Vice Squad/Vigilante 1983 ***


William Lustig brings the same verve to the vigilante genre that he brought to horror in Maniac, with Vigilante offering the simple pleasures of a well-made exploitation flick. Eddie Marino (Jackie Brown’s Robert Forster) is a mild-mannered blue-collar worker whose wife and kid become targets for a NYC street gang. But when the courts offer only suspended sentences, it’s Marino who gets sent to the slammer for complaining, with only Rake (Woody Strode) stepping in to save him from an in-shower molestation. Back on the outside, Marino’s pal Nick (Fred Williamson) is on hand to teach him a few tips about how to clean up the neighbourhood. Vigilante is a straight-taking (Williamson’s opening monologue is priceless) and hard-hitting thriller, rabid in thought and political stance, and all the more enjoyable for being true to its exploitative roots.

The Black Hole 1980 ***


Disney’s first contribution to the post-Star Wars sci-fi boom is a curious mismatch of styles; the plot marries the kind of rollicking adventure of 20,000 League Beneath The Sea to the kind of mysticism of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, with cute robots (VINCENT and Old Bob) for the kids.

Maximillian Schell plays Dr Hans Reinhart, whose spaceship The Cygnus is boarded by an intrepid crew including Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Forster and Yvette Mimieux. The secret of what lies beyond the black hole turns out to be something of a damp squib, but director Gary Nelson handles a beautiful production design with great skill, with dazzling visuals including a ball of flame demolishing the innards of the craft. Too slow for kids, and too silly for adults, The Black Hole is still a handsome production for sci-fi addicts.

Stunts 1977 ***


Packed full of well-staged action, Stunts was part of the late 70’s idolization of the ‘Hollywood stuntman’ that reached its height with Hal Needham’s Hooper.

Robert Forster, later to be the romantic lead in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, plays a hard-boiled professional stuntman who investigates a film shoot when his brother is killed in a fall from a helicopter.  There’s the usual camaraderie, the stuntmen pay tribute by trashing a motorbike from a cliff-top, but there’s an edge to proceedings as the stuntmen realize that they’re little more than cannon-fodder in a deadly entertainment machine.

There’s support from Joanna Cassidy and Richard Lynch, and Mark L Lester demonstrates the same narrative briskness that he brought of 80’s action classic Commando. Stunts is a decent little who-dunnit, with a gloss of impressive stunt-work to hold the attention.