||L. A. Bounty (1989)
Sybil Danning is an Austrian export who should have been far bigger—though some will suggest 36-24-36 is plenty. She had early credentials in top-notch pictures such as Bluebeard (1972) with Richard Burton, and Richard Lester’s The Four Musketeers (1975), and her gasp-inducing looped bare-breast flashing over the Howling II (1984) end-credits would have gotten a special Oscar, had the Academy left the nominations up to your narrator.
On top of that bountiful bod was a model-gorgeous mug; and Sybil was not one of those Aryan ice queens who had the face and figure but lacked the foxy fire. Far from it. Danning would be sexy belching the Samoan national anthem. So why did she become more of a cult goddess than a celluloid colossus?
I’m thinking it’s the hair.
Syb starred in a string of action flicks, and for reasons unknown, often stuck with a Seventies perm that made it look like she had slept on a bagful of crinkle-cut French fries. She was still a stunner, and I for one enjoy unusual dos; but the general pubic tends to be quite easily distracted…and quite closed-minded.
Dazzling Miss Danning had the funky follicles in 1989 when she top-lined, co-wrote and co-produced L.A. Bounty, that extreme rarity, an “ex-cop-turns-ultraviolent-bounty-hunter” picture that doesn’t stink up the joint.
Give it least half-credit to the male lead and one of filmdom’s consistently best cocky heels, Wings Hauser, who appears to be having a total blast as Cavanaugh, an oil-painting (with no palette) cocaine dealer. Playing the part as though impersonating Christopher Walken on meth, the equally underappreciated Hauser is a real eye magnet—quite an achievement when you’ve got Sybil Danning in the same room. Although he’s a psychotic homicidal heavy, you almost wish the two of them would go “Ah, hell, why don't we quit trying to shoot each other, become partners and go downtown and plug a few Lakers fans?"
Of course, for a pic to make the leap from premium cable channel filler to Manor On Movies material, it must contain very special junkfilm elements—and Bounty is certainly, er, bountiful when it comes to them. For instance, in addition to completely gratuitous toplessness from three healthy starlets, there’s a cameo by Robert “Count Yorga” Quarry--star of the ultra-terrific Manson-as-Dracula Deathmaster (1972)--as a dope dealer in a gaudy shirt and shades. The credits also contain a “Branscombe Richmond as Willis,” which earns one point for hiring someone with such a cool name and loses said point for not having another character ask “What you talkin’ about, Willis?"
Don’t want to give away too much of the fun, but must mention my favorite screwy twist. The wife of a kidnapped politico is instructed to bring a bag of bucks to a roadside location and not involve the cops. Pretending to play along, detective Lt. Chandler (Henry Darrow) hides in the back seat, choreographing the backup units via walkie-talkie.
Turns out the “swap meet” is a double-cross by both parties, the thugs grabbing Wifey along with the loot, and driving off unscathed. Despite the goons having a major head-start down the highway, the plainclothesmen ignores radioing in for help, and decides to try to track down the fleeing no-goodniks on his own. After all, how many places could there be to hide a vehicle in Los Angeles and the surrounding suburbs?
Hilariously magically, our man actually does track down Cavanaugh and cronies; and, although the wife’s abduction occurred in broad daylight, it’s pitch-black outside when the dick rolls up on the hoodlum hideout. And you thought it was tough finding a parking spot in New York! Did I mention Chandler had been shot in the arm with a rifle while attempting to break up the kidnapping and before driving all that time? Should also note he takes a rifle slug to the spleen, moments after entering the baddies’ lair…an injury that you’ll be delighted to learn generates no blood loss.
(Total grue accumulation for both wounds comes to about a thimbleful on a sports-coat sleeve, if one uses his necktie as a tourniquet. Be sure to consult a physician before being shot twice in the same day. Stop taking gunshots if you suffer shortness of breath or lack of appetite. If your gunshot should last more than four hours, see a mortician.)
This is as good a time as any to bring up a delightful action-junkfilm staple, seeing how it occurs in L.A. Bounty as well as countless other shoot-em-ups.
You’ve known “the rule” ever since the first time you heard Dirty Harry recite the “Feel lucky?” speech: Always count the shots during a gun-battle scene. Of course, in more modern times, the trend has been for cops and crooks alike to carry automatics rather than revolvers, with weaponry that can hold a dozen on more cartridges in the clip.
Fortunately, we are still blessed with directors who blissfully ignore “the rule,” filming gunfight sequences just like the old days, when a six-shooter was more like an “infinity-shooter,” since it could plug eight henchmen, miss on three occasions so the sound effects guy could add a neat ricochet noise, and still have two slugs left to put in the main miscreant. And while these directors deserve praise for being so retro—that’s a nice way of saying “too lazy to film a three-second sequence showing the shooter reloading”—the true artiste takes an even more entertaining approach.
He employs what may be called an I.M.O.S., “infinity-minus-one-shooter.”
The I.M.O.S. has a far greater flair for drama than its powder-burning brethren, and can be anything from a standard sidearm to an exotic automatic rifle. And what makes these weapons so extraordinary is, they eventually do come up empty—but only at moments of high suspense.
Yep, Hero A can be pinned down in a warehouse duel and squeeze off about 57 shots at the jewel-heist gang, and then find himself with an empty .45. This affords him the option of either breaking out one of several clips he’s carried on his person while performing a series of rolls and shimmies that would score him a 9.4 in Olympic floor-exercise competition, or to whip out a monstrous weapon designed to incite the oohs and aahs of audience members not wondering why he didn’t use it in the first place.
Better still, the I.M.O.S. allows a villain to recklessly spray lead all over the place, giving an eight-year-old parked car more holes than a tennis racket, ventilating some innocent shipping crates, scattering a squadron of coppers and, just when he has the drop on Hero B and is sadistically grinning at his helpless terrified target, CLICK: Oh, dear, it appears I’m out of ammunition, old chap. At which point he is supplied with one more bullet. The hard way. In the skull.
What makes I.M.O.S. sequences so amusing is the fact they DRAW YOUR ATTENTION to “the rule”—after blatantly ignoring it the entire time!!! Only in junkfilms does one find such an enthusiastic guilt-free willingness to insult the audience’s intelligence on such a grand scale.
Anyway, the word counter on the wall says I’m out of space here, so go dig up—and dig---L.A. Bounty pronto, Tonto. Just don’t come around here wearing a stinkin’ Kobe jersey. Otherwise, there may be another L.A. Bounty placed on someone’s head. And I don’t mean “the quicker picker-upper,” chum.
There's a boatload of junkfilm reviews--most illustrated in the crazy new COLOR medium!--at ManorOnMovies.com. You are invited.