Fear (1990)

Cayce Bridges (Ally Sheedy) — nice first name — is a remote viewer and empath who can mentally find and link with murderers, allowing the police to catch them. However, once she meets the Shadow Man, she learns that there’s a psychic that is even more powerful than she is.

So much American giallo seems fixated on the psychic detective who can find a killer that ends up getting stuck inside her mind. That said, this film has a wonderful performance by Ally Sheedy to shore it up as well as a bonkers scene at a dinner where she suddenly links minds with the killer and begins ruins numerous rich folks’ fancy evening out.

Plus, Michael O’Keefe, John Agar and Lauren Hutton make for what is in our existence a pretty decent cast.

Writer/director Rockne S. Bannon’s career has mostly been in science fiction, as he wrote the theatrical and TV versions of Alien Nation, as well as plenty more TV like FarScape, the 90s Twilight Zone and Cult.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Meridian: Kiss of the Beast (1990)

Dennis Paoli wrote Re-AnimatorFrom BeyondDagonThe DentistSpellcaster and Castle Freak, so I would put his Full Moon work on the good side of the “Is it a good or bad Full Moon?” equation that we’ll discuss throughout this week of their films. I am thanking him for somehow getting Charles Band to make a movie with all non-small characters, save Phil Fondacaro, because Mr. Band just can’t seem to make a movie without someone short or miniature.

Unlike so many other Full Moon films, this one looks and sounds great, with a Pino Donaggio score and a lush and romantic feel, because hey, it’s the Full Moon version of Beauty and the Beast.

It’s also incredibly troubling, as Lawrence and his twin brother are under a curse and may only be killed by someone who loves them. I don’t believe that said curse gives them license — here’s the rough part — to drug and assault our main character Catherine Bomarzini (Sherilyn Fenn) and her friend Gina (Charlie Spradling, who was also in the Full Moon films Bad Channels and Puppet Master II).

Also known as The Ravaging, which is the re-mastered title, this movie also has a ghost girl, a faithful nanny and monster and human lovemaking. It’s kind of like the Cinemax version of a fairy tale — umm, no wait, that would be Fairy Tales — and I’m sure that lots of folks rented this before they could actually rent VCA movies and were rewarded with something even stranger than an actual adult movie.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Soultaker (1990)

Writer Vivian Schilling told Fangoria about this movie: “When I was 18, just out of high school, I went to a party with a girlfriend. A guy offered us a ride home, someone we thought we knew pretty well. He didn’t look wasted or anything, but when we got in the car he started driving really crazy. We were going very fast and hit a tree; I was in the front seat and was literally buried in the dashboard. It was bad. For a moment as I was sitting there. I thought I was going to die. I always felt lucky to have lived through that, but it also made me wonder. What if I was supposed to die and didn’t know it?”

So they made a movie where Robert Z’Dar played the Angel of Death and Joe Estevez was his Soultaker, years before Final Destination, and Schilling even appears in the movie as one of the souls chased by death itself.

After the surprising success of this low budget film, a sequel was planned with James Earl Jones, Faye Dunaway, Donald Sutherland and William Shatner discussed as being in the cast and director Tibor Takács being picked to helm the picture. Funding was never found and Schilling eventually turned that script into her book Quietus.

Director Michael Rissi also made Terror Eyes, which also starred Schilling.

The Willies (1990)

The Willies has a cast that makes you keep into the movie. I mean, Sean Astin is one of three kids gathered around the campfire — Jason Horst and Joshua John Miller from Near Dark are the other two — telling urban legends like the old woman who microwaved her dog, a rat in fried chicken and death in an amusement park. Michael then says that he has a story that will give them all…The Willies.

In “Bad Apples,” Kathleen Freeman plays to type as the mean teacher and James Karen shows up as a kindly custodian, the only person who really cares about Danny, a bullied child. As things happen, Karen ends up being an alien who loves to eat bad kids. This segment as actually a short that writer and director Brian Peck (Victor from The Last American Virgin and Scuz from Return of the Living Dead) made in 1985.

In “Flyboy,” Gordy Belcher plays insect pranks on other kids before running into Farmer Spivey, who has super manure that can grow things faster. Of course, this all ends up with Gordy getting his arms torn off by super flies.

