You may think that someone like Chuck Norris shouldn't feature on a site called eatmybrains.com. Well, you could be right, but at the end of the day, it's our call. Thing is, none of this really matters because our old friend Mr Norris tends to get a mention in just about every Zombie Club, usually after sighting a 'Poor Man's Chuck Norris' in the crap that we watch whilst taking refuge from the real world. This 'Poor Man's Chuck Norris' is, more often than not, that charisma-free Italian Al Cliver (real name Pier Luigi Conti), but for once, we thought we'd give ourselves a treat and see the real thing – the Chuck, the whole Chuck, and nothing but...the Chuck.
Tonight's vintage selection features what must be Chuck's only exploration into the deep, scary sea of sci-fi / horror with Silent Rage (1982) in which he battles against a Ron Pearlman lookalike subject of genetic mutation. Yes, it's an unstoppable killing machine versus, well, an unstoppable killing machine who is also a sheriff. He also happens to be Chuck Bloody Norris. We love sheriffs at ZC. And Chucks.
Second up is the frustratingly plotted ninja flick The Octagon (1981), in which Chuck tracks down his brother's ninja training camp which specialises in graduating what are probably the crappiest ninjas you will ever see, one of whom is Irish. With a bad temper. Chuck and a bad tempered Irish ninja in the same movie? Bring it on.
Tonight's selection was brought to you by Zomblee in association with 'Smooth-as-Chuck' Wax Strips.
Silent Rage (1982)
Plot Chuck kicks ass
Zomblee Jim got quite upset when I broke the news that Chuck of the Norris doesn't sport his beard of steel bristle in either of tonight's movies - "Well I'm not gonna watch it if he doesn't have a 'tache at least!" Luckily, Chuck did have a 'tache, so Jim was going nowhere for the next three hours. Next, a conversation about whether this was Chuck's natural hair colour. Can it be? A bit more blond than usual? In The Way of the Dragon he seemed so...ginger. And much more hairy in general. But enough talk of Chuck's hair...
Psychotic patient John Kirby (a convincing Brian Libby) lets us know he's "losing it" at the beginning during a very long, unedited sequence depicting his titular silent rage as he takes an axe to a family, Jack Torrance style. Time to call Sheriff Dan Stevens (The Chuck) and his rotund Deputy Charlie (Stephen Durst who - get this - played Kent "Flounder" Dorffman in National Lampoon's Animal House - cashback!) who manage to apprehend the madman after shooting him several times. Kirby is taken to a 'special hospital' where three doctors who argue a lot and dabble in genetic modification inject him with a load of experimental drugs, which renders him not only fit and well, but also a superhuman killing machine. Bonus.
Meanwhile, Chuck kicks the bejesus out of a load of bikers for good measure, Deputy Charlie questions his vocation (because he's so shit at being a cop), the doctors bicker some more before being offed by their own Frankenstein and we see a quite a lot of boobs. Silent Rage was shaping up quite well. Hell, even Rawshark (who had never seen a Chuck movie) was approving but becoming aware of how his taste in films may be deteriorating in the last couple of years - "I used to rate films like Apocalypse Now before Zombie Club." I know what you mean, Rawshark.
Jim was loving it, too. "I'm going to fucking buy this tomorrow!" And why not? It's a Chuck Norris Horror Movie, complete with comedy sidekick deputies and Chuck doing manly poses, e.g. placing his foot on the bumper of his jeep mid-conversation, because, as we all know, that's a more comfortable pose for real men. Silent Rage doesn't drag too much, and is definitely an above-average Norris vehicle, though that's not saying much of course.
"You mean you experiment on monkeys?"
Rawshark It’s true, I’d never seen a Chuck Norris film before tonight, (unless you count Dodgeball), so I was quite looking forward to my first interaction with the man known simply as Chuck. But, c’mon, would Silent Rage really be as good as Apocalypse Now!?
It has to be said, Jim and Zomblee were in hog heaven here, so it was all I could do but sit back and listen to the riffing such as Jim announcing early on that this film ”is like Code of Silent Rage in Action, Part 2!”. Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know that in this one, Chuck is a sheriff so cool that the first time we see him, the sun glints off his sheriff’s hat. ”Check it, Chuck” urged Jim as the beardless one searched the house for the killer, before leaping out of the window and killing the killer with a blam! blam! gunshot to the back.
Good stuff already, but it soon gets even better as the film then turns into a kind of horror movie, as killer John is resurrected in a ‘research’ hospital. Sure, it’s a telegraphed plot from here on in, but there are some great scenes along the way, especially with Chuck’s deputy Charlie (Flounder) who tells a heart-breaking dog story that’ll almost bring a tear to your eye - ”I guess it must have been barking, cos it’s mouth was still wide open.”
