Monday, August 19, 2013

Hollywood Cop

Have you ever had a movie haunt your memory?  More specifically, have you ever had a part or a scene from a movie that you couldn't remember the name of get lodged in your brain and occasionally pop up in your thoughts and taunt you with a distant faded memory, leaving you to ponder endlessly, "what the hell movie was that?"

Let me explain further (this will require a walk down memory lane, so deal with it):  I grew up in Smalltown, Middle America where my default favorite pastime was going to the video store and renting movies.  By the time I was in my mid-teens I was binge marathoning videos on weekends, watching all kinds of stuff, but mainly horror, sci-fi, and action flicks.

A good friend and I were into renting weird and cheap B-movies, looking for stuff that was "awesome," while having a good laugh at the stuff that was not.  We rented every movie we could find with zombies in it (lots of poor choices there) and I also remember a lot of Mad Max rip-offs and Italian apocalyspe type movies, that kind of stuff.

I recall specifically this one time my friend and I visited this local video store called Pat's Video, a place that I didn't really frequent (I was a World of Entertainment/Movie Mania regular), but his family went there all the time (because they knew the owner or something, I forget), and we rented this low budget action movie because my friend said it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen (or whatever, you know how teenagers oversell things).  I recall that we watched this movie and laughed and had a good time, but after that one (and only) viewing, I kind of forgot about it, as it became lost in the shuffle of constant movie watching.

Even though I forgot the name of the movie, as the years went by, there was one part that stuck in my head (the aforementioned memory haunting).

As it turns out, the scene in question is on YouTube.  Check it:

The ridiculous plea of "I know this guy just fucked your wife..," the even more ridiculous beheading, these were the things that formed the basis for my vague memory and stuck with me through the years.  It wasn't until last year, when I was watching clips of a cheesy, cult favorite movie called Samurai Cop (1989), that I made the connection/discovery that the director, Amir Shervan, also directed a 1987 action film called Hollywood Cop, the movie I had been looking for.  It was, to use a bit of hyperbole, a fucking revelation.

After solving that minor personal mystery, I had to track the movie down.  Finally doing so and watching it a couple times now, I am happy to report that Hollywood Cop is still a really fun, really bad movie.

Now the review can start.

Hollywood Cop opens with crime boss Mr. Feliciano (James Mitchum) sending a crew of about 8 or 9 goons to kidnap a little boy named Stevie.  The goons raid this small farm that must also be a commune or something because there's tons of innocent bystanders around who get pretty much just straight-up murdered while the goons take Stevie.  In the aftermath, Stevie's mother Rebecca (Julie Schoenhofer) receives a ransom note for six million dollars.

Turns out this isn't an arbitrary number, as Stevie's dad, Joe Fresno (Larry Lawrence), stole a bunch of money from Feliciano and he wants it back.  Of course Rebecca hasn't seen Joe Fresno in a long time, and despite being explicitly told in the ransom note to not involve the police, her first instinct is still to go directly to the police.

Elderly neighbor:  "What are you going to do?"
Rebecca:  "I guess go to Hollywood Police Station."

And with that bit of broken English dialogue, she goes to Hollywood Police Station.

Rebecca doesn't get the help she's looking for until her chance meeting with officer John "Turk" Turquoise (David Goss), who she first sees at a hot dog stand before he has to run off and intervene in a rape/robbery going on across the street.  Turk's intervention leads to him shooting two of the suspects while the third gets beheaded by the husband of the assaulted woman (as seen in the video above).  Basically this all backs up the hot dog vendor's claim that Turk "is a good cop."
Turk is the kind of 80s cop that plays by his own rules and also has a nice full, mullety head of hair (see: Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, Sly Stallone).  He's a charming kind of guy, he's got some one-liners, but he's also a loose cannon who is constantly getting yelled at by his boss Capt. Bonano (Cameron Mitchell) and Lt. Maxwell (Troy Donahue), who's a more straight laced cop.  Bonano is especially not pleased with Turk's antics.  There's even a point later in the movie where, in classic 80s movie cop tradition, Bonano asks for Turk's badge on his desk.
Turk may be a loose cannon, but he's the only one who can help Jessica.  Well, him and his partner Jaguar (Lincoln Kilpatrick), who is kind of like how you'd imagine Danny Glover being before he got too old for this shit.

