The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Hands of Steel aka Vendetta dal futuro (1986)
Back in 2010, our friend Simon at Explosive Action sent us five films that he ripped from his Japanese VHS copies. They were: Deadly Prey, Robowar, Strike Commando, Strike Commando II, and this flick. Somehow though, this one was lost in the shuffle, and we're only just getting to it now, more than two years after the most recent one we've done of them, Strike Commando II. I guess better late than never, right? Also, our friends Ty at Comeuppance Reviews, Fred at Ninja Dixon, and Jason at robotGEEK have all hit this one too, so you can go to their sites to see what they thought.
Hands of Steel has Daniel Greene as Paco Queruak (I'm not kidding about that name), a cyborg with no memory of his past who is programmed to kill a charismatic leader and environmentalist who threatens the evil John Saxon's corporation. When he has memories of his past he doesn't fulfill his job, and runs back to his home state of Arizona, where he finds love, takes on a bunch of truckers, and beats the tri-state arm wrestling champ. But hot on his heels are Saxon and his men, looking to take him out before the FBI finds him. Will they succeed?
This is a Sergio Martino joint, and as such, you know what you're in for: a straight up Italian no-budget schlock fest, and that's what you get. It might have a bit of a slow start, but once it kicks in, it's equal parts hilarious and bad action, everything you'd want when you fire something like this up. The sets, the futuristic props, the Daniel Greene, the John Saxon, it's all there. Some of my favorite moments included when the old guy who owns the junk yard is offed by a baddie, and the "Indian Style" arm wrestling match, which is simply the usual arm wrestling match, only with rattlesnakes posted on either side of the table. Oh, and then there's the too sweet laser at the end. This is as fun a time as you think it would be.
Daniel Greene as the hero looks like the kind of guy you'd see playing a guest role on Murder, She Wrote or something in the 80s, maybe rocking a sweater over a button-up shirt, or if he's playing the young boyfriend/doughnut salesboy maybe some more revealing clothing. Not necessarily the heel, but if you needed him to be he could do that too. Somehow he found himself here as the lead, and while his torso screams it, his face, hair, and demeanor screams a bridge too far. Yet that's what makes it so fun, and when he's paired up with a great heel like Italian D-flick mainstay George Eastman, he's fine, so it all works. As an aside, I see that he had a part in Arthur 2: On the Rocks. I totally forgot that sequel happened.
John Saxon is back and he's great. How he ended up in this, I have no idea, and he's not in it much, but he's great as the head baddie. His final showdown with Greene and the big laser is the tops. The thing is, he's just so cool, whether it's Enter the Dragon or Mitchell or this, he's just so much fun to watch, and he's a great addition to any film. When we start to really see him, and he's in a helicopter shooting down at out hero, it's such a great moment, I almost wanted to see him succeed, he's that awesome. Here's to you John Saxon, you're one of the good ones. Also, according to imdb, he only shot his scenes in Italy, because this wasn't a SAG film, and as such refused to do any of the shots in the US. He credits that with saving his life, because there was a helicopter crash during shooting in Arizona that claimed the life of co-star Claudio Cassinelli, and he would've been on that helicopter too. He hasn't done a non-SAG film since.
All right, so we mentioned Greene, Saxon, and the late Cassinelli, who played a hit man hired by Saxon to track down Greene. We also had Janet Agren as Linda, the woman who ran the arm wrestling joint/cheap motel Greene goes to while he's on the run. She made a great living as a D-movie actress in Italy until 1991, when she gave it all up. Who could give up all of that? We also mentioned George Eastman above. He plays Raul, the heel and bad trucker who tries to kill Greene on multiple occasions. I think the only other flick of his we've done is 1990: Bronx Warriors. There was also a guy working for Saxon who looked like JC's buddy from Sidehackers. He always had these shades on and looked ready to tell Saxon "right-on daddy-o". It's touches like that that make films like this a lot of fun.
I've mentioned this before when talking about the great Bruno Mattei, but I feel it's worth bringing up again while discussing Sergio Martino. As bad as these films are, these directors come from a certain pedigree that gives these movies a certain, I don't know, watchability, because, as bad as they are, they're shot and planned out with a certain amount of craftsmanship. This is the difference between these flicks and their modern counterpart where stuntmen and other non-directors are helmed to directed them. It's not just these Italian directors too, Albert Pyun, Fred Olen Ray, Isaac Florentine, they all direct and give us something we can sit down and watch. Cameras aren't all over the place, they aren't afraid to give us a still frame, or lock into a good shot. We took this kind of thing for granted in the 80s and 90s, and now I can't watch a modern action flick without getting a headache.
Okay, time to get off the soap box. You can actually get this on DVD-R from Amazon, so it's not as hard to get as it used to be. You can also do used VHS, both foreign and domestic. It's a lot of fun and worth checking out in any case. Thank you again to Simon at Explosive Action for hooking us up with this.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091166/