Director: Steven H. Stern
Kino Lorber

Canada shows us how to do the vigilante movie monster truck-style with ROLLING VENGEANCE, on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Little Joey Rosso (Don Michael Paul, ROBOT WARS) works for his father Big Joe's (Lawrence Dane, RITUALS) independent trucking company reluctantly delivering alcohol for titty bar and used car lot owner Tiny Doyle (Ned Beatty, DELIVERENCE) and his unruly brood of five – Vic (Todd Duckworth, STAY TUNED), Moon Man (Michael Dyson, MURDER AT 1600), Hairlip (Hugo Dann, BLINDSIDE), Finger (Lawrence King-Phillips, LAST MANS STANDING), and Four Eyes (A.C. Peterson, BAD COMPANY) – whose drunken antics have led to a coalition of the Ohio town's women form an anti-drunk-driving protest league. When hot-dogging Vic forces the car carrying Joey's mother (Susan Hogan, THE BROOD) and two kid sisters (DEAD RINGERS' Marsha Moreau and voice actress Alyson Court) into the path of fellow trucker Steve (Barclay Hope, THE LAST SEASON), he adds insult to injury by gloating when he gets off a manslaughter charge for insufficient evidence and is granted a suspended sentence for drunk driving. After Big Joe starts a brawl with the Doyles in their bar, the brothers toss cinderblocks off an overpass onto his truck and put the older man into a coma. A vengeful Joey starts transforming the truck he was building by hand for the car show into a weaponized phantom truck-enstein of a tank (designed by monster trucker Michael Welch) which he uses to crush all of Tiny's used car stock. When Tiny and his sons target Steve and Joey's girlfriend Misty (Lisa Howard, HIGHLANDER), Joey turns his truck into a killing machine.

Set in Ohio but shot in a chilly Canada, ROLLING VENGEANCE is an efficient little piece of Americanized Canuxploitation that is pretty much DEATH WISH with monster trucks. The structuring of the narrative is extremely rudimentary and predictable – almost mechanical in its transitions and deployment of musical montages – and the characters very black-and-white but Paul, Dane, Howard, Beatty, and Duckworth all prove very engaging in their goody and baddy roles. The phantom truck stalking and killing scenes are well-executed in terms of effects and stunts – stunt coordinator Gary McLarty cut his teeth on American sixties and seventies biker flicks like HELL'S ANGELS '69 and Dwayne McLean coordinated stunts on all of the major Canuxploitation flicks of the eighties – deftly edited to surprise with the sudden switch of man and dummy for some man vs giant tire encounters, but strangely none of these revenge scenes have quite the visceral quality as the bar brawl which feels much more personal and emotionally raw. The rape of Howard's love interest is handled relatively tastefully but the climax finds her menaced by the phantom truck's phallic drill when the machine is temporarily commandeered by the enemy. Michael J. Reynolds (THE DESCENT: PART II) appears as the local police lieutenant who suspects the identity of the phantom trucker but is in no real hurry to apprehend him.

Produced and distributed stateside by Apollo Pictures – whose previous film WINNERS TAKE ALL also starred Paul as a Supercross motorcycle rider – ROLLING VENGEANCE was released on tape by Charter Entertainment, a sub-label of Embassy Home Entertainment, which was how it ended up with MGM through the Nelson Entertainment library. The film remained unavailable legitimately on digital media until Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray. The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen may derive from an older HD master but the film appears to have always looked a little drab with subdued naturalistic colors, warm skintones, some diffusion which causes the neon highlights of the bar scenes to bloom, and night scenes that seem to be soft due to insufficient lighting and extremely shallow depth-of-field. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track delivers when it comes to the driving, crashing, and monster truck stalking scenes but the music often lacks the appropriate umph to really stir the emotions even during the montage sequences. There are no subtitle options but dialogue remains intelligible.

Extras start off with an audio commentary by Paul Corupe of and film historian Jason Pichonsky who note that this is an American production shot in Canada with Canadian crew and supporting performers – Cronenberg favorite Les Carlson (THE FLY) has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role as Misty's father – and reveal that screenwriter Michael Montgomery (SOUTH BEACH) achieved notoriety by suing the producers of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT for breach of contract for using his similarly-themed treatment. The win earned him the right to claim that he created the SMOKEY franchise and he then struck next with an "action pack" trio of screenplays that he sent out to a hundred producers, the results of which were EYE OF THE TIGER for the Scotti Brothers and ROLLING VENGEANCE. They not only note the similarities between both films but also that these mid-eighties productions seem to reflect themes and attitudes of the seventies, suggesting that the scripts date back closer to the SMOKEY period. They also discuss actor Paul's subsequent career as a writer (HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN) and as a director (TREMORS 4), as well as some of the lesser known supporting Canadian players, particularly Dane and Howard (who worked prolifically in Canadian television but her claim to fame was her stint on DAYS OF OUR LIVES). Dane appears in a brief interview (9:45) who spends much of the time reflecting on his work as actor, writer, producer, and director and his preferences along with brief discussion of RITUALS before relating some of his impressions of ROLLING VENGEANCE, one of five films he did with Steven Hilliard Stern (I WONDER WHO'S KILLING HER NOW). The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (1:51) and previews for STONE COLD DEAD, COP, STEELE JUSTICE, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, and AVENGING FORCE. (Eric Cotenas)