30 September 2015


 William Lustig now runs things over at Blue Underground which distributes old classics like Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, The New York Ripper onto nice Blu-ray disks. He used to direct and turned out a few classics including Maniac with ultra-gore effects by Tom Savini and the Maniac Cop series. The script for Uncle Sam is by another great genre writer/director Larry Cohen who did such films as God Told Me to, Its Alive, Q: The winged Serpent and The Stuff. Well the end result here may be overall lacking given the teamwork of these two veterans of horror but Uncle Sam is not a waste of your time totally. The cast has a few familiar faces as well. There is Issac Hayes, Timothy Bottoms, PJ Soles, William Smith, Robert Forster and Bo Hopkins in roles of varying importance. The film is pretty cheesy and is not meant to be taken too seriously and the one big drawback is that the actual action does not take place until about 45 minutes into the film. The time before that is spent setting up characters who will be killed off in the second half of the movie. During the second half, of course, more characters are introduced briefly who are also killed off by Sam.

The story is about a boy named Jody who worships his dead Uncle Sam who, as I said, died a fiery death in Kuwait many years before. Jody was maybe only two or three years old when he last saw his Uncle Sam but he adores the man. The boy simply idolizes the guy and his war ‘heroics’ while ignoring the truth about Sam from other people like Jed Crowley (Hayes) who was a war buddy of Sam’s and his mother Sally (Leslie Neale) who lets Jody know that she was happy to have Sam off in sunny Kuwait because then he could stop beating her for awhile. Jodi is not moved. He wants to be just like Sam and when Sam is returned to the US and his casket is kept in his living room he could not be happier. As the small town prepares for its annual 4th of July celebration we are quickly introduced to people who have ‘dead’ tattooed on their foreheads. There is Jody’s peace-nik teacher Mr. Crandall (Timothy Bottoms) who dodged the Vietnam draft, a group of boys who take delight in desecrating the flag as well as the headstones of local war heroes, a shady IRS tax collector, a crooked politician (Forster) and a military man Sgt Twining (Bo Hopkins) who has the job of consoling (and hopefully bedding) grieving war widows. The there are local teen bullies who moon the Star Spangled Banner and pot smoking school girls who fall into the ‘need to die horribly’ category and probably a few others I forget right now. All these people are scum in the eyes any true ‘red blooded American citizen, but they are things to be squashed by Sam after he rises from the dead and goes on a killing spree in an Uncle Sam costume he gets off a Peeping Tom. The deaths are mostly let downs but there are couple good ones, like where the bully gets his head chopped off and someone gets impaled on a flagpole. Again the issue is that the movie takes too long getting to these deaths and I am not sure why.

The first half is not really used in any special way. For example it could have set up some sort of story line that dealt with patriotism or the effects of war on families but it really does not. And it also tried to be too serious in he first half, without going anywhere, only to have a psycho killer in an Uncle Sam costume whacking people at in goofy ways in the second half. I would have preferred to leave the unnecessary social commentary issues out of the film (if there are any really) and Sam should have been up and killing much earlier. The film ends with Jody and his burnt, blind and crippled friend killing Sam with a working canon they push to Jody’s house. The ending is fine and the deaths are fine but the film should have stayed silly and shot for more laughs and less horror which it does not really deliver. But all that said I can recommend the film for a single watching though it cannot live up to cool cover of an evil and rotted Uncle Sam pointing his finger at you. While you hate the pinkos and flag burners you cannot like Sam much more.

I think if Sam had been a real hero who returned to a zombie state and felt compelled out of duty to kill the desecrators the film may have worked better. There could have been some moment of redemption at the end where Jody convinces him that what he is doing is wrong or something and Sam feels bad and immolates himself or something. As it goes Sam is just a serial killer/slasher/psycho with a uniform who rose from the dead in a really bad mood. The ending seems to be a set up for a possible sequel, where Jody looks at his mom with a hateful expression (showing that he has some of Sam’s qualities in him… I guess) but so far nothing. It might be interesting to see a film where Jody returns from Afghanistan and wrecks vengeance on a new generation of post 9-11 America haters and, more deservedly, on people who name little boys Jody.


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