Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thunder - Larry Ludman's Warrior Trilogy

Good old Larry Ludman!  I was looking for some cheap thrills to get me through a sick weekend and turned my attention to the THUNDER (WARRIOR) Trilogy for the first time in around 7 years or so (if the date I burned the DVDrs is any indicator).  I never tire of Fabrizio De Angelis working behind the Larry Ludman pseudonym to be honest with you, I am so intrigued by one of the legends of European Genre Cinema as a producer taking matters in to his own hands and making low budget films to keep product in a marketplace that was not just shifting, but rotting like one of the dead things from the producers own ZOMBIE.

It was very interesting going back to these-I've long thought of 2 as the highlight of the series, but I must say that has changed. THUNDER is one of the most fun EuroAction flicks out there, it has a little bit of First Blood (alright, a lot of bits of it) and plays well in to the Ludman school of Neo-Spaghetti Western flicks at the same time. It comes packing a Francesco De Masi score that I really love (which is pretty much complete on the De Masi compilation disc) and good old TRASH himself, Mark Gregory, is an imposing figure as our Indian that digs up the war hatchet. The first two films make for great back to back viewing, because the second works better as a somewhat less action packed THUNDER enthusiast film than a stand alone feature. The first film, in a nutshell, has an Indian wronged by the white man go utterly nuts and blow up a lot of stuff in a small Arizona town. The moral compass of the films are totally bizarre-because everyone comes down on Thunder's side by films end, no matter what he does.

But damn if the low budget mayhem is not well designed and shot! Car crashes (with "Alan Petit" credited as supervising them?) and fist fights abound-not to mention arrows ('Yaaaargh!') and ballistic mayhem. You also get Bo Svenson as a sheriff with a tooth ache and a great "reporter on the side of right" subplot.
One of the highlights of the first two films is Thunder's nemesis Barry, played by Raimund Harmstorf. I know he has a big resume, but I've seen only a few things. The man plays a great scumbag in part 1, but part 2 is even better!  If you haven't watched part 1, give it a shot. While it doesn't have the bizarre football angle from Last Match, it actually DOES have some football in it as Svenson is more interested in watching College football than he is chasing the indian!

Part 2 is really interesting in that it slows down the action, but has Thunder return as a deputy in the TOWN HE BLEW UP in the previous film. Rusty frames him for drug possession. He goes to jail and is tormented. His woman loses his baby. Wow, a prison flick, an indian on the rampage flick AND a cop flick all
in 90 minutes.Svenson returns as well and Thunder fans will really enjoy the wrap up.

Now, Thunder 3 is pretty poorly rated by and large, but I enjoy pieces of it.  This Thunder is different really. Different woman but the same attitude. A group of weekend warriors blow up a TINY trailer park that is a reservation according to the story. Thunder exacts much revenge. The difference is that instead of budget crunching mayhem, we get MEGA SMALL BUDGET miniatures blowing up. You'll appreciate the PAG FLIP from YOR-HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE much more after this, believe me. But Mark Gregory thumping people entertains me, and though the diminishing returns here are obvious, I still had fun with Thunder 3.

But there is one BIG reason all Eurotrashaholics should see it. I'm a big fan of Werner Pochath-the guy just grabs my eye in the action movies because he is so out of place. Brothers in Blood will always be my favorite, but Thunder 3 comes close. He plays a business owner that takes the weekend warrior bit to an extreme. But he does it in tiny shorts and with his socks pulled up really high. When he is confronted by Thunder in his "real" job look for him to grump out an extra with one of the best utterings of "bitch" I can recall.

Overall, you need 1-if you love it, go for 2. 3 is for cheap-even by EuroAction standards-thrills. Or if you just like Pochath in short shorts.

Yeah, I can admit it, Pochath in short shorts rocks.


Thunder / Thunder Warrior
1983-European International Pictures
Directed by Fabrizio De Angelis (Larry Ludman)
With-Mark Gregory, Bo Svenson, Raimund Harmstorf, Paolo Malco and Valeria Ross

“Stay out of town…if not I’m warning you… Bang Bang Bang Indian!”

 Producer Fabrizio De Angelis first donned his Larry Ludman lowly budgeted producer’s cape and director’s tights with this fun and formulaic film which not only rides the Rambo wave of one man army action, but also uses some slaps and dashes from the recipie booklet of the Spaghetti Western. Thunder serves up one of the most important films in the 80s EuroAction genre from perhaps its most stalwart supporter and producer.

