Sunday, July 29, 2007

Silent Rage (1982)

Here's another picture from 1982.

There was a time in my life when Chuck Norris was my favorite action star. This guy has only lost one fight and that was because he let his good pal Bruce Lee win. I'm afraid we'll never again see action films like those we saw in the 1980s. The kind of films headlined by Norris, Schwarzenegger, Stallone. Later Seagal and Van Damme. The movies characterized by gratuitous violence, jingoistic attitudes, strip clubs that actually feature girls stripping. You know, R Rated films. To me, Norris, as an actor, was probably below Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Seagal. (Sorry, Van Damme fans. Even if he loses the accent, he's still the worst actor I have ever enjoyed). As an agent of death, however, he pretty much beats them all. If you don't believe me, check out Invasion USA, Missing In Action I & II, and the Delta Force. In these films he wipes out an army of Latin American Guerillas, the entire Viet Cong, and every single god damned terrorist ever born, respectively. I'd recommend taking a day off from work sometime and watching them all. It's our right as American citizens to call in sick so we can stay home and watch Chuck Norris pictures.

Norris is the guy that perfected the blue jeans style of martial arts. Seagal later became a student of this style, but was certainly not in the league of Chuck Norris. Seagal just looked silly attempting his round house kicks in denim. Somehow, Norris was able to maintain a fluidity of motion while wearing such stiff attire. I think he just liked the challenge. It was sort of like a middle finger to his opponents, akin to beating them with both hands tied behind his back.

According to Wikipedia, Norris was the first choice to play the role of the evil sensei of the Cobra Kai dojo in The Karate Kid. Norris refuted this claim in an interview as complete bullshit. I wish he HAD been in the first one because it would mean that parts 2-4 of the series would never have happened. Norris would have painted the fence with both Miyagi and Daniel San at the conclusion of part one. This is one more reason that you can't rely on Wikipedia.

Silent Rage is one of his films that eluded me as a kid and I've seen most of them; from The Octagon to Lone Wolf McQuade. I think I was probably a bit wary at the time because it seemed like he only had to fight one guy in this one. And, the cover art didn't portray him handling a couple of uzis (not that he needed them). Also, the description made it sound like Chuck Norris vs. Frankenstein's monster. I was not the biggest fan of Frankenstein's monster as a young boy. I'm happy to announce that my tastes have evolved.

To be more accurate, this movie is closer to Re-animator (1985) than Frankenstein. Notice the dates? Re-animator ripped off Chuck Norris (and he IS pissed. He's coming for YOU Stuart Gordon). Both movies involve a serum that, when injected, can reanimate dead tissue. The difference being that the serum in Silent Rage also gives you superhuman strength, the ability to heal wounds to maintain the appearence of normalcy, and crazy eyes. Re-animator is the better film (more wit, more style, more gore). I still like the idea that Gordon and company were inspired by Lovecraft AND Chuck Norris.

I liked this film, but I have to admit, I didn't love it. Norris is pretty bad ass throughout, except for one scene towards the end when he runs from the reanimated psychopath. I'm sorry, but that was a bad creative choice. I enjoyed some of the supporting players, including Ron Silver (looking and talking just like a young Al Pacino) as a sympathetic doctor who is, in part, responsible for the serum's creation and Stephen Furst (Animal House) as the jolly (read Obese) deputy Charlie. Brian Libby (Action Jackson) played the psychopath and Steven Keats (Freddy's Nightmares) played the slightly mad doctor (and Silver's boss) who developed the serum.

The movie opens with Libby taking an axe to the husband and wife that he's been renting a room from. Libby is always telling his doctor (Ron Silver) that he's "losing it" on the phone, so it's pretty clear the couple that rented him the room didn't really care about references. Norris arrives, toys with him for a bit before finally getting the cuffs on him. This is no ordinary man though becasue he breaks the cuffs and proceeds to beat up a few cops. Norris and his men have no choice, except to gun him down. Ron Silver arrives to take Libby (miraculously, still alive) back to The Institute, a shady medical research facility. Libby dies during surgery, but is given the serum shortly thereafter. Silver was against the idea, but was overruled. Something about how they don't give out the Nobel Peace Prize for murder. The rest of the movie involves Norris reconnecting with an old flame, his deputy Charlie finally finding his courage, a biker gang terrorizing the town, Silver thinking about maybe a new profession, quite a few breast shots (a few involving biker chicks, two involving Norris' old flame), and Libby going on a Michael Myers inspired killing spree before coming face to face with Norris. If it sounds pretty good that's because it is.

