Also known as: Dark Knight (working title)
Release Date: January, 1986 (France – Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: George Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson
Music by: Michael Kamen, Queen
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery, Jon Polito
Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, Davis-Panzer Productions, Highlander Productions Limited, 116 Minutes, 110 Minutes (theatrical cut)
“[repeated line by Ramirez, The Kurgan and Connor MacLeod] There can be only one!”
Any movie that starts with a Fabulous Freebirds wrestling match has got to be good. As far as I know, though, this is the only movie to do that. I should also point out that Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell and Sam Fatu were featured in that match too.
The excitement doesn’t end with the awesome opening though, as it gets right into the action, as we see the title character enter the parking garage of the arena to fight another immortal swordsman in what is one of the coolest opening sequences of this film’s era.
Also, Queen made a lot of original songs for this film’s soundtrack and they are all mostly classics, at least to ’80s film buffs and lovers of Queen.
Highlander is a unique movie. It’s also really damn cool and despite this spawning a pretty big franchise with a half dozen movies and multiple television series, none of them have been able to capture the same sort of magic that this motion picture did.
The film also has a superb villain in it, as the very tall and intimidating Clancy Brown plays The Kurgan, a mad knight who is also immortal and on the quest to be the only one left in existence. Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod and Sean Connery’s Ramirez form a bond in an effort to help destroy The Kurgan, as he is the most dangerous threat to all.
Big portions of the film focus on Ramirez training MacLeod in an effort to prepare him for the oncoming storm that is The Kurgan. The whole point of all of this, though, is that these immortals are destined to fight and kill each other until there is only one left, who then wins “The Prize”.
What’s really neat about this film and all the others, is that it spans over multiple centuries, as the immortals are all very old. Lambert’s MacLeod is young by Ramirez and The Kurgan’s standards but there is something about him that the other immortals respect and fear and ultimately, I think they all understand how he is instrumental in preventing The Kurgan from winning this centuries long tournament.
Now this movie can be a bit slow, here and there, and honestly, it could’ve benefited from some fine tuning but it’s not boring and it tells a really good, intriguing story. But based off of how this ends, it should have truly been the end of the series. It didn’t need sequels and because of that, the sequels are all sort of in their own weird continuity. I stopped trying to make sense out of the Highlander franchise years ago and just view this film as the only one necessary and the complete story. That doesn’t mean that I’m not planning on revisiting and reviewing those lesser films in the future.
I just really like this movie a lot and, unfortunately, it was milked to death in future projects and the greatness of what this is was completely diluted by what became a very mediocre franchise.
Looking at this on its own, however, Highlander is a fantastic action fantasy flick that spans centuries, has a stupendous villain and an incredible mentor-type. While Lambert is the real lead, he is the weakest of the three core male characters. But it doesn’t in any way wreck the movie and he’s convincing as this badass Scottish warrior.
Pairs well with: the Highlander film series and television series.
Written by: Teddy Goldenberg
Art by: Teddy Goldenberg
Based on: Cobra by Sylvester Stallone, Cannon Films
Teddy Goldenberg Comics, 48 Pages
I love Sly Stallone’s Cobra and even though it’s never officially gotten a sequel, that didn’t stop Teddy Goldenberg from giving us the next best thing.
Since I really dug the first part of the story, as soon as this second and final part came out, I had to grab it from Goldenberg’s website. You can do that too by going here.
Overall, this one is also a lot of fun, as well as being gritty, utterly awesome and taking that ’80s action movie formula and upping the ante in a crazy and great way.
It’s like a Cannon Films action flick on steroids but this chapter in the series gets real f’n trippy, as Marion Cobretti gets closer to solving the crime and confronting his own dastardly father, who has a striking resemblance to Christopher Walken.
I love this indie outlaw, bootleg stuff and this is one of the best out there. I like the first part a bit more but this concludes the story in a cool and unpredictable way and frankly, it just makes me want to see what else Goldenberg could do with unofficial sequels to other similar films. Or hell, just give us a Cobra III because Marion Cobretti needs to live on forever.
Pairs well with: the first part of this story, as well as the bootleg Hungarian Cobra comic book I recently reviewed here.
Also known as: Gor II (US), Outlaw (English TV title)
Release Date: December, 1988 (Germany)
Directed by: John Cardos
Written by: Peter Welbeck, Rick Marx
Based on: Outlaw of Gor by John Norman
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Jack Palance, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier
Breton Film Productions, Cannon International, 89 Minutes
“Get out of here, you disgusting worm!” – Queen Lara
I’ve never seen the first Gor movie but when something is as wonderfully bad as this is, you don’t really need a bunch of context to enjoy the cheese.
