It's been a while since we posted an old magazine scan here at LVA. While filing away some old Jimmy Carter issues of Newsweek I ran across this issue of Fangoria. Here's an interesting article on the 1985 Civil War zombie film The Supernaturals which we posted on back HERE. The film itself leaves something to be desired, but this article makes up for that. Plus how can you go wrong with zombie pictures. Written during the filming of The Supernaturals (apparently singular at the time, note the first page title), the article makes connections to other contemporary films like The Mutilator and Android, but we'll let you read the article and find out for yourself.
From Fangoria issue 48, published in March of 1985 I believe.
For more of our old horror magazine posts check out Ephemera.
So, is it really fair to compare one object to another famous example? To say that my friend Chris is no Picasso doesn't tell you anything substantial about his painting talents. Using such well known and culturally iconic comparisons cheats both the compared object (Chris) and the audience, you, out of any real information or opportunity for original or critical thought. The name Picasso conjures up all sorts of ideas and previously received information; about his talent (and your opinion of it,) color, shape, personality, etc., etc. Whereas, you don't know Chris.
It also makes me lazy because then I don't have to do any descriptive work. I'm just counting on what you already know about Picasso.
Nor does it do any credit to Chris, who might be a pretty decent rodeo clown and not a painter at all. See what I mean?
So if I were to say, compare some movie favorably to Citizen Kane, or unfavorably to Plan 9 From Outer Space, would that really tell you anything about the movie? Considering that we probably have varying opinions on things like rodeo clowns, painting and probably movies, would you feel that calling a movie "worse than Plan 9" really coveys any useful information?
Maybe you're ambivalent about Plan 9. Maybe I like it.
So, what if the movie I'm comparing was deliberately trying to copy, to capitalize on the themes and content of the more famous film? What if Scavengers is deliberately, well.... deliberately scrounging its plot from an extremely popular 1980's franchise. In that case, were I to say the Scavengers is a low-rent Indiana Jones, would you feel that I had given some objective measure of Scavengers' worth as a film in it's own right?
Afterall, it's protagonist is an academic scientist who travels to a foreign land for an adventurous comedy of errors and narrow escapes from the bungling forces of a totalitarian dictatorship. There is a coy sexual tension between he and a sharp-witted, sharp-tongued professional female secondary character. He does befriend a small ethnic boy who helps him escape certain death in a moment of crisis.
Scavengers may be a low-rent Indy, but if there had never been a Dr. Jones, would Scavengers be a high-rent Firewalker?
Is capital, that is the accumulation of power in the form of money as expressed in marketing, really all that it takes to form public opinion?
Video Treasures/Media Home Entertainment, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 46 minutes
If ever there was a cheap - and I do mean cheap - knockoff of the Indiana Jones franchise – and I assure you, there weren't ANY, not one - this would probably be, if not the best cheap knockoff, then maybe the worst good one. If there were such a thing as a Heroic Pantheon of Legendary Norris Films - and there isn't - Firewalker might just be one of the best. In fact, even as I shook my head at the simple, crude script, I was laughing right along with it, an intoxicated dopey grin spread over my face. The thing is, this movie really took me by surprise. That devious right-wing ginger ideologue pulled out a good performance on me. It's almost as if this is actually the role that he should have played all along, his perfect match.
I might also say the same of his buddy Louis Gossett Jr., who compliments Norris' reckless charming white-guy lead with a stellar performance as a skeptical, fast-talking black-dude accomplice. Once again, a Norris film that isn’t challenging any stereotypes, but it ‘works better’ (or is less offensive) than many iterations and is far less grating.
Together our color-coded-combo consistently screw up and botch their various treasure seeking adventures: Max (Norris) dutifully getting them deep in the shit, then barely pulling them out in the nick of time, making it seem completely accidental, while Leo (Gossett) curses and berates him with practiced consistency. As if on cue, (as if) the beautiful blonde Patricia shows up with vague clues promising a plethora of potential wealth at great risk of life. Consulting Tall Eagle, a cynical but campy Native American stereotype, they learn the legend of the Firewalker, for whatever it's worth and are off to Central America followed by an evil Apache shaman (Sonny Landham.)
Unsurprisingly, Central America is full of overeager loudmouthed revolutionaries with big bottles of tequila and a love for blonde gringo women. John Rhys-Davies pops in for a quick (Norris-requisite) 'Nam reminisce, and an almost uncomfortable philosophical discussion. Don’t get too carried away now, Firewalker gingerly walks the triple line between campy, dramatic, and crappy, without totally botching any of them, but narrative depth is not on the menu. The essential Norris staples are still there, but the big fella actually manages to squeeze out a little human emotion and warmth this time out. But that might just be the secret of the firewater, er…Firewalker.
Still image credits from top to bottom are: