Cinephiles are not unlike archeologists. We live in the past, examining visual artifacts of light and sound from bygone eras. These celluloid documents are unraveled, revealing stories and styles, twists and turns, characters and creations that reflect the ideas, perspectives, and history of moviegoers and movie makers alike.
We are blessed to live in a time when it is possible for almost anyone to become a cinephile. Celluloid artifacts are waiting to be unearthed through DVD labels like Criterion and Kino, channels like Turner Classic Movies and IFC, or on-demand services like Netflix. Classic films and undiscovered rarities are literally available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Important filmmakers as diverse as Akira Kurosawa, Orson Welles, and Brian Trenchard-Smith are but a push of the button away.
Prepare to get Trench-ed.
If you’re reaching for your Google task bar for that last name, I am shocked and appalled. You call yourself a film fan? You’ve brought shame upon your family and friends. And to think, you went to college. Way to waste your family’s time and money. No wonder you can’t hold down a job or a girlfriend. Who would want to be with someone who doesn’t know who Brian Trenchard-Smith is? No one, that’s who. NO ONE.
The sequels are still better.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. Surely you’ve heard of Brian Trenchard-Smith. THE Brian Trenchard-Smith. Director of a little movie called Escape 2000 aka Turkey Shoot? Stunt Rock? Day of the Panther? Leprechaun 3? Leprechaun 4? This is the man who took Warwick Davis to Las Vegas and outer space. For that reason alone, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s name should be tattooed on the back of every man, woman, and child that has ever walked into a multiplex. Preferably in that area women traditionally reserve for stamps of a sexually lascivious nature. You know the kind. With the sexy font?
Oh, yeah, sweetheart. That’s the font I’m talking about.
If you want a crash-course in the early years of B-Trench (as he’s known to his friends), first check out Not Quite Hollywood, a Exploitation, or Ozploitation, films. The film dedicates a solid chunk of running time to galvanize Smith’s early, low-budget action, science fiction and films. Even Quentin Tarantino comments on the man’s filmography and impact on exploitation cinema. This stamp of approval should be enough to tear you away from and go check out the documentary and some of his films. However, since you seem to be unconvinced (you’re still reading, aren’t you?), let me recommend two B-Trench classics that will have you scrambling to your local Wal-Mart $5 bin for those Leprechaun sequels.history of the inception and impact of Australian
This documentary has more bare breasts than a Russ Meyers film.
First, let’s cleanse our palate with a bit of B-movie kids fare called BMX Bandits, before moving to the purer, uncut sex-and-violence stuff with Dead End Drive-In.
Yes, this is actually on Blu-ray.
BMX Bandits is one of those “You had to be there” family movies. You know the kind – kids films that were purely the product of their time and place, pop cultural time capsules that appeal specifically to one generation. The Goonies, for example, is pure Amblin entertainment, 1950s Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew kids adventure, pumped full of practical special effects, cartoonish villains, and set pieces that didn’t quite qualify for use in Temple of Doom (though Shortround made the cut, weirdly enough).
“Hang on fans of Asian stereotypes. We go for ride.”
BMX Bandits, by proxy, is a byproduct of suburban Australia, BMX popularity, punk/new wave culture but with that Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew junior adventure nostalgia packed in for good measure. The film plays out like a live action Disney movie jacked up on Bertie Beetle candy, Count Cola, and gratuitous BMX stunts. Lots of gratuitous BMX stunts.
The films stars Angelo D’Angelo (possibly the greatest stage name in the history of stage names) and James Lugton as P.J. and Goose, a pair of fun-loving teenage BMX-ers with big dreams of their own track. Through an unfortunate accident, the boys find their beloved bikes totaled by a runaway shopping cart. Fortunately, every cloud has a silver lining – this cart ran away from Nicole Kidman. Yes, THAT Nicole Kidman. A very young Nicole Kidman, playing Judy, a hard-working grocery store clerk whose dream of owning a BMX of her own are dashed when she loses her job because of the incident.
Still, P.J. and Goose remain optimistic. Well, maybe not, but I would, especially if I had Nicole Kidman joining my crew. The boys fall head over heels for her in an early textbook case of Kidman’s affect on men. While their mutual pursuit of the gal creates an added layer of romantic tension for the stunt-loving gang, their discovery of a duffel bag full of walkie-talkies belonging to some shotgun toting bank robbers makes things even worse. Soon, they’re hocking the radios for BMX money and are being pursued on bikes by mask-wearing marauders, not to mention local police.
Send it back to hell!
A high-flying adventure ensues, one that truly lives up to its name. BMX Bandits stands up as one of the finest extreme sports action films ever made, (bested in my mind only by Point Break, which manages to be both the best and worst extreme sports action film ever made). The stunts are absolutely mental, performed by pro BMX bikers in delightfully wacky, sometimes suspenseful, mostly slow-motion sequences that make you want to drop that lame-ass Schwinn you ride to school and pick up a tiny, shocked out BMX for some ball-busting tricks of your own.
Emphasis on that ball busting part.
BMX Bandits is hard not to love, despite the fact that it barely qualifies as an exploitation film in the traditional sense. There are no boobs or blood, just ridiculously, joyfully, tear-jerkingly cheesy action. Literally every BMX stunt is accompanied by wonderful punk/new wave music and an incredibly synthy laser noise. It is the audio equivalent of the Nike swoosh, strained through clumsily laid chords of a coked-out keytar player. Quite simply, it is the greatest piece of foley work in the history of film.
It is my opinion that BMX Bandits is infinitely superior to the aforementioned Amblin film in every way. That might seem a bit extreme, but what BMX Bandits has that Goonies lacks is a deep message, the kind that resonates as absolute truth long after the end credits have rolled: BMX stunts will always, always triumph over evil. In the face of hardened criminals who steal, threaten kids with knives, and bumble through life in general – prevailing goodness is only a bunny hop or 180 bar spin away. In this crucial time in the world’s economy, I believe that’s a universal message we can all latch onto.
If only BMX bikes were around during World War II. We could have saved so many lives…
Read about Dead End Drive-In after the jump…