At the end, Kyle and Josh claim that their uncle can prove the stories are true. Well, he ends up being James Karen and he reveals the monster face from the first story.

The Willies also has cameos from Kirk Cameron, his wife Chelsea Noble, Tracey Gold and Jeremy Miller which almost makes this an episode of Growing Pains. Perhaps more exciting are appearances by Clu Gulager, Dana Ashbrook and even comedian Doug Benson.

This movie was for kids and is dark in ways that modern horror is not. I think 1990 was the last gasp of things getting to be this weird. The poster is super high quality and really feels like the style of art that slip cases and Fright Rags use today.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Grim Prairie Tales (1990)

The advantage of a horror anthology is that you can afford James Earl Jones when you’re only using him for a day or so. That’s the trick of Grim Prarie Tales, which as far as I know is the only all-western horror anthology.

Writer/director Wayne Coe often worked as a storyboard artist (Se7enDead Man on Campus) before making this film. He’s currently making a movie called We Have Your Kids and planned to make a sequel to this called Grim Prairie Tales: Rescue Party.

Two men meet around the campfire to tell stories, with bounty hunter Morrison (Jones) taking in a body for money and Farley Deeds (Brad Dourif) coming back to see his wife. From a story where a Native American tribe gets revenge against a man who has disturbed their burial ground to Marc McClure helping a pregnant demon woman and a man haunted by someone he killed in a gunfight, the stories all fit the criminally underexplored supernaturally western genre.

There’s also a story about a man forced to become part of a lynch mob. The protagonist is played by William Atherton, who is quite literally the best jerk in the history of movies. The real life Atherton is somewhat suspect too, as he studied Eli Siegel’s aesthetic realism philosophy, which claims that homosexuality is a way of seeing the world that can be studied and changed. Atherton identifies as ex-gay and I’ve noticed that information about this keeps getting taken off of his Wikipedia page.

Regardless, Grim Prarie Tales is an intriguing entry in the horror anthology genre. Then again, I’ve also heard it being placed into the feminist western category and that fits as well.

 

 

Arachnophobia (1990)

Man, Frank Marshall picks some wild movies to direct. There’s the cannibal-themed Alive, the apes with lasers Congo, the Disney film Eight Below and The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.

If you ever wanted to walk around your house in bare feet again, you should probably skip this movie, which has spiders crawl into people’s ears via a football helmet and even live inside a dead nature photographer as his body is shipped back to America in a coffin.

It’s up to Dr. Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels), a new doctor in town with the titular phobia, who has to protect his new town of  Canaima, California for an invasion of the spawn of prehistoric spiders mixed with old fashioned American creepy crawlers.

John Goodman shines as Delbert McClintock, an exterminator, and Julian Sands is as mean as ever as the villainous Dr. James Atherton. The small spiders used in the film were Avondale spiders, a harmless species from New Zealand, while the giant spiders were bird-eating tarantulas with eight-inch legspans. They were all handled by entomologist Steven R. Kutcher, who also was in charge of the locusts in Exorcist II: The Heretic, the bugs in Prince of Darkness and the mosquitos of Jurassic Park amongst many other films. As for the monstrous general spider, it was one of the first props made by Jamie Hyneman, who could go on to star on MythBusters.

This was written by Don Jakoby (LifeforceDouble TeamInvaders from Mars), Al Williams and Wesley Strick (Cape FearThe SaintDoom). It was made under the Hollywood Pictures name instead of Disney, as it’s a pretty frightening film in moments.

The Guardian (1990)

What if the man who wrote Private Lessons — Dan Greenburg — wrote a book about a hamadryad, which is a tree spirit, and somehow William Friedkin made it his first horror film since The Exorcist?

It’s true. All true.

The original script — Sam Raimi was going to direct — was a lot closer to the book and was about a nannuy who steals the children she is charged with. Screenwriter Stephen Volk reworked the script for Friedkin, including coming up with the idea of making the villain Lilith, but then Friedkin wanted a straight and realistic movie, which Universal didn’t and Volk said “What if it was a tree monster?” And Friendkin went, “Yessssssssssssss.”

As a result of all that, Volk suffered a nervous breakdown and left the production, leaving Friedkin to finish the script.

