Saturday, July 23, 2016

Episode 14: Strip for Action (1996)

“My name’s not Einstein.”

Tipped off by a trusted employee, Jones and Halleck (Kevin Alber and Emile Levisetti), a pair of sociopathic gunmen, creep into an L.A. strip joint through an unlocked back door. They intend on making off with the club’s lucrative earnings, approximately $1,000,000.00 in cash, but almost immediately, their plans veer off-course.

What should’ve been a simple in-and-out heist quickly becomes a bloodbath, as Jones and Halleck realize things haven’t been as tightly planned as they’d thought. Inside, they discover more armed guards, more patrons, more employees. Worst of all, the safe they’ve come to unload is on a timeclock, set to open at 6:00 AM, when an armored truck is scheduled to collect the accumulated funds.

A tense game of waiting ensues, with the club’s owner lying in a pool of blood and the few surviving staff members bound at the wrist and held at gunpoint. When finally they get what they’ve come for, Jones and Halleck decide that taking along a pair of hostages might come in handy, should there be a police standoff. Forced to join them are Kim (Maria Ford), shift supervisor/assistant manager, and Crystal (Nikki Fritz), a sassy. melon-breasted stripper. Needless to say, poorly-executed mayhem ensues.

Oh boy. Where do I even begin? Well, within the first five minutes, it’s abundantly clear that the term “B-movie” is a little too kind for  a for a cheesy, slapped-together action/thriller like Strip for Action (formerly titled Hot Ticket). As is the case with a large number of Roger Corman’s straight-to-video time-wasters of the 1990s, we’ve got lots of sex and nudity, cringe-worthy dialogue, clichés aplenty. and practically as much stock footage as original material.

If I haven’t already stated my case, Strip for Action is not one of my favorites, but like Showgirl Murders or Saturday Night Special (both starring the lovely Maria Ford, no relation), it’s a Corman title I’ll revisit when I want to just turn my brain off and spend 80 minutes with a little Z-grade silliness. So, in a sense, it’s a movie I enjoy purely on a “guilty pleasure,” “so bad, it’s (sort of) good” level.

If you’ve watched a lot of the latter Corman movies (“latter” meaning the late ‘80s on up, when he focused mostly on erotic thrillers like the Body Chemistry series, with the occasional Edgar Allan Poe retelling thrown in for good measure), you’ll note that when Concorde started releasing these movies on DVD in the early 2000s, they went through a series of bewildering cuts (a topic I elaborate on during the commentary). This is not to say they made a habit of only releasing the R-rated version to DVD, when the VHS contained a longer, jucier unrated cut (although they did do a fair bit of this).

What I came to find was that Concorde trimmed a number of these scenes not for sex and/or violence, but for...well, I’m not entirely sure. On many discs, bits of dialogue (and sometimes entire scenes) have been omitted. It’s like watching an old Seinfeld or Friends re-run and noticing that one of your favorite jokes has been removed, not for questionable content, but essentially to make room for more commercials. With the Concorde discs, I really have no explanation for this odd phenomenon, but as a long-time fan of these movies, I can guarantee that it’s ever-present.

Why the lengthy rant? Because Strip for Action also fell victim to the scissor-happy editors over at Concorde prior to the disc’s pressing. There are a number of shots, lines, and some short scenes included on the original VHS, but not the DVD. However, someone out there (and God bless this guy, because he’s the only person in the world who’d go through the painstaking efforts to do something this time-consuming for absolutely no reward) made a composite version of the film, which contains the “remastered” version included on the DVD, with all the cut scenes found on the VHS edited back in (kinda like the way Anchor Bay put together their original, uncut version of Silent Night, Deadly Night some years back). Because this was such a rare find (and I’d rather not say where I found it), I wanted to share it with other B-movie fanatics like myself. I uploaded the file to YouTube and to my surprise, it received well over a thousand views in just a couple weeks. I couldn’t believe how many people had stumbled upon this micro-budget cheeseball and how quickly. So, I thought I’d add it to the B-Movie Bonanza roster.

Unfortunately, in between the recording of the commentary and its addition to the blog, I felt compelled to remove the upload from my YouTube channel due to the nonsense that took place between myself and the doofballs known as “slasher // video” (yes, because of their doofball-ery, they will be forever known by this title). What isn’t mentioned on the original blog chronicling the ridiculousness of the story is that I attempted several times to reach out to the “slasher // video” doofballs to apologize for my transgression (I guess that’s what we’ll call it) and pleaded with them to remove my YouTube strike so I could continue posting episodes of B-Movie Bonanza there. Each and every one of my attempts went unanswered, so to the doofballs, I say: “Suck it. I didn’t mean one goddamn word of my apology anyway. It was merely an attempt at making you rectify your douchiness.”

I was under the impression that due to this strike against my account, I wouldn’t be able to post anything longer than 15 minutes until December, when the strike would be removed. However, I came to find that I am once again permitted this option, though other restrictions will remain on my account until the 6-month probationary period expires.

Don’t worry. You can still enjoy this episode of B-Movie Bonanza. As with almost all the commentaries I’ve recorded thus far, I spend less time discussing what’s on-screen, and more time sharing personal stories, bits of trivia, and in this case, my fandom for the underrated B-Queen Maria Ford.

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