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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Only the Strong (1993)

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This is an oldie but goodie, though calling it an oldie doesn't sound right. 19 years ago? This thing is older than most kids on Tumblr! How did the 90s become so long ago so quickly? But I think movies like this only get better with age, and with Watch Instantly getting ready to dump it, I figured I'd make a trip down memory lane before I missed my chance.

Only the Strong has Mark Dacascos as a Green Beret working down in Brazil training the locals, where he learns the Brazilian fighting style of Capoeira. After his honorable discharge, he returns to his old haunts in the Miami projects, where he finds his high school in disarray, the teachers disillusioned, and the inmate running the asylum. After he takes down the Rasta guy from Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video though, and the kids are into it, he and his old teacher buddy, Geoffrey Lewis, decide to try this Capoeira thing on the 12 worst kids in the school, to see if they can be rehabilitated. But when one of the kids' drug lord cousin threatens Dacascos and the kids, it's up to him and them to fight back. Will they prevail?

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This one has definitely gotten better with age. All of those nostalgic notes add to the overall vibe, from the clothes, to the hairstyles, to the music. It all takes you back to 1993. Also, the sappier, cheesefestier moments seem much more fun than they would've been to a 14-year-old me watching this when it was new back then. Dacascos turns in a solid performance, and his martial arts are on-point as usual; plus Geoffrey Lewis and Stacey Travis (who plays Dacascos's love interest) were solid in support. Add in the goofy montages, some decent fights, and that classic "Bah-nah-nah-weh" soundtrack, and you've got yourself a good time.

After seeing this now, and knowing that Dacascos didn't become the huge star that we thought he'd be from this breakout role, it's interesting to see why it didn't work out for him. I think to start, this didn't do as well in the theater, though for 1993, $3 million-plus is pretty good; then you throw in the dud that was Double Dragon, which set him back a bit. In 1998, I think we thought he had it again when he starred in the Crow syndicated TV series, but, unfortunately that only lasted two seasons. So for the most part he's ended up here in DTV work, which has been our gain. You can see in Only the Strong how much talent he has, and it would be nice if now, 19 years later, he'd get more starring roles, especially in DTV stuff, what with the DTV market having a little more credibility now.

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Yes, we're spotlighting Geoffrey Lewis, but we're also spotlighting that too sweet vintage Izod/Lacoste polo he's rocking. If you look Lewis up on imdb, he has over 200 acting credits. The guy gets after it, but it seems like it's in Sheldon Lettich's films that he gets the bigger supporting parts, which is good, because it showcases his versatility, like here, where he plays a teacher. Here's to you Geoffrey Lewis, you're one of the good ones; and here's to that vintage polo too. I actually found one of those at a Goodwill in Portland, ME for $3. I think you can get like $50 or $60 for it on eBay.

Speaking of Sheldon Lettich, a couple months ago I posted an interview Marcos Freitas did with him on our DTVC Tumblr page. It's really cool and worth checking out. He doesn't talk about this film much, but does get into more of his collaborations with Jean-Claude Van Damme, plus some backstory tidbits, like his dealings with Frank Dux, who did the fight choreography and had a small cameo in Only the Strong. I had heard some of the stuff before, but it's always cooler to get it from the director's mouth.

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There were a lot of cool vintage moments in this. I mentioned the polo. We also had a sweet Poison logo on one of the kids' shirts. I remember when I was a little younger than I was when this came out, I had a bunch of hair metal T's, including a couple Poisons, and I'd wear them to Sunday school. The kids who had to dress up were jealous of me. We also had this guy in the film, the Rasta from the end of the "Black or White" video. His name is Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter, and it looks like he still works somewhat, having imdb credits up until 2007. It seemed like this guy was everywhere in the early 90s, so it's cool to see he's still doing his thing.

If you haven't seen this in a while, I'd give it a look. I don't know if in 1993 I'd be giving it the solid recommendation I am now, but it's 2012, and 1993 feels a lot more fun twenty years later. Think of it as a form of cinematic comfort food. You can't go wrong with the 90s.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107750/

7 comments:

  1. Good review! Haven't seen this one...Will have to check it out. Can't believe this is almost 20 years old! Time goes by too quickly.

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  2. Really dug this film myself(though I didn't mind Double Dragon either) favorite scene was when Mark busts up a chop shop.

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  3. Yeah, I love this one as well. It would make a great double bill with The Substitute. I still think the title should've been Lean on Me or I'll Stand and Deliver a Roundhouse Kick to Your Face.

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  4. Within the last year, I've introduced Only The Strong to about 10 of my friends, and all have loved it.

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  5. We are the same age, and your love for this movie cements the idea that we have similar tastes, too.

    I loved this movie back then, so I can only imagine how great it would be now. If at one point during/immediately after watching this, you didn't give Capoeira a 'try', you are a stronger man than I.

    At least tell me you used Eddie in Tekken...

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  6. "This one has definitely gotten better with age." Couldn't agree more. Still a cool film and one of Dacascos' finest. Nice review..

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  7. Oh man, this was actually one of my favorites back in the day, when Lettich was making films that actually went to the theater. Sadly this kind of film would never make it to the big screen anymore, those days are long gone. But there was a time! I also remember thinking Dacascos was going to break out big time with this, but that never happened and I never understood why. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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