Silent Rage (1982): Chuck Norris’s karate kick to the horror genre

The Revisited series looks back at the 1982 Chuck Norris action slasher movie Silent Rage, which is sort of “Norris vs. Michael Myers”

I grew up in the time of the Chuck Norris joke. I didn’t even really know who he was apart from the Walker, Texas Ranger guy who Conan O’Brien would pull a lever to get just the most random, out of context clip. I remember seeing the Chuck Norris joke book in a Barnes and Noble store and leafing through it only to find a bunch of absolutely absurd and comically over the top things that Chuck Norris could and would do to you or what he kept behind his beard. It was enough for me to start looking at his overall contribution to film and much of it was action. I found him teaming up with the likes of Lee Marvin in The Delta Force or going up against the great Christopher Lee in An Eye for an Eye. There’s also a great fight he had with Bruce Lee in The Way of the Dragon that actually adds legitimacy to the fact that he was a class A fighter. Being a hairy chested fella myself I still feel that scene pretty hard when Bruce yanks a fistful of Chuck. Norris did end up with a couple horror movies in his credits. Hellbound, which I’m still undecided on if I want to cover or not, and today’s movie Silent Rage that was a fun flick to revisit.

Silent Rage (watch it HERE) was a Brother Mark special. For those of you watching since I’ve been a part of the channel, you’ll know that he was a huge part of my growing fandom as a child. We would load up on snacks from the convenience store before watching a laserdisc version of The Ninth Configuration or a Japanese import VHS of Buckaroo Bonzai. These sound like exaggerations, but I assure you there are more scenarios where first-time views of movies happened in ways which I would have never expected. Watching it for the first time when I was around 14, I noticed something that critics of the time also astutely called out. This movie is almost Chuck Norris versus Michael Myers. Now, there isn’t the same beat by beat story of a crazy person coming home after breaking out of an asylum and terrorizing their hometown on Halloween night but they do skip ahead to a supernatural version of their killer. Michael had already been stopped twice when he should have been long dead if he were a normal human and Jason would unleash his 3rd outing, in 3D no less, where he was quickly becoming unkillable.

Silent Rage was written by Joeseph Fraley with uncredited work by Edward Di Lorenzo. Fraley only has the screenplay for his credits but did contribute the story to a previous Chuck Norris feature Good Guys Wear Black. Di Lorenzo was a slightly more prolific writer with TV credits on Miami Vice, Space: 1999, and Wild Wild West. He also did the screenplay for the Joseph Cotten Italian horror movie Lady Frankenstein. The director was Michael Miller who has almost exclusively stayed in the made for TV movie arena but also had Class Reunion come out in the same year as Silent Rage, which was National Lampoons attempt to take a, if you’ll forgive me, stab at the slasher genre with overly comedic elements thrown in. He got these two movies based on the success of his two previous low budget movies Street Girls and Jackson County Jail. If those sound like Roger Corman movies, it’s because they are; both were executive produced by the legend.

Silent Rage Revisited

Silent Rage opens with an ominous stained-glass window and some very early 80s sounding eerie score tunes while the credits roll on by. It definitely sets itself apart from other Norris movies and lets you know early that it is unmistakably horror. A phone rings and wakes up who you could rightfully assume is the main character if we didn’t see Norris’s name in the credits already. This is John Kirby, and he is not doing well. Kirby is played by Brian Libby who excelled at that guy roles in TV shows like the 80s Twilight Zone revival or Moonlighting but also had fun movie roles in the likes of Heat, Dreamscape, and what I probably know him best from, The Shawshank Redemption. He looks different here than he did in later roles and while his voice is very recognizable normally, he barely uses it in Silent Rage. He really personifies that title in his character work.

Kirby gets a call from his psychiatrist and tells him that he can’t make it. He goes crazy and ends up killing a couple of the people he is staying with before getting taken down by the police. First, he is just going to be arrested but when he breaks out of his cuffs and really starts a brawl, he is shot to death by police. The way the camera follows Kirby as he heads outside to grab an axe and then follows him stalking the family in the house is really well done and this beginning sequence is one of the most memorable of the film. It sets it up well and even though it’s rarely matched, it’s a great start to the movie. One of my few complaints about Silent Rage is that they knew how to use Kirby but the stuff in between falls kind of flat compared to his stalking and killing scenes. One of the cops on the scene and the one who of course subdues Kirby the initial time is Sheriff Dan Stevens played by Norris. It’s funny to say that name as Dan Stevens is a very successful and popular actor now. Also on the scene is Kirby psychiatrist Dr. Hallman played by Ron Silver and Deputy Charlie played by Stephen Furst.

