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Case Number 26628: Small Claims Court

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The Return (1980)

Scorpion Releasing // 1980 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // November 28th, 2013

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker's glad for Brad.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Return, published March 5th, 2007, is also available.

The Charge

"You can't get away from US, Lay-dee Sci-IN-Tis-tah!"

The Case

While it's not something I'd ever thought about, I guess this is something of a milestone, or maybe the kind of hidden bucket-list nugget that people don't usually discuss, but: watching The Return means that I have now seen every theatrical film that Brad Rearden ever made. "Brad Rearden?" you say. Yes, Brad Rearden.

Because when you watch as many genre films as I do, people like Brad Rearden become recognizable, and it's funny seeing them just turn up in films without any particular warning—you know, you pop in The Silent Scream, there's Brad Rearden, you pop in Hi-Riders, there's Brad Rearden. If I weren't reviewing, I might not have ever noticed this actor, but with three review titles in my collection (this one, The Silent Scream, and 1977's Haunted), plus The Terminator and Greydon Clark's Hi-Riders, it just became this weirdly serendipitous situation.

It's also serendipitous because Rearden was an appealing actor with off-beat looks and an enthusiasm bordering on intense. He might not have been leading man material, but he certainly made his presence known. He attacked his roles with a ferocious energy that was just, plain fun to watch; he was a consummate character actor in the making with a style that harkened back to the colorful, more broad performances of an earlier time.

Like mainstream films, off-market movies tend to feature bland but attractive people in the leading roles; supporting actors in films like these, however, get to do their share of scenery chewing, and here's where Rearden stands out. Excepting The Terminator and Who's That Girl (his last credit, according to IMDb), Rearden had pretty significant roles in the quartet of indie films he made between 1977 and 1980, two of them directed by Greydon Clark. In a mainstream film, the short, slight young man with the prominent nose and sharp features might not have gotten a second look; in these oddball cult offerings, you can hardly take your eyes off him. In each of these films, Rearden creates a bizarre, outsider character, each one distinct, original.

In The Return, Rearden shows up in support of stars Jan-Michael Vincent (1980's Defiance) and Cybill Shepherd (The Last Picture Show). Vincent and Shepherd play two people who, as children, witnessed a UFO hovering over a town in New Mexico where he was growing up and she had stopped with her father on a trip. Twenty-five years later, he's a drunken sheriff in the same town, and she's a scientist in her father's L.A. based company, which has satellites in New Mexico. Shepherd returns to the town to investigate some strange images the satellites have picked up.

There has also been a rash of gruesome cattle killings. The cattle are owned by the Richest Man for Miles (Neville Brand, Love Me Tender), who begins to suspect that the lovely Cybill, whose arrival coincides with the carnage, might have something to do with it. When simple questioning fails to produce any answers, the rich man's wastrel son, Eddie, decides to take matters into his own hands.

Well, that wastrel son is the Brad Rearden role. While The Return features Martin Landau (Ed Wood) in a fairly funny turn as Vincent's deputy, Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost) as a crazy, alien-friendly prospector, and Raymond Burr (Godzilla) phones it in as Shepherd's father, this film really only comes to life during Rearden's few scenes.

In arguably the best scene in the film, Eddie and a small group of hooligans go after Cybill Shepherd during a rainstorm. It's a pretty short scene, and doesn't add much to the already-thin story, but thanks to Rearden's fearlessly (or recklessly) over-the-top histrionics, it's one for the ages. He whines, he snivels, he sneers! He calls Shepherd "Lay-dee Sci-IN-Tis-tah!" He shows a brand on his hand that he inflicted to see how the cows feel! He gets clocked by Shepherd—who has an unfair height/weight advantage—and slapped around by Vincent, and then yelled at by Brand! He screams, he sobs! It is just an insanely colorful bit of acting, a ridiculous scene, and the essence of everything I love about films like this.

There's a crazy cathartic quality to films like this that only a unique personality can really put across, and Brad Rearden was that unique personality; it takes a special kind of director to see the spark of that personality, and there's a sense that a low, low-budget director like Clark will let Rearden do his thing without a lot of restraint. Rearden's turn in Clark's Hi-Riders as Toad, a goofy member of a goofy biker-and-hot-rod gang, is even more flamboyantly off-the-wall and entertaining. How cool it must have been for Brad Rearden in the late '70s to have been a part of the last-gasp of the whole low-budget, drive-in movie era, before home video and really cheap filmmaking sources came to prominence and changed the indie landscape.

In the supplemental material here and on the other Rearden discs, he is spoken of fondly, but no one seems to know what happened to him. His IMDb profile ends in 1987 with an extra role in Who's That Girl? In the commentary for The Silent Scream, the writers talk about trying to get in touch with him, presumably to take part in the release, but being unable to find him. He literally dropped out of sight, something that was not uncommon in the days before the Internet.

As far as The Return: Other than a few amusing kills with a sawed-off light saber, there's not a whole lot here that's all too compelling. Shepherd and Vincent figure out that they'd shared the "alien experience" two-and-a-half decades before and that Schiavelli's crazy prospector (and his crazy dog) are lynchpins for the alien shenanigans. It's an easy-going film, though overall a bit shoddy and a little dull. The special effects are crummy, the story is all over the place and ultimately a little hard to follow, and it's just not all that good.

The disc from Scorpion, however, is very good, with a decent image and fine audio. Supplements include an audio commentary by Clark; I don't know if it was recorded for this release, but his introduction to the film is almost identical to his introduction on the Hi-Riders disc, which was released in 2010. In addition, there's an on-camera interview with Clark, a trailer for the film, trailers for other Scorpion releases, and the option to watch the film in "Nightmare Theater" mode, with intros and outros from Katarina Leigh Waters.

The power of Rearden cannot be underestimated. Wherever he is now, Brad, along with all the other unsung names who've provided such good times in such marginal movies, this one's for you all. Thanks, folks.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Scorpion Releasing
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Cult
• Independent
• Mystery
• Science Fiction
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Wraparounds
• Commentary
• Interview
• Trailers

Accomplices

• IMDb
• IMDb: Brad Rearden








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