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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Future Force (1989)

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I've been meaning to do this one for a while now. We're talking a film with DTVC Hall of Famer David Carradine, directed by Deadly Prey's David Prior, and produced by Action International Pictures (AIP). It just seemed too good to be true, but other things bumped it down the priority list. We're finally here now though, so let's see how it went. Also, our buddy Ty at Comeuppance Reviews did this about six months ago (and I said then I needed to add it to my to watch list).

Future Force takes place in the future, circa 20 years ago, when crime has gotten so out of control the government couldn't handle it and has outsourced it to a corporation. Through the corporation, law enforcement is essentially a ragtag group of de facto bounty hunters acting as judge, jury, and executioner, and the best of that bunch is lone gunslinger David Carradine. When a local TV news reporter gets evidence that the corporation head is not a great guy, he puts a bounty on her head that he hopes his own personal cops will take care of, but Carradine jumps them in the queue and gets to her before them. Now they're both on the company hit list, and it's up to Carradine to keep himself and her alive long enough for the rest of the world to learn the truth.

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This one had a lot of fun moments, but it also has some dead spots, and both ends of that dichotomy are embodied in the film's star, David Carradine. Sometimes he's a really cool Western style hero, with a cool gunslinging style and great one-liners; and other times he looks like he's just mailing it in, and the movie suffers in those moments. The funny stuff is pretty prodigious. First and foremost, there's the power glove. On the image page I embedded a YouTube video of it attacking late veteran character actor Robert Tessier-- all by itself, not on Carradine's hand. That was pretty fantastic, and the kind of thing you're going into an AIP picture for. Second, we had the other officers, and they looked like rejects off the Waterworld set. Eye patches, mullets, denim vests, cigar chomping. That's easy heckling material. Third, the perfunctory helicopter explosion was carried off by a man dressed like a reverend. I love seeing a man of the cloth pick up a rocket launcher and dispatch a helicopter. Fourth, the music was sweet, great fist-pumping 80s stuff. Finally, the mistakes, like "Demiliterized Zone", which I love, but I know some people see that and run to imdb to kill the film. If this had more action, and had a more engaged Carradine, this would've been fantastic; but it didn't, so ultimately it's just a fun bad movie night movie, but nothing spectacular.

Carradine was 52 when he made this-- his character was listed as 40-- and as we've seen with other great action actors, 52 isn't always the end. But there were times that this 52 was like 70, the way he had trouble in hand-to-hand combat with Robert Tessier-- himself no spring chicken when this was made either. I don't hold that against him though, that's the film makers' faults for putting him up to it. There were other times when he seemed disinterested, and that was a little tougher to take. It's hard to tell, because his character was supposed to be that gruff, withered, seen it all on the streets, hardened vet who's seldom impressed or excited, and is always sardonic. I don't know, Clint Eastwood played that part a lot in Westerns, and he didn't make it feel so mailed in at times. On the other hand, when Carradine doesn't make it feel mailed in, when it is that Old West throwback gunslinger, it's really cool and a lot of fun to watch. Maybe it was the material more than him-- can you blame him?, he was pushing the same button on a cheap remote control, pretending that it was directing a big mechanical glove at Robert Tessier.

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I want to draw your attention to the rare Poodle Mullet. It occurs when an Italian or other swarthy Mediterranean type with curly hair tries to match his straight-haired brethren's Ape Drapage. Frankie Banali, drummer of Quiet Riot, had perhaps the most famous instance of the Poodle Mullet, and that one was much more robust than the one here. This one in Future Force is crossed with a pork roast though, making it even rarer. What we're looking at is a guy who had a falling out with his father, quit the family butcher shop, and got a job downtown at a nightclub as a bouncer. From there, someone casting for this movie spotted him, and asked him if he'd like to be in a film. (Of course, this is all conjecture, but the series of events seem pretty realistic, right?)

