CANNON MONTH: Dangerously Close (1986)

Is it strange how much Dangerously Close feels like the last few years of life? I mean, life is high school, right? And aren’t The Sentinels, the far right student villains of this movie, pretty much anyone that does their own research and demands to know why they can’t have white history month? Man, between this movie and Avenging Force, Cannon was hitting this subject head on while also getting to roll around in the muck, which is how all good exploitation must behave.

Written by Scott Fields (who also wrote Under Cover), John Stockwell (who stars in this and yes, also wrote Under Cover and directed it too) and Marty Ross (who was one of the New Monkees a year later and that fries my brain) and directed by Albert Pyun, who would make CyborgAlien from L.A. and Down Twisted for Cannon, Dangerously Close is the kind of weird movie I get obsessed by.

I mean, Roger Ebert said that the Pyun “devoted a great deal of time and thought to how his movie looked, and almost no time at all to what, or who, it was about.”

That’s my jam.

At the private school Vista Verde — a nightmare for me, as my parents frequently debated sending me to a school just like this — The Sentinels have gone from a student group to a military unit that assaults the undesirables of the student population thanks to the leadership of Randy McDermott (Stockwell).

I’d like to think that I’d have been Donny Lennox (J. Eddie Peck, who was Kevin “Blade” Laird in Lambada), a poor kid who got in because he knew how to write. He and punk rocker Krooger Raines (Branford Bancroft, 3:15Bachelor Party) are just two of the kids who don’t fit in and they’re soon joined by Brian (Thom Matthews, Tommy Jarvis himself), who has left behind the group after they go too far and McDevitt’s ex-girlfriend Julie (Carey Lowell, Law & Order), who splits from the group leader after she screams at him that all he cares about is using her mouth and wow, that language is shocking exploitation dialogue even years after this was made.

Let me tell you, I love this movie. It’s so odd because the town where it takes place is perfect and yet has more fog than any place in California other than the Sunset Strip. It’s got a cast that includes Debra Berger, Angel Tompkins (The Teacher playing a teacher?), Dedee Pfeiffer (making this a mini-The Allnighter cast meet-up with Bancroft, who played Bartender Joe in that Susanna Hoffs vehicle), March 1982 Playboy Playmate of the Month Karen Lorre, Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (making this a Return of the Living Dead reunion with Matthews), Don Michael Paul (who would go on to direct so many direct-to-video sequels like Kindergarten Cop 2Death Race: Beyond AnarchyThe Scorpion King: Book of Souls and Tremors: Shrieker Island) and Gerard Christopher (the syndicated Superboy). Everybody in that group is way too attractive to play high school students and teachers. And it has a wild soundtrack, with everything from T.S.O.L., The Lords of the New Church, Lone Justice, Fine Young Cannibals, Depeche Mode and The Smithereens, whose “Blood and Roses” is nearly the theme song for the film.

Also, the Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland made-for-TV movie Brotherhood of Justice is strangely the exact same story and also has Don Michael Paul in it.

More people should be talking about this movie.

You can listen to The Cannon Canon podcast about Dangerously Close here.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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