Another batch of cult hits on Blu-ray from the unstoppable Shout! Factory!
aka ARMY OF ONE
(US - 1993)
Some outstanding car chase sequences highlight this Dolph Lundgren actioner that was shot in 1992, bypassing US theaters and retitled ARMY OF ONE when it belatedly hit video stores in late 1994. Looking much bigger than its relatively lean budget, JOSHUA TREE benefits from having experienced stunt coordinator and veteran second unit director Vic Armstrong (whose career as a stuntman dates back to 1967's YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) making his directorial debut. Armstrong's storytelling and directing of the non-action scenes are frequently clunky and lacking polish, but when the focus is action, which is quite often, JOSHUA TREE really works, coming off very much like a hard-R, John Woo-inspired version of the Charlie Sheen comedy THE CHASE, which came out around the same time. Lundgren is Santee, who transports stolen cars in a big rig with his buddy Eddie (Ken Foree). Eddie is killed and Santee is framed for the murder of a highway patrolman by corrupt L.A. cop Severence (George Segal), who runs a hot-car operation with his partner Rudy (Beau Starr). Santee escapes custody during a prison transport, taking local deputy Rita (Kristian Alfonso) hostage and hellbent on vengeance against Severence. Armstrong takes a while getting things revved up, but the second half of the film is basically one long car chase after an incredible shootout at a chop shop owned by Asian mobster Jimmy Shoeshine (Michael Paul Chan, perhaps best known as the Korean convenience store clerk in FALLING DOWN).
(US - 1988)
"They're Creeping Up on You," the E.G. Marshall vs. cockroaches segment of George A. Romero's CREEPSHOW (1982), and Guillermo del Toro's MIMIC (1997) are the standard-bearers in grossout cockroach cinema, but this enjoyably icky 1988 Roger Corman production is a close third (in fact, MIMIC borrowed one of its major plot elements from THE NEST). The small coastal town of North Port finds itself under siege by a mutant strain of cockroach thanks to the usual scientific experimentation gone awry. To combat the cockroach nuisance, a breed of cannibalistic cockroach was created with the intention of consuming the existing roaches. Bred to die out after one generation, the flesh-eating cockroaches adapted and survived, developing an immunity to pesticides and an ability to mimic what they consume. Boasting better production values than many Concorde/Corman releases of that era, multiple visits to Corman's beloved Bronson Canyon, memorable gore scenes, and headed by a veteran actor (aging TV star Robert Lansing as the mayor) who seems to be taking the project seriously, THE NEST still plays very nicely today. The film also benefits from solid supporting turns by Stephen Davies (best known as the American mob lawyer deemed a "long streak of paralyzed piss" by British gangster Bob Hoskins in THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY) as the requisite eccentric, comic-relief exterminator and Corman regular Terri Treas as the human villain, a man-hating mad scientist responsible for the cockroach mutation and who seems perversely turned-on by the mayhem she's created. THE NEST marked the directing debut of THE HOWLING co-writer Terence H. Winkless, who continued working for Corman for a number of years, most notably helming one of Concorde's biggest successes, 1989's Don "The Dragon" Wilson kickboxing classic BLOODFIST. Winkless contributes an engaging commentary track that covers pretty much anything you want to know about THE NEST (even pointing out various bits of footage recycled from other Corman productions) and working for the Corman factory. THE NEST is entertaining B-movie trash at its finest, and certainly in the upper echelon of Corman's extremely prolific late '80s Concorde output. (R, 88 mins)
(US - 1988)
DESTROYER, SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK, THE CHAIR, THE HORROR SHOW, and Wes Craven's SHOCKER). Shout's Blu-ray/DVD combo pack presents the film in 1.78:1 and features a 40-minute retrospective documentary and a commentary with Harlin. RE-ANIMATOR and TRANCERS may get all the glory, but PRISON also ranks as one of the very best films that Empire made before they folded and Charles Band parlayed that notoriety into '90s video store and horror merch staple Full Moon. (R, 103 mins)