Friday, September 13, 2019

BATMAN VS. TWO-FACE (2017)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological, sociological*


This direct-to-DVD production. following on the heels of BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS,  once again re-united three performers from the classic 1966 BATMAN teleseries, Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), and Julie Newmar (Catwoman). But TWO-FACE-- which also boasts William Shatner voicing the titular villain and Lee ("second Catwoman") Meriwether playing a supporting-role-- will almost certainly be the last in the series, thanks to the 2017 passing of Adam West.

Though the second DVD-flick shares the same director and writing-team as the first, TWO-FACE is at least, well, two times as good (given that I rated CAPED CRUSADERS's mythicity as "poor"). And this is a fair accomplishment, given that Two-Face, though it's rumored that he was considered as a "guest villain" for the 1966 series, really did not fit the camp aesthetic. Two-Face's 1942 debut was about as gritty and grotesque as a kids' superhero comic could be at the time, and such grotesquerie didn't really fit the bright primary colors of the West-Ward world.

So, do the filmmakers succeed in making their version of Two-Face fit their version of that world? Well, somewhat. Despite my liking for the origin-story of the villain, I've generally found that he doesn't "travel" well in later stories, and that his focus on "twos" wears out his welcome much faster than the Penguin's birds or the Riddler's riddles. In order to make the villain fit the more science-fiction-heavy world of the DVD-series, Two-Face's grotty old origin is changed to include a device called an "Evil Extractor." The device's inventor is a version of another Bat-villain, Hugo Strange, who in this iteration is actually working to purge Gotham City's villains of the villainy with the Extractor. However, things go wrong and district attorney Harvey Dent is horribly scarred on one side of his face, thus giving rise to Two-Face.

The continuity then leaps over the villain's initial criminal career, showing the viewer that he's summarily captured by Batman and Robin. Following the capture, reconstructive surgery repairs the damage to Harvey Dent's face, once again suggesting that science can obliterate evil.

It should go without saying that you can't keep a good villain's bad side down, and so it's revealed that the apparently reformed Dent can morph into Two-Face, a clear nod to Jekyll and Hyde. While even the youngest viewers will anticipate this revelation, the script keeps things interesting in that square-sided Batman continually wants to believe in Dent's reformation, since as Bruce Wayne he's friends with the attorney. This version of Robin is more suspicious and less of a goody-good than he is in the original series, but he's proven right when the recrudescent Two-Face captures both crusaders and offers to sell them to the highest bidder among Gotham's usual heinous suspects. However, Catwoman, playing a quasi-heroic role as she did in the previous entry, comes to the heroes' rescue.

Whereas the first film in the series played up goony humor too much, this one manages to sell more of the teleseries' signature irony. This is evinced in an early humorous scene in which Batman seems to be courting the villainess-- only to reveal that he's just visiting her in prison. As if to make the hero squarer than ever, he brings the languishing Catwoman a book of Edith Barrett Browning poetry. Later, as if the creators were congratulating themselves for getting things right, there's a sign in front of a hospital labeled "The Sisters of Perpetual Irony."

Since this was the last go-round for the "Adam West Batman," I can appreciate that the creators stepped up to deliver a work with considerably more in common with the breakthrough TV-show.




TEENAGE ZOMBIES (1959?), FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF (1964)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, sociological*


TEENAGE ZOMBIES, one of the few films by director Jerry Warren that didn't cobble together segments from other films, is worse than any of Ed Wood Jr.'s offerings, but it'll never equal Wood's oeuvre in terms of being "so bad it's good." Left to himself, Warren produced a soporific take on the sort of "mad scientist" films made famous by the lower-rung filmmakers like Columbia and Monogram back in the 1940s. However, almost without fail Warren "directs" ZOMBIES with an unending cavalcade of tedious medium shots. Given that all of his actors were no-names-- including Katherine Victor, who would gain a measure of fame later with Warren's WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN-- it may be that he saw no reason to bother with time-consuming close-ups.

