Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films - DANGEROUSLY CLOSE, BEST SELLER, NIGHT GAME and BLOOD RED on Blu-ray ""

Monday, March 9, 2015


DANGEROUSLY CLOSE (1986; Albert Pyun)
As far as in concerned, Cannon Films didn't make enough high school movies. Maybe there just wasn't enough profit in it for them, but I do think the world would have been better served if they had brought their special brand of exploitative action to the genre. Cannon always had a knack for making their films a bit more mean-spirited and more in the grindhouse universe than their mainstream contemporaries. In this case the story is about a student organization on a ritzy high school campus call "The Sentinels". They start as a kind of neighborhood watch for the school, but become horrific bullies who terrorize and intimidate the other students. When some kids try to stand up to them, things start to turn ugly. 
This film has an early sequence towards the front that reminded me a whole lot of the opening of BACK TO THE FUTURE. It's a long slow tracking shot that starts with clocks (and features ticking throughout) that moves across a number of items that establish character and plot very economically. I've always been a fan of this kind of opening and I wish movies would do it more often. It's hard to say whether director Albert Pyun and company were straight up ripping off BTTF, but my guess is the influence might have crept in there. As I said, a very economic opening. Speaking of economy, the film also establishes that it's main character is not so well to do financially within the first couple minutes if seeing him. There's a scene where he's making breakfast and he leans back from his chair and opens the nearby clothes dryer behind him. The place where he lives doesn't have space for a laundry room, so the kitchen doubles as both. It's a nice touch and subtle.
Actor John Stockwell, who also stars in the film, functions in the capacity of co-writer as well. He would go on to his own directing career years later (BLUE CRUSH, INTO THE BLUE) and continues to direct today. I am a big fan of Stockwell as an actor and it was enjoyable to see him take on the role of one of the menacing heavies in this movie as opposed to the more good-guyish types he often played. Cult actors Thom Matthews (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6) and Don Michael Paul (ROLLING VENGEANCE, LOVELINES) play chronies to Stockwell. The lovely ladies of this film are played by Carey Lowell, Deedee Pfeiffer and Karen Lorre. Miguel A. Nunez Jr. and Robert Rusler also have small roles. On top of a good cast, DANGEROUSLY CLOSE also has a solid soundtrack to boot. It features songs from T.S.O.L., Fine Young Cannibals, Robert Palmer, & Depeche Mode.  I couldn't help but be reminded of THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN - another Cannon films flick with a packed soundtrack. Albert Pyun is a curious figure. He's made a lot of less than spectacular movies, but this is certainly one of his best. He is probably most widely known for doing CYBORG with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Other than that though and his 1985 film RADIOACTIVE DREAMS (which I would love to see get a Blu-ray release by the way), there's a whole lot of schlock action films to his credit. He is kind of to action films what Jim Wynorski is to T&A movies. Like I said though, DANGEROUSLY CLOSE is absolutely one of his greatest efforts and well worth looking for.
DANGEROUSLY CLOSE is underseen but will hopefully pick up a few new fans via this Blu-ray release. It's very much in the MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH, CLASS OF 1984 and SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE wheelhouse and fans of those films should appreciate it.

BEST SELLER (1987; John Flynn)
John Flynn is a hugely underrated dude in my eyes and this is one of this underrated dude's more underrated efforts. If you haven't seen ROLLING THUNDER or THE OUTFIT, jump on that forthwith to familiarize yourself with John Flynn and his abilities. Continue on to LOCK UP and OUT FOR JUSTICE for some of his more well-known output, both of these are a lot of fun too. BEST SELLER is like John Flynn's Hitchcock movie. Sure, it's very much of it's time, but Larry Cohen's script makes for nice conspiracy thriller of a movie. This one is all about an author/cop who is approached by a gentlemen who says he's a hit man and that he wants the cop to write a book about him.
BEST SELLER has James Woods (the hitman) firing on all cylinders backed by a badass Brian Dennehy (the cop). There are many familiar "that guy" actors here as well (George Coe, Charles Tyner and Paul Shenar to name a few). Let's talk about Brian Dennehy for a minute. I've always thought of him as kind of a blue collar actor. He tends to play a lot of blue collar characters. A lot of cops. It works well. He's a stockier fella and his build would suggest him as believable as an "everyday guy" kind of hard working type. He makes me think of my dad for some reason (though my dad was never a policeman or anything). I know my dad was/is a fan of his. So Dennehy has this inherent likability to him and he's a solid actor. Then there's James Woods. Much cagier in terms of the characters he plays. Many of them are kind of assholes. That said, Woods too has a tendency towards streetwise criminals, sleazy gents and also the occasional cop. He and Dennehy couldn't be a better pairing and I can't even express exactly why. Maybe the two sides of the same blue collar coin? Who knows, but it works. Both actors are at the top of their game here and are given scenes within which to get angry and show their trademark intensities (apparently, James Woods' mom always thought BEST SELLER was her son's best movie). I like the energy of this movie. It feels like a bit of William Friedkin (the 80s Friedkin of TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.) with that aforementioned Hitchcock flavor. There's also perhaps some 70s paranoia in there too. My mind kept going to things like THE PARALLAX VIEW and the stuff Alan Pakula was doing around that time. The 1980s was a lovely time for thrillers. Thrillers were plentiful - though they weren't all conspiracy thrillers like this. The conspiracy thriller has always been a fun genre for me. I've always liked the idea of a character existing in a world where no one can be trusted. Where powerful corporations have groups of trained hit men on their payrolls. It seems hyberbolic in some ways, but truthful in some capacity at the same time. In this day and age of the most gigantic multi-national corporations we've ever seen, it's hard not to think about what they wouldn't do to stay on top.

