UNDER THE INFLUENCE Rest In Peace David A. Prior

under the influence

Under the Influence is a new feature. A space to write down all the crap flying around in my head that might not be suitable for a standard review.

The writing may have been on the wall for some time, but on August 16th of this year, VCRs became even less relevant. Thrift store shelves buckled and dollar bins lost all appeal. For writer and director David A. Prior shuffled off this mortal coil. So I thought I’d hit the high points of his career.

Eschewing film school, Prior started in 1983 with Sledgehammer. One of, if not the first, shot on video [SOV] Slashers. David cast his brother and frequent collaborator, Ted Prior, in the lead. The budget was so low that shooting on film wasn’t even an option. It’s a movie best enjoyed late at night when sobriety is a faded memory. Not for beginners, that’s for sure. But there is an odd resonance to the film.

After establishing Action International Pictures (which is worthy of its own post) in 1986, Prior hit his stride with Killer Workout. A killer is thinning out the membership at a local gym. Lots of aerobic scenes, probably because filming them was cheap. Not heavy on gore but a good amount of leering at women in leotards, spandex and leg warmers. A must for hardcore slasher fanatics. Would honestly be a good double feature with Perfect. Behold!

But it would be another film released the same year that would make the Prior brothers famous, Deadly Prey. Mercenaries are kidnapping people and hunting them for sport. Unfortunately, they kidnap former Marine, Mike Danton (Ted Prior). Now the hunters have become the prey of the best. Deadly Prey plays out like a version of First Blood turned up to 11. It is the apex of Prior’s career.

deadly prey
       ‘Nuff Said!

1990 Prior tried to ride that last wave of Cold War paranoia with The Final Sanction. Tension between The United States and Russia reaches a breaking point and both countries bomb the other. Instead of risking mutually assured destruction both countries agree to send their best solider to an arena for a fight to the death. A smart mouthed Ted Prior is up against human wall/ Soviet bloc, Robert Z’dar. The brainwashing scenes of Z’dar’s character are a special kind of crazy. The movie doesn’t pick up until the two go toe to toe. This one isn’t too bad especially if you compare it to some of the titles in Maniac Cop’s filmography.

Center of the Web is perhaps the closest the Prior Brothers came to breaking into the mainstream. An actor (three guesses who) is mistaken for an assassin and drawn in to a plot to kill the Governor. The supporting cast of B Movie players, Robert Davi, Charles Napier, Bo Hopkins and Tony Curtis, help the movie feel a little bit bigger than AIP’s usual pool of talent.

When AIP turned into West Side Studios, in an attempt to disassociate from action films, Prior kept on directing. Sad to say I haven’t watched Mardi Gras For The Devil, which the box claims to be “In the tradition of Angel Heart” I think that will be tonight’s viewing. I think Pamela Anderson disrobing is the only reason 1994’s Raw Justice gets remembered.

Spurred by the increasing cult reputation of Deadly Prey, Ted Prior’s character of Mike Danton returned in Deadliest Prey. I’ve avoided the sequel because I heard it was basically a retread/loose remake of the original. I think I’ll give it a shot for another column.

To date, David Prior’s filmography has been poorly represented, if not MIA, on DVD. Intervision put out a great version of Sledgehammer a few years ago, with commentary tracks and interviews. Olive Films is coming to the rescue and putting out Killer Workout, Deadly Prey, and even Deadliest Prey on DVD and Blu Ray. It’s just too bad he won’t be around to see it happen.

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