Stealing School (2021)

“Like many immigrant children, I was raised to believe that the prestigiousness of a person’s career directly correlated with how good of a person they were, morally speaking. I was also raised to believe that no such prestigious career would be attainable without first paying for the privilege of a university education. Finally, I was told that my own race and appearance would have no effect on my future prospects in life, or on how people treated me here in Canada. At some point during my life, I realized these were all lies. This film is about my revelation at the bold hypocrisy that pervades throughout the esteemed institution of higher education, and indeed perhaps all western institutions held in high regard.”
— Director Li Dong, from the film’s press kit

Any aspiring writer and director who receives an anointing from acclaimed German director Werner Herzog goes to the top of the streaming list of the B&S About Movies’ review stacks. If you read our “Klaus Kinski vs. Werner Herzog Night” Drive-In Friday featurette, you know how we feel about Herzog in these wilds of Allegheny Country.

The creative tales of lawyer-cum-filmmaker Li Dong, who made his feature film debut as a screenwriter with the Canadian feature drama Samanthology (2019), began on the campus of Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, where he graduated in 2006 with honours in English and history, and then went on to graduate from Dalhousie Law School. After law school, Li satiated his love of poker as a professional player prior to being selected by Oscar-nominated Werner Herzog for his “Rogue Film School” project. After directing episodes of the Canadian TV drama Model Minority, Li Dong’s now made his feature film debut, as both the writer and director, with this timely exploration of systematic racism — which he experienced growing up in Toronto.

However, despite the suggested heaviness of the material, Stealing School is, instead of a serious drama, an absurdist social satire. It’s a dark comedy that, instead of pointing fingers, offer solutions regarding sociopolitical issues, racial and gender inequalities, and the unilateral powers giving to school administrators of prestigious universities (and the nepotism of our employers in the real world).

Li Dong’s work also questions the value of liberal arts degrees in the real world (April thinks the class, which she’s accused of cheating, is beneath her) — a world now overwhelmed (and ever changing) by globalization and technology — and the resulting anxieties and fears inflicted on the futures of an institution’s students by the world’s archaic social views. As did Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni’s early ’60s explorations of regarding the alienation of the self in the modern world, Li Dong offers solutions to the development of our neuroses that result from our failure to adapt to our changing environs. While lacking the ubiquitous dead body (but filled with its share of Gogolian dead souls), Stealing School unfolds as a pseudo-film noir rife with analogously James M. Cain-twisted characters driven by ulterior motives and changing allegiances — whose own corruption and egotism becomes their moral and professional undoing.

We come to meet April (Celine Tsai; the Canadian TV series Rising Suns and the Hallmark Channel entry Christmas by Chance), an Asian-Canadian tech prodigy (sent to Toronto from China by her parents) accused of plagiarism by Keith, her humanities teaching assistant (Jonathan Keltz; got his start on Degrassi: The Next Generation and starred as Jake Steinberg on HBO’s Entourage), which jeopardizes her graduation from a prestigious Toronto university. Once friends, their relationship is, at best, acrimonious.

Meanwhile, a newly appointed faculty administrator wants to sweep it under the rug, lest the bad publicity derails her career. Another professor deciding April’s fate deals with clouded judgement as result of a personal grudge against April’s professor. And that professor, in turn, fears April’s fate will expose his infidelities with a student. And the student newspaper-journalism student? He’s looking for a resume-building “scoop” to start his career, so he works the racism angle to his advantage, even going as far as leaking information to off-campus publications.

Is April innocent . . . or did she actually cheat and frame others for her cheating scam. Or is she being railroaded — or not — for others’ personal gains. And what secrets about the racial and professional biases of her professors will come to light. What is the true meaning of accusing another of “guilt” and leaving them fighting for their “innocence” when it can expose an accuser’s own skeletons? For on this university campus, the halls of right and wrong are a murky maze of double-standard corridors . . . with the accuser and the accused ending their journey at a bus stop sharing a cigarette. Which is the martyr and which is the saint. Who is the sociopath let loose on the world to destroy more lives in their quest for professional admiration?

Or is it a shackle?

