The Gratuitous B-Movie Column 6.30.14: Issue #313 - Good Guys Wear Black (1978)
Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz on 06.30.2014
The 3rd Annual July: A Month of Chuck Norris begins with Chuckís 1978 effort Good Guys Wear Black, a new B-Movie Babe is named, a new Douchebag of the Week is crowned and more!
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #313: Good Guys Wear Black (1978)
The 3rd Annual July: A Month of Chuck Norris: Week 1
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never had the need to wear bell bottom pants, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number three hundred and thirteen, The 3rd Annual July: A Month of Chuck Norris begins with Chuck's 1978 effort Good Guys Wear Black.
Good Guys Wear Black (1978)
Good Guys Wear Black, directed by the great Ted Post, is the second starring vehicle for star Chuck Norris and the first time Chuck is sent into Vietnam to rescue prisoners of war. I forgot about that, as I hadn't seen Good Guys Wear Black in well over twenty years (the first time I saw it was on a Saturday afternoon on the old WPIX 11 out of New York, back when WPIX aired movies on the weekends). It's also one of the more "liberal" movies in the Norris filmography, as Chuck's character, despite being a war hardened badass killer, is more interested in being a peacenik college professor than a professional assassin (he speaks out against the Vietnam war!).
Norris is John T. Booker, a badass CIA assassin and defacto leader of the Black Tigers, a squad of CIA commandoes that do all kinds of dirty jobs around the world for the U.S. government. After a botched raid on an American POW camp in Vietnam, Booker and the surviving members of his team fight their way back to America and then essentially disappear. Booker becomes a college history professor and tries to put his past behind him. However, Booker is brought back into the world of black ops and whatnot when alleged reporter and hot babe Margaret (Anne Archer) tracks Booker down and starts asking him questions about his time in the CIA. Booker tries to deny everything, but Margaret asks questions about things she shouldn't know anything about Booker decides to keep Margaret around to see what else she knows. Where the heck did she get all of that information?
So then some stuff happens, Booker and Margaret become an item (they have late 1970's PG movie sex, they engage in pillow talk, Booker invites her to go jogging with him), and Booker's old boss at the CIA, Murray Saunders (Lloyd Haynes) comes to see him. Saunders knows about Margaret's inquiries and he wants to hear directly from Booker what he knows about her. Booker, even after the PG sex, still has no idea who she is and has no idea how the heck she knows what she knows. So then Saunders does some checking of his own, and in the process of that research finds out that someone has assassinated a surviving member of the Black Tigers and that the other Black Tigers are in serious danger. Booker, who just doesn't want to get dragged into this mess all over again, flips out a bit and then decides to warn the other Black Tigers in person. If he can keep them safe maybe he can find out who wants them dead and, more importantly, what the heck is really going on.
I was surprised at how Good Guys Wear Black plays more like a spy thriller than a full on action movie. Norris does get to engage in some nifty martial arts sequences but the emphasis of the story is Booker figuring out who is behind the big Black Tigers plot and dealing with his own inner turmoil. Watching his fellow Black Tigers die right in front of him brings back terrible memories of what he had to do back when he was a spy and he isn't sure he can completely trust Margaret (he isn't too sure he can trust his old buddy Saunders, either). There are also several action scenes that could have appeared in a James Bond movie (the skiing sequence is a good example). Did the producers want to do a sort of low budget spy movie with Norris and create their own low budget spy movie franchise? If the producers did why the heck didn't we get another John T. Booker adventure?
The flick's left wing politics might also surprise some people. I know I was a bit shocked at how anti-Vietnam the movie turned out to be. I guess that's a product of the movie coming from the 1970's, but it's still kind of amazing that Chuck Norris made a true blue anti-Vietnam War movie. What would James Braddock say about that? He'd probably cheer during the now iconic "Chuck Norris jump kicks through a car windshield to take out a bad guy" scene but he would also want to know why Booker "hates America" so dang much.
Norris is incredibly laid back and natural as Booker. Norris' performance is a marked improvement from his last movie Breaker! Breaker! (I reviewed that movie last year). He doesn't have any dialogue issues and he's much more comfortable in front of the camera. His fight scenes are also much more fluid (Norris was also the flick's fight choreographer. He's clearly better at it in this movie). And he doesn't look ridiculous as a history professor, either. That's important, especially when you're dealing with an action movie star.
Archer is excellent as Margaret. You never really buy her as an investigative reporter, but you still want to watch her go through the motions and try to get information out of Booker. She also has tremendous chemistry with Norris, which helps make their relationship that much easier to accept. I think you'll shed a tear for her after what happens to her.
