Friday Fisticuffs: A Force Of One (1979)

a force of one poster As a 30 year old dude, I have a unique relationship with Chuck Norris (boy, that sounds weird). I actually didn’t see many of his movies growing up, but as a personality and character he was unavoidable. I mean, he had his own cartoon and action figure line in Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos, how rad is that? Long before he was a meme orwhatevertheheck, he was training Jonathan Brandis, and hundreds, thousands, millions(?) of kids how to defend themselves. It probably wasn’t until Way Of The Dragon that I got a real, good look at what he could do, but before then I’d seen a few episodes of Walker, so there’s that.

In more recent days, or as I like to call them the Blog Era of my life, I’ve had some pretty bad luck when it comes to picking movies from Norris’ filmography. I’ve seen The Octagon and Code Of Silence which were bad and okay respectively and Hellbound which didn’t do nearly enough with its Chuck Norris vs. The Devil concept. And the less said about 2005’s The Cutter, the better. Yet, burned as I might have felt, I still got excited when I saw that his 1979 film A Force Of One was on Netflix Instant, I got excited. And, thankfully, it’s a pretty good movie, though not one exactly packed with breakneck martial arts action.

In this one, Norris plays a former military guy/current karate champ and teacher who gets recruited by the cops to help them figure out what martial arts master is attacking and killing the members of their undercover narcotics team. While there are definitely some martial arts scenes, this movie actually felt and looked a lot more like a Dirty Harry/70s revenge film than the kind of action-packed spectacle I wanted from a Chuck Norris movie (or maybe I have a completely off-base concept of what his movies are like).

And yet, between a few fights that take place inside a ring and an ultimate one between Norris and Bill “Superfoot” Wallace (who also happened to be John Belushi’s body guard) there’s enough to qualify this as a proper Friday Fisticuffs entry (as you can see by the above compilation of fight scenes from the flick). The problem is that, even though you might know these guys are legit fighters, they look like they’re pulling punches and not going all-out on screen. Maybe it’s time I focus and watch Lone Wolf McQuade, the Missing In Action movies, Invasion U.S.A. and the Delta Force flicks already.

Halloween Scene: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

I’ve seen Return of the Living Dead before. It was back in my early horror-watching days. Back then, I didn’t realize there was an actual connection between this film in Night Of The Living Dead (the original script was written by NOTLD co-creator John Russo who split with Romero at some point and created this alternate franchise) aside from the fact that this movie claims that that movie was created as a cover-up for an actual zombie infestation. I also didn’t really get that it’s supposed to be a more comedic take on the zombie genre. It seems so obvious looking back now at the over-the-top performances and the crazy punk characters in the flick, but when you’re renting anything you can get your hands on, these things don’t seem too out there. In fact, the aspect of the movie that stuck with me the most from the first viewing wasn’t the tarman or the half corpse talking to the people or even Linnea Quigley running around naked, but the futility of the whole thing.

See, in this movie, the main characters discover a zombie in a barrel that’s still alive. He gets out and they chop him up into pieces. Then they take him over to the creamatorium where they think they’ll easily dispose of the body and be done with it. But he burns up, goes up into the clouds and then comes down as rain, infecting the entire grave yard. That essentially means that the zombies can not be stopped. You can stuff them in containers and hope they don’t get out, but that’s just a stop gap. Maybe you could round them all up and shoot them into the sun, but then you might get space zombies and no one wants that. That sense of “you’re not going to win” really stuck with me. It’s kind of like if Freddy is after you. You might survive one movie, but he’ll get you. You know why? Because he’s freaking boogie man and you’re just a dumb kid trying to figure out what the hell is going on around you!

This time around, though, I was able to enjoy the comedic aspects of the movie more, but that doesn’t take anything away from the special effects which are still pretty damn good. Tarman looks great and gross and the torso zombie on the table is still creepy. I love this collective of weird 80s punks and wonder if anyone ever really dressed like that AND hung out with people who dressed so differently (I love that the leader says something like “I’m trying to make a statement!”). Overall it’s a good mix of fun and frightening that I dug.

