• Never Too Young To Die

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: April 11th, 2017.
    Director: Gil Bettman
    Cast: John Stamos, Vanity, Gene Simmons, George Lazenby, Robert Englund
    Year: 1986
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    The Movie:

    Listen up, my little turdballs, my little scumbuckets! A movie like Never Too Young To Die is a special picture. The type of film that comes along so rarely that discovering it for the first time really is something special – it’s pure. Worth seeing for the cast alone, it’s a completely preposterous film and it knows it! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

    The story revolves around Lance Stargrove (John Stamos), a gymnast currently enrolled in university when we first meet him. He and his pal Cliff (Peter Kwong) like to goof off, using Cliff’s inventions to cheat on chemistry tests and such.

    Lacen’s dad, Drew (George Lazenby), is a secret agent. When he’s killed in the line of duty, Lance decides to take it upon himself to find out who did it and why. This leads him to meet Drew’s associate, Danja Deering (Vanity), a woman as beautiful as she is deadly. She knows more than he does about the situation, and is well aware that a psychotic hermaphrodite named Velvet Von Ragner (Gene Simmons) has something to do with it. Not only that, but Velvet – who needs a disc he’d hoped to pilfer from poor dead Drew - plans to poison the city’s water supply and kill anyone that tries to stop him – that includes Lance and Danja, should they be brave enough to try. And of course they’re brave enough to try! How could a guy named Lance Stargrove not be?

    But why? What’s Velvet’s motive for this heinous crime?

    “I'm gonna poison their water supply! For gold! For ransom! For jewels! For money!”

    This movie is ridiculous, but it’s played with such a fun tongue-in-cheek vibe that you don’t really care. The story doesn’t give a rat’s ass about realism so why should the audience be? The movie was intended to create a sort of ‘James Bond Jr.’ franchise but it infamously flopped big time at the box office and so nothing more came out it, but if you don’t at least have some fun with this your heart is made of stone. The fact that the whole thing is one long string of spy and action movie clichés hardly matters. The pace is quick, the action scenes are… well, they’re okay, and the movie even has its own awesome theme song for our hero…

    "Are you feeling like breakin' out?
    Looking for danger?
    Feeling adventurous?
    Then you must
    Put your trust
    Not in a stranger.
    Playing your own game.
    Do it your own way."

    You get the idea. It goes from there. You’ll be singing it in your head long after it’s over with – and the fact that it plays over an awesome montage of Stamos (and his stunt double) battling it out in a gymnastics competition makes it all the better.

    Really though, while the goofy plot is enjoyable enough on its own, what makes this worth hunting down is the cast. The marketing materials for this one touted:

    “Vanity, the new breed of temptress!
    Stamos, the new breed of hero!”

    There’s nothing like truth in advertising. Sure, Stamos hits the same note over and over again throughout the movie, he’s wooden and he lacks charisma but he’s still awesome in this movie. He runs around in the action scenes looking slightly confused and his hair… it’s pretty huge. Stamos is just fun to watch here. And Vanity? Well she’s foxy, there’s no doubt about that, but her acting is about as good as Stamos’, which is to mean that it’s not really that good but it is pretty fun and it works in the context of the stupid world this movie puts us in. George Lazenby? What’s he doing here? We’re not sure he knew to begin with but if you’re going to cast someone as an aging secret agent you can do a whole lot worse than him (particularly given the Bond connection) – he’s also fun.

    The real star of the show, however, is Gene Simmons as the hermaphroditic leader of Road Warrior style of post-apocalyptic punks who don’t seem to actually live in a post-apocalyptic world. Looking more like Cher than the rock ‘n roll demon he’s known for portraying on stage with KISS, he’s so over the top that he completely steals every scene he’s in – and thankfully that’s a lot of them. Simmons also plays a red-headed none hermaphrodite character named Carruthers who is actually not who he seems and is playing Lance and Danja like the fools they are, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is Velvet… slicing up women with his finger nail, delivering amazing live performances at a grubby punk/biker club called The Incinerator, strutting about in drag spouting off some of the most insane dialogue you can imagine – Gene gives it his all and then some. He’s also got a punk henchman named Pyramid (Ed Brock, who linda looks like Brion James but isn’t) and gets computer advice from a guy named Riley (played by Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund). His gang drives around in tricked out, fucked up cars and generally just causes trouble while Velvet gives Warriors-style speeches in burnt out buildings. It’s pretty nutty stuff, and while Simmons might be a money obsessed narcissist in real life, he’s an absolute blast to watch in this picture.


    Never Too Young To Die never had a DVD release, even during the format’s boom years, but amazingly enough it is now on Blu-ray thanks to Shout! Factory, who present the film in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. This is a clean and very colorful transfer with great color reproduction and solid black levels. Skin tones look nice and natural, never too waxy, and detail and texture are both pretty strong. Seeing the movie look like this after making due with VHS rips for years is a very nice thing indeed. Shout!’s transfer is free of any heavy noise reduction and shows no issues with compression artifacts.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, with subtitles provided in English only. The audio here is just fine. From the opening theme song (which will be stuck in your head for a while after you hear it) through to Simmons’ completely bizarre musical number to the various shoot outs and action set pieces, there’s good clarity and balance. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and the dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from ‘pop culture historian’ Russel Dyball, who states at one point in the track that he actually saw the movie first run in the theater. While it would have been great to get Simmons and/or Stamos on board here, that didn’t happen but the track as it stands is pretty interesting. We get a good bit of information about the film, with some interesting bits and pieces pointed out along the way (hey, the woman that Velvet ‘sacrifices’ in the opening scene played Adrienne Barbeau’s friend in Cannonball Run!) about the cast and the locations used in the picture. He also rightly notes how the film should be a bigger cult item than it really is and attributes that to the short theatrical run it had and the lack of a DVD release. We also get various quotes from Simmons and Stamos from interviews that they have done along the way to give all of this some context, some insight into the locations that were used and some comments about the film’s sense of humor. There’s a little bit of dead air here and there towards the last third of the film but even then, we get enough information and humorous observations to make this worth checking out.

    The disc also contains a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection – as well as an unadvertised VHS transfer version of the movie complete with a retro style opening sequence.

    The Final Word:

    It really is a shame that neither Stamos nor Simmons were involved with the extras on this release, but otherwise this is a pretty respectable effort that was lonnngggg overdue for a good home video release. The presentation here is quite good and the movie itself holds up as a really fun way to kill ninety minutes. When Gene Simmons fights John Stamos… we all win!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      Thanks for the review. Funny stuff
    1. John Lyons's Avatar
      John Lyons -
      Is the 'VHS transfer' an alternate cut?
    1. cmeffa's Avatar
      cmeffa -
      Thanks for the review. There was a german dvd release prior which I own. The image quality was pretty good ( I put some screen caps on my post I started about Denise in the forums), but this edition which I also own is the best this film has ever looked. I am so thankful that this finally came out in this quality. One of my all time favorites which I view as an experimental avant garde action film. Definitely an original.