Previously released separately by Media Blasters (with extras prepared by Code Red), Code Red has paired a monster-on-the-loose pic THE BEING and a Grindhouse getaway flick COP KILLERS not for thematic reasons, but because they are both Bill Osco productions (and star vehicles).
Osco (billed as “Rexx Coltrane”) is Detective Mortimer Lutz, who is looking into the recent spate of disappearances. First, a mangled car is found crashed into a building without any trace of a driver (other than a lot of green slime). Another slime-covered car is discovered at the local drive-in (showing a movie where a topless woman is assaulted by a giant maggot a la GALAXY OF TERROR, although the poster outside the drive-in looks like SILENT SCREAM) and a pothead in the next car swears his buddy was dragged out the window by a guy in a monster suit. When Lutz himself finds a large amorphous green jello creature in his own bed and has to outrun a train across the tracks to get away from the unseen creature (well, unseen to us), he warns the mayor (Jose Ferrer, DUNE). The mayor is, of course, very image conscious and does not any rumors panicking the townspeople, especially with a newswoman (Tracy Barry) looking into the toxic waste dumping near the town. The mayor tells Lutz to consult Garson (Martin Landau), an incredibly media-savvy scientist who insures the public that dumping toxic waste into the local aquifer is less dangerous than the radiation given off by his wristwatch. Under the guise of doing some standard tests, Garson camps out at the toxic site and makes a horrifying discovery. He contacts Lutz, but Lutz and busty waitress love interest Laurie (Marianne Gordon aka Mrs. Kenny Rodgers, HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI) are busy fending off the creature at the café. Lutz and Garson trace the creature back to its hiding place, but it has grown to a nearly unstoppable size and has grown many more teeth. Comedian Ruth Buzzi (“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”) plays the mayor’s wife, who is more concerned with stamping out the nonexistent threat of pornography in their town than the growing number of missing persons. Academy Award winner Dorothy Malone (whose other late career horror turn was Jose Ramon Larraz’s REST IN PIECES) plays a woman unhinged by the disappearance of her son some time ago near the toxic waste dump (hmmm…).
Written and directed by producer/star Bill Osco’s then-wife Jackie Kong (BLOOD DINER), THE BEING means to be a tongue-in-cheek throwback to monster-on-the-loose horror films with new concerns over toxic waste disposal and some eighties gore and nudity. Unlike CHUD, THE BEING lacks good lead performances to balance the comedy and horror. Osco mumbles a lot, and even some of his non-voiceover dialogue seems post-dubbed. Ferrer walks through his role and Buzzi isn’t given much opportunity for comedy (save for her last scene). Landau, on the other hand, is so good at doing media snow-jobs that one cannot wait for some mutant retribution, and Malone makes a sympathetic madwoman. Kong’s horror scenes are hampered by the need to keep the monster largely offscreen for most of the running time (even when Lutz gets a good look at it) but she does manage some good false scares, and knowingly plays with audience expectations to good effect in a couple of the potential attack scenes. The monster, when finally revealed, is an amusing sub-DEADLY SPAWN creation which Lutz faces off with in an ALIEN-esque one-on-one showdown. The film’s pacing is also so sluggish that when the apparent first victory against the monster occurs around the one hour mark, the viewer will probably be looking for the freeze-frame shock ending rather than thinking (“it can’t be over yet, there’s 20 minutes left”).
Code Red’s progressive, anamorphic transfer is taken from a source in great condition with bold colors and natural grain during the night exteriors. The mono audio is also clean. Media Blasters’ previous standalone DVD of THE BEING featured only a theatrical trailer, production slideshow, and trailers for other Shriek Show and Fangoria International titles as extras (as well as an alternate Spanish language audio track for the feature). Code Red likely used the same master for their transfer (although they’ve ditched the Spanish track), and they have included in place of the slideshow a feature-length audio commentary with comedian Johnny Dark (who has a small role late in the film), moderated by Marc Edward Heuck. The commentary is short on film anecdotes, but there is some interest since Dark ran with the same crowd of burgeoning standup comedians that included Robin Williams, David Letterman, and Jay Leno and collaborated with Osco and Buzzi on other projects. Heuck’s microphone level is incredibly low. He may have been intended to merely prompt Dark, but has a lot of information to provide and turning up the volume to hear him means that Dark is then way too loud. Heuck speculates on whether Lutz’s black and white sequence featuring himself and Garson in an airplane was always intended as a dream or actually a reworking of the film’s scrapped ending (with a surreal capper featuring Buzzi). He also points out the SILENT SCREAM poster at the drive-in. It would have been nice to have had some participation from Osco (although I do not believe he has made appearances in the extras of any of his films thus far). A trailer (1:38) for the film (featuring the same narration heard early on in the feature) as well as trailers for Code Red’s THE BRUTE CORPS, FAMILY HONOR and THE VISITOR round out the extras for THE BEING, but that’s not all folks…
In COP KILLERS, Osco and Jason Williams (CHEERLEADERS’ WILD WEEKEND) play Alex and Ray, two Rolls Royce-driving hippies who have picked up a bag of cocaine to transport back across the border to an as-yet-unknown connection for $50,000. Almost immediately, they run into a roadblock. The ensuing bloody shootout (and it is bloody, thanks to a pre-Oscar-winning Rick Baker’s make-up) results in four dead cops while Alex and Ray get away unscathed. Alex is worried that the police probably already have their descriptions so they ditch the Rolls Royce and take an ice cream vendor hostage. After a shoot-out at a gas station, they steal Karen’s (Diane Keller) car and take her hostage. Tired of the killing, Alex is sympathetic to the frightened Karen as Ray starts to unravel. When he finds himself falling for her (they snort cocaine off a bible in a hotel room hideout and sleep together), he has to choose between her and Ray when he decides they need to get rid of her (Ray is also resentful that Alex slept with Karen but would not let him “relax” by raping her earlier).
