The Gratuitous B-Movie Column 7.1.13 Issue #264: Breaker! Breaker! (1977)
Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz on 07.01.2013
A look at Chuck’s 1977 effort Breaker! Breaker!, thoughts on which Chuck Norris movie should get a special edition DVD, some TV Quick Hits, a new B-Movie Babe is named, a new Douchebag of the Week is crowned and more!
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #264: Breaker! Breaker! (1977)
July: A Month of Chuck Norris: Week 1
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never had any interest in going skydiving, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number two hundred and sixty-four, the 2nd Annual July: A Month of Chuck Norris begins with a look at Chuck's first full on starring roll, the 1977 action flick Breaker! Breaker! directed by Don Hulette.
Breaker! Breaker! (1977)
If you take a good, long look at the poster above for Breaker! Breaker! you'd think it's a trucker movie, or a movie about truckers doing whatever it is truckers do (you know, driving loads to various places, messing around at truck stops, stuff like that). You wouldn't think of it as a martial arts action flick starring the Chuck Norris. His name is on the poster, yes, but it's not across the top and there's no mention of any karate ass kicking. What Breaker! Breaker! actually is, though, is a kind of western mystery with some karate hooey thrown in. There is some trucker stuff going on at the beginning and at the end, but the movie isn't about that.
Norris stars as John David "J.D." Dawes, a soft spoken, badass trucker who likes to eat salad for lunch, teach people karate, and, on occasion, arm wrestle for money. After his younger brother and fellow trucker Billy (Michael Augenstein) goes missing while hauling a load of TV dinners, J.D. goes looking for him, eventually arriving in the newly formed town Texas City, California, a weird beard little place governed by a wacked out judge (Judge Joshua Trimmings, brilliantly played by George Murdock). Texas City has a reputation of sorts among truckers, as the town's local police force has a penchant for extorting money from truckers it decides to pull over. J.D. is generally weary of the town and isn't greeted all that warmly when he arrives. In fact, the police chase him down various dirt roads, the local junkyard tries to rip him off when he tries to get a new radiator, and the local diner forces him to order off the "tourist menu," where all prices are essentially doubled. The only person in Texas City that gives J.D. a fair hearing is diner waitress Arlene (Terry O'Connor).
While searching the town for Billy, J.D. finds out that the town is one big criminal enterprise. When it isn't engaging in widespread extortion (we see the cops beat up a guy who mouths off after complaining about being ripped off) the town runs illegal moonshine to various areas of California. J.D., not being a cop, doesn't care about any of that. All J.D. wants is Billy back. With Arlene's help (she's new to Texas City and isn't a full on member of the local mafia), J.D. might find him, if he's still alive.
The thing I liked the most about Breaker! Breaker! is how relatively low key it is. Chuck's J.D. is a man on a mission, yes, but he isn't trying to save the world. J.D. just wants to find his missing brother. The movie is almost a comedy at the beginning, as the local trucker scene is pretty dang weird (the arm wrestling scene is just goddamn strange). And the early scenes in Texas City are weird, too, as you're not sure what the heck is going on. Who the heck is this judge guy, and why is he so happy about creating his own town? Once Chuck gets to Texas City, though, the movie goes into full on serious action movie mode and that's where it stays until the end.
The movie dates itself a bit with Chuck's hippie style van, various people wearing bell bottoms, and the "people walking and holding hands" romance montage that helps set up J.D.'s future relationship with Arlene, but they all work. I especially like the van (I think it's high time that someone in the old movie action figure business manufacture a J.D. Dawes doll and van. I know I would buy one). The soundtrack, apparently composed by the movie's director, is okay, but, at least to me, would seem kind of scary outside of the movie (in other words, I wouldn't want to listen to a CD of the soundtrack while making pasta at home).
The fight scenes are all well done. The final fight, as you would expect, is chock full of slow motion stuff, but the preceding fights are of the quick and dirty variety. J.D. kicks major ass and you get to see every kick, punch, and throw. The sound design could use a little more oomph (some of Chuck's strikes sound a little wimpy). The movie's final sequence could use a little more oomph, too (turn that volume up, man). But, just like the bell bottoms, these are minor quibbles. Breaker! Breaker! is a well made, exciting action flick.
Chuck does a damn good job as J.D. He's clearly a star, but he doesn't overdo it and he allows his natural screen charisma to shine through. His dialogue comes off as stilted at times in close up, but when he's just in a long take scene he sounds, for the lack of a better word, normal (the Texas City diner scene is a good example). You'll also notice that Chuck runs away quite a bit in this movie. Like all good martial artists, he isn't looking for trouble, and when he does find it he isn't all that interested in hanging around. He wants to hit and move as quickly as possible.