Whereas the stars of the forties potboilers were almost always adults, Warren played to the fifties' penchant for older-juvenile films by having two teenaged couples go looking for a place to water-ski. Traveling by boat to a remote island, the teens witness some strange men stumbling around, again like the non-violent zombies of Classic Hollywood. Then their boat mysteriously disappears. They look for answers at a mansion, the only building on the isle, and meet the eccentric Doctor Myra (Victor), who is served by a bearded hulk named Ivan. After a few pleasantries, Myra has Ivan toss the teens into her private prison. Myra is your basic mad scientist, working on a "zombie-making" serum for agents of an "Eastern" power. Indeed, after jailing the teens, Myra confers with the foreign agents, who reveal that their bosses are planning to make a direct nuclear attack unless the scientist can deliver bombs capable of reducing Americans to the status of obedient slaves.

There's also a subplot about two other teens trying to get the local sheriff to investigate their friends' disappearance, and this leads to the unlikely revelation that the sheriff in cahoots with the spies. As usual in mad-scientist movies, the demented doctor is the focus of the story, and Victor tries to give her unrewarding role some of the passion of a Bela Lugosi megalomaniac. However, despite a few lackluster fights when the imprisoned teens break free, and an experimental gorilla who doesn't do much of anything, the only Wood-like touch in this depressing flick is Doctor Myra's penchant for greeting her guests in clingy ball-gowns. She even wears her lab coat over such a gown. Maybe someone involved thought that, no matter how mad she was, she had one mitigating quality: that she was a really snappy dresser.



FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF is more representative of most of Warren's career, but it might please the so-bad-it's-good crowd in that it's more overtly nonsensical.

WEREWOLF has very minimal original footage, and is for the most part an unholy mashup of two dubbed Mexican films. Warren had already used a lot of scenes from the 1957 Mexican film LA MOMIA AZTECA in his 1963 American release ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY, but for WEREWOLF he used only a few draggy sequences to provide the opening of the newer film. The bulk of the 1964 film was taken from a 1959 Mexican comedy, LA CASA DEL TERROR, starring comedian Tin Tan and horror-icon Lon Chaney Jr. as a werewolf. Warren is guiltless in CASA's decision to associate the Chaney werewolf with some sort of Egyptian sarcophagus-- but in a vain attempt to provide continuity between the disparate scenes from different movies, Warren's version asserts that there are two mummies running around. One is ancient (the Aztec Mummy), and the other is a modern werewolf whom someone or other wrapped in mummy-bandages. Just as a guess I'd surmise that the original makers of CASA DEL TERROR were just having fun with Chaney's dual image of both werewolf and mummy, which might've played better in an actual comedy. But Warren snipped out almost all of the Tin Tan scenes, leaving a hodgepodge of scenes in which the wolf-man runs around attacking people, mostly some scientists who sought to revive him for reasons unknown. The scenes from the 1959 film aren't exactly good, but they're certainly livelier than anything in TEENAGE ZOMBIES.





Thursday, September 12, 2019

MYSTERY MEN (1999), TANK GIRL (1995)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: (1) *fair,* (2) *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: (1) *comedy,* (2) *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, psychological, sociological*


It's been a long time since I read the short-lived MYSTERY MEN comics-feature, created by Bob Burden as a spin-off from his moderately successful FLAMING CARROT, Thus I'm going only on memory when I remember the original MYSTERY MEN as being a one-joke premise: "here are these maladroit superheroes, who instead of having projecting auras of power. have either crappy powers or none at all, and so give themselves goofy names like 'the Shoveler' and 'the Spleen.'"

Necessarily, a movie script for such a concept needed more development than Burden gave it. The script for the 1999 movie, partly credited to Dark Horse Comics publisher Mike Richardson, attempts to expand on the base idea of the comic. For one thing, all of the action takes place in Champion City, which is, like many cities in classic comics, more of a baroque abstraction of a city. As the name suggests, Champion City exists to provide a backdrop wherein superheroes defeat supervillains in their projects of larceny or destruction. Generally in classic comics, such places sport only one superhero who continually protects his stomping-grounds, and if other superheroes appear at all, they do so as temporary "guest stars."

