Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Monday, February 19, 2018

This Bud's for You: WE ARE ANGELS: DUST (1997)

After surviving the dreaded "precocious child syndrome" of the previous entry, LUCK IS RAINING FROM THE SKY, we return to more manly pursuits. Like chasing girls, getting revenge and shooting people with coconuts.

As we quickly find out, the "dust" in the title refers to gold dust, as a scoutmaster unexpectedly finds a vein of gold that runs from his troop's campsite in the jungle all the way through our troubled tabernacle of San Rolando. In addition to abusing his authority with the kids (he always wins at painball wars), he is just a lousy human being in general. Instead of being a generous soul and telling the padres of their good fortune, he promptly takes this news to the local crime lord, Don Alfonso Santillana (Richard Lynch), who in turn heads straight to the bishop of the diocese with a cash offer to buy the mission and village. His angle is that he is going to build a resort there which will benefit the entire area, as well as the church's coffers. Naturally the bishop thinks this is just a dandy idea and signs over the now doomed San Rolando!

Meanwhile, Father Zach is having a complete meltdown after suffering from a massive case of "Budus Interruptus" while trying (again) to put the unholy moves on the innocent, but beautiful Lupita, who also happens to be the daughter of the local police chief. Aside from not wanting to blow their cover, the last thing the phony Father Orso wants is more trouble with la policia, or the rest of the village for that matter. Father Zach loses his shit so completely that he runs screaming into the chapel shouting "I need a woman!" to which Orso explains to the other monks, "he needs his mother". He also screams that he wants to "poison my body with hot dogs dipped in petrol-based mustard". A New Yorker slandering hot dogs? Now you know he's lost it! Actually, I'm pretty sure no Italian screenwriter would ever write this for an American character and that Thomas took some liberties with the line. Thomas has been a vegetarian since 1967 and promotes a vegan lifestyle on his official website. But that's ok, PMT, we forgive you. Call us?

 Anyway, this  gives the boys a good excuse to take a pilgrimage into the wild jungles of South America, or at least a couple of dusty roads, to visit an exorcist, and uhhhh, "renew their faith". Their excursion leads them to visit a blind self-proclaimed exorcist (Ty Hardin), who must really have the lord guiding his hands as he sports a perfectly trimmed beard and a neatly drawn cross on his forehead! In addition to that, the blind man can literally point them in the exact direction of the nearest resort, which is conveniently loaded with bikini'd babes and fruity drinks - because, as we all know, you can't properly enjoy a sabbatical without the presence of a small paper parasol in your beverage. And the hot babes don't hurt either. Unfortunately, their fun - err, I mean the "expiation of their sins" - is brought to a halt by news of Don Alfonso's plan for the imminent destruction of San Rolando.

On the way back to Father Zach's bamboo and orchid filled hell, we learn that before being thrown in jail, Father Orso / Bob was an honest business man, who made a living running a nightclub in the city with a woman named Mary. After refusing to sell out to crime boss Don Alfonso Santillana, the cops find a stash of drugs in the nightclub leading to Bob's trip to la pinta and the loss of both his club and his woman, the latter of which reluctantly accepts the job of Santillana's servant. Once back in the village it's time to prepare for war! Well, primitive, cartoon war anyway. In addition to setting traps like a big pot of cooked beans laced with hot peppers, we also get harmless fun like bamboo cannons that shoot coconuts, buckets of goo set above doorways and pools of liquid that set people on fire! Yep, harmless fun. This primitive warfare culminates with a wild and woolly donnybrook between Father Orso and Don Alfonso - or rather between Bud Spencer and Richard Lynch's stunt doubles. No matter, it's still one I can scratch off of my "Bud Spencer Wish List." Let's see, we've had Bud Spencer punching Michael Berryman, check. Bud Spencer knocking out David Hess, check. And Bud Spencer suplexing Richard Lynch? Hell yeah, check!

