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.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Blood of Heroes aka The Salute of the Jugger (1989)

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Back in June Moe at Drunk on VHS came to me to see if I would be back on his show to discuss this film.  After the great time I had with him and Jon from The After Movie Diner discussing Hard to Die, I was excited at the opportunity to do another pod.  Of course, the episode devolved into Moe, Jon, and I discussing subReddits about people dry humping bags of dog food.  Also, it was after this episode that Moe and Jon decided to create their own night of live podcast programming on Wednesday nights, and they asked me if I'd like to do my own show on their night, which is what led to the creation of the DTVC Podcast with Jamie and me.  Finally, this film was also covered by our friend Mitch at The Video Vacuum in his Rutger Hauer-Palooza.

The Blood of Heroes takes place in a brutal, post-apocalyptic future.  In it, a game known simply as "The Game", played by "Juggers", is all the rage.  It's a macabre spectacle in which a dog's skull is the ball, and the goal is to post the skull on the other team's stake-- the catch being that there are no rules governing how you stop the other team from winning.  DTVC Hall of Famer Rutger Hauer plays a disgraced former star who leads a barnstorming team from watering hole to watering hole to play for money.  When spunky newcomer Joan Chen pushes the team to go to one of the big cities to challenge a pro team, at first he disagrees, but then they all decide to go for it.  Will Rocky be able to prevail against all odds?  Will the spunky Bad News Bears get it done?

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I don't know what to think about this movie.  It's not the worst thing ever, but overall it is still a Rocky or Bad News Bears paradigm with the only differences being that it takes place in the future and it's brutal.  Rutger Hauer is as great as ever, and the rest of the cast was great too, including Delroy Lindo, Vincent D'Onofrio, and the aforementioned Chen, plus Richard Norton in a small cameo at the end.  I guess, for my money, if I'm watching a post-apocalyptic cheesefest, give me Mr. Norton in a leather vest with no shirt and big gun driving an '84 Caprice Classic with no windows and spikes affixed to the front, blowing the shit up out of everything.  But that's just me.

Rutger Hauer is pretty great in this, but when is he not?  And this is no bait-and-switch, this is Hauer in his 80s prime doing is Hauer best.  One area where this film differs from the classic Rocky or Bad News Bears paradigm is that we have a character like Hauer who was once one of the best, and only had to stop due to a falling-out with one of the higher ups in the city.  That gives the Bad News Bears aspect of the team a level of quality that makes them less rag-tag, but it only works if Hauer sells it with his natural charisma and awesome-ness, and he does that in spades.  This is one of those ones that doesn't work in spite of Hauer, not in any way because of him.

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As I mentioned above, DTVC Hall of Famer Richard Norton also appeared in this at the very end.  He's an Aussie, and this was an Aussie production, so it makes sense, but I felt like he was there reminding me of what a post-apocalyptic cheesefest was really supposed to be like.  Okay, maybe this film was trying to do something new with it, and I applaud them for that, but to what extent is it really new if the end is the same, and a lot of how we get there is the same?  Maybe it was bloodier and more macabre, but it's still The Bad News Bears.  Seeing Norton, I rued the fact that we weren't driving old cars with black paint jobs and spikes and bars attached to it, that we weren't seeing big guns and exploding huts, that we weren't seeing Norton and Hauer kicking massive amounts of post-apocalyptic ass.  I guess we could also say that this idea of brutal futuristic sports was not entirely new either, considering we had films like Rollerball and Death Race 2000 that also banged home this idea, so who knows.

According to Wikipedia, "The Game" is actually played in real life, known as "Jugger", and they don't use a real dog skull, and I'm assuming it's also not as bloody or dangerous.  I guess based on the movie it originated simultaneously in both Germany and Australia, and they have international tournaments for it and whatnot.  Here in the States I see it becoming more hipster than Ultimate Frisbee and kickball, as thin, bearded, not-quite-athletes talk about how they play Jugger, and how they stopped playing Ultimate or kickball because everyone was playing those sports.  Lots of craft beer and food carts at the games too.

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As I mentioned above, this had a pretty robust cast.  Joan Chen was Hauer's costar, and if it weren't for the fact that he's a Hall of Famer, the first paragraph after the synopsis could have just as easily gone to her.  For the kids who love Twin Peaks, she's great, so you'll love that.  She's small enough yet driven enough that her character works as the newcomer Hauer believes makes the team good enough to challenge the pros.  And then there's Vincent D'onofrio as the kid who joined the team just before Chen.  This is the third film of his we've done here, the first being the fantastic Kill the Irishman, the second the lackluster Fire with Fire.  Then we had the great Delroy Lindo, who my wife and I loved in Crooklyn.  He's as great here, even with a smaller role.  Finally, I should have mentioned this earlier, this film was written and directed by David Webb Peoples, who wrote Blade Runner, Unforgiven, and 12 Monkeys.

So ultimately I'm not saying this movie is a pass, just that it didn't work for me.  No matter how you package it, it still seems like The Bad New Bears, only bloodier.  As far as purchasing it, used VHS or DVD is the way to go.  I want to thank Moe again for having me on Drunk on VHS with him and Jon.  If you want to check out that podcast right click here and then select save link as.  And remember, you can always catch Jamie and me live Wednesdays at 8pm EST at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094764/

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