Jenny Seagrove, who actually had to play this part, said that her role went from being a nanny to being a druid to actually being a tree. Or was she a wolf? Man, I have no idea and I’ve tried to watch this more than once and that’s probably why I kind of love it. This movie has no idea what it is even when it’s trying so hard to be it, like a kid in school who is fighting to be cool and has somehow made a persona of every single social group.

I mean, twatching Brad Hall get brutalized by wolves is something that I wish I could do more often. Yet this movie goes from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle to occult horror to an absolutely ridiculous scene with the evil nanny’s bark-like skin has baby faces inside it. Who would come up with this? Who would give them millions of dollars?

What if the man who wrote Private Lessons — Dan Greenburg — wrote a book about a hamadryad, which is a tree spirit, and somehow William Friedkin made it his first horror film since The Exorcist?

It’s true. All true.

The original script — Sam Raimi was going to direct — was a lot closer to the book and was about a nannuy who steals the children she is charged with. Screenwriter Stephen Volk reworked the script for Friedkin, including coming up with the idea of making the villain Lilith, but then Friedkin wanted a straight and realistic movie, which Universal didn’t and Volk said “What if it was a tree monster?” And Friedkin went, “Yessssssssssssss.”

As a result of all that, Volk suffered a nervous breakdown and left the production, leaving Friedkin to finish the script.

Jenny Seagrove, who actually had to play this part, said that her role went from being a nanny to being a druid to actually being a tree. Or was she a wolf? Man, I have no idea and I’ve tried to watch this more than once and that’s probably why I kind of love it. This movie has no idea what it is even when it’s trying so hard to be it, like a kid in school who is fighting to be cool and has somehow made a persona of every single social group.

I mean, watching Brad Hall get brutalized by wolves is something that I wish I could do more often. Yet this movie goes from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle to occult horror to an absolutely ridiculous scene with the evil nanny’s bark-like skin has baby faces inside it. Who would come up with this? Who would give them millions of dollars?

There’s also a cable TV edit that Friedkin hated so much that it got an Alan Smithee directoral credit. In this one, the tree woman known as Camilla is not killed by a chainsaw and is instead alive and naked at the tree as the movie ends.

Ron Marchini Week Wrap Up!

Phew. We did it! Twelve Ron Marchini films in two days. You know the drill! Yee-haw, let’s round ’em up!

Born in California and rising through the U.S. Army’s ranks to become a drill sergeant, in his civilian life, Ron Marchini earned the distinction as the best defensive fighter in the U.S.; by 1972, he was ranked the third best fighter in the country. Upon winning several worldwide tournaments, and with Robert Clouse’s directing success igniting a worldwide martial arts film craze with Enter the Dragon (1973), the South Asian film industry beckoned.

After making his debut in 1974’s Murder in the Orient, Marchini began a long friendship with filmmaker Paul Kyriazi, who directed Ron in his next film, the epic Death Machines, then later, in the first of Ron’s two appearances as post-apoc law officer John Travis, in Omega Cop.

Ron also began a long friendship with Leo Fong (Kill Point) after their co-staring in Murder in the Orient; after his retirement from the film industry — after making eleven dramatic-action films and one documentary — Ron concentrated on training and writing martial arts books with Leo, as well as becoming a go-to arts teacher. Today, he’s a successful California almond farmer.

In the annals of martial arts tournaments, Marchini is remembered as Chuck Norris’s first tournament win (The May 1964 Takayuki Kubota’s All-Stars Tournament in Los Angeles, California) by defeating Marchini by a half a point. Another of Chuck’s old opponents, Tony Tullener, who beat Norris in the ring three times, pursued his own acting career with the William Riead-directed Scorpion.

You can learn more about Ron Marchini with his biography at USAdojo.com. An interview at The Action Elite, with Ron’s friend and Death Machines director Paul Kyriazi, also offers deeper insights.


Ron, second from right, with Chuck Norris, shaking hands, 1965. Courtesy of Ken Osbourne/Facebook.
Courtesy of USADojo.com.

The Flicks!

The Reviews!

New Gladiators (1973)
Murder in the Orient (1974)
Death Machines (1976)
Dragon’s Quest (1983)
Ninja Warriors (1985)
Forgotten Warrior (1986)
Jungle Wolf (1986)
Return Fire (1988)
Arctic Warriors (1989)
Omega Cop (1990)
Karate Cop (1991)
Karate Raider (1995)

Black tee-shirt image courtesy of Spreadshirt. Art work/text by B&S About Movies.

