Film Reviews

Deadbeat at Dawn – Blu-ray Review

Arrow Video go back 30 years to Jim Van Bebber's blood soaked cult piece, but does it hold up?

“Cult” is a funny word.

Not in a Manson Family, Westboro Baptist kind of way; humorous isn’t a word to describe those cults.  I mean the phenomenon of a cult movie, is a strange and hilarious concept. At its best, its a film that made almost no money at the box office – usually after poor critical response –  but found itself a home on home cinema systems after word of mouth showed it to be a film to pay attention to; see Fight Club or Clerks for a couple of the best examples.

At its worst though, it’s a cynical term used to fool people into watching terrible movies that otherwise wouldn’t ever be given the time of day. See Tommy Wiseau’s The Room for the perfect example. Now obviously, beauty – or in this case, quality – lies in the eye of he beholder; but Arrow Films’ latest blu-ray release, 1988’s Deadbeat at Dawn, falls squarely into the latter category.

When Goose, the leader of The Ravens, a gang of thugs loitering around the mean streets of Dayton, Ohio has it out with the leader of a rival gang in a graveyard, things in the gangs’ ongoing fued seem to be coming to a head. Seeing the way things are going, Goose’s girlfriend, Christie hands the violent leader an ultimatum; it’s her or the gang.

But when Goose chooses her and walks away from the Ravens, Danny – the leader of the rival Spiders gang – sees an opportunity and sends a couple of thugs to Goose’s apartment and Christie winds up dead. Things take a predictable and bloody turn as Goose heads back to the streets for some well-deserved revenge.

Written, directed and starring Jim Van Bebber as Goose; Deadbeat at Dawn isn’t cheap and nasty in a fun way. It’s cheap and nasty in a cheap and nasty way. Not one person on screen is convinced of the part they are playing in this debut gore-porn feature. With a mutilated love of his life in his hands, it was tough to believe that Van Bebber’s Goose cared even remotely for the girl, the situation or even the state of his wallpaper.  Instead, this apparent 80 minute high school Media Studies project is treated like an excuse for the first time writer/director to wander around wearing one leather glove practising the fighting he’s poorly learned from watching kung-fu and sword-fighting movies as a kid.

Frankly, the only person that convinces in any manner in this film is Goose’s father. His angry ranting at Goose for drinking his last beer is a heartfelt, Oscar worthy, performance that left me angry at our hero for breaking open his last can of Cools Light. Oh, and there’s the guy that is so intently angry at being robbed, he takes a pot-shot at some popcorn on the floor. That’s true commitment, friends.

This nonsensical revenge flick and its insipid kaleidoscope idents should be committed to the trash heap and left to be forgotten. Instead, it was deemed suitable for a release to blu-ray from Arrow Films. At least we should get some interesting extras though, right? That’s what Arrow do, right? 


While you get the usual fully loaded disc that you would expect from the hallowed halls of Arrow Video; there isn’t much here worth your time.

Jim Van Bebber’s back catalogue isn’t one that gives you a chance to pick a gem or two from; so Arrow have given us a selection of his short films, dating from pre-Deadbeat 1983 with Into The Black to the more recent Gator Green from 2013. Totalling up at around hour and a quarter of short films, none of them is worth your time or the headaches the audio will give you. Follow this up with a selection of music videos he’s directed and, as great as Pantera’s Revolution is my Name is, it still doesn’t give you much reason to pop into the extras menu.

There are two interesting extras of note though. As always with an Arrow release, there’s a documentary that is worth a look. With interviews, candid conversations and some never-before-seen footage, Deadbeat Forever makes compelling viewing, whenever you are a fan of the film or not. At an hour and twenty minutes, it’s as long as the main feature and much more entertaining. The behind-the-scenes documentary isn’t as interesting, but at just shy of twenty minutes, it’s worth sitting through.

Overall, a poor film and a poor release from Arrow. Only bonafide fans and perhaps the morbidly curious should consider trading any of their precious time for this one.

Deadbeat at Dawn is now available from Arrow Video.

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