“I wish this were coke! Oh, heavenly coke!”
So says Kitty (Marisi Courtwright) to Laura (Bianca Phillipi), as the two share a joint in the kitchen and discuss turning tricks for drugs. That level of dialogue is par for the course in The Executioner, Part II, from producer/writer/star Renee Harmon. This flick is a wonderful, incredible, amazing, and fascinating example of bottom feeding cinema of the 1980s.
Harmon is something of a shitty movie legend. She was a German war bride who came to the States after the end of World War 2, and established herself as an acting teacher. But, that wasn’t enough for her. Roles in big Hollywood productions were beyond her, so she raised money on her own and blessed us with some of the worst, and perversely entertaining, movies in shitty cinema, including today’s gem.
Directed by James Bryan, who collaborated with Harmon on a number of films, The Executioner, Part II features Harmon as Celia Amherst, a local TV news reporter who is investigating killings by a masked vigilante known as the Executioner.
The unknown Executioner is the bane of Los Angeles criminals and police lieutenant Roger O’Malley (Christopher Mitchum), who has been tasked with capturing the murderous vigilante. O’Malley is being ridden hard by police brass, in the form of the commissioner, played by Hollywood veteran Aldo Ray.
Not too long into the film, O’Malley and Amherst’s plotline gets shunted to the side, in favor of the prostitution and drugs plot featuring the aforementioned Laura and Kitty, a pimp by the name of Pete Vance (Frank Albert), and a sadist whom streetwalkers call ‘The Tattoo Man’ (Frisco Estes). The shift is like suddenly being thrust into a different film, but within seconds of this film starting, viewers will know they shouldn’t expect storytelling gold.
Laura is also O’Malley’s daughter, raising the stakes of her plotline. But, the two never share a scene together. Instead, the task of rescuing Laura falls to Mike (Antoine John Mottet), one of O’Malley’s Vietnam War buddies, who may or may not be the Executioner.
Mike, for his part, owns a garage, and early on he runs afoul of Tattoo’s mob protection scheme.
So, the threads of plot are tangled together into a mess that is as difficult to summarize as it was to watch. The good news is, the plot doesn’t matter. This flick is about action, and Bryan provides plenty of it. It’s like Bryan sat with editor Jim Markovic in the editing room with a stopwatch, making sure that no more than ten minutes went by without a ridiculous fight scene. It’s brilliant technique, and not one reserved for shitty movies. Even a film gem like Raiders of the Lost Ark revolved around regular infusions of action.
Bryan also didn’t seem concerned with his cast’s acting skills. Ray was the worst of the bunch. It seemed as if he had been handed the script for the first time right before the cameras rolled, and the first take is what made it into the film. It’s endearing, in the same way as watching one’s grandfather drink too much booze.
Mitchum’s performance was special because he betrayed no emotion at any point in the film. Whether he was discussing a murder, having a gun pointed at his chest, or remarking on the fate of his daughter, all his lines were delivered in a calm, distant, and flat manner.
Then there ess Harmon. She had a thick German accent, but it never seemed to occur to her that perhaps she should have picked a profession other than television reporter for her character. But, she paid for this flick, so she got to play whomever the hell she wanted to.
This flick is cheapness on a sublime level. The film stock is cheap, the Foley work is cheap, the dialogue rerecording is cheap, the music, uncredited, is super cheap. Even though this is a violent film, there’s hardly any blood, and the only footage of explosions is the same stock footage used multiple times.
Harmon did manage to hire a helicopter for a Vietnam battle scene, but when viewers see the pilot, he’s wearing shorts. Also, there are no Vietnamese combatants. All we see are American soldiers in cheap costumes. Did I mention this flick was cheap?
It’s cheapness in a good way, though. This isn’t cheap like Roger Corman pinching pennies to increase his bottom line. This is cheapness out of necessity. This flick wasn’t getting made any other way.
The Executioner, Part II is one of the worst examples of the art of film one could see. The Shitty Movie Sundays Watchability Index is not a measure of objective quality, however. Shitty movie fans can look past objective quality and find value elsewhere. The ‘elsewhere’ in this one is pretty far afield, but the flick still squeaks into the coveted top 50, displacing The Aftermath at #49. It’s shitty gold.