The Divine Enforcer (1992): A Vicar Who’s Slicker and Very Much Quicker

Dave holds his nose over this Tanya York stinker – but it’s not without its talking points.

Born in Jamaica, Tanya York, the producer and entrepreneur who would go on to distribute in excess of a thousand films via her York Entertainment label, began life in the movie business at the tender age of nineteen. Landing in Los Angeles in 1988, York bagged a debut credit on David Heavener’s Twisted Justice (1990) and, by twenty-one, she had been able to raise enough cash to start her first self-titled production company. Opening York’s account was THE DIVINE ENFORCER: an action-thriller with a premise to make you salivate, and a cast to lift your pulse rate. Alas, despite the best intentions, it’s not particularly good.

There’s a new man-of-the-cloth in town by the name of Father Daniel (Michael M. Foley), and he’s bedding down at the home of fellow clergymen Father Thomas (Jan-Michael Vincent) and the Monsignor (Erik Estrada). Unbeknown to his cleric friends, it turns out that the padre is a dab-hand at martial arts, while stuffed under his cassock is a plenitude of crucifix blades and a handgun with a cross inscribed into the handle. This collection of weaponry comes in handy for the ass-kicking priest, as not only is the parish located in the roughest of neighbourhoods, but it’s also living in fear of a vampiric serial killer (Don Stroud) stalking the town.

The Divine Enforcer survives by the skin of its teeth thanks to a hypnotic performance by Don Stroud, who takes his whacked-out psycho to the point of delirium as he stands in his kitchen boiling human heads on the stove and craving a dose of fresh blood. York paid the former surfer a thousand dollars a day for his services, and she certainly gets her money’s worth.

Sadly, everyone else is on autopilot – especially Vincent, who sits opposite Estrada (miscredited as ‘Eric’), both rooted to a dining table, with the former Airwolf guy clearly reading his lines off the pages of a local rag. Jim Brown and Robert Z’Dar pop up briefly in a badly choreographed fight sequence over a drug deal gone wrong, and Judy Landers (B.J. and the Bear) displays a curious obsession for cleanliness.

As mentioned, the lead role is taken by Michael M. Foley, a Texan native who snagged the title of U.S. Army Pacific Rim Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion for nine consecutive years when he was in the military. A spell in the movies beckoned in the wake of a choreography gig on Sheldon Lettich’s A.W.O.L. (1990) – though as Foley remarked to Bristol Bad Film Club recently, he wasn’t too enamoured with its star.

“Jean-Claude himself? An egotistical blankety-blank. He’s the worst student in the world. He won’t listen, he thinks he knows everything and he’s actually not that good.” [1]

In terms of The Divine Enforcer, Foley went on to admit that he used Van Damme’s name to wow the producers.

“I went to the audition and I told them, “I’ve got tons of stage experience and I’m just getting going in the movies and I’ve just done a film with Jean-Claude…” and so they bought into it. The first day on the set was the scene in the rectory where Jan-Michael Vincent, Judy Landers and Erik Estrada are sat at the table, so that was the first thing we did, and Jan-Michael Vincent showed up stoned out of his mind. He couldn’t even read what was taped to the inside of the newspaper because he couldn’t memorise anything. God, it was terrible. But still, I was just trying to get some gigs under my belt, and I was in the boat where I’d take anything because I was just starting out.”

Memorable for so many of the wrong reasons – not least a duff script that had an uncredited rewrite from Randall Frakes (Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988) [2] – Robert Rundle’s film is nevertheless a fascinating stain on the CV of a whole host of talented creatives.

USA ● 1992 ● Action ● 90mins

Michael M. Foley, Erik Estrada, Jan-Michael Vincent, Jim Brown, Don Stroud, Robert Z’Dar ● Dir. Robert Rundle ● Wri. Robert Rundle, Tanya York, Randall Frakes (uncredited)

[1] An Exclusive Interview with Michael M. Foley, Bristol Bad Film Club, 5th June 2017
[2] Frakes also co-wrote Tanya York’s 2009 book How to Make Money Making Movies: The Secrets of Becoming a Profitable Filmmaker.

One thought on “The Divine Enforcer (1992): A Vicar Who’s Slicker and Very Much Quicker

  1. I remember Tanya York. I think she had some dealings with Don Jackson. She was also a make up artist on one of my movies before she got her self into distribution.

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