Shout! Factory returns with another dose of action-powered goodness in this 2-DVD set. Volume Two presents four more explosive flicks with high-octane star power and enough shootouts and hand to hand combat to enthrall any action aficionado. With films ranging from 1974 to 1988, this movie marathon is destined to capture the glory days of drive-ins and grindhouses where cult cinema like this ran rampant. Load those machine guns and wrap those fists as we hit the ground running on this collection…
Disc 1 pares two exciting gems from 1988 and 1974 respectively. First up, Gary Busey (“The Buddy Holly Story”) is “Bulletproof”. A Los Angeles cop/ex-CIA agent, “Frank ‘Bulletproof’ McBain” (Busey) travels south of the border to retrieve a top-secret attack vehicle which has been hijacked by Russian-backed Libyan terrorists. Darlanne Fluegel (“Battle Beyond the Stars”, “Pet Semetary II”) co-stars along with L.Q. Jones (Director of “A Boy and His Dog”), R.G. Armstrong (“Dick Tracy”) and the always reliable Henry Silva (“Trapped”). Next up, “Bamboo Gods & Iron Men” stars James Iglehart (“Savage!”) as champion boxer “Black Cal Jefferson”. While on his honeymoon in Hong Kong, an attempt is made by an underworld organization to recover a carved Buddha, which protects a substance powerful enough to control the world. “Cal”, along with his wife and mute companion, get caught up in the events and they are the only ones to put a stop to it.
Disc 2 opens with 1976’s “Trackdown” where a Montana rancher (Jim Mitchum) comes to Los Angeles searching for his runaway sister (Karen Lamm) who has become entangled in the dangerous world of drugs and prostitution. Erik Estrada (“CHiPS”, “Light Blast”), Anna Archer (“Fatal Attraction”) and Cathy Lee Crosby (“Coach”) co-star. Finally, Connie Stevens (“Two on a Guillotine”) headlines “Scorchy”, as a female undercover agent who will stop at nothing to bust a drug-smuggling ring. Cesare Danova (“Animal House”) and William Smith (“Conan the Barbarian”) also star.
Any film that headlines Gary Busey circa 1980s immediately has my attention. Busey has become quite the wildcard in recent years but always manages to have fun in whatever he’s in and his 80s output is no exception. “Bulletproof” is a nice companion flick to Busey’s 1986 outing “Eye of the Tiger”, which is found on Shout! Factory’s “4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon” Volume One release. Busey’s “McBain” character is no sissy and never cares for paramedic attention even when he’s shot. Instead, “McBain” removes bullets from his own body and after being shot nearly 40 times in his career, it’s easy to see where his nickname came from. As a Los Angeles cop, “McBain” is relentless and doesn’t stop until criminals are handled. Keep your eyes peeled in the film’s opening for a young Danny Trejo (“Machete”) as a baddie named “Sharkey”. It isn’t long before “McBain” is called back into top-secret action to recover an attack vehicle that was hijacked south of the border by Libyan terrorists. The Libyans were always a close second, next to the Russians of course, as the go-to villains in films from the 80s. If they weren’t shooting up scientists for stealing their plutonium, they were apparently hijacking military vehicles named Thunderblast. Henry Silva is in top form as the Libyan general “Col. Kartiff” who steals scenes with his chauvinistic attitude and evil accent. The race to recover Thunderblast gets personal when “McBain” learns that an old flame, played by Darlanne Fluegel, is taken hostage by the terrorists. In true 80s action form, Busey takes no prisoners and partakes in plenty of shootouts and explosive hijinks to recover his dame and the governments prized vehicle. Director Steve Carver was no stranger to the action genre helming Chuck Norris fare such as “An Eye for an Eye” and “Lone Wolf McQuade” before taking on “Bulletproof”. Carver handles the film competently with a story co-supplied by Fred Olen Ray (“Evil Toons”, “Cyclone”). “Bulletproof” has many moments of over the top fun with a quality genre cast to pull it off but there’s definitely been better before it and after. For diehard fans of 80s action, “Bulletproof” is worth checking out but this reviewer favors Busey’s turn in “Eye of the Tiger” more.
Next up, any action-packed marathon would feel incomplete without a little love from American International Pictures. James Iglehart (“Savage!”) stars as a champion boxer who inadvertently gets entangled with an underworld organization hell-bent on recovering a wooden Buddha that possesses a powerful substance. Iglehart brings his cool swag to the table as he TKO’s his way through the film alongside his beautiful wife, played by Shirley Washington (“Wonder Women”), and his mute companion “Charley” played by Pilipino Actor Chiquito (“TNT Jackson”). “Bamboo Gods and Iron Men”, besides possessing an incredibly cool title, is a film that never takes itself too seriously much to the enjoyment of the viewer. Fight sequences are often laughable but one can see they were trying. It is Iglehart’s delivery of lines and humorous relationship with “Charley” that makes the film. Unsurprisingly, Vic Diaz, who quite possibly appeared in every Pilipino-based production during this time, pops up as a hotel clerk. Some of the film’s highlights include a sequence where Iglehart and Chiquito teach other boxing and martial arts techniques as well as a massage parlor scene that ends in combat and Chiquito on the run in his birthday suit. As the underworld baddies close in on their prize, the film concludes with an unexpected, albeit hilarious, conclusion that will leave you in stitches. “Bamboo Gods and Iron Men” was a terrific ride of a flick that left me thoroughly entertained and laughing by the end credits.