We love ya, Ron!

About the Review Authors: Sam Panico is the founder, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, and editor-in-chief of B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Lettebox’d and Twitter. R.D Francis is the grease bit scrubber, dumpster pad technician, and staff writer at B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Facebook.


A Second Look: Omega Cop (1990) and Karate Cop (1991) and Death Machine Cop (2023)

As we roll out our two-day tribute to the martial arts films of Ron Marchini . . . and my being a post-apoc road warrior . . . I had to watch the double-packed adventures of future cop John Travis, again. And when I first reviewed both films on September 18, 2020, for our “Apoc Month” blow out, well, that wasn’t the first time I watched them both, then. Hey, like Andy Warhol said: Another man’s trash is another man’s art. But truth be told: These are the BEST of Ron’s films. And he’s got some good ones. But I hold these two dear.

So, lets roll ’em and take a fresh look at the adventures of John Travis.

Now, Mr.Warhol isn’t the only one with the intellectual quips. We have a saying around the B&S About Movies’ cubicle farm: What David A. Prior movie doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And, because of my Marchini love, I get ribbed around here with: What Ron Marchini movie doesn’t put you into a coma, should.

Ha, ha. Very funny. I am filling out the harassment forms right now, work place bully.

Yes, dear reader. I am very much toasted, with an ingested pharmaceutical side dish chaser, as I write this. So strap in, ye reader, we are going off the rails in Marchini fandom.

So, anyway, as I reflect on this duo of films in 2021, I believe it’s time Ron called up his ol’ directing sidekick (no pun intended, well, yeah) and longtime friend Paul Kyriazi — who directed Ron in Omega Cop, but not in the sequel, Karate Cop — and they devise a continuing-adventures-of John Travis-sequel based on . . . Death Machines, their mutual debut film from 1976. Only — this time — that remake really will have the “death machine” ancient pyramid in the deep Philippine jungles (okay, the woods outside of Stockton, California) teased in the poster of Death Machines.

I can hear that Zardos-cum-Rollerball death monolith bellow:

The Penis is evil. The Penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the Gun shoots death and purifies the Earth of the filth of Brutals. Go forth, and kill, my death machine warriors. Your toothy pyramid god has spoken!

Too bad Adam West — who stars in Omega Cop, but not Karate Cop — and David Carradine — who stars in Karate Cop, but not Omega Cop — left the terra firma for the celluloid blue above, for they could both be in a film I thee christen: Death Machine Cop. And that sequel would be awesome, because, David Carradine, if you recall, portrayed future post-apoc cop John Tucker in (sadly, the now late) David A. Prior’s two-fer: Future Force and Future Zone.

Think of it: John Travis and John Tucker — with robotic forearm gloves slipped on — inside a forgotten, sentient Mayan-cum-Aztec pyramid, kicking ass. Oh, I don’t know . . . saving some damsel-in-distress (like a Fred Olen Ray warrior queen) and Indiana Jonesin’ some sparkly trinket that can stop the apocalypse. Thus, the “teeth” inside the glistening jungle obelisk chewing and spitting everyone out two and three at a clip.

Yes, Mr. Kyriazi. It is time to film the follow up to your most recent, seventh film from 2018, Forbidden Power. For it is to be called . . . Death Machine Cop. And, if we may suggest a casting choice: Put the call out to our favorite post-apoc warriors of Italian cinema: Michael Sopkiw and Mark Gregory. And any ’70s blaxploitation actor that ended up in Italian and/or Philippines apoc or Rambo-namsploitation movies.

So, what we really need to know: which is the chicken and which is the egg, here?

I swear, I think David A. Prior’s and Ron Machini’s “future cop” romps — which clipped Mad Max, natch — are the same picture. So, who ripped whom? Or is it all just a low-budget cowinkadink? Future Force, 1989. Future Zone, 1990. Then Omega Cop and Karate Cop in 1990 and 1991. If you read our previous reviews to all four of those movies, you know each have souped-up Jeep Cherokees. However, they both do not have robotic forearm gloves. (And Ron is more adept at the kicking than David, but that’s why David got the mech-glove.) But that’s okay: Ron’s getting a robo-glove in Death Machine Cop, right Paul? And lose the jeeps, okay Paul? Give Roger Corman a call and rent out the Calamity Jane from Death Race 2000 that ended up in Interzone. Call Universal and rent out the DeLorean. Call Ridley Scott and rent out the Blade Runner Spinner.

