I’m a little surprised it has taken me this long to get to a David A. Prior movie, but here we are! This week’s B-Movie Enema is going to tackle Deadly Prey from 1987. There’s lots of interesting elements to talk about here. But we should start with Prior first.
Prior was born in 1955. In the early 80s, he made the movie Sledgehammer which has the distinction of being the very first shot-on-video slasher film that was distributed to the masses. In relatively quick succession, he was making films that would have limited theatrical releases, but had lots of life on cable and in video stores. Before making this film, he met David Winters (more on him shortly). Winters would finance a couple of Prior’s movies like Killzone and Killer Workout (both movies I’d very much like to cover here). After those films, Winters and Prior would form Action International Pictures (AIP) to release two more Prior films shot back-to-back – Mankillers and Deadly Prey.
David Prior often worked with his little brother, Ted Prior. Ted became pretty well known for being a buff action type star. Ted had roles in almost every AIP film that David was heavily involved in beyond being a producer. Interesting note about Ted, he was briefly married to a female bodybuilder who was part of the original cast of American Gladiators (Raye Hollitt aka Zap).
But oh boy… David Winters. He’s a guy whose movies of the 80s, 90s, 2000s, hell almost all of his producing/writing/directing credits for the past 40 years could be covered on this blog. There are two Winters films in particular that are all-star, Grade A prime beef that I could easily talk about – Dancin’ It’s On! and the infamous Space Mutiny.
Dancin’ It’s On! is perhaps one of the most bonkers musical rom-com movies ever made. It’s also one of the funniest episodes of The Cinema Snob. Meanwhile, do I even have to talk that much about Space Mutiny? If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you already know what Space Mutiny is. That’s the movie with Big McLargehuge. Mr. Punt Speedchunk himself. Whether it’s Beat Punchmeat, Roll Fizzlebeef, Slab Squatthrust, or Crud Bonemeal, we’re talking about the movie in which Reb Brown is playing outer space action hero David Ryder. Space Mutiny, with or without MST3K commentary, is a Hall of Fame fun-bad movie.
Winters was a fascinating guy. Sadly, he passed away in April of 2019, but he had a loooooong career. He was a professional song and dance kind of guy. Hell, he was IN West Side Story, one of the best musicals of all time. He choreographed productions, and got his start in directing television variety specials. Even in Dancin’ It’s On!, he knows how to showcase dancing talent. By the 80s, he transitioned into mostly direct-to-video action movies and built something of an empire there.
All this is rushing headlong into this week’s feature, Deadly Prey. So let’s crack this movie open and check out this Rambo in The Most Dangerous Game scenario!
Let’s just say right from the get-go, you know what you’re going to get when the title appears under a man lifting his machine gun over his head triumphantly. As the credits roll, we see some guys loading up some rifles and guns and what have you. It’s gun porn by guys who are dressed like they are going off to war.
As the movie starts in earnest, we see those gun guys running through the woods chasing a guy with tattered clothes. The guy being chased doesn’t seem like all that much more than just a normal dude. He has basically no chance. However, I will say considering a guy threw a grenade and it landed and exploded RIGHT NEXT to the normal Joe, and he still is able to limp away is fucking amazing. He nearly gets killed by a guy who sneaked up on him, but the guy bashes that guy in the face with a rock. However, he eventually runs out of steam and gets captured. He begs for his life, but our head goon, Thornton, shoots the guy, then also shoots the guy who got his head smashed by the rock.
We then meet villainous Colonel Hogan. He’s running some sort of militaristic “outfit”. But here’s the thing… I guess he’s training mercenaries. Okay. That seems fine. He’s meeting some new recruits and only one says he’s in it for the “fun” and not the money. Okay. He’s probably recruiting shitty criminal types. I mean, I guess. But… Wouldn’t it still be somewhat suspect to have a bunch of guys in military style tents and clothes with military grade weapons and vehicles just chilling over there in California? I feel like we don’t really want that to be happening. Whatever. These guys need to learn how to do the army stuff if they are going to be the A-Team or something.
Plus, I do admire a man with a nice collection of hand grenades adorning his desk.
To help train their guys, they go out and kidnap dudes to act as “runners” so they can hunt them. With this runner causing some troubles with that one guy that Thornton had to, um, put down, they need to go find a new guy to train the people tougher.
Thornton takes some guys and cruise the suburbs. Here, we meet Danton. He’s a former superhero or something. He’s got himself a pretty blonde wife, a nice little home, and chores. His wife sends him out with the trash to put it out for collection and there’s Hogan’s guys driving up deeming him to be a good fit for their exercise.
Hogan gets a visit from a guy named Michaelson. He’s the financier of this outfit. He wants Hogan’s team ready in 30 days, or he’ll pull the plug on everything. Naturally, there’s a bit of contention here between the guy who is the money and the guy who is the man in the field.
