Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - STRYKER and WHO? on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - STRYKER and WHO? on Blu-ray

STRYKER (1983; Cirio H. Santiago)
As a long time genre fan, I've truly come to appreciate ripoff movies. I mean, sure Hollywood is all about imitating any idea that seems to draw a profit, but their ripoff movies often tend to not get the job done. It's when smaller independent and foreign production outfits throw their hat into the ring that stuff can get interesting. Without they kind of thing, we'd never have the glorious JAWS knockoffs like PIRANHA and GRIZZLY (which would make me very sad as I love this movies). So it's fun to dig in and see the results when a Studio film strikes a chord with people and the imitation game begins. It's just fun to watch other folks jump in and use the shorthand that is set up by the more successful and often more polished films. MAD MAX established a post-apolyptic landscape and THE ROAD WARRIOR defined it even more. Then other flicks come in and don't have to do as much work setting up their worlds. Such is the case with 1983's STRYKER, which is a New World Pictures production directed by the remarkably prolific Philipino action master Cirio H. Santiago. Santiago is responsible for such gems as T.N.T. JACKSON, COVER GIRL MODELS, NAKED VENGEANCE, THE MUTHERS and VAMPIRE HOOKERS - among many others. The man was nothing if not a filmmaker who could crank them out. The film was written by Howard R. Cohen, a New World regular who scribed the DEATHSTALKER films and SATURDAY THE 14TH to name a few.
STRYKER opens with what looks like some kind of stock footage of a nuclear test explosion and is followed by a brief voice over narration that explains the post nuclear state of STRYKER's world. In this post apocalyptic wasteland (shot in the Philippines of course) has a different commodity shortage than the world of one Max Rockatansky. Instead of an apparent gas shortage (cars seem fairly plentiful, if outfitted with flimsy attack gear), this world sees its inhabitants on the hunt for water, which has become rare and as valuable as gold. As you might expect from a New World Picture, this movie has its fair share of action, chases, stunts, and shoddy costumes (some of the henchman look like they were outfitted on the set of DANGER DIABOLIK). Lots of leather, studs and football pads. The titular man himself is played by Steve Sandor, who reminds me of Dan Haggerty by way of David Hasselhoff or something. One of main villain dudes feels like a poor man's Sid Haig, but he feels oddly familiar. There's also a girl gang that's pretty cool (imagine "The Lizzies" from THE WARRIORS in a post apocalyptic context). It even has its own version of the Wilhelm Scream (it sounds more like, "Aaaaaaah!") that keeps cropping up. Overall, the film seems to have a higher budget than a lot of New World features - that or the money went a whole further in the Philippines (there are a few real tanks in this movie for one thing). The music anticipates the synthier parts of THE TERMINATOR score, which makes me think James Cameron must have at least seen it (based on his history working with New World, this seems likely). There is even a bit of the burnt out underground tunnels production design in Cameron's film as well that could have been influenced by STRYKER - though that may be a stretch. Anyway, if you're into the Italian post-apocalypse movies and cheese, then this one may be right up your alley. It was kind of right up mine.

Special Features:
Kino Lorber Studio Classics have stepped ip their game and have really been trying to add at least a new commentary track to most of their new releases and this one is no exception. The STRYKER Blu-ray includes a commentary track from the one and only Jim Wynorski. Love or hate his films, Wynorski is always entertaining to listen to. Wynorski worked with Cirio Santiago and has a long history with Roger Corman and New World, so he has lots of stories to tell. Director Damon Packard is there too to help moderate.

Buy STRYKER on Blu-ray here:
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WHO? (1973; Jack Gold)
This movie is a bit mysterious considering it came out during Elliott Gould's remarkable years. It was released the same year as THE LONG GOODBYE and just before CALIFORNIA SPLIT and BUSTING in 1974. The first thing I noticed was, "A Barry Levinson Production", which is really fascinating and I'd love to hear his memories of it at some point. 
Gould plays and FBI agent assigned to deal with the case of a recovering American scientist who was basically kidnapped by the East Germans. The man got into a horrible car crash near their border and he is taken in by them and saved by experimental surgery. The scientist's head, chest and left arm were crushed and they have been replaced by a lightweight metal alloy. His skull is a big round metal dome - a little like Destro's head (from G.I. JOE). After he's been away for close to six months, the East German's send him back to the states. Before the government will let him back in, the F.B.I. must determine if this "Robo Man" (the alternate title of the film) is indeed the man he was before the accident or if he's now some sort of spy sent to gather intel for the communists. Basically, Gould has to thoroughly interrogate him in any way that he can to try to make a determination one way or the other. It's a pretty simple premise, but this movie stretches it into a full movie plot through layered flashbacks and lots and lots of talking. It's not necessarily dull, but the movie has one real tough flaw in its character design. You see, the Robo Man looks quite ridiculous. The metal surface of his face looks real enough, but he looks like a slightly more humanized version of one of the robots from SLEEPER crossed with the Tin Man from THE WIZARD OF OZ. Also, throw in a dash of Vincent Price as "EggHead" on BATMAN and a some sort of luchador. It's laughable and weird and makes it really tricky to take the movie seriously. The character would work well in HEARTBEEPS, but not in a dramatic context. The only thing that kept me in it was Elliott Gould. That man is just amazing. Even when he's in something bizarre like this, he's still trying to play it straight and make the drama feel real (for the most part). It helps a little to have him, and the story that unfolds throughout the movie is compelling enough, but this one is more for the hardcore Gould fans like myself. It is an intriguing oddball anomaly from an incredibly fertile time in the career of one of our best actors. For that alone it's worth trying. It feels a little bit like a lengthy TWILIGHT ZONE that doesn't quite work. Oh, and did I mention that Trevor Howard is in this? Oh, and the Governor from BENSON is in the mix too.
Special Features:
This disc features a commentary from director Jack Gold. The track is decent, but is one of those that really peters out into long stretches of silence about three-quarters of the way in. Not bad.
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