County Jail" gets a revival in "
", the latest offering from producer David
Heavener and "star" Steven Bauer.
Heavener is a filmmaker whose website
features ecstatic blurbs by the likes of Isaac
Hayes ("Amazing! How he does it all...and
well."), Jim Brown ("This man can make a
movie!") and even Sally Kirkland ("David
is a good soul and knows how to make a
movie"). He has written, directed and starred
in scores of low budget action exploitation films,
and seems to have been successful enough to
control all of his film from script to screen,
including distribution. He owns a studio called
Action Cat Studios featuring a large backlot and
soundstage which is "perfect for all kinds of
projects", such as horror, westerns and two
genres I don't quite understand called "
" and "Vetnam". In any case,
Heavener is a veteran filmmaker with a large body
Directed by Carl Sydney, "Forbidden County"
is the latest from Heavener, I think, besides "Curse of the
Maya", which may actually be the newer film.
With so many titles coming out each month, it's
hard to pin down the chronology. What are not hard
to pin down are the low budget nature of
"County" and the massive lack of
production values on display. The movie seems to
have been shot using short ends, which are
the tops and tails of leftover negative dumped by
the major studios, and a 16mm windup camera with a
bad registration system. This is evident in the
slippery feel of the image, which seems ready to
slide off the screen completely at times. It also
seems to be quite evident that the movie was
post-dubbed. Now most movies feature some level of
post dubbing, but this was clearly the work of
former Kung-Fu Theater technicians, as the voices
sounded as if they were recorded in a Men's Room
stall and laid to picture with an xacto knife.
Now, this looks like it's all
headed towards a very negative review of the
picture, but that's not the case at all.
Heavener's one-man band approach is actually
pretty impressive and I think he deserves credit
for lasting so long on the outskirts of the
system. If Robert Rodriguez is the "rich
man's Roger Corman", then David Heavener must
be his poor distant relative.
is the story of
reporter Joanna Mason (Catherine Hastings), who
drives to a small town in rural
in search of her sister's killer. Only minutes
after the opening credits, she is pulled over by
the local Barney Fife, zapped with a taser and
locked up in a small cell. She soon teams up with
the editor of the local paper, Steven Bauer
("Scarface", "Raising Cain"),
who once tried to make it as a journalist in the
big city but has accepted his fate in his old
hometown. She and Bauer soon team up in bed as
well as they try to uncover the secrets of "
The strange thing about the
film is its lack of truly exploitable elements, as
though it were edited for television. Bauer and
Hastings do have sex, but it's a couple
silhouetted shots and a swift fade out instead of
the standard jazzy music and slow motion nudity
we've come to expect in our post-Zalman King
times. The same goes for the violence, which is
barely shown. This is quite odd and, one would
think, very bad for business, as anyone renting
"Forbidden County" or watching it at 2AM
on cable would be quite geared up for a
"women in prison" skinamax special. I
kept thinking the filmmakers were saving all the
nudity and gore for a big splashy ending, but this
never developed, and I was soon watching the
credits roll after some kind of plot was resolved.
Now you never watch these
films for their plot or narrative resolution.
These movies are driven by soft core nudity, the
filmmaker's insane approach whether intentional or
not, weird characters with absurd dialogue,
performances like Lou Ferrigno's in "Cage
2", and a healthy disregard for all forms of
good taste. "Forbidden County" actually
seemed to want to be tasteful, never crossing the
line into exploitation madness, and featured
actors who seemed mostly to be working hard to
remember their lines, let alone perform them.
The odd saving grace of the
movie was a strange charm that came from the sheer
cheapness of everything. You actually feel that in
the scene where Bauer and Hastings share a bottle
of wine they might have to pour the wine back into
the bottle to reuse later. There is also a strange
feeling that somehow you are watching a local
community theater play with that particular fear
for friends and family who might miss a cue or go
blank on stage. Bauer seems to have made a wrong
turn somewhere and found himself in "
". He has a permanent expression of confusion
throughout, as though he just got off the phone
with his agent and was demanding an explanation.
I know "
" must sound like a terrible movie from the
description and it is really quite bad, but I have
to say that I was actually entertained and
thrilled by its badness, as opposed to something
in the Water", which just bored me to the
floor. With this kind of movie, I ask all to tread
Bad movie. To be viewed by connoisseurs of bad