Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
By William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
DEADLY PREY (1987)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.
The 1980’s offered a veritable cornucopia of action heroes at the drive-ins and the grindhouses. If you had a good set of muscles, an unidentifiable accent, and a glorious mullet, you could star in your own action movie. We saw the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Rutger Hauer, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Oliver Gruner, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and, of course, Arnold Schwartzenegger. You also got Ted Prior. “Who?” you may ask.
Ted Prior’s brother, David Prior, was one of the owners of Action International Pictures (you know, the other AIP that made ultra-low-budget flicks). When you are also the head screenwriter and director for the studio, what do you do to help your family? You make them into action stars, foisting them onto the general public like huge slabs of meat. With mullets. Ted had starred in a few other low budget movies, including SLEDGEHAMMER (1983), KILLER WORKOUT (1987), and SURF NAZIS MUST DIE (1987), all of which I recommend, but his career was stalled in direct-to-video-Hell. David wrote a screenplay for him, a FIRST BLOOD (1982) rip-off called DEADLY PREY (1987). Shot on the extremely cheap, this must be one of the greatest bad movies of all time, the kind you can watch dozens of times with friends and (hopefully) a few cases of beer. You will never forget it.
We open on a man in rags, fleeing from a small group of what look like National Reserve members in a thin forest. As the terrible synth music pounds away, the rock-band-meets-military-looking group close in on the man, shooting and throwing hand grenades. One of the hunters shoves a gun into his navel, claiming, “You’re dead meat, fat boy.” The fat boy hits him with a rock, knocking him out, but soon a black-tank-top-wearing, Rayban-sporting, mulleted guy shoots him and then shoots the poor jerk he hit with the rock!
David Campbell (KILLZONE, 1985, THE KILLING MACHINE, 1994) plays Colonel Hogan, who recruits men who like to hunt other men for fun, recruiting them for his own private army of mercenaries. However, they need practice, so they randomly kidnap people so the new recruits can stalk and kill them through the aforementioned thin forest. He tells Black Tank Top Guy to go find another victim, “a mean one this time!”
Mike Danton (Ted Prior), complete with the greatest mullet ever sported in any movie, is awakened by his wife Jaimy (terribly played by Suzanne Tara). Half asleep, he takes out the garbage wearing tiny cut-offs and a long sleeved t-shirt. The evil dudes hit him over the head and throw him in a van as Jaimy watches. She runs inside and calls – no, not the police – her father, played by the great Cameron Mitchell (CAROUSEL, 1956, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, 1978, NIGHTMARE IN WAX, 1979, WITHOUT WARNING, 1980, and over 225 more movies and TV shows!). He’s an ex-cop, and he tells Jaimy he’ll see what he can do. The actress playing Jaimy can barely remember her lines. She is truly dreadful, and Cameron Mitchell just looks like he wants to strangle this bimbo, like he is yearning for the times when he co-starred with Jayne Mansfield.
Meanwhile, Col. Hogan gets a visit from the man who pays the bills, Don Michaelson, played by the a sleep-walking, barely awake Troy Donohue (A SUMMER PLACE, 1959, MY BLOOD RUNS COLD,-1965, and CRY BABY,-1990 ), who gives Hogan three months to get these mercenaries trained…”Or else!”
Black Tank Top Guy has taken Mike Danton’s shirt away, leaving him in just his cut-offs. He growls, “Run.” Mike growls, “You’re gonna die.” But, he does run, and the rest of the movie is pretty much Mike running from these mercenary-wannabes and setting traps and killing them off by what seems like the hundreds! You see, Mike Danton was a Vietnam Vet ex Green Beret (never mind that he looks about twenty-three years old). He starts leaping out of bushes, and from behind trees, stabbing them one at a time until only one man is left alive. He questions the terrified man, and it turns out Mike knows Col. Hogan.
Another group of soldiers is sent out after Mike, looking suspiciously like the actors in the first group. I think they could only pay twenty stuntmen, so they just keep reappearing. This time, Mike is hurling sharpened sticks and twigs at them, killing them like flies. Curiously, he never takes their guns so he could shoot at his enemies.
More than once, Mike is four feet off the ground in a tree with no leaves and nobody sees him until he leaps on them. Sometimes, he wears a little garland of leaves as a disguise, but sheesh, people! Look up sometimes…or at least raise your eyes. You’re supposed to be soldiers!
Coming across a couple dozen bodies, Col. Hogan remarks, “I know this style. Mike Danton?” Black Tank Top asks, “You know him?” Of course, the music swells, and the Colonel answers, “Know him? I trained him.” Cue audience groaning.
Meanwhile, Mike drowns some guys, pops out of hiding holes in the ground to growl at people, shove more twigs through men’s chests, snap his dislocated shoulder back into place, eat a live worm for nourishment (ew), and, in one of the greatest scenes in movie history, he rolls a bunch of obviously Styrofoam boulders off a ridge at a mercenary. The rocks miss the dude, but he looks around, probably embarrassed, and then just falls over dead. I suppose the boulders scared him into a heart attack!
There’s even a touching part where Jaimy sits by her fire at home, yearning for her husband, while Mike sits by a fire, roasting a rat he’s caught. Ah, romance!
Mike sneaks up on Hogan and threatens him, though he doesn’t look too scary in those cute little cut-offs. Instead of killing the head bad guy, he talks some trash then leaves him alive so he can return to the woods and slaughter a few hundred more mercenaries. If you think I’m kidding, you haven’t seen Mike Danton in action. This movie must have one of the highest body counts in the history of crappy action flicks.
At one point, a mercenary actually shoots Mike, but his pecs deflect the bullets. There’s also a Rambo-esque scene in which Mike rises up with a machine gun from the water and blasts ten men away.
Yes, Jaimy’s going to get kidnapped. Yes, her father will try to infiltrate the compound. Yes, one of the mercenaries will switch sides to help Mike because he saved him back in Nam. No, nobody ever does call the cops, who could’ve easily handled the situation.
But who needs cops when you have Mike Danton?
DEADLY PREY is chock-full of bad acting, hilariously clichéd dialogue, dubbed gunshots, ridiculous fight scenes, terrible synthesizer music, headbands galore, continuity errors (the director couldn’t keep track of who was dying either, as bodies move position and the same soldiers keep popping up), and mullets galore. There’s really nothing good in it—and that’s what makes it so ludicrously wonderful! Everyone acts like they’re making SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993), the screenplay delivered with such gravitas and earnestness that it ratchets the film up to a whole new level of awful. A glorious level! I mean, there’s this huge compound with tanks and trucks and helicopters everywhere, located seventy five miles from Los Angeles, and nobody’s suspicious? Mike fights five bad guys, but when we cut back to them there are now seven and when we cut back again there are five! Not to mention the speech Cameron Mitchell gives about the way the rich treat the poor in a vain attempt to add some kind of theme to the film. Or the trap Mike sets in which a soldier steps into a lasso, the rope tightens around his foot, pulls him across the ground, and then flings him into a tree full of spikes!
And according to IMDB, later this year, Ted Prior and David Campbell will be reuniting for a sequel, DEADLIEST PREY! Be still my heart!
I wonder if he can still fit into those cut-offs?
I give DEADLY PREY three and a half mullets out of four.
© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl