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1974 blaxploitation flick has soul music legend Isaac Hayes playing ex-football player turned bounty hunter, Mack “Truck” Turner. Mack and his partner Jerry (Alan Weeks) are hired to track down a vicious pimp named Gator (Paul Harris) who has skipped bail. Turner is forced to kill Gator in a gunfight and now must face his vengeful girlfriend/madame Dorinda (Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols) and her new associate Blue (Yaphet Kotto). With hired killers on his tail and a target on his back, Truck Turner is taking the fight to them to protect the ones he loves!
Aside from watching the future Duke Of New York in action and getting to see Star Trek’s Uhura as a foul mouthed madame, there isn’t too much to recommend about Truck Turner other than the obvious nostalgia. The film is sloppily directed by Jonathan Kaplan from a script that took three writers to concoct it’s simple story and hilariously vulgar dialog. The action scenes are badly choreographed and shot and the film feels like it was edited with a chainsaw. Not to say there isn’t some fun to be had from it’s epic badness or the brazen machismo in which Hayes seems to be impervious to gunfire, yet hits his target almost every time. The dialog is filled with profanity and racial slurs, which can be amusing…and quite shocking for those not used to an era long before politically correctness set in. It has something to offend everyone in today’s age of oversensitivity and if the racial slurs and portrayal of women as whores doesn’t accomplish it, a certain scene with Truck’s cat will. The thing is, the movie isn’t trying to offend, it was made at a time where exploitation films ‘went there’ and where proud of it. Still, despite it’s bravado, it seems to be just a little too badly made to really be enjoyable as camp. It is a very amateurish flick, but it did make money back in the day and does have a cult classic reputation, so who am I to argue. The legendary Hayes did the soundtrack himself, so at least there is that.
The cast play things surprisingly serious and that helps. Hayes is as cool as they come and gives his bounty hunter a confident swagger and yet there is a heart under all that testosterone. Nichelle Nichols is delightfully over-the-top and vulgar and really cranks out the trashy sex appeal as vicious madame Dorinda. Actually shows she is a versatile actress when allowed to play something other than Lt. Uhura. Yaphet Kotto gives threat and menace to his pimp Blue and Weeks is a solid enough sidekick for the macho Truck. It’s in the supporting cast that we start to run into trouble and performances range from adequate to awful with the various pimps, prostitutes and hit men. Also features small roles with Dick Miller and frequent John Carpenter guy Charles Cyphers.
Not sure why I didn’t enjoy this one. Normally I love this kind of stuff and maybe just went in with the wrong expectations. I was expecting something more on a Shaft level and maybe wasn’t ready for something that was a blatant exploitation flick that took itself far less seriously and was far less well-made. Perhaps then I will revisit Truck Turner once day and be ready this time for it’s badness, crudeness and rudeness. For now, I see it as a bad flick that was a little too bad for it’s own good at times.
A generous…it is Isaac Hayes after all…2 and 1/2 bullets.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock had the deck stacked against it from the moment it was green-lit by Paramount Pictures. First, and most obviously, it had a tough act to follow and big shoes to fill after Wrath Of Khan was hailed by many as an instant classic and some of the finest moments of Star Trek yet seen. They also painted themselves into a corner by killing off Spock and now wanting to continue the cinematic series and thus needing to bring him back. Khan was supposed to be the last film but, now Trek was big again and to continue, our favorite Vulcan had to be part of it. And on top of all that, Khan director Nicholas Meyer was unhappy with the added epilogue to ST II that showed Spock’s burial tube on Genesis implying his death may not be final, and chose not to return. So, in essence they needed a sequel to hold it’s own against it’s predecessor, somehow bring back Spock andreplace the director that put Star Trek back on the map after the universal disappointment with the stuffy and bloated ST:TMP. Which brings me to the big question… does ST III get a bit of a bum rap with all that was expected from it?
