aka AMERICAN TIGER
(Italy - 1989; US release 1991)
Directed by Martin Dolman (Sergio Martino). Written by Sauro Scavolini, Roberto Leoni and Maria Perrone Capano. Cast: Mitch Gaylord, Daniel Greene, Victoria Prouty, Donald Pleasence, Michi Kobi, Roger Pretto, Regina Rodriguez, Darin De Paul, Judi Clayton, Glenn Maska, Carmen Lopez, Gregg Todd Davis, Sherrie Rose, Von B. Von Lindenberg. (Unrated, 96 mins)
Like me, if you saw the generic-looking AMERICAN TIGER VHS cover art to the left in the video store back in the early '90s, you probably didn't even give it a second glance. There was Mitch Gaylord, who led the gold medal-winning US gymnastics team at the 1984 Summer Olympics on his way to washing out as a leading man in the 1986 flop AMERICAN ANTHEM, slumming in what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill Italian-made actioner of some sort with the meaningless tag line "Miami just got hotter..." just in case the pastel color scheme didn't already vaguely remind you of MIAMI VICE. Oh, what a foolish mistake we made by dismissing this and putting this back on the shelf! Released in Europe in 1989 under its original title AMERICAN RICKSHAW, the film was retitled by Academy Entertainment for its 1991 straight-to-video release in the US, and you almost have to wonder if the marketing people at Academy ever bothered to watch it.
"Ancient Chinese Secret!" commercial. It seems as if director Sergio Martino (under his frequent '80s pseudonym "Martin Dolman") and co-writers Sauro Scavolini (YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY) and Roberto Leoni (THE FINAL EXECUTIONER, SANTA SANGRE) are riffing on BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, and it progresses in a weird enough way until the last half hour, when AMERICAN RICKSHAW goes so off-the-rails bonkers on a one-way trip to Crazytown that even attempting to explain it is an exercise in futility. The fact that there's almost no cult following around this thing has to be blamed on either that bland Academy Entertainment VHS cover (the Italian poster seen above at least appears to sell the supernatural angle) or on people who did rent it ejecting it halfway through out of boredom, while the select few who are aware of it have done a good job of keeping it to themselves. That finally seems to be changing, as AMERICAN RICKSHAW is one of the inaugural releases of the new Blu-ray company Cauldron Films, because physical media is dead. It probably ranks second on the list of 2020's insane Blu-ray resurrections, right after Arrow's WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!), and like that film, it warms my heart to know that there's still mind-blowing gems like this hiding out there, overlooked in their day and patiently waiting all these years to be unearthed.
HANDS OF STEEL). He's looking for a key that was on a necklace worn by the dead perv, who's revealed to be Jason Mortom (Gregg Todd Davis), the black sheep son of frothing, fire-and-brimstone megachurch televangelist Rev. Samuel Mortom (Donald Pleasence, chewing on a really hammy Southern accent). It seems--and yes, this gets complicated--Jason and Scott were born on the same day--June 6, 1966 in the Year of the Tiger, according to the Chinese calendar (note: 1966 is not a Year of the Tiger, but 1962 and 1976 are; 1966 is a Year of the Horse, so the movie doesn't even get it right)--and for their entire lives, they've been "linked" and watched over psychically from afar by elderly Chinese mystic Madame Luna (Michi Kobi). She was once in possession of a glowing talisman that holds the key to immortality, and it was stolen from her years ago by the evil Rev. Mortom, in actuality a cult leader who has assigned disciple Francis to retrieve it after Jason stashes it in a train station locker as part of an extortion plot against his father.
|One of cinema's great unsung dummy deaths.