BluRay/DVD Reviews

1st TESTAMENT CIA VENGEANCE

By • Jan 20th, 2004 •

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Elliptic Entertainment
78 mins
Commentary track and bios

We’ve all experienced that curious phenomenon, when a picture comes along which is so bad it transforms into fun. You can’t set out to make them that way, though I guess a case could be hypothesized for John Waters’ early work. But usually it happens by mistake: earnest writing, direction, and acting, all by talentless souls unaware of their shortcomings, results once in a blue moon in just the rubic’s cube alignment that brings us unexpected delights.

An example, from the old PRC studios, is DEVIL BAT. Bela Lugosi is so deliciously over-the-top in this 1940 six-day wonder, and in addition is given such wonderfully foolish dialogue to recite, that it’s a treasure my friends often regurgitate, accent and all. Who can forget when, listening to a so-called expert on the radio, Lugosi disdainfully dashes off the absurd dismissal, “Bombastic ignoramus!” Yet you can go through a dozen other Lugosi cheapos and not find just the right alchemy to turn Godawful into Great fun.

Now I’m sure you know where this is leading. 1ST TESTAMENT: CIA VENGEANCE might just be such a film. We have a group of filmmakers (I use this term with some trepidation) who think they’re pretty good – Director Young Man Kang, whose previous film took a Guinness World Record for the least expensive feature ever made ($980); Ron Becks, who sent him a script he’d written and planned to star in, a script so sophomoric that at one point the protagonist breaks into a secret file which is labeled “Decoding of Classified Religious Doucments (sic)”, and the misspelling made it into the film!; Luciano Saber, perhaps the most ludicrous specimen of villainy in screen history; and a supporting group both in front of and behind the camera who compliment their leaders to the hilt.

The picture and sound are woefully sub-standard. The miking of the actors in particular is amateurish. And sound being an arbiter of film sales worldwide nowadays, one wonders how this ever got any sort of release… but it has, so here’s what we’ve got.

Ron Becks wears an ice-cream colored Nehru suit and a slicked-back do (Hair Design is credited to Tamisha Knox), and moves his corpulent body across the frame with a bit more style than the ensemble around him can muster (in the aggregate). Even so, he’s evocative of Count Basie rather than a super-spy. Set in the supposedly deadly world of espionage and the double-and-triple-cross, the assortment of main and supporting characters are mind-bogglingly banal. Some of them seem like they ducked out during lunch hour at their receptionist jobs to get to the set and mangle their lines.

The film’s maguffin – a subversive group out to destroy all organized religions – is a concept plucked from a high school student’s brain. And if the CIA were populated with dufus’s the likes of which this movie proudly displays, there would be no doubt as to why our policies in Afghanistan and Iraq are going so awry.

As Beck’s nemesis, CIA agent Hawk, Luciano Saber’s grimacing buffoon makes an arc from excruciatingly bad to riotously funny. Who told him he could make those faces?! Whoever it was, they helped rescue this film from an eject-button-fate. His idiotic overuse of mugging is a group-laughter-inducing guarantee. The FIR screening committee was eventually looking forward to each of his daffy appearances.

The topping on the sundae is the commentary track. The interviewer, speaking in a faux-Christopher Lee voice, actually forgets Ron Becks’ last name when introducing him, and promises the writer/actor to do it over…but it stayed in. At one point he refers to the film as a ‘lost masterpiece’ And it just gets weirder and stupider from there. Yes, by listening to this oddest of commentaries, you can actually watch the film again!

Becks, incidentally, when five years old, appeared in the terrific Robert Wise/Harry Belafonte film noir, ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW, which comes out next month from MGM. Dare we suggest a Ron Becks double-bill…?


Credits:
Produced and Directed by Young Man Kang.
Screenplay by Ron Becks.
Director of Photography Raoul Germain.
DVD production by Pointcomma.

Cast:
Ron Becks, Luciano Saber, Soo J. Kim, Kimmarie Johnson, Renatta Mitchell.

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