COMPILED BY ERIX ANTOINE
And so… We have returned.
The B Action Movie Thread has been a gargantuan mainstay of this site for several years. So, in our continued efforts to dominate the internet in every conceivable way, here is a weekly column. A digest, if you will. Dig in and we’ll see you in the thread!
* * * *
This has been a rather ruthless week for the Grim Reaper, and the big one was already covered very well by Renn. But, for fans of B movies, there was another potentially more devastating loss… That of the wonderful actor Charles Napier. So it is with that rather somber note that we make our long-awaited comeback. But there is no better place to pay him tribute than right here.
So, let’s get on with it – shall we?
A EULOGY… BY MOLTISANTI
The recent passing of Charles Napier was a definite bummer to a great many film fans. Here was a guy who pretty much did it all. From his early days working with Russ Meyer, to doing prestige pictures with Jonathan Demme, to a film in which he’s murdered by Ron Jeremy’s detached schvantz. No role was too small or too exploitative for the man. So now that a little time has gone by since first hearing the news of his death I find myself less sad and more happy for the man for getting the chance to live a wild 75 years where he got to do what he loved, and do it all over the world.
While I consider myself a fan of Napier I don’t think I can consider myself an expert on the man’s career. Who could? Looking over his credits I’m probably lucky if I’ve seen 10% of the man’s onscreen output. COP TARGET, the Umberto Lenzi flick starring Napier and Robert Ginty? Missed that one. The Mike Norris vehicle RIPPER MAN? ‘Fraid not. SOLDIER’S FORTUNE opposite Gil Gerard? Again no, but that’s one I could see myself salvaging on VHS via the Amazon Marketplace in the near future.
Point is Charles Napier spent well over 40 years appearing in all kinds of movies, TV shows, and anti-smoking public service announcements. If you’re reading this odds are one of the roles you most associate Napier with was that of Murdock in RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II. Napier was the epitome of the soulless bureaucrat who cared nothing for those who fought for their country and would even happily lie about his own supposed time spent fighting Charlie (The 2nd battalion was never at Kon Tum in ‘66, you son of a bitch!) Murdock was lucky that Rambo showed him some mercy and let him live, but I sure would have liked to have seen Murdock answer his puppet masters when it came time to explain all that expensive electronic equipment that was shot up to hell, not to mention that one big jug of bottled water that wound up as collateral damage during Rambo’s climactic warpath.
If there’s one thing I’d like to do to pay tribute it’s shine a light on one of Napier’s performances that likely hasn’t been seen by many folks. That performance would be Napier’s work in the 1995 Nu Image production HARD JUSTICE. Starring the non-Dudikoff ninja of United States citizenship David Bradley, HARD JUSTICE tells the tale of an ATF agent who infiltrates a prison to find out who killed his partner during an undercover assignment gone bad. What Bradley discovers is a prison that has become a cesspool of corruption and violence.
On the surface HARD JUSTICE comes across as just another trashy mid-90’s low-rent John Woo rip-off. But if you dig a little deeper and examine the film’s subtext you’ll find that, well, it pretty much is just another trashy mid-90’s low-rent John Woo rip-off. Good news for me (and hopefully a few of you) though, because I love that type of slop and HARD JUSTICE is a hoot and a half thanks in no small part to Napier’s role as the maniacal Warden Pike. He rules the prison with an iron fist and when prisoners feel they’re being mistreated he is quick to remind them that he himself “spent two years in a cage, in Vietnam” which is warden code for “Do as I say or I will order your shanking.”
I don’t want to spoil all of what makes Napier great in HARD JUSTICE, but I will say that at one point he mows down dozens of convicts as he fires a barrage of rounds from MAC-10’s in each hand. It’s a real groovy moment.
HARD JUSTICE is just one drop in the immense bucket that is Charles Napier’s career. But it’s a prime example of how Napier gave his all no matter what role he was asked to play. Even though he’s gone I look forward to still seeing him pop up in oddball films that catch my eye as I scroll through various Cinemax and Encore channels. I can think of no better way to end this piece than by offering up a link to a Random Roles interview Napier did with the AV Club two years ago. It’s a terrific reflection of his career and a must read for anyone with an interest in Napier‘s work.
THE B THREAD SPEAKS!
Fazer: Wow…Murdock. That one hurts. I know he had a long storied career, but Napier will forever be associated with Murdock for me…and thats not a bad thing at all.
kain424: He was one of the first character actors whose name I memorized. It is sad he has left us.
NathanW: Chuck Napier led an absolutely fascinating life, one of the great character actors, from his days with Russ Meyer (Just imagine the shit that must’ve went on in Meyer’s set) to everything else including Jonathon Demme, John Landis and Rambo 2. Here’s to Chuck you magnificent lantern-jawed bastard.
