Code Red // 1973 // 175 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // March 11th, 2011
"If this thing is killing people, then why is the mayor trying to keep
"Around here, that means big money."
It's just before Easter in a small town in Idaho, when a series of brutal murders occur. Both the police and the local criminal element are under attack by an unseen enemy, but one local tough guy and his scientist friends learn that these murders are not of human origin. Illegal toxic waste dumping has given birth to a bloodthirsty creature known only as...The Being.
After getting their hands on a huge stash of cocaine, two crooks think they've got it made. A gaggle of police catch them in the act, and the ensuing shootout leaves the lawmen dead. Our intrepid anti-heroes hit the road, taking a hostage along the way, leaving more dead bodies in their wake. Reaching their destination, it seems they've made it, with more money, drugs, and women then they can possibly enjoy. But the law is still out to get them, because they are, after all, Cop Killers.
Courtesy of Code Red, we've got another double feature with two forgotten film "gems." Made a decade apart, both films feature actor Bill Osco, and both contain enough violence and sex to satisfy anyone who love trashy B-movies.
The Being, made in 1983, is the better of the two, simply because it doesn't take itself so seriously. It's a good old fashioned creature feature, and the actors and filmmakers know it, so everything has a slight tongue-in-cheek feel. Originally, the film was called Easter Sunday, to cash in on the holiday-themed horrors of the era, such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, April Fool's Day, My Bloody Valentine and so on. As such, expect lots of Easter-ish scenes that lead to folks meeting grisly ends. We only get fleeting glimpses of the monster until the end, so there is some tedium as we get to know the so-called "characters," including a young Martin Landau (Ed Wood) in a supporting role. It's worth it to get to the finale, though, for an extended lone-survivor-versus-monster showdown, and it's a good one. The Being was clearly inspired by the title beastie in Ridley Scott's Alien, but it's just different enough to be its own monster, and is a great overall design.
Cop Killers, made in 1973, is tougher to sit through, due to its cynical, mean-spirited tone. Our drug-running anti-heroes murder and maim their way through the whole movie, with one of them only showing a few glimpses of humanity. You could argue that it's dark comedy, especially when the pair hijacks an ice cream truck (you know, to be inconspicuous), but it's the darkest of dark. Fortunately, this one also leads up to a great finale -- a tense, brutal standoff that's like something out of a Peckinpah film.
The picture quality on the DVD varies, at times passable but at times riddled with flecks and scratches. Sound fares better, with clean dialogue and music. The highlights of the extras are the commentaries, one for each film. Actor Jason Williams (Flesh Gordon) provides the track for Cop Killers, and it's mostly a subdued, meandering chat, although with some interesting tidbits about the zero-budget production. For The Being, we get a track by comedian Johnny Dark. His character only has about a minute of screentime, so there's very little talk about the actual movie. Fortunately, Dark is an interesting guy, who's worked with practically everyone in Hollywood, including Robin Williams, David Letterman, Michael Keaton, and even Michael Jackson. He has stories about them all, making this a fascinating listen. We also get the original trailers for both flicks.
These movies are far from perfect, but they should scratch that "midnight movie" itch. Check them out if that's your scene.
For killing cops: Guilty. For being bad movies: Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Original Trailers
* IMDb: The Being
* IMDb: Cop Killers