Johnny Firecloud/Bummer!
By: Devon B. on Januaey 29, 2006, 2009  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Siren Visual Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. JF: 2.35:1 Bummer: 4:3 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 1.0. 188 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: William Allen Castleman
Starring: Kipp Whitman, Dennis Burkly, Connie Strickland, Carol Speed, Diane Lee Hart / Victor Mohica, Ralph Meeker, David Canary, Christina Hart, Frank De Kova
Screenplay: Alvin L. Fast / Wilton Demark
Tagline: They taught him today's violence…he gave them yesterday's revenge!
Country: USA
Year: 1973 / 1975

When I first saw From Dusk Till Dawn, I had a real problem with it. No, it wasn't the annoying Juliette Lewis. My problem was Salma Hayek starred as the head stripper at a rough and rowdy bar, yet no one minds when all she takes off is that fucking snake. Those truckers and bikers would've torn the place apart in anger after a tease like that. Well, if it weren't for the vampires.

Anyway, another movie that seems to think it's okay to have people strip only partially in seedy dives is Bummer, the first film on Something Weird's David F. Friedman double feature. Bummer's art and name may make you think it's about sodomy. I think the idea is that the whole movie is a total bummer, in the depressing sense, not the anal insertion sense. But if that's the way you swing, you'll probably get more enjoyment that way.

Regardless, Bummer stars a cast of wonderful thespians. The story is there's this band, modestly named The Group, who wants to leave the LA scene for a tour because they're not getting enough big gig 'action.' I think the reason they've got no following is they suck. One of the group is loose cannon, who brings about the very small plot developments that occur. Meanwhile, these groupies occasionally hang out with the band, but do take a detour to a nudie joint. One of the girls strips to her underwear for the show, and gets applause. I think she'd get heckled, and if it were really seedy, some of her undergarments would've been torn off as well. Maybe this is the film Mr. Quentin got the idea for a non-strip, but either way, it is stupid in both movies. It's also not like the girl from Bummer wouldn't get naked; she's nude a lot. The scene is just stand out stupid in a movie full of stupidity.

Not much else happens in the first half of the movie, and nothing ever occurs of any note. There is one odd scene where while taking a bunch of drugs, a party situation gets out of hand. One girl just watches while two of her friends are forcibly removed to a toilet, and they say they're all right as they're being dragged off against their will. I guess you could blame the drugs on their rather unconcerned behaviour, but then the two abductees are forced to take a shower in front of two of The Group. After being humiliated, one of the girls then talks in romantic terms to the guy that let it happen. In fairness, he didn't initiate the degradation, but c'mon!

Bummer is a boring, badly done piece of shit. It's poorly written, acted and directed, and takes over an hour to even have anything happen story wise, and even that isn't interesting.

Buy the end I was just wishing David Hess would show up and kill 'em all.

Fortunately, Johnny Firecloud is a far better film.

Johnny is a Vietnam vet getting hassled by The Man in his dumpy home town. Is it because he's Indian? I think it's more that he's been having it off with The Man's daughter. While it does seem from the opening scene Johnny is also going to have racial trouble with the cops, in virtually every other instance, the police stick up for him. Like when they save his life after he gets caught attempting a hay roll with The Man's daughter. Johnny gets lashed before the police show up, and the lashing sets into motion events that have Johnny extracting brutal revenge. Don't worry, Johnny's lashing don't seem to hurt him much, so he has no trouble with the physical strains of vengeance.

Johnny Firecloud is touted as an extremely un-PC vehicle. Honestly, I felt the most un-PC thing was the ad art. The actual film isn't that dissimilar to, say, Whale Rider, with the youth of an indigenous culture finally accepting their roots. Okay, maybe those two movies are not entirely alike. Sure, there are stereotypes at work, but there's far more of the hick variety than there are of Indians, and the only sensible character is an Indian. With hicks saying things like, 'One of these days, you and me is gonna tangle assholes,' that group comes off the worst by far. Admittedly, the line may have been meant to read, 'One of these days, you and me is gonna tangle, assholes,' with the character speaking to two others, but that's not how it sounded. In any case, the most offensive element of Johnny Firecloud is a particularly exploitive rape sequence.

The performances vary a bit, but most are passable and some are even good. Some of the production values are a little low, like an unconvincing hanging and some of the gore, but most of the time the production remains slick. The pacing is a bit slow, but this may have been necessary to allow a white audience to accept Johnny's later actions. Other than the speed which the events unfold, it's hard to believe this is the same team that was behind Bummer.
Video
Bummer is presented full frame. Grain is noticeable, as are spicks and specks. The image is dark, with things getting lost easily. The picture is soft. The film suffers badly from artefacts, possibly a result of over compression to get both movies on one disc.

Johnny Firecloud is presented at 2.35:1. The film has grain and specks, but isn't too bad most of the time. There are artefacts, or some sort of glitch, anyway, that create an almost waterlike effect making the image swim a bit. Straw hats and striped things ripple, and there are some jagged edges on people, things, and lettering.
Audio
Bummer's audio is the original mono track, but the sleeve says it's in stereo. The soundtrack is BAD 70s rock. So, while I could hear everything fine, I didn't really want to.

Johnny Firecloud is also presented with the original mono mix. The overall volume is a bit low, but otherwise the mix is mostly okay. A few bits of dialog are too quite even with the volume up. The score gets a bit loud when the volume's up, though, particularly a song that is reminiscent of the POW themes that accompanied the fights in the Batman TV series.
Extra Features
The DVD comes with the trailers for both films, plus five other exploitation trailers, including one for George A. Romero's 'lost' film There's Always Vanilla. There are also two shorts. The first, War Drums! is a strip routine with the girl starting out in pseudo-ceremonial Indian garb. Blind Bidding It Affects You! is a three minute satire on the blind bidding forced upon theatre owners. Johnny Firecloud has a commentary with Mike Vraney, Frank Henenlotter, and David Friendman. The track has your usual anecdotes and info, and remains vibrant, but the info is often not about the film in question. If you want to know more about Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, it gets plenty of mention here. Oddly, some of Friedman's comments seemed less PC to me than anything in the actual film. And on a side note, Friedman mentions that Vraney once managed Dead Kennedys. What he neglects to mention is that according to the band, Vraney ripped them off. Lastly, the disc features a David F. Friedman exploitation art gallery.
The Verdict
While Bummer is completely worthless, Johnny Firecloud is worth a look. It's a shame it wasn't given its own disc with a better transfer, but it is a previously rare film getting a DVD release. The rattlesnake revenge is worth watching the film for alone, and it may be awhile before Johnny Firecloud gets an upgrade.
Movie Score
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