Andrew Stevens

Virtual Combat (1995)

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Kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson takes on the virtual world in this pretty interesting action film.

David Quarry and his partner John Gibson are grid runners, border cops who make sure that all is safe when it comes to the world of technology and virtual reality. Stationed in Las Vegas, Quarry spends his free time testing out a virtual combat game in which he is unable to defeat level ten. When a trio of thugs attempt to hack into the grid, Quarry and Gibson are able to stop the goons after their attempt proves unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cameron, one of the nation’s top scientists, has found a way to replicate virtual reality into actual reality. With the money provided by unscrupulous businessman Burroughs, Cameron replicates two women from a cybererotica program, Liana and Greta. However, in the mix of things, Dante, the level ten fighter from the virtual combat program, has also been unleashed and when Dr. Cameron refuses to let Dante unleash his friends from the virtual world, Dante kills the scientist and heads to Los Angeles to get the program necessary to get his friends out.

When Gibson is killed after getting in the way of Dante, Quarry must go to Los Angeles to find Dante, but also must deal with Burroughs’ goons, led by Parness. The only one who can help Quarry on his mission is Liana, who has a conscience upon her entry to reality.

Nearly a decade before Don “The Dragon” Wilson entered the world of virtual reality in X-Treme Fighter, he did a reversal of sorts with this sci-fi action tale in which he takes on virtual fighters in the real world. Directed by “jack-of-all trades” Andrew Stevens, Stevens does quite well as an action film director. William C. Martell’s script highlights the potential future of the cyber universe, with combat and cybererotica a mainstay in society, which is in some aspects, deemed mainstream in today’s world although it is more akin to the Internet rather than a virtual reality environment.

The film is definitely B-movie material and that is okay here. Of course as Las Vegas grid runner Quarry, Wilson plays the typical cop looking for revenge but finds something more to it. Yet it still works here. He personally wanted and got Canadian martial arts champion Michael Bernardo of the Shootfighter films and WMAC Masters, for the role of lead villain Dante. Bernardo has the physical presence for the role but it does sort of gets funny when instead of hearing Bernardo’s voice, we have Michael Dorn from Star Trek: The Next Generation as the “virtual voice of Dante”. It just doesn’t seem to match very well with Bernardo’s physicality and that’s a flaw in the film. Athena Massey does quite well for her first film role as cybererotica doll turned real life doll Liana, who of course, not only becomes Quarry’s love interest but shows she can kick some butt in one nicely shot sequence.

In charge of the fight scenes is none other than Art Camacho. As with all of the films he had done during this era, Camacho utilizes the cast’s martial arts skills quite well. Wilson has some decent fights in the opening credits of the film, where we see him in virtual reality and has some nice one against many fights throughout the film. Wilson even has not one, but two nice fight scenes against Loren Avedon, who lets his feet fly to great use against him as Burroughs’ right hand man Parness. In the short time he is in the film, Ken McLeod shows why he truly should have had another lead role after his performance in College Kickboxers and not be relegated to either supporting or villain roles. Michael Bernardo shows why he was a force to be reckoned with too action-wise despite the voice mismatch in the film. Bernardo truly has great martial arts skills and his finale with Wilson, even with the little bits of CGI thrown in there (after all, we are talking virtual reality bad guy), was well handled.

Virtual Combat is definitely B-movie material, but it is truly fun B-movie material. The action scenes featuring “The Dragon”, Ken McLeod, Michael Bernardo, and Loren Avedon are quite a delight to watch, but expect to laugh when hearing Michael Dorn voice Bernardo’s character in a truly poor kind of way. Worth a rental for action fanatics and B-movie lovers.

A-Pix Entertainment presents an Amritraj/Stevens Entertainment production. Director: Andrew Stevens. Producer: Ashok Amritraj. Writer: William C. Martell. Cinematography: David J. Miller. Editing: Tony Mark, Wayne Schmidt, and Mark Speer.

Cast: Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Athena Massey, Ron Barker, Michael Bernardo, Loren Avedon, Turhan Bey, Ken McLeod, Dawn Ann Billings, Carrie Mitchum, Rip Taylor, Stella Stevens, J.D. Rifkin, Nick Hill, Timothy Baker.

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Massacre at Central High (1976)

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The new kid at school gets even with bullies and everyone else in this pretty interesting B-movie from Dutchman Rene Daalder.

David is the new kid at Central High School. There, he runs into an old friend, Mark. Mark has joined up with a trio of bullies, Bruce, Craig, and Paul. The three guys spend their time bullying guys like librarian Arthur and local boy Spoony. When David stops the trip from raping students Jane and Mary, the bullies want Mark to tell David that to get along, he must go along.

However, when Mark catches his girlfriend Theresa skinny-dipping with David one night, Mark tells his friends that David won’t comply. When the bullies finally retaliate by crushing David’s leg under his car, David can no longer use his outlet of anger by running. He sets off a plan to destroy the elite once and for all. After dispatching of Bruce, Craig, and Paul, David thinks all will be okay at Central High. Despite his friendship with Mark, who learns that truth about that fateful night and how David couldn’t make advances at Theresa out of respect for Mark, David soon learns that he faces a bigger problem at Central High when the student body begins to completely act like big shots. He decides something must be done.

This is quite an interesting take of a high school terror flick. What writer-director Rene Daalder did was craft a story about an “avenger” if you will who wanted to make things right only to create an even more deadly monster. The story pretty much is about power and who should have that power as well as how loyalty can have its ups and downs. As the new kid, David is conflicted at first with stopping the trio of bullies only because he has an old friend who has joined their little clique. It is clear that while Mark has joined with this group, he more or less doesn’t go to the extreme as much as the other three. However, a misunderstanding and assumption not only puts a strain on their friendship but ultimately sets David off.

Derrel Maury and Andrew Stevens churn out decent performances in the role of the embittered best friends who are the driving force of the film. The trio playing the bullies are also quite good showing why they are the power elite. The only flaw in the film and that is not truly at fault is the performance of Kimberly Beck, who makes her film debut as Mark’s girlfriend Theresa. When Mark informs her of the death of one of the bullies, she brings a more wooden reaction rather than one that would have her concerned. Perhaps it is because the character of Theresa, while in love with Mark, really doesn’t care much about the bullies.

The killings of the bullies are quite inventive for its time frame. From an electrocuting during hang gliding to one diving into an empty pool, it is the rash of murders in the second half that makes it more interesting in that David resorts from going inventive to just a series of explosions. While this may seem somewhat a ho-hum effort on David’s part, the place of a small bomb in a hearing aid can be seen as more or less, interesting. The reasoning for David’s rash of killings is simple: bringing order to chaos.

Massacre at Central High may seem like a horror film and in some aspect it is, but it is more about what happens when chaos ensues to bring order and the result is even more chaos. A cult film favorite today but sends a message about high school violence in an interesting manner for its time frame.

WFG RATING: B

An Evan Pictures Production. Director: Rene Daalder. Producer: Harold Sobel. Writer: Rene Daalder.  Cinematography: Bertram van Munster. Editing: Harry Keramidas.

Cast: Derrel Maury, Andrew Stevens, Kimberly Beck, Robert Carradine, Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, Damon Douglas, Rainbeaux Smith, Lana O’Grady, Dennis Kort.