Murdock is hilarious as Judge Trimmings. He's wacked out and weird, yes, but he never descends into scenery chewing, although he probably could have after the bar scene. Terry O'Connor does a pretty good job as Arlene the waitress. She isn't as sassy as you would expect her to be, but she's still cool and has a nice chemistry with Chuck. Michael Augenstein, though, is annoying as Billy, J.D.'s brother. I don't know he doesn't break his neck on that dirt bike, and I know I sure as hell wouldn't let him haul anything anywhere. I'd wait for J.D. or one of the other, more experienced truckers.
Don Gentry and Ron Cedillos, as Sergeant Strode and Deputy Boles, the law in Texas City, are a dynamic duo of menace and sleaze. You don't trust them as soon as you see them, and you can't wait for Chuck to take them down (because you know he's going to. That's why they're in the movie, to get their asses kicked). And what's the deal with Strode taking a shit on the side of the road? He couldn't drive to a place with a bathroom?
And then there's John DiFusco as Arney the "slow guy" at the junkyard. You just know he's going to die simply because he's "slow" (J.D. needs more motivation to take down the bad guys? Really?).
Breaker! Breaker! is a well made, exciting, low key action flick. If you haven't seen it, track it down and check it out, Chuck Norris fan or not. It's worth seeing at least once. Just be aware: Chuck is beardless in this movie. Mustacheless, too. He didn't figure out the whole facial hair thing until Lone Wolf McQuade in 1983.
See Breaker! Breaker!. See it, see it, see it.
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies: Maybe 3. It depends on how you take the tourist extortion scene and the ending.
Nudity?: None. It's PG.
Doobage: A small, dusty town out in the middle of nowhere, truck driving, CB talk, douchebags on dirtbikes, a dirtbike wipeout, rough housing, trailer removal, salad eating, a fat bully, a detour, arm wrestling, a low rent local court, fly swatting, a bar fight, a nasty jump through a window, a karate lesson, a hippie van with a giant eagle head on the side, moonshine snipers, a street assault, tire fixing, creepy dolls, a scrap yard car crusher, diner shenanigans, multiple karate fights, a 1970's walking romance montage, leather gloves, 2x4 to the back, pitchfork attack, a punch right in the balls, slow motion crashing through a fence, a car chase, hill climbing, off screen banging, a weird dream, awkward the morning after kid question, side of the road crapping, junkyard infiltration, pick axe changing, attempted body crushing, potential mild pedophilia, thumb biting, a strange looking Indian bobblehead, phone removal, a dirt bike escape, stuffed animal hugging, dirt bike crashing, a trucker siege, exploding car, a rig induced earthquake, general store destruction, bondage, man thrown through a barn door in slow motion, a massive fire, hay to the face, exploding helicopter, more off screen sex, a horse training area fight, a broken booze bottle, a slow motion karate fight, running jump kick to the chest in slow motion, a horse, and an abrupt 1970's ending.
Kim Richards?: A little at the end.
Gratuitous: A small, dusty town out in the middle of nowhere, people singing "bringing in the sheep," trucker CB talk, a corny trucker country song, Chuck Norris, Chuck Norris sans facial hair, Chuck Norris driving a truck, douchebags on dirt bikes, Chuck Norris rough housing with his brother, Chuck Norris eating a salad, a detour, Chuck Norris arm wrestling, a Chuck Norris karate lesson ("the third eye"), Chuck Norris driving a hippie van with a giant eagle head on the side, moonshine snipers, a street assault, Chuck Norris walking through town, creepy dolls, a giggling female bartender, a car crusher, Chuck Norris getting screwed over a radiator, 3670- willfully evading a speed trap, a rip off diner, Coors beer, a romance walking montage, Chuck Norris crashing a town meeting, Chuck Norris beating the crap out of an entire town, a punch right in the balls, off screen banging awkward the morning after kid question, junkyard infiltration, attempted body crushing, retarded guy, mild pedophilia, a ludicrous death sentence, stuffed animal hugging, a rig induced earthquake, bondage, a massive fire, exploding helicopter, a slow motion karate fight, running jump kick to the chest in slow motion, a horse, and an abrupt 1970's ending.
