Escape From El Diablo
Cast: Timothy Van Patten, Jimmy McNichol, John Ethan Wayne
Recently, former child star Jimmy McNichol was asked by People
why, when he was on the brink of superstardom, he chose to appear in
movies Smokey Bites The Dust, Night Warning, and Escape
From El Diablo. McNichol seemed to shrug off the entire
in his answer, saying, "It was neither the right time nor the right
Basically, I sold myself out." He may have an excuse for making these
but except to laugh at the extreme camp value of Night Warning,
there's no excuse to watch any of these movies - including this movie
be reviewed, Escape From El Diablo.
Pauli (Van Patten), a California surf dude who's more
moronic than usual
(if that's possible), is rescued by his beach buds after he stupidly
to get money from a motorcycle gang they owe him for repairs to his
after they caused an accident. While the gang celebrates their victory
at the beach that night, Pauli invites the gang to come along with him
to Rosa's Cantina, an infamous bar across the Mexican border. The gang
declines, except for Daniel (McNichol), who reluctantly tags along for
reasons of loyalty and possibly keeping an eye on his buddy.
Taking off on their dirt bike, they reach Mexico and the
next morning. While waiting for the action to start that night, they
into a prison warden, who runs El Diablo - the fortress prison nearby.
He warns them that the cantina is used by the guards at El Diablo
to let off steam, and that it's not appropriate for young Americans as
themselves. Later, taking a swim near the prison, they discover an
prisoner, who shortly after is captured by the warden and the guards.
think even two surfer dudes would have figured out by now that they
in a healthy situation - but apparently they don't, appearing that
at the cantina.
It will come as no surprise to most viewers that at the
manages to make an ass of himself, pissing off the relaxing warden so
that a fight breaks out and Pauli is arrested and thrown in El Diablo.
Daniel is saved from the cops by Sundance (Wayne), another young
whose name, and his own interest in El Diablo are never explained until
near the end of the movie. In case you are wondering, Wayne is indeed
real life son of John Wayne. His performance can't really be judged by
this movie, because his role in the movie is so badly worked into the
and he has very little dialogue. However, he does manage to be less
than Van Patten and McNichol, which I guess counts for something.
Daniel later goes to El Diablo to try to deal with the
warden for Pauli's
release, but every time he pays a fine, the warden increases the amount
of the supposed fine. Soon, Daniel himself finds himself on the run
the warden and the guards from El Diablo. After finding sanctuary at
local orphanage, Daniel calls the rest of the gang down, where they
to break Pauli out of prison with the ingenious use of skateboards,
bikes, and punches to the face.
Questions kept popping in my head throughout this movie.
How did Pauli
and Daniel manage to bring down a lot of clothing if they just drove to
Mexico on their dirt bike? Why is every adult Mexican in the movie,
for the nun, portrayed so negatively? Why did Daniel smash up the
office when still trying to make a deal with the warden for Pauli's
Why doesn't Daniel or his friends call the American embassy? Why don't
they talk to their parents or Daniel's parents? Where are the guards'
when the teens storm the prison? Why is the fate of Sundance's brother
never really explained or dealt with?
The answer to all these questions, except the last
one, is simple:
the script is aimed at the lowest denominator, to our natural instincts
that crave action and immediate results. A delay to explain things
stop the supposed breakneck speed and exploitive elements. These flaws
in the script might have been overlooked if there was enough exploitive
stuff, and executed well enough. Not here. There's only a few seconds
nudity, the "action" consists mainly of people punching each other in
choreographed fights, and El Diablo - supposedly like the prison in Midnight
Express - turns out to be a dull-looking prison where the worst
punishment seems to be inflicting a few blows with a nightstick to some
English director Gordon Hessler was never a great, but
in his filmography showed that at least he brought a level of
to even stuff like Pray For Death. Technical work here,
is extremely bad; obvious post-synced dialogue sounds hollow, editing
the action scenes is amateurish, and the cinematography has that "soft"
European look to it. Which brings up another flaw; "Mexico" here is
filmed in Spain, due to the architecture of the buildings. (The movie
apparently a British/Spanish co-production.)
Oh, as for the answer to that last question in that
list: they actually
wanted to leave room for a sequel. Fortunately, Escape From El
seem to have been exhibited that much when it was released, so I don't
think we have anything to worry about.
for availability on Amazon (VHS)
See also: Overkill, Abducted 2, Legion Of Iron