Shadow Force (1992): Dismissal and Benedict-tion

Dave’s left disappointed by this Texas-based thriller, but still finds a few reasons to give it a whirl.

These days Dirk Benedict is perhaps best known for being a right-wing caveman. Taking to interviews to bemoan his Battlestar Galactica character being regendered in the reboot (“A sign of the state of television today”), and pining for the days when men were MEN (“The A-Team was the last truly masculine TV show”) [1], such proclamations certainly shed light on why someone with the face of a matinee idol ended up slumming it on reality trash like Celebrity Big Brother.

In the immediate aftermath of The A-Team, Benedict dabbled with a handful of telepics before scoring moderate video rental success with Blue Tornado (1991), an Italian production that found him starring alongside Patsy Kensit. Marginally more interesting than this UFO-themed DTV’r was his next project, the San Antonio shot slow burn, SHADOW FORCE.

Benedict is Rick Kelly: a homicide cop who travels from Kansas City to Norman, Texas, to comfort his sister-in-law when her husband – a serving sergeant, no less – is gunned down on duty. The whole case stinks and Kelly knows it, prompting him to scratch beneath the small town’s surface; a suspiciously harmonious locale policed by shifty chief Lou Thorpe (a typically snide Lance LeGault), and stricken with a dark secret…

Bankrolled in part by Joe L. Gonzalez, a local businessman who fancied a stab at being a producer, Shadow Force has all the hallmarks of a regional cheapie, albeit with a slightly elevated cast. Benedict is the draw, and for all his foibles as a person he’s at his charismatic best here. The real interest, though, lies in the supporting cast – a fascinating ensemble that consists of Jack Elam (The Cannonball Run (1981)); Larry Hovis (Hogan’s Heroes); Glenn Corbett (Chisum (1970)); Bob Hastings (McHale’s Navy); and a couple of other familiar faces from a bygone era. For the sports-minded among you, the six-foot-nine frame of Terry Cummings also makes an appearance, the San Antonio Spurs forward snagging a cameo as well as a couple of music cues.

Shadow Force was the sole directorial feature of Ken Lamkin and was shot barely a year before he was hired as the cinematographer of Frasier – a role he kept for every episode of the iconic sitcom. With that in mind, a gritty low-budget actioner probably wasn’t his forte. In the few moments Shadow Force stops being a conspiracy drama and edges towards thrills and spills, it does so with a lack of confidence. Then again, Wayne Wynne’s script does little in terms of providing the narrative with a dynamic structure, and too often the picture is left to aimlessly plod through its brief running time.

Shadow Force had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatrical bow in the first few weeks of 1993 in San Antonio (quelle surprise). It hit mom n’ pop video stores on 20th January 20th via Imperial Entertainment, whose art department did a magnificent job of making it look considerably better than it actually is.

Shadow Force landed on British shelves in summer ’94 courtesy of High Fliers.

USA 1992 Thriller 81mins

Dirk Benedict, Lise Cutter, Lance LeGault, Steve Carlson, Jack Elam ● Dir. Ken Lamkin (as ‘Darrell Davenport’)  ● Wri. Wayne Wynne

U.S. video art courtesy of VHS Collector

[1] Interview: Dirk Benedict by James Rundle, Sci-Fi Now, 6th July 2010.

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