While not the masterwork that EL DORADO was, this is one of the better episodes, that is once again packed with subplots and sports a great leading villain. I have never seen anything that Richard Lynch has been in where he isn't giving 100%. The only times I have seen him not give 100% is when he's giving 110% (see the 1993 Lovecraft anthology NECRONOMICON for a perfect example of this). Here, even though he is essentially playing a cartoon villain and doesn't have a whole lot to do before the end of the movie, he is still completely into the part and brings everything in the production up a notch. It's also great fun to see the recently passed Western legend Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr. (that's Ty Hardin to you) pop up for a bit part in this one. I wish he had a larger part, maybe having him exorcise someone, or better still, gone on to help wage war on Don Alfonso with Orso and Zach, but I guess that would be too much awesomeness for one episode.

In addition to the moments that have more *ahem* broad-appeal, such as a brawl in a strip-club, there are lots of great little, more subtle moments in this one. For instance, when the villagers are freaking out about Santillana's plan to drive in some bulldozers and flatten everything in sight, the wild-man, Father Torment is the one who advises them to remain calm. Also, there's a nice little bit where Father Zach is furious that their jeep broke down on the way to the exorcist and a, unbeknownst to them, corrupt priest drives past telling the boys that he is too busy to help.
Zach: "He's a priest!!"
Orso: "Maybe he's as much of a priest as we are monks. Are you a monk?"
Zach: "No."
Orso: "Neither am I." (shrugs)
It probably loses a little something in translation, but it's little character bits like this that really make the series fun.

Interestingly, there's a little bit of discussion within the VJ ranks as to which episode actually ends the series. This is technically the sixth and final broadcast episode, but it may have been shown out of order in the same way that EXTRA LARGE was. More on that in our final installment, DOLLARS.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

This Bud's for You: WE ARE ANGELS: LUCK IS RAINING FROM THE SKY (1997)

We are over the halfway mark with the WE ARE ANGELS series and things are going pretty good. To bring readers up to speed, the series follows Father Orso (Bud Spencer) and Father Zach (Philip Michael Thomas), two escaped convicts who are posing as monks in Costa Rica. So far we’ve had the “jailbreak/set up” episode, the “rags to riches to rags” episode, and the “search for ancient treasure” episode. And all three were pretty damn entertaining. Nothing can break this streak outside of a “precocious kid” episode and we won’t be having one of...oh, what’s that? This episode centers on a kid? Argh!

Episode 4 opens with our counterfeit clergy penniless once again. They figure to earn a quick $500 by playing ship captain McQuade and a group of his fellow Scotsmen in a game of baseball. Of course, he shows up with a team so Central American that it looks like a modern MLB roster. Orso and Zach’s team is getting whomped until Orso decides to beat up the entire opposing team with each knockout seemingly counting as a score (final score: 24-20!). You know, I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I’m pretty sure knockouts only count when the ball leaves the park; however, after the game McQuade hands them the $500 and says they won it “fair and square.” Jesus, I guess I really don’t know much about baseball. Just so you know this is all supposed to be funny, director Ruggero Deodato fills this opening ten minutes with whistles, drum thumps and even Father Torment trying to make a catch hitting a wall and falling through leaving a human cutout. How do you say Looney Tunes in Italian?

The plot proper for this episode begins with the new village shaman praying for rain. He succeeds instead in bringing down a private plane with one Wolfgang Galveston III (Andrew Taft), the young son of the richest man in Central America, on board. As the captain calls out a mayday, it is overheard in the prison by warden Delgado (David Hess), who figures this is an ample opportunity to extort some cash out of the businessman. Naturally, the kid and his manservant Edward are found by the monks and given care back at San Rolando. Sensing the heat is going to come down on this place, Orso and Zach look to split but find the kid makes them an offer they can’t refuse - a lot of money from his dad for his safe return. So soon Orso, Zach, Wolfgang, Edward and a couple of guides are trudging through the jungle.