While Li Dong is obviously a writer and director of extinction, he’s still an indie director scratching and surviving in a streaming verse overflowing with other indie filmmakers in need of funding. And when you’re up against the budget: you write what you know around sets you know can secure. As result of his academic endeavors, Li Dong intelligently handles the poignant material in a budget efficient, subtle manner. In more a established director’s hands backed by a major studio, Stealing School, which also works as a courtroom drama (a university tribunal seated by three professors, with a teaching assistant as the prosecutor and student advisor (a law major) as the defense attorney), could have easily turned into a bloated production filled with matured Disney actors — when it doesn’t have to be bloated. Sometimes, simpler is beter, as “simple” can still convey complex subject matter (and it runs a tight 74-minutes).

In the film’s press materials, Li Dong stated that, despite the film’s potentially weighty subject matter, his first and foremost aim was to create a fun and entertaining film.

He did.

Stealing School rises proudly over the usual indie-streaming norms we experience at B&S About Movies. In fact, when considering the film is lead by a strong, female protagonist-cum-her own antagonist, the film would fit nicely into the female-driven programming blocks of the U.S.-based Lifetime Channel — but Stealing School also rises proudly over the quality of that channel’s “damsel-in-distress” telefilms. The cast of unknown actors are skilled in their roles, Li Dong’s non-linear (which turns off the many; but not me) script is followed with ease, and his camera work is engagingly well-shot.

I look forward to what the Werner Herzog-inspired Li Dong can accomplish with a larger budget on his future feature-film projects.

After its successful premiere at the Napa Valley Film Festival in 2019, Stealing School was released by Game Theory in June of 2020 on the iTunes platform in its native Canada. It becomes available across multiple streaming platforms in the U.S. courtesy Vertical Entertainment on February 26, 2021. You can follow the film on Instagram.

We previously reviewed the 2019 Vertical release, Portal.

Disclaimer: We received a screener for this film. That has no bearing on our review. Film still, theatrical one-sheet, and trailer courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.

THE EXCELLENT EIGHTIES: Tomboy (1985)

Editor’s Note: No sooner did we finish our review of Tomboy for Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast 50-film pack, we discovered it’s also on their Excellent Eighties 50-film set. It’s a fun film that bears recycling and repeating. So here we go with a new, second fresh take on the film.

Tomasina “Tommy” Boyd isn’t like the other girls. No, she’s not sneaking into school and switching her gender like Terri/Terry Griffith. But unlike all her friends, she’s more into fixing and racing cars than boys. This is presented as something completely out of the sphere of reality, as if she were some mutant.

Herb Freed, who directed Tomboy, has a pretty fun resume, with movies like Beyond EvilHaunts and Graduation Day to his credit.

For some reason, this confident woman has a crush on a total jerk, racecar driver and male chauvinist Randy Starr (Gerard Christopher, Superboy), who doesn’t take her seriously because, you know, she’s a girl.

Certainly, the main reason to see this is because Betsy Russell has the lead. Modern folks may know her from the Saw movies, but for my generation, she was much better known for starring as Molly “Angel” Stewart in Avenging Angel, as well as appearances in Private SchoolCheerleader Camp and Camp Fear, which steals its poster art from Body Count.

I love that someone once asked about Russell how the trailer for this movie positions Tomasina as a strong woman and then cuts to her in the shower. Teh actress replied, “I’ve never really paid attention to that. I guess strong females still have to take showers. They still like to feel sexy, so I don’t think there’s one thing that should stop someone from feeling sexy and showing their body if that’s what they choose to do. I don’t think it makes any difference in the world.”

Kristi Summers from Savage Streets and Hell Comes to Frogtown plays our heroine’s friends, who cares more about boys than cars and she’s normal, of course. Plus, Cynthia Thompson — Cavegirl! — and scream queen Michelle Bauer also show up.

If this movie came out in 2020, it would be decimated on social media and rightly so. I mean, can you imagine a movie that purports to being female empowerment coming out today where the main character only proves herself by repeatedly showing off her breasts?