Lloyd Haynes is good as Saunders. He's authoritative and mysterious, but his respect for Norris' Booker comes through especially towards the end of the movie. His cigar smoking is also a thing to behold, not to mention his 1970's computer skills. James Franciscus is the ultimate douchebag as potential Secretary of State Conrad Morgan. You never once trust him at all, and I think you'll dig what happens to him. The man just oozes sleaze.
And then there's Dana Andrews as Edgar Harolds, Morgan's assistant. You don't think he'll amount to much the first time you see him, but then he becomes incredibly important later on. I won't say why but I think you'll enjoy what his character has to say. I know I did.
Be on the lookout for frequent Norris collaborator Soon-Tek Oh as one of Booker's fellow Black Tigers and Jim Backus as a hotel doorman. Soon-Tek Oh is very, very young, and I had to look up who the hell Jim Backus is (he played "Mr. Howell" on Gilligan's Island). And Chuck's younger brother Aaron also shows up briefly as one of the Black Tigers. Cool stuff.
Good Guys Wear Black is a great action flick. Chuck Norris gives one of his best performances (he can act). It's just too bad Norris didn't do another one. John T. Booker deserved a franchise.
See Good Guys Wear Black. See it, see it, freaking see it.
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies: Around 20.
Nudity?: None. It's a PG movie.
Doobage: An off screen diplomatic negotiation, cigar smoking, badass CIA guys dressed in black, macho commando hooey, sentry killing, an ambush, guy with a Tommy gun, grenade attack, some serious kung fu hooey, a massive explosion and fire, race car testing at Riverside, a college history class, casual racism, attempted murder via tow truck, liquor drinking, sex, jogging, bullet to the chest, off screen hotel room sex, skiing, a ski slope attack, a cup of coffee, exploding plane, a calm airport voice, a vicious jump kick through a car windshield, a parking lot brawl, attempted bear hug, attempted blackmail, anti-war hooey, a meaningless letter, TV in a limo, limo off a pier, and a great ending that should have led to more John T. Booker adventures.
Kim Richards?: None.
Gratuitous: A nifty opening jazz theme, Paris 1973, Vietnam war peace talks, Chuck Norris clean shaven, Chuck Norris leading a super-secret CIA commando team called the Black Tigers, macho commando bullshit, Soon-Tek Oh, an ambush, Chuck Norris testing a Porsche at Riverside, Chuck Norris with a mustache, casual racism, 1970's computer stuff, Chuck Norris drinking liquor, one egg, Chuck Norris jogging, Chuck Norris referring to an Asian guy as "the Oriental," Chuck Norris on a snowmobile, rotary payphones, talk of Watergate, anti-war Chuck Norris, TV in a limo, limo off a pier, and a great ending that should have led to more John T. Booker adventures.
Best lines: "Call Omaha and get a flock of sheep," "What do you call those commandos you're holding under the Phoenix program?," "You know, Saunders, when this war is over you should get a job as an advance man for cancer," "Jesus Christ, what happened to the good old days when Randolph Scott and John Wayne were happy to get their asses blown off for their country?," "Who is Randolph Scott?," "The choppers aren't here. Why don't we take the train?," "Somebody is going to pay for this," "Everything went wrong by the numbers. And that takes planning," "I can't wait to get her on the rack," "Can I take you to lunch? I don't eat lunch," "All right you sonofabitch what the hell is going on?," "Now what can you do with one egg?," "I was never a member of the CIA," "I'll see you in exactly twenty-seven minutes," "Jesus, this is crazy," "This is my life you're screwing with, Murray," "You're a lawyer? An investigator?," "How about a farewell cup of coffee?," "What are you doing with that gun?," "Thank you. You're being quite civilized," "Philosophy is bullshit!," "Accelerator pedal working okay today?," "Good morning, Mr. Secretary," and "You're panicking Morgan!"
Next week: The 3rd Annual July: A Month of Chuck Norris continues with Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)!
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 (this really is going to happen at some point). And it would be cool if you "liked" it, too.
And please check out my interview with director Brett A. Hart about the Ain't It Cool internet show and more!
And now a Chuck Norris Fact
Chuck Norris can hear the sound of one hand clapping.
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 1
-Afflicted: This low budget "found footage" type horror flick managed to get some decent reviews, it won some awards, and it doesn't look half bad. However, I'm not sure I really want to see it that much. Despite its reputation I have a sinking feeling that this is going to be a letdown. Anyone out there see this? Is it good?
