Friday, May 21, 2010

Riot on 42nd Street (Tim Kincaid, 1987)

If you live for the sensation that comes with letting sleazy, incompetent, and exceedingly violent pieces of trash cinema to scurry across the surface of your nonchalant eyeballs, then Riot on 42nd Street is a film you should seriously consider checking out. A barely proficient debacle masquerading as an ill-conceived tribute to a small strip of seedy concrete in New York City, filmmaker Tim "Joe Gage" Kincaid (Heatstroke and Breeders) has crafted an obscene, yet ludicrously well-meaning work of sordid brilliance. The film had me under its bizarre spell the moment we a catch a glimpse of 42nd Street in all its garish glory. Utilizing the sound of some Man Parrish-esque electro-funk, Mr. Kincaid simply points his uncomplicated camera in the general direction of the once infamous street and allows the unsavoury action to flow naturally. It's a shame the film couldn't have been just been a random collection of shots of movie theatre marquees, as the act reading of the names of some of the authentic grindhouse titles ("Vampire Hookers" and "Women's Prison Massacre") became a bit of an amusing lark after awhile. Unfortunately, a mustache-sporting stiff named Glenn (John Hayden) is observing the wounded aura of this unpleasant neighbourhood from the relative safety of a moving taxi cab, and is soon, whether we like it or not, going to be the driving force behind the film's straightforward plot. While riding in the back of the cab, Glenn sees lanky roller-skaters darting through traffic, saucy prostitutes applying unwanted pressure to the crotches of nosy cops, and leather-clad punks struggling to maintain their equilibrium. I found these three distinct groups to be quite charming in a demented sort of way. But I'm sad to say, that's it for them as far as camera time goes. Their sole reason for existing was to show Glenn how much the area has changed since getting out of prison.

Emerging after serving a three year sentence for involuntary manslaughter (he killed a man selling drugs in the aisles of his grindhouse theatre), Glenn, an underworld fixture, attempts to reconnect with the scruffy world he left behind.

A world that includes his brother, who is the leader of a street gang with matching jackets, his police detective lady-friend (Kate Collins), and his club-owning father.

With plans to open his own club (complete with gambling, music, comedy, and strippers), Glenn immediately attracts the ire of the shady gentleman who runs Love Connections, a strip club located across the street.

The fact that this new club is gonna siphon suburban low rollers away from his establishment isn't what pushes the Love Connections owner (Michael Speero) over the edge. Uh-uh, it's the fact that some of the strippers who worked for him have decided to jump ship and work for Glenn.

When sending his musclebound henchman (Carl Fury) to scare Glenn's staff before their grand opening ends in disaster, the Love Connections proprietor amps up the bedlam by delivering parceled severed heads and a throng of assassins armed with Uzi's.

As you would expect, Glenn is angered by this wanton display of firearm-based mayhem. Gathering up the survivors, he plans his revenge.

Awkwardly staged fist-fights and an extended strip club sequence were the only things Riot on 42nd Street had going for it near the halfway mark. I mean, I was satisfied, but I was hoping for more–you know, in terms of violence and degradation.

Then, all of a sudden, I noticed that the cinematic temperature begin heat up a smidgeon when the musclebound henchman cuts the head off a seemingly random dude hiding in an alleyway (complete with headless twitching and horror movie-quality arterial spray). However, the flood gates of insanity fly wide open the moment the assassins unload their lead cargo into the clientele of Glenn's club.

Now, I've seen plenty of people mowed down in movies before, but this was ridiculous. The sight of innocent patrons being sprayed with gunfire–in slow motion–was appalling and gleefully twisted all at once. And you have got to remember, The Garage (the actual name of Glenn's dive) has about four or five rooms, so that means the assassins have got to hit multiple targets. In any case, it is one of the most absurdly violent scenes I have ever seen.

Call me cruel, but the fact that Zerocks, the Brooklyn stand up comic, didn't happen to catch one of the many bullets flying through the club was a minor tragedy (his lameness was stupefying).

The only acting performance of note in Riot on 42nd Street is the one turned in by Frances Raines as the sharp-tongued girlfriend of the Love Connections owner. Despite the fact that every scene she's in seems to end with her being slapped in the face, I thought Frances hurled emasculating insults at her foppish boyfriend with a snotty grace.

In addition, I was rather enamored with way she stood; in that, she looked like a new wave goddess when looked at from a cockeyed point of view.

The rest of cast sport blank stares and are pretty much useless when came to displaying any sort of real human emotion. The corpse-like John Hayden has virtually zero charisma and Jeff Fahey smokes a lot and throws Kate Collins the odd look of disapproval.

Since the film is called "Riot" on 42nd Street, it made sense that an actual riot breaks out during the film's action-packed finale. However, as to why a riot ensues is still a mystery to me. Seriously, I had no idea why this particular group of people were fighting with one another. None of them, as far as I could tell, had anything to do with the movie. It seemed like, from where I was sitting, as just a mindless orgy of violence.

The shot of the little girl in the acid-wash jean jacket clubbing a man with a baseball bat was the most puzzling aspect of the riot sequence. I mean, what was she so angry about? I guess she was supposed the symbolize that violence can affect even the most innocent among us. It's a stretch, but it's all I got to work with. Anyway, it's a kooky moment in what turned out to be one seriously kooky movie.



  1. One of the few Kincaid "straight" pictures I haven't seen yet. You make it sound amAzing. I'm on it.

  2. Cosmically inept editing aside, this movie fucking rules. I'll have to upgrade my old boot from the Japanese laserdisc pretty soon, now that the DVD is finally out. Tim Kincaid's greatest where are the special editions of Mutant Hunt and Robot Holocaust???

  3. The Goodkind: Well, that's because it is kinda amazing. ;)

    Dukenfield the Schlubheinous: "Cosmically inept editing" Well put. Seriously, I don't usually notice things like "editing," but dang!

    With a title like Robot Holocaust, it's got to be awful... err, I mean, awesome.

  4. Here's the evil queen from Robot Holocaust in all of her camp phonetic glory: