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Skinheads
(1988)
 

Director:Greydon Clark                         
Cast:
Chuck Connors, Barbara Bain, Brian Brophy


I got this movie for Mike at Dante's Inferno, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to watch it before sending it to him. I didn't really know what to expect from it, except that since it took place in modern times, it would look and play modern. Skinheads, however, manages to amazingly look exactly like, and give off the exact feel of, an exploitation movie of the 1970s. However, this was clearly not intentional, given the more topical subject of the movie, and the fact that this is a movie by the legendary B movie director Greydon Clark. He has been responsible for a countless number of awful movies (usually with similar inept production values), including Satan's Sadists, The Bad Bunch, The Forbidden Dance, The Return, Final Justice, and Without Warning. So when you see one of his movies, you know you'll either laugh, because it's so bad it's good. Or else you'll curl up in the corner and start blubbering before the movie is over. Despite the potentially uncomfortable subject matter, Skinheads manages to fit in the hilariously bad category, because, for among other reasons, the movie doesn't know how to exploit exploitation material!

Let's start with that exploitation material - the skinheads. We have all the stereotypes here. There's the leader of the gang, Damon (Brophy), who rolls his eyes, bangs his head against the wall, and seems to have 90% of the group's dialogue. We have the naive newcomer to the group who eventually sees his new friends are no good. There's a female member of the group, who seems to have no function except to be in a fight with the female protagonist near the end of the movie. And then there's the comic relief character of the group, "Brains", a big guy who is clearly mentally handicapped, and livens thing up by doing wacky stuff like wiping his butt with poison ivy after following what the bear did in the woods. His manner of speech and dialogue made me believe that at one point he would whimper, "And what about the rabbits, George?" I don't understand why he's in the group in the first place, because the Nazis didn't exactly feel the mentally handicapped deserved to live in society. Speaking of this, I also found it strange that even though these guys claim to be following what Hitler wanted, they do several other things in the movie that seem counter to his philosophies. One other example is a poster in their headquarters exclaiming, "Speak English Or Die!" Uh...guys...are you sure Hitler wanted that? What I'm trying to show is that not only are these characters unconvincing as skinheads, there's also not that much material that tries to make them skinheads. In fact, with very little rewriting, these characters could be rewritten as Hell's Angels, which is what they almost certainly would have been if this movie had in fact been filmed in the '70s.

Any way you look at it, these villains are the worst bunch of morons you've ever seen in a movie. In the beginning of the movie, they go into a corner store in the middle of the city to what seems like just to beat up the shop's owner(*), (who, of course, was in a concentration camp years ago) and the first customer of the day (who, of course, is black, and is friendly with a street gang). The skinheads, maybe feeling they haven't brought up enough attention to themselves from the assault, and having driven up to the store in a crappy white van with BIG swastikas painted on it, decided to fight the black gang in one of the worst choreographed fights you can imagine. (For one thing, most of the participants just look at an opponent sternly, and shuffle side to side.) Not long after the "fight" has started, they hear the sirens of approaching cops, and flee the scene.

In a rare burst of intelligence, the skinheads subsequently realize that maybe they should flee the area and lay low for a while. They then decide that they'll be able to blend into the country, and head there, trying to keep inconspicuous while doing things like picking the lock of a gas pump, in full view from the highway in the middle of the day. While at that gas station cafe, they soon get into a scuffle with the owner (Bain), and two groups of young adults vacationing in the area. Two of these young adults manage to escape, and are pursued deep into the wilderness by the skinheads. Eventually, they find refuge and help from Chuck Connors, playing a retired WW II vet who keeps spouting off exclamations like, "Nazis - I still can't believe it!" while crossing his eyes.

What do you say when Chuck Connors, when obviously unconcerned about giving a good performance, is the best actor in a movie? You say that movie must be Skinheads. The acting in this movie is absolutely atrocious, though fortunate for us, it's the hilarious kind. Connors grits his teeth, mutters, and blabs on about his experiences in WW II. The skinheads, except for Damon, are overall pretty much indistinguishable from each other, not only because of their poorly written characters, but because they all act in the same fashion. The only time when they give it their all is when one of them shrieks, "I NEED A DRINK!" or when someone gets their leg stuck in a bear trap, and howls out loud so badly, I was howling myself. The hero and heroine come off pretty bad as well, though this is partly due to the mind-boggling dialogue they have to speak. Picture them running in the woods, with the skinheads chasing them, wanting to kill them. When they are safe for a moment, the hero says to the heroine in a joking fashion, "So - what do you do when you're not getting chased by skinheads?" The two of them then joke and laugh for a while before setting off again, suddenly remembering killers are after them.

It's not just the screenwriting and acting that's so inept in this movie, but everything else. Believe me, with a movie as terrible as this, the only way to critique it is to make a list of the various stupidities in it. Two people are supposed to be biking across the state, but don't have any backpacks or any kind of bags. When someone gets "hit" by a car, it's obvious that the car never hit the actor, but that the actor stumbled away instead. A throat-slitting by Damon's feared (though feeble-looking) switchblade looks like it was done by attaching a piece of red crayon to the switchblade. When the characters are supposed to be deep in the woods, we hear (and, at one point, see) cars from a nearby road. The camera crew is reflected off the cafe's back window. Someone fixes a severed telephone line by tying the two ends together. The sound editor, when it comes to dubbing crunching sounds when people walk in the woods, doesn't quite match the onscreen footsteps to the sounds. When everyone settles down to sleep under the stars for the night, we see enough light shining through the branches to prove the scenes were shot in the middle of the day. Yes, Skinheads is a awful movie, without a doubt. But if you have the taste for movies that are inept to a ludicrous degree, Skinheads will be an awfully amusing viewing experience.
 


* The store owner is played by veteran actor Michael Fox - no, not Michael J. Fox, but the original Michael Fox. Because he was first, the Screen Actors' Guild made the "new" Michael Fox change his name. For obvious reasons, he was reluctant to use the initial of his real middle name (Aaron), so he change it to "J."....Hey, why I am blabbing about this useless trivia? Get back to the review!

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Check for biography "Chuck Connors: The Man Behind The Rifle"

See also: Eternity, The Klansman, Skeletons

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