Turk and Jaguar track down Joe Fresno who is having a backyard pool party with some 80s ladies.
After a short foot chase, they tell him how Stevie's been kidnapped and about the ransom.  Guilty that his kid is now involved, Joe Fresno gets the money (offscreen, and by himself, so you know he's up to something) and sets out with Rebecca and Turk (posing as her brother-in-law) to meet with Feliciano and his goons.
To get there they get in a speedboat and go. . . .across the bay?  The lake?  I'm not really sure.  The geography of this movie is off and looking at a map of Los Angeles didn't help me at all.  They're only in the boat for a minute.  I'm sure the only reason they used a boat at all was simply because the director and producer had access to one.
Anyway, after making landfall, Joe Fresno asks to see Stevie before they exchange the money and this turns into a tender scene (complete with tender piano ballad) where he reunites with his son.  In a tearful monologue, he apologizes to Stevie that he had to stay away from him and his mother, but he explains that it's because he has blood cancer and that he's dying.  This makes Stevie sad.  He then tells Stevie that there is a present for him hidden up in the attic of their house.  This makes Stevie happy, and they hug.  This dialogue is ridiculous, but it is so heartfelt that you kinda just go with it.
After handing over Stevie and getting the money, everything seems fine, until Feliciano notices that the money is counterfeit and then there's a big shootout with, well basically just Turk, that leaves Joe Fresno dead and Stevie re-kidnapped.  This is the incident that leads to Turk's suspension.... but of course, this doesn't stop a cop who plays by his own rules.

Turk immediately goes to the hospital to interrogate one of Feliciano's guys that he shot earlier.  He jabs at the guy's bloody wound until he tells him where to find Feliciano and, unable to deal with the pain, the guy tells them that they can find Feliciano if they talk to Mr. Fong.

Jaguar:  "Who the fuck is Fong?"
Turk:  "No.  Where the fuck is Fong?"
Mr. Fong owns a private, high class bathhouse that Turk and Jaguar talk there way into.  Well, first they talk their way into trouble in the form of a kung-fu fight in a garage (not a parking garage, like a room that looks like an actual garage, conveniently stocked with stacks of empty boxes), and after that they sneak their way through the bathhouse, comically opening up doors to various dudes hanging out with chicks in hot tubs ("Hi, Judge.").  The real comedic kicker is when they get to Mr. Fong and he's an Italian dude (Aldo Ray).  This revelation is accompanied by a gong crash, in case you were wondering what kind of movie this is.
From Mr. Fong they get the address of where they're holding Stevie (and for his cooperation, Mr. Fong gets arrested).  As part of their rescue force, Turk enlists the help of some of his biker friends and they also get a hand from Lt. Maxwell, who wants to run Turk in (on suspicion of playing by his own rules) but then changes his mind after getting a "what-if-it-were-your-kid"-speech from Turk.
Feliciano's place is shown to have a backyard full of guys practicing kung-fu, and for a moment you think you're gonna see some biker vs. kung-fu guys action, but that doesn't really happen.  Maxwell and Jaguar have a couple fight moments while Turk and Rebecca easily retrieve Stevie through a window.  However, there IS an extended car chase with a couple cool (and painful looking) stunts, a car ramping, and a even a guy on fire, but the best thing is that there is a lot of SQUEALING TIRES ON DIRT during all this.  So look for that.

So Rebecca has been reunited with Stevie and Turk gets reinstated and everything works out good, but when they go back to Rebecca's farmhouse to retrieve Stevie's "present" left by his dad, which of course turns out to be the stolen money, Feliciano and his men show up (of course) and there is another shootout (of course) and in the end (SPOILER of course) things don't go well for Feliciano and his goons.