The Mystery Men of the movie's title-- even though they never precisely take that name within the diegesis-- are initially the Shoveler (who fights with a shovel), the Blue Raja (who throws forks but never knives), and their leader Mister Furious (who gets mad a lot but doesn't seem able to fight). The Mystery Men continually attempt to gain fame for their good deeds, but they're continually overshadowed by Champion's most popular super-doer, Captain Amazing. However, the captain is to some extent a victim of his own fame, for he's licensed his image to many companies to take capitalistic advantage of his popularity. But he's caught and jailed so many super-fiends that he no longer has any challengers, and so the sales of Captain Amazing merch begins to fall off. Thus Amazing decides that he'll create his own "crisis"-- much the way nineties superhero comics resorted to "big events" to goose sales-- by releasing a major foe from prison, in order to catch him again and regain his fame. However, when mad scientist Casanova Frankenstein is freed, the villain turns the tables and captures his superheroic foe.

Meanwhile, the three ne'er-do-wells attempt to build up their numbers, and manage to bring in three new members: the Spleen (who emits toxic gas from his anus), the Invisible Boy (who's only invisible when no one's watching him), and the Bowler (a "legacy hero," in that she inherits the super-bowling talent of her late hero-father). Eventually the maladroit sextet have a run-in with Frankenstein's thugs, and only the lucky invasion of a seventh "mystery man," the Sphinx, saves them. The perpetually angry Mr. Furious gets irritated when the Sphinx attempts to take over the group, but, long story short, the seven heroes manage to come together to invade Frankenstein's sanctum and triumph against the evildoer, albeit with a lot of comic bungling along the way (not least their accidentally killing the hero they've come to rescue).

In terms of the stylized presentation of this fantasy-world, MYSTERY MEN has a lively "music video" look to it (it was the only feature film of video-short director Kinka Usher). The script gives some of the heroes brief character-arcs that would've been impossible in a Burden comic, and of those arcs, the Bowler is probably the most fun, given that she carries around her father's preserved skull in her weaponized bowling-ball. All of the actors get into the spirit of the project quite well, though there's only so much they can do when some of the one-joke concepts run their course.






I've also only brief acquaintance with the Australian comic TANK GIRL, and, again based on memory, I would have to say that the 1995 film does not represent the spirit of the raucous 1988 comics feature. Ironically, though the live-action portion of the film fails to keep the proper tone, there are occasionally cartoon-inserts throughout the continuity, done in the style of the original comics-artists, and these suggest that a full animated feature might've been a better way to go.

It's another post-apocalyptic future, this time caused by a comet that strikes Earth and obliterates a lot of the planet's water-supply, In Australia a tyrannical combine, the Water and Power Corporation, attempts to corner the remaining water market, but they often suffer attacks by mysterious attackers called "Rippers." In addition, Water and Power-- run the megalomaniacl Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell)-- discovers a scruffy little commune with their own well, so they decimate the commune and take prisoner a young woman named Rebecca (Lori Petty). However, during her captivity-- which seems unusually lax-- the Rippers invade the W & P facility and nearly slay Kesslee. With the help of "Jet Girl," a young woman with great mechanical talent, the heroine steals a tank from W & P, at which point she morphs into the titular "Tank Girl." While the two young women go in search of other allies, not least the Rippers, W & P uses extraordinary technology to resurrect Kesslee in a sort of holographic cyborg-body. Naturally, he then wants revenge on everyone associated with his near-death, particularly the defiant Tank Girl.

Budgeted at about $25 million-- incidentally, about a third of MYSTERY MEN's budget-- TANK GIRL looks like a lot less was spent, particularly when the script introduces us to the Rippers, who are (for the most part) humans who have been genetically crossbred with kangaroos. Considering that director Rachel Talalay made a much better movie-- A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4-- for less than half the cost of TANK GIRL, the fault would seem to lie in an overly jokey script and poor development of characters. Lead actress Lori Petty makes a game try to incarnate the boisterous spirit of the comics-character, but the script gives her only dull psuedo-western cliches to work with. Malcolm McDowell has a considerably easier time of it playing the tyrannical Kesslee, but a strong villain can't save a film with a weakly conceived hero.

Allegedly Talalay is currently attempting to reboot the franchise with a new film. I'd still say that an animated feature would be the way to go, but after the critical embrace of MAD MAX FURY ROAD, a new outing for the girl with the big tank could only be an improvement over this outing.


Monday, September 9, 2019

POOTIE TANG (2001)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *comedy*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological*


The character of "Pootie Tang" first appeared in sketches on Chris Rock's HBO series of the late nineties, and later grew into a feature-film, written in part by Rock and directed by another comedian, Louis C.K., although the latter disavowed the final cut of the film.

