Savage Harbor Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Written and directed by Carl Monson
1987, 90 minutes, Not Rated
Released on May 23rd, 2019
Frank Stallone as Joe
Christopher Mitchum as Bill
Karen Mayo-Chandler as Anne
Anthony Caruso as Harry
Gary Wood as Slim
Greta Blackburn as Jenny
Lisa Loring as Roxey
Nicholas Worth as Jim
Joe and Bill are merchant mariners in town after a long tour, looking to spend some quality time on land. Joe happens across Anne, a woman in distress and rescues her from a bad situation. They quickly fall in love and begin making long-term plans together, plans that include marriage and starting an avocado farm together. Anne has a troubled past and has recently escaped a life of drug addiction and prostitution and is being pursued by her former boss, crime lord Harry Kane. While Joe plots an ambitious future, his friend Bill is satisfied spending his hours at a strip bar down near the docks and starting a relationship with one of the dancers. When evil Harry gets Anne back in his clutches, Joe will stop at nothing to rescue the woman he loves.
What’s in a name? Celebrities build their career on their brand and name recognition and it only seems fair for others to benefit too, right? Nepotism has long paved the road for eager opportunists in Hollywood and many relatives of famous people made a living off the family name. There is an entire subgenre of cult movies featuring these “stars” appearing in grade-Z movies working for opportunistic producers and hack directors. Frequent offenders include the likes of Don Swayze (brother of Patrick), Chad McQueen (son of Steve), Roger Clinton (brother of President Bill), Amy Springsteen (sister of Bruce) and Aaron Norris (brother of Chuck). The most egregious offenders, however, are Frank Stallone (brother of Sylvester) and Chris Mitchum (son of Robert). These last two made dozens of pictures by standing on the shoulders of their more successful relatives and virtually all of these movies are terrible.
Savage Harbor pairs Stallone and Mitchum with an interesting supporting cast of character actors, including Lisa Loring (The Addams Family) as a lovesick stripper, Anthony Caruso (Claws) as a crime boss and Nicholas Worth (Darkman) as an evil henchman – a role he could perform in his sleep. Written and directed by Carl Monson (A Scream in the Streets), this movie is riddled with clichés and borrows generously from big action pictures of the era. The hero is unstoppable, the women are beautiful, the bad guy is evil, the best friend is supportive and the numerous henchmen are cannon fodder. There are car chases, fist fights, shootouts, explosions and countless montages that make giant leaps in the story to the point of giving audiences whiplash trying to keep up.
It is easy to sell this idea on paper, as the plot sounds pretty fun and, in more creative hands, could be something special. As it stands, there is a lot of bad talent involved here and the results are more comical than intended. The acting is terrible, the direction is hackneyed and the production values are flashy but disappointing. The biggest offender is the script, which is loaded with absolutely dreadful dialogue and ludicrous scenarios that have our heroes and villains moving through all-too-familiar territory. Savage Harbor succeeds in its efforts to entertain and tell a fast-moving story because of its creative handicaps. Everyone involved is doing their best, but sometimes that just isn’t good enough. The film is competently shot, with some beautiful compositions by cinematographer Jack Beckett (Camp Fear), but there is little else to recommend.
Maybe it’s simply a product of its time or perhaps it just goes with the sleazy territory, but Monson’s script has little time or respect for anyone who isn’t a white, heterosexual male. Women are filthy whores, homosexuals are untrustworthy lowlifes frequently mocked and gay-bashed and minorities are virtually non-existent. This story is all about making the hero look good as he stands victorious over a pile of countless dead bad guys. Everyone else has a deep character flaw that is their defining trait. Savage Harbor is frequently so-bad-it’s-good material that really needs to be seen to be believed. There isn’t a message and you won’t learn anything from watching it, but it makes for great viewing on a Friday night with friends.
Video and Audio:
The original camera negative has been scanned and restored with the image looking pretty respectable. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, colors are vivid, black levels are inky and there is plenty of small-object detail. There are some occasional vertical scratches near the beginning of the picture, but the image is a real step up from all earlier releases.
The film’s stereo recording is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that really gets the job done. Action scenes are quite lively and music cues are well-balanced with dialogue and effects.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Frank Stallone sits down for the all-new interview Do You Like Avocados? (14 minutes) and is bemused by the idea that anyone would want to talk about this movie. He is quite candid in his recollections from the shoot, calling the film “really bad” and director Monson a hack. He laughs at the marketing campaign billing the leads only by last name to trick audiences. He mocks the terrible dialogue and admits he made a lot of bad movies and in this case “Ed Wood was better.” He’s still friends with Chris Mitchum and shares a touching production story involving a poor family at a rough location. This is a terrific interview that I wish were longer.
An audio interview with cinematographer Jack Beckett (28 minutes) via phone offers a more positive recount of the shoot. He talks about how he got into the industry, and shares his thoughts on this film’s cast and director. His production stories are a lot of fun and definitely worth a listen.
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