Dolph Double Feature: Dark Angel (1990) & The Punisher (1989)

dark angel scream factory Over the past few years, I’ve had a lot of fun diving into the action movies of the 80s and 90s focusing on stars like Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. As it turns out, Lundgren and his films have turned out to be a lot more impressive than I would have imagined. Not only does it turn out that he’s a brilliant man, but what I’ve learned about his life has been pretty fascinating. He also makes really fun movies with lots of kicking and explosions.

One such movie is Dark Angel (a.k.a. I Come In Peace) which I’d never seen and only started hearing about in the last two or three years. Shout Factory recently released the film on Blu-ray and a buddy of mine sent me a copy. I jumped at the chance to start watching the week before last, but fell asleep and then found myself in a place without a Blu-ray player so I had to hold off on finishing until last night. But, I will say the movie about alien drug dealers running afoul of Lundgren’s Detective Jack Caine and his new partner Special Agent Smith (Brian Benben) was worth the wait. While investigating the murder of a police officer, Caine and Smith become more and more aware of the intergallactic threat which they fight in an abandoned warehouse, as you do.

The disc comes with a retrospective that scored Lungren, Benben and director Craig R. Baxley (Action Jackson) to talk about the movie. It was really interesting learning that Baxley was tight with stunt people, so he was able to really beef up the explosions and other action elements, all of which look great in Blu-ray. Lungren also points out an interesting aspect of the story that I didn’t think about, but it’s cool to see a sci-fi movie that’s on a relatively small scale. This isn’t an alien invasion movie with a few people fighting them off, which is what you tend to get. From story and explosions to actors and ideas, I dug Dark Angel and am glad to have it in my collection for repeated viewings.

The Punisher 1989 poster Moving from Dark Angel to The Punisher seemed like a pretty natural move for me. Not only did they come out a year after each other, but they both feature a bad ass Dolph sporting uncharacteristic dark hair! Plus, it helps that the latter has been in my DVD collection for years.

A lot of people complain about how bad comic book movies were for so long and, compared to the effort put in these days, it’s fairly accurate. But, I think The Punisher — directed by Mark Goldblatt (Dead Heat) — is an overlooked gem. Frank Castle is actually one of the easiest comic book characters to bring to film which makes him a good choice for a lower budget, street level movie concept. His wife and kids were killed so now he’s driven by the desire to kill all criminals. There’s no flying or lasers or superpowers, just lots of shooting, punching and explosions which were right up Lungren and company’s alley in the late 80s.

This movie finds Castle living in the sewers, befriending weird rhyming guys like Shake (Barry Otto) who give him information and avoiding cops on the hunt for him like Jake Berkowitz (Louis Gossett Jr.) and Sam Leary (Nancy Everhard, who was in Trial Of The Incredible Hulk that same year too!). Castle’s after a mobster named Gianni Franco (Jeroen Krabbé) who’s on the ropes after years of the Punisher taking out his men compounded with the recent appearance of Lady Tanaka (Kim Miyori) who’s trying to take over by kidnapping all the mobsters’ kids. To save the kids, Punisher teams up with Franco to get his boy back.

The film features several great fight scenes, but there are two particularly fun ones. Castle heads to Coney Island in an attempt to get the kids back and faces off a ton of gun-toting ninjas in an amusement park ride. How rad is that? The end of the movie also features Castle and Franco storming Lady Tanaka’s skyscraper, taking on all kinds of threats as they climb towards their adversary. For some reason, many of these scenes are tinged red, but I still really enjoy this high body count explosion of violence. This is one of the few comic book movies that also fits right in with that great 80s/90s action aesthetic and I love it.

Ad It Up: Donkey Kong & Mario Handheld Games

nes handheld pun 15 1989Anyone remember these NES handheld games starring Mario, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr.? I didn’t even know they existed until I saw this ad while reading Punisher #15 from 1989. I was mostly taken by the artwork on this ad which seems more stylized than a lot of other DK/Mario artwork I remember from being a kid around this time. Man, that Mario looks MAD.

Ad It Up: House II

I’m fairly certain I’ve scene the original House and thought it was nuts. Apparently, I didn’t write about it on the blog though. I might have missed it because searching for a one word title is not the easiest of things. Anyway, earlier this week, I watched House II: The Second Story on Netflix Instant and thought it was a goofy, fun treat. You can see hints of that on this goofy poster which features a tiny green bug-dog, star Arye Gross and John Ratzenberger who has a cameo in the flick. I’ll write more about that later today. Anyone remember seeing this ad in comics like the second issue of the 1987 Punisher miniseries? I think it would have been very appealing to me at the time!

Ad It Up: MASK

Here’s a look at some of the MASK toys I mentioned in my post about the new DVDs from Shout Factory yesterday. Of the toys seen above, I had Switchblade, Thunder Hawk and Gator. A neighbor-friend had the Boulder Hill Playset and I was very jealous. Still am. Gator came with a metal depth charge thing that fit in the back and you could launch out that looked like a tiny barrel or a shiny piece of gnocchi. My dog Rusty ate it for some reason, but she pooped it out and I got it back. I know, gross right? Scanned from the first issue of the 1985 Punisher miniseries.