Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dalton Trebeck: The Post-Jummy Hollywood Films

Oh how the mighty fall when losing their creative soul-mate. I write of Dalton Trebeck and his Hollywood years following the untimely death of his director-producer Jummy Rainer. It was dreck and we unfortunately have to wallow a little in Dalton's misery.

Dick Freebie's Totem, Die Hard on an Indian reservation, came first, is an incredibly weak and offensively stupid film. It's also a difficult film to remember, as it feels like it goes on for so long without a point. Dalton plays Sammy Jones, a bland-sounding a ranger on the land, seems kind but has no family or character. Shrugs a lot and talks nonsense about wisdom. I should point out now that the film was a Jummy idea (but as Indians scalping white's) but he was busy on Spine. Dalton was to play a man named Defries, first name never said, who was the ranger stalking Indians who have gone mad, not able to take the economic oppression anymore. While he was meant to be tracking them he was killing their enemies, working out white patsies for the murders, while finding the Indians to talk them around, try and interest them in a score against their oppressors. he finally catches up with them as they butcher a banker and her lover, Defries finishing the job off. At this point they go off on a score, massacring their enemies, stealing hundreds of thousands, leaving decapitated heads all over the villain lair. They return to their settlement, planning another score. The film, also named Totem, was to end with them giving some money to their people, aiming to travel to Washington for their next score. Obviously Jummy hated the banks. Alas, as Spine was going over-budget, this idea, originally a Head Rush follow-up project, was plucked and placed in the hands of a liberal hack, who changed much before shooting and more on set. He brought in Juluis H. Smight, a man of low talents, insisted that the film should humanise Dalton, that the Indian reservation is too unique for the original idea and had to be the base of a truly original action film. Jummy objected but was too busy to intervene. Then the idea of ambiguous Indians was too much for the director to bear. So they became victims. Jummy suggested that the killer Indians and Dalton should at least become a crew fighting back but the hack said no, Dalton has to be alone and mythic. So this is how the film now plays out. Some villains come to attack the Indians for some reason (never explained) and Dalton fights back with lethargic moves, having been injured when shooting Spine. It takes half an hour to get to that. Before its a lot of families and their social situation, with sentimental music. These people barely appear when the action gets going. The villains are essentially racist idiots throughout, working for a man who thinks there may be oil on their land, wants to force them out, blame them for violence, destroy the concept of an Indian reservation. As if the American government doesn't do that every year. The henchmen shoot weakly at Dalton, letting him get to places to make easy escape. He kills some of them but without real impact, as hack hates brutality. The villains track Dalton through the land, cutting him off from supplies. Then continue to track him for about forty minutes without anything interesting save a few slayings. Meanwhile their bosses are cruel to the Indians, who are different Indians than set-up originally. Most are children. Then suddenly there's the finale. Eventually Dalton kills them all, the ending taking place at an Indian burial ground. Dalton gets the capitalist scum arrested due to testimony by flunkies (yes, not even a good death scene for the villain). It's a slow moving action flick, with much Indian talking bollocks like losers, and dull landscape shots repeated interminably. It was Dalton's first flop and even he tries to forget it, as it is far worse than anything that followed. The reviews were rightly horrible. A horrible ending to what could have been a great action series.

Spook-Game is next, the ghost film. Dalton is apparently the lead but really a chief supporting part to the effects. This is another Jummy idea ruined, this time by aging hack John R Jackson. As written by Jummy, it was meant to be a tough child's film, Dalton leading kids through a haunted location in 3-D. Dalton was to play a mystery man, of few words, who lead the kids through a mysterious island after their plane crashes. They would find ghosts, all of which had emotional ties to the children's past. Dalton would also have his past reveleaved by the end, as they escape from the horrible island. It was a romp, a treasure island type of movie, different from the other films, a new direction. The first draft script still left room fro improvement but it was ready, was a solid base. By the time the film appeared the film was set in a haunted LA house, without 3-D. The kids were teenagers, Dalton was in grief for Jummy and was filmed away from the rest of the cast on blue-screen. The plot was him as a cop hunting a serial killer who is trying to find the ghosts of his victims. That is a strange reason. Meanwhile the nut is killing the teenagers off-screen. Dalton eventually hooks up with the teenagers to defeat the killer. There are also spies chasing the killer for a reason that no-one can fathom. It was still aimed at children until they realised how creepy the serial killer idea was. By that point the film was such a mess that they never could be bothered adding more gore for adults so the film was left to die horribly on release. So no good characters, with teenagers act like ten year olds as the character-based rewriting was half-hearted at best, so there was no context for the behaviour. Dalton acts to them as if they are children. He may have not been told of the reacting due to the circumstances of production, in some interviews claimed as much. Dalton is also dull and uninterested throughout, when there needed to be curiosity. There is no logic to increasing action, as actions occur that the viewer does not understand the reason for, action occurring in a thrill-ride Indiana Jones rip-off sort of way. At least it was better than Totem due to unintential laughs but was Dalton's second bomb. It was his notorious disaster.

