Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

Depraved indie bad boy Jim Van Bebber locks down the low-budget, ultra-badass vibe in this entry, in which he also stars and does his own stunts, including leaping off quite a tall bridge. The tag line for the film is "He quit the gangs, they killed his girl", and if you need more explanation than that, stop reading now. Van Bebber nails the look and feel of grimy '80s actioners, but with an air of authenticity (perhaps coming from the suitably decaying Dayton, Ohio cityscapes that frame the film) lacking in many of the more polished offerings of the era.

In his little interview (on the lovingly assembled Dark Sky DVD, part of the "Visions of Hell: The Films of Jim Van Bebber" box, which also includes The Manson Family and several early shorts), Van Bebber relates how he wanted to create a mashup of The Warriors and some of the Chuck Norris films he worshiped. He does that, certainly, but adds his own stamp to the film with psychedelic montages, graphic drug use and the main character's rather explicit spiral into near-oblivion.The final 10 minutes are spectacularly bloody and primal; Van Bebber and cast do a remarkable job creating a palapable mix of menace and fatalistic humour.

Not to everyone's tastes, for sure, but if you can dig either of the aforementioned precedents of this film, you'll find something both familiar and unique in Deadbeat at Dawn. I enjoyed it so much I bought the box set for myself, for what little that's worth.  Check it.


La Sporgenza said...

One test of obscurity is to read down to the bottom of the IMDb page for a movie and see the “if you enjoyed this title, our database recommends....”

In the case of Deadbeat at Dawn, the films listed are ….. Keanu Reeves in The River's Edge, …. A 1947 serial from Republic called The Black Widow, the 1936 version of Custer's Last Stand, Lethal Weapon 2, and another serial from 1941 called The Spider Returns!

The lesser known the movie the whackier the recommendations.

the coelacanth said...

i actually wouldn't mind checking out the black widow and the spider returns...