Repost: Night of the Sharks (1988)

Editor’s Note: How is it that Mill Creek hasn’t done an all-shark disc set of every Jaws ripoff out there? Well, no worries. We love our Jaws ripoffs and included this obscurity as part of our “Bastard Pups of Jaws Week” on December 19, 2018. And we love our shark flicks so much, we rolled out a “Bastard Sons of Jaws Week.” Like we said: we love our shark flicks. And to the Italian, Spaniard, and Mexican filmmakers that make them: we thank you. And while we’d rather Micheal Sopkiw as our “Brody,” we get the very cool and always game Treat Williams in the bargain.

One would imagine that by now, I wouldn’t be snowed by a great poster. But nope. This Italian-Spanish-Mexican film is proof that if the poster looks awesome and has sharks murdering people, I will ignore all the warning flags and dive right into a movie that lulls me into a fugue state of sheer pain.

David (Treat Williams) just wants to live in quiet along with his neighbor Paco (Antonio Fargas, Huggy Bear!) and his man-eating shark buddy Cyclops. However, his brother gets all tangled up in a conspiracy involving a businessman named Rosentski (John Steiner, who we all know was Overlord in Yor, Hunter from the Future).

There’s also an appearance by Janet Agren, who was the few bright spots of Panic and Ratman, two other movies that had awesome posters and not much else to write home about. Then again, she’s also in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and Eaten Alive!, two much better movies than anything else that will be discussed in this article (she’s also in Hands of Steel, a movie that has an incredible poster that promises more than the movie delivers, yet I’m coming around on that one).

Plus — Christopher Connelly — Hot Dog from 1990: The Bronx Warriors and the dad from Fulci’s incomprehensibly awesome Manhattan Baby — plays a priest in his final film role.

I’m just telling you these facts to cover up the fact that I could barely make it through this movie. Seriously — a movie where a man uses traps and a shark to fight gangsters couldn’t sustain my interest.

Maybe you’ll like it better than I did. You can watch it on Amazon Prime with a subscription.

THE EXCELLENT EIGHTIES: Portrait of a Showgirl (1982)

I’ve watched plenty of Steven Hilliard Stern movies, like The Park Is MineThe Ghost of Flight 401Miracle On IceMazes and MonstersStill the BeaverNot Quite Human (written by Alan Ormsby!), I Wonder Who’s Killing Her Now? and Murder In Space, but he’s probably best known for his redneck opus, Rolling Vengeance. It’s probably the best — and only — movie where a man reacts to the death of his wife and children by making a monster truck and killing everyone responsible.

This is Showgirls with the sleaze dialed down for TV consumption. But hey — it’s got Rita Moreno as Rosella DeLeon, an old dancer trying for one more run and in love with Joey DeLeon (Tony Curtis). Then there’s Jillian Brooks (Lesley Anne Warren), the New York dancer. And newcomer Marci (Dianne Kay, Eight Is Enough) as the innocent girl new to Vegas.

It’s not going to change your life, but it’s definitely a great Sunday afternoon watch. Does anyone still do that? Well, I do.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Happy Cleaners (2021)

“Have you ever wondered if our family is blessed or cursed?”
— Kevin Choi

Being a third or longer-generation child in the U.S. is sometimes hard enough: but be a child of immigrant parents steeped in the ways of the old country. My pop’s parents came here from Europe and his dad, my grandfather, never got on board with the “wild life” of Americans. The stories my father told me of him and his father’s battles over the “old” vs. “the new” were many and shaped the values I hold today. The most eye-opening aspect of Happy Cleaners: regardless of your family’s origin of birth, as much as we are different is how much we are the same; the same in our trials, tribulations, and values.

And I am reminded that a skin cell is just that: a cell filled with melanin.

One day, as a young man, as I conducted business at — ironically enough — a dry cleaner as I picked up my suits and pressed shirts, I noticed a person come to stand next to me at the counter. His hands, which met at the wrist with a long-sleeve business shirt, were white (actual albino-to-translucent). When I lifted my head to greet the man, he was an African-American. At the time, I was aware of the skin condition know as vitiligo, as result of Michael Jackson’s affliction, but never experienced it close and personal: it was an eye-opening experience for me. At that moment, I realized that we are all the same, inside and out: the only difference between us is the pigmentation in our skin cells. After that, the loves and joy, the trials and tribulations, the disappoints and triumphs we experience are all the same. We walk the same road, together, and our goals are all the same: for the Earth really is a single, perfect sphere.