After a two-year gap, Dalton returned to Sean Santiago in Gem. Again it was based on a Jummy idea ruined. Jummy had five ideas for Sean Santiago. The innocent young woman and niece had moved away (after Ghost-spook bomb, no more kids it seemed) and Dalton chases a high-level female jewel thief who was being stalked by a serial killer. This Santiago was drunk a lot of the time, depressed. It was supposed to be a theme but felt like padding, the old Santiago always on the move, like a shark. He never gets anywhere with the jewel thief, who is slashed to death two-thirds in. Eventually Dalton gets interested in the non-plot and kills a few people to find the killer, pulling out the guy's heart. This one is worse than any Dirty Harry sequel. Directed by Los Angeles director Tom Riene, who went onto television. Now the original idea was different. Gem would be the idea of what is lost. The innocent young woman was to lose her child to leukemia, was to be the villain in this film. She would start killing other women, do many a foetal abduction and have many babies, all dead due to starvation. She would also kill healthy women for no reason. Dalton was to be chasing this killer, oblivious to who it was, would be brutally murdering people to get the information. There would be gangster ties and high-brutality chases that would escalate and be odd and twisted, burning sky-scrapers at night and families of gangster scum killed due to frame-ups by the young woman, before he finds out the truth. As he was also in grief, he would end up killing her while kissing her, acknowledging his unhealthy desire for her that had been suppressed through-out the other stories and would be very obvious through-out this one. Story would end with him handing in his badge and leaving the city, unsure what to do next. A far more interesting, if messy story, instead of what we got.

Switch The Ditch was another Riene disaster, a heist film where Dalton plays second fiddle to a dull plot and a cast of show-offs. Not much to say. Again Dalton looks depressed and drunk. Plot is dull, a few double-crosses on the escape. Was meant to be a tribute to The Getaway but had no mood. Dalton was killed off two-thirds in as a shock that induces yawns. There's also a brutal shoot-out at the end where everyone dies. The film is someone trying to be brutal without style, a bad-Jummy imitation. Which it was. This was the Totem sequel, now with vague criminals rather than Indians. The sequel idea was that the first half was a brutal sting in Washington, ripping into politicians in brutal blackmail schemes, Dalton hiring someone as a front man, making various politicians paranoid about one another and investments made through banks. (again the bank hatred). As soon as the scam was worked, the Indians kill the politicians brutally, suggesting gang-land connects, move off with the money. Second half is the getaway, as a few ties seem to lead back to them, which they have to plug up in some tense action beats. Dalton is brutally murdered here by his own friend, when he think he's sold them for profit. It would have been tragic, friend versus friend. Losing the control, the Indians kill many others, some innocent, being brutally killed one by one, leaving one Indian left, the one who killed Dalton, unable to return home, killing off the last of his enemies who can tie him to the scam, having the money but nowhere to go. He would be followed into the next dark adventure. All of this is gone in the film. There are no heroes, anti-heroes, surprises. Definitely no Indians. Only the title and one idea, of killing Dalton.

Dial D For Detonation is the final Sean Santiago flick, as Gem managed to make money, far less than Head Rush. as this one also did, but only later, on video. Was a public failure theatrically. Is a Detroit bomb squad film, Santiago aiding them in the hung for a mad bomber. It is better than the previous post-Jummy films, as Santiago does have a little more life, and is re-united with innocent young woman and niece at the end. But hunting down a killer who likes bombing places (has none of the specific odd targets that Jummy provided) is dull, with many cutting the wire scenes. Bomber wants his family back as motivation we find. But they are dead, killed by him. Even this doesn't work as it has no lead-up, but it's a bit of life I suppose. As previously noted, this was the first film that Gabriel Van Dyke and Dirk Michael Wheatley appeared, as his buddies. But they have nothing to do and you can't imagine this character having buddies. Directed by Jeff Vasco, another TV hire to be, this film was of no real use. The outline by Jummy reads different. This one had Santiago in Mexico, watching the Mexicans, taking assassination jobs, having lost all moral compass. He would sleep with prostitutes, shoot people for no reason, essentially willing people to kill him. The title referred to his self-destruction. It would be a spare film, have little dialogue. It's base would be picked apart and used somewhat for the Japan films. Eventually in the story Santiago would get into a brutal gun-fight with the police, not the gangsters, and is killed for no political reason. He simply made the situation more difficult for people left in his wake. A downer but it would have been a perfect ending to the series. Instead we have something stupid.

The good news is that Dalton dusted himself off and went to Japan after these fiasco's started working with real talents who appreciated him.

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