“Open the gates of Hell! For I am the right hand of God!”
— So speaks Father Daniel
Trust us: We aren’t plot spoiling when we tell you what we have here is a great idea of a Sylvester Stallone Cobra (1986) ripoff — with Sly as a catholic priest, instead of a toothpick-chewin’ rogue cop, after an ravenous serial killer — a vampire killer, no less.
Needless to say, this karate-horror hybrid isn’t as good as that Stallone pitch-premise. Ah, but we have the presence of a Ponch and Stringfellow and a Ron Marchini-lite karate-thespian as a priest raising a Jean-Claude Van Damme’in holy hell on a Z-movie budget.
Damn straight, I want to watch this. Load the friggin’ tape! LOAD THE TAPE! Man the drink blenders, Sam. Pull up a section of couch, Bill Van Ryn. This is gonna rock the VHS heads.
So, welcome to another never-heard-of-it-or-seen-it-before lost VHS’er that’s never been released on DVD or Blu-ray, which, unless it is reissued on either format and a freebie copy is provided to the reviewer — or the writer is paid to write the review — they/their website home, doesn’t review it. Now, true: We at B&S About Movies get our fair share of promotional DVDs and Blus, as well as box sets of reissued classics, as well as the newer 2021 fair, and we get plenty of promotional digital screeners from P.R firms. And we enjoying exposing those reissued and new films to audiences — but it’s the analog barnacles: the VHS ditties lost to the ages; the films never reissued to hard or streaming digital formats that’s our jam; the films no reissues studio shills for the greenbacks. (And that ain’t no cliched ensuing trope we’re spewing, there, my friend. Nor do we do conventional, simple summary of the plot reviews. Where’s the fun in that QWERTY’in trope? You gotta go gonzo, sans the green.)
Such a film is The Divine Enforcer — a film with more critic and user reviews than we anticipated. This is a known film?
So, unlike us Allegheny pugwackers splashin’ about the Three Rivers confluence, the more discriminating VHS’er have, in fact, watched this, well, let’s face it: poverty row junk, courtesy of its rusty ‘n crumbled, star-power sparkle of Jan-Michael Vincent, Robert Z’Dar, Erik Estrada, Don Stroud, and Judy Landers. So, yeah, basically, it’s a B&S About Movies all-star cast. Then, in support roles, we have the insane Scott Shaw (100 film and TV acting credits, with 153 as a producer — one of which is The Roller Blade Seven). And, do we really need to tell you about Micheal M. Foley from Ron Marchini’s Karate Cop, as well as Prison Planet and Cybernator? Well, we just did.
And that’s why we are here, today: Our review of Cyberator, in conjunction with our Ron Marchini two-day blowout, put The Divine Enforcer on our radar. So let’s sit back, together, as we enjoy this video-store renter for the first time — 29 years after its release.
Cybernator served as our debut introduction to the resume of writer-director Robert Rundle; that apoc’er served as his debut feature film. For his next movie, the movie we are reviewing today, in addition to securing the services of everyone above — yes, that is the Jim Brown, the blaxploitation extraordinaire in the cast — Rundle secured the scripting services of Randall Frakes of Hell Comes to Frogtown and Roller Blade Warriors fame — so there’s that B-Movie enticement. Then Rundle gave us Vampire Hunter (1994) with B-Movie screamer, Linnea Quigley, Run Like Hell (1995) with Robert “Maniac Cop” Z’Dar, and the return of William Smith (from Cybernator) in Raw Energy (1995). Sadly, Rundle hasn’t made a film since 2005 and, according to the IMDb, Rundle had a website, but it’s lost in the 404 error-verse.
So, if you haven’t already figured it out from the VHS cover: we are dealing with a religious-based thriller. A monsignor (Erik Estrada; most recently in Dead Over Diamonds) and his assistant, Father Thomas (Jan-Micheal Vincent, Alienator) — both in the ol’ sit-down-thespian-roles-for-a-paycheck — recruits a new priest, Father Daniel (Michael J. Foley), to their Los Angeles parish. The newcomer priest proceeds to turn vigilante (as Vincent did in the HBO-dumper pastiche of The Warriors and Death Wish in 1980’s Defiance) and takes on various thugs and criminals that rule the neighborhoods.
Of course, knowing Foley’s skill set as we do, Father Daniel (wow, where was Ron Marchini, he was made for this role) has mad martial arts skills — and he’s armed with a stockpile of crucifix tossing-blades and a Boondock Saints-style pistol with a cross on the handle — only that 1999 film wasn’t made yet.
So, amid Father Dan’s daily duties of cleaning up the city of drug-dealing scumbags (cue Jim Brown and Robert Z’Dar) and protecting his landlady (call Judy Landers to set), Father D. runs afoul of Otis (cue Don Stroud, hacking at the ham), who claims to be the bloodsucking — and beheading n’ skull-stealing — vampire terrorizing Los Angeles. Assisting Father Dan in the fight is, Kim (Carrie Chambers; made her debut in Karate Cop alongside Foley; also appears in Sleepaway Camp IV* and Bikini Carwash Company II) with her psychic link to Otis.
So yeah, this purely a Michael J. Foley and Carrie Chambers joint, with Estrada and Vincent washed-up and on-board doin’ the now de rigueur Eric Roberts (Lone Star Deception) walk on-to-sit down role, a mantel recently taken up by Nicolas Cage**. Ditto goes for Jim Brown and Robert Z’Dar in their blink-and-you’ll-miss ’em-put-a-name-on-the-box roles. Oh, and we get to see Asian singer Hiroko belt out her 1990 Enigma Records’ release, “My Love Is Waiting” (You Tube). Oh, and there’s lots of gratuitous boobs bouncing about the frames.
Yeah, it’s awful. Really awful.
And it’s also sad.
Jan-Micheal has his script taped inside a newspaper as he “reads” about the ongoing killings; Estrada, is well, Estrada, who wishes he didn’t cop an attitude during his CHiPs heyday and tank his career, and Don Stroud — a B&S About Movies hero — is out of shape, pasty, and saddening as he goes full-on Shakespeare (with a little tongue) to a boiled, bloody skull. But, again, we get Ponch and Stringfellow and a priest raising holy hell. So what’s not to likey here?
Not a damn thing.
You can roll it on You Tube — complete with original Prism VHS opening trailers, so this is truly a retro, home-video ride. However, if an hour and thirty minutes of a martial arts Catholic priest is too much too handle, the fine folks at Cine Arcadia Productions confessed their fandom for The Divine Enforcer by cutting out the fat and distilling the film down to — get this, 17 minutes — with this You Tube upload.
Me? I’m an analog masochist. I’m went for the Full Monty-hour and a half ride, baby! Which is why Sam the Bossman runs drink blenders. Toastin’ the livers is required with a flick such as The Divine Enforcer.
* Yeah, we know. Since we did the first three — Sleepaway Camp, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland — we need to put part IV from 1992 — which we didn’t even know existed — on our review list.
** Did you check out our “Nic Cage Bitch” blowout? It has links to all of his films we’ve reviewed so far. Go head, click the link. Be Nic’s bitch.