Matty’s ode to a passable Die Hard riff ennobled by the primo dramatics of The Chin.
There are two unwritten rules when it comes to the casts of most ‘90s B flicks. The first is that at least one member of any given ensemble will have featured — or would go on to feature — in episodes of either General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, Silk Stalkings, JAG, or a combination of them. The second is that an “and” credit for a star with DTV drawing power — the likes of Rutger Hauer, Malcolm McDowell, and Richard Lynch, say — generally denotes that said star will be in fine scene-chewing form.
A big hello, then, to CHASE MORRAN: an enjoyable sci-fi action romp — think ‘Die Hard (1988) on a space station’ — that again affirms my own long-held belief in both of these axioms.
In regards to the former, you’ve got Jacelyn Seagrave, Ray Baker, James Lew, David Duran, David Tress, and the always welcome Brion James among the film’s throng. Between them they’ve all had spots on — yep — General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, Silk Stalkings, and JAG.
And in regards to the latter, Chase Morran is anchored by a fabulous “and” turn from Bruce Campbell. Originally approached to play the eponymous John McClane-esque space cop, Campbell found the villain of the piece, psychotic terrorist Alex Windham, more appealing. As the Evil Dead (1981) icon explained in his 2001 memoir, If Chins Could Kill:
“I got a script… [that was] hardly original, but it intrigued me enough to consider the part of the Bruce Willis-type hero. As I thumbed through the script, it occurred to me that he had the worst part of all — his lines, never more than two at a time, were always in the vein of “Get down!”, “Wait here!”, “C’mon, let’s go! Now!”. I did notice, however, that the bad guy had eloquent speeches. He was witty, urbane and seemed to be having a lot of fun. Call me crazy, but I took that role instead.”
A natural ham, Campbell is brilliantly OTT and dances around Chase Morran with abandon, nabbing all the best quips and kicking the story into motion when he and his henchmen commandeer mining colony Dome 4. Less successful is Joseph Culp as the titular protagonist — not just for the character-based reasons as noted by Campbell, but because the eternally bland Culp submits yet another comatose performance (see also: The Arrival (1991)). Per much repeated exposition, Morran is meant to be a maverick; Culp is about as loose a cannon as Mary Whitehouse.
Still, helmer Gilbert Po keeps everything else chugging along nicely, and he’s aided by sturdy tech credentials. The film sports a pleasingly chunky look (Hunter Cressall’s dumpster dive production design is great), and it’s efficiently staged and shot — though there are a few jarring stylistic contradictions, such as Po not being able to decide whether he should linger on the bursts of cartoon-y violence or pull his punches and cut away from them. The Die Hard licks are charming albeit shameless (Seagrave does the Bonnie Bedilia bit), and, in an amusing little twist, Hesh Rephun’s functional script manages to simultaneously homage John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and prefigure the structure of the horror master’s sorely underrated Ghosts of Mars (2001) (events are presented in flashback during Morran’s court martial).
The third of eight movies produced by stockbroker-cum-conman Jordan ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Belfort and fellow convicted fraudster Harry Schuster, Chase Morran landed on U.K. video via First Independent on 8th October 1996, and premiered in the U.S. on SyFy on 15th February 1997.
Also known as ‘Assault on Dome 4’.
USA ● 1996 ● Sci-Fi, Action ● 90mins
Joseph Culp, Jacelyn Seagrave, Brion James, and Bruce Campbell ● Dir. Gilbert Po ● Wri. Hesh Rephun