Norman J. Warren Week: Gunpowder (1986)

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet . . . or swallow the gunpowder. This is that one, elusive Norman J. Warren movie that I haven’t seen — and so wanted to. And, in our quest to complete our Norman J. Warren tribute week — and since there’s no online streams of the PPV or free-with-ads stream variety to be found — I bought a beat-to-hell-but-plays VHS copy online. It just arrived in the mail. I watched it. And didn’t disappoint.

Well, it did, pretty much.

Sing it, everyone! He wears a suit and a bow-tie! / He wears jeans and a leather jacket! / One’s prim. One’s scruffy / He’s Gunn. He’s Powder (dah-dum).

Gunpowder is not the action-adventure knockoff of a ’70 Italian Poliziotteschi film that I was expecting: it was the action (bad) comedy I wasn’t expecting. And I can’t believe the guy who made my favorites of Satan’s Slaves, Prey, and Inseminoid made this. Gunpowder is also known as Explosive Gold (a great title) and Commando Gold Crash (a crappy title that evokes a low-budget Philippines-shot Namploitation flick) in overseas markets, but here, in the U.S., it’s known as Gunpowder — because the two secret agents in this dopey Bond wannabe are named Gunn and Powder. And they’re not named that for the comedy, either.

So, our intrepid Interpol agents (played by David Gillum and Martin Potter; Potter starred in Satan’s Slave, while you’ll recall Gillum from the when-animals-attack classic, Frogs, and the Jaws-rip, Sharks’ Treasure) are assigned by their “M” (which is known as Sir Anthony Phelps, here) to figure out who’s flooding the market with a gold surplus that can ruin the world’s economy. Of course, opposites must attract: Gunn is the dashing, American-bred ladies man and Powder is the proper English gent who files his nails at inopportune times because, well, it’s “funny,” you know, back in the days when insinuating a character was “gay” (for having proper hygiene) was funny.

Uh, dangerous cop? Proper cop? Cue-not Lethal Weapon. And not Austin Powers, either.

But do cue Auric Goldfinger — only not Gert Fröbe, thank you. We’ll take the lower-budgeted Dr. Vanche (David Miller . . . from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!), who’s discovered the formula to manufacture synthetic gold — and he’s selling it on the open market.

This has it all — and it doesn’t: Two martial arts baddies known as “The Cream Twins” (Alan and Brian Fontaine, if you care) who kidnap a metallurgical (lady) scientist/heiress. A super spy lair that puts Bruce Wayne’s joint to cheesy shame (Adam West would have been PERFECT as the American Spy, here; it’s totally in his wheelhouse). Super spy gadgets. A milk factory used as a front to smuggle liquid gold in milk cartons (ugh), which why the scientist/heiress is kidnapped. Then there’s bad dialog. Failed comedic one-liners. And, instead of bullets: vats of liquid gold death traps. Then there’s the stupid (ugh) costumes the bad doctor Vanche’s minions wear — with a big “V” on their chests. And Dr. V’s bad gold hair. And it goes on and on . . . such as our milk heiress having the first name of “Coffee.” Yuk, yuk.

I guess you (well, moi) have to be British to appreciate this one.

Their Mission: Entertainment. Their Method: Boredom. Me: Re-eBay’in the tape to another sap.

Editor’s Note: We planned this Norman J. Warren week on a whim — as result of our February Mill Creek box set blowout featuring two of his films among the celluloid ruins: Prey and Satan’s Slaves. We just lost him on March 11, 2021. You can read up on Warren’s career with his obituaries at The Irish Examiner and Metro UK News.

After Gunpowder, Warren wrapped his career with the mystery-horror Bloody New Year.

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

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