Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Initiation of Sarah (1978)

There are a lot of movies called The blank of blank (insert action in first blank and name of person in second blank). The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), The Violation of Sarah McDavid (1981), The Seeding of Sarah Burns (1979) and the less formal The Seduction of Gina (1984), The Awakening of Candra (1983), The Initiation of Sarah (1978), The Violation of Claudia (1977), The Taming of Rebecca (1982), The Taking of Christina (1976) – the list goes on and on. It seems as if the second blank – the name – most often represents a woman, while the movies themselves most often fall into one of two categories: Made For TV Movies of the Week or Golden Age Adult Cinema. Can you tell by the titles which ones are which? Probably not. But both categories are fertile ground for Not Quite Classic Cinema.

The Initiation of Sarah (1978) falls into the first category and was in fact an ABC Monday Night Movie. I didn’t see it back then, in sprite of the fact that I was always on the lookout for scary movies on TV. I remember watching other made for TV horror films that year, like Summer of Fear (1978) – which I believe was called Stranger In Our House at the time – but The Initiation of Sarah somehow came and went without me even noticing it. 

I sometimes talk about the fact that home video, or VCRs, really took the place of going to the drive-in for people of my generation. We were too young to drive cars or get into R-rated movies, but we were somehow allowed to rent those same weird and forbidden movies on VHS and Beta. Our VCRs became the home drive-ins of our youth, and we took full advantage.

Prior to those glorious days, made for TV horror films – and other edgy genres that were somehow adapted for TV – were all that we underage trash junkies could access. Anyone remember made for TV women in prison films like Born Innocent (1974) with Linda Blair and Cage Without a Key (1975) with Susan Dey? If VCRs were the home drive-in of my youth, then made for TV movies were the home drive-in of my childhood. 

Ad for Born Innocent (1974)

Ad for Cage Without a Key (1975)I suppose it’s no surprise that once we were able to rent R-rated theatrical movies, we lost interest in the made for TV stuff. Some of those old TV movies were released on VHS and Beta. It wasn’t always easy to tell if a movie had been made for TV, but we would look for words like “teleplay” in the credits. Whenever we found one on the shelf, we would laugh and scoff at the idea of renting it. Our attitude seemed to be “This movie won’t be any good… it won’t be scary… it won’t have any gore or nudity in it… it’s made for TV so it will be suitable for children – yuck!” So if I came across a copy of The Initiation of Sarah in those days, I would have avoided it like the plague.

Fast forward a bunch of years, and I started to realize that a lot of those old TV movies were actually good. As I’ve talked about in previous posts, my friend Brian and I have actually taken to seeking out old TV horror films and watching them during our annual all day movie marathon. And I think I speak for both of us when I say that a lot of the R-rated movies we watch can’t hold a candle to classic made for TV movies like The Night Stalker (1972) and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973). A few years ago I purchased a Shout Factory TV Terrors DVD that included The Initiation of Sarah. I brought it with me to our annual movie event a few years in a row, but for some reason we kept passing it over in favour of other films. Last year, thanks to the current pandemic, we were unable to hold our event – and it seems doubtful that we will be able to reschedule it any time soon. So, last week I decided that perhaps it was time for me to investigate this particular TV terror on my own (sorry, Brian)…

The Initiation of Sarah is not quite in the same class as made for TV masterpieces like The Night Stalker, but it’s a pretty darn entertaining film. I think it’s fair to say that it’s one of many post Carrie (1976) films that were majorly influenced by it. The term rip off, or knock off, might be used to describe it (and not entirely unfairly). It does manage to distinguish itself with some other, non Carrie-like elements. For one thing, Shelley Winters guest stars as Mrs. Erica Hunter – not Sarah’s overbearing, insanely religious mother, which would have been too on the nose in terms of recreating Piper Laurie’s role in Carrie (but I somehow found myself making that connection anyway) – no, Shelley Winters plays the quirky den mother to the uncool sorority that Sarah manages to join (the only one that will have her). If the movie had stopped there, things would have been okay, if a little ordinary. But it turns out that Mrs. Erica Hunter is some sort of expert on witchcraft and the supernatural – and she recognizes that Sarah has some extraordinary powers. At the risk of including a mild SPOILER, by the final reel of the film, Shelley’s performance takes a sharp turn from quirky, interfering den mother to full on Satanic Priestess, and – as anyone who knows Shelley Winters can likely imagine – she does it very well.