So goes the plight of Korean-American Kevin Choi. His mother and father (the fantastic Hyang-hwa Lim Charles Ryu) struggle to instill traditional homeland values in their American-born children Kevin and Hyunny (the equally stellar Yun Jeong and Yeena Sung) tempted-influenced by all that western culture has to offer. Their parents operate a struggling dry cleaning business in Flushing, Queens, with the hope their strict values and hard work will inspire their children: they instead succeed in pushing their children away. And with that, the children struggle with the dichotomy of their lives: Why did their parents make the personal sacrifices to give their children a better life in America, only to caution and forbid their children the ways of American life. Does family loyalty go to the point where the children must carry on a family business — along with their family’s debts. Does one give up their dreams (in Kevin’s case, moving to Los Angeles) for family?

Happy Cleaners is the dual feature film writing and directing debut by New York City born-and-bred Korean-American animator and documentary-reality television editor Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee; the filmmaking duo previously worked on — along with actor Yun Jeong (here, as Kevin, in his leading man debut) — on the dramatic short, Call Taxi (2016). Well-received on the festival circuit, winning an “Audience Award for Best Narrative” at the 2019 CAAMFest and “Emerging Filmmaker Award” at the VC FilmFest at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, the film is now available across all domestic streaming platforms.

In a Hallmark and Lifetime drama-glut cableverse that’s nullified the family drama genre at the theatrical level, Happy Cleaners is a film that reminds us that poignant family dramas (Robert Redford’s 1980 directorial debut Ordinary People comes to mind) can still be brought to theater screens to inspire our intellects and stir our souls. In a current Hollywood obsessed with tentpole movies and explosive popcorn balls of the comic book (Wonder Woman 1984 is now out in theaters) and Micheal Bay variety (his latest Transformers flick is in pre-production), it’s nice to see filmmakers with a desire to bring family dramas to the screen. Hopefully, Hollywood will remember Kim and Lee come the 2021 award season.

You can enjoy this U.S.-shot, English-language film (with occasion English-Korean subtitles) courtesy of Korean American Story.org via all the usual online streaming platforms. The mission of the non-profit organization is to capture, create, preserve and share the stories of the Korean American experience by supporting and promoting storytelling in all forms that explore and reflect the ever evolving Korean American story. KAS seeks to be an inclusive hub that bridges gaps between communities and desires to instill cultural awareness and pride among the Korean American community.

And with films like Happy Cleaners, they’ve succeed. And we look forward to their next production.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.

THE EXCELLENT EIGHTIES: Twisted Obsession (1989)

Originally titled El Sueño del Mono Loco (The Dream of the Mad Monkey), this is based on the Christopher Frank book. While it has the 90’s genre of erotic thriller attached to it, this is very much in the world of the giallo.

To wit: Jeff Goldblum’s Dan Gillis is a stranger in a strange land, one of the key tropes of the giallo, a writer in Paris who has been left behind by his wife and suddenly a single father to his son Danny. A writer by trade, he’s brought in by a producer to work with an enfant terrible young director named Malcolm Greene on a script.

Ironically, the actor playing that young director — Dexter Fletcher — would grow up and move on from acting (he was Baby Face in the absurd and wonderful child gangster musical Bugsy Malone) to directing some of today’s biggest films, such as Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.

What draws us closer to the psychosexual domain of the giallo is that Gillis soon becomes obsessed by Malcolm’s sister Jenny (Liza Walker from Hackers in her first film). While presented as somewhere in her teens, she’s also a lolita who possesses the sexual attention of every man she meets, from our protagonist to her brother.

Miranda Richardson also figures in as Dan’s disabled agent who, like everyone in this movie, just wants to get horizontal with one of West Homestead’s favorite sons.

I’m not saying this is a good movie. I’m just saying that it’s interesting that somehow Goldblum made two movies one after the other — this and Mister Frost  — that are borderline bonkers horror experimentations that no one really talks about. This is after he was a star from The Fly and yet here he is, making really strange movies in foreign lands. Leave it to a Mill Creek box set to bring this to my attention.