As evidenced by the previous three episodes, Deodato and his scriptwriters want as many things going on at once and the events here are no exception. Delgado and a group of his men raid the village, but find the child gone. Meanwhile, our leads are captured by a group of cannibal headhunters in the jungle and placed in giant cauldrons to be cooked. Well, that is until it is revealed the cannibals are actors as part of a “holiday tour” booking for a nearby resort. Jeez, I never knew Sandals offered a CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST package. Back in their element of pretty ladies and colorful drinks, Orso and Zach take a shine to the kid, even with a heartwarming scene of Orso teaching the kid how to swim. It is apparently a task so laborious that it causes Orso’s outfit to change mid-scene.


Of course, Delgado and his men aren’t too far behind. After a rather drunken night, Orso and Zach get one upped and Delgado puts the kid in kidnapped. His plan is to extort Galveston by saying that outlaw revolutionary leader Napoleon Duarte (Kabir Bedi) has the kid and is demanding a $2 million dollar ransom for the revolution. BUT WAIT! What he doesn’t realize is that Napoleon and his right hand man just happen to be eavesdropping in the same hotel lobby when is trying to con Galveston’s men. In the meantime, Delgado is keeping the kid at a local whorehouse. This leads to an awkward scene where the kid hustles the ladies of the night with some magic dice and they all sulk when told to get to work. Also, Delgado’s watchman offers Wolfgang the following life lesson: “Wine, tobacco, and women make a hombre their slave. He quickly ends up in the grave.” It should be noted he delivers this sage advice while holding a beer. Orso and Zach decide to enlist the help of their friend Sagreste (Max Herbrechter) to save the kid and hopefully get some of the ransom criss crossing town in a briefcase. As you can guess, this involves lots of twists and turns as money slips in and out of their fingers.

Well, they can’t all be winners. I think VJ head honcho Tom summed it up best when he wrote in an email, “I woke up this morning and I barely remember anything about the movie that I watched last night! I don't know whether I'm going senile or it just wasn't very memorable.” To paraphrase A GUY NAMED JOE (1943), “You’re not senile.” The fourth episode isn’t bad by any means, but it definitely isn’t memorable and mostly by the numbers. But let’s keep things positive and focus on the good and fun aspects. We do get the return of David Hess as the villainous prison warden and get a nice wrap up for his character. There is also a bit where he threatens to slice up the kid, resulting in a perhaps unplanned LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) homage. I also liked how the story culminated with our leads finally having some money, only to have Napoleon, the revolutionary thorn in their sides, show up to claim “his” money. It is a recurring gag over the series, so you start to anticipate it. I also appreciated the full circle ending. Orso and Zach finally have enough money for their plane and are making their long-delayed getaway. Unfortunately for them, Edward has become the new shaman of San Rolando and his first prayer for rain leads to their plane crashing right back in the village they are trying to escape. In keeping with the over-the-top comedic tone, they stumble up into the village covered in black soot. Hell, I’m shocked Deodato didn’t have them blow smoke out of their mouths.

The one big takeaway from this episode is it finally solves the “Bud Spencer and Philip Michael Thomas in dreadlocks” mystery. Back in the day the series was advertised in Variety with a full page ad of Spencer and Thomas in dreadlock wigs. WTF? Turns out it is a scene where they try to blend in during a local carnival parade. Yes, because nothing blends in more than a white guy Bud’s size in dreadlocks. So Tom gets Erik Estrada and Richard Liberty and I get Bud Spencer in dreadlocks. I’ll take it.

Monday, February 12, 2018

This Bud's for You: WE ARE ANGELS: IN SEARCH OF EL DORADO (1997)

After a rather leisurely first two episodes, ANGELS starts to fire on all cylinders with this third feature-length episode. Man, if you thought the last episode had a lot going on in it, put on your Chuck Norris Action Pants, because this one is almost impossible to synopsize without leaving out huge chunks of plot, action and great little character bits.

We last saw our ersatz ascetics going from rags to riches several times over and are now back in their cheery and colorful monastic hell. While Father Zach (Philip Michael Thomas) manages to fill his time lusting after Lupita (Mariana Mora) and teaching the village kids about America ("there are, more or less, 51 states"), Father Orso (Bud Spencer) has been tipped over the edge by Father Torment (veteran stuntman Mike Kirton), who is punishing himself for his sins by going fishing in a stream where there are no fish.

