I've been a film buff since childhood, and I love writing about and reviewing my favorites.
Pow! Biff! Bam! Kaboom!
This is probably one of the worst kept secrets in film fandom, but YouTube can be a treasure trove for movie buffs, as long as you have a taste for obscure B-grade fare and don't expect HD picture quality or sound. In my previous article, I laid down a list of ten wonderfully cheesy B-grade horror movies, and this time out I'll be zeroing in on my other favorite B-movie genre: action/adventure flicks.
During the straight-to-video era of the '80s and early '90s a steady stream of low-budget shoot'em up flicks crashed into neighborhood video stores, and while many of these films are now ignored by streaming services like Netflix and have been forgotten by all but the most devoted action movie hounds, these butt-kicking treasures still live on thanks to generous YouTube uploaders who refuse to let their aging, washed out VHS copies go quietly into the dark night. Here are ten of my most recent action discoveries. Roll'em!
1980's The Exterminator stars the late, great Robert Ginty as a shell shocked Vietnam vet who turns vigilante when a street gang cripples his old Army buddy. In other words, it's a low budget Death Wish wanna-be with a way bigger mean streak. Exterminator became a grindhouse favorite due to its notorious scenes of ultra-violence involving flame throwers and industrial meat grinders, but it's actually quite tame by today's standards. However, its setting in the mean streets of Times Square circa 1979 provides a fascinating time capsule of a era when New York City was a lot scarier and sleazier than it is today, therefore it is still essential trash viewing.
When Cannon Films picked up the option for an Exterminator 2, however, they tried to "Hollywood" it up and made it into a standard "action movie" which lost much of its grindhouse charm. Don't get me wrong, it's still tons of sadistic fun watching Ginty incinerate the members of a vicious NYC street gang (headed by a totally over-the-top Mario Van Peebles), but if the original Exterminator was a Death Wish clone, then "2" is an analogue to Death Wish 3—i.e., cartoonish, but awesome if you're in the right mood (or have had enough beer).
1979's Mr. No Legs (aka Gun Fighters or The Amazing Mr. No Legs), however, has got to be one of the most what-the-f**k movies I've seen in dog years. The title of this Florida-set cops & robbers film refers to a handicapped mob enforcer (played by real-life amputee Ted Vollrath) who gets around in a souped up Wheelchair of Death loaded with shotguns in the armrests and other hidden weapons. This guy is so bad-ass that he can even whoop your butt without his chair, as evidenced by the scene where he beats up a bunch of rival mobsters in an amazing display of stump-fu martial arts mastery that simply has to be seen to be believed. The movie is mostly poop, but it's worth sitting through just to witness that scene!
Though the stereotypical movie "action hero" is an overly muscled, monosyllabic, heavily armed male, there have been a great number of action flicks with female heroines over the years,. These are just a drop in the bucket...
1974's Get Christie Love! is an early example of Girl Power in the action genre. This made-for-TV attempt at cashing in on the then-current "Blaxploitation" cinema craze served as the pilot for a short-lived series. Teresa Graves is cute as "Christie," showing off some kung-fu moves and she even has her own catch phrase ("You're under arrest, Sugar!") but this flick isn't nearly as violent or sleazy as a "real" Blaxploitation flick would've been. Sorry, Christie, but Foxy Brown could kick your ass with one hand tied behind her back.
In 1991's A Time To Die, former adult-film queen Traci Lords plays a police crime photographer who accidentally snaps a pic of some crooked cops doing things that cops shouldn't be doing... therefore making herself the target of some very bad people. Traci starred in a bunch of direct-to-video crime drama/action flicks like this during the early '90s, all of which are pretty much interchangeable since all she was required to do was pout and shoot at people.
1988's obscure Lady Avenger—directed by longtime schlock kingpin David DeCoteau of Creepozoids, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama, and A Talking Cat?!? fame—is a female-centric vigilante flick starring Peggy Sanders as a prisoner who is allowed a weekend pass from jail to attend her brother's funeral. While she's out, she takes it upon herself to go after the gang of drug dealers who killed him. The frequent nude scenes by '80s scream queen Michelle Bauer, who plays Sanders' slutty best friend, provide most of the highlights of this otherwise pedestrian direct-to-video flick.
The list of professional athletes who've tried their hands at acting is practically endless, and though very few of them have gone on to become major Hollywood stars, many of them have found steady work in B-Movies.
In 1991's Stone Cold, former NFL footballer and legendary mullet Brian Bosworth made a legit attempt at becoming the Next Big Action Hero, playing a cop who goes undercover in a vicious Louisiana biker gang who make the Sons of Anarchy look like sissies. As you might expect, Boz beats the crap out of a whole lot of dudes and lots of stuff blows up, while Lance Henriksen (as the biker gang's crazed leader) chews the scenery for all it's worth. If the Universe were fair, Stone Cold would've instantly catapulted Bosworth to the same level as Arnold and Sly, but sadly, the movie tanked and condemned him to a lengthy stretch in Direct To Video Hell.
1974's Three The Hard Way featured not one, but two former NFL greats—"Gentleman" Jim Brown and Fred "The Hammer" Williamson—plus martial-arts great Jim "Enter the Dragon" Kelly for good measure. In this blaxploitation classic, the three stars team up to stop a group of white supremacists with a fiendish plan to commit black genocide. Needless to say, lots of honky heads get busted, and some hot girls take their tops off, too. This is essential Blaxploitation viewing, made when all three stars were at their absolute peak of bad-assery.
Meanwhile, former USC football great Reb Brown's Robowar (1988) is an absolutely shameless Italian ripoff of 1987's Predator. Just replace Arnold Schwarzenegger with Reb, and the evil alien with a malfunctioning military robot, and it's the same damn movie, except that Robowar was made for 1/100th of the budget and with 100x the suck. Robowar has never been officially released in the U.S., probably because the producers knew that 20th Century Fox would've sued their asses off. Don't get me wrong, Robowar is entertaining as hell, but for all the wrong reasons!
And one for good...Chuck?
Rounding out this ten-pack of ass-kickin' classics is 1986's Avenging Force, starring Cannon Films' in-house action dude Michael Dudikoff (of American Ninja fame). The film was originally intended to be a sequel to Chuck Norris' 1985 hit Invasion U.S.A., but Chuck passed on it, so Dudikoff inherited the mantle of Chuck's CIA agent Matt Hunter character, battling a group of millionaires who organize regular "Most Dangerous Game" human-hunting parties in the Louisiana bayou. The presence of Dudikoff's American Ninja co-star Steve James in a supporting role makes this flick feel like just another Ninja sequel rather than a proper follow up to Chuck's magnum opus. There's some decent butt kicking going on in Avenging Force, but in the end this is one of the lesser Cannon Films offerings. It's not great, it's not terrible, it's just...unnecessary.
More to Come...
These ten flicks represent a mere fraction of the stuff I have lined up in my YouTube playlist of full length movies, so I will doubtlessly be back again somewhere down the line with more action movie picks. Till then, fire up some microwave popcorn and get your B-grade action fix with YouTube with any of these films! Thanks for reading and stay tuned.
© 2016 Keith Abt
Leonie Tribolet on September 12, 2016:
This is pretty awesome and like Blond Logic i will also have to check out youtube. thank you :)
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on September 11, 2016:
Cool, Blond Logic - enjoy!!
Mary Wickison from Brazil on September 11, 2016:
I love action films but I haven't seen any of these. I guess I will have to head over to You Tube and have a look. Thanks for the list.