Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like my buddy Michael Monterastelli, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a glorious showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. His passion for VHS is such that I thought it would be fun to talk him into sharing his vast collection with us. My only rule for him? The movies can’t be available on DVD.
Take it away, Mike!
Title: Young Warriors (aka The Graduates of Malibu High)
Genre: Revenge/T & A Sex Comedy
Tagline: Meet the ultimate weapon in the fight against crime.
Released by: MGM/UA Home Video
Director: Lawrence D.Foldes
Plot: Kevin (James Van Patten), Scott (Tom Reilly), Stan (Ed DeStefane), and Fred (Mike Norris) are four fraternity brothers who spend their free time chasing coeds, chugging beer, throwing parties and planning elaborate pranks against the Dean. However, things abruptly change when Kevin’s teenaged sister is brutally raped and murdered by a roving street gang. The frat boys transform themselves into ruthless vigilantes that are out to catch the killers and brutally punish every single criminal they come across.
Thoughts: Many years ago, two bright young cousins from Israel came to Hollywood with a dream to make as many low budget totally bat-shit-crazy exploitation films that they could. This was easily accomplished by never refusing to finance any script, no matter how insane it was. They were the producing team juggernaut of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and they created the legendary Cannon Film Group, which filled the Cineplex’s and video stores throughout the course of the nineteen eighties with an amazing array of some of the most outrageous B-movies ever conceived. They tackled every genre imaginable, including: action, martial arts, revenge, horror and T & A sex comedies.
So, I guess when Lawrence D. Foldes walked into their office with his script for Young Warriors and proposed to them a film that was a cross between Animal House and Death Wish, their response was an immediate, “YES!” Both the sex comedy genre and the revenge genre were making gobs of cash during the early eighties, so why not combine these two very different styles and make perhaps one of the most schizophrenic movie watching experiences ever conceived? The results are sublime.
Young Warriors starts out with a group of teenaged friends graduating from Malibu High in sunny California. Their lives appear to be full of promise for a bright future ahead. Following an incredible opening theme song, we cut to six months later and find Kevin (James Van Patten) and his three friends, Scott (Tom Reilly), Stan (Ed DeStefane), and Fred (Mike “Chuck’s son” Norris) are all fraternity brothers together at Delta Ti. The first thirty minutes of the film consist of one ridiculous college joke after another. You’ve got the guy who turns off the stereo by knocking it out of the window with a baseball bat. Then you’ve got some gratuitous nudity with B-movie vixen Linnea (Return of the Living Dead, Savage Streets) Quiqley as the frat slut, Ginger. This is followed by a party in which the brothers humiliate their pledges by violently shaving their rear ends and forcing them to drop bricks tied around their penises from the top floor windows. Basically, these guys have a LOT of gay issues. They also inexplicably let a bunch of greased pigs loose through their own party for no reason whatsoever and dump the Deans’ car into a lake. Oh yeah, the frat has a canine mascot named Butch, who always sports a Miller High Life hat and black sunglasses.
Then abruptly and with virtually no warning, the film shifts its tone so suddenly you almost get mental whiplash. While the boys pull off their big prank, the scene is juxtaposed with Kevin’s little sister Tiffany and her boyfriend leaving a dance, where they are followed and forced off the road by a multiracial gang in a black van. The boyfriend is killed in the crash and Tiffany is brutally raped by the vicious thugs, only to die later from her injuries while in a coma. Wow, that’s quite a tone shift!
Just so happens, Kevin’s father is a police detective played by Ernest (Escape From New York) Borgnine, and his partner is none other than Richard (Shaft) Roundtree. You’d think they’d have the investigation under control, but Kevin immediately becomes impatient with their lack of progress and decides to become a vigilante with the help of his friends. They dress in camouflage clothes that make them look like a cross between Rambo and the band Loverboy (complete with khaki headbands and camo half shirts) while driving around at night looking for the killers of Kevin’s sister and beating the living daylights out of petty criminals with baseball bats. Things escalate when one of the brothers “acquires” some guns from the campus ROTC. I guess in the 80’s colleges were allowed to train students with loaded weapons. My how times have changed.
Linda Day (Pieces) George plays Kevin’s mom and even she can’t convince him to leave the case to his father and the authorities to solve. Also, the hilarious comic actor Dick (The Producers) Shawn is Kevin’s sociology professor and he can’t seem to get through to him either. They debate the rights and wrongs of taking the law into your hands so strongly that Kevin starts behaving violently in class by throwing desks through windows to prove his point. Still, for some reason no one notices what’s really going on with him. Kevin’s only creative outlet is the animation he creates for his film class, which consists of a random series of meaningless images that look like a cheesy cross between the star gate ending of 2001 and the vintage arcade game Battle Zone, and produce nothing but confusion and anger from his teacher and fellow students.
Meanwhile, the van full of murderous rapists is still out there as both the boys and the cops start to close in. In one amazingly gonzo scene, the van is chased into a used car lot by the cops. Cornered, the gang manages to shoot the police chopper above them out of the sky, where it crashes into the lot causing all the cars to explode while they escape.
The effects of all these events eventually make Kevin go totally off the deep end. One minute he’s having a sudden and tender love scene with his hot girlfriend Lucy (played by the gorgeous Anne Lockhart), the next he’s making it with a dirty hooker. Then he shoots up a market that’s being robbed by a couple of young kids with toy guns, killing them. Finally, the boys come face to face with the rapists who started this whole thing and after a bloody shootout in a seedy bar with many casualties, that include several innocent bystanders and a few of Kevin’s frat brothers (even Butch the dog gets wasted!), he finally has his revenge. But the cost is so great on Kevin emotionally, he decides to end it all by blowing himself (and everyone else) in the fraternity house up with a box full of grenades, while his mother and his girlfriend are calling him on the phone and his cop-dad is right outside. The end. A weird electric guitar rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” plays over the credits. For. Real.
Needless to say, I fucking love this movie! If this movie were a woman, I’d marry her and knock her up with a shit load of sequels! I mean what the fuck is there not to love about it? It is absolutely nuts and takes itself completely seriously. Except of course the first half hour of the film, which is ironically played for laughs, but isn’t in the least bit funny. This actually makes the film utterly brilliant in my opinion. It’s got its cinematic head rammed so far up its own ass; it has no idea what kind of movie it even is. Well, I’ll tell you what kind it is… it’s an awesome kind. The kind of over-the-top eighties low budget filmmaking that is so sorely missed. Nobody would ever make this film today… they’d be crazy to. I’m not sure if it was the intention of the filmmakers to create such an incredibly rich work, but this movie has more layers than a fucking wedding cake! On a pure exploitation level alone, it’s got the works: incredible violence, shootouts, explosions, chases, fights, TONS of nudity, sex, lots of poofy feathered hair, pastels, way-too-tight-shorts (and I’m talking about on the guys) and hoodlums wearing Member’s Only jackets. It rips out of the gate with all cylinders firing and doesn’t let up for 104 glorious minutes!
Young Warriors has never been released on DVD and I kind of wish it never does get the digital transfer treatment. It’s almost too much a product of its time and far too special to be available on anything but VHS. This movie deserves to be searched for… just like Bigfoot. Happy hunting!