I’m addicted to the underdog. Not only do I attract them to myself like some giant overpowered earth magnet but I actively seek them out, upending stones and poking around the moist soil underneath to see what slimy things crawl out. Supporting the underdog is a theme in my life that’s been there constantly the near 30 years I’ve ran/walked/crawled the face of this sphere and when I look back in another 30 I hope I’ll feel this even more strongly. Hence my draw to Jim Van Bebbers work I think. It displays such a raw passion and screams with such a desire to be heard that anyone with an interest in cult cinema (or just regular cinema for that matter) would have to work hard to ignore it.
It’s a damn shame his skills have yet to be recognized on the level they deserve but then again, maybe that’s a blessing and what makes him a true cult cinema hero. Van Bebber never got thrown into the Hollywood meat grinder only to get chewed up, digested and shit out as a much more easier on the eyes, commercialized version of himself. He stayed true to himself and his visions and has produced visceral, effective low-budget cinema with little to no recognition outside of select (aka the only ones that matter) circles. Such is the plight of the underdog.
This brings us to Deadbeat at Dawn, Van Bebbers debut foray into feature length film making and what a kick you in the jaw debut it is/was. Kung –Fu action, gang bangers in strange costumes, armored truck heists, crank…this bad boy has everything a gritty exploitation movie lovers’ heart could ever desire. Van Bebber plays the main character, a crank snorting kung-fu machine named Goose, in his attempt to quit the gangs and walk the straight and narrow with his girlfriend. Getting out of the gangs won’t be easy though. First you have to lose your girl in a tragic manner on the eve of your retirement, attempt to exact your revenge through a double cross on your old gang buddies, and finally have a kung-fu showdown in a rail yard.
Deadbeat could teach pretty much every action movie that’s come out since a thing or two about how to kick ass. In Goose we find not a squeaky clean, family friendly, all American hero like we always seem to find in this genre but instead we are presented with a flawed anti-hero. Van Bebber gives us a character with as many, if not more, problems than the “bad guys” he’s out to get the better of. He’s just as violent, just as foul mouthed and highly likely more crank addicted as any of the gangers he’s taking out with his nun-chucks or high kicks.
One of the places that low budget movies usually fall flat is in the acting department but overall Deadbeat at Dawn keeps a pretty even keel throughout, despite a cast composed of amateur and unknown actors. A performance deserving of mention, other than Van Bebbers, is March Pitman as Bone Crusher. His Amyl Nitrate fueled rant about the rush of watching someones life leave them, hating people and being “the baddest motherfucker you ever saw, man!” makes you want to grab the nearest blunt heavy object in case this psycho somehow displaces himself from time, breaks some key laws of the universe and launches through the screen to get you.
I really can’t recommend Deadbeat enough. It hits all the right notes and gives you everything you could want out of a grimy, drug laden, kung fu exploitation flick. If presented with the opportunity to see at Dawn, don’t pass it up.