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.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Tough and Deadly (1995)


Last week we kind of hit a patch of three straight stinkers, and I find it can be taxing on both me as the writer, and you as the reader, if there's too much negativity here at the DTVC, so I figured I'd go to the well and grab this Piper/Billy Blanks gem. I had seen it originally on TNT back in the late 90s, but that was over ten years ago, and as I've found in revisiting these things, sometimes they aren't as good as I remember or as good as I thought they were.

Tough and Deadly is about a former CIA operative, Billy Blanks, who is captured, drugged, then escapes, only to wake up in a hospital bed with amnesia. Roddy Piper, a PI and bounty hunter, sees this John Doe as a potential payday, so he takes him in. As both start to learn just who Blanks really is, and how deep the shit he's in really is, it's possible Piper may have bitten off more than he can chew-- except he's Piper.


So my memory let me down again... because this was way awesomer than I remembered it! Billy Blanks and Piper were great, the action never let up, I mean, what more could you ask for? Yes, maybe Billy Blanks' amnesia was a tad contrived, and it seemed like it was only for the convenience of the plot that he would regain memories, but do I care? Not when the fight scenes are great and constant. Remember rule number one: don't let the plot get in the way of the action. Well, they followed that rule with very tangible, positive results. My only complaint was I'd have liked to see more Richard Norton. He has like two scenes in the film, and he and Blanks could've had some better fight scenes.

All this talk of me trying to get all of Gary Daniels and Michael Dudikoff's DTV catalog reviewed up here, and I'd completely neglected Rowdy Roddy Piper, which is asinine on my part. I'm not sure anyone outside of Dolph Lundgren, the Babe Ruth of DTV action, has turned in more consistent performances than Piper. The one problem with sorting out his catalog that we don't see with a Daniels of Dudikoff, though, is from about 2000 on, Piper has a lot of movies under his belt, but not a lot of starring roles. The next one of his we'll do is Back in Action, another Billy Blanks collaboration.


Before we discuss Mr. Blanks, Tough and Deadly did have another DTVC Hall of Famer in it, one of our faves, Richard Norton. As I said above, he only has two scenes, both of them fights with Billy Blanks. I feel like a complete ass, because Norton celebrated his 60th birthday back in January, and I completely missed it. I've been doing this a lot lately, so I should probably mark on a calendar every important DTVC birthday. As far as I remember right now, we have Steven Seagal's 59th coming up on April 10th, and Roddy Piper's 46th on April 17th. I'm not sure what Norton's next film will be, because you never know where he'll turn up, but according to my Netflix queue, he's in the Dudikoff flick Strategic Command, so plan on that one coming soon.

Now for Billy Blanks. This is the first film of his we've reviewed here, which isn't as crazy as you'd think, just because he hasn't done that much. His martial arts skills are off the chain, so I have to assume his lack of roles might be his choice. Another thing to consider is there aren't really any African American martial arts stars in the 80s and early 90s. I think if you're Blanks, it's like you're either in a Blaxploitation throwback, or you're a sidekick, and I don't blame him for not wanting roles like that. You can just tell from this movie that the people involved weren't used to shooting an African American hero. His face was often obscured by shadows because the lighting was set for Piper's paler complexion. That's too bad, because Blanks' skill set would've made him a Hall of Famer if he had the roles. Let's hope Michael Jai White gets more opportunities like he did in Blood and Bone to be a great DTV action lead, and Wesley Snipes can come in and take over for Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme as another former big screen star turned DTV action lead.


Finally, Phil Morris is in this as the bad CIA agent. Seeing him as a baddie when we know how funny he can be in things like Seinfeld and Black Dynamite was very surreal. There was no tinge of him as Kramer's lawyer, or a tongue in cheek Black Panther licking a bullet. I've always liked things like this, watching great comedic actors play it straight. I didn't know he's also the Martian Manhunter on Smallville. I guess I wouldn't know that because I don't watch the show, but still. Also of note, he celebrated his 51st birthday yesterday, on April 4th.

You can get this on DVD (not on Netflix, but on Amazon), but I scooped it on VHS for the nostalgia factor. Either way you do it, it's a fun time. This is just some good ol' 1990s DTV action, and there's never anything wrong with that.

For more info:


  1. I loved this film as well, few action stars have as much chemistry as Piper and Blanks do here. You'll definitely LOVE Back In Action. Blanks was in Expect No Mercy, Talons Of The Easle and TC 2000 with Jalal Merhi, he was also in Timebomb(which actually got a theatrical release) The Last Boy Scout(don't know how I missed him in that film) Assault On Devil's Island(A.K.A. Shadow Warriors)and Balance Of Power. Also i've got a suggestion for another series of films I think you should review-Andy Sidaris films, I'm really surprised that you haven't reviewed any of his films yet.