My love of this movie is fueled partly by nostalgia and partly by B-movie standards of excellence.  Granted, there are numerous things wrong with Hollywood Cop, like poor frame composition, clunky editing, missing sound effects, blown takes that shouldn't of been used, awkward unnatural dialogue, and actors occasionally stumbling on each others lines, but all of that just adds to the movie's overall charm.  They did get a few things right, like keeping the pace quick and casting actors that take the material seriously (more or less) while also having fun with it.  Also, I have to admit that the cheesy synth rock soundtrack (by Elton Ahi) is well done and perfect for this kind of movie.
The action scenes in Hollywood Cop aren't filmed in a very dynamic style and they come off a bit flat, but what they lack in quality they make up for in quantity.  There are multiple shootouts, foot chases, car chases, and fist fights, although most of the choreography is seriously lacking, but still. . . quantity!  The stunts and special effects in general aren't that professional looking, but their roughness adds quite a bit of realism to the action, like when the guy falls out of the car window and almost gets ran over by the back of the car.  That looked painful.

The MVP of the movie is Feliciano's #1 henchman, a guy named Animal who has a Kenny Rogers beard and laughs maniacally in every scene he's in.  He laughs while kidnapping, while shooting his gun, while doing small tasks for the boss, while threatening women... the guy just absolutely loves his job.  He's a great #1 henchman, dangerous and volatile.  Even Feliciano tells the other goons to "watch out for him...he's strange."
Animal is a firecracker and he brings a lot of enjoyment to the movie and he's maybe my favorite character.  Here's a clip of some of his better scenes, and it does give away his ultimate fate, which is maybe SPOILER material, but he gets a pretty great final scene.  He goes down almost like he's a villain in a slasher movie:

This is the part where I would usually tell you what other movies Animal was in, but I can't, because I don't even know the guy's name.  Apparently, in what was some sort of grievous oversight, the actor who played Animal did not get screen credit for doing so.  In my internet searches and inquiries I've turned up bupkis, so, whoever you are, the-guy-who-played-Animal, good job.

David Goss makes for a fairly enjoyable lead in this movie.  He's not the most believable super-cop, he's more of a smartass than a badass, but he gets the job done.  It does seem his jurisdiction lies outside of just Hollywood though.  One weird thing I didn't mention: even though "Turk" is his nickname, some people call him "Turkey," as in "you're a fucking maniac, Turkey!," which is something Capt. Bonano would (and did) say.  It never fazes him either, so if it's meant as an insult he is obviously too cool to care.  It's just one of many of the movie's little touches... the way Turk protects Rebecca from gunfire with his ass way in the air.
Goss didn't have a very extensive career in movies, only starring into two other films, She (1982) and Armed Response (1986), and also in a couple episodes of Simon & Simon.  Seems like a likable guy, it's a shame he wasn't in more movies.

Lincoln Kilpatrick is most definitely slumming it in this picture.  He got his start as a stage actor, even starring alongside Sidney Poitier in 'A Raisin in the Sun,' before moving on to the movies, where he starred opposite Charlton Heston in The Omega Man (1971) and in Soylent Green (1973).  In addition to a bunch of TV roles, he also starred in the awesome Gary Busey movie Bulletproof (1988), Renny Harlin's Prison (1988), and Stuart Gordon's Fortress (1992).  Even though he's working on a cheap movie you can tell that he's having a lot of fun in Hollywood Cop, especially in the completely superfluous scene where he oil-wrestles a couple ladies at a nightclub (I'm also sure this is the reason he did this movie).
Even though he's Turk's partner, Jaguar doesn't really do that much in the movie, action wise.  Other than the oil-wrestling, his role is maybe best defined by the final scene of the movie, where Capt. Bonano reassigns Turk and Lt. Maxwell to be partners (because they worked so well together on the lil' Stevie case), which upsets Jaguar. . . . . until he meets his new partner. . . a sexy 80s lady.

Cameron Mitchell is a veteran actor, starring in over 230 movies in his six decade career.  Some highlights (or, you know, shit I like) include Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (1964), Monte Hellman's Ride in the Whirlwind (1966), The Toolbox Murders (1978), and Space Mutiny (1988; which was featured in a classic episode of MST3k).  He has limited screen time in Hollywood Cop, but his presence feels just slightly above the level of "just cashing a paycheck," which is appreciated, because you don't amass 230+ movie credits without doing some roles where you're just phoning it in.

Thanks for stopping by Cameron.  Always nice to see you.