Well, yes and no…
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock picks up with the Enterprise limping home after it’s devastating battle with Khan and The Reliant. Kirk (William Shatner) is equally devastated by the death of his longtime friend, Spock and Dr. McCoy (Deforest Kelley) is also showing signs of odd behavior possibly brought on by grief. Kirk’s son (Merritt Butrick) and Lt. Saavik (now Robin Curtis) are headed to the Genesis planet for study and unknown to any of them, an ambitious Klingon Captain (Christopher Lloyd) has intercepted transmissions concerning Genesis and sees it’s uses as a weapon of power for the Klingon Empire. As the Klingons head for the restricted Genesis planet to steal it’s secrets, Kirk is visited by Spock’s father Sarek (Mark Leonard) and informed that Vulcans can transfer their essence and there is a chance Spock’s “Katra” has been transferred to another before death. It soon becomes apparent that McCoy now hosts Spock’s soul and Kirk must get to Genesis in the hopes his body is still within his burial tube and Spock can be restored. But, Starfleet forbids Kirk’s return there and now he must sacrifice everything he’s accomplished by stealing the Enterprise and going to the restricted planet against orders. And as the outlaw Kirk and his loyal crew race to Genesis, they are headed not only towards a confrontation with the Klingons but, a race against time as the Genesis planet has a dark secret that could spell doom for Kirk’s mission and all their lives. I like Trek III and despite it’s intrusive flaws, it’s a fun flick especially if you are a Trek fan but, it’s certainly far from a Wrath Of Khan. First problem is obvious from the story description, there is an overabundance of plot and it takes a long time before the plot elements and characters come together. The film starts to take off with the theft of The Enterprise but, it’s not till Kirk and company arrive on Genesis, wrecking the Enterprise in the process, that the film really starts to hit it’s stride. The film needed to address the return of Spock, yet also have some kind of conflict for entertainment purposes, and find a way to remove Genesis from the mix if the series was to continue without having to continually deal with it’s effects on the Star Trek world. And the film actually gets all this done but, at the cost of a more streamlined plot and a good degree of fun as the film can get heavy handed when dealing with the life and death issues that surround Spock and the Genesis device and it’s theme of how far will you go to help the ones you love. Taking advantage of Paramount’s desire to have Spock return, Nimoy landed himself the directing gig replacing Meyer. And while I don’t think he did a bad job, his lack of experience does show with the film resembling a TV episode in tone and look, where the story could have used a more epic feel with it’s disintegrating planets and starship confrontations. The pacing and tone are uneven with the first half moving rather slowly and picking up speed once Kirk and company leave Earth and going from dead serious one minute to borderline goofy the next such as some humor involving the Klingons who needed to remain fierce. But, Nimoy also creates some wonderfully Star Trek moments… the theft of The Enterprise being my favorite… and the camaraderie between the characters is as endearing as always. There is some nice action in the second half and the climactic scenes on Vulcan do carry the emotional weight intended. The SPFX are really good from ILM again and this time no stock footage. The sets once again look cheesy but, being that the whole thing reminds one of a TV episode, it’s not as intrusive as one might expect. And there is some very weak dialog too but, again, Star Trek has always had it’s own way of phrasing things and it’s own jargon so, this isn’t as damaging as it could be. As for the cast, everyone recreates their beloved characters just fine though, Nimoy isn’t as adept at restraining Shatner as Meyer and Shat does fall back into some of the hamminess he’s famous for yet, does have some very strong scenes too. Newcomers range between good to outright bad, such as Phillip R. Allen who is dreadful as Grissom Captain Esteban. Christopher Lloyd is a good villain but, every time he speaks you hear Reverend Jim from Taxi which was fresh in everyone’s mind when this was released. The effect has warn off over time but, was very noticeable back then. Robin Curtis replaces Kirstie Alley as Saavik and is a bit wooden even for a Vulcan, which might explain why the character sadly disappeared after a brief appearance in ST IV. Fans really loved Saavik and it was odd they introduced new characters like her and Kirk’s son and then did away with them. David is especially wasted in this as he doesn’t do much but look wide eyed at the Genesis planet and then pouts when he discovers his device is flawed. Luckily composer James Horner returned and gives another epic score to enhance the flick and the cameo from Mark Leonard is a pleasure as he brings a power and dignity to Ambassador Sarek that the series made good use of with his return in IV and VI. But, flaws aside, ST III is still enjoyable and contains some fun lines and classic Star Trek moments giving each cast member a memorable scene to punctuate their appearances. It is certainly nowhere near the train wreck that Shatner’s ST V is or the mind numbingly dull Insurrection. To a degree Search For Spock had too much to measure up to in the eyes of fans, especially with a first time director, but, the fact that it did have so much to accomplish and actually does get as much done despite it’s flaws, earns the film a bit more credit then it is given. And despite all that was stacked up against it, it still is a fun romp especially once it gets going and it does return some of the TV episode level charm whether that was the intention or not. It’s a flawed but, still entertaining entry in the series and Nimoy would grow as a director with the following and very entertaining Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that became the series biggest hit till J.J. Abrams took Trek mainstream.