Still, I had a couple of issues. First, Norris is not given one memorable line in this thing. I think that was pretty much the story of his career. His writers suck. Obviously, no one wants to see him act in the traditional sense, but a pretty big key to these types of pictures are the one liners. Schwarzenegger had them in spades, Stallone had them, Seagal had them, and even Van Damme got off a couple (when we could understand what he was saying). Norris, the best fighter of the bunch got zilch. He delivers lines like "Okay" and "Is that so?" I also didn't like the guy that played the villain too much. After he died, he didn't really talk at all. I guess that's where the title comes from. He was silent and full of rage. Get it? He had no motivation for killing the people he did, except for the doctors I guess. Actually, the more I think about it, this movie kind of ripped off Halloween. The killer was very much in the Michael Myers mold, never in a hurry, hiding in plain sight, and he even comes with his own Dr. Loomis (Ron Silver). Fortunately, for the real Michael Myers, Norris wasn't in Halloween. If Rob Zombie had balls, he'd put him in the remake.

One character I really liked was the deputy Charlie. You might remember the actor as Flounder in Animal House. He's pretty fun in this one. In the opening scene he nearly shoots Norris (by accident) as he's chasing Libby. Norris dives out of the way to avoid the shot and then looks back at Charlie with disappointment. Charlie just sheepishly shrugs. There's clearly a lot of love between these two. It shows in a later scene, when Charlie, in an effort to clear his conscience relates to Norris the story of how when he was 6 years old, he got a puppy. Once, when it got dirty, he tried to wash it in the toilet and then to dry it off he placed it in the walk in freezer. Of course, being 6, he forgot about it, so his mother found it a day later. It's mouth frozen in mid bark. Norris smiles, and reassures him by saying "Don't worry, that won't go on your record." Unfortunately, Charlie is given one of the lamest death scenes ever when he is bear hugged to death by Libby (who is half his size).

You can't have a Chuck Norris picture without a scene where he beats up 20 to 30 guys at once. Hence the subplot involving the bikers. This encounter takes place in a bar. Chuck and Charlie walk in to find the bartender tied up with a noose around his neck. One of the biker chicks walks over to Charlie and flashes her breasts for him. He reaches out to grab them when Norris clears his throat and calmly asks Charlie to go call for backup. Quick cut to Charlie in the Bronco relating to the dispatcher that 'they were the biggest things I've ever seen! And they had tattoos on them!". Good Ol' Charlie. I'd estimate that 30 seconds later the final biker is thrown out the front window and Charlie is broken out of his love spell: "Mayday! Mayday! Send Backup immediately!!" The fight itself is pretty good. Norris is clearly a master of Karate (he WAS the middle weight world champion at one time, after all). He's got some good moves. Even when he's hit (I think this happened once) and falling, he turns that into his advantage by falling into a 'sweep the legs' move. Controlled chaos. He's the best.

The movie ends with Libby basically killing everyone at The Institute (even poor Charlie). Norris arrives too late and is therefore pretty angry to find Charlie dying. It's at this point that I realized the title could refer to Norris as well as Libby. Norris doesn't say much throughout the final 15 minutes and he is ALSO full of rage. See, it's that neat little twist where the hero has to become like the villain in order to defeat the villain. Clever. Unfortunately, the final fight doesn't really live up to the rest of the movie. I expected Norris to deliver a roundhouse kick that would decapitate Libby and at least blind the body so he could then chop it into a hundred pieces and deliver them to the bottom of the Atlantic. That would have been MY ending anway.


In this thing, after Libby has been shot a couple hundred times, and burnt to a crisp, Norris' solution is to drop him into a well. Huh??? Admittedly, the well is pretty deep, but still, that's a little anticlimactic isn't it? It also hints that maybe Chuck Norris realized he couldn't defeat him and therefore this was the next best thing. Again, this is not an issue with Chuck Norris, but with his crummy writers.

The last shot is of Libby rising from the water at the bottom of the well. It might take him a year or so, but I think he could climb out. The guy is basically immortal, so he's got all the time in the world. His patience was established in an earlier scene when, after dispatching Ron Silver in his home, the wife walks in, finds her dead husband and a dead madman standing over the body. She runs and hides. Instead of trying to find her, the guy just sits tight and waits her out. Finally, thinking he must have left, the wife comes out of hiding only to be splattered against a wall. So, yeah, I think this guy can wait out a few lousy years down at the bottom of a well. If he can't climb out, someone will come along. Eventually.


Ending aside, this is still a pretty good movie. It was nice to see Chuck Norris tackle something in the horror genre. He would revisit this realm in later films like The Hero and the Terror, Hellbound, and also Sidekicks. The supporting cast is better than what you'll find in most Norris pictures, with the exception of M. Emmet Walsh in Missing in Action (Is there a better character actor than Walsh?). I wish they had made a sequel where Chuck Norris had to fight 100 of these reanimated fuckers. Although, in that case, he'd need to dig a lot of wells. There's still time though. I think we're all waiting for Chuck Norris to come back and show us how it's done.


Gianni said...

Wow, it's been so long since Chuck Norris has been known for anything except "Walker, Texas Ranger" and for hawking exercise equipment. It's hard to believe he was actually part of a sci-fi horror movie, just doesn't seem like his style.

brian said...

Wow, you're age is showing Gianni. Chuck Norris was a cash cow in the late 70s early 80s. His STYLE was quite simply kicking ass. It didn't matter what genre he found himself in.