30 Jun

The Seaman And The Whore: Death Feud

Posted by Todd Rigney | Monday June 30, 2008 | Reviews

Death FeudDuring those dusty bygone days of the now-defunct Video Home System, purchasing films for your personal collection was a very costly venture. Unless the distributor had chosen to issue their product as “priced to sell,” the going rate for almost any movie on the market was simply outrageous. Spending close to one-hundred dollars on any film seems positively preposterous in this pirate-friendly digital age — I honestly can’t remember the last time I paid more than twenty-five bones for anything I didn’t have to order from a genre-specific website or some opportunistic yokel on eBay hording a tasty collection of ultra-rare VHS tapes.

The price tag printed on the box art for director Carl Monson’s 1987 Frank Stallone-Christopher Mitchum revenge actioner Death Feud (aka Savage Harbor) would suggest madness on the part of the consumer. The damage: $79.95, though this item is priced slightly higher in Canada. And while I don’t necessarily regret dropping two wonderful little dollars on this undeniably hilarious motion picture, there were moments when I truly wished I’d spent my money on a fresh avocado, instead. In fact, I’d love to hear from anyone who actually shelled out that much cash on such a dumpy, amateur hour production such as this. I promise I won’t poke fun.

Until Death Feud came barreling into my life, I had absolutely no idea that screen legend Robert Michum had a son, let alone an offspring who spent the majority of his career wallowing in the trenches of B-grade cinema. Christopher Mitchum is the spitting image of his father, and at times the resemblance can be very distracting. One second I’m watching Christopher make out with a podunk stripper in a seedy downtown bar, and the next I’m having visions of Max Cady from the original Cape Fear leering at teenagers while sporting an unkempt mullet. Thankfully, his participation is kept to a bare minimum, as he tends to play second fiddle to none other than Frank Stallone for this particular outing. Lucky us.

Rest assured, dear readers, that I wouldn’t be caught dead making any lame jokes or cheap, unmerited references to the poor bastard’s super famous sibling. That would be too easy. However, Frank doesn’t exactly make it easy for us to find anything remotely positive about his turn as Joe, an eternally depressed merchant seaman who’s lost the love of his life to a world of sex, drugs, and prostitution. His displays of heart-crushing sorrow often resemble painful constipation, especially when the script requires him to whip up a few tears on the spot. When the agony finally reaches its boiling point, Frank borrows a technique from his brother employed during the 1976 award-winner Rocky. I know I said I wouldn’t bring up Sylvester, but it’s really not my fault. Really.

The sinister microcosm of carnal debauchery our heroes must infiltrate is ruled by the highly villainous Harry Caine, a man who makes his money importing slaves, trafficking drugs, and peddling ass to low-life bums with ugly mustaches. When Joe’s fiancee-turned-call girl becomes too much of a burden for Caine to bear, he casually hires some random sleazebag in mirrored sunglasses to run her over. Joe, of course, is none too pleased. The rest of the picture consists of aimless wandering, emotional breakdowns, and a few brief bouts of physical violence, though Monson and crew do pause every so often to flash some breasts at the screen. You know, to keep you awake.

Death Feud’s strangest, most peculiar offering, besides the third-tier cast, the sloppy action sequences, and the uncomfortably cruel homophobic references, is the sheer number of up-nostril shots we’re forced to contend with. As the hairy nasal passages kept coming, I was reminded of Billy Barty’s role as action news cameraman Noodles MacIntosh in Jay Levey’s Weird Al comedy UHF. The odd angles were, of course, pretty funny in that instance; here they’re just awkward and more than a little unnerving. Counting the number of times this technique is used could make for an interesting drinking game, though.

At its core, Death Feud is a decidedly implausible middle-aged male fantasy loaded with stilted dialogue and woeful acting from two interesting gentlemen who, unfortunately, live in the shadow of their more popular relatives. I honestly had a blast watching it, and am quite honored to have it in my collection of wonky flicks nobody else on this planet probably cares about. As bad as the whole affair may be, you simply can’t help but love it. I’m not sure how anyone would have justified such an bloated price tag back in the day, mind you, but yours truly certainly got his money’s worth out of the deal. Just don’t twist my words into something they’re not.

Because Death Feud certainly does suck.

2 Comments 

  1. June 30, 2008 11:39 pm

    Remo D.

    If you want GOOD Christopher Mitchum films, be sure to scope out RICCO: THE MEAN MACHINE and Jess Franco’s FACELESS…

  2. July 1, 2008 1:46 am

    Todd Rigney

    I’ll have to remember RICCO: THE MEAN MACHINE. In fact, I’m off to see if YouTube has a trailer for it.


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