Repost: My Chauffeur (1986)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this back on April 19. 2019, and included it as part of our “Drive-In Friday: Slobs vs. Snobs Comedy Night” because we love Deborah Foreman as much as we love innocuous ’80s comedies. So, for its inclusion on its first Mill Creek set, in this case, their Excellent Eighties set, we’ve brought back Sam’s review.

Deborah Foreman is my favorite 1980’s comedy girl. From Real Genius to Valley GirlApril Fool’s Day and Waxwork, she’s always dependable, always cute and always real. She’s the kind of girl that 80’s dorks like me wish we’d get as girlfriends. And people noticed, with one critic comparing her to a “New Wave Carole Lombard crossed with early Shirley MacLaine.” Sadly, she never really broke through to the mainstream. She has said that My Chauffeur is her favorite of the films in which she’s appeared and the most fun she ever had making a movie.

In My Chaffeur, she plays Casey Meadows, a free spirit who somehow ends up working for the Brentwood Limousine Service, which brings her into conflict with the company’s manager, McBride (Howard Hesseman!). At first, the older drivers all treat her like dirt, but her plucky spirit and hard work soon win them over. Even when they set her up with nightmare client Cat Fight, a goofball drugged out rock star, she succeeds.

Casey soon starts driving around Battle Witherspoon (Sam J. Jones, Flash Gordon, Driving Force, Night Rhythms) the son of limo company owner Mr. Witherspoon (E.G. Marshall, Creepshow). She helps him through a breakup, but he’s a heel, a rich boy unable to be kind to anyone — until Casey breaks through.

However, she soon runs afoul of an oil sheik and a con artist who take her for a ride even more ridiculous than the band at the start of the movie. It turns out they’re wanted men, which gets Casey fired. Penn and Teller play them and this was at the very start of their career.

Battle becomes a better person and he and Casey fall in love. He takes her home to meet her father and when in her house, she was deja vu. That’s because her mother was a former employee and she played in the house. And Battle’s dad is actually her real father. But whew — luckily for those who don’t want a Flowers in the Attic situation — Casey’s real dad was Giles, one of the other limo drivers. That means our young couple can get married and all ends happily.

You can watch this on Tubi and Vudu for free.

The Excellent Eighties: Tuareg: The Desert Warrior (1984)

Okay, ye purveyor of B-Trash, let’s unpack the caveats:

  1. While that looks like a rendering of Michael Sopkiw on the one-sheet, this isn’t a repack of Blastfighter made to look like a First Blood/Rambo sequel — although that film was inspired by the adventures of Rambo.
  2. While it looks like it’s a Mark Gregory War movie — of which he made four, plus three Thunder movies — themselves each inspired by Rambo — this isn’t a repack of any of those movies. (We break those flicks down as part of our “Mark Gregory Week” tribute.
  3. Do not do what I did and confuse this with Jim Goldman, aka John Gale, aka Filipina Jun Gallardo’s Mad Max apoc-poo Desert Warrior starring Lou Ferrigno.
  4. No, this isn’t a Stallone Rambo foreign repack with bad art work.
  5. Yes, as incredible as it may seem, the Mark Harmon in the credits — in lieu of Michael Sopkiw or Mark Gregory (!) that should be starring — is the same Mark Harmon you’re now watching in reruns from CBS-TV’s NCIS.
  6. This is, in fact, a Enzo G. Castellari’s production, aka The Desert Warrior, aka Tuareg: The Desert Warrior, aka Rambo of the Desert Warrior, which makes no sense. Why not Rambo, the Desert Warrior or Rambo: Desert Blood?

Now, when you see the dependable name of Enzo G. Castellari — the man who gave us Inglorious Bastards, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx, and Warriors of the Wasteland, you know you’re getting intriguing action, and a bag o’ chips.

In a desolate section of the Libyan-Algerian Sahara once ruled by the French, Gacel Sayah (Mark Harmon), a Tuareg tribal leader (in tanning make-up and blue contacts), offers refuge to two government fugitives. When soldiers from the newly-installed Arab regime demand the “war criminals” be turned over to them, our desert Rambo refuses, based on the region’s ancient, scared laws. When the soldiers murder one and kidnap the other war criminal, Sayah mounts a bloody campaign to rescue his charge, for so says “the law.”