Father Raphael (Cesar Melendez), our deaf mute, has returned from a sabbatical in the jungle with the head-hunter tribe, the Niquoias, who, as native lore has it, have the duty of guarding the location of the treasure of the legendary lost city of El Dorado. Raphael's passion lies in painting landscapes and the paintings he returns with are striking in their resemblance to descriptions of the entrance to that very same loot stash. Of course we don't find this out until Father's Orso (which, amusingly, is Latin for "bear") and Zach have sold the paintings to rich heiress Michela (Nikhila Bedi), the niece of treasure hunter Grazziano (Erik Estrada), whose father had spent his final days in search of El Dorado, before dying in a plane crash in the jungle. Grazziano, frustrated by the fact that his niece holds the purse strings, has made finding El Dorado his ambition too, hiring the benign professor Clausewitz (Hill & Spencer regular Richard Liberty) and a murderous henchman, Rupert (Italian genre vet Antonio Marsina) to assist him in this goal. Got all that? Keep up, we have to keep moving here!

Rupert infiltrates the monastery (which strangely looks identical to Castle Neuschwanstein!) that has the 500 year-old diary of Bartolome de las Casas. Legend has it that the book describes the location of the treasure and contains a map showing its exact location. After going through the trouble of snatching the book and killing a monk in the process, Rupert and Grazziano discovers that the map is missing! There is only one thing to do - find the priest who painted the fabled land and Shanghai him. Once they have infiltrated the village and kidnapped Father Raphael, Orso and Zach set out on a dual purpose mission: rescue Father Raphael from Grazziano and rescue themselves from poverty!

There is so much going on in this episode, it was almost impossible to narrow everything down into a coherent synopsis. In addition to the above, there are multiple kidnappings, several double-crosses, the discovery of skeletal remains, a knockdown, drag-out pizzeria brawl, a hot air balloon ride, a hot air balloon crash, Father Orso trying to teach sex education to the village kids and even a wild drunken party in which our pious padres get likkered up on Johnny Walker (without Orso and Zach) and of course must atone for their night of sinning by being completely hung over and miserable the next day. It's almost like the writers had all these great ideas from a brainstorming session and suddenly realized that they were only doing six episodes and had to squeeze in all of their ideas that they had planned for ten episodes. After the first leisurely paced episodes, this is like setting a Bugatti Veyron on launch control.

One of the great things about this entry is the fact that pretty much all of the regulars get a chance to do their thing. Probably my favorite side character is Father Torment, who is shown in the first episode a has having taken gleeful self-flagellation to the next level with a room filled with instruments of torture which are his atonement for his evenings of sipping expensive cognac while relaxing in a silk robe. Also returning is the Scottish steamboat captain McQuade (Alfie Wise) who realizes the error of hiring his boat and services out to Grazziano after being tied up with his first mate, Hawkeye. Coming to the conclusion that Grazziano's men are definitely going to kill them he expresses this fact while Hawkeye is trying to remain positive. McQuade then tells him that he was going to make him a partner in the business to which the Hawkeye replies "now I know we're gonna die." There's also a great scene where the villains are trying to get Father Raphael to talk by hanging him upside-down over a snapping crocodile. Of course Father Raphael is mute, which makes our villains scratch their heads over how such a little monk can be such a hard man to crack.
This week's villain, played by the man who will always be, in my mind, riding the highways of California, is Erik Estrada. Estrada also appeared Enzo G. Castellari's amazing, almost proto-PM Entertainment, sci-fi/action film LIGHT BLAST (1985) and about a decade later Castellari cast him in not one, but two episodes of EXTRA LARGE. Here Estrada keeps it low key until his intellectual archaeologist cover is blown and then we get some wonderfully manic gnashing of those pearly white teeth. Also a guaranteed show in a Miami lensed Bud Spencer vehicle is Richard Liberty, who is probably best known as the mad scientist, Dr. Logan, in George Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). Somewhat appropriately, Liberty's final film was Antonio Margheriti's VIRTUAL WEAPON (1997), a Terence Hill / Marvin Hagler (yes, the Marvin Hagler) team-up shot in... you guessed it, Miami. I'm pretty sure the Italian film and television industry paid for the houses that many Miami cast and crew own.

Aside from the usual suspects, you never know who is going to show up in these series'. This time out, we get the ultra-prolific French actor Philippe Leroy, who shows up here giving a wonderfully eccentric performance as a crazed leader of a group of jungle pirates who have been making a bad rap for the Niquoias, blaming them for the deaths of those who hunt the treasure. These little guest appearances make watching these series' even more fun than they already are. I actually try not to read the opening credits just so I can be surprised by a familiar face popping up.

Interestingly, the basis for the this adventure is the very real 16th century Dominican friar Bartolom√© de las Casas. De las Casas was Spanish born, but immigrated to Haiti where he became a land and slave owner, actively oppressing and enslaving the natives until a group of Dominicans arrived and were outraged by the sadistic abuse and slaughter of the indigenous population. After being denied confession, de las Casas decided to fight for the rights of the people and eventually became a Dominican monk himself. The old joke, told back in the '80s when quitting smoking became fashionable, "the only thing worse than a smoker is a non-smoker" applies here. He became a zelot fighting against the slavers with such passion that he is a revered name in the Southern Americas.

The idea that de las Casas wrote a diary even connected to the location of the treasure of El Dorado is utterly fabricated, but the screenwriters Sandro Moretti, Alessandro Capone and Lorenzo De Luca (who also worked on EXTRA LARGE) wisely make sure to inform the audience, who may find this connection to be offensive, that de las Casas had not stolen the treasure, but was safeguarding it for the people. Uh huh. Just like the Vatican does.

Amusingly, the discovery of the treasure is highlighted by a massive golden idol of Bartolome de las Casas that looks incredibly just like Father Orso. Honestly, I would give up a month's pay for a replica of that idol to put in my living room. Seriously. PM me.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

This Bud's for You: WE ARE ANGELS: FINALLY WE FLY (1997)

When we last left off with convicts-turned-fake-priests Father Orso (Bud Spencer) and Father Zach (Philip Michael Thomas) they were sitting down for a feast in the tiny village of San Rolando. As the second episode begins, they have settled down and decided to help the people. They are planting flowers, offering sound spiritual advice, and content with their newfound status as religious figures. Ha, just kidding. Zach is ogling nekkid girls down at the waterfall (including his main object of desire, Lupita) and Orso is thinking of ways to get out of this hell. The opportunity arrives when their superior Father Campana (Renato Scarpa) entrusts them to take village-made pots ‘n stuff into the city to cash in with a Campana’s contact in the city. Unfortunately, the deaf-and-dumb Father Raphael is tagging along for the ride up river on the riverboat owned by McQuade (Alfie Wise). No worries, Orso thinks, they’ll just ditch him after they get the money for the trinkets.

Once in the city they head to visit Don Medina (Marc Macaulay, the Sheriff from the SWAMP THING TV series), who runs Medina Ecological Center. Oh damn, if ‘80s and ‘90s movies have taught me anything, any white dude running an “ecological center” is totally putting toxins in the water. After receiving a cold shoulder, Orso and Zach squeeze Medina to pay top dollar for the items, resulting in $4,000 cool dollars to fund their escape into Panama. However, Medina isn’t on the up-and-up and gets his muscle to get the money back by demanding 100% unloading fees. This results in a funny scene where Spencer tells them that is fine, but they have to pay him for getting off the boat and using my air fees. The baddies don’t agree, so you know what the means. Head thumpin’ time courtesy of Sir Bud! With the money back in their grasp, they get some fancy duds and colored drinks. Always the letch, Zach asks a pretty waitress what she is doing tonight and she replies, “I’m committing suicide.” When he asks her about the next night, she says, “The same.”


