Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Action/Adventure - Ira Brooker ""

Friday, August 15, 2014

Underrated Action/Adventure - Ira Brooker

Ira Brooker is a writer and editor living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He barely remembers what it's like to watch a well-regarded movie anymore.  He writes all over the place, and especially at atalentforidleness.blogspot.com, irabrooker.com and @irabrooker.

Death Promise (1977)
It's cheap, it's choppy, but this is one of the most giddily satisfying revenge flicks of all time. A multiethnic team of righteous poor kids hits the streets to pick off a cabal of wealthy slumlords one by one with a delightfully inventive repertoire of martial arts gore. It's pure 99-percenter wish fulfillment, and damn, does it feel good.

Captain Apache (1971)
In its early going, Captain Apache looks pretty much like your standard Spaghetti Western, albeit one with the questionable allure of Lee Van Cleef playing a Native American military officer. As the film plays on, though, it emerges as a singularly ambitious hybrid of Western, detective noir and blaxploitation, complete with a presidential assassination attempt and a psychedelic freak-out sequence set to a tripped-out funk track. Also, Lee sings the title song, if that's a value-add.

The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe (1973)
Exploitation mash-ups are always a dicey proposition, but this is one of the rare attempts that actually understands what makes each of its genres so entertaining. It helps that the good-natured tough guy whose journey is, to borrow a phrase from The Venture Bros, constantly waylaid by jackassery is a pretty standard plot for both Spaghetti Westerns and kung-fu flicks. Chen Lee gives an amiable lead performance as a put-upon Chinese immigrant who roams the West fighting racism, freeing slaves and making an increasingly grotesque roster of enemies, including Klaus Kinski as a sadistic knifesman who seems to be sexually aroused by human scalps. If that last bit isn't enough to sell you on it, I don't know what would be.

Crack-Up (1936)
The meat of this movie is tense, tightly plotted pre-WWII espionage with a satisfying array of double-crosses. That's all well and good, but the real draw is Peter Lorre playing an eccentric, possibly mentally challenged weirdo named Colonel Gimpy. Watching Lorre skulk around an aerodrome tootling on a bugle and obsessing over airplanes is just as strange and enthralling as it sounds.

Scorpion (1986)
Scorpion is a film so unremarkable that it's truly remarkable, a creation so thoroughly 1986 that it approaches historical importance. If there was even a hint of a smirk to this thing, it could easily qualify as a parody of '80s action movie clich├ęs. Fortunately every rote note of Scorpion is straight-faced and sincere, from the swarthy terrorists with vaguely Middle Eastern accents to the corrupt rich guy trying to play our hero for a patsy to the doomed partner whose death makes this personal. That hero, incidentally, is  a martial arts legend/mustache enthusiast/charisma vacuum named Tonny Tulleners who never appeared onscreen before or since and can best be described as a poor Dutch man's Chuck Norris. Tellingly, the blurb on the video box isn't a review of the movie, but rather a quote from Mr. Norris testifying that Tonny beat him at karate - twice!

1 comment:

Ira Brooker said...

I must correct myself - Tonny Tulleners beat Chuck Norris at karate three times. I need to read my VHS boxes more carefully.