The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got.



Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

To the Death (1993)


My friend at Movies in the Attic suggested this title. I like John Barrett, even if American Kickboxer sucked, and I always like to see Michel Qissi. As I've reviewed more and more films, I've come to realize that films from the early nineties tend be less of a crap shoot than their modern counterparts. Sometimes it's good to take one of these in to cleanse the pallet after a bunch of films made in 2009.

To the Death has martial arts star John Barrett as, what else, a champion kickboxer. He retires at the top, much to the chagrin of Michel Qissi, the top contender, who wants a look at Barrett so he can hush all the critics who say he isn't as good. At the same time, this dude who runs an illegal fighting ring wants Barrett, and he's less than stoked when Barrett turns him down. It's not long after that that Barrett's wife dies when a bomb blows up her car while she's driving it. Barrett blames Qissi, and his life spirals out of control through alcoholism. The illegal fight guy entices Barrett to join him, and Barrett takes him up on it. Bad move. Those illegal fight guys are always bad news, and this one's no different. Now Barrett has to find a way out, and he may have to rely on his old nemesis, Qissi, for help.


This was pretty sweet. It had some dry spells of no action, but for a 90 minute movie, they came and went quickly. John Barrett is probably a better actor than he is a fighter. If you compare him to someone like a Jerry Trimble or Don "The Dragon" Wilson, he comes across much better when he delivers his lines, but the action isn't always there in his fight scenes. I think, though, this film is better than American Kickboxer, because the fight scenes that are there don't expose Barrett as much. Plus, Michel Qissi gives the film some much needed credibility. And then, in those scenes without action, Barrett just sounds cooler when he talks than say, Wilson, which makes those scenes easier to take than usual.

This is the third John Barrett film we've done here, the other two being the aforementioned American Kickboxer, and the classic Gymkata. He doesn't have that many roles to his credit, which is somewhat puzzling. Maybe his martial arts skills aren't as spectacular on-screen as some of the stars I mentioned above, but his voice is very smooth and comes off as very realistic and he delivers his lines well, which is a major departure from most action stars, who let their skills do the talking. It amazes me that a guy who can fight, and can act, didn't get more work. Maybe he didn't want it.


It's always odd to see Michel Qissi in a film when he doesn't have his Tong Po make-up on. One thing that's interesting to note: in Kickboxer 4, someone else plays Tong Po. I never knew that. Isn't that horrible that I reviewed that film and didn't do my due diligence? I need to get my act together. Anyway, Qissi is good here as a bad guy. He has even fewer acting credits than Barrett, but I think in his case it's because he isn't a great actor, and his English leaves a bit to be desired. I'm sure it didn't help too that his most famous role, Tong Po, requires him to wear make-up that makes him unrecognizable when you see him as anyone else.

The female lead in this is a woman named Michelle Bestbier. It got me thinking, what exactly is the best beer? It's a tough question, and I think beer is one of those things where you can't compare them all equally, you know? PBR is one of my favorites, because it's really inexpensive, and I'm not inundated with horrible commercials telling me to drink it. A hidden gem high-end microbrew you may not know about is Southampton IPA. It may be hard to get outside of the East Coast. As far as other regional beers go, I liked Lone Star when I was in Texas, and Rainier was I was in Seattle. Bud Light is my favorite Beer Pong beer. And Newcastle is my favorite when I'm watching soccer. And you can't forget Guiness, just because. As I write this, I keep thinking of others, like Sam Adams Light to go with Indian food, or Tsing Tao with Chinese food. I guess I just love beer, and tons of it.


A man named Ted Le Plat reprises his role from American Kickboxer as Willard, the beat reporter covering the world of kickboxing. He kind of looks like Owen Wilson, which I think I mentioned in the American Kickboxer post. Barrett almost reprises his role from the previous film too, only he's Rick Quinn, not BJ Quinn. As far as I can tell, there's no relation to the two characters either.

If you see this in a bargain bin somewhere, go for it. Don't spend more than a couple bucks, though. It's plenty funny and what you'd expect from a 1993 kickboxing film. It's only available on VHS, so you'll only find it in some used bin somewhere, but if you're looking, and you see it, go for it.

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