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is one of my all time favorites and I have to say I enjoy it just as much now as I did in a theater in 1982… maybe more with the added nostalgia and that it retains it’s status as the best of the Star Trek movies even with the addition of J.J. Abrams’ fun reboot series. The film is a direct sequel to a first season episode entitled Space Seed where Kirk and crew find a 20th century Earth genetic superman in suspended animation with his crew on an unregistered space vessel. He’s thawed out and identified as Khan Noonien Singh a genetically engineered tyrant who, with his followers, nearly conquered Earth in the 1990s. He tried to take command of the Enterprise and kill Kirk but, was thwarted and he and his followers were sent into exile on a deserted planet. The film picks up 15 years later with a ship, The Reliant, accidentally happening upon Khan (Richardo Montalban reprising his classic role), and the remaining members of his crew, while searching for a lifeless planet to test a planetary terraforming device on called Genesis. Khan, who is now mad with vengeance as the explosion of his world’s sister planet has ravaged his home and killed his wife, takes the ship and plans to use Genesis as a weapon of revenge against now ‘Admiral’ James T. Kirk (William Shatner). Lured into a confrontation and badly damaged, The Enterprise and it’s valiant crew must somehow find a way to stop Khan from using the Genesis Device to commit ‘universal armageddon’… and caught in the middle are the creators of the device, a former lover of Kirk’s (Bibi Besch) and a son, David (Merritt Butrick) he’s never met. Khan, as directed and co-written by Nicholas Meyer, corrects basically all of Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s mistakes by returning Star Trek’s sense of adventure and action and making it’s character’s 3 dimensional again. Where ST:TMP ignored the fact that the characters where now over a decade older, STII:TWOK makes their aging part of the story. Kirk is celebrating his 50th birthday and dealing with issues of his new earthbound rank when his heart still belongs in the captain’s chair. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is training a new crew to take over the Enterprise with our beloved crew members assisting in shaping their eventual replacements. Khan himself once a vicious but, noble warrior who graciously accepted Kirk’s decision to let him have his own world to build instead of imprisonment, is now a madman who seeks revenge at any cost. Meyer takes our beloved characters and gives them legendary status working in themes from classic literature like Moby Dick,Horatio Hornblower and Tale Of Two Cities… and gives the Enterprise a charming Naval feel as opposed to the antiseptic and cold feeling the previous film imbued it with. And added to the richness of story and character are some thrilling and suspenseful space battles that evoke some of the classic submarine movies like Run Silent, Run Deep. Assisting Meyer is a cast that brings their famous characters vibrantly to life once more. Shatner may get flak for his over the top performances but, here he is at the top of his game and gives one of his best performances as an aging warrior forced once more to battle against the odds and possibly face mortality for the first time. Nimoy plays an older, wiser Spock who is happy to be molding the next generation and has mellowed a bit allowing him to show a slightly warmer side… or dare I say more human. Deforest Kelley is as cranky as ever as Bones but, this is one character we don’t want to change a bit and he hasn’t. Montalban takes Khan and turns him into a vengeful madman who is still fiercely intelligent and ruthless but, now on the brink of madness with revenge, a foe even more dangerous now that he would destroy James T. Kirk at all costs including that of his own people. A classic character is now made larger then life by a veteran actor knowing when to show the cunning villain and when to unleash the madman. And Meyer gives him some great dialog to chew on. The rest of the classic Trek cast all do well in reviving their beloved characters though I will admit Walter Koenig’s Chekov has a few moments that spill into camp but, the character always was very emotional. Bibi Besch is fine and sexy as Dr. Marcus, Kirk’s old flame. Butrick doesn’t quite cut a figure we’d expect of Kirk’s son but, we can forgive this as it’s part of the story that his mother didn’t want him to grow up like dear old dad. Kirstie Alley made her acting debut as Spock’s protegee’ Lt. Saavik a vulcan officer following in his footsteps and her characterization made her instantly beloved by fans who were equally disappointed when she didn’t return in Star Trek III. Rounding out the main cast is Paul Winfield as The Reliant’s Captain Terrell who makes the best of giving some character to a limited role. I won’t pretend the film doesn’t have faults, it does. There are obvious flaws in it’s science and their are inconstancies, one being that the Chekov character didn’t join the show till season 2 so, Khan should not have known him. The film was made on a low budget so, the sets are cheap looking and a lot are borrowed and redressed from ST:TMP and while the ILM FX are fine, a lot of FX early in the film are also borrowed from ST:TMP and it’s a little obvious. But, the biggest flaw is that Kirk and Khan never meet face to face, all their confrontations are done by radio or on view screen and these two actors at their best, never get to be in the same room together and that’s a shame. But, all it’s flaws can be forgiven as this is just a real fun flick and is classic Star Trek at it’s best… both in spirit and in the portrayal of it’s characters. It’s a film that elevated the characters from heroes to legends and has an old fashioned swashbuckling tone that seems to be gone from films today. It’s a classic flick now made even more fun by the nostalgia it has picked up and is a movie that has charm to spare. An all time favorite and a great movie even with it’s flaws. Also stars regulars James Doohan as Engineer Scott, George Takei as Helmsman Sulu and Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura with Ike Eisenmann playing Scotty’s nephew Ensign Preston, a new character. STII also features a great score by James Horner and is pretty much the movie that put him on the path to becoming one of the best film score composers out there today. A classic!