Review Date: November 13, 2007
Released by: Dark Sky Films
Release date: 6/26/2007
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
As fans, we are all aware of the classic drive-in and grindhouse flicks from the 60’s and 70’s, movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
. But yet the “classics” as we know them represent only a very tiny fraction of the product that was shown in these venues over the decades. During this era of filmmaking, the average viewer was far less likely to encounter a classic and far more likely to encounter imported European horror films, Asian kung fu movies, and potboilers from a whole slew of directors like Al Adamson.
Today’s review showcases two films which are representative of the kind of fare that you could find in drive-ins and grindhouses on any given week. They’re not classics, but do they have what it takes to make for entertaining and nostalgic viewing? Keep reading and find out.
“United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – 4th Corps, ‘C’ Sector. Action survey report, 10 September, 1968. Location: Hamlet 326, Landing Zone Victor. Time: 0200. Friendly strength: Two squads led by Special Group Beta. Beta is five-man, combat recon team. Leap grade, star rating. Beta personnel as follows: Captain R.J. Kennington, Staff Sergeant Buddy Grant, Sergeant Roosevelt Washington, Corporal William Tyzack, Corporal Kyle Moore, accompanying ARVN political liaison Major Nguyen Tu. Group history: Three years. Unit mission: Pacification. Enemy strength: Unknown. Type of contact: Enemy ambush. Tactical response: Retreat. Casualties: Dead 12, wounded 6. Beta Group sustained one loss. Accompanying ARVN political officer is missing in action.”
It is now 1978, and the surviving members of Beta Group have all left the military. Kyle “Kip” Moore (Perry King
) is now living in Niagara Falls with his girlfriend Kate (Tisa Farrow
) and working at a car dealership. One morning he gets a call from the police saying that his friend and fellow Beta Group member R.J. has been found murdered nearby. Kip and his former comrade-in-arms Buddy (Don Stroud
), who also lives in the town, are not sure what to make of the slaying, but soon enough the assassin is revealed. Buddy works as a mechanic on a Niagara Falls tour boat, and he invites Kip and Kate to come along on a day cruise. After the trip ends the couple is disembarking when suddenly Kip discovers himself face to face with the long lost Major Tu (Park Jong Soo
), who pulls out a gun and shoots at Kip, grazing his skull, and then he chases and assaults Buddy, leaving him badly injured.
Kip is forced to reveal what happened that night back in Vietnam when Tu went MIA. When the team was ambushed by enemy forces, Tu had refused to carry the wounded Corporal Tyzack to safety, leaving him in the jungle to die. When Kip and his fellow soldiers realized what Tu had done, they retaliated by leaving him in the jungle, assuming that the enemy would finish him off. But he survived, and is now out for revenge against the men who left him there. Chief Fusqua (George Kennedy
) of the local police begins hatching plans to bait the killer into the open, but Kip knows that Tu will never fall for their trap, and that only by confronting the assassin directly will he be able to finally and forever put the Vietnam War behind him.
Although not considered a cult classic along the lines of movies like Satan’s Sadists
or Rolling Thunder
, Search and Destroy
is still a perfect encapsulation of the type of exploitation and action movie that once packed audiences into grindhouses and drive-ins. It is the type of movie where men put other men into headlocks for not getting out of their way and where combatants fight not just with guns but also with martial arts and bare fists. It is the type of movie where the red-blooded hero sees no problems with taking the law into his own hands and engaging in a running gun battle in streets crowded by innocent bystanders.
What is surprising about the movie is how good it actually is. It gives us viewers exactly what we want in the form of bloody, brutal action scenes which are dispersed throughout the movie. Whenever things threaten to get too talky someone gets kidnapped, killed, shot at or beaten up. Director William Fruet handles the actions scenes in a competent manner and uses the Niagara Falls location to maximum effect, even staging action scenes with the falls as a backdrop. As Kip, Perry Moore is a believable working class hero, but also not a particularly sympathetic one either. He pulls the plot along like any leading man should, even though he’s a little too hard-edged.
Over the past few months George W. Bush has repeatedly used a Vietnam analogy to continue to justify his failed occupation of Iraq. In his words, Iraq is different from Vietnam because in Southeast Asia the enemy did not have either the ability or the desire to attack the American homeland. The “terrorist” forces in Iraq, however, will inevitably follow Americans home if they withdraw, in Bush’s view. Despite the obvious desperation in his statements, there is a certain truth to them. Back in the 1960’s the Third World didn’t have nearly as many tools to fight back with that they have now in the 21st century. The attacks of September 11th revealed that ordinary Americans were no longer immune from the consequences of their government’s policies overseas.
In Search and Destroy
, the Third World does fight back in a foreshadowing of how the increasing pace of globalization and economic development would bring the world closer together, for good and bad effect. The movie is filled with Vietnam parallels, many of which were probably unintentional. The town of Niagara Falls is an almost perfect metaphor for South Vietnam. The spectacular, breathtaking beauty of the Falls is contrasted with the vulgarity of the town itself, a tourist trap which is full of seedy attractions, bars, fast food joints and cheap motels. Its condition mirrors that of South Vietnam during the war. A country of spectacular natural beauty, it found its well established indigenous culture corrupted by the vices that the Americans brought with them, with areas of cities like Saigon turning into massive red light districts.
The script also shows an unusual willingness to raise tough issues during its quieter moments. During a scene where Kip recollects on what happened in Vietnam, he openly admits that he enjoyed the barbarism of the war and was sorry when it ended. He knows that he has been desensitized by what he saw there, knows that he should not feel that way, but can’t change it. He also acknowledges that perhaps the only reason the men thought it acceptable to leave Tu to die in the jungle was because he was Vietnamese. When Buddy survives the assassination attempt but learns that he is probably paralyzed from the neck down, the script also floats the issue of euthanasia as Kip tells his friend to think about what he wants and, when he decides, Kip will help him.
