Never Too Young to Die (1986)

I grew up on James Bond. More than that, at a young age, I was obsessed with Bond. One magical Christmas, the only gifts I got were the James Bond role playing game from Victory Games and all of the expansions. I saw every single one one of the movies, even the original Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again, the bootleg Sean Connery film that came out of Kevin McClory’s legal battles with Eon Productions, the Fleming estate and United Artists. I’ve seen every Bond ripoff, from Flint to Matt Helm to Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (it helps that Mario Bava directed that one). Post Timothy Dalton, I grew bored with the more realistic Bond and never came back. I grew up with the ridiculous world of Roger Moore.

I get the feeling that plenty of other folks have had similar experiences, thanks to comics like Jimmy’s Bastards and Kingsmen (also a series of movies). And this movie — Never Too Young to Die guest stars the Bond from my favorite of the series, the only appearance of George Lazenby, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Drew Stargrove, but we can just pretend he’s James Bond.

Stargrove has a son, Lance. He has a theme song. And he has a mission, to stop psychopathic hermaphroditic gang leader Velvet Von Ragner (Gene Simmons, sure he’s in KISS, but let’s celebrate his ridiculous IMDB page, where he’s either played himself or been in some amazingly insane films, like Trick or Treat and Runaway). But his luck has finally run out. He’s dead and his somewhat estranged son must leave behind his gymnastic days at college to take over his role as the best secret agent in the world.

Lance is played by John Stamos, mostly known for TV’s Full House. This is his star turn, all fresh faced and ready to break hearts. He’s joined on his mission by Vanity, who may have had a short and sweet film career, but got to be in some incredible stuff, like The Last DragonAction JacksonTanya’s Island52 Pick-Up and Terror Train.

Your ability to enjoy this film depends completely on your ability to enjoy ridiculousness. And facts like this — the nightclub outfit that costume Gene Simmons wears in the nightclub scene is the same one that Lynda Carter wore for her 1980 ENCORE! special, where she sang KISS’ “I Was Made for Loving You.”

Writer Steven Paul also created the Baby Geniuses series and had uncredited help from Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (TV’s BatmanFlash Gordon), which shows. Paul also wrote 1992’s The Double 0 Kid, where Corey Haim dreams of being a secret agent.

Director Gil Bettman produced and directed tons of 80’s TV, like The Fall GuyKnight Rider and Automan, a one season wonder that combined police drama with Tron. I may be the only human being to have watched the entire season. His other major movie in 1986 was Crystal Heart, where Tawny Kitaen plays a rock star who falls in love with a boy who lives inside a crystal room because he has an auto-immune deficiency.

This film has an incredibly uneven tone. At times, it’s a family movie. Other scenes, Road Warrior clones are tearing off Vanity’s clothes and threatening to rape her. Sometimes, everything is treated with wacky humor. And then, you see people fall to their deaths and smack into the ground. It’s also a much better movie the more mind enhancing substances you consume, I figure, as I watched it cold sober and it kind of dragged (no pun intended).

Oh yeah — Lance’s roommate, Cliff, is played by Peter Kwong, who was Rain in Big Trouble in Little China. And because this movie was made in the 1980’s, Robert Englund contractually has to be in it.

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