Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dolph Saturday

It was a randomly awesome Dolph Lundgren filled Saturday yesterday.  While watching The Director's Chair with Quentin Tarantino earlier in the morning, he mentions that before Reservoir Dogs, his only production experience was on Dolph's workout video Maximum Potential.  Then later while putting the lady through a timed workout I turned on MP for background noise, motivation and to take her mind off the grueling 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off blitz of Kettle Bell swings, jumping jacks, squats, mountain climbers and the like.  Of course you know how much I love Dolph and his workout video from 1986 as it's a solid workout and healthy lifestyle guide as well as a total time capsule from the 80's with two toned workout outfits, sweet synth and guitar soundtrack and Dolph being all tan and buff showing you how he does shit.

After returning home from seeing The Imitation Game (phenomenal: funny, entertaining and educational) I got a nice one-two punch of mail in the forms of my Dolph, I Will Break You shirt and a CD of 80's tunes from action #MovieBro David J. Moore featuring tracks from Rambo, Over the Top, Bloodsport, Best of the Best and so many more.  Perusing the Internets, there was some chatter regarding Thomas Jane talking in recent interviews about his work as Marvel's The Punisher in 2004's mild success and his love letter to the character in 2012's fan film Dirty Laundry.  Of course we couldn't talk about Thomas Jane's Mr. P. without discussing Dolph's take in the 1989 version directed by Mark Goldblatt written by Boaz Yakin and Robert Mark Kamen.  While the 2004 version has it's merits; Jane is solid as the character presented, there's some very clever scenes like the Popsicle interrogation and fight with giant hitman The Russian.  It also suffers from being uneven, trying to be a modern spaghetti western while smacking of melodrama and plenty of awkward one liners. Then the less said about 2008's War Zone, the better.  I honestly still don't know if I'm supposed to take that movie seriously with Ray Stevenson's bland interpretation of the Punisher, over the top villain Jigsaw and the ridiculous action.

Popping in the Artisan DVD, Dolph's version still remains my favorite of the cinematic attempts with it's down and dirty, straight forward action-karate motif.  After seeing Dolph blonde, coiffed, buff, positive and tan in Maximum Potential in the morning, watching his transformation into the pale, dirty, crazy and dark haired Frank Castle aka The Punisher actually says a lot about him as an actor.  From the opening minutes where we get stabbing, shooting, house explosions and car bombs, Mark Goldblatt and company really give you your action movie money's worth.  Don't forget that this was the late 80's and Richard Donner's Superman was still the only example of a successful cinematic super hero.  Batman would change the game in the same year but also had studio Warner Brothers behind it, a young, up and coming director and a budget 3-4 times The Punisher.  Coming from Roger Corman's New World Productions, the sub-$10million dollar production shot in Australia and told the tale of former cop Frank Castle who wages a one man war against the mob after his wife and kids are killed.  Said mob boss is now at odds with invading Yakuza gangsters and it's up to The Punisher to punish the guilty...and kill a whole lotta people, something like 89 individual deaths in as many minutes including explosions and mass killings.

Lou Gossett, Jr. shows up as Frank's former partner and gives the executioner a little background while trying to save his former friend.  Dolph's performance as a semi crazy vigilante who sits around naked in the sewer talking to God is admirable and not given enough credit.  Of course the action is great as you get oh so many scenes featuring shootouts, guys getting stabbed by katana swords through windshields, Dolph firing a crossbow bolt attached to a zip line through a guy then sliding down while firing an Uzi, shotguns, knives to the neck and heart as well as some gritty, rough and tumble karate fights with real life champions.  Dennis Dreith's orchestral score is big, memorable and almost out of place.  Since comic book films with costumed heroes was far from the norm as it is today, a last minute decision was made to not have Dolph don a spray painted white skull on his shirt for the final showdown.  While the skull remains on his knives and arguably on his face from the painted on beard, I think the film would be held in much higher regard today if they would have had the balls to put him in "costume".  While originally imagined to be competition to Batman, New World's financial woes saw The Punisher being released theatrically worldwide but going straight to video in the United States.  Here's hoping for a special features filled Blu Ray one day...

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