In the underworld of the American Midwest two rival gangs, the Ravens and the Spiders, rule the streets. Goose, the leader of the Ravens, decides on one final drug deal before leaving the gang and settling down with his p... more »sychic girlfriend. His life crumbles around him, however, when his girlfriend is brutally clubbed to death by members of the rival gang. After burying her in a trash compactor, Goose hides out with his junkie psycho father and plots his revenge! His rampage culminates in a massive street brawl with Kung Fu, gory decapitations, vivid throat slashings, car stunts and bloody gunfights.« less
"The company that released Jim Van Bebber's low budget cult classic "Deadbeat at Dawn" had an amusing if slightly disturbing experience with this director. Several years ago, right after releasing the disc, you could go to Synapse Film's website and listen to one or two messages Van Bebber left on the company's answering machine. It was quite the experience. You could tell immediately that Van Bebber was less than happy about the DVD release. In a torrent of language best left omitted here, the director accused Synapse of messing up the picture quality during the transfer to disc. There were a few other problems Van Bebber had with the DVD that I don't remember now, but the whole thing allowed a rare glimpse into the sometimes tempestuous behavior of artistic types. And Jim Van Bebber is an artist if "Deadbeat at Dawn" is any indication. Made for under ten thousand dollars in the early 1980s, the movie is a massively entertaining action/crime film about two gangs fighting, robbing, and loving in the gritty back alleys of Dayton, Ohio. While the picture quality of the DVD might not reach Van Bebber's high standards-a claim I happen to disagree with, by the way-the disc is a worthy addition to any B movie fan's library.Van Bebber not only directed the film, he starred in it as well. He plays Goose, the tough as nails leader of a gang named the Ravens locked in eternal struggle with the Spiders. A violent showdown towards the beginning of the film reveals in bloody detail how much enmity exists between the two groups. Goose challenges Danny (Paul Harper), the head goon of the Spiders, to hand to hand combat in a cemetery. As the other gang members look on, the two beat and slash each other before the police arrive to break up the fight. Later, at home with his girlfriend Christy (Megan Murphy), an argument erupts between the two about Goose's involvement in the gang. Christy wants a normal life of jobs, kids, and a house while Goose isn't willing to give up the lifestyle of a criminal. Eventually, love conquers the day as the Raven's leader agrees to change his life for the sake of his woman. He just needs to do one more deal so the pair will have enough cash to start their new lives and then he leaves the gang. Unfortunately, Danny isn't about to let Goose off so easily. He sends Bone Crusher (Marc Pitman) and another ruffian to Goose's apartment to rough up Christy and thus teach his nemesis a lesson.Things rapidly go to far, as an action designed to intimidate turns into murder. Predictably, Goose arrives home, finds the body, and vows revenge against his enemies. He soon finds out that the Ravens aren't that interested in allowing Goose back in the gang. Aside from the fact that he left his comrades in the lurch, the new leader is working on an alliance with Danny. Only if Goose accepts the role as an underling will either gang have anything to do with him. This he does, but only so he can bide his time until the moment for revenge arrives. He doesn't need to wait long. Danny, a criminal with grandiose ideas, decides to use the two groups to rob an armored car. The crime goes off as planned, Danny gets his big bag of loot, and Goose exacts his revenge. He snatches the money right out from under the noses of the Ravens and Spiders and runs. Both groups now start searching for Goose, leading to a series of violent confrontations that culminate in the ultra bloody conclusion to the film. The last twenty or so minutes of "Deadbeat at Dawn" consists of one slam-bang scene after another, scenes guaranteed to warm the heart of the most fervent action film aficionados.This summary leaves a lot out. I could mention the religious symbolism in the movie, or the film's unnerving and pervasive nihilism unfolding against the backdrop of a blighted urban environment populated by individuals with absolutely no hopes or dreams. The scenes between Goose and his father, perhaps more than any other, underscore the despair of life in the inner city. Christy and the love that she offers represent a flicker of light in this otherwise dismal picture. Her demise, and Goose's plans to avenge her, thereby allows him to transcend his wretched existence. Perhaps I am reading more into "Deadbeat at Dawn" than Bebber intended, but I don't think so. The last line of dialogue uttered by Goose is compelling evidence that the creator of this film intended his project to be more than a gory, shoot 'em up gang picture. Violence is central to the plot, however, so the viewer can sit back and enjoy watching the mayhem even as the message of the film slowly filters into the mind. Too, the acting goes a long way to realizing the vision Bebber intended. A few of the performances go over the top, especially Bone Crusher's misanthropic soliloquy on murder, but most of these amateur actors do a competent job. Yep, "Deadbeat at Dawn" is a worthwhile experience for the lover of low budget cinema.The Synapse disc contains scads of extras, including a commentary with Van Bebber and producer Mike King, outtakes, a massively disturbing trailer for a film called "Chunkblower," and a short film entitled "My Sweet Satan." Starring a creepy looking Jim Van Bebber, this little picture is the story of a devil worshipper caught up in several unsavory activities. Expect to see some extremely disturbing gore in this short nightmare. The "Deadbeat at Dawn" DVD is a can't lose proposition. Add it to your list of must sees soon."
