There are few films I wish I could have seen in the theaters, munching stale popcorn and drinking Coke from a glass bottle more than First Blood.
The film for me functions as this beautiful American horror story turned in on itself, wildly underrated and yes, maybe the greatest and poetic visions to be turned out of the canon of big time American ‘action’ blockbusters.
I’ve said “American” twice now and the irony that Stallone’s John Rambo has become synonymous with western bravado and heroics is all to ironic, where our hero’s (or anit-hero’s) story begins in present day (1982) USA, with the morbid event’s of veitnam leaching itself into the picturesque forests of Oregon. Rambo beckons “Let it go. Let. It. Go.” while functioning as a vessels for the madness of past atrocities. Essentially, Rambo crashes through modernity like a Frankenstein electrified by the lightning of war.
“God didn’t make Rambo, I did.” according to Richard Crenna’s cartoonish Sam Trautman. In a sense though Rambo was birthed by guilt, anger and the fascination about America’s big lost cause and the war at home. Also, I think producers realized 1982 was probably just about the right time to bring a cop killing Vietnam vet to the big screen. I’m sure a lot of Vets where waiting and in a sense it was an untapped and strangely prolific market. I can almost see the wheelchair bound and well scarred over servants of this great nation with Grinch like grins growing on their faces in the flickering light.
I like First Blood because it is in essence a man in the wild, role reversal survivalist film, I.E.; Rituals(1977), Just Before Dawn(1981), Deliverance(1972), Damned River(1989), Hunter’s Blood(1986), The Edge(1997), Ghost in the Darkness(1966), Don’t Go Into the Woods(1982) The River Wild (1994) and on and on. Rambo is in those woods somewhere.
I forget where and when but I recall Stallone relating his new RAMBO (2008) as a sort of veiled horror film. I immediately had a light bulb explode in my head and the whole series came into clarity, John Rambo is like Michael Meyers or fucking Jason because he simply can’t stop even though deep down he may want to. Our empathy lies in Rambo’s inability of self-control, which is a running hubris in the most prominent characters of our time, from Macbeth to the ‘Driver’ in Drive. Goslings character erupts into fantastic gory moments, just like Rambo and audiences still spoon it down sensing they’re watching some brazen reimagining of a leading man, when all along Sylvester fucking Stallone was killing grown men in the forests of Oregon with his bear hands.
So, tonight, I’m roasting up some Russett Potatoes and pouring some Diet Coke into my favorite glass and watching the film that almost made the Vietnam war all worth while. Here’s to you First Blood. If only I was a little older and could have watched you hammer punch your way into the world first hand.
The first time I watched Killer Nerd I almost immediately watched it again to make sure I hadn’t dreamt my White Whale. I took notes, sent texts and wrote e-mails. Maybe I was a-bit overzealous for a film that to most is certainly unwatchable but something in it struck me (the last time I laughed so hard at a movie I was stoned watching the Master of Disguise with Dana Carvey).
It was the sort of viewing experience that made me want to screen capture every other second and find that single frame that would say it all. Needless to say I couldn’t find it.
Killer Nerd is essentially the most hastily produced anti-bullying after school special imaginable. It’s a Cinderella story about a hopeless nerd who gets cool, dances at a goth club, almost does drugs and then ultimately is rejected. Battered and alone, he sets out on a quest for vengeance and none are spared as the wake of gore crescendos to a grisly and hilarious climax.
Toby Radloff is a nerd. A big nerd.
Radloff stars as the fictionalized nerd Harold Kunkle in the 1991 video release Killer Nerd. Radloff had somehow gained modern cult status as the resident weirdo on MTV after his depiction in Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor comic. Pekar had been doing the rounds on David Letterman and apparently at this time under-dog weirdo eccentrics had become a fascination. Somehow, Radloff had been appropriated by cultural interests and was now on MTV butted against Pauly Shore and Daniel Johnston. Actually that’s a pretty good comparison. Johnston was to pop music what briefly Radloff was to T.V./spring break, and at some point this film was produced.
Radloff and Kunkle are interchangeable entities right up to the last half of the film where Kunkle kills everyone.
Everyone dies, it’s very satisfying.
With complete sincerity, Killer Nerd is one of the most strangely crafted and entertaining low budget champions I have ever come across.
How it escaped myself and the recent pop cultural bolstering of ‘nerd’ culture is a mystery.
Radloff, unintentionally or not, gives the rare performance of a lifetime without the crutch of a foil or ongoing love interest or anything. He essentially IS the film. Which gives Killer Nerd this sort of post-modern-Death-Of-A-Salesman introspection on a character helmed not only by an untrained actor but one who seems to be propped up in scenes unaware of what’s to come. The supplementary characters are even more cartoonish when placed beside Radloff’s effortlessly likeable incarnation of the nerd. Tony Zanoni plays ‘Leelee’, one of two bullies that get their heads blown off with dynamite. On occasion, Zanoni possesses this sort of Chrispin Glover-ish execution that seems promising but when I searched for his name on-line I found only wedding photos.
Inexplicably, Killer Nerd appears to be shot on both film and VHS. Moments where they may have been accidentally rolling catch brief shots that give the film this weirdly documentarian hue. That sick feeling you get remembering your aunt’s basement or the smell of a kitchen at a house you were forced to have play dates seems to hang over the whole thing. Radloff, being the ‘genuine nerd’ he is (all questions regarding Autism, bi-polar, Aspergers, fetal-this or that and any other condition we may attach to the treatment of his performance and the making of the film have been left out of this review) seems casual in these impromptu settings now frozen in the 1991 landscape. There is a voyeurism to Killer Nerd that is very satisfying when viewing extras and countertops in the backdrop, both scarcely altered. I also just want to say that I found myself constantly thinking of Kenneth Anger, though I highly doubt the filmmakers ever did.
It’s a dirty film with dirty ideas and fluid execution. I don’t think writer/director/producers Mark Steven Bosko & Wayne A. Harold intended Killer Nerd to be some grand piece of outsider art, but for me that’s what it is. It’s like finding a notepad in the rain outside a middle school. Some parts are washed away and don’t make sense and the rest is so funny you only feel fortunate to have found it.