Danton is greased up, dirtied up, and told to run. He looks Thornton square in the eyes and says, “You’re gonna die.” He heads off with nothing more than his tiny short shorts. I do like that David A. Prior gave his brother this loving shot from his feet to his head so we can drink in Ted Prior’s beefcake. We even get some nice action music when we see his face. I’ve never been more excited to see a nearly naked man before in my life!
It takes all of five minutes before it’s proven that Danton is not to be messed with. He uses a log to knock out one of Hogan’s men and takes his gun. He then punches a guy, lifts him up, and breaks his back on a tree. He just starts systematically wiping these motherfuckers out one by one. He grabs another guy and asks him 1) where are they (75 miles southeast of L.A.), 2) what is going on (real life war games), 3) how long has this been going on (he doesn’t know, he’s one of the new recruits). This guy gets killed.
When a guy reports back to Hogan that the runner has his weapons, Hogan has Thornton kill the grunt. He kills him with a karate kick to the face and then he breaks his neck. Meanwhile, back at Danton’s house, his wife calls her daddy, Cameron Mitchell. However, I’m not so sure Danton is going to need Cameron Mitchell as he is just wiping dudes out left and right.
Not only that, but Danton has either found or in the course of a very short time made a shelter for himself that is made mostly of bamboo. This guy is kind of amazing? He just hides out in the little shelter grabs a guy walking by, pulls him in, tells him he’s dead, and then… That’s it. He stabs him with a Rambo knife. He’s jumping out of trees, landing on people and killing them. He’s crazy awesome.
Help, whether Danton needs it or not, is on its way in the form of retired police guy, Cameron Mitchell. He pumps his daughter for information about who grabbed Danton. He finds out that it is a dark, almost army-like, green, windowless van with 427 in the license plate. He tells her he’s going down to the station to report it, but she needs to lock the doors and windows until she hears form him.
Back in the woods, Hogan’s men are starting to find the place littered with dead recruits. A guy comes back to base and interrupts Hogan making out with his mercenary babe to tell him everyone is dead. Hogan goes to investigate with Thornton and sees a pattern in the style of the killings. It’s Hogan’s own style. He figures out that Mike Danton is their runner. Thornton confirms it was Danton that they picked up. He was a former trainee of Hogan’s back in the… hmm. I dunno – I guess it was sometime in which a guy needed to learn how to kill people.
Danton runs into an old acquaintance – Cooper. He punches him out to get away, but he does make Cooper realize maybe he’s in the wrong line of business. We’ll see Coop again later.
What makes this movie infinitely fun is that this is simply scene after scene after scene of cool ways for a guy to kill other guys who are hunting him down. He’s got that hideout. He’s fashioning spears out of sticks. He’s using sticks to stab a guy coming in for a kill with a hunting knife. He’s breakin’ necks, hiding in water to ambush people, he’s hiding under leaves to kill guys. This Danton is the balls.
Danton is a little hurt right now though. He’s got a bit of a shoulder situation. Plus, he needs food. So he takes to eating leaves and worms, but then grabs a mouse to eat. It is definitely not the breakfast his hot ass wife was making for him that morning.
Hogan monologues about how Danton is the best soldier he ever had. He’d give anything to have 20 guys just like him in this outfit. What’s more, Danton is living proof that Hogan’s tactics work. He says he was tossed out of the army for his training tactics. He’s just waxing lusting after Danton and his skills. He has his lady go get him a beer, and Danton arrives to tell him to get rid of his men and let him go. After all, Danton was trained to be the best, and he still is.
The next morning, Danton is found by some farmer hillbillies and told to get a move on. However, Hogan’s men are still looking for Danton. They find the farmers. When one of the farmers won’t say where Danton went, he gets shot. When the other farmer tells them what direction he went, they kill him anyway.
Thornton and Danton face off and Danton is overpowered. Thornton is about to kill Danton, but Hogan orders him to back off. Back at the camp, Hogan asks Danton to join him. Danton asks him what the hell happened to him, but it really just comes down to cold hard cash. Danton refuses to join the mercenary outfit.
Meanwhile, Cameron Mitchell shows up with a shotgun and starts poking around. How did he get here? How does he know this is a thing? We haven’t seen him since he said he’s going to have his cop buddies figure out what’s going on, now he’s here to sneak around?
Anyway, he overhears Michaelson and Hogan talk about doing whatever he has to do to train his men, but he can’t get involved with kidnapping and killing. He tells Hogan to take care of Danton and get a move on. That’s when Danton breaks his own ropes and escapes. A big dude tries to stop Danton, but he shoves a grenade down his pants and blows him up. The camp scrambles to find Danton to kill him. They try to kill him with a tank. That doesn’t work because, no duh, you fuckers, you can’t kill Danton with a goddamn tank.
