Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: Day of the Panther (1988)

Oh, Brian Trenchard-Smith, how do we at B&S About Movies love thee? Let us count the reviews. . . .

The rocking, magical majesty of Stunt Rock (your amazing, feature film debut as both writer and director that leaves us jumpin’ off the walls in glee), your apoc-game show shenanigans of Turkey Shoot, your giving the future Ms. Tom Cruise her big break in the U.S. cable favorite BMX Bandits, the apoc-fuckery of Dead End Drive-In, and not one, but two Leprechaun flicks: both 3 and 4! Then you went Trinity Broadcasting-biblical on our asses with Megiddo: The Omega Code 2. Even when you team up to produce with Nico Mastorakis for Bloodline, our VHS-pumpin’ heart belongs to you. Night of the Demons 2? Others scoffed, but we were there, for you, oh, Brian.

So, when Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger issued the disgruntled war veteran challenge, you answered the call. And we answered your call, in kind. Sigh . . . for we only wish the programmers at Mill Creek planned ahead and also included your second “Rambo”: The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1988). Look at that cast, headed by the B-Movie, direct-to-video delights of Wings Hauser and R. Lee Ermey! So what if you shot it near the same locations where Return from the River Kwai (1989) was being shot, so you could pinch stock battle scenes from that production. You make the Philippines work-like-Vietnam like no one can, Brian.

“Happy, Happy Halloween! Silver Shamrock!” Yes. The villains run around in Halloween masks/image courtesy of VHS Collector.com.

Trenchard-Smith’s road to Ramboness begins with prolific Australian stunt man Peter West. West cooked up a Down Under version of the better-known American counterparts as Jason Blade (fellow stunt man Edward John Stazak*): a martial-arts expert who launches an all-out war against a drug-running enterprise responsible for the death of his partner. Okay, well, this isn’t exactly a war-oriented movie, but closer to the vengeful, rogue cops of Sly’s Cobra (1986) and Arnie’s Red Heat (1988), but you get the idea.

So Jason Blade, and his love interest, Linda (Linda Megier; herself a stunt woman, also in her acting debut), have risen to the martial arts-levels to be inducted into the ancient “Order of the Panthers,” a secret crime fighting organization. During their first mission: Linda dies. The authorities — on the take and powerless — won’t take down the bad guys, so Blade has to go, well, Stallone, well, Chan, well, Van Damme on their asses.

For the most-discriminating Brian Trenchard-Smith fan.**

Sadly, well . . . okay, look: we’re partial to Trenchard-Smith’s works, but we’re not ranting to our levels of boyish glee for his previous work, here. The proceeding are all very direct-to-video, B-Movie weak (in the U.S.; this was a theatrical in Australia), rife with all of the hand-to-hand combat you can handle — Stazak even breaks out the Jackie Chan broom handle whoop ass. So, while it’s all B-Movie pedestrian and Stazak’s script is a cut-n-paste job of many, better-known Jean-Claude Van Damme flicks, Trenchard-Smith does keep it moving, so the chop-socky tomfoolery is certainly not boring to the point of you wanting to fast-forwarding through it or skipping-without-finishing-it to the next film on the Mill Creek box set. Hey, its a hell of a lot better than a Hulk Hogan or any WWF-backed action flick from the ’80s. . . .

“How could you leave out Frog Dreaming?!?” fellow WordPresser, Antonio from cultcutz.com, shouts with glee.

“The same way I forgot Paris Jefferson’s (three) aerobic dance numbers in the gym while Jason Blade works out. And the total clip job of John Saxon’s big, ending fight scene in Enter the Dragon.” For ours is not to plot spoil why, ours is but to review and let the viewer cry . . . in laughter at discovering the absurdities abound in a Trenchard-Smith flick: such as Frog Dreaming (1986, aka The Quest) with Henry “Elliot” Thomas. Pencil that in our “reviews to-do list,” Sam.

See? All movies and off-the-beaten path directors have fans. Some more than others. Others less than the rest. And BTS is the best.

You can free-stream Day of the Panther on Daily Motion and sample the trailer on You Tube. There’s no free-streams of Strike of the Panther, but we found the trailer on You Tube.

Get your copy as part of Mill Creek’s Drive-In Classics set.

* Since Day of the Panther was a big hit Down Under, Stazark also starred in the Trenchard-Smith helmed sequel, Strike of the Panther (1988). Well, it’s said both were filmed back-to-back, not that that fact matters much. Anyway, Stazark also penned his starring role in Black Neon, a tale of a club bouncer out for bloody revenge (see G.B.H), before fading away into the analog snows.

Co-star Linda Megier did one more: she starred alongside Nicole Kidman in the Australian TV movie, Nightmaster (1988).

Our chief villain is played by prolific Australian TV actor John Stanton, who U.S. audiences my recall starring in the James Clavell-adaptation of his best-selling novel, Tai-Pai (1986).

** Do you need more? Do yah? Well, Tubi hooks you up with thirteen Brian Trenchard-Smith films — including Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 and Dead End Drive-In. There’s a few I haven’t seen or was aware of . . . so guess what I’ll be doing this weekend? Brian Trenchard-Smith MOVIE SIGN!!!!

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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