While any plot synopsis can only show that all the talking and gesturing in this movie is simply the thin boned skeleton on which several long action sequences hang upon,  the simplicity of Thunder is hard to resist or deny. Our brave hero Thunder (Mark Gregory) returns to his Arizona reservation and immediately finds things have gone poorly for his people of late.  Meeting up with his woman, Sheila (Valeria Ross) is being nastily harrased by the typical “asshole cop” character Barry. This isn’t your usual naughty talk oh no…but truly vile and racist nonsense. Thunder takes it in stride though, his pride and silent strength oozing… but for how long can he contain his power??  Once at the reservation Thunder is greeted by the sound of explosions as a local Indian graveyard is being blown up, all to make way for a white man’s conservatory! Looking at the treaty his father had made and disgusted with the actions that have been taken in his absence, the fists of Thunder are unleashed!!  After throwing down on some workers, Thunder goes to the police…but runs right into both Barry’s racism AND the disinterest of Sheriff Cook (Bo Svenson). More interested in getting his tooth fixed than helping the Indian Thunder gets no satisfaction from the law or the bank and when the Sheriff decides to simply run him out of town, this results in not 1, but 2(!) slow motion beatings for our hero.  He simply can’t sit down for this anymore and begins going on a path of revenge that includes an amazingly long car chase with tons of crashes.  AND we have a reporter taking up Thunder’s cause (Paolo Malco!) as the inevitable Indian in war paint destroys a city sequence, punch ups and beat downs galore and a few stylish fire sequences ensue as even the children sing the legend of Thunder by the final credits.

This first Larry Ludman film is perhaps the best due to an effective use of budget (lots of cheap ugly cars that go boom!) and payoffs per minute. Obviously constructed by a very wise producer to not only capitalize on the market for action films, but too also focus on letting the Italian crew do what it does best. Stunts, action, more action, and the occasional bit of amazing overacting all come fast and furious.  Raimund Harmstorf chomps up all the best lines as Barry and the singularly iconic presence of Bronx Warriors star Mark Gregory stands tall and proud like a brave played by a giant Italian man! Everyone else is barely present enough to register a memory, though I do love Bo Svenson's sheriff with a toothache and a love of football.  It is hard to forget the car which seems to fold in on itself after one jump.  The dilapidated metal has more personality than the cast!

De Angelis applies the action as character motif to it’s nth degree to a positive effect, using the script by Dardano Sacchetti to set the action up and letting “Larry Ludman” knock it all down to the ground, even if it requires a grenade launcher and an inappropriate use of a steam shovel to do so! Sacchetti uses the “local hero” legend of the spaghetti westerns and mixes in some fun modern media musings as an underground Indian DJ spreads the saga of Thunder over the airwaves, rallying the supporters.  Furthering the western stylings, De Angelis wisely employed soundtrack stalwart Francesco De Masi to strum and thrum out some great tunes as well, and while they don’t fit the time period of the film the songs are very evocative and go well with the action.  The themes blend well with Sergio Salvati’s work, as the veteran cinematographer gives the action sequences a whole lot of old school angling from the blood and pistolero era.

 This was the start of the Ludman saga, as the budgets got lower and the stories became more outrageous (The Last Match being the apex of bizarre action), Thunder is an excellent and solidly made cheap action film which entertains, no matter how many times it is viewed.



Mike H said...

Ahh, Mark Gregory... the guy that Fred Williamson said "didn't leave any tracks in the snow, if you know what I mean"!

David A. Zuzelo said...

I am a big fan of Mark Gregory, he is one of those actors that is sort of a blank slate that a good director can project on to.
And he is damn tall.

He shows up with short hair as a bad guy in Just A Damned Soldier, but he is just blank in that one...

Ninja Dixon said...

"didn't leave any tracks in the snow, if you know what I mean"

I have no idea what he meant! Seriously :)

But I like the first Thunder a lot, quite a descent First Blood-rip. Mark Gregory is a bit... blank, but still I like the guy.

Wildside Cinema said...

Got all three of these, on your recommendation, and I'm dying to see them. Hopefully someday I actually find time! lol

Mike H said...

I think Fred was amused at how light in the loafers Mark seemed while he was acting acting tough.

I too just love his "blankness"... he had the look, acting chops be damned! Consider me a fan!