Looking to make their escape via plane, the duo head to visit Sagreste (Max Herbrechter), a old prison friend of Zach’s who now works as a mechanic. He has a cessna plane for them, but needs $10,000 to get it into running (flying?) shape. They give him a $2,000 deposit and try to figure a way to get the rest of the money. Orso soon sees “divine providence” in the form of a local casino and they head in to scam the place with a pair of loaded dice. Unfortunately, Don Medina also owns this casino and doesn’t take kindly to losing more money to the duo. His thugs attack them in the parking lot, leaving them penniless and back in the last place they want to be - the village. Campana makes them give confession and, instead of condemning them, he suggests they go rob the casino holdings when it is going to the bank. What happened to that “turn the other cheek” stuff? “The Devil must be caught by his horns,” argues Campana. Hey, I’m down. By the way, if you think this “we have money/we don’t have money” stuff is getting out of hand, just wait.

Orso and Zach case the armored car heading to the bank, but when they burst in with their guns the place is empty. The go to the back and find everyone is being held hostage by...Napoleon Duarte (Kabir Bedi) and his revolutionaries. Viva la revolucion and holy episode continuity crossover! Duarte recognizes Orso and Zach as the men who helped him escape prison, so he thinks they are there to support the revolution. However, our faux friars ain’t having it and steal the armored truck with Medina’s right hand man, Escobar, in the back with the money handcuffed to his wrist. They guy gives up the loot rather quickly when they build a fire around the truck. Unfortunately, when they get back to Sagreste he has left a note that he is in the hospital. Not looking to board McQuade’s boat with a cool million while it is being searched, the resourceful Zach hides the briefcase in a Medina shipping container. Can you see where this is going? Yup, it is a race to find the case while both Duarte and Medina are popping up at every turn.


Sorry if that summary is a bit too detailed, but there really is a lot going on in this episode. It seems like every ten minutes the leads are gaining and losing their fortunes. But it makes for a fun, WHAT’S UP, DOC? (1972) style series of twists and turns. This one is a bit lighter on the action (sadly, no car stunts) but makes up for it with a big brawl at a warehouse at the end; watch for a totally random bit where Macaulay suddenly whips out some really impressive martial arts moves. With all the plot dynamics laid out in episode one, the series starts to find its groove with the comedy and characters here. Spencer is his usual Spencerific self and Thomas quickly grows on you as the guy who hits on every female in sight. Another recurring character is McQuade, the Scottish ship captain who is so Scottish he plays bagpipes when he pulls into port. As established in episode one, McQuade is always demanding money for every little thing. Just watch him here as he stares intently at the bills when Orso and Zach first recover their money. Another funny bit has Father Torment - a masochist who loves the act of religious contrition via pain - wondering if the missing Orso and Zach are being tortured by bad guys and mentions how he would gladly take their place. LOL! Another thing I really enjoyed about the ending of this episode is how Orso and Zach are finally rich and buy tickets to escape to Miami. Decked out in their flashy new duds, they get to the check in counter and are asked for their papers. “Details,” grumbles Zach. It is a good hook to make sure you tune into the next episode, which I guess I’ll do. Oh, also, just in case you were worried, it is revealed quickly at the end that in addition to being a crime lord that Medina also has been releasing toxic chemicals into the local water supply. Whew! I was scared for a minute there I’d have to contact the Movie Cliche Police. Crisis avoided.

Monday, February 5, 2018

This Bud's for You: WE ARE ANGELS: TWO FACE JAIL (1997)

As some of you may remember, a few years before the sad loss of the less immortal than I imagined European superstar Bud Spencer, we covered both of the DETECTIVE EXTRA LARGE (1992) series' of TV movies. It was Bud Spencer's first pairing with MIAMI VICE (1984-1990) star Philip Michael Thomas, who was oddly replaced in the second series, simply titled EXTRA LARGE (1993), by Michael Winslow of POLICE ACADEMY (1984-1989) fame. After EXTRA LARGE, Bud Spencer made the top-notch, in-spirit Trinity sequel THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1994) before being reunited with Thomas for a new series, WE ARE ANGELS.