Shelley Winters guest stars as Mrs. Erica Hunter in The Initiation of Sarah (1978)The rest of the cast is pretty stellar as well. Kay Lenz stars as Sarah Goodwin (doesn’t that name somehow ooze witchcraft? Maybe it’s just me). You might recognize her from movies like House (1985), Stripped to Kill (1987) and the early Clint Eastwood directorial effort Breezy (1973). I first got to know her in one of my all time favourites, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987). She also stars in one of the other TV movies I mentioned earlier, The Seeding of Sarah Burns (1979). 

There is also a very bad blonde sorority girl who tries to make Sarah’s life hell (somewhat reminiscent of Nancy Allen in Carrie) played by Morgan Fairchild. I recall seeing her play a string of “bad blondes” back in the 1980s. The Initiation of Sarah was a relatively early effort from her, but she already had the woman-you-love-to-hate thing down. It’s no surprise she went on to star in some prime time soaps, like Flamingo Road (1980-82).

The movie was directed by Robert Day, who has almost 100 credits as a director, mostly in television. He did make a few theatrical feature films early on, including The Haunted Strangler (1958) with Boris Karloff and Corridors of Blood (1958) with Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee. 

The Initiation of Sarah (1978) is a perfect example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema made for TV in the 1970s. Even though I had never seen it before, it gave me powerful feelings of nostalgia. The actors, the music, the atmosphere, the suspiciously familiar story – it all adds up to cinematic Déjà Vu of the very best kind. If you didn’t grow up watching these kinds of movies at your home drive-in, you might not appreciate it quite as much as I do, but it should still provide enough entertainment value to justify 96 minutes of your time. It will certainly always be a welcome sight for me on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Burial Ground (1981)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday… 

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes comes…

VHS box cover of Burial Ground (1981)Burial Ground (1981) by Andrea Bianchi

An archaeology professor discovers an ancient crypt which contains living dead corpses.

The scariest thing I remember from this is the creepy 25 year old kid…

“They craved flesh with a hunger!”

#Zombies #Horror



Aside from the very creepy child, who looks like he’s 40 but was apparently played by a 25-year-old actor named Peter Bark, or Pietro Barzocchini, the only thing I remembered about this movie was that the zombies made use of tools and ladders, etc., which I had thought was a bit ridiculous. 

I first purchased the VHS tape during the dark days when zombies were all but extinct. The last great entries in the genre had been Day of the Dead (1985) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985). The great zombie resurrection wouldn’t occur until Dawn of the Dead (2004) and 28 Days Later… (2002) wowed audiences. Things were pretty bad for zombie fans in the 1990s. Films like I Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain (1998) and The Dead Hate the Living! (2000) tried to get things going again, but weren’t quite good enough. So, when I watched Burial Ground for the first time roundabout 1995, I was so starved for good zombie action that I was willing to overlook all of its flaws. Watching it again now, after more than fifteen years of superior zombie films and TV shows, those flaws seem a little more apparent. 

The plot of Burial Ground is paper thin, and the characters are as well. I suppose that the raison d’être of this film was crazy zombie action, gore – and a healthy dose of sleaze. Judged solely on those merits, it’s not too bad (or maybe so bad it’s good). The main reason to watch this movie, as far as I’m concerned, is still the creepy adult kid – who has a very creepy relationship with his mother, which leads to what is probably the most infamous moment of the movie (I hate SPOILERS, so I don’t want to say too much about it. Let’s just say it involves the mother trying to breastfeed her 40 year old child after he’s been zombified). 

Burial Ground (1981), featuring a mother and her "child", played by 25 year old Pietro Barzocchini.

So what’s the verdict? Is this movie #Trash or #Terror? 

