Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sci-Fried Theater: KING OF THE STREETS (1986)

Writer-producer-director Ed Hunt is hardly a well known name amongst genre fans and that is a shame because the man makes well made and enjoyable movies.  Hunt was born in the United States but found his initial filmmaking success in Canada, just like the band Heart.  Ah, Canadians know talent when they see it, eh.  He started in the early 70s with soft-core titles like PLEASURE PALACE (1973) and DIARY OF A SINNER (1974).  Both low budget productions were successful and allowed Hunt to tackle films about his true passion – science fiction and UFOs.  This resulted in films like POINT OF NO RETURN (1976) and the cult classic STARSHIP INVASIONS (1978).  That late 70s/early 80s saw Hunt mature with the virus thriller PLAGUE (1979) and the kids slasher flick BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981).  Before bowing out of the film industry to take care of a sick relative, Hunt returned to sci-fi with the THE BRAIN (1988) and KING OF THE STREETS (aka ALIEN WARRIOR; 1986), a goofy genre blender that plays like STARMAN (1984) meets SCARFACE (1983).

The film opens on a distant, unnamed planet where a man (Brett Baxter Clark, of DEATHSTALKER IV fame) is told by his wizard looking father that his brother has failed his mission and, in order to be a leader, he must defeat great evil.  This means he is zapped by some lasers and then sent to Earth (nude, of course), where he will surely encounter great evil. Looks like their calculations were perfect as he lands in downtown Los Angeles and quickly stumbles upon a drug deal going down.  No joke, the dealers van is for a rental company called Snow Biz with the logo “there’s no business like snow business.” Subtle.  Anyway, he catches the eye of top drug dealer/pimp Mr. One (Reggie De Morton, looking just like Laurence Fishburne, more on that later) and when asked if he is great evil, Mr. One responds, “Yeah, I’m the greatest, sucker.”  Foe and mission selected. Wandering around town, our alien warrior adopts the name Buddy (after being yelled that as he wandered into traffic) and quickly finds his calling when he saves Lora (Pamela Saunders) from being raped by some stock Hollywood cholos. Lucky for her, Buddy is a badass because he can quickly absorb anything he sees and he just happened to walk by a karate school earlier.  To thank him, Lora offers to put our homeless hero up in her struggling inner city reading center (“Learn to read, read to learn” is their slogan) and she quickly learns his secret.  You see, Buddy is also clairvoyant and can sense your pain.  In fact, within minutes of meeting Lora’s boyfriend, he tells her he is nothing but a money loving asshole.  This guy really is psychic…or he just noticed how obsessed the boyfriend was about his precious Mercedes.  One of the gang members, Gonzalez (Nelson Anderson), shows up to shoot Buddy, but he is found out and Buddy brings him in to make him cry about people calling him a “stupid Mexican.”

Meanwhile, in a completely different movie, Mr. One is wheelin’ and dealin’ in the Los Angeles criminal underground. We see him at a club scouting a girl who he quickly turns into a prostitute for his clients.  And these seedy types are high profile cops and politicians so Mr. One is making sure to record all of these trysts for blackmail purposes. (It should be noted that one person on his list is named Marty.)   Mr. One seems hell bent on keeping the ghetto down, which will obviously bring him in direct conflict with Buddy.  Our hero Buddy has been helping everyone he can.  He tries to get a hooker off the streets by telling her she is going to be killed soon; he resurrects a random girl in a coma in the hospital; he converts Gonzalez’s gang by having them read books and build him a tricked out super car; he befriends a homeless black kid who dreams of being an astronaut (“but that’s just for rich kids” he says) and takes him to see a space shuttle landing; he gets a shy little girl to overcome her mean stepmom by having her visualize stretching her nose and playing the National Anthem on it (!); he breaks up an extortion/protection gang by punching a stop sign and shouting “no more” in slow motion; and he saves the aforementioned hooker from a psycho taunting her with a power drill and snake (guess she didn’t listen to his advice).  Yep, Mr. One won’t take kindly to all that positivity (he seethes when he sees graffiti that reads “be temperate”) and kidnaps Lora to settle the score in a junkyard showdown.

