of them out in high spinning fashion but a poison dart soon renders him immobile. At least temporarily. Shortly afterwards he’s busted up in vicious car crash while trying to escape leaving him bloodied and near death. I’d label Billy the “Deadly” of the film’s title.
Then we have Roddy as the “Tough.” He’s a former cop turned P.I. and bounty hunter. He’ll show us his skills when taking on his latest bounty who goes by the name Tiny. Yeah he’s a behemoth but that won’t stop Roddy from taking him down for the three count.
Long story short. Roddy happens across Billy at the hospital and wonders if the bloodied guy in cuffs on a gurney might have a bounty on him. No such luck but when sneaking some prints from the doped up Billy, Roddy, will run interference when a hitman attempts to silence Billy for good by throwing the assassin out of the hospital window who freefalls to the ground below.
Billy’s got amnesia and Roddy takes him back to the office where the two quickly bond while working out. Looks like Roddy’s latest skip tracer is going to put him in trouble with the local Mob. The same Mob who happen to be in deep with some crooked CIA agents. The same ones who want Billy silenced.
Looks like our two action heroes are going to have to go rogue and deliver their own brand of explosive justice. A brand I’m liking. The fight choreography in this one is impressive and while Roddy has that brute strength working for him and had his popularity secured thanks to his stint in the World of Wrestling, I can’t help but wonder why Billy Blanks never scored a leading role in a major flick. Even if it was as a heavy opposite Van Damme, Snipes or Segal back in the day.
I’ll give this one a pass and easily recommend it to fans who like this sort of thing.
The Perfect Weapon (1991)
Released with the backing of Paramount, this action flick starring Jeff Speakman proved to be an enjoyable outing featuring the art of Kenpo Karate.
Speakman proves to be a beefier fighter leaning toward the heavyweight division. Plot wise this is a familiar story but don’t let that stop you from tracking down this Mark DiSalle directed effort that has Mariska Hargitay turning up in a role that must have been left on the cutting room floor. I’m not even sure she had any dialogue in the finished product.
Oh, the plot. Speakman was a troublesome youth who finds a home under the training of a Kenpo expert and no it’s not Pat Morita. He becomes an expert with a temper that hinders his progress and he moves on. Years later he’ll return to his hometown just in time to see old pal and storekeeper, Mako, being manhandled by the local branch of the Korean Mafia.
Speakman goes into action and looked mighty impressive to me kicking the hell out of some mob foot soldiers. Of course this makes him a marked man and doesn’t do much for Mako’s future either.
When the tank sized Professor Toru Tanaka turns up looking just as mean as he did opposite Chuck Norris in An Eye For An Eye, the bodies are going to begin piling up and Speakman is out for revenge. But who is it that controls the Korean Mob and uses Tanaka as his personal assassin?
Did you notice fan favorite James Hong’s name in the credits? Need I say more.
What did I take away from this kung fu fest? Left me wondering if we missed out on an above average action hero on the big screen that never came to pass. Looks as if Mr. Speakman never attained the status of an Expendable.
The Rage (1997)
I’ve no idea how many movies turned up on the rental shelves having bypassed movie theaters starring Lorenzo Lamas but this proved to be my introduction to the offspring of Fernando Lamas and Arlene Dahl in an action flick.
I settled on this one due to the talent listed on the DVD I came across. First off it’s directed by long time veteran, Sidney J. Furie, who gave us The Ipcress File and Lady Sings The Blues among many others.
Lamas is playing the standardized burned out F.B.I. agent who hates his boss, hard ass Roy Scheider, who has no love for Lamas either. Lamas is teamed with a new partner, Kristen Cloke, and their job is to track a militant group who are murdering and raping as they see fit. Since the production called for the group leader to be an insane psycho who can ham it up when called for, the producers fittingly hired Gary Busey who does indeed look and behave slightly past the edge of demented. Sadly, Gary was by this point long past the days when he was taken seriously as an actor and an action hero in his own right.
Lamas and Cloke are piecing together a trail to Busey and surely that’s not as easy as it looks. I swear there must be about fifty pages of script that weren’t filmed. Either that or things got slaughtered in the editing room as there are just too many jumps in logic.
Hey! That’s David Carradine. Never mind. 60seconds later he’s assassinated before saying too much to our FBI couple. Collecting an easy payday or doing someone a favor? No idea but thanks for making the effort anyway, David.
Yeah this one’s a stinker due to the plot holes but I do enjoy seeing Roy Scheider playing it tough. He’ll always be a screen hero to one who saw Jaws as a little fellah on the big screen. I must add that there are some top notch action sequences in the film and I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising considering the veteran who directed the film and yeah I did kind of like Gary’s send off.