Troy Donahue, also with limited screen time, manages to make to most of his scenes opposite David Goss.  They verbally spar a few times and he adds one of those necessary elements for an 80s action cop movie, that of the cop who plays by the rules, counterbalancing nicely the loose cannon Turk.  Troy Donahue played Millie Perkins' husband in Monte Hellman's Cockfighter (1974), the fiancé of Connie Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974), and Hatchet-Face's father in John Waters' Cry-Baby (1990).
"You're real good, Max.  You know I can see you weren't born yesterday, because nobody could get that stupid in 24-hours."
The same year as Hollywood Cop, Cameron Mitchell and Troy Donahue both starred in another cheesy 80s action film (one I haven't seen), Deadly Prey (1987), which looks great!

James Mitchum is indeed the son of acting legend Robert Mitchum.  In his younger years, James was the spitting image of his father, but by the time Hollywood Cop rolled around, he was looking a bit pudgier and seems rather irritable, both of which are qualities that serve the character of Feliciano well.  James Mitchum got his start in Thunder Road (1958), starring alongside his father, but other than that I haven't heard nor seen most of the other films he was in, except for Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), in which he was Man #2 at Race Track and was credited as "Jim Mitcham."

Mr. Fong himself, Aldo Ray starred alongside Humphrey Bogart in We're No Angels (1955) and John Wayne in The Green Berets (1968), but by the time the 70s and 80s rolled around he was doing mostly drive-in and B-pictures, like The Centerfold Girls (1974), The Glove (1979), and The Executioner - Part II (1984).  His last film would be another Amir Shervan joint, Young Rebels (1992).

The only IMDb credits for both Julie Schoenhofer and little Stevie (Brandon Angle) are their roles in Hollywood Cop.  This is maybe for the best, as neither of them are very good.  Angle at least has the excuse that he was just a little kid, but the filmmakers did him no favors by giving him a lot of unnecessary screen time, most of it establishing his connection to animals, and most of that in scenes opposite a doberman pincher.

Director Amir Shervan also wrote the screenplay, and since English wasn't his first language, some of the dialogue comes out a bit clunky (especially with the less experienced actors, like Schoenhofer).  Shervan studied theater here in America in the 40s and then moved back to his home country of Iran where he started his (by all accounts) successful film career.  After the Iranian Revolution of the 1980s, he moved to America where he started making cheap action films.  I can't really say how his Iranian films compare to his American efforts (I'm not even sure if they're available in the States, or at all), but I'd hazard a guess that they're drastically different.

Hollywood Cop would be Shervan's first attempt at an American film, but it manages to look more polished than his follow-up, Samurai Cop (1989), which has gained quite a bit of popularity over the last couple years, and takes the Hollywood Cop formula and adds more kung-fu, sword fights, and Robert Z'Dar.  It's only in recent years that Amir Shervan has gained even the small amount of notoriety that he has, and his three post-Samurai Cop films, Killing American Style (1990), Gypsy (1991), and Young Rebels (1992), were all thought to be lost after never seeing proper releases.

Well, the fine folks over at Cinema Epoch, after releasing a special edition DVD of Samurai Cop this year, are working on releases for all those films, individually I believe, as well as in a box set form.  Hopefully Hollywood Cop ends up in there too... (currently there is copyright issues and they are trying to buy the rights to release it)..... you can preorder Killing American Style HERE and look for a Young Rebels/Gypsy double feature in the coming year.

For more Amir Shervan information, updates, rare photos, and other general goodness, check out THIS facebook fan page.  You'll be glad you did.
Finally, here is a video essay on Hollywood Cop from the guys over at  It amazes and pleases me that we live in a world where a video essay on this movie exists.  It covers some of what I talked about above, but also gives some nice video accompaniment.  The scene with Feliciano falling on the fake looking Stevie-dummy is worth the look alone.  Check it:

So yeah, Hollywood Cop.  Not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but still ridiculously fun and immensely enjoyable.  It's definitely on my list of favorite obscure low budget B-movie 80s action films.  It has doses of sleaze, gore, kung-fu, and racist humor (not to mention all the Pepsi product placement) amongst all the shootouts, car chases, and renegade cop action.  The tagline for the film really does sum it up nicely:

"Raping, Robbing, Kidnapping, Killing. . .The Action Never Stops!"

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