HunterTarantino: Funniest Napier appearance is Married to the Mob, where he plays a gay hairdresser with a flamboyant wardrobe and earring that doesn’t even faze his tough-guy image in the least.
And I’d forgotten as well about his roles in the Austin Powers films as the government radar guy. Sad fact: as a kid, I confused Charles Napier with Nipsey Russell.
Fat Elvis: Napier was kind of Demme’s Dick Miller. Always great to see him show up. My favorite being losing his face to Hannibal the Cannibal. He was really great as a womanizing truck driver in CITIZEN’S BAND.
Moltisanti: And who can forget when Napier crossed paths with Larry David?
Erix: Fuck Death right in the ass for taking Napier away from us!
Rene: I was just talking about him the other day. He will always be remembered by us. Why not have a section of the renewed B-Movie Column devoted to him? He deserves it.
The Perfect Weapon: I agree. It wasn’t until I got back online just minutes ago and looked on the Deaths page of Wikipedia that I saw he had passed away, and I felt like doing a Darth Vader-esque “NNNOOOOOOOOO!” What a shame.
HunterTarantino: I can’t argue us paying tribute to Napier. He’s a big deal!
Erix: I think that settles it… The B Column comeback should be a tribute to Charles Napier.
Crazy Jim: I’ll drink to that.
THE MANY FACES…
…OF CHARLES NAPIER
Good Ole Boy Napier
Napier has…THE FEAR
Silence of the Napier
Ron Jeremy’s Penis: 1 – Napier: 0
Stepping into Eden…Napier
Napier taking one for the team… At the behest of Russ Meyer
* * * * *
A word from Mike Flynn…
Days later, I’m still feeling Charles Napier’s death. Anyone who appreciates films like us would know that he’s in so many movies that it’s losing a spiritual family member. He was a presence like no other, and he’ll be missed. To close this out, a favorite quote from one of his last roles in The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard: “He’s talking about karaoke you FUCKING QUEERS!”
* * * *
And then, the passing of Charles Napier got us thinking… Here is one of the greats. A fantastic character whose visage graced so many films. But only a select few of the intelligentsia actually know his name.
There are a bunch of guys like that. And so, here we present a few of our favorites. A selection of terrific, underappreciated performers that you see pop up from time to time.
None of this is meant to suggest that these people could necessary be in the same league as Chuck Napier, but they nonetheless deserve some attention and, perhaps, when their time comes, we can know them as more than “That guy from Jaws 3” or whatever.
PEOPLE WHOSE NAMES YOU SHOULD KNOW
MICHAEL PAUL CHAN
Maybe one of the biggest and best examples of “that guy from…” Chan has shown up in what seems to be thousands of movies and TV shows, playing everything from a fry cook to a dime store hoodlum, and I’ll bet there are only 5 or 6 people in the world that actually know his name.
If you look at him closely, and imagine him without the goatee and a full (or fuller, anyway) head of hair, you might remember him as Ke Huy Quan’s (or Jonathan Key Kwan … or whatever the fuck he’s billed as – I can never remember) dad in The Goonies. Where he has that great line – “You are my greatest invention” – that brings a lump to everybody’s throat.
He’s good in The Goonies. He’s always good.
He’s done a lot of his work with Joel Schumacher. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s shown up, for at least a minute, in every one of the director’s films. He’s even in Batman & Robin playing a geeky scientist that is captured by Mister Freeze.
But fuck Batman & Robin. My favorite Chan appearance is in Falling Down, where he plays Mr. Lee – the convenience store asshole who refuses to sell Michael Douglas a cold soda for the unbeatable, low price of fifty cents. For his transgression, his establishment is smashed to shit and Michael Douglas steps on his stomach. So, he shouldn’t have done that.
But I digress.
You may not know him, but he’s one of the good ones. So, next time he shows up on CSI: Pick Your City playing a guy who killed his wife with carbon monoxide poisoning, or on Fringe playing a shady government agent from “Over There,” who gets infected with a giant leech that makes his stomach explode, pay attention.
Pretty funny that my love for the actor Simon McCorkindale pretty much comes from one film. Jaws 3D. Ever since I saw the movie around 1994, and thought he was Jeroen Krabbe from The Living Daylights, and then realized he wasn’t, the movie became a staple of my childhood. Even as a grown up, I love the movie. A lot of it comes from his role as Philip Fitzroyce. A sort of British version of Quint. Only more of an adventurer, and not as crusty as Quint. Doesn’t say stuff like “Stop playing with yourself, Hooper.” to someone playing Solitare.
He had arguably the best death in the film, and maybe in the franchise next to Quint’s glorious death. He gets caught in the mouth of the shark, and tries to detonate a grenade, but it crushes him with it’s ahem, jaws before he can. This then leads to the disturbing image of him stuck in the mouth of the shark still clinging to the grenade, and then results in Dennis Quaid pulling the pin. It’s no Roy Scheider “SMILE YOU SON OF A BITCH!”, but it gets the job done.
