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Lights, Action, Exploitation

December 04, 1993|AL MARTINEZ

It was Shakespeare who said the world's a stage and everyone's an actor. We take that very seriously in L.A. but do not limit it to simply acting. Everyone is also a producer, director and/or screenwriter.

This was proved to me once more over the past week by a sudden upsurge of those wanting notice for the work they have done or are thinking about doing in show biz.

I don't know why they have been abruptly stirred into activity. Perhaps it was the recent lunar eclipse or the Santa Ana winds or a sudden hormone imbalance tied to toxicity in the atmosphere.

They wanted me to read their scripts, see their shows, listen to them sing or watch them dance. A Sparkletts' truck driver offered to recite from memory the entire dialogue of Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

I decline most such requests, even from those who offer me small parts in their low-budget, video-release erotic thrillers in exchange for a slight mention. My wife would never sit still for me in an erotic thriller.

However, I was intrigued by two requests, one from a man who kicks people in the head and wants to be the next Bruce Lee, and another from an ex-Methodist minister who allegedly caught his wife in bed with another man and made a movie out of it.


Billy Blanks is the head-kicker, a karate champion who has acted in several video-release movies and is hoping that the next one will be good enough for the big screen. Wisely, he has not quit his day job, which is ownership of an exercise studio in Sherman Oaks.

I watched one of his movies, a potboiler called "Showdown," in which Billy is a cop who accidentally kills someone and, seven years later, ends up as a janitor in a small-town high school filled with arrogant troublemakers. A sort of "Blackboard Jungle" set in Cabot Cove.

What Blanks, a strapping physical specimen, does best is beat the hell out of his adversaries by kicking, punching and karate-chopping them into bloody messes, but only for the sake of Human Decency and the American Way.

I don't want to ruin it for you by revealing the amazing ending, but the final kick to the head is something to fax home about. Look for the name Billy Blanks to be as well known as that of Jag Mundhra.

(Jag Mundhra, by the way, is an ex-professor at Cal State Northridge who gave up teaching to direct such popular Free World classics as "Wild Cactus" and "Night Eyes." He is now said to be the king of low-budget movies without ever having kicked anyone in the head.)

Then there's the former Methodist minister who caught his wife flagrante delicto with another man. He's a whispery, middle-aged guy named Larry Howard from Latexo, Tex., who co-wrote, produced and directed a cinema verite disaster called "Four Day Shoot." It may rank up there with "Return of the Fly" as the worst movie ever made.

Howard was a 1960s drug-using hippie who, he says, had a cosmic revelation one day while under the influence of LSD and decided he wanted to enter the ministry. It happens. I came very close myself with martinis.


Howard says he was preaching in Latexo when he learned of his wife's infidelity. He was going to shoot her and her alleged lover but instead, for reasons never completely clear, decided to make a movie out of it. Perhaps there was another cosmic revelation.

At any rate, Howard went public about his plans and was promptly run out of Latexo. He moved to L.A., where a lot of unfrocked people live and, with a little help from his friends, produced "Four Day Shoot" while living in the old Venice jail.

The film is about a small-town Texas preacher who discovers his wife is committing adultery and plans to shoot them and videotape the results. Instead, it is the minister himself who is shot and the movie, mercifully, comes to an end. Roll the credits and fade out.

I give it two thumbs down. It's like a home video without the grandchildren.

Howard, who works as a licensed vocational nurse during the day, paid to have "Four Day Shoot" premiered in a Westside theater and rented another theater for a one-day showing. God knows what will happen to it after that. God may even be a little puzzled.

The whole thing cost him $400,000, of which he still owes $250,000. His next movie, he says, will be a children's story.

I suggest instead he get together with Billy Blanks and Jag Mundhra and come up with an action thriller about a karate expert who discovers an ex-preacher having a cosmic epiphany about making another movie.

A good kick in the head snaps him out of it, and they all live happily ever after. Th-th-that's all, folks.

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