The First Purge (2018)
As America falls to shit, a new political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, comes to power and conducts an experiment on Staten Island which will become known as the Purge with it’s now familiar rules; no laws for twelve hours. Of course, no one has to stay on the island, but five large is given to anyone who does, and those that participate in the actual mayhem have the potential to earn more dough. Of course, there are plenty of participants in the cash-strapped borough, including honorable gangster Dmitri (Y’lan Noel) who hopes to survive the night without static from police or rival thugs, and absolute stone-cold psycho Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) who ends up with an unexpected enemy in the form of young Isaiah (Joivan Wade). What will the end result of this inaugural Purge be, and just what is the true motivation of the NFFA…only an outrageous amount of violence will reveal all!
Full of the nail biting suspense and ultra-violence the series is noted for, The First Purge certainly delivers! Present as well are more of the fantastically garbed gangs that never fail to be visually arresting…though this time some possess a sinister secret to spice up the proceedings. Also of note is the strong acting on display with Noel giving a multi-layered performance as Dmitri…but for my money the real standout is the exceedingly bizarre and over-the-top Skeletor; brought to life by Paul in a performance both full of menace and lunacy that is impossible to take your eyes off! Also of note is the fantastic pace and aesthetics…this film never drags, and it looks freakin’ gorgeous…so kudos to Director Gerard McMurray and Cinematographer Anastas N. Michos!
Along with the pulse-pounding feature, this Blu from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has a few extras on hand as well including: a deleted scene, and featurettes on the film’s themes, action, and masks featured in the film.
If you are a fan of The Purge franchise, you know you are already all in for The First Purge, but if you are new to the series this is a fantastic place to begin as it serves as an origin to the whole affair…plus it delivers enough action and tension to satisfy anyone!
Life After Flash (2018)
Before I begin discussing Life After Flash, I feel it appropriate to share some thoughts on Flash Gordon. If you aren’t interested in such things…or having your’s cruelly uncharacteristically lay his soul bare, just skip down to the next paragraph. Anyway, back in December of 1980, my desire to see Flash Gordon was at an almost unbelievable level…and my parents blew my mind and agreed to drive me, and the prettiest girl in the second grade who agreed to be my date, many towns over (yes, I grew up in the literal middle of nowhere) to see the film…but mother nature had other plans; and a nor’easter (to those not in the know; Upstate New York has about 14 months of winter per year…at least it did back then) kept us in town, and Altman’s Popeye was what it had to be (and for the record, that is a charming film and a ton of fun…but it sure as hell isn’t Flash Gordon). Flash forward a bit tot he traditional Sunday dinner at my grandparents, and after an amazing fried fish dinner courtesy of my Nana, we all gathered around the TV to catch the HBO premier of Flash Gordon…and after my nervous stomach calmed down, I had a life changing experience…I had found the greatest cinematic joy of my life! Over the years, the film (and it’s amazing soundtrack) would be a lifesaver…an anchor if you will, while I suffered from bouts of anorexia, depression, and anxiety…and I could never, ever thank the people involved in it’s creation enough for making me feel so happy when that emotion was in short supply.
All of that considered, I was beyond excited to discover the new documentary Life After Flash, and I am pleased to announce my excitement wasn’t misplaced! While the documentary is presented as a look into the life of Sam J. Jones and how the legacy of Flash Gordon has affected him, what it contains is so very much more! Before we get to the nitty-gritty we are treated to a complete look into the production of Flash Gordon (filled with amazing anecdotes from the cast and crew, and archival footage I have never seen before), and Jones’ clashes with producer Dino De Laurentiis…an experience he has lived and learned from…because this doesn’t candy coat the fact that Jones lived hard, partied hard, and was arrogant as all get out until he found his path in life, and re-emerged like a bleached blond phoenix from the flames that engulfed his career.
I’m not even sure how I can explain how Jones’ story affected me…no matter what he went through, and how he stumbled…he held on to the value that family is what is most important…and he always made sure his family came before whatever hell he was going through at the time…and if that isn’t the personification of a hero, I don’t know what is! In short, the man continues to inspire me, both as Flash, and as a human being…and his story really resonates with me as I am a father myself (and I hope to tell him just that one day, as the film shows that he is very active on the convention circuit)!
Simply put; Director Lisa Downs and her crew have discovered what makes a hero great; their humanity…and Jones exemplifies that above and beyond. That alone makes this film a must see…but, for Flash Gordon fans it also presents a dearth of information on the creation of the legendary picture by those that lived it…either way, seek this out as soon as you can!!
Deadbeat At Dawn (1988)
On the mean streets of Dayton Ohio; rival gangs…The Ravens, lead by hard ass Goose (Jim Van Bebber…who also wrote and directed the picture) and The Spiders, lead by porn ‘tache sportin’ Danny (Paul Harper)…clash in a near constant swirl of violence. After gettin’ static from his old lady, student of the occult Christie (Megan Murphy), and being injured in a brutal confrontation on The Raven’s home turf (the local cemetery ‘natch), Goose decides to call it a day on his illicit lifestyle. Of course, that lasts about 3.7 seconds as The Spiders kill Christie which sends Goose packing back to the ramshackle home of his completely out of control Vietnam Vet of a father (played to the ever-lovin’ mother fuckin’ hilt by Charlie Goetz) and into an abyss of coke and booze…and then, unbelievably, into a team-up with The Spiders in a plan to rob an armored car. Everything goes swimmingly, until it doesn’t, which makes ol’ Goose go absolutely apeshit as he begins walking revenge’s road!
Holy shit; this is absolutely my kind of picture; off-kilter, surreal, full of gore…exploitation perfection! For the neophyte, the best way to describe Deadbeat At Dawn would be this: “What if Troma made The Warriors?”…it’s definitely more than that, but that will give you an idea of the glorious madness that follows! There’s drama, gore, and an impressive array of martial arts/street fighting and unbelievable stunts on display (you simply will not believe that someone didn’t die filming this thing)…all filtered through a thick veneer of grime, sleaze, and Mario Bava-style gel lighting…and more importantly than that, it’s made with a shit ton of heart!
Along with the the absolute wonder that is the feature film, our good fiends at Arrow Video have included an ass-load of fantastic bonus features on this beastly bitch! First up we get a feature length documentary that follows the career of filmmaker Van Bebber from his earliest days as a kid making backyard epics to his college days and beyond…with a strong focus on the production of Deadbeat, as well as his magnum opus The Manson Family (though his entire oeuvre is covered).). Following that we get a fascinating fly-on-the-wall style archival doc about a failed Deadbeat shoot circa 1986/87 involving beer, weed, bladed weapons, and one fucked up camera. Up next are outtakes, a series of short films by Van Bebber; the earlier of which display an amazing sense of action and bravura that would inform the Director’s later work…and contain some truly stomach churning gore to boot (and all feature optional commentary by Jim himself), a collection of music videos, a promo trailer for an unmade film (with optional commentary), and stills galleries covering many of the films on the release! Finally we have an audio commentary for Deadbeat featuring VanBebber, and actor Harper (moderated by filmmaker Victor Bonacore), that is one hell of a fun listen featuring a frank discussion of the film’s production that is full of energetic conversation and plenty of laughs, and is the true highlight of the release!
Deadbeat At Dawn is one of the most iconic and perfect examples of low-budget exploitation film making to ever explode an artery across the sinful silver screen…it’s gritty, violent, surreal, and full of comic book cool, and is not to be missed by any lover of psychotronic cinema!