I would much rather watch movies like Zombie (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980) on any day of the week. But still, Burial Ground is a movie that truly must be seen to be believed (as the VHS box claims). So, I would have to conclude that it is a very mild #Terror. I’m sure there are people who love it more than I do, but… Having revisited it for the first time in 15 years, I’m not sure that I will have to watch it again any time soon. Fans of Italian zombie films who haven’t ever seen it, should probably do so at least once. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

Jimmy Sangster wrote a lot of movies for Hammer Films, including The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). When he was asked to write a sequel called The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) – which the producers had already sold based on the title and poster art, Sangster reportedly said “I killed Frankenstein in the first film.” The producers said “you’ll think of something” and told him he had six weeks before shooting started. 

I love stories like that. As a writer, nothing gets my creative juices flowing more than a bunch of strange requirements and limitations. Give me a box to work in, and a deadline, and odds are I’ll come up with something fun and interesting. On the other hand, if you tell me to write whatever I feel like – and to take as along as I want to do it – I will probably never deliver anything. There’s something about the challenge of taking an idea that seems impossible and trying to make it work that I’ve always found irresistible. And deadlines are not only helpful, they’re practically essential. I don’t know how many times I’ve been forced to deliver something that I didn’t think was ready – like a song for new children’s musical a few years back. In spite of not being happy with what I had, I brought it to rehearsal and discovered that it not only worked, but people LIKED it. Left to my own devices, I probably would have kept tinkering with that song for days, trying to make it better. I might have even thrown the whole thing out and started fresh with a different idea. Would it have been better? I don’t know. But I can tell you that after I heard the cast perform that “flawed” version a few times, I couldn’t have imagined it being anything different.

I’m not sure how Jimmy Sangster felt about the results of The Revenge of Frankenstein, but the general consensus is that it’s a very good sequel. Sangster found a fresh story to tell – as opposed to just repeating the events of the first film, as so many sequels seems to do. It almost feels more like a  compelling art-house drama than a monster movie – although the horror eventually comes. 

Jimmy Sangster has to be one of the most prolific writers of horror films, and other thrillers, of all time. He’s got 75 credits listed on the IMDb. They’re not all horror films, of course. He also wrote the made-for-TV comedy The Toughest Man in the World (1984), starring Mr. T as a bouncer named  Bruise Brubaker. I remember seeing that one when I was a kid, but I had no idea who Jimmy Sangster was at the time. Sangster wrote a lot of made-for-TV movies after his time with Hammer Films had ended (or was winding down). My friend Brian and I watched one called A Taste of Evil (1971) during one of our annual movie marathons a couple of years ago (as I may have mentioned before, we have taken to exploring made-for-TV horror in recent year). About halfway through A Taste of Evil, I suddenly realized that it was kind of a remake – or maybe a rewrite – of an earlier script that Sangster had written for Hammer. I won’t say which one, as I don’t want it spoil either film, but it’s proof that Sangster really knew how to get the most out of a good idea. 

Sangster also wrote episodes of TV shows, including The Six Million Dollar Man (1974–1978), Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974–1975), and Wonder Woman (1975–1979) – which were all important shows of my childhood. Okay, I didn’t actually see Kolchak: The Night Stalker until later, but it would have been important if I’d seen it back then, believe me. I’m not sure if Sangster ever reused any of his old movie ideas on these TV shows, but it’s certainly possible. I’ve heard of TV writers from that era reusing the same basic plot on three or four different shows, so why not reuse a movie plot?

