Not Another Mistake (1989, directed by Anthony Maharaj)




As the title indicates, this is another Nam film, where a veteran reenters the jungle and finally rescues the POWs who were left behind when the United States fled Saigon.  With Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and even Gene Hackman leading the way, these films were all the rage during the 80s.  They provided American audiences with a chance to go back and win the only war that, up to that point, America had lost.  Not only did they provide wish-fulfillment for audiences but they also confirmed what several suspected, that the only reason the U.S. lost in Vietnam was because our soldiers’s hands were tied by generals and Washington pencil pushers.  If we had just let our men go in and fight the VC guerrilla-style, these films say, Saigon never would have fallen.

Not Another Mistake came out towards the end of the cycle and you know what type of film you’re about to get into as soon as the “A Troma Team Release” skyline appears at the start of it.

Don’t let that skyline scare you off.  Not Another Mistake is slightly better than the average Troma film.  Admittedly, that’s not exactly a high bar to clear.

Richard Norton plays Richard Straker, who served in a special ops unit during Vietnam and who was a key part of Operation Black Thunder.  In other words, he’s a badass.  After the war ended, Straker raised a family and found success as a businessman.  One night, he returns home and interrupts a home invasion.  He kills the thugs but not before his wife and daughter each suffer a slow motion death.  (Straker has Vietnam flashbacks while shooting the thugs.)  Straker spends a year drinking and then goes to Vietnam to lead a raid on a POW camp.  What’s interesting is that Straker’s family being murdered doesn’t really figure into the rest of the plot.  He never brings up his tragic past nor does it appear to have made him more willing to take crazy risks or anything else you’d expect it to do.  Instead, his family is gunned down because I guess the movie had to start in some way.

Once Straker is sent to Vietnam, he’s given a ragtag group of soldiers to command.  None of the soldiers have any personality but then again, neither do any of the POWs or the camp guards or anyone else in the movie, other than Straker.  Richard Norton has appeared in a lot of movies like this and his appeal has always been that he seems like he could probably do everything that he does on film in real life.  Norton is convincing in the action scenes and he does okay in the big dramatic scenes, like when he rescues an old friend, just to discover that, after years in a POW camp, the man is nearly dead.

It takes a while for Not Another Mistake to really get going.  There’s a lot of extremely dark jungle scenes where you can’t really see what’s going on.  Things pick up once they get to the POW camp and the rescue operation leads to some exciting action scenes.  There’s a good chase scene on a train and this film features some of my favorite example of one man being able to blow up gigantic buildings with just one grenade launcher.  One thing that I appreciated about the film is that it attempted to be honest about what type of state a person would be in after spending 20 years in a POW camp.  This isn’t one of those films where the POWs can pick up a discarded machine gun and immediately follow Chuck Norris into battle.  Also, as easy as it is compare Not Another Mistake to the other POW rescue films of the 80s, it has a surprisingly dark and abrupt ending, which suggests that maybe the film was meant to be more than just an exercise in jingoistic wish fulfillment.  It’s the type of sober ending that you never would have seen happen to Norris or Sylvester Stallone but Richard Norton handles it like a champ.

Too long by at least 30 minutes and severely hampered by a low budget, Not Another Mistake still has enough surprises and enough Richard Norton to stand out from the rest of the POW rescue genre.  If you’re a fan of the genre, watching this won’t be another mistake.

The Covers of Private Detective Stories

by Harry Lemon Parkhurst

Private Detective Stories ran from 1937 to 1950 and, over the course of 134 issues, it shared stories of betrayal, murder, and detectives.  The content was no different than what could be found in countless other pulp magazines of the era but, as you can tell by looking below, the covers were surprisingly violent even by the standards of the pulps.

Here’s just a covers from Private Detective Stories.  As always, the artist has been credited when known.

by Allen Gustav Anderson

by Allen Gustav Anderson

by Harry Lemon Parkhurst

by Harry Lemon Parkhurst

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

Unknown Artist

Spring Breakdown: Super Shark (dir by Fred Olen Ray)

So, here’s the thing: when I was making out my list of films to review for Spring Breakdown, I was under the impression that the 2011 film, Super Shark, was a Spring Break film.  I was convinced that it was a film about a giant shark that ate a bunch of people over the course of Spring Break.

Fortunately, right before posting this review, I decided to rewatch Super Shark.  Normally, I probably wouldn’t have because I’m currently on vacation but it’s also currently raining and it’s also about 7 degrees outside.  (That’s 7 degrees Celsius but it’s still pretty cold.)  It’s like God was reading through my drafts folder last night and said, “Uh-oh.  Lisa needs to rewatch the movie before she posts the review.”