If you were one of the millions disappointed that STAND AND DELIVER (1988) lacked aliens and martial arts fights, then this film is for you!  KING OF THE STREETS is derived from about a billion other movies, yet somehow turns out to be one of a kind.  I’m not quite sure who this was marketed for because you’ll have one scene with a kind, positive message.  Ten minutes later you’ll have a woman stripping after being beaten by her pimp.  Then you get a reaffirming “dream it and it can happen” speech from Buddy.  Ten minutes after that you’ll have a bloody as hell shootout outside of a Plato’s Retreat-style club that culminates with Mr. One shooting crazy in the street clad only in his underwear.  It is a movie of mixed messages, like when Buddy first meets the cute homeless kid and offers him a ride.  “Okay, but if you try any faggot shit I’m gonna cut your balls off,” replies the kid to this kind gesture.  This movie has it all, from Tony Robbins-style cheese to cheap T&A to blaxploitation style sleaze. Damn, maybe I was the target audience because I enjoyed the hell out of all of that mix.

Hunt clearly had a message here (I wondered if the brother mentioned in the opening was supposed to be Jesus), but it doesn’t appear thought out.  That is somewhat confirmed by the goofy ass ending where Buddy is completely powerless during the final fight and it is up to the people brought down by Mr. One to be the ones to kill him.  Wait…wasn’t Buddy supposed to be the one to defeat great evil?  He didn’t do anything and just stands by watching as everyone else did his work for him.  Hmmm, on second thought, that probably does qualify him to be a “great ruler” by today’s standard.  Of course, what am I doing deconstructing a movie that ends with the hero floating up into space while waving goodbye to his girlfriend (an ending so powerful that Russell Mulcahy ripped it of for HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING).

Obviously the alternate title of ALIEN WARRIOR is far more apt for this film. KING OF THE STREETS obviously invokes a crime drama and I vividly remember someone complaining about this film when they rented it from the video store. Even funnier is Xenon Entertainment Group’s 1995 VHS re-release that tries to pull one of the funniest and boldest switcheroo on customers.  They plastered a picture of villain Reggie De Morton on the cover with a still of him at his most Fishburne-esque (see below).  Below the title reads “with the star of WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT and DEEP COVER” and the back says “the star of DEEP COVER and WHAT’S LOVE GO TO DO WITH IT has never been more controversial than as Mr. 1 (sic).”  WHAT!?!  The sad thing is I can’t determine if that is sheer promotional ballyhoo or the folks at Xenon watched this and really thought that was Laurence Fishburne without reading the credits.  Either scenario is entirely possible.  Poor De Morton! As if doing a shootout in his underwear wasn't embarrassing enough, he gets his breakout role and is confused for someone else.  He does get the honor of saying the film’s best line though as he chastises his right hand man with: “You’re so lazy that you’d use my dick to get laid if you could.”  I’m not quite sure how that embodies laziness as it seems like more work, but, hey, he said it menacingly. Let's do a little cover comparison.

Xenon VHS cover:

Hmmmm, this reminds me of something:

3 Reactions:

  1. a) I don't think including the "Mean Streets" reference on the Fishburne-esk cover was an accident

    b) I find the tagline on the original VHS cover confusing. Shouldn't it say "To lead HIS world, he HAS to destroy evil in ours"?

  2. I will be tracking this one down. Great Stuff

  3. Finally pulled the trigger on ALIEN WARRIOR and was reminded how much I can't stand "fish out of water" stories. I did get a kick out of how it felt like the film was trying to serve to different audiences. But I ran out of patience for the goody goody crap well before 90 minutes.

    Still work checking out.


All comments are moderated because... you know, the internet.