STREET ASYLUM stirred up a bit of interest when convicted Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy, a supporting actor in the film, refused to help publicize the picture. Supposedly the finished film offended Liddy's right-wing sensibilities. In any case, the brouhaha made news nationwide,
Liddy later reportedly withdrew his opposition, STREET ASYLUM extended its theatrical run before coming out on video, and the film's publicists probably ended up buying each other drinks in celebration. But what of STREET ASYLUM itself? Well, let's just say Liddy's sensibilities aren't the only
ones that will be offended by this offering from director Greggory Brown.
Liddy plays Los Angeles Police Chief Jim Miller, a man with totalitarian political ambitions and a taste for sado-masochism. Most of the time he sits in his whip-and-chain festooned lair and beholds the action unfolding on video monitors: Tough cop Arliss Ryder (Wings Hauser) cruises the mean
streets, and during a "routine" call (a runaway billed as "Teen Jesus" has crucified himself on a rooftop TV antenna), he is shot and wounded by Miller's henchmen. Ryder wakes up in a police-run clinic, where surgeon Weaver Cane (Marie Chambers) has treated Ryder's injury as a pretext for
attaching something to his spine. Subsequently, Ryder is invited to join Miller's pet project, the Strike SQUAD (Scum Quelling Urban Assault Division), an elite force of policemen, all recently wounded, all treated at that clinic, all raving psychotics. Ryder's fellow SQUAD members run amok,
killing suspects and innocent bystanders, before dying themselves under suspicious circumstances. Ryder feels his own personality gravitating toward violence (yet the numbskull continues to return to Cane for mysterious regular treatments), and the very evident changes in his demeanor repel his
kickboxing girl friend, Kristin (Roberta Vasquez). Overcome by these violent urges, Ryder rapes a prostitute, but in the process he learns that Miller may be behind the SQUAD's high mortality rate. Sneaking into the chief's office, Ryder finds X-rays revealing the electronic spinal implants, which
(as you have probably already guessed) turn ordinary cops into ultraviolent vigilantes. Ryder has Kristin cut the implant out of his spine; then the cop fakes a suicide to throw off Miller's spies. Meanwhile, the outraged citizens have rioted against the brutal police, and the SQUAD is out
conducting massacres in response. As a result the police station is nearly deserted when Ryder and Kristin infiltrate it. The sequence that follows is hilarious; Ryder knows of Miller's fondness for bondage, so he has the faithful Kristin dress up as a dominatrix and approach the villain. Kristin
takes a whip to Miller, much to his delight, though he's considerably less pleased when Ryder appears. The two battle and Miller winds up electrocuted inside a satellite dish. However, an epilog states that SQUADs are being prepared in several other states.
Director Brown and producer Walter Gernert are perhaps better known as "the Dark Brothers," the evocative sobriquet they used as the makers of adult film and videos. But with STREET ASYLUM and their previous mainstream effort, DEAN MAN WALKING (which also starred Wings Hauser), Brown and Gernert
have successfully tapped into a subgenre of violent sci-fi action films that revel in the cynical mistrust of authority. "Don't go knockin' off da middle class...or else," foams a SQUAD cop, and after Liddy's snub, the filmmakers announced that some box-office receipts would be donated to the
American Civil Liberties Union. But whatever political fires STREET ASYLUM was meant to light, they're soon extinguished in a miasma of sleaze.
It doesn't help that Hauser's character is terribly slow to figure out what's going on; he has to watch not one, but two successive partners go berserk and die before he suspects something's wrong about that clinic. Still, the filmmakers manage to create an appropriately lurid atmosphere, greatly
aided by Paul Desatoff's vivid city-after-dark photography and a special "sound design" by Leonard Marcel that offers a continuous undercurrent of low-level, almost subliminal noise, including garbled music and news broadcasts detailing grotesque crimes (one of which involves a kid who says he
chopped up his grandmother at the behest of Mr. Ed the Talking Horse). Though these effects are evidently intended to depict Ryder's descent into madness, an hour of this stuff will make any viewer wish he had a Playboy Playmate girl friend with a knack for kitchen-table neurosurgery. Another
audio gimmick bookends the story, a radio phone-in show on which Miller's spokesman defends the chief's policies while citizens of diverse political and sexual orientations call up to spew their hatred. Maybe for their next production Gernert and Brown can recruit Henry Kissinger. (Excessiveviolence, profanity, nudity, adult situations, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1990
- Rating: NR
- Review: STREET ASYLUM stirred up a bit of interest when convicted Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy, a supporting actor in the film, refused to help publicize the picture. Supposedly the finished film offended Liddy's right-wing sensibilities. In any case, the… (more)