Inspired by the cult 1980’s video game, the nostalgic tribute to creature features from the 1950's, IT CAME FROM THE DESERT will make its Texas premiere on Wednesday, May 23 at Flix Brewhouse. It features rival motocross heroes and heroines, kegger parties in the desert, secret underground military bases, romantic insecurities... and of course giant ants.
As we count down the days until the special screening of IT CAME FROM THE DESERT, some of the Other Worlds staff will present their favorite films based on an original video game. Reid Lansford kicks things off with his take on STREET FIGHTER.
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STREET FIGHTER was one of the big Christmas 1994 releases. I remember the hype around it being pretty big, but would only see it later on video, as my parents wouldn’t take me to see it in the theater. Patient though they were (they indulged multiple viewings of BATMAN FOREVER the following summer) life was simply too short to spend 90 minutes watching a film version of STREET FIGHTER.
I suppose you could say it was based on the (very fun) video game, in a strictly technical sense. The character names are the same and the movie is, as noted, called STREET FIGHTER, but that’s basically where the comparisons end. According to Wikipedia (so it MUST be true) the film was rushed into production to meet the coveted Christmas ‘94 release date, and writer/director Steven E DeSouza wrote the first (and presumably final) draft in one night. DeSouza has a track record that widely varies in quality (he co-wrote 48 HRS, DIE HARD, and the incredibly under-appreciated RICOCHET, but also unleashed BEVERLY HILLS COP III on the world) and STREET FIGHTER falls somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. It’s not a good film in the most basic sense of the word, but Goddamn is it entertaining.
Just look at that cast! Jean Claude Van Damme, in the midst of his coke fueled mainstream movie star run as Guile. Beloved character actor Wes Studi as Sagat. Pop star Kylie Minogue (apparently a concession to the Australian Actors Guild) as Cammy. Juwanna Mann/the guy who got killed in the outhouse in FRIDAY THE 13th PART V as DeeJay. And Raul Julia as M. Bison, the reason we’re here today.
STREET FIGHTER is deliberately campy, with most everyone except Van Damme in on the joke. (Or maybe not. It’s difficult to tell, as Van Damme didn’t really develop the most basic sense of self-aware comedic timing that even Chuck Norris has until much later in his career). The plot, such as it is, involves Guile leading a group of UN Street Fighters against warlord M Bison, who is planning on taking over the world or something. Julia, who was unfortunately in failing health and would pass away a few months before the film’s release, took the role for the big paycheck and so his kids would have a movie of his to enjoy. He could have sleepwalked through it, as most respected actors do when they appear in movies like this. But even in his weakened state (he’s visibly gaunt on screen and is covered in makeup) he is clearly having the time of his life with the role and spits out the scenery at every opportunity. Whether he’s discussing what restaurants will be in the food court of the mall in the city he plans to build, or shooting lightning from his fingertips at Van Damme, it’s clear that Julia is giving it his all and having a blast while cashing that one big final check. Watching the second lead from KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN fly around on (sometimes visible) wires while physically getting the better of Van Damme is a blessing we shouldn’t take for granted. And of course, there is the film’s most famous dialogue exchange, delivered with relish by Julia, as he is reminded of a prisoner of the time he destroyed her childhood village and murdered her family:
“For you, the day Bison graced your village, was the most important day of your life. But for me… it was Tuesday.”
I’m not sure what clip was played for Julia during the In Memoriam segment at the following years Academy Awards, but if it wasn’t that one, it ranks down there with “Best Picture Nominee THE BLINDSIDE” as one of their most egregious blunders.