But, please, Paul, no bolo ties. In fact: no neck wares. But yes to the robo-gloves, for everyone.

In Omega Cop, Adam West’s Commander Prescott runs his “Special Police” — 22 years in our “past” of 1999 — from a one-room set that he never leaves (Adam did that often in his late career; see Zombie Nightmare, for one), as he sports a bolo and QWERTYs a couple of Commodore 64s amid some leftover Batcave props from the 60s. Yes, Commodore 64s will protect the Southern California wastelands. So, as you can see, Death Machine Cop will look awesome because of all of the green screen and touch screen and VR-imaging tomfoolery we get in today’s films. For the Tucker and Travis apoc war wagons will kick ass.

Film reviews like this make me sad, as we lost Troy Donahue (the metal epic Shock ‘em Dead) and Stewart Whitman (the alien epic Bermuda Triangle) — both who appear in Omega Cop — so they can’t cameo in Death Machine Cop. But we can call in Sean P. Donahue, he of the awesome “future sport” apoc’er, Ground Rules, as he did the stunts in Omega Cop — and he acts — so there’s that possibility with Sean in front or behind the lens.

Which reminds me: Please, Paul: no post-apoc hockey gear. And no hats with “COPS” or “SPECIAL POLICE” patches on them. And everyone gets a robo-battle glove. Even Nick Kimaz rented the baddie “black stormtroopers” costumes of Skeletor’s forces from Masters of the Universe from Cannon Pictures, as well as the props and sets from Battlestar Galactica from Universal for his direct-to-video space opera, Space Chase (1990). And Roger Corman made Battle Beyond the Stars, then recycled the sets, the models, the costumers, and the effects shots into Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World, and Space Raiders — then lent it all out to Fred Olen Ray to make his women-in-space prison flick Star Slammer (1986). So, let’s rent out what we can to save money and up the production values, right, Paul?

Anyway, for Death Machine Cop, the storyline from Omega Cop that’s set up by Adam West’s voiceover narration, will continue, you know, about us screwin’ up the the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect babble, and the rain forests, and the solar flares that plagued the world, and that “half the world didn’t give a shit.” We’ll also continue the illegal slave action angle, which, whomever replaces West, will run. Well, it’s a bad ass named Wraith — decked out in a Nazi SS uniform. But we’ll retrofit that character into bringing back Madame Lee from Death Machines . . . but she will deck out in full Ilsa She Wolf regalia to evoke (again, sad, as we lost her just last year) Dyanne Thorne. Now, Mari Honjo, who played Madame Lee, is still with us. She hasn’t done a film since Death Machines, so that’s an epic returning role, right there. Oh, man. Mari Honjo . . . Ron Marchini . . . Micheal Sopkiw and Mark Gregory?

Give me some Coco Butter and a roll of Charmin.

And we will keep the John Travis quest with two freed slave women trekking to the utopia of clean air and water in Montana. But we lose the women . . . and put in Sopkiw and Gregory . . . as Madame Lee’s freed slave warriors. And nix Montana: this needs to go full Philippines. Or at least drive from Stockton, California, and get into a Mexican/Central American jungle, you know, like our Marchini war flicks of old.

Okay, so, how are we working the sequel of Karate Cop into Death Machine Cop?

Well, we have Paul “John Travis” Marchini, and whomever we get to doppelganger David Caradine’s John Tucker, with freed slave warriors Sopkiw and Gregory, on their quest to . . . well, Madam Lee — in a fit of anger over Travis and Tucker scuttling her master plan and freeing her two top warriors, Sopkiw and Gregory — has unleashed a MacGufffin that will destroy the world . . . thus our quest to get a trinket from the death machine pyramid that Ron, faux-Carradine, Michael, and Mark will battle. (Subplot: Spokiw and Gregory, under Madame Lee’s thumb, were mortal enemies in combat, but joined forces with the double-Johns’ encouragement and are now warriors-in-arms.) And . . . so, there’s a slave civilization inside the jungle obelisk . . . and the slaves: all they do is fight in games of gladiatorial combat — but the pyramid keeps chewin’ them up and the civilization needs “new meat.”