If you’ve watched any of Enzo’s westerns — A Few Dollars for Django and One Dollar Too Many — then you’ll know that Enzo was into desert-based mayhem long before Stallone came on the scene, so what you get with this much HBO-aired ditty is a war-modernized Spaghetti Western. And be it western, poliziotteschi, or post-apocalypse, Castellari never disappoints, non-A-List Hollywood budgets be damned.

By the time Harmon went all spaghetti-Rambo in the joint, he got his start with guest shots as cops on Adam-12 and its ’70s sister show, Emergency (which I’ve seen these past months as Antenna TV reruns). Harmon also starred in two, failed one-season series with the cop procedural-dramas Sam (1977) and (the one I remember watching first-run) 240-Robert (1979). He was one season deep into his breakthrough role as Dr. Robert Caldwell in the NBC-TV medical drama St. Elsewhere when Tuareg: The Desert Warrior was released. But I have a feeling Harmon probably filmed this Italian romp long before production on the series began — with Enzo holding back the film (due to creative or cash flow issues), then realized he had a “star” in his film. As for Harmon: when it came to crossing over to a theatrical career, he went for comedy instead of action, with the (date night) flops Summer School and Worth Winning (both utter awful) and some military drama with Sean Connery (that I am too lazy to research, but also sucked) and eventually, like David Caruso before him, came back to television.

When you think that Harmon is the guy from TV’s NCIS . . . made-up to look Middle Eastern . . . makes this spaghetti Rambo an even more fascinating watch. And you can watch this Mill Creek box set public domain ditty on You Tube or get your own copy as part of their Excellent Eighties 50-Movie Pack.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

THE EXCELLENT EIGHTIES: Delta Force Commando (1988)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Freese contributes to many different magazines, zines and websites such as Videoscope, Rue Morgue, Drive-in Asylum, Grindhouse Purgatory, Horror and Sons and Lunchmeat VHS. (His most recent piece, about the 80’s video distributor Super Video, can be found here). He also co-hosts the Two Librarians Walk into a Shelf podcast so he has an excuse to expose library patrons to ninja and slasher films. 

An unnamed terrorist leads a team of mercenaries onto a United States military base in Puerto Rico to steal a nuclear weapon. Commando Lt. Tony Turner witnesses the gang’s getaway. His pregnant wife is killed in the crossfire.

Vowing vengeance for his murdered wife and unborn child, Turner immediately commandeers Delta Force pilot Capt. Samuel Beck’s Mercedes and directs him at gun point to follow the goons. From this moment forward, Turner and Beck follow the rebels to Nicaragua and senselessly blow up so much property there is little left for Col. Keitel and the Delta Force calvary to sift through when they finally catch up with the rogue commandos.

For me, Delta Force Commando is perfect Saturday afternoon entertainment. It is an excellent example of the kind of movies I would rent with my brothers on VHS and devour over the weekend. All the thrills we craved to burn through a lazy afternoon are delivered here by the truckload: non-stop action, the obligatory scene where the hero packs his duffle bag with weapons, torture with some wires and a Diehard car battery, multiple shootouts, hand to hand smack-downs, a scar-faced villain, throwing knife mayhem, sling-shot mayhem, crossbow mayhem, macho one-liners, bodies destroyed in meaty bullet hits and copious, glorious explosions. They blow up everything in this movie: cars, buses, jet fighters, helicopters, trucks, bodies, bridges, buildings… I lost count after forty-three explosions, and every last one of them was old school gunpowder and gasoline pyrotechnics, no doubt pulled off by a pyro-effects wizard, probably missing a finger or two.

Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (Black Caesar) as Beck and Bo Svenson (Walking Tall Part 2) as Keitel have their names above the title, but Brett Clark as Turner, is the real star of the film. Like Michael Sopkiw before him, and Richard Anthony Crenna after him, Clark was given the chance of headlining an Italian production made for the international film market in the hopes of becoming a superstar like Clint Eastwood. Clark will be instantly recognizable to you, but you might not know him by name. We’ve been watching him since he first played one of the Camp Mohawk basketball players in Meatballs. He made all kinds of daytime soap and movie appearances. He’s maybe best known for his role of Nick “The Dick” in the Tom Hanks comedy Bachelor Party. (And if you aren’t familiar with “Mr. Dick,” you just need to watch Bachelor Party.)

