Film Review: Guns (dir by Andy Sidaris)

As you can probably tell by looking at the poster at the top of this review, the 1990 film Guns was Andy Sidaris’s attempt to make a Bond film.  Not only does the poster feature a man in a tuxedo and two gun-wielding women but the tag line even reads, “James Never Had This Kind of Help!”

(Of course, that’s not really true, as anyone who has seen Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, or For Your Eyes Only can tell you.)

Much like a Bond film, Guns features a secret agent fighting to defeat an international conspiracy.  The agent’s efforts lead her and her allies to several different cities in several different … well, really only one country.  Being a Sidaris film, it’s doubtful the Guns really had the budget to film anyplace other than the United States but still, the action does move from Lake Huvasa, Arizona to Hawaii to Las Vegas.  That’s about as close as a Sidaris film ever gets to featuring exotic locations.

(If Lake Havusa sounds familiar, that’s because Jimmy Kimmel gave away at trip to Lake Havusa during the Oscars.)

And like any good Bond film, Guns has a flamboyant and almost comically evil villain.  Juan “Jack of Diamonds” Degas (telenovela star and future reality tv mainstay Erik Estrada) is an international gun dealer and an all-around sociopath.  He’s the type who shoots someone and then smirks about it.  He’s so evil that he’s even got Danny Tejo working as his main henchman!  That’s really evil!  Estrada gives a surprisingly good performance in the role.  Especially when compared to the forgettable villains who appeared in Sidaris’s previous films, Juan Degas feels like a worthy opponent.  It’s not just that he’s evil.  It’s that he’s so damn smug about it.  You can’t wait to see him get taken down.

Degas is planning on smuggling a bunch of Chinese weapons into America through a base on Hawaii.  The only problem is that Donna (Dona Speir) and her new partner, Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez), are based in Hawaii!  Degas knows that he has to get rid of them if he’s going to have any hope of succeeding.  (For whatever reason, it never occurs to Degas to smuggle the weapons through Guam or American Samoa. I mean, there are other islands out there.)  When Degas sends two cross-dressing assassins to kill Nicole, they end up not only shooting the wrong woman but also killing a friend of Dona’s as well.

Now, it’s personal!

Except, it was already personal.  In a typical example of Sidaris’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along style of  plotting, it turns out that Degas previously killed Donna’s father.  And now, it appears that it might get even more personal because Degas has kidnapped the Attorney General of Nevada, who happens to be Donna’s mother!

Obviously, this means that it’s time to gather together another group of misfit agents and take down the bad guys.  That means that Savage Beach‘s Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane) and Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) both show up again.  It also means that a lovable magician named Abe (Chuck McCann) gets to help out as well.  Unfortunately, one member of the team is eventually blown up by a remote control boat.

That’s right!  A remote control boat!  For some reason, remote control vehicles were a Sidaris obsession and it’s not a Sidaris film without someone getting blown by either a remote control boat or helicopter.

Anyway, there’s a lot of explosions to be found in Guns but the good thing is that it’s women blowing stuff up and it’s women who are in charge of the entire operation.  That’s the thing with a Sidaris film like this one.  For all of the nudity and the double entendre-filled dialogue, Guns was an action films where women got to shoot the guns, beat up the bad guys, and ultimately save the world from a smirking misogynist.  When Donna picked up that rocket launcher, it was both ludicrous and empowering at the same time.

Guns is one of Sidaris’s better films.  For once, despite all of the usual Sidaris red herrings, the plot can actually be followed and Estrada is an appropriately hissable villain.  While the film may not be able to compete with the best of the Bond films, it’s still more fun that SPECTRE.

Book Review: From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming


First published in 1957, the fifth James Bond novel was nearly the last.  Despite the success of the previous books, Ian Fleming was growing tired of the yearly obligation of coming up with a new adventure for James Bond.  His health failing and his marriage strained, Fleming wrote to his friend Raymond Chandler, “My muse is in a very bad way … I am getting fed up with Bond and it has been very difficult to make him go through his tawdry tricks.”

Perhaps that’s why From Russia With Love could have easily been retitled “The Death of James Bond.”

In fact, the promise of death hangs over every paragraph of From Russia With Love.  Bond doesn’t even make a personal appearance until halfway through the book.  Up until that point, we spend our time with the men and the women who are plotting his death.  The Russians not only want to kill Bond but they want to do so in a way that will embarrass the British secret service.  What better scheme than to use the naive Tatiana Romanova to entice Bond and get Bond to lower his guard long enough to be killed by their top assassin, the sociopathic Red Grant?

Indeed, From Russia With Love is unique among the Bond books in that the reader spends almost the entire book a few steps ahead of Bond.  While Bond thinks that he is helping Tatiana defect to the West, we’re aware that Red Grant is waiting just around the corner.  And while Bond is often unsure about whether Tatiana is really in love with him, we know that she is but we also know that the Russians consider her to be expendable.

Up until the final few chapters, Bond is almost as passive a character in From Russia With Love as he was in Casino Royale.  When he arrives in Turkey to investigate Tatiana, he spends most of his time being led around by the older Darko Kerim.  Much as in Casino Royale, Bond is a bit of a student, one who is briefly disturbed when Kerim ruthlessly assassinates an enemy agent.  Kerim is one of Fleming’s best creations, an outspoken spymaster who is so full of life that he often overshadows Bond.  It’s only when Kerim is dead that Bond can step up into his usual heroic role.

Throughout the book, Fleming appears to be fascinated by everyone but James Bond.  However, the change-of-pace actually works out surprisingly well.  Grant, Tatiana, Kerim, and the dangerous Major Rosa Klebb are such memorably drawn characters that it doesn’t matter that Bond spends most of the book in the background.  More than being a good Bond novel, it’s a genuinely exciting thriller.

And then there’s that ending.  After originally ending with Bond and Tatiana going off on a typical Bondian jaunt, Fleming revised the book’s conclusion.  Now, the book ended rather abruptly with Bond, having been poisoned by Major Klebb, crashing to the floor.  If you ignore the fact that you’re reading a James Bond novel then it’s obvious that the Russians have succeeded in assassinating MI6’s best agent.  That may have been Fleming’s intention but, of course, that’s not the way things turned out.  Instead, Bond would return a year later in Dr. No.

And why not?  From Russia With Love was the best Bond novel up to that point.  (I consider it to be the second best of Fleming’s Bond novels, behind On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)    Fleming may have been growing bored with Bond but readers?  They loved him.

Up next: Bond gets strange with Dr. No!

Music Video of the Day: Think of England by Bear’s Den (2015, dir by Gareth Phillips)

Apparently, “think of England” is the advice that was once given to British wives who no longer enjoyed having sex with their husband, that one should simply lie back and “think of England.”  Apparently, thinking of France would lead to divorce.

Yeah, this isn’t a particularly happy song.  But it sounds nice and I enjoy the bleakness of the video’s black-and-white cinematography.