Awfully Good: Never Too Young To Die with John Stamos and Gene Simmons

Sure, Tom Cruise does all of his own stunts in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT, but he'll never top Uncle Jesse as a spy in…

Never Too Young To Die (1987)

Director: Gil Bettman
Stars: John Stamos, Vanity, Gene Simmons

James Bond's estranged son is forced to follow in his father's superspy footsteps when Southern California is threatened by a deranged hermaphrodite terrorist.

What you see above is the first line of NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE and it's spoken with love by Velvet Von Ragner—apocalyptic cult leader, terrorist mastermind, and hermaphroditic burlesque star—to a sea of his/her passionate followers as he/she announces his/her plan to pollute Los Angeles' water supply.

It's rare that you automatically know whether or not you're going to love a movie within the first thirty seconds, but the above opening tells you all you need to know. If you like trash cinema, this is the film for you.

And that was the last time someone made a joke about Uncle Jesse's hair.

NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE was meant to launch a hip new spy franchise starring a pre-FULL HOUSE John Stamos, one that left behind the stuffy British genre for the rad aesthetic of 1980s America. And what better way to do that than by passing the torch from an actual James Bond? One-time 007 George Lazenby has an extended cameo as Stamos' father, secret agent Drew Stargrove. Lazenby makes the most of his brief appearance, mostly to poke fun at his former role and portraying the super spy as something of an idiot. When Ragner menacingly asks Stargrove how his son is doing, the spy waits a couple beats before yelling out, "You're threatening to kill my son!" And later, when the villain has a shotgun pointed at his chest, Stargrove's final line is, "Ragner, I've lost too much blood for your games." And then he is immediately shot and killed.

James Bond this is not.

Every James Bond has his own personal preference.

Unfortunately, that leaves us with John Stamos to take the reins of this action thriller. The script doesn't do the actor too many favors and the name Lance Stargrove doesn't help either. (Especially when Stamos actually has to say, "The name's Stargrove, Lance Stargrove.") Stamos' bad soap opera-level acting—finely honed from his previous role on General Hospital—turns the teen spy in to whiny and incompetent child. At one point he actually cries when two henchmen beat him up.

The film sidesteps Stamos' complete lack of fighting skills and action chops by making his character a champion gymnast, which makes NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE part James Bond, part GYMKATA—which is a cinematic combination I had no idea I needed until now. (And given the bad guys' post-apocalyptic garb and penchant for desert-set vehicular carnage, the movie is also part-MAD MAX as well.)

I'm 99.9% sure this is a crew member and they just forgot to tell him to get out of the shot.

Luckily, Lance Stargrove has some solid help backing him up. The late singer and Prince muse Vanity plays Danja Deering, an experienced secret agent who takes Lance under her wing. Vanity is pretty much there exclusively as eye candy and to fall in love with John Stamos even though he's her former partner's teenage son and it's creepy. The two banter and flirt throughout the movie, which leads to an absolutely amazing sequence where Vanity does everything she can to try and seduce him—slowly undress while staring at him, rub oil on her bikini-clad body, and spray herself with a hose while topless—all while a terrified Stamos pretends to ignore her and instead concentrates on eating multiple apples.

Stargrove also has Cliff, his racist Asian sidekick and roommate who's like a less charming version of Data from THE GOONIES. Even though Lance doesn't realize he's the son of a secret agent until midway through the movie, Cliff for some reason has been conveniently building him spy gadgets the entire time, from bubble gum bugging devices to unstable rocket launchers that threaten to burn down their dorm room. But regardless of how bad a stereotype his character is, you won't be able to take your eyes off Cliff in the film's third act, mainly thanks to his unforgettable red, green and yellow pirate outfit.

Costume design by Stevie Wonder.

This is all well and good, but NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE is nothing without its villain, played so memorably by Kiss frontman Gene Simmons. Velvet Von Ragner is a creation built purely of cheese and over-acting. I'm not sure why they felt the need to make the bad guy/girl a hermaphrodite, but Simmons fearlessly swaggers and cackles his way through the role, wearing outlandish outfits and even singing a song called, "It Takes a Man Like Me to Be a Woman Like Me." I wouldn't exactly call it a good performance, but it will definitely be burned in to your skull for all remaining time.

While Ragner may be memorable, he's kind of a lame evil mastermind. His signature weapon that everyone fears is called The Spike, but ends up just being a long fingernail he forgot to cut. He's also quite gullible; Stamos is able to defeat Ragner one time simply by complimenting him and trying to make out with him. And not to mention, everyone throughout the movie talks about saving the world, but Ragner's plan simply involves contaminating the water supply in one area of Southern California. Not exactly sure how this will destroy the entire planet, but… hey, I'm not the evil madman here.

Fun Fact: This outfit Gene Simmons wears is the same one Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter wore when she performed with Kiss on CBS in 1980. The more you know…

NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE is definitely more than the sum of its parts and has a few fun surprises along the way, including a cameo by Robert Englund and a twist that's both so out there yet so obvious (thanks to some unconvincing facial hair) that it's simultaneously brilliant and stupid. If you haven't seen this and you're a fan of cinematic schlock, I highly recommend checking it out.

From the writer of BABY GENIUSES!

The best of Gene Simmons' ridiculous Velvet Von Ragner, John Stamos trying to be an action star, and of course the full clip of Vanity desperately trying to seduce Uncle Jesse.

Vanity and John Stamos both go topless.

Still better than the Kiss disco album! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:
  • Someone yells "Stargrove!"
  • Ragner laughs maniacally
  • Ragner uses The Spike
  • One of Cliff's gadgets fails
Double shot if:
  • You're subjected to terrible music

Thanks to Stuart and Josh for suggesting this week's movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: JoBlo.com



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