-Scavenger Killers: This looks like a low budget riff on the excruciating Natural Born Killers. I'm willing to rent it, though, just to see if it really is a kind of NBK homage. Eric Roberts, Robert Loggia, Charles Durning (how the hell did the producers get him to appear in this?), and Dustin "Screech" Diamond are in it, so be on the lookout for them. I know I will.
-The Mummy: Resurrected: This is a low budget mummy horror flick that has absolutely nothing to do with the Brendan Fraser The Mummy flicks, although it's understandable to think it is based on the DVD cover. That's what I thought it was. The actual movie looks pretty good. Do you think it will be the start of a low budget mummy movie revolution?
-Dark Island: This sort of zombie action flick looks badass. Of course, Flesh Wounds looked badass, too, and that movie turned out to be terrible, so I'm cautious about it. I definitely want to see it, though, just to see if I'm wrong. I want it to kick ass. Major ass. What the heck is that black cloud thing in the trailer?
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Theme of the Week
TV Quick Hits
-Drop Dead Diva Series Finale thoughts: I guess I should be glad that Lifetime gave Drop Dead Diva a final season to wrap things up, and I will say that the way the show ended made sense (Jane and Grayson end up together, happily ever after, in different bodies), but I do think that the whole "Grayson comes back from the dead in a death row inmate" thing wasn't explored enough. It sort of came out of nowhere and, instead of ending in a flourish, the whole situation ended in a flash. It would have been better if the show had been given a chance to do either a full season or a half-season of "Grayson in a new body," just to make the ending more complete. I mean, we barely got to see or know Grayson in his new body, and shouldn't there have been more apprehension between Jane and Grayson when Grayson came back? Yes, she knows all about the whole "coming back from the dead" thing but I still think there should have been more uneasiness between the two.
I should have seen Stacy going into labor right before the wedding a mile away, but I really thought that we would see Owen freak out about getting married. He didn't get to marry Jane, and before any of that happened he went through a period of not wanting to get married at all. I really thought that stuff would come back and become a big part of that story. Going into labor before a wedding is a bit of a cliché but, all in all, I thought it was handled well and didn't feel stupid.
Am I the only one who thought that the show would get a slightly bigger send-off, with celebrity cameos and stuff like that? Paula Abdul, Rosie O'Donnell, maybe someone new? I guess it was good that the final few episodes didn't go that route as the show was able to then focus more on the regular characters. It would have been cool to at least see one celebrity guest.
Is the show going to enter syndication soon? Will it show up on my local ABC affiliate at 2 in the morning on Sundays in the fall? Or will Lifetime run the show on the weekends every so often? I hope the show has an after-life on cable, either on Lifetime or some other channel (didn't the TV Guide channel air Ugly Betty once it ended? I could see Drop Dead Diva doing the same thing). It's worth watching again.
So what happens next for the cast? Margaret Cho will be fine (it's too bad Lifetime didn't commission a spin-off that focusses on her character's life outside of the law office. I bet that would have rocked). And Lex Medlin (Owen) and Kate Levering (Kim) will probably settle into a nifty guest star career. Jackson "Grayson" Hurst, too. And I can easily see April Bowlby (Stacy) doing a sitcom (she's hot and funny and she has good comic timing). So what happens next for Brooke Eliott, "Jane," the star of the show? She's a great actor, she's funny, she can do pretty much anything (sing, dance, drama, comedy), and she's nice to look at. She has a great on screen warmth, too. Will she ever find another TV part half-as-good? I'm not sure. I do know, though, that she could be a tremendous asset for whatever show decides to hire her. I'd also pay to see her in a movie, so she could go that route, too.
I'm going to miss Drop Dead Diva. It was a funny show with an appealing cast that only got better as the show progressed. I wish it didn't have to end. Again, hopefully, the show will have a nice life in syndication and the show will gain new fans. It was, and still is, a great show.
-The Last Ship thoughts: I didn't have high hopes for this new TNT drama, mostly because I thought it was going to be too busy. It has a great cast and an interesting plot, but with Michael Bay producing and the emphasis on action seen in the show's commercials I really thought The Last Ship was going to be excruciating. Thankfully I was wrong and the pilot kicked ass. Director Jonathan Mostow did a great job creating a balance between the dramatic parts and the action parts (the first helicopter attack was one of the best TV action scenes I think I've ever seen). I do think, though, that TNT should have had a two hour premiere as the first episode ended awkwardly with a cliffhanger that needed to be resolved immediately.