Still not an easy one to recommend unless you’re liking the Scheider, Carradine, Busey trio. Sheepishly you’ll notice me raise my hand.
Now here’s a name for you nostalgia fans. Tonny Tulleners. Starring in the title role in his one and only credited movie role is Tonny Tulleners and to be honest there were times I was worried he didn’t have a pulse. Crown International put out this low budget affair that even had one time Marilyn Monroe costar, Don Murray, turning up as a senior suit working for the CIA.
Looking as if he’s just walked off a porn set of the 1970’s, Tonny, with his bushy 70’s mustache opens the film kicking the hell out of three guys who’ve been getting out of line in a bar over in Spain. A patron is quick to point out, “Did you see that guy move! Unbelievable.” Surely this was meant to build up the legend of Tonny Tulleners.
Tonny’s a cool dude. Drives a Porsche and globe trots wherever he’s needed which at this point in time is L.A. so it’s farewell to Madrid. It’s in L.A. he gets tangled up in a muddled plot involving a key witness under CIA protection against a terrorist organization.
When Tonny is off shift, his partner and the witness are taken out by a pair of assassins setting the stage for a revenge minded Tonny featuring plenty of poorly choreographed spinning dropkicks to the chins of bad dudes our hero will encounter in this 98 minute “B” from director William Riead.
While I’ve done my best to poke a little fun in Tonny’s direction, he may have been a supreme martial artist for all I know but the poorly constructed action sequences left me convinced they could have cast yours truly in the role and no one would have been the wiser. I may have even done a better job delivering the sparse dialogue assigned to The Scorpion.
and on to our final action star/flick spotlight …….
Alright so you don’t recall Tonny Tulleners. No problem. Surely we can all agree on remembering the legendary Dennis Hopper. But did you know Dennis starred as a Dirty Harry like cop who goes by the nickname, Nails, bucking the system as opposed to the scene stealing villain he’s most often associated with?
Directed by John Flynn (Rolling Thunder and Best Seller) Hopper is pure entertainment barking expletives and chasing both assassins and his ex-wife Anne Archer whom he maintains a sexual relationship with though they live apart. To kick start the familiar plot, Hopper’s partner is gunned down by a pair of Cuban assassins. One of which Hopper drops during the botched hit. Turns out Hoppy’s pal was onto a major drug smuggling ring but has been gunned down before telling our star player of his suspicions.
Not to worry. Hopper hits the nearest Cuban dive bar to raise hell where he’ll make enemies of Juan Fernandez and cult favorite Danny Trejo.
Fernandez, “Big time cop. Just like Clint Eastwood.”
Hopper, “I’m a little shorter.”
Long story short, there’s a major drug ring being run by Keith David who just happens to be an old enemy of Hopper. Hopper shines bright in this and it’s rather sad that this action outing isn’t better known or more widely available. I’ve still got a VHS copy but would love to see it receive a blu ray release. Hello KINO Lorber Studio Classics…….
Among the highlights are Hopper’s kinetic energy as he goes about kicking ass with his wide ranging vocabulary alongside Tomas Milian as a fellow cop Hopper keeps nudging to join him in his quest for revenge. Then there’s Anne Archer who I’ve always been a fan of playing it both sexy and needy when called upon.
And let’s not forget the attempted hit on a showering Hopper. Kudos to Dennis for throwing caution aside as he grabs his gun and minus any clothing smashes his way out the front door of his house to the street in an attempt to chase down his would be killer firing off 6 shots as the assassin’s car speeds away. His lovable pet hound will come up from behind dragging his shower towel for an added laugh. Yeah it’s hilarious and suits the character Hopper is portraying perfectly. He’s a loose cannon living on edge with little concern how he looks (clothed or unclothed) to the people he comes into contact with.
As he says, “I love animals. It’s people that make me puke.”
If you can locate a copy of this one and are a big fan of Hopper, I’m pretty sure you’re going to enjoy it. Not a fan of Hopper? I can’t help you other than saying, you should be.
5 films, 6 action stars considering we had two (Piper and Blanks) in the first title. I’d already seen Nails but the others were new to me. Both Tough and Deadly and The Perfect Weapon were nice surprises, The Rage and Scorpion were less than stellar while Nails proved a fun revisit.
Might there be a part 2 of Action Stars and Films You May or May Not Recall? Yeah, I think so considering I had plenty of titles and action stars under consideration for this latest idea/feature.
Anyone actually see any of these “forgotten” titles?