Next, they try a helicopter. Guess how that goes? He blows it up. What’s next? An aircraft carrier? Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars Program? Nope, they just try the old fashioned guns and fists. That doesn’t work either. He has one last guy between him and the exit and Cooper is there to get that guy. It turns out that Cooper cut a little bit of Danton’s ropes back at the camp. He says that Danton saved his life in ‘Nam so he owed him one.
Cameron Mitchell sets a trap for Michaelson. We are then treated to what I have to assume to be the Oscar clip played for Mitchell when he was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for this film.
Meanwhile, Thornton has nabbed Mrs. Danton. Hogan tells her about how much trouble her husband’s caused him. So he’s gonna take repayment out of her ass. Actually literally. He’s going to rape her. Elsewhere, Cameron Mitchell isn’t done with the corporate bigshots.
However, Cameron Mitchell is caught and brought to Hogan. There, he sees his daughter who yells, “HE RAPED ME, DADDY!” This causes both Cameron Mitchell and this movie to slide right off the rails. Cameron Mitchell tries to strangle Hogan, but he gets shot and killed.
Then Danton walks home. He walked 75 miles home. He finds Hogan’s lady merc at his home. So she has to drive him back to Hogan’s camp. So we went all the way back to Danton’s home for no reason whatsoever. All of this could have been handled back at the original camp where all the action has been.
Danton kills Hogan’s lady. He then goes to his gun closet and starts arming up. He’s got everything in here, some dynamite, throwing knives, an uzi, a machete, some boots. He’s ready for fucking war.
Cooper and Danton rescue Danton’s wife, who is named Jaimy. Cooper uses his “calling card” – to knock a guy out, and stick a grenade under his head so when he gets up, it explodes. Now, Danton doesn’t think this is all that bad, but frankly, it heightens security and the lookout for him. This directly places Danton and his wife in harm’s way.
There are several moments in this search for Danton in which Hogan’s men are setting off the traps that Danton has set up previously. Mostly a lot of sharpened sticks going through people’s faces, throats, bodies, etc. and some explosions with C-4 and grenades. Cooper even provides Danton with a bazooka for extra explody reasons.
Now, Danton took Jaimy to his little hideout he used previously with the expressed purpose for her to stay there until he returns for her. Does she do that? Oh, lordy no. For some reason, she thinks it’s a good idea to let her guard down. She doesn’t see that Thornton is sneaking up and grabs her. He takes her to to Hogan and he uses her as a way to lure Danton out. Cooper wounds Hogan which allows for Jaimy to get free. Hogan says he should just go ahead and kill him, but he doesn’t. Thornton finds Cooper and kills him.
Now Thornton is on the chase for Jaimy while Danton is frantically trying to find them. Danton finds them just in time to see Thornton kill his wife. So what does Danton do? What any good person would do…
He beats the man to death with his own arm and scalps him.
He finds Hogan. He’s found the man who is the source of all his current pain. Hogan is ostensibly the murderer of Danton’s wife. Danton tosses the scalp of Thornton at Hogan and tells him this is all that’s left of his best man. He then tells Hogan to take off his shirt and his shoes and run, indicating that he’s going to hunt Hogan now.
Now, what I meant about the movie sliding right off the rails is that the movie carries through this really fun action tone for pretty much the whole movie, even through these parts where I have some problems with it. I mean it is a movie with a fast pace of showing all the different ways how a single person can kill an entire battalion of guys. That alone seems like enough to make this a wonderful movie of mayhem and action shit, but the movie isn’t perfect and misses in some places quite widely.
First, the whole fact for Danton to go home is pointless. That is stupid. But that’s not really what bugs me. What bugs me is that the tone turns especially mean-spirited in the final act. You have Danton’s wife being raped, and her father being killed. Cooper goes to Danton’s side, but he gets killed somewhat unceremoniously – all because he will not kill Hogan. Then… Well then Jaimy is killed. I just kind of feel like the movie didn’t need to go to these places to have the exact same effect.
Everything before Jaimy being kidnapped and Cameron Mitchell suddenly showing up to poke around this base was the same as what we got after they were kidnapped and/or killed. Nothing was especially heightened because they were now directly in danger. Danton was doing just fine before and he did basically the same shit after. Why kill these people? We already know Hogan and Thornton are bad guys, so we didn’t need any more of that to tell us they were no good. Just let me watch this guy wipe out an entire squadron of mercenaries all by himself. That’s all I want.
Now, ALL that said, this movie is still insanely fun. It’s just scene after scene after scene of Danton slicing through these guys like he was a hot knife and they were butter. It’s that mindless action fun people sometimes just want to watch and have a good time. I think that should lead us nicely to the tease for next week’s B-Movie Enema!
Next week, it’s more mindless action as I go down to the Lone Star State to get a big ol’ face full of Action U.S.A.! See you here for that in just seven days!