To be clear, I’m not criticizing this approach. In fact, I admire it. I’ve read the same advice in relation to freelance magazine writing. If you’re going to spend time and energy researching a topic, don’t just pitch one article that makes use of that research. Pitch five different articles to five different magazines. I suppose nowadays, they might  talk about websites, podcasts and blogs more than magazines. Whatever the case, the advice is still good. I’ve often wondered if I could somehow apply it to my own writing. Like say, for instance, I was commissioned to write a play about a very specific period of Canadian history. I study that period intensely for a couple of years, reading every book I can put my hands on, and I now know more about that period of history than I could ever use in a single two hour play. So, why not write two or three plays? They could have completely different stories and characters, and/or focus on different aspects of that same period of history. Or, even better, I could write a screenplay or pitch a TV series based on that same research. Or, when the theatre that commissioned me in the first place decides not to produce my play, I could turn it into a screenplay or TV series, or whatever I want. Of course, this is all completely hypothetical. Or theoretical. Or 100% true – I get the proper terminology mixed up…

I’ve never been good at getting the most out of the work I’ve done, although I did reuse one song I wrote in a second musical, so I guess that’s something (although honestly I think it might have been a mistake, for various reasons – but that’s another story). I guess what I’m trying to say is that I find Jimmy Sangster to be an inspiration. I only hope that one day the inspiration, and admiration, will somehow translate into determination and action as well.

Oh, and in case I haven’t been clear, Sangster knocked it out of the park with this Frankenstein sequel. Not that it’s all about him. Director Terence Fisher delivered a beautifully shot, atmospheric movie and Peter Cushing was as brilliant as ever in the title role. Eunice Gayson, best known for playing James Bond’s girlfriend in Dr. No (1962)  and From Russia with Love (1963), is also very good as the sympathetic Margaret Conrad. If you’ve enjoyed The Curse of Frankenstein, or any other Hammer horror films, you will definitely want to see The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958). A good deal more classy and classic than the average #NotQuiteClassicCinema, it’s the kind of movie that can take an ordinary #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn and turn it into something special.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Addicted to Murder (1995)

It’s time for Trash Or Terror Tuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is Trash or Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of VHS tapes comes…

Trash Or Terror Tuesday - VHS box cover art for Kevin J Lindenmuth's Addicted to Murder (1995)Addicted to Murder (1995) by Kevin J Lindenmuth

w/ Mick McCleery & Laura McLauchlin

What happens when a serial killer encounters someTHING far worse than himself…? What makes Joel different is his special childhood friend… a #VAMPIRE named Rachel.

“Time To Feed The FEAR”

#Slasher #Horror



Trash Or Terror Tuesday, or Trash Or Treasure Tuesday, is something that I’ve been tweeting about for about a year and a half now. It’s basically just an excuse for me to watch one of the old VHS tapes that’s been sitting on my shelf for years, untouched. In most cases, these are movies that I bought, or was given, as much as twenty-five years ago. I watched them once, back then, and then put them into my personal library – which at the time was much smaller and had space for such things. For whatever reason I have never revisited these films and, in many cases, I cannot remember anything about them. I no longer have space to add new blu-rays and DVDs – unless they are directly replacing an older copy of the same film. Looking at some of the forgotten films sitting on my shelves, I can’t help but wonder if some of them might be ready to move on out of my collection and into some else’s. Perhaps some of them never even deserved to be there in the first place. On the other hand, maybe some of them are true gems waiting for rediscovery. Whatever the case, last January I decided that it was time for me to find out. I figured that if I forced myself to look at one a week (every Tuesday) the project would slowly, but surely, get done.

Some of my Trash Or Terror Tuesday tweets have sparked discussion among my Twitter friends. Occasionally someone will ask me, “Was it trash – or treasure?” So, I’ll try to answer as best I can in a brief tweet, but it often feels like I could do better. I must admit that I often think I should be following the initial tweet with one that says “And the verdict is…”, but so far I haven’t tried it. So, starting today, I am going to attempt to answer that burning question in a brief (ish) blog post. Briefer than this first one, I hope. And with that in mind…

Last week, I took a look at Kevin J Lindenmuth’s Addicted to Murder (1995). I was somewhat hesitant to include it in this project, as I’ve always been quite pleased to have it sitting on my shelf. I had read about it in an obscure horror magazine in the 1990s. It looked like a pretty cool low budget, SOV, horror movie. But like many such films in those days, it was really hard to come by. A few years later, I found a copy in a bargain bin and immediately snapped it up. I have never seen another copy for sale anywhere.

