Before there was THE ROOM, there was the mysterious John S. Rad's seemingly one-man-show DANGEROUS MEN, making its digital debut with Drafthouse Films' Blu-ray/DVD combo release.
After her fiancé Daniel (porn actor Michael Hurt) is killed and she is nearly sexually assaulted, Mena (Melody Wiggins) lures her would be rapist to a hotel room and brutally stabs him to death. Gaining access to savings and her passport from her father (James Brockman) does not flee the country but takes to the road with the goal of wiping Los Angeles free of human garbage. Getting tips from a hooker (Jessica Zaccaro) about the business and its dangers, Mena lets herself be picked up by men and murders them if they try to make a move on her (apart from a comical British motorist who she leaves naked in the desert). While Mena seems the obvious suspect in the murder of the biker, Daniel's detective brother David (Michael Gradilone, ANIMAL INSTINCTS III) tracks the dead biker's gang and tries to get to their boss Black Pepper (Bryan Jenkins). Meanwhile, Mena is starting to feel the heat as David's colleague (Tripp Law) is hot on her trail.
An utterly baffling viewing experience, DANGEROUS MEN began in the eighties as an exploitation epic from Iranian architect-turned-filmmaker John S. Rad who reportedly fled his home country when the Ayatollah Khomeini returned in 1979. Having lost his fortune (and apparently the films he had produced in Iran), Rad mounted DANGEROUS MEN over a protracted period of twenty years apparently with the goal of not borrowing or owing anyone money and also paying his cast and crew the bare minimum (which apparently included a daily McDonald's hamburger). Whatever filmmaking experience Rad had accrued before DANGEROUS MEN, the film itself exhibits little in the way of conventional cinematic language or traditional structure (partially due to the two decades of production and post-production). The film seems to lose interest in Mena halfway through after a handful of bizarre vignettes and focus on David's totally wrongheaded efforts to track down Black Pepper. The finale even drops Daniel in favor of Black Pepper taking time out of fleeing the police to terrorize a blind girl introduced just minutes before the end credits. Credit-hog Rad is solely credited during the opening credits for scripting (actually "created and written by"), producing, "original music, song & lyrics", executive producer, and direction with the unknown cast and crew credited only in the end crawl, including cinematographer Peter Palian (SAMURAI COP) who is listed at the top of the camera crew as "Peter Palian (DP)." Rad's anaesthetizing score includes funky Casio synths and a warbling ballad ("Goodbye my love, goodbye…") but oddly suits the "off" performances and direction.
DANGEROUS MEN made its theatrical debut out of nowhere in 2005 with TV spots on MTV and four-walled theater screenings. The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC widescreen 1.85:1 presentation seems to faithfully represent the uneven cinematography, which looks at its best in the bright California exteriors, softer in the interiors and night scenes, but this is not an attractive looking film with flat lighting and little thought having gone into the color coordination of the production design or wardrobe. Grain seems relatively intact along with reel change marks and some scratches (this one seems not to have made the rounds beyond its initial short theatrical run). The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo rendering of the film's Dolby Stereo track. The track is largely monophonic with some exaggerated foley effects given directionality and the score and vocals having some spread across the left and right channels.
Extras start off with an audio commentary by DESTROY ALL MOVIES authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly in which they spend as much time making fun of the film as sharing what little information there is available on the film and relaying audience impressions. They have tracked down a handful of the cast, including Wiggins (now a physician) who disappears from the film because she broke her leg doing a stunt, as well as others who were not interested in being part of the new release since they were paid so little (and presumably embarrassed by their performances). "That's So John Rad" (26:43) is a documentary by Jeremy Coon (RAIDERS!: THE STORY OF THE GREATEST FAN FILM EVER MADE) and Tim Skousen (THE SASQUATCH GANG) who saw the film upon its out-of-nowhere theatrical premiere and endeavor to track down not only those who knew Rad but those few so saw film during its run (when its box office takings were reportedly seventy dollars total), among them Cinefile Video co-founder Phil Anderson, L.A. Weekly columnist Paul Cullum, Cinefamily programmer Hadrian Belove, and exhibitor Greg Gardner who point out the film's various absurdities (but lovingly so). Rad's daughter (who confirms that her father's real name is not "Jahangir Salehi" as credited in parenthesis beneath his presentational credit but chooses to keep his real name secret) and his granddaughter and grandson reflect on the film and recall Rad's volatile nature (when his daughter had lunch with a man her father said she could not see, he took her used car and the next time she saw it was in the film being pushed off of a cliff). Rad himself appears via excerpts from an access TV appearance (see below).
The interview with cinematographer Peter Palian (10:35) sheds further light on Rad who Palian met through fellow Iranian exploitation filmmaker Amir Shervan (SAMURAI COP). He discusses Rad's incredible cheapness when it came to paying and feeding the crew (making tomato soup for himself out of a glass of water and a bottle of ketchup), composing the score himself, and being called back for reshoots a week later. The aforementioned local access TV with Rad (47:57) is included in its entirety, being an episode of "Queer Edge" hosted by Jack E. Jett. In between obnoxious comic routines – along with a visit to the AVN adult entertainment expo – Jett interviews comedian Sandra Bernhard (HUDSON HAWK) and the enigmatic Rad (even the irreverent Bernhard is taken aback by his inscrutability). The disc also includes the theatrical trailer (2:52), another trailer (1:31), and the TV teaser (0:41) along with previews for MIAMI CONNECTION, MS. 45, ROAR, and TRAILER WAR. Also included along with the DVD side of the package and digital download code is a booklet featuring a print interview with Rad in which he discusses his career in architecture and cinema in Iran before he fled to the United States. (Eric Cotenas)
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