Essential underground violence
Jeffrey Leach | 06/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Low-budget gory action-flick greatness, starring the town of Dayton, Ohio as a hell from which there's no escape. Director Jim VanBebber stars as Goose, leader of a street gang called The Ravens, who war with a gang called the Spiders, led by a complete bastard named Danny. When Goose quits the Ravens, the Spiders kill his girlfriend, Goose hits the skids and goes about as low as a human can go... until a chance at vengeance and redemption brings him back, ready to go for broke. You can tell right from the giddy that this film is gonna be rough - the opening credits roll over scenes of Goose stitching up his own stab wounds. VanBebber took inspiration from the first Evil Dead movie and applied it to a kung-fu revenge formula by way of a street gang and came up with this, one of those movies that you sometimes put on "just to watch a minute or two" and end up watching the whole thing again, and again, and again. Dark, gritty, lowlife drama that's like no other, with martial arts and stuntwork that compare favorably to things seen in much bigger-budgeted films, lots of hardcore gore, unflinching nihilism, and some very inventive film-making. The extras are also nice - VanBebber's commentary is good (and I get the sense that they're making fun of the actor who played Bonecrusher by re-using some of his comments over and over - you'll see what I mean), My Sweet Satan (which is 16 minutes, not an hour) is an excellent short about the Ricky Kasso murder, and Chunkblower is, um, quite a trailer. Also includes a Skinny Puppy video if you play around and find the secret pentagram... ;) Definitely check this one out. I know VanBebber complained about the picture quality, but it's really not bad at all - I don't know what he was expecting, because this *was* filmed on the cheap... He might've been disappointed, but I wasn't."
Grab some popcorn and enjoy.
Lonnie Turner II | Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada | 07/17/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is what low budget, independent film making is all about. Want to see what can be done with a little money, a lot of guts (figuratively and literally) and chutzpah? This is the one for you. Goose decides to leave his gang for his girlfriend, but his rival kills her. On a drunken binge and suicidal, one of Goose's old gang buddies smacks him back into soberness for an armored truck heist to be pulled off with Goose's rival's gang as partners. Of course, it's a ruse, and Goose's gang is wiped out, leaving only him to fight the good fight and attempt to get the stolen loot to his dead girlfriend's sister. Very violent, very gory, very exciting. Sure it looks grainy, but the action's fierce, the dialogue is convincing, and everything just seems to click. Probably the best backyard Urban Action Flick there is, and well worth the money."
Une | Vancouver, B.C. Canada | 08/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this film with a bunch of stuntmen..everybody was freaking out...We all loved it. Since then I'd sought out and seen all of Jim's other films..loved them too..I really want to check out "Charlie's Family" Mr.VanBebber's latest.. I hope it comes out soon."
Great gory action
Steven Serednesky | 11/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The last 15 or so minutes of this movie are 15 of the best minutes of fighting/violence ever. The violence is very realistic, and the use of the nunchucks is great. It is a well choreographed fight scene which has lots of VERY realistic gore and blood-shed. This is what a true fight to the death would look like, and it's not pretty!!! Recommended for fans of gore/trash/B Movies who can appreciate the down and dirty violence in this little known gem."