Made quickly on a budget of $50,000 by the Bill Osco and Howard Ziehm for a fast return when the negatives of FLESH GORDON had been seized in a raid, COP KILLERS (shot as SWEET, MEAN, AND DEADLY) is the less slick than THE BEING but overall the better half of Code Red’s double bill. The light opening credits theme song (“My once-in-a-lifetime and I are together again…”) suggests that this might turn out to be more of an exploitation road trip movie with one of those 1970s downbeat endings as our amoral leads find out that crime doesn’t pay, but things get violent right after the credits and the film earns its R-rating (the print begins with an MPAA card). Williams is effective as the more ruthless of the pair, finishing off a mortally-wounded cop with a bullet, tossing their ice cream vendor hostage out of the moving truck, as well as brutalizing Karen. In contrast, Osco does not have to do much to come across as the more sympathetic and sane one, but he’s better here than in THE BEING. Keller has little to do as the terrorized hostage, but she engages out sympathies. Cichy, Osco, co-producer Howard Ziehm and executive producer Ted Dye made the most of Rick Baker’s resources. Practically every victim gets a gory flesh wound (Ray even takes a bloody chunk out of a cop’s cheek with the heel of his boot). Late in the film, the filmmakers also throw in a very brief orgy for good measure (although they likely weighted the film towards violence because of the FLESH GORDON situation). If COP KILLERS is a success, it is not because of deep characterization or well-executed action scenes, it is because of its overall stripped-down quality in terms of story and production.
The film was shot on Super 16mm reversal stock and blown-up to 35mm (the softness of the opening credits lettering compared to the background image suggests that it was a stylistic choice). Some of the long shots look soft, and although the image is usually well-exposed, shadow detail is non-existent in the sun-bleached exteriors (some exterior close-ups could have used some fill as the actors are either squinting in the sun or their eyes are hidden in shadow). Some of the scratches were likely on the reversal stock before the blow-up. Despite other signs of age (particularly around the reel changes as usual), none of it detracts from the presentation. The mono audio track is clean, with only a steady but non-distracting hiss throughout (and no obvious digital noise reduction flaws). The music sounds lower than the dialogue and effects, but that may have been how it was originally mixed. COP KILLERS was also previously released on DVD by Media Blasters as a standalone title and, other than a stills gallery, the same extras seem to have been carried over here.
Although Jason Williams contributed some off-microphone comments to the Scorpion Releasing DVD of CHEERLEADERS WILD WEEKEND (which he co-wrote), he is front and center in the extras for COP KILLERS. First up, there is an audio commentary with Williams (moderated by Adam Trash). He reveals that COP KILLERS was actually his third film, having been shot after the principal photography of FLESH GORDON. He also talks about the latter film as well as his debut in Tom DeSimone’s 3D X-rated PRISON GIRLS (which also featured his FLESH GORDON co-star Candy Samples). Williams also talks about some of Rick Baker’s effects, such as the bloody non-squib bullet hits. Williams pops up again in “Confessions of a Cop Killer” (15:32). Most of the information is repeated from the commentary, but the discussion is more concise (including more information on FLESH GORDON’s confiscation). He also expresses more fond memories of Baker and his feelings on the legalization of drugs. The film’s theatrical trailer (1:44) rounds out the extras (the same three trailers for THE BRUTE CORPS, FAMILY HONOR, and THE VISITOR on THE BEING’s menu are also accessible from the COP KILLERS menu). While it is nice that the films are separately accessible with their own extras, it might have been nice to have a “play all” option for the two features and trailers (as with Code Red’s own Exploitation Cinema line) despite the odd double-billing.
Owners of the Media Blasters’ standalone releases may not find Code Red’s double-bill an essential purchase (even for THE BEING commentary), but those who haven’t seen either of these will be the better for going with Code Red. (Eric Cotenas)
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