Legion of the Dead (2000)
Director: Olaf Ittenbach
Matthias Hues/Blonde Man
Two homies (Carr and Friedenberg) are having a bad freaking day under the California desert sun. After a peculiar kidnapping, they ultimately wind up in some bar where the man behind the plan (Hues) and his demon minions drop in to do some damage. What’re a couple of good ol' boys to do, but load that shotgun and clean that otherworldly thrash!
"Legion of the Dead" could’ve been so much more than what it is. All of the elements were there, but the film sadly never managed to pull them together to deliver a fully satisfying piece of horror chocolate. Even the saving grace (i.e. gore) was somewhat lacking here (for this type of film anyways). I should note that this baby was severely cut to get that coveted R-rating.
For the first hour, the flick is fairly pedestrian, following two sets of folks doing their thang while teasing us with some gore, one so-so action scene (why did that car explode again?) and the sight of Matthias Hues (Blonde Man) in a bright room (kool looking room for a kool looking dude). Through this walk, this movie flunked in three important cinematic classes. 1) On a screenplay level, the story lacked focus and the much needed thrill bumps throughout its narrative-- it was also too vague and had holes the size of my ego in it (what was up with that bogus love story?) 2) On a character level, the acting went from fair to atrocious, while the dialogue came across as “Tarantino” for toddlers sometimes. 3) Who edited this movie...a strung out Robert Downey Jr? It gets real choppy in places.
From a character standpoint, I was half and half when it came to the clowns in this circus. We get William (Carr) and Luke (Friedenberg) as our two main heroes. Stoner Luke did bring lots of smiles to my face with his "high off his bootie" and "lost like a goat" demeanor. William, on the other hand, didn’t fare as well. His constant nagging and complaining really got to me. He’s supposed to be the tough guy of this lot? I DIDN’T BUY IT! The interaction between the two friends actually came across more like bickering love birds, as opposed to two close buds. I was sure that these guys were gay lovers up until the hetero “love story” kicked in to prove me wrong (or did it…I smell closet…).
Then we have the two inept “soul collectors”. The good news is that the character of Jeff (Stone) was a hilarious psycho duder. I couldn’t get enough of that guy and relished every second that he was on onscreen. The bad news is that I really couldn’t stand his incessantly annoying sidekick Nicholas (Alperin) either. You see, Nicholas is a professional, stamped-and-approved whiner and for me, constant whining is NOT funny, nor is it entertaining. I wanted to reach into my TV and choke that guy 'till his eyes popped out of their sockets and then snap his neck like a carrot stick, just to make sure that he was out for good. Couple that with his knack for accidentally hurting himself all the time (yuk-yuk) and you get a character that deserved vicious dismemberment at the hands of…ME! Didn’t pratfalls and “oops” self-mutilation stop being funny in the early 80’s?
And what the fudge was the villain’s deal here? Sure, the Blonde Man (Hues) is a mucho imposing presence and looks fly in his slick threads. But if he’s so powerful, why does he need a legion of twits to get his back in the first place? And why was he boning for that chickadee again (didn’t fully grasp that subplot)? And more importantly, if he’s all powerful and all, why does he get nixed so damn easily in the end? Talk about anti-climatic! In my book, if you cast Martial Arts champion and all-around badass Matthias Hues in an action-inclined movie, you have the OBLIGATION to give him the room to do his whack stuff! The Matthias Hues I know would have round-kicked these pricks in a micro-second and been home in time for flap-jacks and a glass of OJ.
On a positive stab, I did find some kool bits to latch on to now and then. The definite highlight of the flick for me was the first snag Luke and William got into. They get kidnapped by some sick hick murderer and that subplot wound up being a blast mainly due to Chris Kriesa’s (Mike) deliciously insane performance. The man loves his burgers! You have to respect that. Some of the comedy worked (like the minion doing his worm impression…funny shite), the random surprising special effects hit the spot (all about that nightmarish crotch shot) and I dug the occasional inventive streak the film sported (the pitch black darkness of the altered reality). I can also think of worse ways to spend my life than by watching Kimberly Liebe’s (Geena) pouty lips move so sensually when she speaks. Props on that mouth, girl!
The action driven last block also made me sit up and pay attention. The film SOOOO needed that shot of adrenaline! All of the peeps finally find themselves at same location (a bar), the comedy is dropped and the slaughter begins! Although clearly a rip-off of "From Dusk Till Dawn", some of the carnage offered here was very amusing in a John Woo-Light kind of way. We get some gunplay, some bloody bits and some decent “chop-sockey” stuff. Let’s face it, the film is running on a low budget but you have to hand it to the filmmakers, every penny is on the screen-- giving it a polished look that I appreciated.
But when all was said and slit, "Legion of the Dead" capped off with an unsatisfactory twist that made all that went down before it seem even more meaningless. What a crappy ending! Overall, the movie is well directed, has a few potent scenes and some of the action is McNugget yummy. But it takes more than a couple of tasty bites for me to fully enjoy the whole of a movie. I also like competent editing, a drawn out storyline, gnarly chills, plausible relationships and a finale that delivers. All elements that Legion painfully lacked. Let’s send this kitten to the SPCA!
It really feels like somebody edited this one with an axe, making it way too dry for what it's supposed to be. We get a cut off finger; gun shot wounds, bullets in the head, bullet in the stomach, neck biting and few other bits.
Michael Carr (William) didn’t sell me. He acted like my little cousin on too much sugar. His delivery was often off and the only tough thing about him was his leather vest. Russell Friedenberg (Luke) plays it kool as the stoner dude and made me laugh. Kimberly Liebe (Geena) has lips to die for, beautiful eyes and her acting is ok. She’s no Meryl Streep, but does fine. Matthias Hues (Blonde Man) has a lot of presence and does what he can with what he’s given. Chris Kriesa (Mike) is a delight as the burger-loving psycho. He plays it grounded and it works. Hank Stone (Jeff) cracked me up as the sadist, knife-loving demon. Harvey P. Alperin (Nicholas) whines. If you like whining, you’ll enjoy his performance. As for me, well...I’ll let my Magnum speak for itself: BANG BANG BANG--- bitch goes down. I don’t dig the wine unless it’s red alongside a plate of lasagna.
T & A
Kimberly Liebe (Geena) shows us her well sculpted bootie and the ladies get Michael Carr (William) shirtless.
I grooved on Ittenbach's eye. He handled slow motion particularly well and managed to fully capture the momentum of certain scenes. He also slapped some kool shots and beautiful desert landscapes (great cinematography) our way. The directing is not one of the film’s faults.
Mostly effective rock tunes, a kooky score and an eerie score at times.
"Legion of the Dead" is ambitious and I picked up on all of the hard work that was put into the film while watching it. It tries to follow in Tarantino’s footsteps, but unfortunately, didn’t hold up as a whole. Yes, the flick looks sweet, got some chuckles out of me and does showcase some ok action, but it also staked itself in the heart with its poor script, so-so dialogue, crappy editing and let down ending. Next time, let Matthias Hues kick that ass, this movie would’ve benefited from it BIG TIME!
Olaf Ittenbach supposedly had a hand in that Alien Autopsy tape (hoax) that Jonathan Frakes hosted a while back.
I hear Olaf’s film Premutos (1997) is the money.