Besides, I had seen this years ago when it was showcased in the fifth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it now, as well.
Sure, it’s going to get a low rating but it’s a bad movie. I will be fairly kind to it, however, as it is chock full of sword and sorcery and science fiction cheesiness that makes it hard to believe that this wasn’t actually an Italian Conan ripoff, which were in abundance in the ’80s.
This is actually an American film and it was even distributed by Cannon Films. However, it did hit European markets first and starred a lot of European actors.
This also has Jack Palance in it and it immediately made me think of Hawk the Slayer, another ’80s sword and sorcery flick that featured Palance as its main antagonist.
The plot is really strange as it sees a normal dude in the normal world end up on another planet where he is basically a warrior king. He also takes along his annoying, doofus friend.
Apart from that, this is a wobbly plot full of ’80s fantasy tropes, sword and sorcery action but mostly forgettable scenes.
Overall, this is nowhere near the upper echelon of ’80s sword and sorcery movies but it also isn’t at the bottom of the barrel. It’s lower than average but still engaging and enjoyable if you’re into these sort of things.
Pairs well with: the first Gor movie, as well as other really low budget sword and sorcery flicks.
Also known as: Wanda, Odeon (alternative TV titles)
Release Date: February 26th, 1988
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Written by: Regina Davis, Albert Pyun, Debra Ricci
Music by: Jim Andron, Simon LeGassick, Anthony Riparetti, James Saad
Cast: Kathy Ireland, William R. Moses, Richard Haines, Don Michael Paul, Thom Mathews, Deep Roy
Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Films, 87 Minutes
“Bitchin’ left hook, Crassus!” – Wanda Saknussemm
Albert Pyun directed a lot of schlock but he directed a lot of wonderful schlock like The Sword and the Sorcerer (his debut), Cyborg, Captain America (1990), Kickboxer 2, Arcade and a slew of others. While his films won’t resonate with most audiences, schlock lovers would probably bask in Pyun’s schlock-y glory.
Alien From L.A. is a special film, though, even for Pyun. It’s a vanity project for Kathy Ireland. She had no real experience acting but she was at the height of her modeling career, was the top Sports Illustrated swimsuit model of the time and the movie was probably greenlit just so Cannon Films’ top dogs Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus could meet one of the hottest women on the planet.
The story is about an L.A. girl that goes to Africa, after she gets a letter saying that her father died from falling into a bottomless pit. She goes to the site of his fall and falls into the pit as well. However, it isn’t bottomless and what we get is an extremely loose adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth. So Kathy Ireland, in this situation, is actually the alien to a subterranean society – so I guess the weird title makes some sense.
While the acting is terrible and the script is even worse, the film isn’t all bad but as stated earlier, you’ve got to have a palate for schlock and in this case, overly cheesy schlock.
Kathy Ireland is certainly likable, for the most part. However, her soft cutesy voice can get grating at times and I’m not sure why they had her talk like this the whole movie. I think they thought it would make her less attractive, just like they thought her glasses, until they were destroyed, would make her an ugly nerd. No, it’s Kathy f’n Ireland in her prime, nothing is going to make her unattractive.
Ultimately, this is a film that would have withered away and been forgotten years ago. However, it was immortalized after being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. At the time, it was fairly current and cool to see on the show because of how modern it was when compared to the Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon and Coleman Francis movies that played much more frequently.
While I love Cannon Films, this doesn’t fit with their branding, as they were mostly known for their over the top ’80s action films that starred two guys named Chuck, one named Jean-Claude, a Dudikoff, a Kosugi and an infinite supply of ninjas and bullets.
Pairs well with: other ’80s celebrity vanity movies and it’s sequel 1989’s version of Journey to the Center of the Earth.
From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 1): Because Batman is a pussy.
From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 2): Have you accepted Bronson as your personal lord and savior?
From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 3): Maximum Life Expectancy: One Scene.
From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 4): DEATH!
From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 5): The only film where Bronson’s ‘death wish’… is probably literal.
Also known as: Alistair MacLean’s River of Death (Germany)
Release Date: May 15th, 1989 (Cannes)
Directed by: Steve Carver
Written by: Andrew Deutsch, Edward Simpson
Based on: River of Death by Alistair MacLean
Music by: Sasha Matson
Cast: Michael Dudikoff, Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence, Herbert Lom, L. Q. Jones
Breton Film Productions, Cannon International, Pathe Communications, 107 Minutes
I’m a pretty avid fan of the movies that Michael Dudikoff made for Cannon Films. So I figured that this would be a hidden gem because of that. Plus, it had an interesting premise that saw Dudikoff go to the Amazon to hunt for treasure and Nazis. Honestly, it sounded like a Cannon Films version of an Indiana Jones movie.
