Monday, February 19, 2018

This Bud's for You: WE ARE ANGELS: DUST (1997)

After surviving the dreaded "precocious child syndrome" of the previous entry, LUCK IS RAINING FROM THE SKY, we return to more manly pursuits. Like chasing girls, getting revenge and shooting people with coconuts.

As we quickly find out, the "dust" in the title refers to gold dust, as a scoutmaster unexpectedly finds a vein of gold that runs from his troop's campsite in the jungle all the way through our troubled tabernacle of San Rolando. In addition to abusing his authority with the kids (he always wins at painball wars), he is just a lousy human being in general. Instead of being a generous soul and telling the padres of their good fortune, he promptly takes this news to the local crime lord, Don Alfonso Santillana (Richard Lynch), who in turn heads straight to the bishop of the diocese with a cash offer to buy the mission and village. His angle is that he is going to build a resort there which will benefit the entire area, as well as the church's coffers. Naturally the bishop thinks this is just a dandy idea and signs over the now doomed San Rolando!

Meanwhile, Father Zach is having a complete meltdown after suffering from a massive case of "Budus Interruptus" while trying (again) to put the unholy moves on the innocent, but beautiful Lupita, who also happens to be the daughter of the local police chief. Aside from not wanting to blow their cover, the last thing the phony Father Orso wants is more trouble with la policia, or the rest of the village for that matter. Father Zach loses his shit so completely that he runs screaming into the chapel shouting "I need a woman!" to which Orso explains to the other monks, "he needs his mother". He also screams that he wants to "poison my body with hot dogs dipped in petrol-based mustard". A New Yorker slandering hot dogs? Now you know he's lost it! Actually, I'm pretty sure no Italian screenwriter would ever write this for an American character and that Thomas took some liberties with the line. Thomas has been a vegetarian since 1967 and promotes a vegan lifestyle on his official website. But that's ok, PMT, we forgive you. Call us?

 Anyway, this  gives the boys a good excuse to take a pilgrimage into the wild jungles of South America, or at least a couple of dusty roads, to visit an exorcist, and uhhhh, "renew their faith". Their excursion leads them to visit a blind self-proclaimed exorcist (Ty Hardin), who must really have the lord guiding his hands as he sports a perfectly trimmed beard and a neatly drawn cross on his forehead! In addition to that, the blind man can literally point them in the exact direction of the nearest resort, which is conveniently loaded with bikini'd babes and fruity drinks - because, as we all know, you can't properly enjoy a sabbatical without the presence of a small paper parasol in your beverage. And the hot babes don't hurt either. Unfortunately, their fun - err, I mean the "expiation of their sins" - is brought to a halt by news of Don Alfonso's plan for the imminent destruction of San Rolando.

On the way back to Father Zach's bamboo and orchid filled hell, we learn that before being thrown in jail, Father Orso / Bob was an honest business man, who made a living running a nightclub in the city with a woman named Mary. After refusing to sell out to crime boss Don Alfonso Santillana, the cops find a stash of drugs in the nightclub leading to Bob's trip to la pinta and the loss of both his club and his woman, the latter of which reluctantly accepts the job of Santillana's servant. Once back in the village it's time to prepare for war! Well, primitive, cartoon war anyway. In addition to setting traps like a big pot of cooked beans laced with hot peppers, we also get harmless fun like bamboo cannons that shoot coconuts, buckets of goo set above doorways and pools of liquid that set people on fire! Yep, harmless fun. This primitive warfare culminates with a wild and woolly donnybrook between Father Orso and Don Alfonso - or rather between Bud Spencer and Richard Lynch's stunt doubles. No matter, it's still one I can scratch off of my "Bud Spencer Wish List." Let's see, we've had Bud Spencer punching Michael Berryman, check. Bud Spencer knocking out David Hess, check. And Bud Spencer suplexing Richard Lynch? Hell yeah, check!

While not the masterwork that EL DORADO was, this is one of the better episodes, that is once again packed with subplots and sports a great leading villain. I have never seen anything that Richard Lynch has been in where he isn't giving 100%. The only times I have seen him not give 100% is when he's giving 110% (see the 1993 Lovecraft anthology NECRONOMICON for a perfect example of this). Here, even though he is essentially playing a cartoon villain and doesn't have a whole lot to do before the end of the movie, he is still completely into the part and brings everything in the production up a notch. It's also great fun to see the recently passed Western legend Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr. (that's Ty Hardin to you) pop up for a bit part in this one. I wish he had a larger part, maybe having him exorcise someone, or better still, gone on to help wage war on Don Alfonso with Orso and Zach, but I guess that would be too much awesomeness for one episode.

In addition to the moments that have more *ahem* broad-appeal, such as a brawl in a strip-club, there are lots of great little, more subtle moments in this one. For instance, when the villagers are freaking out about Santillana's plan to drive in some bulldozers and flatten everything in sight, the wild-man, Father Torment is the one who advises them to remain calm. Also, there's a nice little bit where Father Zach is furious that their jeep broke down on the way to the exorcist and a, unbeknownst to them, corrupt priest drives past telling the boys that he is too busy to help.
Zach: "He's a priest!!"
Orso: "Maybe he's as much of a priest as we are monks. Are you a monk?"
Zach: "No."
Orso: "Neither am I." (shrugs)
It probably loses a little something in translation, but it's little character bits like this that really make the series fun.

Interestingly, there's a little bit of discussion within the VJ ranks as to which episode actually ends the series. This is technically the sixth and final broadcast episode, but it may have been shown out of order in the same way that EXTRA LARGE was. More on that in our final installment, DOLLARS.

Moments of Clarity:

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