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]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster (1989)

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I've been meaning to get after this one for a while. In part it's the Lorenzo Lamas factor, but more than that, this has been said by many to be Lamas' best film, including Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic (that link is to his review of this film). As a huge Lamas guy, I needed to know how true this is, but the fact it wasn't available on DVD, and hard to find on VHS, meant it was put on hold. But I kept my ear to the ground, and managed to get all three Lamas Snake Eater films in one fell swoop.

Snake Eater II has Lamas as Soldier, a crazy cop who comes up with all manner of violent contraptions to trap and kill bad guys. After a bloody rampage in a drug house that sold coke laced with rat poison, Lamas is sent to a mental hospital. While there, his friend Speed Boat on the outside keeps him in the loop about who's next on the drug dealer food chain, so Lamas can eventually get to the top and exact his revenge.

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Before we discuss whether or not this is Lamas' best ever, let's look at it on its own merits. Solid action: check. Does the plot adversely affect the action? Not at all. Does the hero kick ass? That could've been better. Snake Eater II took the idea of The Punisher, then made the main character more of a twisted MacGyver. The problem was, there were too many silly digressions in the mental asylum. I don't even know why he was put in there, considering he could break out whenever he wanted. Why not just put him on suspension, make him go to the hot psychiatrist in order to be reinstated, and continue having him do the killings of bad guys he did on the sly. It just would've worked better. Overall though, not a bad deal.

I went through the archives, and based on my overall recommendations, this might be Lamas' best in my opinion as well. That might not necessarily be a good thing, because this is his 21st film we've reviewed, and I haven't given that many thumbs up. In fact, he might have the lowest total average of any Hall of Famer. In the end, I got The Rage and Bounty Tracker slightly ahead of this, and Bad Blood aka Viper slightly behind it, but I'm not married to any of those rankings. The truth is, unlike Dolph, Seagal, or even Daniels, I look for Lamas films to be silly. I mean, I look for the films of those actors to be silly too, but I also want them to be awesome. If I see Lamas disguised like Jeff Foxworthy, like he was in Mask of Death, I feel like it was a good film. So this may be Lamas' best film ever, and though that's not really saying much, that's okay too. He's not a Hall of Famer because he's awesome, he's a Hall of Famer because he's silly, and I'm fine with that.

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I always love the hot psychiatrist in the bad action film. The hair up and glasses, the white lab coat open, revealing a tight sweater and short skirt. As the film goes on, her clothing and demeanor become sexier and sexier. For Snake Eater II, we had the lovely Michele Scarabelli, who just celebrated her 55th birthday on April 11th. You may remember her from Air Wolf. She never actually has any love scenes with Lamas on screen, and I wonder if that had to do with Kathleen Kinmont, who was also in the film in a very small part. Their relationship was pretty new when this film was made.

Speaking of Kinmont, this is her fifth film reviewed, tying her with Jillian McWhirter for the most by a non-Hall of Fame actress (Cynthia Rothrock's 10 is the most overall). It seems like this should be surprising, or demonstrate that I need to work to get more women tagged on here, but that isn't really the case. The 1980s and 90s bad action industry often employed unknowns to play the hottie opposite the star. Either that, or they'd take a woman from another medium, like Soap Operas, and that would be her only DTV action role ever. The Kinmonts and McWhirters are the exceptions, not the rules. Shannon Tweed and Angie Everhart are two examples of women who do a lot of DTV sexy thrillers, but not so many action, sci-fi, or horror films, and readers just don't come here for sexy thrillers (at least as far as I know they don't), so they may have a large DTV oeuvre, but their films don't make it up here that much. (If anyone's wondering, I do have a few from each in my Netflix queue, top of the list Executive Target with Everhart.)

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Finally, a quick shout out to Ron Pallilo, who reprised his role from the first film as Torchy. He just turned 61 on April 2, one day after I turned 31. He's only had 10 credits since Snake Eater II, but it's one he had before that that caught my eye. In 1983 he did a DTV version of The Tempest-- yes, that The Tempest, the one written by Shakespeare. He played Trinculo, the Jester. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was the only other name I recognized, and he played Prospero. I haven't read The Tempest in years, and when I picked up my big collected works of Shakespeare book, the thing was all dusty and falling apart. I bought it for $5 on sale at Barnes and Noble, so I guess I can't complain too much. If you're wondering, best Shakespeare quote ever: "What, is my beaver easier than it was?", from King Richard III.

It may sound like through my review that I'm disagreeing with Kenner, but he only gave it three stars, and I'd say my review is right in line with that. Maybe it's a commentary on Lorenzo Lamas that his best film is only a three-star rating, I don't know. I definitely recommend this, though. It's hard to find, but if you see it for a couple bucks on VHS, go for it. What would be nicer is if all three were to be released on DVD in one package for $10-$15, but I don't ever see that happening. Anyway, better than part one, and we'll see in a couple weeks if it's better than part three as well.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102950/

2 comments:

  1. It is on DVD actually, you'll probably to keep an eye peeled to find it though. I actually found this and the first at Suncoast before said chain went broke. Indeed I found the third one in a Grocery store (Cub Foods) for 4.95 so keep an eye peeled, it is available. http://www.amazon.com/Snakeeater-II-Lorenzo-Lamus/dp/B00005MM6J/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1271965179&sr=8-1 In fact you can get it cheap of Amazon.

    Mask Of Death would be up there as one of Lamas' best. As would Bounty Tracker. Wow, I look over Lamas' filmography and he hasn't got a lot of good movies. I actually liked Terminal Justice which you didn't but, aside from that I'm drawing blanks. Indeed The Rage was one of Lamas' better films but not a recommendation from me (and it probably would've been more of one had it had a better lead actor) Night Of The Warrior was watchable but in a train wreck sort of way as it was actually about Lamas fighting so he could open up a painting gallery. Circuit 2 was unintentionally hilarious, Blood For Blood was okay but due to James Lew's commanding presence, Bad Blood I remember being pretty lame and the Swordsman, CIA and really all his PM efforts were terrible. I call it as I see it, the truth of the matter is, as much as I like Snakeeater II, it still hints at but doesn't really get to the heart of Bad Action. I mean it's good but it's not like Bloodsport,Kickboxer,Death Wish 3,Revenge Of The Ninja,Out For Justice, The Punisher, Road House, American Ninja, Commando, Rambo,They Live etc.

    Indeed Lamas doesn't even have the one lucky break film that I would compare as a defining B.movie, like say Kickboxer 2 and 4, Nemesis, King Of The Kickboxers, Rage, Last Man Standing and Bloodfist III, which I consider in the upperdeck of my three star reviews. Indeed Snakeeater II is a solid three star rating, but still aways from anything more.

    Also Larry B. Scott was a big part on why this film was so fun, I think his comic timing made the movie so breezy and fun. The film was also well made but it's only a decent B.movie and that's the best Lamas has done with me.

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  2. That's good to know, because for a while the DVDs weren't available.

    Lamas really is an interesting case, because you look at other Hall of Famers, and he has no signature film. Dolph has many, Seagal has Pistol Whipped, among others, Daniels has Rage, even Olivier Gruner has Nemesis. Lamas's signature role was actually on Renegade; but it's because he was on Renegade that I would seek out his films, and why I've seen so many of them. Plus, I watch bad action as much to make fun of it than anything else, and no one delivers on that as much as he does.

    I'll do Snake Eater III in two weeks, and from there I have a lot of places to go next, but we may take a little break on him while I look at the Hong Kong films.

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