Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vigilante Force (1976)

Dir: George Armitage
MGM HD Channel broadcast

Armitage has always been an intriguing figure to me. He seemed to be on the path to filmmaker stardom during the seventies being one of Roger Corman's guys from that period. He wrote and/or directed a handful of interesting exploitation quickies, including Gas-s-s-s, which I've always found to be bizarrely appealing. But after 1979, he seems to have disappeared until 1990's Miami Blues and then retreating again until 97's Grosse Point Blank. I can find no biographical information on the man, so we have only his work to ascertain any info on him. Vigilante Force is the story of a small town that has recently opened it's oil reserves due to the pending energy crisis. There is a huge influx of new people into town, all oil field workers that have overrun the town with illegal goings on and violence that has scared not only the townsfolk, but the police as well. The town leaders get together and decide to hire a (you guessed it) Vigilante Force to deal with these rowdy roustabouts. They decide to turn to the devil they know, and ask respectable citizen Ben (Jan-Michael Vincent) to hire his troubled brother Aaron (Kris Kristofferson) to lead the force that will make the town safe again. Aaron, it seems, grew up causing an awful lot of trouble around town and then went off to do "three tours in 'Nam", now Armitage has brought in the country's treatment of vets and our dependence on oil into what could have been a routine actioner. Aaron brings four of his buddies along and gets results immediately. Unfortunately for the town people, Aaron has other plans in mind. He soon replaces the illegal gambling with his own people and also uses them to shake down local business owners for protection money. He goes too far by killing the people that get in his way and this prompts Ben and the other townies to create their own (say it with me) Vigilante Force. At this point the films almost becomes a heist movie, but the plot is foiled as Ben's force launches an assault on Aaron's. It's a well paced film with just enough political undercurrent to not hit you over the head. The action is mostly well staged for the limited budget and Armitage's script is often clever and witty. Besides the two leads, both of which work perfectly, there's a good supporting cast that includes Victoria Principal, Bernadette Peters, Paul Gleason, a bazooka, and a cameo by Dick Miller.
Hopefully MGM has plans for a DVD release, the print looked excellent. I would love to hear an Armitage commentary on this as well.


1 comment:

  1. I could never buy Jan-Michael Vincent as a respectable member of any community