Well, that's what I would have preferred to see. The second episode, which I obviously haven't seen yet, looks to be more action packed. I would have liked to see more of that at the end of the first night.
I was surprised that Rhona Mitra's character wasn't more outwardly badass. She's a scientist and incredibly concerned and all that, but when she was being attacked on the glacier by the Russian helicopter I was surprised that she didn't grab a machine gun and shoot at the helicopter. It'll be interesting to see how proactive she'll become in later episodes. You know it's going to happen. Maybe she secretly knows karate or something.
Eric Dane is great as the ship captain Tom Chandler. He looks the part, he comes off as a total badass, and he's able to project some sense of humanity (the scene where he watches his family's video message was heartbreaking). He's going to butt heads with Adam Baldwin's Slattery as the show moves forward because Slattery is antsy to get off the ship. Yes, he knows what's going on, but he clearly didn't agree with the captain's decision to stay at sea. Slattery wants to go inland and see for himself what happened to his family. I wouldn't be surprised, either, if Slattery starts egging his sailors on to mutiny. Would the former John Casey also try to team up with the Russians?
So where the heck did the disease that's essentially destroyed the world come from? Is it the Russians? The Chinese? Some private company similar to the Umbrella Corporation in the Resident Evil video games/movies? And was it deliberate? Could this whole thing have been a gigantic mistake?
I am curious, too, about the rest of the crew on the ship. How many of them are we going to get to know? One of them already killed himself because he was exposed to the disease. How many more times is that kind of thing going to happen? Will the guy and the girl (I don't remember their names. The ones in the relationship) be a major part of the show? Will they get to do anything outside of being the "B" story?
I like this show so far. It has the potential to be very cool and at the moment it's a great companion show to Falling Skies. Anyone else out there digging this show? Do you think it has any kind of potential?
Meshach Taylor 1947-2014 RIP
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Babe of the Week: Anne Archer
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 2
-Once Upon a Time in Vietnam: This is apparently some sort of martial arts western fantasy thing made in Vietnam. It looks amazing based solely on its trailer, so hopefully the movie itself is amazing, too. A movie that looks this good shouldn't be a bad movie watching experience.
-Killervision: The fine folks at Brain Damage Films are releasing this sort of meta low budget horror flick that looks both disturbing and absolutely ridiculous, two great attributes for this kind of movie. Is it a slasher movie, though? That's what I want to find out.
-Grizzly Rage: I believe this low budget "nature-run-amok" monster movie about a killer grizzly bear has been released multiple times as this particular edition is coming from the fine folks at Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, the home of the DVD reissue. Has it also been shown on TV? This looks like something that has aired on Sci Fi. If I end up doing another month of monster movies don't be surprised if this killer bear movie gets a spot on the roster. It looks like something worth seeing.
** And now another Chuck Norris Fact
Chuck Norris knows Jack.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week
This week, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, for striking down the Massachusetts 35 foot buffer zone outside of abortion clinics law because it infringes on "pro-life" protestors' "free speech rights." Instead of looking at the law as a matter of public safety, the court decided that the right of "pro-life" lunatics to harass and intimidate women trying to enter an abortion clinic was far more important than the right of women to get through the door of an abortion clinic without being harassed and attacked. You would think that an outfit like the Supreme Court, which doesn't allow protesters within 250 feet of its front door (thank you Gail Collins of The New York Times), would sympathize with the state and its obligation to keep the public safe, but then that would be evil partisanship and taking a side and all that kind of shit.
Now, I expect this kind of bullshit from the right-wing members of the court, but the "liberals" decided to join in with the right and make this a unanimous decision, which is just horrendous. Don't be surprised if it becomes illegal to have an abortion in this country within the next decade (well, you know, for poor people). Contraceptives will then be eliminated.
Yep. The American Theocracy. Coming soon.
And then there's Keith Ablow, for actually implying that the worldwide public interest in the ongoing World Cup soccer tournament is actually a massive scheme by the Obama administration and the "liberal media" to distract people from government scandals.
Here, watch and weep:
And people take this fucking guy seriously.
And finally there's Speaker of the House John Boehner, Republican from Ohio, for announcing that he plans on suing President Obama for "issuing too many executive orders." You're going to sue the President, Mr. Speaker? Really? Why can't you just say that this is you laying the groundwork for the upcoming impeachment scam you and the Republican Senate plan on engaging in if and when the Senate goes Republican? If the Republicans don't get the Senate, what better way to waste everyone's time than with a court case that the "liberal media" will dutifully report on as if it's a good idea, a "serious" thing, and something worthwhile (there are two sides to every story, don't you know)?
