The Being / Cop Killers:
I wonder if producer William Osco needs money, because it sure seems like Code Red releasing has got his number, releasing a number of his schlock-tastic low-budget genre flicks packaged as Exploitation Double Features. Though cramming two movies onto one disc - reducing AV quality and sometimes short-changing extra features - in many ways Code Red is doing right by treating these lovable losers with the minimum of respect.
Consider for example The Being, a 1983 picture conceived from an ominous title and poster art. Tellingly, you can see the wheels begin to fall off of this venture in that self-same poster art, featuring a slimy creature with a dopey grin and one foolishly rolling eye. If you're going to make your monster inexplicably goofy looking, you probably shouldn't be making horror movies at all.
Whatever, the poster worked like a charm for me in the early '80s. Rolling through Reedsport, outside of Coos Bay, Oregon, I saw the poster in the window of a little Mom and Pop video store - creature eerily emerging from a bright, fiery light - and I was hooked. Yet it would be many years before I actually rented the thing, based on the knowledge that the cast featured Portland TV Station KGW News Channel 8's own Tracy Barry as ... a newscaster.
The story should end here, but now Code Red delivers a fairly rough print of The Being that virtually recreates much of the fun of discovering cheap, forgotten quickies and soon realizing that they are forgotten for a reason. The Being follows the Jaws template: weird creature emerges, killing people, town mayor refuses to close down tourist-dollar-generating festival, more people die, scientists try to figure it out, and Tracy Barry shares numerous scenes with Martin Landau!
Vibrant colors neither hide this movie's - nor the DVD's - deficits, but add real pop to a few nicely bloody killings, including an early decapitation that is hard to top. Yet the cheapness works its own magic, making this overly talky, tension-free goofball of a movie - also featuring Ruth Buzzi in a huge, and hugely curious role - feel like some kind of drive-in schlock classic - which, of course, it isn't, even with that stupid looking monster, which means you probably should only Rent It.
Bill Osco's back with this 1973 longhairs vs. the law potboiler. However, despite numerous sequences of jaw-dropping hilarity and unintentional humor, the movie should have been called 'Cop Filler,' for all of the yakkity yak yak and four-minute long establishing shots. As with The Being, you know what you're in for from the start: an unbearably cheery folk-rock song accompanies a crude cocaine drop - a small plane lowers a suitcase of snow down on a rope while two disgruntled hippies try to grab it or something. Multilayered stupidity briefly gives way to genre thrills, as an oddly staged gunfight finds our hippies shooting it out with the cops. The game ends with a neck-shot cop squirting thick, ketchupy blood like a bubbling water fountain.
Our anti-heroes move on, making ever more harebrained, rash decisions - basically killing everybody - while the good looking hippie (Osco) begins to fall in love with a hostage, and the petulant blond hippie (Jason Williams) says stuff like, "nobody messes with the guy with five keys of cocaaiiiine" through teeth gritted tetanus-tight.
Ridiculously hip, heavy dialogue tells the story when lingering single-camera set-ups will not. Lean back as we watch the getaway car travel all the way up a hillside in one pointless three-minute take. Clutch your gut in pain as we watch the hippie and the hostage make doe eyes at each other in a cheap motel. Begin searching frantically for the door as we watch a mentally handicapped man sell ice-cream from the wrong side of the window in his ice-cream truck, for absolutely no good reason. Finally, call the fire department to save you from that ledge as we watch the hostage, forced to read aloud from a harlequin romance novel, erupt in hysterics because she doesn't want to say the word 'thigh.'
Alternating between such lunacy, overly splashy violence, and mesmerizing, dull scenes of nothingness, Cop Killers will lull you into a stupor-dream wherein everything is crazy and you have no idea why such a movie could possibly earn a Recommended rating.
This 1.78:1 widescreen presentation (for both features) isn't meant to be reference quality. I'd wager if the folks at Code Red stumbled onto original pristine elements from which to master these films, they would have run in the other direction. Whatever the case, this pro-quality check disc can't be considered final product anyway, but it's clear a 'grindhouse' experience is the intent, since both movies feature plentiful print damage, skips, scratches, low detail levels and anything else you can think of. Never fear, these aren't Public Domain quality prints, but, well, you get the picture.
The same can be said for both Dolby Digital Mono Audio tracks, in English. Pops, muffled dialog, and a little distortion here and there, even the odd skip can be yours to hear. But you'd expect bad audio from Osco's on-the-cheap productions, after all, you can clearly see the headphones-wearing sound guy sitting, scrunched to the side, in the back of the Cop Killers car, he even glances nervously right at the camera.
For all the diffident grunge these features wallow in, Code Red has scraped together Commentary Tracks for both movies! Both tracks are moderated, with The Being getting the treatment from comedian/star Johnny Dark, rambling mostly about a life of comedy, and waxing rhapsodic about Ruth Buzzi. The Cop Killers track features star Jason Williams, who doles out the tidbits with a drawl and plenty of airspace between each reminiscence. We also get a 15-minute Interview with Williams, which is by nature a bit redundant, and a selection of Code Red Trailers accompanying each movie.
This Code Red Exploitation Double Feature brings producer/director/actor William Osco's low-budget, low-rent exploitation quickies to a whole new audience. The Being and Cop Killers are both bad movies, no mistake, but they're both so bad that they pack plenty of entertainment value for those eager to relive or experience for the first time how it feels to really slum it cinema style. A gooey, goopy monster and a pair of sleazebag druggy hippies remind us that death is around every corner, and exploitation lives forever. Recommended to the Out Crowd.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com