Furst is essentially the bumbling comedy relief here and that makes sense as he was coming off of recent comedies like Animal House, Swim Team, Take Down, and Scavenger Hunt. Silver, who has maybe the goofiest IMDB picture I have ever seen may he rest in peace, was a wonderful character actor in both film and TV. He could play both good and bad well with things like The Entity from the same year as this, keep an eye out for that video soon, and Timecop. My favorite of his has got to be Blue Steel opposite Jamie Lee Curtis. In this, because of plot contrivance, he is not only the psychiatrist to our slasher villain but also the brother to Chuck Norris’s love interest. Why not. Kirby is technically dead, but two scientists use an experimental serum to try and bring him back. It works but the effect is not great. Instead of turning a normal human brain deranged, it just makes the deranged guy come back with Wolverine like healing powers.

The movie is broken down into a bunch of different sub-genres that don’t always meld together well. You could turn on different parts of this movie at different times and not know that its all part of the same flick. Kirby tracking down and killing his former doctor and wife feels like an 80s slasher movie but you could have also stumbled upon this movie when Chuck and Stephen Furst were breaking up a biker bar hostage situation to show off Norris’s kung fu skills properly. None of the movie is not enjoyable per se, it’s just a weird mish mash of styles and scenes at times. According to the writer and director, more of these fight scenes were put in because Norris had an easier time doing that on camera than the regular acting and certainly the mostly improvised love scenes between him and costar Toni Kalem.

Silent Rage Revisited

The star here, with very little dialogue to boot, is easily Brian Libby’s Kirby. All of the scenes with him in it are why I wanted to cover Silent Rage in the first place. In a similar vein to the opening sequence where we see him stalking and being very intentional with his movements, one of the other stand out scenes of the movie is when he goes after Dr. Hallman in his home. Hallman knows Kirby has been brought back to a degree and is not thrilled about it. He goes home and when his wife goes out for pizza, we get the most Halloween ass POV following shot since, well, Halloween. For whatever reason it also reminds me of Italian Halloween knockoff Absurd from Joe Damato and George Eastman. Silver’s character is in his own home, but Kirby is still able to outwit him. While Dr. Hallman has a gun and smartly doesn’t hesitate to use it, he eventually falls victim to horror movie character stupidity. I will say that while we knew the movie needed a body count, it was surprising that both Hallman and his wife as well as, spoiler for a 42-year-old movie, Stephen Furst are the ones to get offed. It’s impressive that the movie wasn’t afraid to kill anyone besides Norris.

The movie follows one great sequence with another when Dr. Hallman’s wife comes home with pizza only to find his body and killer waiting for her. It’s another cat and mouse chase with some genuine suspense as we aren’t sure if they will keep her alive for revenge purposes. All of the music cues or lack of music, cinematography, and even blood usage work wonderfully here and I just want a whole movie of this. The two scientists try to kill of Kirby to wipe their hands clean of the whole affair, but he uses his healing factor to come back and kill them off while still being on the hunt for his last victims. Its here where Stephen Furst’s Charlie dies heroically buying time for Allison and then we begin the confrontation of Sherrif Dan’s fists vs the unkillable John Kirby. Dan holds his own but there are a few times that Kirby is able to get the upper hand and Allison needs to step in with either a feeble attempt at fighting or just hitting him with a car.

Bullets don’t work, blunt force doesn’t work, and even burning him with an exploding car accident doesn’t work so they lure Kirby to an open area with a covered up abandoned well. After a short fight and an excellent use of slo-mo flipping, Kirby ends up in the bottom of the well where we get the obligatory freeze shot jump scare that the bad guy isn’t gone for good. There would be no sequel even though the movie made 10 million at the box office. To be fair I can’t find any budget information on it so I’m not sure if that is good or bad. The movie is a fun venture into horror that I’m almost leaning towards calling Chucksploitation with its use of multiple elements to draw in crowds. It’s a fun flick that is easy to find streaming on Tubi or you can pick up the bare bones Blu-ray from Mill Creek. Give it a chance if you’ve never seen it or if you are like me and it has just been a while, you won’t be disappointed.

Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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