Deadbeat At Dawn!

He quit the gangs. They killed his girl. He became…

DEADBEAT AT DAWN (1988)

Goose (Jim VanBebber) is the crank snortin’ and kung fu fightin’ leader of the notorious street gang the Ravens. Goose and the Ravens got beef with a rival gang called the Spiders and their punk ass leader Danny in particular. Goose warns the scumfucks to stay off his turf, but they refuse to listen. The gangs have a showdown in a graveyard and Goose and Danny both end up badly wounded in a knife fight and swearing bloody revenge. Goose takes shelter in the arms of his occultist girlfriend Christy, who stitches up his wounds and offers him a prophetic warning that death will be coming if he stays in the gang. Goose tries to ignore her warning, and Christy threatens to leave him if he doesn’t leave the gang.

Goose ultimately decides to quit the Ravens and start a new life with Christy somewhere outside of the city. He plans one last drug deal before leaving that will finance their happy future. Danny and the Spiders have other plans. Danny sends along his demented henchmen Stubbs and Bonecrusher to pay Christy a special visit. When Goose returns home from his dope deal he discovers Christy’s horribly mutilated corpse waiting for him. Overcome with grief, Goose tosses Christy’s disfigured dead body into an incinerator. He then spends some downtime making a drunken ass out of himself in a local dive, and pays an extended visit to his incredibly loud and annoying junkie father.

Goose eventually winds up back on the streets and at the mercy of his old pals in the Ravens. His old gang now has a new leader named Keith, and Keith is planning on teaming up with Danny and the Spiders for a big time armored car robbery. The gangs both force Goose to participate, and he vows to rip out Danny’s fucking throat in return. The robbery predictably turns into a deadly double cross and then degenerates into a total bloodbath. Goose barely survives the shootout and winds up on the run from the law while seeking his final revenge on Danny. He quit the gangs. They killed his girl. He became DEADBEAT AT DAWN.

DEADBEAT AT DAWN has the sad distinction of being an almost perfect low budget drive-in film that came out at the exact moment when the drive-in era was dying. In 1988, the days of grimy, independent action and horror flicks and the type of grimy, independent theaters and drive-ins that showcased them were quickly becoming a thing of the past. It didn’t help that Hollywood had a hard on for the sort of good looking, morally upright crusaders that would bust gangs of drug dealers instead of doing crank and planning robberies with them. Jim VanBebber is the type of badass filmmaker who follows his own path, regardless if that path is an easy one to follow, or if it eventually leads to mass appeal and fame and fortune. Much like “The Evil Dead,” and the other clas-sick DIY films that inspired it, “Deadbeat At Dawn” took a long time to be finished. It’s to Jim’s credit that he had the guts to keep the dream alive for three years while the perfect market for his film was disappearing.

DEADBEAT AT DAWN is an unbelievably tough little film. It looks like it came from the decade before it was actually released and it feels like it would be been absolutely brutal to make. Jim not only wrote, directed, and edited the film, he also served as fight choreographer, special effects coordinator, and stunt man! The stunts in this film are nothing less than insane. There are at least two or three moments along the way that clearly defy death. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite moment, but the scene where Jim throws himself (no budget for stunt doubles) off a bridge certainly deserves a mention. The numerous fight scenes are also top notch. Jim VanBebber displays some really impressive fighting skills, and the epic final showdown between Goose and Danny is a highly choreographed display of power violence.

The storyline is the definition of highly effective action flick simplicity. It’s a classic 70′s kung fu tale of revenge and redemption. He quits the gangs, they kill his girl, the film gets padded a bit with a visit to Dad, and then Goose gets his bloody revenge and is ultimately redeemed by his final selfless act. My only minor complaint about the film would be the rather pointless scenes that feature Goose and his deranged and drug addicted father, but it’s obvious why they are there. The film clearly needed a boost in running time and it’s the only part of the film that stands out in a bad way and drags. The rest of the film is a non stop blast of action packed, good gory fun. This is one of my all time favorite action flicks and I have been singing it’s praises for years. It still amazes me that this flick isn’t more well known. Everyone needs to get hip to this one immediately. Independent filmmakers of today should really do themselves a favor and repeatedly watch this one while taking notes.

Dark Sky Films released an incredible box set in 2005 titled Visions Of Hell: The Films Of Jim VanBebber. This 4-disc collection includes Jim’s two feature length films “Deadbeat At Dawn” and “The Manson Family,” along with the short films “My Sweet Satan,” “Roadkill: The Last Days Of John Martin,” “Doper,” “Kata,” and “Into The Black.” I can’t recommend this collection highly enough. I think all of Jim’s films should be considered must-sees for fans of take no prisoners independent films. Take a quick look at your dvd collection. I’m willing to bet you own at least a couple mainstream action flicks that are total shit and you should be ashamed of yourself for not having “Visions Of Hell” instead. Buy or die!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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