Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Executioner Part II

No, there is no THE EXECUTIONER PART I. Though several films received theatrical releases during the 1970s under the title THE EXECUTIONER (Sonny Chiba starred in one of them; George Peppard another), it’s likely director James Bryan and producer Renee Harmon were trying to fool audiences into believing their film was a sequel to the 1980 exploitation hit THE EXTERMINATOR. Both films have the same plot, star a similarly garbbed ‘Nam vet vigilante, and open their films with helicopters and explosions in “Vietnam” (in the case of THE EXECUTIONER PART II, probably Malibu Creek State Park). Boy, I bet audiences were really confused when an actual EXTERMINATOR 2 also came out in 1984. (No, they weren’t.)

More importantly than its hilariously misleading title, if you’re into films like this, THE EXECUTIONER PART II is one of the funniest goddamn inept catastrophes ever made. Not only do Bryan (also the film’s cinematographer) and Harmon (also writer and co-star — we’ll get to that) know nothing about coherent filmmaking, they also seem to know little about human interaction. The first sign THE EXECUTIONER PART II was made by less than brilliant filmmakers comes during the prologue of U.S. troops in a firefight. The whole sequence is confusing and random (there’s no real way to know that two of the soldiers turn out to be the film’s leading characters, because Bryan doesn’t shoot clear close-ups of anyone or establish their characters), but the moment a soldier is shot with an offstage voice shouting “BANG!” as a substitute for an actual sound effect, I knew THE EXECUTIONER PART II was a rare treat for crappy-movie fans indeed.

The plot, as I mentioned above, is the same as THE EXTERMINATOR’s. A dissatisfied Vietnam vet, Mike (Antoine John Moffet), now a mechanic in Los Angeles, spends his spare time disguised in Army fatigues and a mask wandering around the city killing rapists, hoods, and gangbangers. Sometimes he drops a grenade down their drawers (the same Hanna-Barbera explosion is seen every time). Again, like THE EXTERMINATOR, The Executioner is pursued by a dogged police detective: Roger O’Malley (a weary Chris Mitchum), who also happens to be Mike’s war buddy and best pal. Awkward.

O’Malley hates vigilantes (though he doesn’t mind when Mike The Mechanic helps him kick the hell out of some punks stripping his car), but the local press adores The Executioner. Particularly TV reporter Celia Amherst, played by producer/writer Renee Harmon, an actress in her 50s with a German accent so impenetrable she makes Arianna Huffington sound like Mary Poppins. Not that anything in THE EXECUTIONER PART II should be confused for anything resembling reality, but Renee Harmon (a terrible actress) would never be hired to work on-air for any television station anywhere in the United States, not even a local cable access program aired at 3:00 a.m. That Harmon plays not only a TV personality, but also Mitchum’s love interest, is amazingly not the craziest aspect of THE EXECUTIONER PART II, though it would take a contest to determine what is.

Between ineptly staged action scenes, Bryan tries to develop other characters even less interesting than Mike, Roger, and Celia. Three of them are teenage girls: one who awkwardly holds up a woeful bouquet of weeds (played by an actress who looks right at the camera, probably reacting to commands from Bryan), a giggling dumb blonde who loves “dope” (“Coke! Oh, heavenly coke!”), and O’Malley’s daughter Laura (Bianca Phillipi), a “good girl” who falls into drugs and prostitution without her cop dad knowing. There’s also a mobster nicknamed The Tattoo Man (he has no visible tattoos) who refuses to pay Mike the $64 he owes, immediately sealing his fate (cue Hanna-Barbera explosion stock footage).

And then, saddest of all, there’s the veteran character actor Aldo Ray (THE NAKED AND THE DEAD), a drunk who didn’t even have a driver’s license at this point in his career and had to take a bus to the set. Ray “plays” the police commissioner, though it’s obvious he was on the set for maybe two hours and probably had no idea what the film was about or even what it was called. Bryan shoots Ray only in extreme close-up and edits him hamfistedly into dialogue scenes with actors Ray never met. For some reason, the actor doubling Ray wears eyeglasses, but Ray doesn’t, resulting in one of the film’s most boggling continuity errors and a clear admission that Bryan is either a boob or just didn’t give a shit. Considering the preponderance of blown dialogue and awkward silences between lines, it would be hard to argue otherwise.


Grant said...

What kind of "mobster" owes the main character money, instead of a main character owing HIM money? And since when does a vigilante character kill someone for owing him money, instead of other reasons?
Of course, judging by this review, that's probably one of the movie's SMALLEST problems.

English Teacher X said...

Just out of curiosity, do you watch these exploitation oddities on Youtube, as I do, when lucky enough to find them, or do you go old school with DVDs and VCRS?

Marty McKee said...

I rarely watch on YouTube. EXECUTIONER PART II is on a very nice Vinegar Syndrome DVD.