I can't imagine what the final cut might've left out, for POOTIE TANG is, despite being utterly silly, fairly tight for a superhero spoof. Aside from a largely inconsequential frame-story, in which the protagonist is interviewed about his own movie, the story starts out with showing urban hero Pootie Tang (Lance Crouther) taking out a small gang of drug-dealers, led by the Pigpen-like gangsta "Dirry Dee." Pootie displays no well-defined super-powers, but he's able to dodge bullets purely by his smooth dance moves, or to deflect bullets with either his long braids or with the belt he wears, which he also uses to bludgeon hoods. It seems that the only thing Pootie can't do is to speak the English language, in that he constantly mixes English words with an undecipherable slang of his own creation-- though for the most part both white and black listeners seem to understand what he says.

Pootie is such an incredible media-phenomenon that kids everywhere love him, and turn their backs on drugs and other temptations. This development enrages multi-conglomerate honcho Dick Lecter, because it affects the bottom line of his corrupt companies. Realizing that he can't take out the hero by force, he uses guile, in the form of a temptress named Ireenie (Jennifer Coolidge). Despite the fact that there's a good black woman who pines after the hero, Pootie lets himself be seduced by Ireenie, even though she does so in a singularly weird manner: accosting the noble fellow in a supermarket and both slapping and kicking him. Like Delilah before her, Ireenie learns the hero's secret weakness: take away the magic belt given Pootie by his father, and he loses all of his power. Lecter steals the belt, and Pootie loses his moral compass, signing a contract that allows Lecter to exploit his image without Pootie's consent. Finally, not having a Fortress of Solitude as a retreat, Pootie wanders out into some rural community, which leads to a handful of surprisingly mild redneck-jokes. Without giving away too much, suffice to say that Pootie Tang learns that his true powers stem not from the belt but from his inner "goodness," allowing him to regain his heroic stature and take down the villains.

I'm not sure if the protagonist's mangling of the English language was intended as a spoof of slang-language in general, but though this is the film's primary joke, happily it isn't the only one. Indeed, the best bit in the film appears when Pootie cuts a record which is entirely devoid of music or lyrics, but people still dance to it as if it were the hottest new track out there. As noted, most of the story derives from the Samson myth, though there's a curious, not-particularly-funny scene in which Pootie also plays Jesus, in that Pootie apparently brings a slain hoodlum back to life purely through the hero's agony over the man's death. It's an odd scene that doesn't have a function in the plot, but it's pleasing in its very peculiarity.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

ESCAPE 2000 (1982), ULTRA WARRIOR (2000)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: (1) *fair,* (2) *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological*


These two future-dystopia flicks might be object lessons in "the right way" and "the wrong way" to do this kind of thing.

ESCAPE 2000, also called TURKEY SHOOT, is a rarity in that it melds tropes from three disparate sources-- the futuristic tyranny out of Orwell's 1984, the hunting-of-humans out of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, and any number of prison-pictures-- and yet all three sets of tropes complement one another.

In an English-speaking country that isn't identified (though it may be the country where it was filmed, Australia), both real political dissidents and those frivolously accused of rebellion are transported to remote desert-prisons where they're subjected to behavior modification. At the same time, the prison's warden Thatcher amuses himself and his sadistic guards with the custom of the "turkey shoot," in which captives are turned loose in the desert and then tracked down by the armed hunters.

Some critics complained about the very graphic violence in the tortures doled out by the guards and by the retaliation of the prisoners. However, there are been so many hundreds of routine tyrannies in film that often the supposed cruelties of the regimes lack any vraisemblance. By contrast, the scene in which head guard Ritter abuses one female prisoner for failing to speak a required catechism sells the idea of relentless cruelty better than any number of wholesale slaughters.

Paul (Steve Railsback) is the one true revolutionary among the targets, but though he and the other prisoners are simply characterized, they manage to keep audience sympathy despite the familiarity



In contrast, ULTRA WARRIOR is a mess. I imagine the director, or whoever organized it, probably sold the project to Roger Corman on the strength of how cheap it would be due to all the old footage from other Corman films he could use.