  2. I have Talons of the Eagle in my queue. You forgot Bloodfist on your list of films he's done as well. I should note that with every actor of note in any film I review, I will go over their imdb bio and cross reference any notable films with Netflix and Amazon to see what their availability is. What helps me more is if you or anyone else takes a few of those films off the top and gives me an idea on whether or not you liked them, or even more importantly, if you'd like to see me review them more or less then the others. With so many films out there, it's always good to have a direction to go one way or the other.

    As far as Mr. Sidaris goes, I've always seen him as that level below even Kenner's Lara/Zagarino level, into what I call the Strain/Penhall zone. (I have four zones: the Lundgren/Segal zone, the Daniels/Lamas zone, the Miles O'Keefe/Wings Hauser zone (what Mr. Kenner would call the Lara/Zagarino zone), and then the Strain/Penhall zone.) I'm not ruling Sidaris out, it's just you're the first one to request him, so maybe sometime down the road I'll give a couple a try. I remember Savage Beach et al from my USA Up All Night days.

  3. Well Expect No Mercy and Timebomb were pretty enjoyable(Blanks isn't in the latter all that much, though he does have a great fight scene near the end)Havne't seen any of his other films I listed yet. Also another Piper film you should check out is The Bad Pack, BTW i'm surprised you weren't all that big on No Contest, as that happens to be one of my favorite Die Hard rip-offs, it actually got a sequel of sorts called Face The Evil(which was another Die Hard rip-off, though that one takes place in an art museum. In that film Shannon Tweed returns and her character's anme is Sharon bell, just like in the first film, but she dosen't reference the events of the first film in any way. I think you oughta check that one out as well, it hsd both Lance Henriksen AND Bruce Payne in it, can't go wrong with either of those guys, let alone both of them. And Speaking of Payne, he's another guy you should try to ge ton here more.

  4. Let's start with Bruce Payne. You may have noticed that in the links section I have one to the great ladies at Bruce's Angels. For a while I had been keeping a good clip of Payne reviews, but he kind of trailed off as other actors, like Gary Daniels, became more prominent. It's actually not something I did on purpose, because Bruce's Angels has done quite a bit to get the word out about the DTVC, so I feel bad that I've neglected him for so long. I do own Howling VI, and just need to get around to doing it; but as you can see, with comic book movies, new releases, and then old releases by a lot of Hall of Famers that haven't been reviewed yet, it's easy for someone like Payne to be lost in the shuffle.

    I actually just read my No Contest review as I was writing this Tough and Deadly post. I just felt like Piper and Clay could've been used better, and that whole thing with the bomb set to the heartbeat didn't work for me. Maybe I was focusing too much on what it could've been than what it was, but what it was was rather nondescript, and what would've made it better was Piper and Clay, and they were non-factors.

    The Bad Pack is one I've had my eye on, so it's good to hear I should get my hands on it. Again, like I was saying above, people get lost in the shuffle, and if can happen to a Hall of Famer like Piper, it can happen to anyone.

  5. Yeah well I guess that didn't bother me because I already knew that they had limited screentime from the reviews of that film prior to watching it, yeah the heartbeat thing was silly and unnecessary, but it didn't really bother me much. Anyways I think you'll enjoy the sequel-Face The Evil more as both Henriksen and Payne are definitely not underrused(though Payne plays a good guy if you can believe it, and he's surprisingly convincing) Also speaking of Henriksen, one film of his that would make a great wild card post would be Excessive Force, when I first saw that, I wasn't even aware that it ever went to theaters. Also i'm surprised you don't have Thomas Ian Griffith tagged yet.

  6. King Of The Kickboxers is also something special. You haven't seen fightscenes like that.

  7. I don't understand why knowing ahead of time that The Dice Man and Piper weren't used well would make it less of an issue? It doesn't change the fact that they were misused. If you tell me going in that a movie sucks, that doesn't make it suck less when I see it, just because I know going in to expect it to suck.

    And you're surprised I haven't tagged Thomas Ian Griffin? I'm surprised you're surprised. Let's see what happens with excessive force, but with that Wild Card post I like to do better known stinkers, or now use it to do a series on a theme.

    Yes, King of Kickboxers has been on radar for a while now, but I can't find an affordable copy anywhere.

  8. You still have a chance for a 10 dollar copy if you're quick.

    It's worth it though even on VHS. Although if you can't get it, you can always watch it on you tube. So yeah no excuse i'm afraid.

    Seriously this film is the bees knees. The American cut though is actually superior cause I remember telling you about that in E-mails but nonetheless this is fuckin great.

    Indeed I would even suggest you download if you have to. Why this isn't on DVD is ridiculous.

  9. Oh and uh Loren Avedon...great guy. I've met him and very underrated gent.