Skinheads (1989)

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What great poster art!  I’m not kidding!  I don’t know who illustrated this, but it looks like the poster for a classic exploitation film, which Skinheads of course is!  Any of you SHARP, Trad or Trojan skins, who stumbled upon this post when doing a google search for “skinheads”, please know that I’m well aware of the original skinhead subculture from the 60s and 70s and that it was based upon music, not ideology, with their preferred style being reggae, ska and soul.

But, you know who didn’t do ANY research on skinheads?  Writer/director Greydon Clark, responsible for 1970s exploitation classics such as The Bad Bunch,  Black Shampoo and Satan’s Cheerleaders, is clearly NOT trying to make a social statement with this film, in spite the “serious” looking video box art, which got me interested in this movie in the first place!  This could easily have been a 60s/70s biker film, only that the nogoodniks in Skinheads actually believe in the swastikas they wear, rather than just using them as shocking regalia.  At least, as far as I know, none of the biker gangs from the 60s/70s believed in the Third Reich, but I could be mistaken.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  I don’t think Skinheads (a.k.a. Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate) actually made it to theaters, which is a sad reflection of how home video killed the grind house and drive-in markets, nor has it been released on DVD.  I had to pull out the old VHS player to give this one a whirl.  And, BOY was it worth it!

The general story is that a group of neo-Nazi skinheads terrorize a small community in the San Francisco area.  After witnessing a fight, which leads to a shootout, the film’s protagonists escape into a secluded wooded area, and the skinheads go after them to try to kill them.  Never once do we see the cops because, I guess they were busy doing something else at the time.  Wait, no.  The skinheads cut a couple of phone lines, so nobody could call the cops and this is before everyone had a cell phone.

The group of skinheads consists of a crazy leader named Damon (Brian Bophy who I guess was in Star Trek: The Next Generation), an overweight, bumbling buffoon named Brains (the enormous Dennis Ott), a few lackeys and a skinhead girl named Liz (Lynna Hopwood), who is just as vicious as the guys.  They also inconspicuously drive around in a van with a swastika painted on the side.

The skinheads harass,fight and kill lots of people before the plot really takes off.  The main story involves the good guy Jeff (Jason Culp), the good girl Amy (Liz Segal of Howard the Duck and Double Trouble fame) and the old, all-American hero Mr. Huston (Chuck Connors from Airplane II and something else I forgot) defending their lives against the skinheads.

What’s there to say?  Skinheads is a whole heck of a lot of fun and really violent; a throat gets slashed, people get shot, someone gets cruficied and eaten by a bear, someone gets raped.  If you’re looking for a precursor to Romper Stomper or American History X, look elsewhere.  Skinheads is “straight from the headlines” exploitation and nothing more.  It’s so fun in fact, that my friend Josh wants to watch it practically every time we hang out.  We’ve watched it so many times, that we wore through the tape; which reminds me, I have to get myself another copy!

While most of the acting is pretty stock and intended just to get your through the plot, of which there are a few holes, as is par for the course, Chuck Connors and Brian Bophy own the show.  Spoiler alert: is it meant to be situational irony that the Connors character never finds out that his wife has been killed prior to the protagonists coming to his cabin?  Connors’ Heston-esque tough guy with a heart of gold is extremely hammy, yet it’s still touching hearing the WWII vet say, “there’s always another hate preaching bastard that needs to be stamped out!”.  Brian Bophy, on the other hand, makes Nick Cage look like he uses restraint.

The soundtrack was done by the Detroit based Elvis Hitler, which is interesting because Elvis Hitler is rockabilly band, yet the music they play in the movie sounds like Motorhead.  Oh, and if you’re an Easter egg hunter, check out the S.O.D. poster in the skinheads’ hideout.

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