Monday, March 20, 2017

From Avco to Dino: DEG

After purchasing the theatrical division of Embassy Pictures, Dino DeLaurentiis was essentially manning an unmanned army. Whilst unable to get in on the last few Embassy releases or any of the stuff Nelson Entertainment was involved in, he was able to purchase some land in Wilmington, North Carolina (where his production of Firestarter had been filmed, hence his inspiration for the location) and set up a studio there, DEG.

The studio was short-lived and succumbed rather swiftly to bankruptcy, but it did manage to eke out an interesting slate of movies. Sort of.

First off was this quick attempt to cash in on the success and burgeoning popularity of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dino managed to get him to make one last film for him. Better than Red Sonja (yeah, there's a challenge) but not as good as the two Conan films (whatever faults the second film has, it's still better than this one), Raw Deal is an agreeably cheesy time waster but honestly, you're probably going to opt for something else if you're craving some old school Arnie. For an earlier take from me, click here.

One of many films released during this period based on a line of toys, this is one I have no plans on ever watching for any reason.

I reviewed this part of my My Favorite Era series and it's still one of the best junk food movies I have ever seen. Is it good? No, not especially. Do I wish Stephen King had directed at least one more time? Absolutely!

This one was a dud at the box office but it's a watchable enough late 80's animated film. The animation style is pretty solid considering the time period, voice acting is good and the soundtrack is quite good. If nothing else, it's better than the live action films.

Flashy Michael Mann adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon (later adapted again in 2002) with a good cast, typically 80's style from Mann and a solid climax set to Iron Butterfly. Not a great film, but a decent enough one in the franchise that is surpassed only by The Silence of the Lambs.

Controversial David Lynch movie that is about as close to a straightforward narrative as you are likely to get from the man (with the exception of The Elephant Man and his 1997 film The Straight Story) as Kyle MacLachlan plays a young man in a small town drawn into a murder mystery involving sadism, sex and Dennis Hopper in one possibly his most insane performance. It's not an especially easy film to watch but if you can stomach it, it's rather engrossing.

Fairly obscure film from Albert Pyun that barely got a release.

Charles Martin Smith directed this tale of a young heavy metal fan haunted by his undead idol, a deranged musician who killed himself and is now able to influence others. There was a spate of rock and roll themed horror films that came out around this time, and this is not one of the better ones.

Loose adaptation of a James Clavell that failed to reach the popularity that the Shogun miniseries did earlier in the decade.

Pro Wrestling and Hal Needham meet in this wild comedy starring Dirk Benedict (of The A-Team) as a sleazy promoter who gets involved in wrestling and rock music. Several pro wrestlers appear in this film, most notably the late Rowdy Roddy Piper and the film faced some release issues as well as problems during production, resulting in it being released straight to video.

Well reviewed dark comedy about three sisters in the deep south who get together and confront their pasts. Yeah, it's a chick flick.

Appropriately enough, this king-sized sequel to Dino's version of King Kong is a king-sized flop. Bad acting, an amazingly stupid script and dodgy f/x sink this one like a rock. Just awful.

The next two, I honestly have nothing to talk about. By this point, DEG was  beginning to look like a lost cause as a bad 1986 gave way to an even worse 1987, though there a few bright spots.



After two poor outings, DEG had, if not exactly financial success, than at least an artistic one as Evil Dead 2 is probably the best thing associated with them. More than enough words have been written about how great this one is so I will just add  nod of agreement and move along.

This is probably what really did the studio in as not only did you have a movie sponsored by a trash bag company (which is tempting fate in ways beyond even my imagination), you also had an accompanying cash prize for potential viewers... From a company that was already in deep financial doo-doo. The fact that it's a rather limp rip-off of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World didn't help matters much either.

This is probably the last genuinely fantastic movie DEG made. Lance Henriksen stars as the leader of a pack of modern vampires who stalk the American southwest. Great performances across the board plus nice f/x and solid direction from Kathryn Bigelow make this a real treat.

The latter part of 1987 was where the wheels really came off. DEG was losing money and the last year and a half or so would see one or two decent flicks buried with delays, poor reviews and even worse box office returns. Dino would end up resigning from the company in early 1988. honestly, not many of their films from this period are worth mentioning apart from a couple which I will highlight.

 A case where DEG went uncredited due to their bankruptcy (this happened with several movies, including one which ended up with Orion funnily enough), Shakedown is a solid action film from James Glickenhaus that stars Peter Weller as an idealistic public defender who gets drawn into a police corruption case. Sam Elliot is a tough cop who helps him out and while the story is fairly pedestrian, the action scenes are quite spectacular.

 This is one that I always wanted to see just based on the VHS sleeve but never got the chance to. Shadoe Stevens is a touch Texas State Trooper who quite to become a mercenary as well as bake cookies. Yet another DEG release that ended up going right to the video store, this is an agreeably wacky action comedy and with a better script, it might have been an actual good one.

Stan Winston made his directorial debut with this solid little monster movie that stars Lance Henriksen as a grieving father who carelessly lets a monstrous demon loose to avenge his dead son, only for grave consequences to reveal themselves as events unfold. Good acting from Henriksen and a rather cool monster make this one a fun viewing.

I covered this in my Orion series but it bears mentioning that initially, it was with DEG. It was one of many films that ended up being delayed (including the really bad Jay Leno/Pat Morita action comedy Collision Course which I will be sparing you) with the last of them coming out in 1992.

An unqualified disaster, DEG essentially ended Dino's tenure as a major producer. Dino continued making movies until 2007 with some ending up pretty good (Breakdown) and others being the last three Hannibal Lecter films. He had one hell of a career regardless of how you feel about his movies.

And that wraps it up for this series., Hope you enjoyed it.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.