Best lines: "I give you Texas City, California!," "Can't say much for the work but the money's good," "Go and change your clothes," "Do you guys ever talk about anything other than truckin'?," "Sit on it, Earle! How many cups of coffee do you want for your quarter?," "Don't ever get me in a situation like that again, Elroy," "No place to run, boy," "He thought I was a mechanic!," "Am I wasting my time?," "I'll have a donut. Do you charge extra for the cream?," "We're gonna kick your butt all the way back to highway 99, boy," "I'm not going anywhere until I find out where my brother is!," "Oh shit!," "Are you and J.D. going to get married?," "Where did you get this?," "Where's my brother, George?," "Just get in the goddamn car!," "Hey, what do you know, a drive through gas station!," and "Dawes! You sonofabitch!"
Next week: The Octagon!
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!
Please check out The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which can be seen here. There's not much there at the moment, but, as time goes by, expect to see daily questions and musings and other B-movie hooey. And it would be cool if you "liked" it, too.
- The Last Resort: The Complete First Season: This badass ABC show starring Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman got cancelled after one season, which is a shame as it had a very cool premise (a rogue US nuclear submarine essentially becomes its own nation after being attacked by corrupt government officials) and all kinds of potential. ABC let it finish out its story, which you can see here on DVD, as I'm sure most of you didn't watch the show when it was on TV. Great stuff.
- 6 Souls: This sort of low budget horror flick starring the great Julianne Moore received a small theatrical release not that long ago and some pretty horrendous reviews. It was made back in 2010 according to imdb, so I'm guessing that the reviews may be spot on. Of course, there's also a good chance this is a good, just misunderstood movie. That's my hope, anyway. I like the trailer.
- The Employer: This movie sort of gives off a kind of Saw vibe, at least that's what I'm getting from the trailer. Malcolm McDowell and Billy Zane are in it, so at least it's worth a rental just for them. Am I wrong about the Saw thing, though? Has anyone out there seen it?
- Inescapable: Joshua Jackson, Marisa Tomei, and the great Oded Fehr are in this middle budget (I guess) thriller. I'm going to guess, though, that this movie got an international theatrical release of some kind as the trailer, at least to me, gives off that vibe. It's worth a rental.
TV Quick Hits
"Look, I don't understand how it works, either. I just read what they tell me to read."
- Whodunnit? thoughts: Okay, so, am I the only one who doesn't quite understand how this "reality competition show" works? It's allegedly a show where "regular" people are playing a game where they're trying to figure out who the killer is, sort of like a big budget murder mystery dinner theater kind of deal. But with each new episode at least one of the players will be "killed off" and become the next mystery for the remaining players to figure out. And, presumably at the end, we'll find out, after the last player figures it out, who the killer is. And the killer is going to be revealed to be one of the players.
The show is filled with the usual "testimonial" crapola where the players talk to the camera, letting the audience know their feelings, etc. And we also see the players break up into teams so they can more easily solve the crime. But if one of the players is the killer, isn't that person going to sabotage everyone else? And if the killer is one of the players why doesn't he or she come out during one of the testimonials and say "I'm the killer, the rest of these people are stupid if they don't see it?"
I like the general idea of a "real people trying to solve a crime a week" type thing, but why does the show have to be so complicated? Why is it necessary to have one of the players be the killer? And how does the show decide who should die next? Wouldn't the show be easier to understand if it was all about teams of people staying at the estate, trying to figure out which member of the estate staff killed someone or stole something? Wouldn't that make for a more compelling, less complicated show? Wouldn't that kind of show, well, show the players actually figuring stuff out as opposed to whatever the hell they're doing now?
If Whodunnit? lasts the whole summer I'll be shocked. The show is just too overproduced, too complicated, too ridiculous to survive.
Or am I completely wrong here? Does anyone out there understand this show? Would you mind explaining it to me, please?
- Why is Heather Locklear on Franklin & Bash?: I know why her character, trial lawyer Rachel King, is brought in to the firm and made a full on partner (Malcolm McDowell's character apparently doesn't want to be a big time lawyer every day anymore) and she's trying to make Reed Diamond's character a judge, but what does Heather Locklear actually add to the show? So far she isn't all that interesting. She's become a kind of antagonist for Franklin and Bash, making them go into separate offices, but it's not like she's in their face all of the time and making them do nasty shit they don't want to do. She isn't having a full on, cable sex affair with anyone. She isn't walking around in lingerie. So, again, why is she on the show? What purpose does she serve?
Please, if anyone knows, drop me a line and explain it to me. I'm at a loss at the moment.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Theme of the Week
The Big Question: What Chuck Norris movie should get a special edition DVD?
