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 11, 2013
Deadly Engagement (2003)
This is one of many Olivier Gruner flicks that hasn't been released in the States, which, of course, makes them not the easiest to get a hold of, though at least here we had a Region 2 UK release, which makes it a little easier. The irony here is that the production company is known as North American Pictures. This is why we do this though, for Czechsploitation flicks starring Olivier Gruner produced by a company called North American Pictures that are only released in the UK.
Deadly Engagement is about an Irish Balkan warlord (played by a man named John Comer, who is introduced to us while eating-- a little Spanish language humor for you), that specializes in white slavery, but decides to bump his game up a bit when he gets his hands on a nuclear warhead. He has a buyer too in an Arab dictator or something, but he needs some kind of access codes to make the bomb work. So he kidnaps Olivier Gruner's wife, because she's a big time physicist who knows about the warhead. Bad move, because now Gruner's on his way to take him down.
I guess we'll start with the worst part about this: it's not centered on our hero! Have you ever heard of an action film that spends more time showing the baddies? It doesn't make any sense, and I think had they made it more Gruner-centric, it would've been a fun bad movie. On the other hand, I don't really know what was going on here. It was part Women in Prison film, part bad actioner, with neither side winning out enough to make the other work. In a good Women in Prison film, there's a focus on some of the prisoners and their attempts to escape or something. All we had here were nameless women with no lines who just got naked from time to time. Again, we were too baddie-centric to make even exploitation work. Just sauteed in wrong sauce from the start.
What do we do with Gruner then? He had his moments, but he had so few. I found myself saying "hey, isn't Olivier Gruner in this film?" And in his one big moment, when he goes to rescue his wife, he can't even do that before Comer dry humps/rapes her (seriously, the film tells us he rapes her, but really he just feels her boobs and dry humps her, which, still an ordeal and would've been enough to sell as an ordeal, but not what I think the film was going for). I wonder what Gruner was thinking when he went for this. I have to assume the big thing he thinking was "I'm not in this much, so I should be able to get as much money as possible for as little work as possible." On the other hand, I have to assume if he had better and more consistent work, he wouldn't have to think like that. The guy can fight, and he has something of a sense of humor, it'd be nice to see him get more like the great films of his we remember.
On imdb, this is tagged as "Czechsploitation", so I clicked on it. I found mostly Women in Prison or Women in Bondage type films, you know, white slave trader type deals. I guess that's where that angle came in here. The nudity was not quite Skin-a-max level, it was mostly women naked except for their panties, with a few instances of women totally nude. No sex scenes either beyond the dry hump variety. Then we had the perfunctory whipping scene, though I don't think I've ever seen one more perfunctory than this one. The dominatrix type whipped at the air, and we heard cracking and screaming sounds from the background. That's fine with me, I'm not down with all that brutality stuff, but you may find it a bit fatuous.
I want to get back to the baddie-centric plot, because I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like that before. We've seen baits-and-switches before, but usually it's when we think the guy on the cover is the hero, only to find out it's a 300-pound pork roast or something instead. Here, Gruner was the hero, no one else was saving the day, and we still had something of a Gruner bait-and-switch. It wasn't as egregious as we've seen, but it was still weird to see these vast stretches of film where Gruner was nowhere in sight, and his wife and the baddie were bantering, or the baddie and his second in command were discussing their plans. It just makes for a movie that doesn't work.
I'm going to finish this with an interesting question: how would I feel about this film if it were a Filipino Women in Prison film from the mid-to-late 80s, directed by Cirio H. Santiago, starring Reb Brown or something, with Vic Diaz as the main baddie? Everything else is equal, even the baddie-centric plot. I want to say I'd be as hard on it, but I don't know. Then you start talking about a Japanese VHS of said film, man, I don't know.
But it wasn't a Japanese VHS of a Filipino exploitation flick, it was this Region 2 DVD of a Czechsploitation Gruner flick by North American Pictures Productions. For American readers, this isn't worth the effort. For my readers from across the pond: go Arsenal! And then, I'd avoid this unless you find it really cheap.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0255443/