David Heavener is the Ragin’ Cajun

•January 8, 2009 • 2 Comments

All right. I’m gonna roll up my sleeves and get started with Ragin’ Cajun starring one of my faves, David Heavener. This is not the last we will be hearing from him, and it’s not even the best of the lot, but it’s a good introduction. This is also my penance for not including him in the banner for the site (he and Michael Moriarty really belong up there).

Ragin’ Cajun is the story of Cage Demanna, a former kickboxer who loves singing and suffering from Vietnam flashbacks. In fact, our opening scene features a (Vietnam) flashback within a (kickboxing) flashback. This is art, people! It’s just like Hamlet! Turns out, Cage is reliving all this in therapy at his local VA hospital. But his therapist (Samantha Eggar) is cutting him off, telling Cage he needs to get over his issues and experience life on the outside. Cage is scared, damnit, but he’s got to give it a whirl. Before he goes, he stops in to visit his friend Legs. Now, ever since I first saw this movie I’ve remembered Legs in a wheelchair. But strangely enough, for a vet who lives in the hospital and is named “Legs”, Legs does indeed have legs. It seems his ailment is, instead, agoraphobia. Legs refuses to leave his room. Perhaps a more appropriate name for him would have been “Outside”, but who am I to quibble? He gives Cage his guitar as a going away present and Cage vows to help cure Legs’ agoraphobia by “reading up on it”. I don’t want to give away a key plot point here, but I bet you can guess that Legs will one day emerge from the hospital and Cage will crack nary a book throughout the course of this movie.

Cage’s friend Ali (Charlene Tilton) takes him out of the hospital and sets him up in his old apartment and gets him back his old job as a dishwasher at the local club. But things aren’t so perfect for Cage. Not only is his old promoter looking for him to get even for a bet he lost when Cage took a dive, but Cage can’t quite shake the Vietnam. Apparently there are too many similarities between washing dishes and the horrors of war.

But there is a softer side to Cage. He’s been writing songs all this time, and these odes to life and love are just the stuff that Ali, an aspiring singer at the club, has been looking for. They may, in fact, be the songs that put her on the map when the club has their Big Show scheduled to take place at the end of the movie.

The bad guys have tracked down Cage by this point. His old promoter has set up a Fight to the Death and he’s got plans for the kickboxing legend Ragin’ Cajun to top the bill. Then, I guess the promoter’s goons just get distracted for a few days, cause there is neither hide nor hair of them while we give the budding romance of Cage and Ali some time to develop. To illustrate this plot point, here’s a little song that I like to call “Fucking Awesome” but that David Heavener likes to call “I Just Slipped on My Best Friend and Fell in Love”. It features a musical montage of Cage making a few trips to the psychiatrist’s office. Oh, yeah, and lyrics about slipping on another human being.

Just when things were looking up, the goons are back. But they are no match for the Ragin’ Cajun, especially when he’s fueled by the power of Vietnam flashbacks!

He gets away in the end, but they get their hands on Ali for kidnapping and torture fun. It’s time for The Fight to the Death, and Cage is going through with it in order to get Ali back safely. And even more tragically, this is all taking place during The Big Show when Ali was supposed to perform and catch her rising star! Instead, she’s watching Cage get his butt kicked while she sits on the sidelines and nurses her own torture-inflicted wounds.

One more Nam flashback and a heartfelt “I love you” from Ali later, Cage takes the other guy out (and I’m assuming doesn’t totally kill him), grabs Ali and makes a break for it. And by “it” I don’t mean “the hospital” or “home” or “the Tijuana border”. No, these two are heading straight to the club to take part in The Big Show. So they crawl onstage, perform an inspirational song and, oh, hey, who’s that in the audience? Why, it’s Legs! The End!

I love movies that are almost musicals.  And David Heavener loves to sing, so it turns out we’re a match made in heaven(er). (Sorry, couldn’t resist). Someday, we’ll revisit the work of Mr. Heavener, hopefully in Outlaw Prophet and other religiously themed shenanigans he’s created almost single handedly. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for the Ragin’ Cajun soundtrack. On vinyl.


The Art of Trying

•December 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

It was nearing the end of one of those phases of my life where I didn’t quite know what to do with myself when I seriously began to watch bad movies.  I was still pretty fresh out of school and was feeling antsy most of the time.  That’s when I met my future husband.  He and his best friend looooooved bad movies.  In fact, a whole crew of their friends would get together every week or so and serve up some unwatchable delicacy.  So I dove right in and joined the club.  And even from the start, I wasn’t completely new to the format.  I had always been a fan of slasher and gore.  I had seen more than a few Troma films and in college I had tried to see every “cult” title that made its way to my Alabama video store (for whatever that’s worth).  But what we were about to get into was different.  For years now, we have combed through every video store/tanning bed/gun shop/gas station that hasn’t already been bought out by Blockbuster or Movie Gallery.  These Mom and Pop stores are still full of all the same sun bleached video cases that were on the shelf twenty years ago.  And we’ve “saved” as many as we could now that they’ve slowly begun to sell off their now-obsolete VHS collections.

For the most part, these were films that no one watched.  Films that had either fallen into obscurity after that first run on the new release shelf or, more likely, films that were buried in the back of the video store to begin with.  They were horror, action, sci-fi, sometimes comedy, occasionally even a musical.  Most were made on miniscule to nonexistent budgets and featured actors who garbled their lines.  Simply put, they were the stuff of MST3K.  Movies you didn’t have to be sober to follow, movies you could talk through, the throw-aways of a motion picture industry that is bloated with disposable income and bursting at the seams with wanna-be stars, writers and directors.  These films didn’t reek of mass market pre-testing.  These were dirty little gems that slipped through the system.

A lot of people watch B-movies on occasion, mostly because they are SO over the top and SO outrageous that no one can believe they made it to public consumption.  And that’s definitely part of the appeal for me, too.  But here’s the surprise.  What sold me on these films, and what made them work for me on a weekly basis, was always coming back to see who had tried what.  It was the humanity of these films and the sincerity with which they were made.  They are the Charlie Brown Christmas Trees of cinema.  Sure, many of these people probably knew what a huge pile of crap they were working with and went with it for the camp value.  But often, these people were auteurs: writing, directing, producing and staring in their own movies.  What really sold me on these films was this- these people did not necessarily have something to say, they did not necessarily believe their films would skyrocket them to success, they did not begin or end their projects with “vision”.  They just loved movies.  And, by God, they got out there with whatever money or resources they could scrape together and they made a movie.  They left their mark.  And they did it with such spontaneity and creativity and tenacity that even the worst-of-the-worst movies came away with some watchable quality.

These movies make me giddy.  I will yell at my TV, clap my hands, sing along with the horrible soundtracks and smack myself in the head three hundred times in the course of watching one of these films.  I’m going to try to hit some of the highlights on a regular basis.  We have a lot of “classics” that I’ll watch again and again.  But there will be a lot of shit as well.  If I end up sitting through two hours of something unwatchable, I will still write about it with painstaking detail (I hope).  So yeah, here’s hoping that I can keep this up on a semi-regular basis and that you find something you like in the vault of horrible, too.