I should have been weary though, as Cannon already attempted such a thing with those two Allan Quatermain pictures from the mid-’80s. Neither of them were terrible but they weren’t awesome either.
Maybe Dudikoff is just at his best when Steve James is by his side and he’s either fighting ninjas or guys in weird costumes that hide in the bayou? Whatever the case, this movie is a total fucking dud.
What’s even more sad about the whole thing is that this also featured Robert Vaughn and Donald Pleasence. Two great character actors with solid chops and really long resumes.
Honestly, though, this movie is pretty damn boring for a film that’s premise promised some pretty cool things. While it has action, none of it is very memorable and we’ve seen much better efforts by Cannon Films four dozen times over by the time this rolled around in ’89.
It’s poorly acted, the script is bird cage liner and the direction and fight choreography don’t measure up to the reasonable low standards of Cannon.
For a Cannon Films or Dudikoff completist, I guess this is worth checking out. Just don’t expect to find your new favorite film of the lot.
Pairs well with: other Michael Dudikoff action films, as well as other action movies from Cannon.
Also known as: Street Hunter (alternative title), The Infernal Venture (Belgium)
Release Date: September 11th, 1992 (Germany)
Directed by: Arthur Allan Seidelman
Written by: Michael Snyder
Music by: Joel Hirschhorn, Al Kasha, David Waters
Cast: Michael Dudikoff, Stephen Dorff, Ami Dolenz, Peter DeLuise, William Lucking, Dee Wallace, Liz Torres
Cannon Films, 99 Minutes
“Now you kissed a girl, kid – the rest is all downhill.” – Daniel ‘Mac’ MacDonald
What happens when you take a teenage Deacon Frost, team him up with the American Ninja and have them hunt down dumb kidnappers that took Tony Danza’s daughter from She’s Out of Control? You get this movie.
But you also get Peter DeLuise as one of the bumbling criminals, as well as Dee Wallace as the always concerned but always aloof mom.
That being said, I love the cast and it actually shocks me that I didn’t know of this film’s existence until fairly recently.
Additionally, this was put out by Cannon Films, which explains the lead role for Michael Dudikoff. But this was also put out by Cannon very late in the company’s lifespan. And this shows, as it lacks the high octane magic that was always present in their ’80s films that featured any sort of action.
Still, this was enjoyable and it actually surprised me as it had real heart and charm.
Sure, it’s a dumb movie with a bad script, baffling decisions by the characters and it’s so over the top that it’s not believable even for a comedy. However, you do end up liking these characters and find yourself cheering for them. Well, Stephen Dorff’s Fraser and Dudikoff’s Mac. Ami Dolenz just plays a selfish rich girl that goes on to prove that she’s a dumb and shitty person.
The story follows Dorff’s Fraser, a high school photographer that pines over Dolenz’s Ginny. He witnesses a crime going down, Ginny ends up in the middle of it along with Mac. Ginny is taken hostage and Fraser wants to go save her. So he teams up with Mac and they go from Nebraska to Los Angeles in search of Ginny and a bit of revenge.
At it’s core, this is a coming of age story about young love, first crushes, first kisses and learning to accept that your first love is probably just going to break your heart. I like that this film didn’t go for the cookie cutter ending where the nerd saves the cheerleader and they live happily ever after. The fact that Fraser actually grows up through this experience and realizes he doesn’t need Ginny is actually refreshing.
Dorff was pretty damn good, even at this age. But the film is really carried by the chemistry and the friendship of Dorff and Dudikoff’s characters. I really liked Dudikoff in this and while I prefer him being a straight up action star, he got to really show his human side and his acting ability more here than he did in any American Ninja movie or Avenging Force.
What was also best about this leading duo is that they looked like they enjoyed being in this movie and that they actually clicked well together off screen. In retrospect, it must have been cool for the young Dorff to work opposite an ’80s action star and for Dudikoff it must have been satisfying working with a kid that had chops and a pretty bright future.
Pairs well with: other ’90s road trip movies.
