by Dan Collacott
Before the current age of streaming plus on demand movies and fast cinema to DVD/Blu-Ray releases, there were VHS videos (or for a short time Betamax). If you were a child of the 70s or 80s the wonders of the cinema were often secondary to the treasure trove your local video rental shop presented. Back then most block buster films took an age to land on video, which meant there was a huge market for cheaply shot straight to video movies. Including a lot of films that were rip offs of their big budget cinema brethren.
Often VHS/TV films were able to do a great deal on small budgets, showcasing often hugely imaginative concepts and ideas that no big time movie producer would risk. In my Straight to Video series we will be looking at some of the best films that skipped the big screen and landed in your video rental outlet.
My first pick is Wedlock (also know as Deadlock) a film that stars one of the kings of 'straight to VHS' movies, the late great Mr. Rutger Hauer! A man who seemed to excel in small screen action/martial arts style films. Odd considering this is a man who back in 1982 starred in one of the biggest sci-fi films of all time (all be it at the time Blade Runner wasn't nearly as appreciated as it is now).
What is Wedlock about, I hear few cry? (Mild spoilers below)
Set in the not too distant future, Mr. Hauer stars as diamond thief Frank Warren. After a shiny stone robbery, Frank ends up being imprisoned in Camp Holliday (silly names ahoy) after his best mate Sam and fiancée Noelle (Mimi Rogers), betray him and hand him over to the authorities. Why? Well of course they don't want to split the diamonds three ways and Sam presumably doesn't want to share Noelle! But fear not Frank has hidden the diamonds so both his partners in crime are unable to reap the spoils of their dastardly actions.
The Sci-Fi Concept at the heart of the film:
Camp Holliday is an experimental prison camp with no cells or walls, this is because each convict is given an electronic collar containing an explosive device which is electronically connected to another inmate. If any one tries to escape from the camp and is separated from their collar-mate by more than 100 yards, their collars will explode (yep exploding heads folks, that is this films gory punchline). Even at the time I saw this film as kid I remember thinking 'surely any Government round the world should watch this film and build new prisons using this in-genius concept?' I wonder if even now I could pitch the idea of proximity triggered exploding collars to the UK Government?
Back to the plot... Frank fortuitously finds out he is connected to fellow inmate Tracey Rigg and they both escape with their exploding head collars in tact. Despite them fleeing the camp, things get even more intense when both realise it's not only the authorities that are pursuing them but back on the scene are traitorous duo Sam and Noelle (who still need Frank's help to find the diamonds). Wedlock soon becomes a good old fashion chase film, where the two leads must avoid capture and find the diamonds without accidentally at any moment separating for more than 100 yards! (As if they do boom go their brains and nicely quaffed 90s haircuts).
Directed by legend Lewis Teague who is famous for some very good 80s and 90s films (Cats Eye, The Jewel of the Nile 1985, and sequel Romancing the Stone, 1984) and also terrible ones (Navy Seals, 1990).
Wedlock was even funded by US TV giants HBO!
Verdict: Wedlock takes a genius sci-fi concept, mixes in some bad future action and cheap FX/gore, a sprinkling of wooden and silly over acting to produce a goofy piece of retro action heaven. It also stars Danny Trejo as Tough Prisoner #1, so what's not to love?
Also check out these other awesome Rutger Hauer films: Blind Fury, The Hitcher and Beyond Justice.
Episode #11 of the Close Encounters of the 4th Kind podcast follows on from Episode #10 which saw Tee-J, Imran and Dan confess to classic movies they haven't actually seen ('2001: A Space Odyssey', 'Monty Python & The Holy Grail' and 'The Godfather', respectively). This episode catches up with the gang now having seen the movies in question and discussing whether they were worth the hype in the first place.
Episode #10 of the Close Encounters of the 4th Kind podcast sees Tee-J, Imran and Dan settle down to classic movies that we've never actually seen. We pitch each other 3 movies and vote on which ones each person should watch. Marvel with us in astonishment at the gaps within our own catalogues!
Emanating from London, UK, and hosted by Dan Collacott, Tee-J Sutherland and Imran Mirza, our 4ever in Electric Dreams website and accompanying podcasts are designed to help us celebrate the things we loved growing up and the things that continue to excite and inspire us today.