Ironically, though the VHS art makes protagonist Rudolf Kenner look like Conan, he's really a corporate stooge working for a future-corporation following a nuclear catastrophe. He's sent to a small town named Oblivion to secure mineral rights to the town's wealth of "zirconium," which is somehow of use in fighting a space-war (which has nothing to do with the main plot). However, the grotty human bosses of the town so oppress the mutant underclass that Kenner ends up helping them rebel against the humans.

WARRIOR's only distinction is that though it's clearly following the example of MAD MAX, its hero seems modeled more on the heroes of naturalistic western-films.

THE PHANTOM CREEPS (1939)




PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological*


Even though THE PHANTOM CREEPS recycles a lot of its fancy gimmicks and its exciting score from earlier works, like 1936's FLASH GORDON and 1939's SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, it still has the distinction of being the best of Bela Lugosi's five serials.

Given that at the time the actor still possessed the cachet of having appeared in A-level films, the opening chapters of PHANTOM make an effort to capitalize on Lugosi's acting prowess. Though in many ways Doctor Alex Zorka is a standard world-conquering mad scientist, Chapter 1 establishes that he has a faithful, age-appropriate wife, and though he doesn't let her fears about his madness deter him from his course, he does make an effort to keep her with him. The script disposes of Mrs. Zorka within a few chapters, but devotes a telling scene to Zorka attempting to control his emotions when he beholds her deceased body.

Like a lot of serials, this one is very loosely plotted, but this helps keep the focus on action and wild inventions. Lugosi has a veritable cornucopia of science-fiction gimmicks-- miniature spiders that can plunge victims into comas, an electric ray-gun, a giant robot and an invisibility belt. The latter is the reason Lugosi sometimes refers to himself as "the Phantom," though most of the time his enemies call him "Zorka," since there's no mystery as to his identity. Though I didn't catch any pertinent WWII references, PHANTOM like many serials of the 1930s relates the mad scientist's struggles for dominance to the dangers of foreign espionage. Zorka's newest invention, a gas that can immobilize armies, is derived from elements taken from a meteor fragment (illustrated by footage taken from Lugosi's earlier Universal film THE INVISIBLE RAY). Thus the meteor-element becomes the bone over which the various dogs-- various American lawmen, foreign agents, and Lugosi and his henchmen Monk-- continually struggle throughout the chapterplay.

I don't often devote much time talking about the villain's henchmen in serials, but I'll note that Monk, as played by Jack C. Smith, provides Bela with excellent reinforcement. Monk, a slow-witted though occasionally crafty career crook, doesn't just stand around listening to his boss wax poetic about his world-conquering plans. Rather, Monk is forever griping about how he's going to get sent back to prison because Zorka keeps all of the good "toys" for himself. In response, Zorka constantly threatens Monk with dire fates for complaining, not least siccing the giant robot, "the Iron Man," upon the hapless hood. Since this robot is, like most of those in serials, is just a man in an unwieldly suit, the Iron Man doesn't appear often, but he makes a formidable presence despite his bizarre appearance. In any case, the Zorka-Monk relationship is so chancy-- you never know if Monk will definitively betray his employer and get snuffed-- that it's much more compelling than the relationship between the vanilla military intelligence hero (Robert Kent) and the plucky girl reporter assisting him (Dorothy Arnold). In terms of casting there's even a shout-out to the 1931 DRACULA in that Edward Van Sloan has a small role, though no scenes with Lugosi.

Lugosi's forceful performance as a monomaniac ("They cannot destroy [the meteor] any more than they can destroy me") and the scientist's many gimmicks are the serial's main assets. There are a satisfactory number of action-scenes, with more emphasis on chases than on fights, but the only standout is the concluding scene, when Zorka and Monk take to the skies in a biplane. While Monk pilots the plane, Zorka, laughing fiendishly, hurls super-explosive bombs to the earth, where he destroys a number of stock-footage targets (including, I note with perverse amusement, the Hindenberg) before meeting his inevitable end.

Though I have to give the serial's mythicity a low rating even on its main sociological theme, PHANTOM CREEPS stands as one of the best villain-centered chapterplays, perhaps excelled only by THE DRUMS OF FU MANCHU.

