Friday, August 10, 2012
Everyone has their favorite Chuck Norris movie. Well, everyone cool does. Well, everyone cool who was a teenage male in the early 80's does. And, as one of that noble – and cool – generation, I too have a Chuck Norris movie that I believe stands above the rest, both as pure drive-in entertainment and as showcases for our hero's unique screen... charms. That movie is LONE WOLF McQUADE (1983), and - much to my delight - it's now become available in glorious HD with a new Blu-ray edition from MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Here's the plot, such as it is: "lone wolf" Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade (Norris, THE CUTTER) attempts to shut down an international gun runner and karate champion named Rawley Wilkes (David Carradine) while simultaneously romancing (in that unique Norris manner) Wilkes' girlfriend, the exotic Lola (Barbara Carrera). When the lawman starts to get too close - to both the guns and the woman - Wilkes retaliates, killing McQuade's pet wolf and kidnapping the Ranger's teenage daughter. Needless to say, this ticks our hero off, and leads to a climactic foot-to-face showdown between B-movie titans at Rawley's south of the border hacienda...
Chuck's cinematic valentine to Clint Eastwood (check out the name of the hospital in the film) manages to combine Eastwood's "Man With No Name" and "Dirty Harry Callahan" into one amalgamated character, and gives Chuck what is arguably his best film role (derivative as it may be) in the taciturn McQuade. (Hell, in his later, long-running TV series WALKER, TEXAS RANGER, he played what amounted to a toned-down, TV-safe, G-rated version of the character, so even Chuck knows it.)
Exploitation movie maestro Steve Carver (BIG BAD MAMA, EYE FOR AN EYE, JOCKS) keeps things moving fast enough that you barely notice the plot holes, and the action scenes are terrific, in that Old School, no digital cheating or distracting shaky camera way. He also ropes in a great B-movie cast – L.Q. Jones, R. G. Armstrong, William Sanderson (BLADE RUNNER), Robert Beltran (STAR TREK VOYAGER), sultry Barbara Carrera (fresh off I, THE JURY), and, of course, the legendary David Carradine (KUNG FU, CIRCLE OF IRON, CANNONBALL) as Wilkes, the bad guy in the even worse sweater.
Granted, it's a ludicrous movie, with a trivial, paper-thin plot and cliché dialogue. But it's just so much damned fun. You've got Carradine hamming it up shamelessly, Carrera looking smoking hot, beautiful desert photography by cinematographer Roger Shearman, great gunfights, plenty of roundhouse kicks, a terrific, Morricone-inspired soundtrack by Francesco De Masi (THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS), a gratuitous dwarf mob boss... and Chuck's 4-wheel drive pick-up truck, which deserves billing on the poster, it's so badass.
Over the last month or so, as a tie-in to Chuck's eagerly-anticipated big screen comeback in the forthcoming EXPENDABLES sequel, MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have unleashed a handful of the 80's action icon's back catalog in new high-definition, Blu-ray editions. LONE WOLF McQUADE sports a startlingly-sharp 1080p HD, 16x9 1.85:1 widescreen transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio Mono sound (a French language track is also included). The picture quality is pretty remarkable for a 30 year-old low budget action flick, with no dirt or damage apparent, bright colors, and rock-solid blacks. The audio, obviously, doesn't have much depth, but is clear. The only extra is the original theatrical trailer.
For all of its derivative nature and nonsense plot, this is far and away my favorite Chuck Norris film vehicle. The new Blu-ray disc is a dramatic technical improvement over the 2001 MGM DVD... and it's cheap,too. So, if you're as much of a McQUADE fan as I am, I highly recommend picking it up.
BUY: Lone Wolf Mcquade [Blu-ray]