Jim Mitchum (“Moonrunners”) headlines “Trackdown” as a Montana rancher on the hunt for his runaway sister on the seedy streets of Los Angeles. Being a fan of the “runaway retrieval” films of the 1970s, “Trackdown” was a welcome addition to this collection. The late Karen Lamm (“The Unseen”) co-stars as “Betsy”, a young country girl who travels to the City of Angels for bigger things in life. Upon her arrival, she encounters the handsome, part-time hoodlum “Chucho” (Erik Estrada in a pre “CHiPs” role) and the two lovebirds hit it off. Unfortunately, “Chucho’s” local gang acquaintances have plans for “Betsy”. “Chucho” is ruffed up and “Betsy” is raped, drugged and quickly sold to a high-level businessman with his hand in a call-girl ring. Mitchum and Estrada, along with a juvenile crisis worker played by Cathy Lee Crosby (“Coach”), befriend each other and stop at nothing to bring those responsible down. “Trackdown” was a true highlight for this collection with a terrific cast and an even better showcase of the sleazier sides of Los Angeles. Director Richard T. Heffron, who pulled double duty in 1974 with this film and the “Westworld” sequel, “Futureworld”, makes great use of Hollywood Boulevard where prostitutes, peep shows and cross-dressers run rampant. In addition, an early chunk of the film is shot in the Spanish Barrio where “Chucho” resides and serves as a great piece of eye candy. Bar fights and shootouts galore make up the majority of the action-orientated madness. When Mitchum learns the true fate of his sister, all bets are off which leads to an intense finale on a desert highway where car challenges shotgun. “Trackdown” hit all the right buttons with a choice selection of cult actors and the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles serving as the perfect backdrop for an even sleazier tale of drugs and prostitution.
As we reach the end of this movie marathon collection, we stumble upon our first and really only stinker of the bunch. 1976’s “Scorchy”, presented here under its alternate title “Race with Death”, is an unexciting and uninspiring flick from Writer/Director Howard Avedis (“Mortuary”, “They’re Playing with Fire”) credited here as Hikmet Avedis. Connie Stevens stars as “Jackie Parker”, an undercover Seattle narc set to bust a drug smuggling ring commanded by “Philip Bianco” (Cesare Danova of “Mean Street” and “Animal House” fame). The trouble with “Scorchy” is that it never takes off as a truly exciting film. Sure, there are plenty of shootouts, a drawn out car chase with Stevens behind the wheel of a dune bug plus Stevens pursuing our main goon via police helicopter. It all sounds fine and dandy but ends up feeling lifeless and a tad boring. The stale performances of the core cast do the film no favors with Stevens coming across as annoying and supporting stars wishing they were somewhere else. The only real surprise of the film was the unexpected fate of our leading lady, which by the time the film wraps, you’ll be wishing it came sooner. If there was a pothole in this collection, it’s definitely “Scorchy” with its unoriginal premise that we’ve seen ripped off so many times before and done far better. As if that weren’t bad enough, the film unforgivably rips-off the “Mission: Impossible” theme song with hardly any changes. “Scorchy” promises big things but unfortunately fails to deliver.
“Bulletproof” is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks clean for the most part. Skin tones appear slightly warmer than expected with black levels coming across slightly hazy at times. A serviceable transfer that walks away being one of the stronger ones in this collection.
“Bamboo Gods and Iron Men” is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer as well. The opening title sequence gets off to a bumpy start with scratches, debris and a layer of softness appearing. Luckily, the film stabilizes shortly after with hardly any blemishes seen for the duration of the runtime. Skin tones come off accurate with vibrant colors popping surprisingly well especially in James Iglehart’s flashy shirts. A nice healthy layer of grain is firmly intact in this transfer as well.
“Trackdown” is showcased in a full frame (4:3) presentation. While, the majority of movie watchers loathe full frame transfers, “Trackdown” is a nice surprise. Assumingly, a full frame transfer is all that was accessible for MGM to grant Shout! Factory but the print looks decent with colors popping as best they can. The transfer looks remarkably clean for its age with no distracting scratches in sight. Unfortunately, black levels are quite poor. The haziness makes night or dimly lit scenes a bit challenging to view, which should warrant this a 2.5 rating. That said, the overall clean nature of the film saves this transfer.
Much like the film itself, “Scorchy” undoubtedly has the worst video presentation in this whole collection. Presented full frame (4:3), the film bears all its tape source imperfections with dirt and debris present the entire runtime. In addition, colors appear washed out with skin tones looking quite dim. If you’re hoping to see what’s going on in night or dimly lit scenes, think again! Black levels are atrocious leaving the viewer squinting their eyes to make out anything to no avail. Sad but true, “Scorchy” is far from a hit with its video presentation.
“Bulletproof” is accompanied with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix which sounds loud and sharp. Dialogue scenes come off with no issue while action scenes and explosions really blow the lid off the speakers. The best of the lot as far as audio is concerned.
“Bamboo Gods and Iron Men” comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, which gets the job done nicely. No hissing or distracting pops were heard which allowed for dialogue and fight sequences to be heard clearly.
“Trackdown” is also accompanied with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is just as serviceable as “Bamboo Gods and Iron Men”. No hisses or pops with dialogue heard clearly the entire runtime.
Accompanied with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, “Scorchy” yet again strikes out. Hissing is heard throughout the film along with a tin-like echo present. Any action sequences involving shootouts or car chases fail to impress in the slightest. Dialogue can be heard without any serious issues but it’s less than desirable.
No special features included on this movie marathon.
Shout! Factory’s “4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon” Volume Two release is an entertaining romp for a less than $10 price tag. All the films, with the exception of “Scorchy”, manage to tap into several different cult subgenres that pack a nice action punch. The majority of the films offer decent video and audio treatments that get the job done without a hitch. If you thoroughly enjoyed Volume One of Shout! Factory’s action-packed madness, then scooping up Volume Two is a no brainer and deserves a spot on your shelf.