It wasn’t until years later that I saw him in The Sword And The Sorcerer that I finally saw another role that he did. He really seemed to have a lot of fun in the sword and sorcery film, and it’s a shame he didn’t do more. He had a great look to him, and he could have possibly even been James Bond, judging from this picture.
This is truly a man of adventure that was taken from us all too soon.
After much deliberation—apologies to Sy Richardson and Tracey Walter for not getting their dues, but in due time, I’m sure I’ll have something to say—I’ve decided to go with the legendary Xander Berkeley. You may know him for his cool name, or if you were a 24 fan, you’ll remember him as George Mason from the first two seasons. The magic of guys like Berkeley, Walter, Napier—you know their names, you know their roles, but it takes much prowess and experience in watching films to connect those two, and once it comes together, it works wonders, and “that guy” becomes interchangeable, yet they’re not stars but Everymen who add to the movie mystique. Hence how I never realized Berkeley was John Connor’s adoptive dad in Terminator 2, but I could point him out in The Rookie (as a thug) and The Fabulous Baker Boys (as a promoter and a douchebag), but nothing comes close to his recent turn as Liam Neeson’s verbal meat slab in Taken.
The world of B-action movies is full of actors who shot to sudden marginal fame playing heroes but blew their load playing the same role over and over. So while Olivier Gruner is just a name seen on water-damaged cassette tape boxes at garage sales, guys like Patrick Kilpatrick maintain long careers playing characters with monikers like “Mance,” “Jaggart,” and “Duke Fontaine.”
Kilpatrick appeared in many high profile projects throughout the 90‘s. ERASER, THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS, and UNDER SIEGE 2 just to name a few. But those films tended to find Kilpatrick appearing for precious few minutes before getting his ass handed to him by the star (or in the case of UNDER SIEGE 2, Everett McGill ). As great as he is in those roles it is the smaller genre films where the man truly got to let it all hang out, such as in the following selections.
RIOT: For most of this movie the audience believes that our hero, played by Gary Daniels, is punching his way through an urban riot zone to rescue an heiress from a common street gang. But as the story unfolds it is revealed that the gang is merely doing the bidding of a former IRA madman with an axe to grind. Kilpatrick takes the “American doing an Irish accent” to new levels as O’Flaherty. Possibly the most despicable cinematic Irish character since Minnie Driver in CIRCLE OF FRIENDS.
BEST OF THE BEST 2: In a motion picture with more great performances than films like BEST OF THE BEST 3 and BEST OF THE BEST 4 combined, Kilpatrick sparkles as Finch. Nobody can bring something new to the cliché role of guy-who-heads-security-at-
illegal-fighting-tournaments quite like Kilpatrick. I admire any actor who can remain cool even after they’ve been kicked in the face by Eric Roberts.
DEATH WARRANT: Not a huge fan of this early Van Damme effort, but I can’t deny that Kilpatrick’s turn as “The Sandman” is the film’s best asset. He comes across as a psychotic maniac with such ease. Unfortunately there’s a long Sandmanless stretch in the middle of the picture that sort of sinks the movie overall.
THE SUBSTITUTE: FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION: When most film series are running out of steam by their 4th entry, THE SUBSTITUTE films buck that trend thanks largely to Kilpatrick. Here he played the role of Brack, the crazed head of a once prestigious military academy who is secretly brainwashing his students into becoming white supremacists. One problem for Brack, there’s a new substitute American history professor in town who doesn’t take kindly to his hateful lesson plan. This particular film gave Kilpatrick a chance to do something that was a rarity for him, a love scene. Yep, Kilpatrick gets his screw on with Angie Everhart which Treat Williams awkwardly walks in on.
MINORITY REPORT: For all the praise Steven Spielberg has received over his career he made his biggest mistake since HOOK by not giving Kilpatrick a larger role in this 2002 Sci-Fi blockbuster. At the very least Spielberg should make up for this blunder by producing a spin-off TV series showing us more exploits of Kilpatrick’s beloved Officer Jeff Knott (That’s Knott with two “T’s” baby!).
Who knows when Kilpatrick will dazzle us with his abilities in the future? Actors like him can go years in between memorable roles. I gotta admit I haven’t seen him in much lately. Recall him popping up as a convict on an episode of Nip/Tuck a few years back but that’s about it. With the growing trend of bigger ensemble action films doing well at the box office I’m confident that Kilpatrick will get another shot someday soon at sinking his teeth into another villainous character of ill-repute.
If we only knew, Jox… If we only knew.
We leave you now, with this.
Have a pleasant week in the company of your loved ones.