Who’s David A. Prior?
We love David A. Prior around here. Of course, you know that already, as we drop his name a lot around the digitized pages of B&S About Movies. And we like to kid David A. Prior a lot around here, too. But it’s out of respect. Which is why, even though Sam the Boss already took a crack at Future Force and Future Zone during our past post-apoc excursions, we’re reviewing them both with a second, fresh take, for this new apoc week.
In the coming months, we’re rolling out a week-long tribute to ’80s SOV films, and David A. Prior is on the list with his infamous film debut, Sledgehammer (1983), which starred his bodybuilding and ex-Chippendale’s dancing brother, Ted. And from that humble, shot-on-video beginning, David A. came to incorporate AIP — Action International Pictures — with David Winters and Peter Yuval. Winters’s own humble beginnings began with Thrashin’; after being overruled on a casting decision (Josh Brolin instead of Johnny Depp; we reviewed Brolin’s Jonah Hex, by the way), Winters vowed to make movies on his own, without studio interference. Then he gave us Space Mutiny . . . so, maybe it pays to have studio interference.
Ah, but we’re here to praise the ’90s-VHS resume of David A. Prior, a resume that would require two tribute weeks to review the joint Prior brothers’ resume. What we have reviewed is the spa ‘n blades romp Killer Workout and the Filipino actioners Firehead, The Final Sanction, and Silencer. Then there’s his female Rambo ramblings with Relentless Justice. And while Prior didn’t direct them, his Action International Pictures, which later rebranded as West Side Studios after David Winters bought out his partners, also gave us the holiday horror Elves, the apoc-slop of Phoenix the Warrior, and the exploitation zombie mess Zombie Death House.
Mr. Prior dipped his toes in the post-apoc pool again — and Brigette Nielsen in tow — with Hostile Environment, aka Watership Warrior (1999), concerned with the ol’ rebels and tainted water supply gag. We’re wondering if Dave A. brought back the flyin’ robot forearm we’ll soon discuss? We wanted to review it this week because, well, another David A. Prior flick on the site is a good thing — really. Sadly, there’s no online streams — or trailer, not even clips — for us to review and share with you.
And that brings us to the Mad Maxian one-two punch of the post-apoc adventures of John Tucker — he of the flying, remote controlled robot arm-cum-glove. Seriously. John can either slip on the glove to kick apoc-ass . . . or use a remote control on his belt to fly said robo-glove out of its toolbox home to zip around and punch out the bad guys. Oh, and it can shoot lasers and take out an errant helicopter. So there’s that.
Anyway — one year earlier, in the far-flung year of 2020 — things haven’t got so bad to be Mad Maxian, but bad enough to be Robocopian. But, since this is a low-budget apocalypse, the world of John Tucker is just down the street from the also not-the-Main Force Patrol apoc-shenanigans of Ron Marchini’s John Travis in Omega Cop (1990) and Karate Cop (1991). (And, to add to the confusion, David Carradine cameos in Karate Cop.) And since we don’t have the budget for full-blown Robocop body armor or Road Warrior body leathers, our cops wear sleeveless denim vests with “Special Police” and “COPS” patches on their chest.
And if it all sounds like the same movie . . . it probably is. And none of it — regardless of the vests — is very heavy metal.
This time, our merry band of law officers are a civilian bounty hunter-based organization known as C.O.P.S, aka Civilian Operated Police Systems. Our intrepid John Tucker (David Carradine) is a bitter, washed up drunk roamin’ the mean streets of Los Angeles who’s more interested in dispatching justice — like Judge Dredd — than collecting bounties in his pocket. Of course, as in Robocop, the police force is corrupt and a reporter — a female reporter, natch — has the proof. (So, yeah, we’re pinchin’ Stallone’s Cobra, too.) And now the C.O.P.S are out to stop the duo from exposing the corruption. Oh, and Tucker’s only ally is Billy (the 260-plus credits strong D.C Douglas; six new films in production), a computer genius with a spiffy wheelchair. Oh, and the chief baddy that gets his ass robo-gloved kicked is Robert Tessier from Burt Reynolds’s The Longest Yard — but since this is B&S: The Glory Stompers, The Velvet Vampire, and Chief Thor in Starcrash, just to name a few of Robert’s B-Movie delights.
So, we’ve ripped off Mad Max and mixed it with Robocop. And tossed in some Cobra and Ron Keel. What’s left to rip: The Terminator . . . or more like Charles Band’s Trancers — didn’t that have time travel and see an overseas release as Future Cop? — since there’s no way this movie can afford a James Cameron cyborg, well, at least not a borg that extends beyond the right forearm. And John Tucker ain’t no Jack Deth. And neither is a Snake Plissken. But Plissken was packing a 1998-era, mission-critical Kraco audio cassette tape and a laser-sighted revolver. And Tucker has a robo-arm. So who is kicking whose ass around Los Angeles: David A. Prior, for at least he came up with a techno-trinket and didn’t have Tucker packing Carpenter’s “future” audio cassettes.