Also known as: America’s Red Army: Delta Force II, Delta Force II: Operation Crackdown, Spitfire: Delta Force II (working titles), Delta Force 2: Operation Stranglehold (Uruguay subtitled version), Comando Delta 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: May, 1990 (Cannes)
Directed by: Aaron Norris
Written by: Lee Reynolds
Based on: characters by James Bruner, Menahem Golan
Music by: Frederic Talgorn
Cast: Chuck Norris, Billy Drago, John P. Ryan, Paul Perri, Richard Jaeckel, Begona Plaza, Mateo Gomez, Hector Mercado, Mark Margolis
Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Films, 111 Minutes
“Take her to my bedroom – first give her a beautiful bath – get rid of the baby.” – Ramon Cota
This didn’t really need to be Delta Force 2. I mean, it’s got Chuck Norris and he’s kicking the shit out of stuff but he didn’t need to be the same character, he could’ve been any random Chuck Norris character or a new one and it wouldn’t have mattered. I guess Delta Force had some branding and name recognition built into it but this just feels so different than the original film.
But hey, it’s still a damn fine action picture that was put out by the maestros of ’80s action, Cannon Films. It hits the right notes, it has a good level of senseless violence and not only does it star Chuck Norris but it stars the always stupendous Billy Drago.
In fact, this is one of my favorite roles Drago has ever played. He is absolute perfection as the evil and slithery villain, Ramon Cota. Hell, Drago’s performance here should be considered an acting lesson on how to play sadistic drug lords. The dude can just convey so much with so little. He speaks with his face and his eyes in a way that the best actors in the world can’t.
It’s pretty damn sad that we lost Drago and his talent a few weeks ago. In fact, that’s why I watched this movie. I wanted to be reminded as to why I became a lifelong fan of his in the first place, as this movie was my first experience seeing him haunt the minds of heroes.
Now apart from Norris and Drago, we also get John P. Ryan as an American general who doesn’t care whose toes he steps on, Mark Margolis as a Colombian general in league with Drago’s Cota, as well as Hector Mercado as an undercover agent.
The cast is stacked full of manly men who are very capable of giving this sort of film life. And despite not having Lee Marvin, Bo Svenson, George Kennedy, Robert Forster, Robert Vaughn and Steve James, I enjoy this movie a wee bit more than its predecessor.
This came out towards the end of Cannon’s dominance over the action film genre but it still measures up to their other kickass pictures.
I can see why people consider the first one to be a better movie (and it probably is) but I just love Drago, Norris and how well they play off of each other in this. Norris needed a true villain and Drago was exactly that. He was the Joker to Norris’ Batman.
Pairs well with: the first Delta Force, as well as the Missing In Action trilogy and other Chuck Norris films for Cannon.
Also known as: Death Wish IV (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1987
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: John Bisharat, Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum
Cast: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Perry Lopez, Soon-Tek Oh, George Dickerson, Dana Barron, Danny Trejo, Tim Russ, Hector Mercado
The Cannon Group, 99 Minutes
“Who the fuck are you?” – Rapist, “Death!” – Paul Kersey
As I said in early Death Wish reviews, the film series starts to fall off after the third movie. However, this installment was actually better than what I remembered. Maybe that’s because I hadn’t seen this one in a really long time and because I am a Cannon Films junkie that just needs unapologetic, high octane, violent, ’80s action pumped into my veins on a regular basis.
That being said, Charles Bronson still brings his fucking A game in this one.
Now the plot is kind of a disjointed mess with a swerve as to who the real villain is and while I like that in the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, it isn’t done in a very clever way. It’s also kind of predictable and you see it coming once the guy who is presented as the big bad is killed with about a half hour to spare.
But all that means is that you get a final showdown between Charles f’n Bronson and John P. Ryan, another man’s man and old school action film badass. In fact, Ryan has a fate that is very similar to the baddie of Death Wish 3.
Now out of the first four films, this one is the weakest. I definitely remember the fifth being the worst, despite boasting the talents of Michael Parks, as its villain. But this was still a satisfying movie that gives you just about everything you want in a Death Wish or Cannon Films motion picture. But nothing could have followed the last twenty minutes of the third film, which is the best balls out action sequence of the 1980s and maybe of all-time.
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown still shines though. Plus, not only does it feature Bronson and Ryan but it also gives us a young Danny Trejo, Tim Russ before he was Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, Soon-Tek Oh as a dirty cop and Hector Mercado as a drug dealing shithead.
Sure, the film could have been better with a more fluid narrative but do you really care that much about that stuff when watching a Chuck Bronson murder festival? I don’t. I just want to see the scum of the Earth meet violent ends. In Death Wish 4, like its predecessors, that’s exactly what you get.
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.