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  Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires The Man The 80s Needs
Year: 2018
Director: Mike Mort
Stars: Mike Mort, Jennifer Saunders, Paul Whitehouse, Dan Russell, Jonnie Fiori, Samantha Coughlan, Romano Marenghi, Geoff Robbins, Jonnie Price, Mark Richard Jones, Laura Tofarides, Lauren Harris
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Action, AnimatedBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Chuck Steel (Mike Mort) is the best goddam cop on the LAPD, but he got that way by being uncompromising, even to his boss, Captain Jack Schitt (also Mort), who he drives to distraction at regular intervals. Nevertheless, Chuck has known sorrow: he tells of the time he lost his wife at the hands of a ninja master where even his talking, machine gun firing and laser equipped motorbike could not help him. He has never really recovered from this loss, but he had better give himself a shake, for there is a menace to the city that is unprecedented, a strain of the undead with a liking for drinking booze - mixed with blood.

Chuck Steel began life as a popular short, Raging Balls of Steel Justice, which spoofed the eighties action genre with a keen eye and welcome sense of the ridiculous, which arguably is the correct way to approach the original movies. But creator Mike Mort was not about to rest on his laurels, up his sleeve he had a long-in-development screenplay for a feature length comedy with the characters, and after slaving over some hot plasticine, he was able to edit together what most would agree is a very slick-looking horror parody that takes in the eighties action the audience would be most familiar with; playing to the gallery, perhaps, but not untalented by any means.

Maybe the problems entered into the tone when you considered that in the two decades it took to get produced, comedy and targets of same had moved on somewhat. While even in 2013 when Chuck initially appeared on the scene the ability to do all the voices was admirable for Mort, in 2021 when the movie finally got a wider release, you had a white guy voicing a black character (the Captain), which after the controversy of Hank Azaria performing Apu on The Simpsons seemed like it was going to attract some criticism. Though that was small beer compared to the story's treatment of gender, with a psychiatrist trying to get the LAPD's manly men in touch with their feminine side.

You could understand what Mort was aiming for, the sort of gay panic that infested eighties action despite the whole genre flirting outrageously with being almost unwittingly drawn to, shall we say, other, non-hetero lifestyles, but in the twenty-twenties that was a tricky thing to be making gags about. Fair enough, it wasn't illegal, but it was a mark of how long it took to craft these stop motion items that the humour was pretty dated by the point of release. What was better was Mort's knowledge of horror flicks and that brought in a spectrum of the style, from the Hammer horrors of yore (Chuck teams up with Professor Van Rental - voiced, again, by Mort - who is a Peter Cushing stand-in with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Trampires) to the zombie efforts of the eighties; the grand finale even had a hint of Howard the Duck about it.

Paul Whitehouse had been recruited for a few voices, presumably as a reference to his sketch on The Fast Show where he met a stop motion animator ("Just a... tiny amount"), as had fellow Brit comedy favourite Jennifer Saunders who performed the psychiatrist, Dr Alex Cular (hmm...) who may have an agenda outside messing up the police department with pop psychology. But it was Chuck himself who was the strongest asset, since as an unreconstructed male with anger issues, he was the ideal embodiment of the cliches that continued to this day in action movies, albeit in ones, like this, which looked back longingly to a different era. The animation was excellent throughout, even when the jokes were cheerfully bad taste to a fault, and while it was not going to make everyone laugh, the post-pub crowd would be happy to embrace it, or at least give it a manly, Predator-esque handclasp. It did ask you to have a background with its influences, but if you did, you could forgive its many excesses - excess was what it was all about. Music by Joris de Man.

Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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