Now, in case you’re wondering: That was — sort of — the plot of Karate Cop: instead of the female slave ring of Omega Cop, Karate Cop had males enslaved by street gangs, forced into gladiatorial street combat. You know, like Max in the Thunderdome and Snake in the Manhattan square circle. Only this time, unlike Karate Cop, the Death Machine Cop playing field will have THUNDER and will be uber cool and not “square.” And no dopey ’80s theme songs by Tina Turner. Nope, sorry Lady Gaga. We do not need another one of your oddball songs about a pyramid. Go make another movie with Bradley Cooper. Wait, hey? Brad, you lookin’ for a new project? We’re casting, you know. I’ll have Paul give you a ring.

Now, I was going to suggest that Paul also put a call into sexploitation purveyor Alan Roberts of Young Lady Chatterley (1977) and The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood (1980) fame (the later starred Adam West, by the way) but, celluloid melancholy, again: we lost Roberts in 2016. Why, because Alan — and not Paul — directed Karate Cop.

So, anyway . . . that’s my outline for Death Machine Cop. Will it be as much fun — at least they are for moi — as Omega Cop and Karate Cop and Future Zone and Future Force? If it doesn’t put you into a coma or kill you, Death Machine Cop will make you stronger.

As we mentioned: Director Paul Kyriazi, who made his debut with the aforementioned Death Machines, then vanished from the film world after Omega Cop, which served as his fifth and final film, recently returned to the writing and director’s chair with the 2018 sci-fi movie, Forbidden Power. You can learn more about Kyriazi’s return and his new film courtesy of a favorable review at HorrorGeekLife and his personal website, paulkyriazi.com.

Ron. Paul. I love ya, my VHS brothermen. Respect.

You can watch the VHS rips of Omega Cop and Karate Cop on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.


*Death Machine Cop” faux-theatrical one-sheet based on alternate Stargate artwork. Image material use falls under the U.S. Copyright rules of Fair Use in non-profit educational, transformative purposes such as exhibition, criticism, comment, parody, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. All rights and trademarks are the property of their respective owners MGM/UA. Flame overlay and typefaces courtesy of Lunapic and PicFont, respectively.

Junesploitation 2021: Keaton’s Cop (1990)

June 16: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is a film from Cannon Studios.

The ’80s were the comeback decade, for both William Shatner and Lee Majors returned to our small screens with T.J Hooker (1982 – 1986) and The Fall Guy (1981 – 1986)*, respectively. And both were shows good ol’ dad and I could enjoy together. And we were both equally perturbed when they were simultaneously cancelled.

Now you would think, with a second hit TV series, that Lee would have been back in mainstream Hollywood’s good graces and return to his stalled theatrical career from the early ’80s. But it seemed the contractual dust-up during the last year of The Six Million Dollar Man back in 1977 wasn’t forgotten. There’s two sides to the story: Majors either caught a case of the Tinseltown Flu to force Universal into accepting his Fawcett-Majors Productions as a series co-producer or he held out for a pay raise. Either way, the executive suites in la-la land don’t take kindly to their actors pulling a creative coup.

So after saddling up in the late ’80s as Mountain Dan alongside Dolly Parton (with Henry “The Fonz” Winkler directing!) in A Smoky Mountain Christmas and two Six Million Dollar Man-Bionic Woman telefilms, Majors made it back to the big screen . . . well, it was only a matter of time until Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus wrangled Lee Majors into one of their deadbeat, direct-to-video productions.

Granted, we love Cannon Films around the B&S About Movies offices, for their imprint was ’80s VHS-rental de rigueur, with all of the Death Wish sequels and Chuck Norris flicks, such as Invasion U.S.A. and The Delta Force series. And all of the Ninja-suffixed films. And all of our beloved Micheal Dudikoff flicks. In fact, by 1986, Cannon reached a production milestone of distributing 43 films in one year, as the studio broke away from their usual direct-to-videoesque potboilers to big-budgeted theatrical features such as (the less than stellar) Lifeforce and Masters of the Universe, (and the cheesily awesome) Cobra and Over the Top.