I know that I watched the movie back then, but my memory of it is hazy, to say the least. I think I thought it was pretty good, but maybe not as good as I had hoped it would be. Still, it was a unique and rare VHS tape, so I knew that I had to keep it. Over the years I have enjoyed looking at it on my shelf, but I have never had the urge to watch it again. This, it seemed to me, was a bit wrong. Movies are meant to to be watched, after all. If I never wanted to watch this one, why was it in my collection?

So, last Tuesday I put Addicted to Murder to the test and the results were… mixed. I was actually fairly impressed by the look of it – the style, the cinematography, the editing. It was a very low budget movie, but Lindenmuth managed to put a lot of interesting shots and sequences up on the (home video) screen. To borrow a quote from my friend and fellow bad movie aficionado, Den, Addicted to Murder did not look like “assholes with camcorders” had made it. On the contrary, someone with a strong understanding of filmmaking made this movie (check out Lindenmuth’s company website). The story was fairly unique (serial killer meets vampire), so it gets points for that. However, it did not movie forward at a lightning pace, and was actually fairly repetitive at times. 

In terms of delivering the goods, or “bringing home the groceries” as Den might say, Addicted to Murder did a pretty good job with the gore, but was a little light on the sleaze factor. The article that I had read back the ’90s had mentioned it alongside films like Gore Whore (1994) and Gorgasm (1990), Hugh Gallagher’s SOV masterpieces of sleaze horror. Compared to movies like that, Addicted to Murder is pretty tame (although probably better made). 

So, what’s the verdict? Is this movie #Trash or #Terror? 

I would have to conclude that Kevin J Lindenmuth’s Addicted to Murder (1995) is a mild #Terror. It’s worth watching once (or once every twenty years in my case). Some people may find even more to like about it than I did, but speaking for myself, I’m not sure if I will live long enough to get back to it a third time. This is one of the strange realities of getting older. I no longer ask myself “DId I enjoy this movie enough to put in in my personal library?” I now ask myself “Am I likely to watch this movie again before I die?” – and if the answer is no, I put it aside to sell, or give away, to someone who might get some enjoyment out of it. Movies are meant to be watched, after all. Not just stared at on a shelf…


Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Alligator (1980)

I’d been hearing about alligators in sewers – usually New York City sewers – for as long as I could remember. So when Alligator (1980) came on TV, it seemed like a ripped-from-the-headlines true story to me.  Of course, people like my Dad were always quick to tell me that these stories were myths, or urban legends. But when you already believe in the possibility of vampires and werewolves, it’s not a big stretch to imagine alligators in the sewers. In fact, it’s more realistic… isn’t it?

I watched Alligator several times on TV back then. I’m still not sure exactly how it worked, but movies often seemed to be shown two or three times in relatively short order. Once on an American network, once on a Canadian network, and… maybe one or both of those channels would repeat it a few days later? I wish I could somehow look up those old TV Scenes of my childhood and see exactly what was going on. This was, of course, before my family had our first Betamax. If I could have recorded a movie like Alligator, who knows how many times I might have watched it?

I was a big fan of Jaws (1975), which I had been lucky enough to see on the big screen, and Jaws 2 (1978), which I had only seen on TV. It seemed to me (and probably a lot of other people) that Alligator was some sort of rip off of (or attempt to follow in the footsteps of) Jaws. Still, it was completely different to me and I loved it just as much. 

I was also aware, at the time, that some critics were suggesting that Alligator was some sort comedy, or satire as they might have said. I was a huge fan of Mel Brooks, having watched Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974) and High Anxiety (1977) many times on TV, so I had a pretty good idea what a “satire” was like. Alligator did not seem anything like that. It wasn’t zany and hilarious – it was all thrills, chills, and suspense as far as I was concerned. And any movie with a giant monster in it was seriously cool to me.

For some reason, I did not see Alligator for many years – decades, actually – after that initial cluster of viewings. Jaws and Jaws 2 I bought on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray, but I never even saw a copy of Alligator for sale anywhere. I was starting to think it had never been released on home video, but a quick internet search told me that it had been. Why was it so elusive?