Moving from the presumably more expensive shooting location of Miami to the more budget-friendly confines of rural Costa Rica, Bob (Bud Spencer) and Joe (Philip Michael Thomas) are a couple of inmates in a grimy South American prison. Bob is in good with the guards for some unexplained reason who slip him cigars when the evil Captain Delgado (David Hess, clearly having a wonderful time hamming it up as the prison warden) isn't looking. Joe's method is madness, pretending to be a nut-case "rapper". Though he tends to sing rather than rap. Presumably this is the crime for which he was incarcerated.

A revolutionary group, lead by Napoleon Duarte (Kabir Bedi, Kamal's henchman in 1983's OCTOPUSSY) storms the prison and utterly fails to do anything but make a mess and gets himself slammed up with Bob. This annoys Bob to no end because he has an escape plan all set up and no wild-eyed rebel is going to keep him from bustin' loose! Adding insult to injury, Joe is apparently smarter than he acts. He's hip to Bob's jailbreak and tags along for the ride. After taking leave of Duarte, Bob and Joe decide that the best way to hide from the cops is by jumping a couple of monks who are headed to a small village for a stop-over before heading to the monastery. Of course the cops are completely fooled by this charade, but the other monks in the village are a bit suspicious. A black American monk from Rome in South America? What's suspicious about that? When the monks ask the padres about Rome, Joe says to Bob, "you know where Rome is don't you?" To which Bob replies "oh yeah, it's a suburb of the Vatican."

After getting to know the villagers more than they ever wanted to, Father Orso (Bob/Bud) and Father Zachariah (Joe/PMT) discover that young girls from the village keep disappearing when they venture out into the city. Just like American television, Italian television seems to have the same pining for the simplicity of country life. Cities are rife with evil, villages are sweet and wholesome. Actually this is a good thing because it gives Bob and Joe - err, I mean Orso and Zachariah - err, whoever, the opportunity to stumble across a criminal organization run out of a strip club by Mr. Madre. Wouldn't you know it, Captain Delgado is also part of the kidnap/drug syndicate as is the village shaman Quesada (Michael Berryman) who is the one doing all of the actual kidnapping. This gives us the viewer some much needed action with fight scenes, a car stunt and best of all, Bud Spencer delivering a knuckle sandwich to Michael Berryman's unfortunate mug.

Directed by Ruggero Deodato, a man infamous for his spate of gory jungle cannibal outings of the '70s and '80s, including the nastiest of them all CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980), this mild-mannered series starts off by spending most of its 90 minute running time setting up the characters. Sometimes it feels like Deodato is a little lost doing an amiable comedy outing, but then again, he has another five movies to pick up the pace. On the other hand, the episode is surprisingly well shot with lots of split focus photography and genuinely nice looking shot composition adding some quality production value.

The jokes are pretty low-key with things like Bob getting excited about having arrived on the day of a village feast until he is informed that on fiesta days the monks take a vow of fasting. But there are plenty of laughs to be had, plus a few unintentionally funny moments. One of these has Joe attracting parishioners to the church by playing a rousing Southern Baptist-style gospel number on the organ (that has clearly been replaced with another song on the soundtrack), which is so rousing that it has the deaf priest dancing in the aisles! Apparently Bob and Joe really can work miracles.

As VJ co-conspirator William Wilson pointed out, writers  Lorenzo De Luca, Ruggero Deodato and Sandro Moretti use Neil Jordan's 1989 remake of WE'RE NO ANGELS starring Sean Penn and Robert De Niro as a springboard for Bud and PMT's adventures. In NO ANGELS, two cons escape the slams and take it on the lam disguised as priests. Same here, except here we have a touch of THE DEFIANT ONES (1958) thrown in as well as Bob and Joe are shackled to each other and on the run, like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, except, well, funnier. Tony Curtis should be so lucky as to draw comparison to the mighty Bud Spencer. As Hill and Spencer fans well know, there were a substantial amount of imitators, the best known being Michael Colby and Paul L. Smith's pairing for several movies including one titled WE ARE NO ANGELS (1975). It doesn't have anything to do with this series, but is an interesting side note.

Promising the likes of Richard Lynch and Erik Estrada, the opening title sequence sports another memorable little theme tune, sung by none other than Spencer himself. This means I'm going to be spending the next month humming it in the shower every morning.

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