Despite these elements, it would be a mistake to look at Search and Destroy
as much more than an action picture with an above average script. The requirements of the marketplaces where the film competed for playdates favored violence and action over intelligence, and when in doubt the filmmakers always go for the action. Overall the movie is an example of good, entertaining grindhouse filmmaking. I enjoyed it, and I think most of you will as well.
tells the story of Sam Kellogg (John Saxon
), a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter in Los Angeles who mostly ekes out a living by tracking down small time hoods that have disappeared while they were out on bail. Trouble is, Sam has a gambling problem, and he desperately needs money for his back alimony payments, otherwise he will lose visitation rights to his daughter. Tracking down bail skippers just doesn’t bring in enough income. Faced with a serious financial crisis, he has become willing to put his efforts into finding potentially dangerous bail skippers that he once would have let the police handle.
Sam is an ex-cop, and one day an old colleague from the police station calls him in to talk. It seems that somebody is going around L.A. assaulting prison guards. The weapon used is a riot glove made of five pounds of lead and steal, and the attacker has been using it to beat the guards to within an inch of their lives. The assailant has been identified as one Victor Hale (Rosey Grier
), a jazz musician who spent time in jail for beating up a pimp. An association of prison guards has put an unofficial $20,000 reward for Hale. Despite the danger involved, Sam decides to pursue the case, knowing that twenty grand will solve his financial problems and allow him to keep seeing his daughter.
Although clearly made for the same distribution markets as Search and Destroy
, and despite the presence of cult film names like John Saxon, Aldo Ray and Keenan Wynn, The Glove
really isn’t much of an exploitation movie. Rather, it is a character-driven piece that consists mostly of dialog, punctuated by an action scene every now and again. It’s not a horrible movie, but viewers looking for another action movie along the lines of its companion feature will likely be disappointed.
Despite its title, The Glove
really isn’t about “The Glove”. It’s about Sam Kellogg and his life, including his financial problems, his family problems, his personal problems and his difficulties with women. The search for Victor Hale isn’t the central narrative of the plot. The movie isn’t about Sam’s search for Hale. It’s about why
Sam needs to search for Hale. Because of this, much time is spent developing Saxon’s character and, surprisingly, it spends a decent amount of time characterizing Rosey Grier’s character as well. Victor Hale certainly isn’t much of a villain. He doesn’t even kill his victims, and he is eventually revealed to be a smart, good-hearted man who has real reason to be upset – the riot glove that he uses was once used on him by prison guards who needlessly brutalized him. He’s not evil, he’s just incapable of letting go of what happened to him.
All of this might have worked if it was in a movie with better writing, and which wasn’t aimed at the lowest common denominator that went to these films back in the day. But alas, the narrative is unfocused and the story has too many clichés. Saxon’s constant voice-over narration is corny, his internal monologue sounding like that of a 40’s B-movie detective. What’s more, the approach reveals a serious lack of understanding as to what their target audience wanted out of a movie. People going to see a movie starring Rosey Grier as a violent criminal and John Saxon as the bounty hunter on his trail did so because they wanted to watch Grier kick some serious fucking ass, and then watch John Saxon kick even more while bringing him down. They did not go to see a meandering character drama. The sad part is that the movie could have had it both ways. Cutting out some of the more needless scenes of Sam’s life and replacing them with more action scenes would have dramatically improved the movie while still leaving Saxon’s character fully developed.
Saxon is actually very good in the role of Sam and manages to carry the movie despite its poor conception, but in every other respect the movie is the exact opposite of Search and Destroy
. It’s just never as good as it could be, and it’s never as entertaining as it should be.
Both films are presented letterboxed at 1.78:1 (not 1.85:1 as the packaging indicates) and given 16x9 enhancement.
Search and Destroy
looks somewhat beat up at times, with many noticeable scratches and specks during several portions of the film. Colors are somewhat pale, but the image does have a sharp, smooth and detailed appearance to it that is pleasing.
actually looks extremely good, with natural flesh tones, good shadow detail, bold colors and a clear, sharp image. There’s a few scratches and some speckling seen every now and again, but this is without a doubt a superior presentation for an older movie like this.
The sound for both is in Dolby 2.0 Mono, the films are both adequately represented by the tracks. There is some slight background noise that can be heard at times during both films, but sound effects and dialogue come across great overall.
Optional English subtitles are included for both features.
This release is part of Dark Sky’s “drive-in” double features series. Instead of supplements related to the film itself, we are instead treated to a variety of original material shown at drive-ins before and during the show. These include a number of amusing concession stand ads, as well as trailers for The One-Armed Executioner
, Eaten Alive
, The Devil’s Rain
, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
and The Last Hunter
(very conveniently, all but One Armed Executioner
are available on DVD from Dark Sky).
The films can be viewed either by themselves, or in one long show with all the trailers and drive-in material sandwiched into the mix.
Another enjoyable dose of drive-in and grindhouse nostalgia, this release gets a modest recommendation thanks to Search and Destroy
and the all-around pleasing audio/visual quality of the transfers. Although some may prefer supplements that are actually related to the movie, the trailers and drive-in material presented here are quite enjoyable. For just $14.98 (and a lot less from some online retailers), this is a worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection.
Search and Destroy
Movie – B
Image Quality – B
Sound – B
Movie – C
Image Quality – A-
Sound – B
Supplements – B-
- Running Time – Search and Destroy – 1 hour 33 minutes
- Running Time – The Glove – 1 hour 32 minutes
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- English subtitles
- 1 Disc
- Vintage drive-in material