And where are the Democrats?
And now a Moment of Chuck
NASCAR and Indycar thoughts
After having missed the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma because of "other commitments" I made an effort to see the Sprint Cup race at Kentucky this past Saturday night. Brad Keselwoski smashed the track record in qualifying and it was set to be a mega fast race. So, of course, my local cable company's feed of TNT went batshit and I missed almost the entire race. I did manage to see the invocation and the first ten laps or so, and then I got to see the last ten laps, so I didn't miss all of it. Based on everything that the TNT people said after the race and what I read on the internets it was pretty much a Keselowski romp as he dominated the event and was never seriously challenged for the win (Kyle Busch made an effort at the end but there was just no stopping Keselowski). So, I guess, in the end, I didn't miss that much. I'm still annoyed, though.
I saw a good chunk of the Nationwide race on Friday night which was won by Kevin Harvick. It was a pretty decent race, although it was dominated by Sprint Cup regulars. The race at Road America last week, which I did get to see, was slow as hell but fun to watch, especially when Alex Tagliani, who kicked ass the whole race, had to power through the field on the final lap after running out of fuel and ended up finishing second behind eventual racer winner Brandon Gaughn. The Nationwide cars seemed to be slower than usual at Road America but it was still pretty dang exciting.
Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck Series race on Thursday night. I stopped watching after about lap 50 as it was obvious that no one was going to touch him. The Truck Series is no fun when Kyle Busch is in town. It just isn't.
My local cable better not flip out this Saturday as both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series race at Daytona, with Nationwide on Friday and Sprint Cup on Saturday. I always end up missing a big chunk of the Saturday night race, but this year I'll be able to watch the whole damn thing. And, yeah, I'm sort of excited about it. The Trucks return to action on July 11th at Iowa. I believe that race is part of the annual Indycar weekend there.
Speaking of Indycar, the series had its second doubleheader of the year in Houston at Reliant Park's parking lot. The first race of the weekend was essentially the return of the Champ Car World Series as they raced in the rain, they started the event with a standing start, and because of a rain delay the event was a "timed race." Rookie Carlos Huertas won the first race, shocking just about everyone as it seemed as though pole sitter Simon Pagenaud was going to win. In general the first race was a horrendous bore. There was plenty of action on the track, sure but it was all related to the wet track conditions. The drivers in the back couldn't see because of the tire spray and just about everyone seemed to be out of control in the corners. It was just a disaster to watch.
The race on Sunday was much better. There was a "proper" flying start (the last five rows were not lined up), the track was greasy because it was hot, and the action on the track was all about desperation. Simon Pagenaud dominated the event after pole sitter Helio Castroneves (tax cheat) wrecked (why does he even have mirrors if he isn't going to use them?). It was fun watching Will Power try to blast through the field both races. Graham Rahal, who should have been benched for knocking out Tony Kanaan on Saturday under caution, had a terrible day Sunday. Huertas had a bad day Sunday, too. I was happy about Rahal. Huertas deserved better.
Why is the series having so much trouble with starts, restarts, and proper race etiquette? Since when is it mandatory for a driver a lap down to get out of the way of the leaders? Everyone is driving his own race, and if you're the leader and you can't pass a lapped car without a radio call from race control you have no business racing. And, yes, the rules may be different in Europe, but the Indycar Series is not a European racing series. It is an American racing series, and in America you race your own race period. You can get out of the leader's way if you want, but it isn't mandatory. That's just the way it is. Why is that so hard to figure out?
And why is it so goddamn hard to line up in rows of two at the start of the race? The track may be narrow but, at pace car speed, you can line up two-by-two without a problem. So, again, why is this so goddamn hard to do?
The Indycar Series returns to the ovals this Sunday with a race at Pocono. The race will be on the NBC Sports Network at 12pm est. It should be a good show. It was last year.
** And now a final Chuck Norris Fact (for this week)
Chuck Norris can believe it's not butter.
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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Good Guys Wear Black
Chuck Norris- John T. Booker Anne Archer- Margaret James Franciscus- Conrad Morgan Lloyd Haynes- Murray Saunders Dana Andrews- Edgar Harolds Jim Backus- Doorman Soon-Tek Oh- Major Mhin Van Thieu Aaron Norris- Al
Directed by Ted Post Screenplay by Bruce Cohn and Mark Medoff, based on a story by Joseph Fraley
Distributed by American Cinema Releasing and HBO Home Video