I know that I’ve seen ROTLD 3, but not sure if I’ve seen 2 and definitely haven’t seen anything after that. 2’s on Netflix Instant so I’ll probably give that a look soon and then I’ll move on to the weird S&M fest that is ROTLD 3 at some point after I get through the War of the Worlds discs I hope come this week.

Halloween Scene: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) & 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

This might sound strange coming from a horror fan, but I’ve only seen the Freddy movies I’ve seen once, which makes it my least-watched franchise. Halloween’s probably the highest with Texas Chainsaw, Friday the 13th and Final Destination definitely ranking higher than it on my repeated viewing lists. When I turned 16 and could rent movies from Family Vidoe, I immediately started going through all the franchises I could, but never went back to Nightmare for whatever reason. That doesn’t mean I never wanted to go back though, so I asked for the two 4 Film Favorite packs that include all the Nightmare movies including Freddy Vs. Jason which I have seen plenty of times and already owned. On Friday, I had myself a little double feature and watched the first two Freddy films.

I think the original Nightmare still holds up pretty well. I can’t say it ever actually scared me, but I can imagine someone first getting into horror movies could still appreciate the classic scenes like the glove-in-the-tub, room-spin and geyser-of-blood deaths. Plus, in this first entry there’s a lot going for the franchise. The concept is incredibly cool: a killer who can only get you in your dreams. Hell, the entire idea of building a movie and then a series of movies around the craziness of dreams sounds fascinating, especially after seeing some really cool dream sequences, like the ones in The Sopranos. And, of course, Freddy himself is very creepy and potentially terrifying.

The problem is that the series doesn’t really hold up to all of those potentials from what I can remember. Perhaps the remake will pick up on some of these and run with them in new and interesting directions, but all the trailers are showing me is that they will be doing all of the exact same gags, but this time with computers.

If memory serves, a lot of fans don’t go in for the first sequel which came out a year after the original. This time, instead of the kids only contending with Freddy in their dreams, they’ve got to worry about Freddy actually taking over a dude’s body and killing them that way. It’s an interesting concept that gets ignored for the rest of the series from what I recall, but it seems like a logical next step for the narrative.

The film also has some pretty good effects itself, like when Freddy bursts out of the dude’s chest and brushes him off like Jay-Z does dirt off his shoulder. I will say that the film isn’t particularly memorable. I was working on some freelance while I had it on and I remember the main kid having to contend with a weirdly strict father who demands he empties the boxes in their room (they recently moved into the house on Elm Street from the original) and then dating a blond girl who becomes the final girl for lack of a better word. The main guy makes friends with a guy who seems mostly like an enemy who doesn’t go to the big party at the end of the movie. Oh, and the parents of the girl throwing the party go inside the house to have sex. As soon as they do the kids are like “Let’s really party!” and start blasting the music. Guys, they just went inside, it’s not like they hopped a flight to Crystal Lake.

Anyway, the film ends in the party scene where Freddy is free to run around and go after plenty of teenagers, but doesn’t really do anything but stumble around. Maybe he was enjoying a pool party of his own before crossing into the real world? Like I said, I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember enjoying the movie, or at least not being put off by it.

Actually, here’s something I’ve never thought of: what does Freddy do between terrorizing children? If he’s got all this power, he’s probably got a pretty rad set up in dream world. Ooh, I wonder if Morpheus from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman created him. Okay, I’m getting off track. I dug these two movies enough. I’m glad I’ve got them around along with my Friday the 13th box set and collection of Halloweens 1-5, but still prefer those other franchises so far. One thing I do remember liking about the series, aside from the next installment, is that I appreciated how they continued to build on Freddy’s origin, even if it got crazier and crazier as it went on. I don’t necessarily need an origin story for this psychopath, but I like that they tried to build on the character after a fashion. Oh, plus the covers to these movies are CRAZY.