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: Rolling Vengeance
Tagline: Always use the right tool for the job.
Released by: Charter Entertainment
Director: Steven Hilliard Stern
Plot: Small town truckers Big Joe Rosso (Lawrence Dane) and his son Joey (Don Michael Paul) are just trying to build a successful family company and fulfill their American dream, which is why they are forced to do business with the likes of local topless bar and used car lot owner Tiny Doyle (Ned Beatty) and his six murderous alcoholic sons (that were all born from different mothers), whom hold the area’s residents and law enforcement in a state of crippling fear.
Tiny’s sons go too far when they drunkenly run Big Joe’s wife and daughters off the road killing them all! But their father’s massive influence gets them a slap on the wrist from the judge and a paltry $300 fine, so Big Joe swears vengeance and is targeted next by the vicious clan, who force his truck to jackknife by tossing cinderblocks on his rig from a freeway overpass. That puts Big Joe in a coma where he eventually dies. Then to add insult to injury, the redneck brothers rape his son Joey’s girlfriend Misty (Lisa Howard)! Joey takes it upon himself to set things right and serve up some backwoods justice by building a monster truck out of junk yard spare parts that crushes cars, trucks, buildings and everything and everyone responsible for his … ROLLING VENGEANCE!
Thoughts: The revenge genre that held an almost frightening popularity during the era of the 70’s and 80’s taught me one very important thing: every vigilante hero should have an iconic weapon to deal out justice with! Charles Bronson had his .32 caliber pistol in Death Wish. William Devane had his sharpened metal hook in Rolling Thunder. Robert Ginty had a flamethrower in The Exterminator and Exterminator 2. Mel Gibson had his V-8 interceptor in Mad Max. And Ms. .45 had her .45 in Ms. .45. Well, Don Michael Paul has a monster truck in Rolling Vengeance and the motherfucker spits flames out of dual exhaust stacks and is equipped with a huge metal screw that’ll twist your ass into a goddamned pretzel before it rolls over your remains with ridiculously huge tires. Top that, bitches!
The trucking culture, monster trucks and monster truck shows were also very popular during this time, so it only made sense that eventually someone would make a movie where the monster truck was more than just some featured attraction at a huge indoor arena, with a silly name like Truckzilla, or Bigfoot, or Lil’ Crunchfoot Jr. No, this is the only time in celluloid history that you will ever see the monster truck used as the deadly weapon it was always meant to be. I mean, it’s called a monster truck, right?
This is your classic tale of the plight of the working class hero against the rich, corrupt businessman, only in a redneck town with lots of bar fights, topless dancers and Bigfoot-style car smashin’! I’m so used to seeing my revenge movies set in a gritty urban locale, but the white trash milieu and down home atmosphere really work well here. Besides, for a small town it’s got more violence than any major city could attest to. In less than a week, Ned Beatty’s alcoholic sons commit four vehicular homicides by mooning and throwing beer cans at innocent motorists in their pickup truck and then they close it all out with a rape.
Ned Beatty has always been one of my all-time favorite character actors and he really seems to be having a great time in this little Kentucky fried B movie as the villain. Sporting a pompadour hairdo and a rockabilly wardrobe, he really kills it in every scene he’s in. I’m so used to seeing him in roles like Deliverance and Superman where he’s always the awkward guy. In Rolling Vengeance, Beatty’s really menacing for a change, but he does add a comic touch here and there, like a scene where he gets his alcoholic sons’ attention during a family meal by throwing mashed potatoes on them.
The monster truck is truly an amazing sight to behold in this film. It looks like something out of a post-apocalypse movie, as I could easily see the Lord Humongous riding around in this thing. And it smashes a lot of shit up, too. It drives through buildings and destroys no less than 65 vehicles when all is said and done. There’s also a great heavy metal song montage as our hero puts the monster truck together that’s totally inspiring in that classic 80’s training montage way.
Upon revisiting this movie for this review I found myself continuously finding comparisons to the way Ned Beatty and his stupid drunk sons treat the working class family in this film to the way that the American working class family has been treated over the last few decades by the powers that be. I usually don’t get political with silly exploitation films, but sometimes these little movies have a deeper subtext then even the filmmakers knew existed at the time they made it. And maybe we all need to build ourselves a monster truck. Occupy that!
All in all, Rolling Vengeance is a shit-kicking, beer-drinking, drunk-driving good time at the movies. It’s the cinematic equivalent to a bucket of greasy fried chicken and biscuits. It’s not the finest of quality, but it’s so damn tasty when you wash it down with some iced cold beer amongst friends. Keep on truckin’!