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.
The cover to 1964's The 7th Dawn paints a picture of a classic, rollicking jungle adventure. Hell, it stars William Holden and is directed by future Bond director Lewis Gilbert, so you can see why I'd be excited by popping this into the DVD player. Sadly, by the 15-minute mark, the realization that this is more of a talky drama sets in and you just bide your time, waiting for something to happen. At the end of World War II, Holden is a communist-hating soldier stationed in Malaysia, hoping to buy up land to to plant rubber trees and line his pockets with coin. His dreams are soon quashed as those damn commies try to jump-start a violent revolution. The drawn-out speeches and rhetoric are all right for awhile, but eventually overtake the picture so much that, when action does occur, it's too little, too late. On the plus side, Riz Ortolani's lush score is truly intoxicating.
When the oil reserves open up, so do the much-needed jobs in a small California town. Unfortunately, the job-seekers who show up are also ultra-violent redneck drunks who are slowly taking over. They eventually defeat the police force, leading stand-up citizen Ben (Jan-Michael Vincent) to convince the local government to hire a vigilante police force led by his seemingly reformed ex-Vietnam vet brother Aaron (Kris Kristofferson). At first this is a great idea — as most vigilante actions often are — but ultimate power corrupts and all that, with Aaron taking over the town to line his own pockets, leading to a shockingly explosive finale that is bitterly nihilistic. It's the type of Cain vs. Abel scenario that Kristofferson has sung about numerous times, but with a sleazy, mean-spirited, damn near un-American redneck-sploitation vibe running through it. Not that that's a bad thing, of course. A lost drive-in classic unearthed from MGM's new DVD on Demand service.
In Death Wish, Charles Bronson stars as a liberal, pacifist architect driven to murder after the rape and murder of his daughter and wife. It was a gigantic hit, leading to numerous rip-offs, all of which attempted to outdo it in terms of sleaziness and violence. The best of the lot is the Paul (Taxi Driver) Schrader-scripted Rolling Thunder, one of the best cult action films to come out of the ’70s. William Devane is a Vietnam POW who, upon his return home, immediately has to deal with a kid who doesn't know him and a wife who wants to divorce him. But that's nothing compared to the group of thugs who break into his house and not only murder said family, but stick his hand down a garbage disposal. Now, armed with a razor-sharp hook, a well-armed weapons cache and a steely 1,000-yard stare, he teams up with Army buddy Tommy Lee Jones and heads down to Mexico to execute the murderers.