Looking over my August viewing list, you’d think I was a Japan-o-phile. Nearly half of my viewings were from my latest addiction, Kamen Rider, and the source who got me hooked is that nefarious (movie)drug dealer, Mr. Sueyres. Thankfully, I was able to pull myself away from the Land of the Rising Sun on a few occasions and get in a couple of non-tokusatsu flicks here and there.
ARIZONA ROAD (1991): Larry Ludman…Arizona…Antonio Sabato, Jr.? Sold! If two of those three things make you start salivating, I’m guessing you are a fan of the THUNDER WARRIOR series. An Italian bent on FIRST BLOOD, that trilogy featured Mark Gregory as the Native American kid Thunder, who is constantly being put upon by the local law enforcement (essayed by Bo Svenson, Raimund Harmstof, John Philip Law, and Werner Pochath over three films). Under the Ludman pseudonym, director Fabrizio De Angelis captured the U.S. Southwest in his own unique way and I was hoping for more of that with ARIZONA ROAD. Sadly, that was not the case.
Truck driver Emiliano (Sabato, Jr.) is a good guy and we know this because in the first five minutes he saves Aurora (Teresa Leopardi, billed as Therry Turner), a nun being sold into white slavery to small town big shot McDonaldson (Lou Castel). Okay, things are a bit different in Arizona. A few years later, Emiliano returns to the area in his own plane to meet up with his old timer buddy Ben Morris (Donald Hodson). Now why his only friend is a kooky drunk gold miner is beyond me. To show that Emiliano is still a good guy, we see him get in an unsanctioned boxing match in a bar (which is showing a THUNDER WARRIOR flick on TV) and take a dive so some kids can think their dad is a badass. Awwwww. Also working at the bar is Aurora and this pisses Emiliano off as he doesn’t like women who are hussies! Seriously, half the film is him thwarting her advances. Naturally, word gets around town that Emiliano is back and McDonaldson gets the sheriff he paid for make this kid’s life hell. And it is bad timing because Morris just found a shitload of gold in his mine and made Emiliano the sole owner.
Damn, I went into this hoping for some THUNDER WARRIOR-esque stuff and instead I got…what I got was...I don't know. ARIZONA ROAD is kind of like FIRST BLOOD mixed with ROADHOUSE if you have zero action. No joke, after the first car chase where Emiliano rescues Aurora, nothing happens for an hour. When Sabato, Jr. finally gets his revenge plan against the town big shot in action by breaking out of jail he heads straight for...a lawyer to talk it out. What the hell? You keep expecting action to start and, when it finally does, the film is over. It was shot in the same town as the THUNDER WARRIOR films, but it shows how far the Italian industry had fallen from early '80s to early '90s. I guess the film is notable for being one of Sabato, Jr.’s first films (he made his debut in De Angelis’ KARATE ROCK the year before), but it is a far cry from the De Angelis-produced ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX (1983) that co-starred Antonio Sabato, Sr. alongside future THUNDER WARRIOR Mark Gregory. Fans of David Warbeck hoping that reliable thespian will bring something to the proceedings will be disappointed as he is only in this for five minutes. To the film’s credit, they do capture some beautiful scenery in the Arizona desert, but no one comes to a Ludman/De Angelis flick hoping for pretty postcard images. We want action and funny dubbing, dammit! I will admit that this scene did make me laugh though:
C.H.U.D. actually celebrated its thirtieth birthday on August 31, 2014. The film wasn't a huge success by any means when it opened in August 1984 (it debuted in ominous 13th place) but still got New World just over $4 million with its quick few weeks run at the box office. I honored this anniversary by dusting off my Anchor Bay DVD and giving it a revisit. Afterward, I couldn’t help feeling that old person adage of, “They don't make 'em like this any more.” And, honestly, it’s true. It tells the story of a NYC photographer (John Heard), a NYC cop (Christopher Curry), and a NYC bum (Daniel Stern) teaming up to uncover a NYC conspiracy of radioactive mutants under NYC. That’s a lot of NYC. With its slimy latex monsters, serious "real" actors, and fantastic underground locations, C.H.U.D. is something to behold and still is as awesome today as when I first saw it on VHS. One of the great things on the DVD is an audio commentary featuring the three aforementioned actors alongside director Douglas Cheek and screenwriter Shepard Abbott. All five guys have a grand time on this commentary, which was recorded about 20 years after they made the film. The nice thing here is they don’t talk down the film (well, Stern does goof on some of the make ups) and point out that even though it was a B-movie, they still gave their all. With anything and everything horror from the ‘80s being remade, I’m shocked this hasn’t hit the reboot block yet.