TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CODE OF SILENCE (1985)

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CODE OF SILENCE (1985)

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In terms of overall quality, Code of Silence is probably the best movie Chuck Norris ever made. It may not be as fun as Lone Wolf McQuade, or as over the top as Invasion U.S.A., but it is the closest to a mainstream movie he was ever in, till his extended cameo in Expendables 2.

Code of Silence is a simple story of honest Chicago cop Eddie Cusack (Norris) who is not only stuck in the middle of a war between Columbian and Italian mob families, but is the only cop willing to speak out against a corrupt and incompetent fellow officer (Ralph Foody) who gunned down an unarmed teen. This makes Cusack an outsider to criminal and cop alike and forces him to go it alone to rescue a kidnapped mafioso’s daughter (Molly Hagan).

The script by Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack and Mike Gray may not be anything new plot-wise, but this action/thriller is fast paced and well directed by Andrew Davis, who would go on to direct Steven Seagal’s best flick, Under Siege and the Harrison Ford hit, The Fugitive. Davis also gets a good performance out of the often wooden Norris and makes good use of the Chicago locations. The flick has a nice supporting cast including vets Henry Silva (Alligator), Dennis Farina, Bert Remsen and The Dark Knight’s Ron Dean and the action scenes are well-staged and entertaining. A bar fight scene in particular stands out as classic Chuck Norris, with our hero taking on…well, everybody. All in all, it’s a solid action/thriller and proved Norris could make the move into A-list flicks with the right projects, but…

…Despite being a box office success and a moderate critical hit as well, Chuck chose to enter a multi-picture deal with schlock-meister Cannon Films (probably the $17 million for 10 movies was key) and sank any chance of further mainstream theatrical success (none of his future films with Cannon would top or equal Code’s $20 million gross). Had Norris not been lured into staying with Cannon, he might have had a more mainstream action movie career like Arnold and Sly. As for Code of Silence, I saw this fun flick in a theater back in 1985 and it remains one of my favorite Chuck Norris movies along with Lone Wolf McQuade, Silent Rage and The Octagon.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ALLIGATOR (1980)

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ALLIGATOR (1980)

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What happens when you combine a baby alligator flushed down the toilet and the corpses of dogs who have been experimented on with growth hormones and dumped into the sewers?… a 1980 horror flick/Jaws rip-off called Alligator. This fun monster on the loose flick takes place in Chicago with exactly that premise as Detective David Madison (the underrated Robert Forster) is trying to solve the mystery of body parts showing up at the sewer treatment plant and soon comes to discover… through the gruesome loss of a rookie partner… that there is a massive reptilian predator stalking the sewers of the windy city. Now with pretty herpetologist Marisa Kendall (a smoking hot Robin Riker) in tow, Madison must hunt the massive beast and expose the Slade Corporation whose illegal experiments have inadvertently created a monster… with an accelerated metabolism and appetite!

Directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo) and written with loads of wit by John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) and Frank Ray Perilli, Alligator has just the right mix of seriousness and sly humor to tell it’s tale of a 36 foot predator in the sewers of one of America’s most famous cities. On the outset, the film is all business but, there are a lot of unobtrusive playful moments to let us know it’s all in fun… like the local merchants taking full advantage of the news frenzy of a gator on the loose in their city, or, Great White Hunter Col. Brock’s (a perfectly cast Henry Silva) choice of ‘guides’ to accompany him on his hunt through the city back streets. Very politically incorrect but, very funny. The film is unapologetically R-rated and we get some nice gore and carnage as our reptilian eating machine eludes capture but, not his dinner, and the creature itself is portrayed by a real gator on miniature sets or a fairly convincing mechanical mock-up. Teague creates some fun sequences, some solid and bloody action and some genuine suspense despite the goofy premise. He mixes the subtle humor and drama perfectly while never overdosing on either. He also gets good work from his cast whose serious approach to the material helps us go along with the preposterousness of it all.

And while on the subject of that cast… the always strong Robert Forester gives us an everyman hero to identify with. He’s very likable and believable as a street-smart cop with some inner turmoil of his own, that adds depth to the character. And Forester gives it his all despite being basically in a giant alligator movie. Sexy Robin Riker is also solid as the pretty reptile geek Dr. Kendall and she is sexy and smart without ever becoming a helpless damsel. She and Forester have good on-screen chemistry and I loved the added irony that it is her alligator ‘Ramon’ flushed down the toilet 12 years earlier that she and Madison are now hunting. She’s never aware of this fact but, we are and it adds something to her character and the film overall. Henry Silva is hilarious as the arrogant big game hunter called in to track down and destroy the big guy and his eccentric Col. Brock is a hoot. Rounding out is Michael V. Gazzo who is slightly over-the-top as Madison’s commanding officer and Dean Jagger who is perfectly arrogant and slimy as Slade, whose company has inadvertently created a monster. A solid cast that helps make this flick work.

I like this film. It’s another of the flicks scene at my beloved Oritani Theater and it is a fun monster movie made at a time where monsters where portrayed with charming in-camera prosthetics. John Sayles gives us another witty script that perfectly balances the fun with the more serious nature of this horror tale. The film never makes a joke out of it’s story, as guided by Teague but, never takes itself too seriously either so, we don’t forget to have a good time. It’s got a good cast and a reptilian predator who we almost root for. A really fun flick that has far more charm then the CGI overloaded SYFY beast run amok movies today’s audiences seem to think are so clever.

3 alligators.

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