Right below us is a late 80s/early 90s phenomenon. This guy was ubiquitous back then. You could find him at the grocery store in a BUM Equipment sweatshirt and zebra-style NFL team logo pants, acting like he knew what he was looking for and hoping to attract all the women, but really looking lost with his basket full of TV dinners. You could find him on TV, interviewed by the local sports guy about how poorly the team is doing. I know I've seen him on MTV Spring Break from that era, yelling out his college to Kevin Seal and Cindy Crawford. To see him here though, in this movie, where his cohorts are Carradine, or the pork roast Poodle Mullet guy, or the eye patch guy, he seems way out of his league. He needs to go back to the arcade in his denim jacket and play some Cruisin' USA with his buddies.

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I want to use this last paragraph to bring up a few people. First, there's the late Robert Tessier, who died not long after this came out. An excellent character actor who is always great as the hired muscle in a film like this, but here he gets to be even better as the baddie's main hatchetman, and he does that well. Also, like Carradine, he was over 50 (55 when this came out), but unlike Carradine, he doesn't seem nearly as tired. Speaking of the main baddie, he was played by William Zipp, who was also in Deadly Prey. Like Tessier, he seemed to have a lot of fun as the baddie, and it'll be cool to check out more of his stuff as we do more AIP flicks down the road. Speaking of that, we then get to David Prior, who has done about 30 DTV flicks in his time, of which, we've only done Deadly Prey and this. That needs to change, and I can't wait to go through his filmography and see what gems we uncover.

This is actually available on DVD, and I believe even available in a value pack with part 2, Future Zone. It really is about how much you fancy yourself a collector or bad movie buff, because this doesn't have as much to offer someone who isn't otherwise a Carradine or AIP fan-- and even then, it's kind of stretching it. I say pull the trigger if you find it cheap, or someone you know finds it and lets you borrow it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099624/

11 comments:

  1. Great review. I need to put this one on my list. Mr. Prior is one of the best bad movie directors out there. There's Deadly Prey, of course, but Killer Workout--aka Aerobicide--is also a classic.

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  2. Oh man, Killer Workout, that's one I need to check out, it sounds great.

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  3. Great review! Haha, loved that you mentioned his age and the poodle mullet.

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  4. Thanks, and yeah, that Poodle Mullet just struck me, and was featured rather prominently throughout the film.

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  5. I think I remember the german vhs artwork, which looks waay cooler than what you put up..thats just looking bad...have to check it out..

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  6. I remember this one, but mainly the bad U.S. VHS cover more than anything. lol. Great review! I'll be sure to give it a shot if it ever hits Netflix.

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  7. You can get this on DVD from Netflix, if you still have DVD account (I don't), and the sequel is available too I think. It's not on streaming though.

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  8. Cool, I'll have to check it then. I think I'm one of the few people left who still has both the DVD and Streaming services. lol.

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  9. Yeah, I wasn't going to, and I may get it back, but I just found over the past few months that the quality had dipped, I was getting too many damaged discs (I went back through my history, and found I'd had more between July and August than I did in the entire three years before that combined), and more of the DVDs I wanted were passed over because of "Very Long Wait" status, meaning, with me dropping down to 1 DVD at a time, I was essentially paying $8 a month for a weekly spin of the roulette wheel to see what DVD they wanted to send me. What I may do instead is pay the $8 for Hulu Plus.

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  10. Man, that sucks. If I was in your shoes I might go that route too, but to date, I've never had an issue with a damaged disc. I do the 2 movies at a time plus the streaming and my only real complaint would be that some of the films I really, really, really want to see aren't available for streaming sometimes.

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  11. Yeah, I did the two at a time myself (started at 3 at a time, which, when I started, is the same price as 1 at a time is now-- and that price jump has only been since last year!), then dropped down to one for about a month, before I said the hell with it. Also, the plan was to clean out my instant queue some and fill in the gaps here and there with Red Box. Then Red Box decides to up their prices too, and the pain of having to get the movie and see it and return it is enough of a pain that Netflix's DVD service is looking desirable again.

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