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COLLECTING VHS: The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991)

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 warthe 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 me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD. 

Title: The Taking of Beverly Hills
Year:
 1991
Genre:
 Gonzo-action 
Tagline:
 The richest city in America. Shut down. Ripped off. Blown up.
Released by:
 New Line Home Video
Director:
 Sydney J. Furie

click to embiggen

Plot: The evil billionaire Robert Masterson (Robert Davi) has hatched a diabolical plot to rip-off every single resident of the richest city in America by faking a toxic chemical spill, forcing all the citizens to evacuate their homes. That’s when a group of embittered ex-cops start looting the mansions and stores, taking as much of the wealth that they can get their greedy hands on. But they didn’t count on having to deal with pro-football star Boomer Hayes (Ken Wahl) being left behind. He’s going to team up with renegade cop Ed Kelvin (Matt Frewer) and switch up the game plan on Masterson!

 

Thoughts: The Die Hard action template got more mileage throughout the nighties than Keanu Reeves’ bus in Speed. It seemed like every single week there were at least two new action flicks in the local video shop’s new releases section that featured an average Joe, blue-collar-type who inexplicably gets caught up in a deadly plot where he (and occasionally a sidekick) must fight off hundreds of guys in an isolated location. At last, an action genre where the common working man was represented as an ass-kicking hero who just got caught in “the wrong place at the wrong time”, only to rise up for the occasion and blow the living shit out of some bad guy butt! It was as American as apple pie and napalm.

The Taking of Beverly Hills is a film that tries very hard to convince the audience that Ken Wahl is one of the guys I was just describing. He plays Boomer Hayes, an NFL quarterback with a bad ankle who attends a fundraiser for the homeless in the city of Beverly Hills at the command of his swarthy billionaire boss, Robert Masterson (played by the career villain master – Robert Davi). Boomer pisses off Masterson by hooking up with the object of his desires, the lovely theatrical agent Laura Sage (Harley Jane Kozak), taking her back to his 90210-love shack for a bath in his bedroom Jacuzzi.

But Masterson’s got other things on his mind. He wants to make the city of Beverly Hills pay for not appreciating his success enough, by hiring an army of angry ex-cops to fake a toxic chemical spill that causes a complete evacuation of all its residents. As the rich are taken out of their homes and sent via bus to an evacuation center located in a hotel in nearby Century City, the former officers help themselves to all the valuables and riches left behind. It’s the biggest and most complexly orchestrated looting scheme ever conceived!

While Boomer’s in the shower, his new ladylove is snatched by the poser-police downstairs and placed on a bus to the evac center. A confused Ken Wahl now finds himself trapped in a city surrounded by bad cops with orders to kill anyone left behind. Luckily, Ed Kelvin (Max Headroom’s Matt Frewer) is a cop who has a change of heart after watching the brutal execution of the city’s mayor and decides to team up with Boomer. Together they thwart the bad guys at every turn, blowing up a bunch of stuff in the process, while Boomer utilizes his quarterback skills by throwing everything he can get his hands on at the rogue cops. In one crazy action sequence he flings ancient Chinese throwing stars that he picks up in a shop on Rodeo Drive at police cars, causing them to crash and explode into the other businesses, while Faith No More’s “Epic” blasts on the soundtrack. It’s pretty amazing!

Hollywood veteran Sydney J. Furie, whose career included such diverse works as: The Appaloosa, The Boys in Company C, The Entity, Iron Eagle I & II and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, directed it. It has possibly one of the most contrived and ridiculous plots I’ve ever seen before, making this movie a true pizza party classic. It’s the kind of B-movie silliness you watch late at night with a group of friends over a case of beer.

Ken Wahl was injured on the set of his television show Wiseguy just before filming began and he walks with a really bad limp throughout the whole movie. This affects the action scenes a lot when he’s running around because you can tell that he’s really hurting. The writers incorporate it into the plot that Boomer has a football injury, as he shoots up his ankle with cortisone several times during the film. He also sports an outrageous mullet that really takes you back to the early nineties with a vengeance. It’s breathtaking! If you like your bad Die Hard rip-offs with extra fat between the ears, this movie is the one! Yippee Ki-yay, motherfuckers!

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