Chuck then beats up some bikers and beds some bird (”man of few words, man of action!” - Jim), Charlie lusts after some tattoo tits, and killer John (”I think we all agree that the bad guy is good” - Jim) returns to wreak havoc in a Terminator-type ending. Take some breasts, add in some fighting and a dash of horror sci-fi with genetic babble dialogue, blend with a nice script and likeable characters, and what you end up with is a surprisingly entertaining action / slasher hybrid. Now if only someone could make a slasher movie that involved some Kung Fu then Jim and Zomblee would be even happier. I still prefer Apocalypse Now! though.
“Billy, they were the biggest things I ever saw and they had tattoos on them. You know, I may be in love. I might just go right back in there and ask her out on a date.”
Jim Yeah, I’ve got to admit, I had a great time watching this movie. From the opening few minutes I was hooked (even though Chuck didn’t have a proper beard this time), although I have to admit that I did flounder at one point about half an hour in when I suddenly realised something. That’s right, this isn’t a kung-fu movie. What’s that? Chuck Norris is trying to do the slasher thing?
After that’d sank home, I was laughing all the way to the bank. The initial birth of the villain with those doctors pumping him full of that experimental chemical is great, complete with a demo of how if you cut him with a knife across his chest he heals instantly. “Noughts and crosses anyone?” – Rawshark. When they realise what they’ve created, they hide him from Chuck (“He’s on Chuck’s shit list now.” – Zomblee), who doesn’t click what’s happening straight away, so he heads to a local bar to kick the crap out of a bunch of hell’s angels. Oh, that’s after the hell’s angel’s gang’s female members have all exposed their breasts. “Quite a lot of breasts in this movie so far…” said Zomblee, followed by “More breasts!” I had to write that down, while on my other side Rawshark saying, “You’re missing the breasts, Jim.” Sheesh, Zombie Club is hard work.
Anyway, psycho killer guy goes on the rampage, heading to the house of the doctor that keeps mouthing off that he thinks this is all a bad idea. Big mistake. “Oh, he did leave the knife out for him.” said Zomblee, and we descended into classic Slasher fair, even to the point where characters stupidly run upstairs instead of heading for the back door. Why? “People always run upstairs, that’s what you do if you’re in a movie!” – Zomblee. Alrighty.
So, you know, there’s lots of psycho killer action with the guy getting killed then coming back from the dead (“I’d consider this a zombie movie…” - Rawshark) before the inevitable showdown with Chuck that we’ve all obviously been waiting for. The fight’s pretty cool actually, with Chuck winning (of course) and the bad guy going down the well. “Wasn’t the Wilhelm scream…” mumbled Rawshark, and he’s right it wasn’t, but at least we do get that old school Slasher epilogue. Great stuff… Next!
"Man's gotta have a motto, Charlie..."
Director Michael Miller
Cast Chuck Norris
Runtime 103 mins
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The Octagon (1980)
Plot Chuck kicks more ass
Jim And before you know it, we’re on to Chuck part 2. This movie started with that age old debate: who’s going first on this one? At Zombie Club it’s tradition for the guy who hosts the night to go first on the first movie and for one of us other two to go first on the second. Going first involves a little more effort as you have to explain the plot, introduce the characters and generally set the mood for the rest of the write up and, understandably, I can’t usually be arsed with all that, especially on the second picture of the evening. I much prefer going second on both, so I can kick back and enjoy myself a bit more.
But as soon as the DVD went in and the ‘who’s going first on this one’ topic came up, Zomblee predicted I was going to try and get out of going first as best I could. So I called his bluff and stepped up. ”Good,” he said, ”because this is quite plot heavy, this movie.” Arse.
So let’s cut through all the bullshit.
“I was attacked last night.” - Chuck
”Terrorists?” - someone else
”No, ninjas…” - Chuck
Yeah, it’s 1980, and the ninja craze is in full swing. Chuck gets attacked by ninjas (“proper ninjas, not like in Gymkata.” - Zomblee) and wants to find out why, so he goes on this mission to find ninja camp, bedding three pretty ladies and having a couple of run-ins with Lee Van Cleef on the way. Why I’m not sure: I never really understood the Cleef's role in the movie, but he seems to have info on the rest of the baddies, namely where ninja camp is.
”I love ninja camp!” said Zomblee, and who can blame him. From a set of rather confusing flashbacks Zomblee explained to me that the ninja camp is run by Seikura, Chuck’s adopted brother, and there he’s training mercenaries to be ninjas. The movie cuts back to ninja camp a lot and we get used to ”Paddy Ninja” (that’s the Irish guy who Zomblee says fights like “he’s throwing Irish bar fight punches”) and some girl ninja that Chuck eventually beds. I think anyway, Zomblee thought otherwise. “Well, it looked like they slept together but I don’t know whether any funny business went on.”
So we have ropey ninja camp where they train ninjas badly (”They’re graduating tomorrow? What?” - Zomblee) and Chuck walking around town asking if anyone’s seen ninja camp, even to the point where he walks into the wrong training room obviously fully expecting ninjas to be there. (“I’m sorry, I got the wrong ninja training room” - Rawshark). C’mon…
So it’s a bit long, a bit confusing, there’s loads of ninja talk, not as much fighting as you’d like and Chuck doesn’t even have a beard. The fight with Seikura (who is the Bruce Lee Campbell guy from Gymkata) is pretty good though, and it does have a nunchuka demo and a few ninja stars ‘thrown in’ for good measure, but I never really got all that mumbling Chuck talking to himself business.