Chuck Norris has made a little over 25 movies, and outside of The Expendables 2, The Octagon, and A Force of One (I think), none of Chuck's movies have special edition DVD's. That's outrageous. How can a star of Chuck's caliber not have an extensive DVD catalog of DVD behind-the-scenes documentaries and director commentaries? It just makes no sense. When Fox started re-releasing MGM's DVD catalog I hoped that Fox would pony up some money to do a Missing in Action franchise boxed set (you know, three movie discs and one disc devoted to various behind-the-scenes things) or maybe a Lone Wolf McQuade two-disc special edition. But that hasn't happened. Chuck's movies, even when they're released on Blu-ray, only seem to get bare bones releases.
Again, it's outrageous.
So what Chuck Norris movie should be the first to get a full on special edition DVD? If it was up to me, the first Chuck movie to get a special edition DVD would be Invasion U.S.A.. It's a non-stop action flick featuring one of Chuck's best performances. I'm sure director Joseph Zito would offer up some great stories and insight into how the movie was made, and I'd love to see a featurette on how special effects guru Tom Savini did the infamous "coke straw jammed up the nose" gag.
And then, after Invasion, I'd have either Lone Wolf McQuade or Silent Rage get the special edition treatment, as McQuade is the movie that started the whole beard thing, and Silent Rage is a kick-ass slasher movie that's just dying for a Chuck Norris-Stephen Furst commentary track.
Of course, if The Delta Force goes first I'd be okay with it. I wouldn't complain.
So what do you guys think? Which Chuck Norris movie should get the special edition DVD treatment first?
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Babe of the Week: Selma Blair
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 2
- Tower Block: Damn, this low budget British thriller looks awesome. A sniper holding an apartment complex in fear? I'm shocked that no one else has tried to do this kind of movie.
- Blood Runs Cold: This mega low budget slasher flick, made for around $5,000 (that's what imdb claims), looks pretty good. But $5,000? How the heck is that even possible especially when the movie, based solely on the trailer, looks amazing?
- Fangoria Presents: Entity: The fine folks at Fangoria are putting out this low budget British horror flick, which looks pretty scary, although I doubt it actually is. It's cool, though, that Fangoria is releasing it on DVD. Who else would do it?
July: A Month of Chuck Norris presents: A Moment of Chuck
This video is one of the greatest things I have ever seen on youtube. I wish I had created it. Enjoy:
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week
This week, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week goes to Texas governor Rick Perry, for claiming that he, as a "pro-life" person, believes that every life matters. While slamming Texas State Senator Wendy Davis for engaging in an 11 hour filibuster against a new anti-abortion law that will essentially outlaw abortion in Texas, Governor Perry said that Senator Davis "didn't learn from her own example," that she should be "pro-life" because her single mother didn't abort her and Senator Davis, a single mother herself, didn't have an abortion, and that "every life matters." If every life matters, Governor, why are you so gung ho when it comes to the death penalty? Shouldn't Texas be gun control central if every life matters? Shouldn't Texas be a bastion of general social welfare policies, building codes, and free healthcare for all? Shouldn't Texas be a little less pro corporation?
Well, yeah, it should be, if every life matters. But you know and I know that that's just bullshit, that you don't believe that every life matters. Because that's socialism, and socialism is queer.
Some people actually thought this guy would have made a good President. Rick Perry, every life matters. Jesus Christ.
And then there's the ultra right wing media, for going batshit over the Supreme Court decision ending the Defense of Marriage Act. Just about every ultra right wing media homophobe, when he or she wasn't declaring the end of Western Civilization because of this ruling, desperately tried to play the victim, as though this ruling was somehow the government discriminating against them. Just a bunch of elites trying to circumvent the will of the voters. Why do these gay people hate tradition so much?
I really want one of these flaming homophobes to explain, in detail, what they're talking about. What is the "homosexual agenda?" Why is gay marriage an affront to "traditional" heterosexual marriage? Why will gay marriage be the end of Western Civilization? Details, people. I need details. Specifics.
And, just so you're aware, any answer that begins with "The Bible says" or "God says" will automatically be dismissed as total nonsense and beside the point. I want to hear real world evidence here, folks. Who wants to join me here in this?
And finally there's the media in general, for going after Paula Deen because "racism is bad." If the media in general gave a flying crap about racism it would, as Bill Maher pointed out the other night, go after people like Donald Trump (his bullshit attacks on President Obama's birth certificate), our next President Sarah "Barracuda" Palin (shucking and jiving), and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (voting as seen as some kind or racial entitlement). But the media in general won't go after any of those people. The media in general will go after what amounts to an easy target in Paula Deen and, in the process, completely destroy her because "racism is bad." I mean, after the shit that Ann Coulter has said about immigrants how is she still on TV?
