by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
(Warner Archive is a manufactured-on-demand DVD series that is dedicated to releasing lost classics, cult favorites and films that have never been released on video or DVD. They are truly the cinephile's best friend.)
The 1992 made-for-television spy-caper Revolver is probably the most progressive, entertaining take on the genre in the past 20 years, putting even the last couple of James Bond flicks to shame, if only for sheer PC inventiveness. TV stalwart Robert Urich is secret intelligence agent Nick Sastre, who is paralyzed by a drug dealer’s bullet in a sting gone badly. After an appropriate amount of stewing in a depression, through a well-executed training montage, Nick learns to utilize his wheelchair as a weapon, becoming a two-wheeled force of low-budget vengeance. He travels to Spain and carries out elaborate missions and action set-pieces, never getting out of the wheelchair once. And he gets the girl, too! Why this was never picked up for series is beyond me, but A big-budget theatrical remake starring Jason Statham would be a personal dream come true.
The cinematic output of Shaquille O’Neal is unfairly maligned. Sure, maybe Kazaam deserved some vitriol, but I’m willing to bet that people just saw Shaq’s name above the title of Steel and just wrote it off with nary an obligatory viewing. That really sucks, because Steel is actually a pretty fun movie. It’s not good, mind you, but it sure as heck is fun. Based on the DC Comics superhero that appeared in the wake of the whole “Death of Superman” fiasco, John Henry Irons was a construction worker who, feeling Metropolis needed a new Man of Steel, forged a metal-suit and became a crime-fighter. Well, in the movie adaptation, Superman is nowhere to be found (apart from the “S” shield logo on Shaq’s arm) but the spirit is there. Irons is a military weapons-designer who tires of fighting and returns home to his LA neighborhood that’s being plagued by high-tech gangs. He makes a state-of-the-art metal-suit and takes them all on. Simple stuff, but very entertaining and nowhere near as bad as comic book geek purists would have you think. It’s a pretty worthy Superman-by-proxy flick that stands up all by itself.
The 1970s were most notable for three things: Nixon, Pet Rocks and America’s love affair with the cross-country trucker. Some of the best music and movies from the period are all about these 18-wheel gladiators hauling freight while staying two steps ahead of the law. It was the profession of men. In-between all the CW McCalls and Jerry Reeds however, this 1975 gem managed to fall somewhere in the cracks. Based on the true story of Carol Jo Hummer (played by Jan-Michael Vincent), the law-abiding owner-operator of a 13-speed, seven—and-one-half-ton truck, who runs afoul of a crooked trucking company (and their parent corporation) that uses every dirty trick to get him and his like-minded buddies off the road. White Line Fever is pretty much Walking Tall in a diesel truck, with redneck revenge coming swift and just.