Directed by Gary Sherman
Produced by Brian Frankish
Written by Sandy Howard, Kenneth Peters and Robert Vincent O'Neil
Director of Photograpy John Alcott
Music by Keith Rubinstein
Cast: Season Hubley, Wings Hauser, Gary Swanson, Pepe Serna
1982/93 mins/Color/Dolby Digital Mono
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
The 1980s were an odd and turbulent time in America. The Reagan administration brought a new kind of conservatism to the U.S. and these feelings were echoed in the entertainment of the day. While the media got more sexually risque (a great example of this is MTV), extreme violence became much more acceptable and crept into mainstream movies and TV. The 1982 film VICE SQUAD is a fine example of how the morals of this time in history seem very skewed.

As VICE SQUAD opens, we meet three different characters who all dwell in the seedy nightlife of Los Angeles. Princess (Season Hubley) is a hooker who dreams of leaving the business and taking her daughter to live somewhere else. Ramrod (Wings Hauser) is a psychotic pimp who enjoys abusing women. Tom Walsh (Gary Swanson) is a vice squad detective who does what he can to keep the streets clean. When Ramrod kills one of his hookers (MTV VJ Nina Blackwood!), Walsh brings Princess in to see the body (she was friends with dead girl). It seems that Princess has been arrested on drug charges. Walsh cuts a deal with Princess: if she'll help bring in Ramrod, he'll get the charges dropped. Princess reluctantly agrees.

So, Princess, wearing a wire, approaches Ramrod and when he offers to be her pimp, Walsh and his crew arrest him. Ramrod is understandably angry and swears revenge on Princess. While he's being taken into custody, Ramrod escapes. Now Walsh must either find Princess or Ramrod, for if he doesn't, he'll have another dead prostitute on his hands.

I first saw VICE SQUAD on HBO back in the early 80s (when I was far too young to be watching it!) and I seem to remember the film being very titillating and that it contained nudity and sex. Seeing the movie some 20 years later, I was shocked to see how wrong I was. Yes, VICE SQUAD contains sexual situation, I mean, it is about a prostitute, and there's discussions of sex, but aside from one very brief sex scene, there's no sex in the film and no real nudity. I can only imagine that my adolescent memories mistook a movie that deals with sex for a movie that featured sex.

I also remembered VICE SQUAD being violent and I was right on the money on that one. With a name like VICE SQUAD, you expect a movie to be sleazy, but upon further examination we find that the sleaze in the film rises from the exploitation level violence and not from sexuality. Any film that opens with a scene of a woman being beaten with a clothes hanger has some pretty twisted ideas. The movie features more scenes of violence, including a shootout, and several beatings, as well as a scene of torture. Many of these scenes show Ramrod assaulting women. From this perspective, VICE SQUAD is a mean-spirited and depressing movie.

The thing which saves VICE SQUAD from being dragged totally into the gutter is the talent involved with the film. Director Gary Sherman, who had helmed RAW MEAT and DEAD & BURIED brings a steady hand to the film and while things do get very intense, he never lets them get out of control. (It's interesting to juxtapose the quiet and class DEAD & BURIED with the raunchy action of VICE SQUAD.) But, it's Wings Hauser that steals the show. Dressed like an extra from URBAN COWBOY, Hauser chews the scenery as the insane Ramrod, and I don't think he ever blinks during the movie. We instantly hate his character, but every time that he's on-screen, the movie gets much more interesting. I honestly don't know what to make of Season Hubley. Nothing personal against her, but she must be the most flat-chested hooker in movie history. (Not that hookers have to sport large breasts, but she's got a man's body!) And we're supposed to believe that every man wants her. That part is tough to swallow.

If you are wanting (or remembering) a wild sex show from VICE SQUAD, you'll probably be disappointed. While the film does have an air of sexuality, it leans much more towards the violent side of exploitation. The cultural idea of a pimp has certainly changed over the last decade, but Ramrod may be one of the best movie pimps ever.

VICE SQUAD asks for a date on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For a low-budget movie which is over 20 years old, the transfer looks pretty good. The transfer does show a visible amount of grain, but otherwise the picture is sharp and clear. Of particular note, the colors on the transfer look good, as the brighter colors, such as Princess' dress, stand out against the nighttime scenes. Speaking of which, the entire film takes place at night, but the picture is never overly dark. The image does show some artifacting at times, but this isn't overly distracting. The DVD features a Dolby Digital mono audio track which delivers clear dialogue for the most part, but does have some problems. The sound effects and musical cues are much louder than the dialogue, so I found myself constantly adjusting the volume.

The VICE SQUAD DVD contains a few extra features. There is an Audio Commentary with director Gary Sherman and moderator David Gregory. This is a good commentary, as Sherman has an amazing memory for details of the film, and Gregory asks the right questions to keep the discussion going. Sherman points out all of the locations in the film while also discussing the actors and how the film was received. The DVD also contains a Trailer for the film (letterboxed at 1.85:1), two Radio Spots, and a Still Gallery.





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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©

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