It's lazy and sad, people. Lazy and sad. If you're going to make a stand, make it. Don't wimp out. Fire Donald Trump. Why is that so dang hard?
NASCAR and Indycar thoughts
The NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, postponed after rain from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, looked like it was going to be another Jimmie Johnson romp. He led the most laps, he was flawless in the pits, and no one could catch him on the track. But, after botching the race's final restart, Johnson spun out with less than twenty laps to go, leaving Matt Kenseth to win his fourth race of the year. It was a shocking finish, as I didn't expect Johnson to lose. But then, when I think about it, I'm surprised Johnson didn't spin out sooner. The track was fast and weird all day, and with the way cars seemed to be moving up the track after dipping down onto the apron (look at what happened to Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle after Kurt Busch bobbled coming off the apron), I'm shocked Johnson didn't end up the in wall at the halfway point.
What the heck was the deal with the tire blowouts? Was the track rougher than expected, or did the switch from night race to afternoon race have something to do with it? Dale Earnhardt, Jr. probably would have been more of a factor at the end of the race if he didn't hit that tire piece. I mean, Johnson hit that kind of thing, too, and he was still fast afterwards.
Jamie McMurray had a damn good day, finishing 2nd, his top five finish in years. He probably would have had a chance to win if there had been a late race caution, as he had faster tires than eventual winner Kenseth. Joey Logano, a Kentucky master in the Nationwide Series, finished 4th. I really thought he would be more of a factor at the end of the race. I didn't expect Clint Bowyer to be in the top five, though. He seemed to struggle in the middle of the race and I didn't think he'd be a factor. And how about Kurt Busch? After the day he had, finishing 6th must seem like a win. Kyle Busch, too.
Juan Pablo Montoya once again had a shitty day, starting out strong and then fading at the end. What the hell does he have to do to catch a break? The same goes for Marcos Ambrose. Why can't he close the deal on an oval?
I didn't see either the Nationwide race on Friday night or the Trucks Series race on Thursday. Ty Dillon won the Trucks race, and Brad Keselowski won the Nationwide race. Did anyone out there see either race?
Kyle Petty, who certainly earned his spot in racing through hard work and determination (his last name had nothing to do with it. Ha), tried to make Danica Patrick look bad by saying that she isn't a racer. While Patrick hasn't had much success in NASCAR yet, she's shown that she can race, pass people, and get to the finish in once piece (when she isn't wrecked). She did the same thing in Indycar, at much higher speeds. Patrick has also shown in the Nationwide Series that she can mix it up on the track when the situation calls for it. She should drive with a little more aggression, sure, but then most stock car drivers should do that. Dale Earnhardt, Jr, another driver who got his spot through hard work and determination (nope, his last name had nothing to do with anything), needs to be more aggressive. While Petty is entitled to his opinion, I still think he's full of shit.
NASCAR goes to Daytona next, with the Nationwide Series on Friday night and Sprint Cup on Saturday. Is TNT doing that special coverage thing again?
Over in Indycar, the series is gearing up for its return to Pocono for the first time in twenty five plus years. Several teams have already tested several times at the 2.5 mile oval, and it sounds like it'll be a good show. I know I'll be watching.
Indycar Series officials have had to say several times this past week that Iowa will be back on the schedule in 2014, despite what Graham Rahal said about the series not coming back because of poor attendance. Rahal doesn't make the schedule, yes, but I don't believe anything Indycar series officials say about the schedule until I see it with my own two eyes.
Pocono will be on ABC at 12 noon EST. Again, I'll be watching. It should be awesome.
And now, a final Chuck Norris Fact
Chuck Norris can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves.
Well, I think that'll be about it for this issue. B-movies rule, always remember that.
If there's anything you want to see reviewed here in this column, feel free to offer a comment below or send me an e-mail. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff to watch.
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Chuck Norris- John David "J.D." Dawes George Murdock- Judge Joshua Trimmings Terry O'Connor- Arlene Don Gentry- Sgt. Strode John DiFusco- Arney Ron Cedillos- Deputy Boles Michael Augenstein- Billy Dawes
Directed by Don Hulette Screenplay by Terry Chambers
Distributed by American International Pictures and MGM Home Video
Rated PG for violence and language Runtime- 86 minutes