American Tiger (1990)

A rickshaw driver in Miami is protected by an Asian witch when he comes up against a conspiracy involving him being videotaped having sex with a mysterious redhead and it causing the death of the son of a faith healing televangelist played by Donald Pleasance — all directed by Sergio Martino (Torso, All the Colors of the Dark, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and so much more)!

This seems like the perfect union of everything I love in movies. It’s pure junk and perfect for 3 AM weekend viewing! Scott (U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Mitch Gaylord, American Anthem) just wants to get ahead in class and help his roommate with his rickshaw business. But after that aforementioned redhead hooks up with him, all hell breaks loose. Reverend Mortom’s (Pleasance) son Jason was taping the action and Scott flips out, beating the guy’s ass. But soon, Jason ends up getting killed when the boat the action happened on is set ablaze. Soon after, a hitman (Daniel Green, in a role made for George Eastman) comes after Scott, killing his roomie with another inferno.

There’s also an ancient Chinese woman, Madame Luna, who Scott helped with his rickshaw who uses a cobra, a cat and magic to rescue our hero throughout the movie. She also wrote him a letter that he never seems to get to finish. Even after it’s been eaten by rats, her voice still plays in his head when he is near the paper.

The cops are also after Scott, thinking that he’s killed the reverend’s son and his roommate. So our hero goes to the Pink Pussycat and kidnaps the redhead — who we soon learn is Joana Simpson, the girlfriend of the dead man. I should also mention that Scott is pretty much the most moronic asshole to ever be seen as a hero in a film and that’s covering so much territory. Yet even after kidnapping Joana at gunpoint she still likes him and ends up helping him.

Throughout, Martino uses tons of crazy zooms, weird cuts that defy editing logic and everyone is constantly running and grimacing. It’s like a Rob Liefeld comic come to life. And it’s awesome. And by awesome I mean that anyone normal — like Becca — will tell you that this is a shitty movie.

However, let me make my argument. Any movie where Donald Pleasence is an evil televangelist with a warthog statue that is locked in eternal combat with a sorceress directed by my favorite giallo director is going to obsess me. There’s also a shower sex scene where our hero keeps his jeans on, confounding me even further. There’s also a magical key that unlocks the secret of the statue that burns through the killer’s hand. There is also a magical cat. Holy fuck, this movie. I have no idea how anyone would even come up with these concepts.

It turns out that Scott and the reverend’s son were both born on the highest day of the Chinese calendar — 6/6/66 — which means that when Scott says that he wears a tiger t-shirt because he was born in the year of the tiger, he is full of shit. He was born in the year of the horse and American Horse is a much shittier title than American Tiger or American Rickshaw. It’s also the title of a song by the band The Cult, but I think I’m probably the only person who knows or cares about that.

Donald Pleasence comes to attack the Chinese woman, but the cobra and cat attack him before he chokes her. Have you ever heard Pleasence do a Southern accent at the same time that he can’t shake his British voice? You will. I’d say this role was beneath him, but I can also point to so many other films that he was in that are worse.

The killer finally catches up with Scott, who runs across railroad ties and trips — he was an Olympic gymnast — before a semi takes out the killer, who suddenly has a snake come out of his eyeball! Again — this fucking movie!

Scott takes the statue back to Madame Luna, who is young again. The cops listen to Joana, who tells them that Scott is innocent. And the Reverend goes on TV and transforms into a warthog while Luna outs him to the world. Yes, you just read that correctly. Then, his wife screams that he is the devil and shoots him as everyone watches the warthog under his skin emerge. “He was the devil!” she screams as the cops matter of factly lead her away. A man just turned into a giant bloody pig. This should be a much bigger deal than the way the cops behave.

Just watch this trailer and wonder, “How could a movie like this be created and no one is constantly talking about it?” When I hear people complain that they’re bored and hate the world, it’s movies like this that I point them to.

Amazon Prime has become the video store of today, with me searching through strange cover art and discovering movies I’d otherwise never watch. You can watch American Tiger on there — and it’s complete with tracking issues! How magical is that?!?

UPDATE: Cauldron Films is releasing this on blu ray — literally its first on-disc release in the U.S. This is a full bells and whistles release, complete with a full 2K restoration, interviews with director Sergio Martino and production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng, location visits, commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger, a limited edition slipcase and only 1000 copies will be made. Check out the link and order this ASAP. I know that I already did!

6 thoughts on “American Tiger (1990)

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