“I foresee no possibility of venturing into themes showing a closer view of reality for a long time to come. The public itself will not have it. What it wants is a gun and a girl.”
― D.W. Griffith
There are no more grindhouses on 42nd St. and few surviving drive-in movie theaters left in the USA. The era of the exploitation film is over. Filmmakers who consciously make films in the spirit of the grindhouse like John Waters and Quentin Tarantino have been so imitated they can no longer surprise or shock us. But periodically a new film is unearthed that satisfies the hunger for something “so bad it’s good” and connoisseurs of cinematic junk food rejoice. In recent years, we’ve been satiated by Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, kung fu disco crime saga Miami Connection, Timothy Carey’s delirious The World’s Greatest Sinner and now the almost indescribably weird Dangerous Men directed by John Rad. Described by its most devout champions as “the holy grail of holy fucking shit,” Dangerous Men is about to crawl out of from the tomb of obscurity and make its way to a theater near you. Resistance is futile.
I saw Dangerous Men at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin. A lost film discovered by Cinefamily’s Hadrian Belove, Dangerous Men is the creation of an Iranian architect who came to America in the 1980s to pursue his true passion: making movies. Jahangir Salehi Yeganehradm changed his name to the Hollywood-friendly John Rad and began working on Dangerous Men, an otherworldly action thriller that would take him 26 years to complete. With no formal knowledge of film making, Rad fearlessly threw himself into the project with the relentless zeal of a man possessed. He not only directed the film, he wrote it and created the synth-driven brain melting score. The result is a movie that truly warrants being called independent and in its fly by the seat of its pants lunacy take its place among the pantheon of cinematic jaw-droppers like Glen Or Glenda and The Strange World Of Coffin Joe.
After all those years of struggling to complete Dangerous Men, Yeganehradm finally released his labor of love in 2005. It was a very limited release in Los Angeles and died at the box office. But L.A. film fanatic Belove saw Rad’s movie several times and was blown away by its delirious energy. Belove went on to found Cinemafamily which put him in a great position to champion lost treasures like Dangerous Men. Which is exactly what he did.
With several successful screenings at Cinefamily, it seemed time for the film to break out and be seen by a larger audience. It took the combined efforts of several movie obsessives, including the folks at the Alamo Drafthouse, to put all of the elements together to resurrect Dangerous Men. The result of all that love and care will come to fruition this coming Friday the 13th (perfect) when Dangerous Men gets its second chance at blowing the doors off of movie theaters everywhere. Sadly, John Rad/Yeganehradm won’t be around to witness the fulfillment of his dream. He died in 2007.
If the rest of the world’s reaction to the film is anything like it was at this year’s Fantastic Fest, Dangerous Men will be a cult hit. It uses well-worn action tropes and dramatic clichés we’ve seen a thousand times but it does so through a prism where logic and craft take a backseat to the kind of do-it-yourself primitivism we associate with punk rock. It’s not about how well you do it, it’s about how committed and passionate you are about what you’re doing. The lack of self-conscious filters results in a purity of vision that can be far more exciting and satisfying than professional perfectionism. What Dangerous Men lacks in filmmaking chops it makes up for in the adrenaline rush of not knowing what the hell is going to happen next. You get the sense that Rad had no idea himself! This is filmmaking done in a trance—the kind of surrealistic flights taken by David Lynch where scenes and images detonate in the subconscious and burst to the surface like synaptic fireworks.
Fantastic Fest programmer and author Zack Carlson was among the movers and shakers who spearheaded efforts to bring Dangerous Men back into circulation. His description of the movie as “transdimensional gutter-action” is a perfect distillation of the movie’s wide-ranging pleasures. You want bikers, broads, belly dancers and untamed bush? You got ‘em! You want scenes that seem to exist in an alternate reality where aliens have taken on human form and spew dialogue as if they’ve never heard the English language before? Check! You want to see what a movie edited by William S, Burroughs using his cut-up technique (and oven mitts) might look like? Here you go. The cost of admission? Your fucking mind.
In one paragraph, Carlson manages to communicate his passion for what makes Dangerous Men something special…
Some people love to laugh at what they consider to be “bad movies.” But the fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of movies in the world, and the majority of them are bad. Whether or not a film is good or bad, what gives it its value — what makes it persevere — is just when it entertains the audience, or when it does something that no other movie has done before. Dangerous Men does both of those things at a staggering, impossible level. It’s a film shot over two decades that tells a story that takes place over ten days. It’s an ambition-powered time machine that rewrites human behavior, sexuality and logic. It’s an electric bolt of pure vision from the mind of one man, the late John S. Rad.
An exclusive clip of ‘Dangerous Men’ after the jump…