“I like the way you incorporated the martial arts in to your dance tonight.”
Rawshark And so on to my second ever Chuck movie, which began with shots of ninjas in trees on an assassination mission before Chuck appeared on screen as Scott James. Unfortunately, Jim misheard his name as ”Scotch Eggs", which kind of spoiled the mood of the movie for me, and means that I will now forever associate Chuck Norris with Scotch Eggs.
Anyway, Scotch Eggs hears strange voices in his head that sound like Barry White on maximum echo. Apparently it’s like a sort of psychic Spidey sense, but it meant little to us, as we were unable to decipher much of it. “Mmmurr, mmmurrr, echo” moaned Jim, to which Zombleeswiftly replied ”I can hear it!” A quick rewind and test proved that Zomblee had about a 66% word recognition ratio. Mr Eggs then hooks up with his buddy Lee Van Cleef, meets a strange woman who steals his car keys and tries to join ninja school. The plodding plot (something to do with Scotch out to kill his ‘brother’ who is training ninja assassins) even stirred Jim to complain – ”Oh Chuck, just go to ninja camp and sort everyone out!”. Quite.
But no, instead Scotch just wanders around a lot, walking into random buildings (“This looks like a good place for a plot!” - Jim) without even having the decency to show off his manly muscles (”He hasn’t taken his shirt off in this movie once! - Zomblee). Finally he does remove his shirt, then goes to see the girl to fill her in on ‘the plot’. ”This is going to take a while to explain” says Scotch to the girl, at which point Zomblee quickly retorted ”Not too long!”
Finally Scotch Eggs takes a six second phone call without saying anything, and then decides to go to the ninja camp, where, finally, things do get better. Tomb Raider style traps, lots of fighting, flammable barrels, ninja girls and exploding lorries, the last ten minutes of The Octagon is, as Zomblee observed, ”almost worth waiting for”.
” You see these Ninjas often? Or just on a full moon?”
Zomblee Yeah, the ending scenes in the Octagon (that's the big fighting / training enclosure in the camp and also, you may have noticed, the name of the film) are pretty damn cool. A stealthy Chuck relives his Good Guys Wear Black motto and wears, er, all black, (think a blondish / ginger Bruce Lee durng his night-time investigations in Enter the Dragon) thus appearing even cooler than the ninjas. That is, if a man Jim nicknamed "Scotch Eggs" could ever be cool...
One of the problems with The Octagon is that it just takes too long to get to the ninja camp, and there isn't enough fighting or action popping up throughout the preceding 80 minutes of plot. There are also far too many characters - more than you need for a Chuck ninja movie anyway. And that echo voiceover? ("So...Chuck talks to himself in echo?" - Jim) Yup. Just what the Chuck is all that about?
But hey, there IS a ninja training camp, where this motley bunch of mercenaries are being trained by Seikura and his men. It's like a military training camp, but with ninjas, so expect all that early morning wakening in the big dormitories ("Ninja camp wake-up!" - Jim), big master ninjas showing how good they are with them deadly pointed weapons, tricky ninja assault courses ("I love assault courses...it's just like The Krypton Factor!" - Rawshark) and ninjas spending a lot of time in trees from where they love dropping out of on top of folk - "Ninjas love dropping out of things..." - they sure do, Rawshark.
Van Cleef, as much as I love the guy, doesn't do much here besides look dodgy and seeing how far he can pull up those trousers. He's just one of many, many characters in this needlessly plotted exercise - just another bridge to cross on our long hike to Seikura's Octagon where, eventually, Chuck kicks some serious arse.
"That's an insult to both of us. It makes me stupid, and you a whore."
Director Eric Karson
Cast Chuck Norris
Lee Van Cleef
Runtime 103 mins
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So here we are, then. Chuck Night at an end. Jim’s on a high but still disappointed that Chuck didn’t have a beard. I can tell he’s itching to see some Missing in Action-era Norris now, complete with full beard and massive machine guns. And Rawshark, well he’s now been initiated into the Chuck Norris ZC Fanclub (even though he still prefers low-grade bargain basement rubbish like Apocalypse Now!), and looks forward to helping myself and Jim spot Poor Man’s Chuck Norris’s in future ZCs.
And me, well, firstly I’d like to point out my Irish origins, so as not to offend anyone with my ‘Paddy’ comments. I actually know quite a lot of Irish ninjas, and they’re very good at it when they’re not getting pissed. Secondly, although we love to make fun of The Norris these days (see Walker, Texas Ranger), it’s always important to remember that this guy isn’t some lightweight actor who dabbled in kung fu films, but rather a seriously hard assed, hairy Karate Man whom Bruce Lee deemed worthy to be his ultimate opponent in The Way of The Dragon. Respect the Norris. Beard or no beard.