Friday, August 30, 2019

DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY (1991)




PHENOMENALITY: *naturalistic*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological, sociological*


Though there are a lot of naturalistic psychos in action-adventure films, the one in DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY is a little more layered than most, thus making him an interesting topic for this blog.

The plot of IMMUNITY, in which a tough American invades a foreign country to avenge his slain daughter, sounds a lot like 2008's TAKEN. And the source-novel for the movie, Theodore Taylor's 1987 THE STALKER, has even more resemblance to the Liam Neeson flick, since in the novel the avenging hero goes after the villain, a West German diplomat, across "Germany, Denmark, and Sweden," whereas the film confines the action to one location, Paraguay. I assume that Taylor's original novel is the reason that villain Klaus Hermann is a bit more complex in the "perilous psycho" department.

That said, the screenplay and director Peter Maris get some mileage out of alterations that probably were rooted in cutting costs. Career military man Cole (Bruce Boxleitner, who's not a monolithic enough actor to fit this subgenre) has already lost his wife to cancer, and he's fiercely protective of his grown daughter Ellen, whom he claims is the spitting image of her mother. Before he meets Ellen's impending date Klaus, Ellen tells him not to be suspicious of the German youth: saying something like, "Not every German from South America is an ex-Nazi!" Ellen meets Klaus and they leave Cole behind, glowering. That same night, Klaus loses his pretense of cool. Not only does he rape and kill Ellen, he takes sadistic pictures of her before his local handler, to whose diplomatic office Klaus is attached, takes him away. The law apprehends Klaus but is forced to release him because he's immune to immediate prosecution. Authorities give Cole no real hope for extradition, and so down he goes to Paraguay, to avenge his darling daughter.

Though Cole is the star of the show, he's never as interesting as the Hermann family, which seems somewhat modeled after Freud's reading of HAMLET. In fact, the matriarch of the family is even named "Gerta," which has a strong resemblance to Shakespeare's "Gertrude." However, whereas Gertrude only married the brother of her late husband, Gerta seems to have directly contributed to making her son Klaus into a scopophilic pervert. Once the chief security man Stefan returns Klaus to his loving mother, she's less angry about his committing murder than the fact that he "wastes" himself on such women. Of the three scenes that involve Gerta (Meg Foster) and Klaus (Tom Bresnahan), they continually suggest that Gerta has on some past occasion seduced her son, although she sometimes keeps him at a distance by slapping or kicking him. In one scene, she comes to his room, and, thinking that Klaus is on the other side, tells him that he's never been able to hide from her before.

Though the movie doesn't quite say that the incestuous relationship is also sadomasochistic, this is suggested when Cole tries to get at Klaus by tracking down his mistress Teresa. Teresa initially disbelieves Cole's accusation because she's always found him to be a submissive-- suggesting that Teresa is a mother-substitute. Nevertheless, in this world every masochist hides a sadist, and when Klaus turns on Teresa, she becomes Cole's ally. To round out the HAMLET parallel, Klaus is also jealous of Stefan's relationship with Gerta, and one scene does show Gerta making out with Klaus. Gerta asserts that Klaus resents Srefan for taking his (Klaus's) place. This line suggests that Stefan is a father-substitute, even as Freud considered Claudius a daddy-doppelganger, so that the implication is that Klaus expected to be a de facto "husband" to Gerta once the patriarch passed. An additional interesting detail is that the deceased Hermann patriarch, though not definitely an ex-Nazi, earned his wealth and diplomatic prominence through munitions, and Gerta only gained her vaunted social position as Hermann's wife because she had been a "stripper" and so was good at manipulating men. For a closing touch, Gerta is killed and before he dies, Klaus takes a picture of her dead body just as he did with Ellen. Ah, those perverse Germans!

None of Cole's explosive attempts at vengeance are as interesting as the weird Hermann family, though things do blow up pretty good, and the film offers a nice sampling of familiar faces, like Billy Drago, Matthias Hues, Fabiana Udenio (as Teresa), and Robert Forster. Forster's role is sociologically interesting, for Cole and Forster's character served together in Vietnam, but the latter soldier was guilty of killing Vietnamese prisoners. This would seem to have no real pertinence to the main story, but maybe in the original novel it served to make Cole look less like "the Ugly American" by comparison.