Color, 1990, 100m.
Directed by Amir Shervan
Starring Harold Diamond, Jim Brown, Robert Z'Dar, Joselito C. Rescober, Veronica Paul, John Lynch, Lareine, Jeffrey Alexander Verdin
Cinema Epoch (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
One of the more unlikely cult hits of the past decade has to be Samurai Cop, a batty, cheapjack 1989 action film that marked the second English-language effort for late, enigmatic director Amir Shervan. The next year he struck again with that film's star, Robert Z'Dar, to helm Killing, American Style, which was promptly stuffed into film cans and left unseen for generations thanks to radical shifts in the home video/theatrical market. Fourteen years later, here it is in all its deranged glory for trash movie fanatics to enjoy, playing around in the same pool as the even more insane Dangerous Men (which still hasn't been released on video anywhere in the world).
The basic plot is a riff on that old crime staple, The Desperate Hours, with a bunch of criminals holing up in a house where they hold an affluent family captive. However, this time it's also drenched in relentless synth music, gratuitous T&A, random gun violence, cop mullets, inscrutable dialogue, and actors apparently plucked at random off the streets of Hollywood Blvd. This time the villains are some thieves led by Tony (D'Zar) and strip club guru Lynch (err, Lynch), who hold up a truck depot but wind up getting nabbed by the cops.
While getting bussed off to prison, they're violently busted out by a couple of pals who dress up in drag and stage a bloody car accident. One of those jail breakers is Tony's brother, Jesse (Verden), who gets a bullet in the gut and needs medical treatment. Dogged Lieutenant Sunset (Jim Brown, of course) tries to track the men down as they hide out on a sprawling ranch where a tacky ornate home is inhabited by dim-witted women in bikinis. Meanwhile the house's owner, John Morgan (Andy Sidaris regular Harold Diamond), shows up after a manly round of kickboxing at the local gym and a police chase only to find himself in a nest of danger and shotguns. Sent out to find a doctor, he has to come up with a way to defeat the bitch-slapping bad guys before his lady friends all wind up riddled with bullets.
Wow, this movie is really something. It's the kind of film whose end credits spotlight performers like Sandy Palms, "J.R.," Jessus Jr. Quebas, and "Mike," which means the whole thing feels like people far removed from the English language trying to churn out a blockbuster Hollywood action film. Needless to say, the results miss the mark by about ten miles, which means tons of entertainment value if you're in the right frame of mind. Diamond is a real sight to behold here as he uses his manly coif and burly fists through the entire second half of the movie to fend off the thugs, none of whom seems to have any sort of coherent game plan.
Previously circulated only in scarce gray market copies, Killing, American Style comes to DVD is fine shape from Cinema Epoch with its gaudy colors and sun-drenched locations looking about as crisp as they probably could. Apart from a gallery of other available titles, the only really relevant extra is a good one: a 19-minute video interview with Verden, who recalls working on this film and its even more elusive follow up, Gypsy (which is hopefully on Cinema Epoch's upcoming slate). His memories of Shervan are fairly thorough as he recalls the low budget productions (including going back to the ranch months later for one crucial shot) and his awareness of the small but growing fanbase for his films now. It's also worth noting that five minutes of the piece also consists of a surreal animated excerpt from his series, Arkansas Pond Friends. Somehow capping this disc off with a cartoon seems oddly appropriate.