Anyway, this time, the C.O.P.S will stop John Tucker . . . so they think. Tucker’s son, Billy (Ted Prior) — and not the same Billy from Future Force — travels back in time to 1990 to stop his dad’s murder. Oh, and save Tucker’s wife — and Billy’s mom — from kidnappers. And that’s pretty much it. The glove kicks ass. There’s explosions. Turned over cars. Oh, and requisite baddie soldier-cop Charles Napier (best known in the mainstream, celluloid throes as CIA officer Marshall Murdock in Rambo: First Blood Part II) and Jackson Bostwick, the original Captain Marvel from the ’70s Saturday morning TV series Shazam!, beef up the cast (well, this is a step up from the Gold Key Entertainment-verse with Killing at Outpost Zeta and Escape from DS-3, after all, right Jackson? Uh, is it?).
So, which is better and which is worse? Opinions vary. Can you make it through both and figure it out for yourself? Well, what do you expect from a law enforcement agency that spends their money on a fleet of un-Mad Maxian Jeep Cherokees with remote control doors — then blows their remaining operational budget on robo-gloves that flash an “OK” and Devil’s Horn” signs after its remote ass-kickings?
For no one thought to rent the repurposed Death Race 2000 Calamity Jane from Claudio Fragasso used in Interzone or Scorpion’s bubble-topped Camaro from Enzo G. Castellari’s Warriors of the Wasteland. And speaking of Trancers and cars . . . Band’s future cop romp repurposed the Spinner from Bladerunner, which was also repurposed in Solar Crisis (1990) and Soldier (1998). Come on, Mr. Prior, a fleet of Jeep Cherokees will save our future? Could you be more cheapjack? Okay, so don’t rent out the Spinner. Could you have at least attempted a flashy, MFP-styled paint job on the jeeps? And . . . hey . . . wait a sec . . . are those the same Jeep Cherokees from the earlier adventures of John Travis in Omega Cop(y) and Karate Cop(y)?
Where to Watch
You’ve got four chances to tough out the John Tucker-verse: Tubi offers the RiffTrax’s versions of Future Force and Future Zone. If you’re a purist — like moi — you can watch the un-riffed VHS rips on You Tube for Future Force and Future Zone. And no, while David Carradine stars in the similarly-titled Crime Zone, that’s a whole other zone unto itself — courtesy of Roger Corman’s Concorde Productions. The same goes for Carradine’s brush with Cirio H. Santiago in Kill Zone from 1993.
The Music of Gail Jensen
And since we mentioned Ron Keel and are in a musical mood: The resident damsel-in-distress in Future Zone, aka Ms. and Ma Tucker, is Gail Jensen, aka, Ms. David Carradine. The Carradines married in Rome in 1988 during the filming of the Italian-British co-production of the Terence Young-directed sports drama, Run for Your Life, aka, Marathon. Now, if the name Terence Young is familiar to you spy flick junkies . . . yes, Young is the director behind the early Bond classics Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965). (We could do a theme week on Young’s resume; we haven’t reviewed many of his films, but we did take a look at his box office bomb, Inchon.)
Anyway, back to Gail Jensen.
While Jensen acted (she made her debut in a 1974 episode of TV’s popular cop-procedural, McCloud, and had a support role in the ’80s slasher Don’t Answer the Phone) and helped co-produce David’s later films, she was primary known as a musician and songwriter. Her credits include the songs “Walk the Floor” and “Hello Heartbreak” — both sung by David — and “History Hall” and “Shot Full of You Love” — both sung by Gail — for Larry Cohen’s Maniac Cop. Her biggest success as a songwriter was the Lee Majors-sung “Unknown Stuntman,” which she co-wrote with Glen Larson and Dave Somerville (Larson were both members of — but not at the same time — The Four Preps; Somerville went onto greater fame with the ’50s vocal quartet, The Diamonds). Jensen also wrote the 1977 single “Prairie Dog Blues” for McCloud actor Dennis Weaver. (You can also check out David Carradine’s songwriting and singing with “Divining Rod” featured in Roadside Prophets.)
Unfortunately, when you Google Gail Jensen to learn more about her music career, all links lead to her disclosure of David Carradine’s kinky sex proclivities, which led to his death. For the curiosity seekers of the dark side of Hollywood, you can learn more about the legal fallout of David’s — and eventually Gail’s — deaths via the IMDb’s news section on Gail Jensen (and that page with the press links has now been wiped; you’re on your own with Google).
Personally, I much rather know more about Gail’s music career — which Hollywood seems to have swept under the rug.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.