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29.6.10

Night Fright (1967)

Director: James A. Sulivan
Starring: John Agar, Bill Thurman, Carol Gilley, Ralph Baker Jr., Dorthy Davis
Not Rated  Running time: 75 minutes
Public Domain

An obscure Texas-lensed semi-remake of Russ Marker's even more obscure (and never completed) The Demon from Devil's Lake. A government space craft used for experiments involving animals and radiation crash lands in a small town. Unfortunately for the locals, the biggest and meanest one, a monster that looks like its half-gorilla/half-Vulcan, survives and begins chomping down on local teens. The Sheriff (B-movie legend John Agar) and his loyal deputy (Bill Thurman; Keep My Grave Open) try to destroy the creature before any more locals get killed.

Pretty standard low budget monster movie with lots of teen dancing, neckin' in vintage convertibles, malt shops, and scenes of the cops standing around trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The film's creature, which is more than a little reminiscent of the Robot Monster, is barely seen thanks to too-dark day-for-night sequences. If you want to know what it looks like, check out the cover art, because it looks like a furry blur in the movie. The creature scenes are entertaining, but otherwise its pretty tedious, with way too much time spent showing people walking around in the woods.

Agar is good as the earnest-cop-just-trying-to-do-the-right-thing kinda role he played many times before, while Thurman makes for a likable sidekick. Other than that, the most interesting thing about Night Fright is its Texas drive-in circuit pedigree. Many in the cast and crew worked with Larry Buchanan and S.F. Brownrigg at some point in their careers. So if you're interested in regional filmmaking of the drive-in era, Night Fright is worth checking out. If not, skip it. There are better monster flicks available where you can actually see what's going on.

28.6.10

Eye of the Tiger (1986)

Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Starring: Gary Busey, Yaphet Kotto. William Smith, Seymour Cassel
Rated R  Running time: 92 minutes
Released by MGM

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Vietnam vet Buck Matthews (Gary Busey) has just been released from prison after serving time for a crime he didn't commit. All he wants to do is return to his hometown and lead a quiet, peaceful life with his wife and young daughter. But things don't work out that way, since the entire town is under the control of the corrupt sheriff (Seymour Cassel) and a drug dealing, motorcycle riding gang led by semi-mowhawked biker/drug dealer named Blade (William Smith).

Good guy Busey quickly gets himself on the gang's doodoo list when he interrupts a rape-in-progress perpetrated by Blade's mentally deficient brother. Next thing you know, motorcycles are crashing through Buck's living room window, his daughter is traumatized, and his wife is dead. Buck does what any ex-con/'Nam vet would do in a similar kind of situation: he teams up with his best buddy (Yaphet Kotto - who is sporting a very weird hairdo in this), gets a monster truck fully loaded with rockets and machine guns, and goes to get some justice.

Yaphet Kotto and his hair
It's kind of strange that someone decided to name Eye of the Tiger after a song that was a hit three or four years earlier in Rocky III. Was it still popular in 1986? I don't remember, but someone at the studio thought it was. Not only is it used as the title, the song is played several times through the course of the movie.

Other than that little quirk, it's a pretty standard riff on the action movie template of the 80's. While  not as outrageous as some of its brethren (particularly Cannon Film's output), there's plenty of craziness on display. The gang drags the wife's coffin around with a motorcycle. There's a decapitation ala She-Devils on Wheel. Yaphet Kotto flys a biplane while tossing dynamite and hand grenades at the bikers.  And Gary Busey interrogates one hospitalized thug with a gob of Vaseline and a stick of dynamite. I'll let you use your imagination with that one.

I think anyone who grew up on 80's action will find something to love here. There's a slew of familiar faces (Busey, Kotto,  Cassel, a very over-the-top William Smith), preposterous situations, and copious amounts of ridiculous action. The film does begin to meander a bit during the second act, but regains it's composure in a satisfying, if completely retarded, finale in which Busey and Kotto rain hell on the evil biker gang. EYE OF THE TIGER is dumb, loud, and smothered in cheese, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.