Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fast Gun

Nobody has ever been fooled by director/producer Cirio H. Santiago’s many attempts to pass off the Philippines as authentic American locations, but then again, he was never one for verisimilitude.

The small California town depicted in FAST GUN is nothing more than unconvincing plywood facades propped up on a short stretch of dirt road in some Manila park. Signs on the “buildings” look the same and have generic names like “Supermart,” “Farm Fresh,” and “Tapes.” No sidewalks or parking lots. Santiago didn’t even spring for glass in the windows, thinking we’d never notice the squares of white cardboard. And because most of the film is set in this town, we get a very good look at the laughable exteriors. At least Santiago blows it all up at the end. But will you still be paying attention?

As with most of Santiago’s output in the 1980s, Roger Corman bankrolled FAST GUN and probably insisted on actors Richard Hill (DEATHSTALKER) and Kaz Garas (THE DEVASTATOR), who had starred in earlier Corman/Santiago productions. Likewise, Robert Dryer (SAVAGE STREETS) was in Santiago’s BEHIND ENEMY LINES. It’s safe to say that the cast, except perhaps for leading lady Brenda Bakke (SOLAR CRISIS), knew what they were getting into — barely controlled chaos, sloppy storytelling, and lots of action.

Jack Stieger (Hill, who later ghostwrote Pete Rose’s autobiography) is a badass cop who can blow up any aircraft with just three shots of his revolver. He and deputy Cowboy (Morgan Strickland) are the only law in Granite Lake, where violent arms thieves led by Nelson (Dryer) are hiding out after ripping off Army bases (that are oddly manned by Filipino soldiers). Local rich guy Jessup (Ken Metcalfe), the mayor (Anthony East), Garas, and half the U.S. Army are in on it. When Jack gets too close, the mayor takes his badge.

The plan backfires, because it means Jack is no longer tied to rules and legalities when he goes all vigilante on their asses. FAST GUNS is impossible to take seriously because of its rickety nature. Instead of springing for cheap metal badges, the cops have yellow stars sewed to their shirts. The dubbing was probably performed by secretaries and staff in Corman’s office. FAST GUN is barely 70 minutes long and probably half of it is action — clumsily staged as it may be — so it’s worth laughing at. Not the highest recommendation, but Santiago was directing an average of three films per year at this time, so what response was he expecting?

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