Mark Gregory essays the role of the unnamed bad guy. Gregory is probably best known for his portrayal of post-apocalyptic hero Trash in 1990: The Bronx Warriors and the sequel, Escape from the Bronx. Here he sports some scabby facial make-up, short hair and a never wavering maniacal smile. Of all his performances I’ve seen, this is the first time Gregory appears to really be having fun with his character.

Director Frank Valenti (a nod to former president of the MPAA Jack Valenti, perhaps?) is really Pierluigi Ciriaci. Long time Italian movie scholars don’t need me to tell them writer David Parker Jr. is really Dardano Sacchetti.

To understand my appreciation for this flick, you really have to understand the era in which it was made. The 80’s were an amazing time of every kind of movie getting made, many receiving a theatrical release and almost all of them eventually showing up on home video or cable. One hit would begat dozens of similar follow-ups, from all over the world. Delta Force Commando was one of the many films that came into creation thanks to the always in demand action movie market and the success of films like Rambo: First Blood Part II, Commando and Missing in Action.

These films would get made, usually on low budgets, have a few recognizable stars, lots of action and sell tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of videotapes to the vid stores across the country. When Vista released this film on VHS, it was in every neighborhood video shoppe, in the new release section, right there next to 1988’s Rambo III.

For me, Delta Force Commando is way more entertaining than Rambo III. Of the two, Rambo III has some stunning action sequences, yes, but the characters talk too much, there’s too much plot and story and worst yet, the movie has a “message.” On the other hand, Delta Force Commando doesn’t have a “message” to bog down the action, and we can just munch popcorn and cheer on Lt. Turner as he turns the men responsible for his pregnant wife’s death inside out.

I had the opportunity to ask Dardano Sacchetti about his involvement with this film, as it is a film in which not a lot seems to be known about it. He had this to say, “The Ciriaci brothers had a supermarket and an oven that made bread in a small town near Rome. The oldest was very rich and the youngest wanted to be a director. My agent told me they would pay well for my script. I talked to them and they ended up making films from three of my scripts, but they did not come up roses. I only did it for the money, which turned out not to be very much, in a cloud of cigarette smoke and lots of Vodka.”

As far as the similarity of this title with a Cannon release around the same time, Sacchetti offers, “I believe my Delta Force was written a few months before the American one with Chuck Norris.”

When you’re in the mood for just watching a couple old-school guys blow up a lot of stuff in the name of vengeance, Delta Force Commando is a perfect pick.

Climate of the Hunter (2019)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally reviewed this movie on December 31 of last year, but it’s finally coming out on streaming, so we wanted to remind you to check it out. It’s pretty awesome.

Mickey Reece — who co-wrote this film with John Selvidge, has made two movies a year since 2008 and I haven’t seen a single one of them. After watching Climate of the Hunter, that will definitely change. It’s all about two older sisters awaiting the return of a childhood friend named Wes, one they both have romantic feelings for. He’s definitely a writer, but he may also be a vampire.

Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) can barely be in the same room with one another, but now they’re staying at their family’s cabin together, right next to the aforementioned — and very mysterious — Wesley (Ben Hall). His strange behavior has led one of the locals — the wonderfully named BJ Beavers (Jacob Snovel) — to determine that this man of letters is really a count of blood, so to speak. And as for Alma, well, she can barely stay attuned to this reality, much less be able to deal with a bloodsucker.

Of course, even vampires have families today, which include a son (Sheridan McMichael) who spikes dinner with garlic and a wife (Laurie Cummings) who must rely upon facelifts to appear as youthful as her vampiric paramour when she isn’t in an institution.

Further complicating matters is the short visit from Alma’s daughter Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger), whose youth and beauty take Wesley’s attention away from our protagonists.

This is a film that sparkles with modern dialogue while calling to mind the cinema of the 70’s,  particularly ones that set up dark spaces where female characters slowly lose their minds. Most strikingly, one scene borrows liberally from Daughters of Darkness.

You can learn more about this film on its official Twitter page.