Anyway, upon rewatching Super Shark, I discovered that 1) the film is still awesome as Hell and 2) it’s not actually a Spring Break film.  Instead, it’s a summer film.  There’s even a scene where two lifeguards talk about what a great time they’re going to have working on the beach during the summer.  So, technically, I probably shouldn’t be reviewing this film as part of a Spring Break series but …. well, I’m going to do it anyways.  I mean, it may be a summer film but it plays out like a Spring Break film.  Plus, it’s got a giant shark.

Not surprisingly, for a film called Super Shark, the giant shark is the main attraction.  The CGI’s a bit dodgy and the shark does look a bit cartoonish but that actually adds to the film’s charm.  Whereas Steven Spielberg dealt with the reality of a fake-looking shark by keeping the shark off-screen as much as possible, directed Fred Olen Ray takes the opposite approach and seriously, more power to him.  Ray puts the shark in as many scenes as possible, as if he’s saying, “Yes, this is a low-budget B-movie and why should we pretend that it’s anything other than that?”  There’s an honesty to this approach that’s impossible not to respect.

The shark is prehistoric in origin.  It was safely separated from society until the big bad oil company did some bad corporate stuff and, as a result, the shark is now free to ruin everyone’s summer.  You know that whole thing about how sharks have to stay in the water or they’ll die?  That’s not a problem for Super Shark.  Super Shark will jump on the beach and eat you, he doesn’t care.  In fact, Super Shark is such a rebel that he’ll even take on a tank and win!  WE LOVE YOU, SUPER SHARK!

As always, there’s a group of humans around who don’t love Super Shark as much as the viewers.  There’s the evil corporate guy played by John Schneider.  He’s into money and drilling.  And then there’s the scientist played by Sarah Lieving.  She hates corporations and she doesn’t like sharks.  There’s a DJ played by Jimmie “JJ” Walker.  And then there’s the lifeguards and the beachgoers and the people who just want to participate in a wholesome bikini contest.  Sorry, everyone, Super Shark has other plans.

Anyway, I have a weakness for films about giant sharks attacking oil wells and eating people on the beach.  It’s a silly film but it’s obviously been designed to be silly.  This isn’t Jaws nor is this a serious film about the issues surrounding underwater drilling.   This is a B-movie about a giant shark and if you can’t enjoy something like this, I worry about you.  This is a film that you watch with your friends and you have a lot of fun talking back to the screen.  Don’t take it seriously and just enjoy the giant shark action.  Who could ask for a better summer?  Or a better Spring Break for that matter?


Music Video of the Day: Sabotage by the Beastie Boys (1994, directed by Spike Jonze)

Today’s music video of the day is my personal pick for the greatest music video of all time, Sabotage by the Beastie Boys!

This song was actually inspired by the band’s frustration with a sound engineer who the band felt was trying to rush them through their recording sessions.  The feeling was that he was deliberately “sabotaging” them and the band expressed their frustrations in an instrumental track.  It wasn’t until two weeks before the track was actually to be recorded that the Beastie Boys came up with the lyrics for the song.

The video, famously, features the Beastie Boys as three cops on a 70s cop show, pursuing and apparently murdering Sir Stewart Wallace.  This video is usually held up as an example of director Spike Jonze’s love of kitsch but the 70s cop show theme was actually first suggested by Adam Horowitz.

Believe it or not, this video was controversial when it was first released because it was considered by some to be too violent.  MTV actually demanded three cuts before they would accept it.  They demanded that the knife fight be shortened and that shots of bodies being tossed out of a car and over a bridge be taken out of the video.  Of course, in both shots, the body was obviously a dummy so I’m not sure what MTV was freaking out about.

Sabotage received five nominations at the MTV Music Video Awards and, amazingly, it lost every one of them.  Even best direction was won by Jake Scott, who did the video for R.E.M’s Everybody Hurts.  While Michael Stipe was accepting the best direction award, Adam Yauch rushed the stage (while dressed as Nathaniel Hornblower) and protested the snubbing of Sabotage.  

This was actually the first time in the history of the VMAs that someone rushed the stage to protest a win.  Kanye West, of course, later made this a famous move but Adam Yauch did it first.  (My favorite thing about the picture above is the look on Michael Stipe’s face.)

The MTV Music Video Awards may not have appreciated Sabotage but the rest of the world certainly did.  It not only remains one of the signature tunes of the 90s but, if you believe Star Trek, it’s also the song that inspired Jim Kirk to grow up, join Starfleet, and put the safety of everyone under his command at risk at least once a week.