This comedy trailer for BEST SELLER is fun:

NIGHT GAME (1989; Peter Masterson)
It seems like a lot of folks have never heard of this little movie with some very ROLLING THUNDER-inspired artwork. I think that a lot of Roy Scheider's mid to late 80s work is a bit forgotten. Some might say justifiably so, but I believe there is merit in movies like 52 PICKUP and COHEN AND TATE as well as others. NIGHT GAME is right in line with the thriller-y stuff Scheider was doing during this period and it's been unjustly forgotten. This may be partially due to the fact that this movie never have much of a DVD release (it was put out on MOD, but extremely quietly). When the credits roll on this one and you see the name of George Litto pop up, it may give you some idea of what you're in for. Litto is a great producer who worked with Brian De Palma on a couple of his best films (DRESSED TO KILL and BLOW OUT) as well as several other interesting features (OVER THE EDGE being one of them). And while director Peter Masterson ain't no De Palma, he's still capable enough to make a slick thriller. I think people have forgotten how popular thrillers were for a time in the 80s and 90s. Hollywood (and the independents too) were just churning them out. Nowadays we have stuff kind of along those lines, but it's mostly Liam Neeson action movies that provide the tension in theaters. Back in 1989 though, it was still very much in vogue to have a psycho on the loose killing people in violent ways. Said psycho must be found and stopped and there was usually a cop on the job. Roy Scheider is that cop. And he's backed by a fun supporting cast of Paul Gleason, Lane Smith, Carlin Glinn and Karen Young. There's little it like more than a scene with an over zealous Paul Gleeson and Roy Scheider going head to head. It's a beautiful thing.

While it's no NIGHTHAWKS (I'm not damning with faint praise, I dig that movie), NIGHT GAME is a fun thriller with a hook hand guy killing folks. It's fun for the whole family!

BLOOD RED (1989; Peter Masterson)
Land wars are a bitch ain't they? When rich Irishman Dennis Hopper wants to build a railroad through vineyard land owned by a Sicilian family (Giancarlo Giannini, his son Eric Roberts and his daughter Julia Roberts), you know things aren't going to end well. Giannini won't sell his land so Hopper has to call in some serious goons (led by a malevolent Burt Young). And so begins the intimidation, the property damage and the shooting. Lots and lots of shooting. This movie came at the tail end of Eric Roberts' heyday in the 1980s. From 1983-1985 was his richest period and the decline in quality and profile of movie work declined after that. He was coming of off the not-too-well-remembered fish out of water hippie comedy RUDE AWAKENING (with Cheech Marin) prior to BLOOD RED. Outside of Eric Roberts' presence in the movie, I am also intrigued by it being a Hemdale Film Corporation production. The Hemdale logo is one that I always remember quite fondly as it precedes one of my favorite movies (MIRACLE MILE). I was unaware until recently of many of the other films that John Daly and Derek Gibson made under the Hemdale banner. It's curious to me that MIRACLE MILE and BLOOD RED both came out in the same year, both were produced by Hemdale and yet I'd never heard of the latter until now. I am intrigued bu the idea that somewhere in Los Angeles in 1989, Anthony Edwards and Eric Roberts swapped stories over drinks at a Hemdale function.
I find this movie amusing as a predating footnote to TRUE ROMANCE. We all remember that famous scene between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken right? Sometimes known as "The Sicilian Scene". It is interesting to see that Hopper's conflict with the Sicilians back a few years.
Other than this being an early role for Julia Roberts, there are also a bunch of other famliar folks in this flick. Faces spotted in this movie: Michael Madsen, Elias Koteas, Aldo Ray, Susan Anspach and Carlin Glynn (the mom from SIXTEEN CANDLES).

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