Thankfully, I found a copy of the Lions Gate DVD somewhere on my travels a couple of years ago. It’s been sitting in my to watch pile ever since, waiting for the right mood to strike me. Last friday, it finally did.

Watching a movie like Alligator for the first time in decades is an almost religious experience. The feelings of nostalgia were close to overpowering, as memories that I didn’t even know I had came flooding back to me. Little moments and images that were locked away somewhere in the back of my brain were now dancing right in front of me. This was coupled with the shock and amazement at seeing the stuff that I didn’t remember at all. Or the stuff that I interpreted completely differently now that I have a lifetime of experiences behind me.

Alligator stars Robert Forster, who I didn’t know at all when I first watched the movie decades ago. I sort of got to know him a couple of years later, in Vigilante (1982), once I was able to rent movies. But even then, I didn’t really know who he was, other than the guy in Vigilante. Now I can appreciate how cool it is that he starred in Alligator and apparently remembered it fondly. It’s always a bit deflating when an actor says they are embarrassed by one of your favourite movies. It’s great to know that Forster liked this one.

And what’s not to like? The movie is hugely entertaining. I must admit that now I can see the straight-faced satire of John Sayles’ screenplay. Just two year earlier, Sayles wrote another great satirical Jaws inspired movie called Piranha (1978), but that’s another story. 

One thing that surprised me is the fact that Alligator takes place in Chicago. I would have sworn, probably because of the urban legends, that it was set in New York. I guess that’s just proof that memory is malleable. For years I had flashbacks of some guy who wasn’t Robert Forster chasing an alligator around the sewers of Manhattan. Oh well…

Robert Forster is great in Alligator, as a police officer with a receding hairline and a reputation for losing his partners. He stars opposite Robin Riker, who plays a reptile expert who may have inadvertently lost the baby alligator years earlier, when she was a little girl. This was Riker’s first movie role. She had done some TV prior to Alligator, and mainly went back to it afterwards. She did appear in a few interesting movies like Body Chemistry II: The Voice of a Stranger (1991) and Stepmonster (1993).
Lewis Teague, the Director of Alligator (1980), also made Fighting Back (1982). This is the poster art.Robert Forster, star of Alligator (1980), also starred in Vigilante (1982). This is the poster art.

Alligator was directed by Lewis Teague, who went on to do movies like Fighting Back (1982) – which I recall seeing during the post Death Wish 2 vigilante boom (just like Vigilante, actually), Cujo (1983) – which could almost be seen as another post Jaws giant animal attack movie, and Cat’s Eye (1985) – which is a horror anthology that I’ve always liked. The latter two films were also, of course, based on Steven King stories. 

Alligator (1980) is a #NotQuiteClassicCinema masterpiece (if such a thing can possibly exist). It’s certainly a favourite of mine, which I’m very happy to have finally rediscovered (or at least re-experienced). Giant monster movies are practically the very definition of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, as far as it relates to the Not Quite Classic Theatre of my youth. I discovered movies like Tarantula (1955) and The Deadly Mantis (1957) on that show, and as much as Alligator is a bit of a riff on Jaws, it’s also a throwback to those older giant monster movies. And that’s what makes it great to an old school monster kid like me. Mark my words: any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn that includes Alligator on the marquee is going to be a good one. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Protector (1985)

James Glickenhaus was a drive-in/grindhouse moviemaker whose oeuvre found a perfect “home” in the home drive-in of my youth (home video, that is). Movies like The Exterminator (1980) and The Soldier (1982) were among the very first ones that my friends and I rented – and we loved them. We also saw Exterminator 2 (1984), but it wasn’t really the same (and it turns out that Glickenhaus pretty much had nothing to do with it, so no surprise). The next movie to appear on the shelves with his name attached (as director) was The Protector (1985).

Poster for The Exterminator (1980) by James Glickenhaus who later made The Protector (1985).

Poster for The Soldier (1982) by James Glickenhaus who later made The Protector (1985).