Sadly, by the time the Israeli cousins of the celluloid frontiers roped the services of Lee Majors, Cannon was in financial and creative ruins . . . and four years away from its inevitable demise. So, instead of putting Majors in a halfway decent flick sidekickin’ with Chuck Norris in something like Firewalker or slipping him into Roy Scheider’s role in (a pretty decent Elmore Leonard film adaptation) 52 Pick Up, our ex-Bionic stunt man ended up in Keaton’s Cop.

Huh?

You know, the 48 Hours Lethal Weapon buddy-cop rip-off film that paired Lee Majors with Don Rickles. Yes. You heard me right. Mr. Warmth from all of those The Johnny Carson Show reruns on Antenna TV. The guy who did all of those goofy “beach party” movies with Frankie and Annette back in the ’60s. The guy who you’ve seen many a-cable-replay times as casino manager Billy Sherbet in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. But the younger kiddies ’round these wilds of Allegheny country probably remember Don Rickles best as the acidic Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story. Oh, and if you’re a horror hound like most of B&S’s readers: Don was Manny Bergman in the (pretty cool) mobster-vamp hybrid Innocent Blood by John Landis.

But here’s ol’ Don . . . twenty-years later, following up his last big screen role in 1970’s Kelly Heroes with Clint Eastwood, in the Danny Glover role as Jake Barber: the aged detective sidekick paired with Mike Gable, a burnt-out, on-the-edge veteran cop with a penchant for throwing suspects out windows — and losing partners, via death. Oh, and speaking of Cobra . . . guess who their boss is . . . hey, it’s Art LaFleur rippin’ through a Xerox redux of his role from that Stallone flick. (Plot spoiler: we lose Don early in the movie, natch, and he’s not funny here; he plays it straight, as he did in Innocent Blood and Casino.) Oh, and speaking of Cobra, again: Remember the big “character development” scene when Marion Cobretti cut off a slice of three-day-old pizza with a pair of scissors? Well, Keaton’s Cop has one: Mike Gable brushes his teeth with beer. (Remember when Brian “Boz” Bosworth mixed that “health drink” in a blender during the “establishing scene” in Stone Cold (1991) and we wondered, “how can he drink that” . . . and it ended up being gruel for his bet iguana? Hey, all of these action flicks needed one of those “character development” moments, natch.)

So, I see you noticed the name of Abe Vigoda on the box. Yes, he from those endless AMC and TNT reruns of The Godfather and those old Barney Miller episodes you’ve Antenna TV-channel grazed as you surfed the couch after a long Saturday night of partying. Eh, maybe you remember Abe in The Cannonball Run II, The Stuff, or the oddest Christmas flick of them all, Prancer.

Anyway, Ol’ Abe is Louis Keaton, an aged-out mobster living his days incognito in a Galveston, Texas, nursing home. When Gable is dispatched to the nursing home to investigate a shooting, he comes to discover the intended target was Keaton and the shooter was a mob hitman. And since Barber and Vigoda go “way back,” Barber convinces the guff n’ grizzled Gable to take part of the action-comedy-romance (with a home nurse that is way too young for him) that ensues.

Truth be told: Even though this a pinch-o-rama rip off, Majors is solid here, the comedy is funny (both of the sometimes-intentional and non-intentional variety), and it’s nice to see a then 69-year-old Abe Vigoda digging in his heels and getting banged around with film’s promoted “hard-edged action.” But still. Lee Majors deserved better. Way better. Like the very similar Martin Brest-directed and Robert DeNiro-starring Midnight Run from 1988-better (which Majors’s old bosses, Universal, backed). But that’s how the dice in Hollywood roll across the green felts of fate.

No freebie streams? What the hell, You Tube uploaders? What gives, ye executives at Tubi TV? Ah, but we found a rental-stream on Amazon Prime. Keaton’s Cop has never been officially reissued on DVD, so watch out for those bogus-cum-defective grey market rips out there, kiddies.

* Stock footage alert: Action scenes from our “Fast and Furious Week II” review of Flash and the Firecat ended up in The Fall Guy (the clip is included in the review).

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

We previously reviewed Keaton’s Cop as part of our “Lee Majors Week” blow out featuring reviews for 30 of Lee’s flicks.