The Protector stars Jackie Chan and Danny Aiello. I suspect I had seen Aiello in a few things by that point, but I didn’t really know him. Chan I had seen in The Big Brawl (1980), which I wrote about previously, and The Cannonball Run (1981) and Cannonball Run II (1984). In spite of liking him a lot in The Big Brawl, I didn’t quite appreciate who he was either because I hadn’t seen any of his Hong Kong movies. I wouldn’t discover those until the latter half of the 1990s, when I became an instant fan.

Looking at The Big Brawl and The Protector now, is a very different experience than it was in the 1980s. The Big Brawl at least features Jackie’s signature charm and sense of humour. He’s just so darn likeable in it that you can’t help but cheer for him. The Protector, on the other hand, features a very different kind of Jackie Chan; a dark, brooding Jackie Chan; a more serious Jackie Chan. His character is closer to Dirty Harry than The Drunken Master, and you can feel the difference in the first five minutes of the movie.

Jackie was apparently not a fan of the resulting film, although according to director James Glickenhaus, Jackie had a good time making the film and got along well with Glickenhaus during production. Glickenhaus gave his permission to Golden Harvest, his Hong Kong producers, to recut the film for certain Asian markets (making the martial arts scenes longer and including more of Jackie’s signature humour). Glickenhaus was adamant that western audiences would not be interested in that kind of film. He was possibly right at that time, but only ten years later Jackie would finally triumph in North America with movies like Rumble in the Bronx (1995).

According to Glickenhaus, Golden Harvest approached him at the Cannes Film Festival and asked him if he would like to make a Jackie Chan movie. He said yes, but only if he could have complete control. He was not interested in doing a typical Jackie Chan movie (with the comedy, etc.). He wanted to make his kind of movie; something closer to The Soldier, perhaps. Golden Harvest agreed with his vision, and so did Jackie Chan. It’s clear that Golden Harvest (and presumably Jackie Chan as well) was very interested in breaking into the North American market. I wonder why they thought that Glickenhaus was the filmmaker to do it? His brand of gritty drive-in fare was fairly different from Jackie’s signature style. Perhaps Golden Harvest was simply approaching every American filmmaker at Cannes and Glickenhaus was the one who said yes. Or maybe they met Glickenhaus, legitimately liked him as a person, and thought they would like to work with him. Whatever the case, one has to wonder what might have happened if they had found a director with a style that was more in sync with Jackie’s. I suppose we’ll never know.

The Protector is an interesting movie. It’s not quite a James Glickenhaus movie in the way that The Exterminator and The Soldier (1982) were, but it’s not quite a Jackie Chan movie either. It’s a strange hybrid of the the two. It has gritty grindhouse elements, like full frontal nudity and extreme violence, but it also has glimpses of Jackie Chan’s sense of humour and amazing athleticism. For fans of Jackie, it is most interesting because of the differences, but it will never thrill like some of his best movies. For fans of violent, edgy drive-in movies, it will provide some thrills – but not as many as true classics of the genre (like The Exterminator in my opinion). Still, it’s an interesting attempt at bringing Jackie into this world, and it apparently inspired Jackie to make Police Story (1985), which is much more of a fan favourite. 

Back in the ’80s, I probably saw The Protector as a cool movie that fit right in with the other Glickenhaus films (notice they are all called “The ______” – a word that describes their main characters). It didn’t stick with me, like the first two, however. I also didn’t enjoy it as much as The Big Brawl, so perhaps I already preferred the likeable, funny Jackie to the gritty serious one. This is a bit odd, because I loved Dirty Harry and Charles Bronson movies. On the other hand, I also loved Mel Brooks.

Jackie Chan and Danny Aiello have great chemistry in this movie, and in some ways The Protector anticipates the Rush Hour films. Chan and Aiello go to Hong Kong to try and rescue the kidnapped daughter of rich American businessman. It’s almost like a cross between Rush Hour (1998) and Rush Hour 2 (2001) – only made fifteen years earlier. 

The Protector (1985) is not my favourite James Glickenhaus movie, nor is it my favourite Jackie Chan movie. It is, however, a historically significant piece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema from my younger days, which entertained me back then, entertained me last week, and will probably entertain me on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – provided I live long enough to get back to it.