Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Laughing With Chains

The United Provinces of Ivanlandia is very proud to be part of a blogathon to a living American treasure: actor Lance Henriksen!

Sponsored/coordinated by the mighty, mighty John Kenneth Muir (no relation to the Teddy Roosevelt-era naturalist), the author, genius and the perpetual motion machine behind John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Film/TV.
(If you haven’t figured out by now, I really recommend his site—and thank him for all the awesome screen-caps that I routinely, uh, “borrow”…)

The blogathon is in conjunction with the publication of LH’s autobiography, Not Bad for a Human
c’mon genre buddies, you KNOW where the title comes from.

Even when he’s in pure, never-released-anywhere junk, Lance Henriksen always delivers.

Like Klaus Kinski before him (but never as personally or professionally deranged), LH often is in projects that seem, gosh, just beneath him, y’know?

But LH still gives delicious performances, giving depth and shade where THERE WAS NO FUCKING WAY it was in the script—which makes me think he takes on these projects as challenges, and I like that.

And like Kinski, LH has a passionate fan base.

With all that in mind, LH’s effortless, but textured perf as bike gang leader Chains Cooper in 1991’s Stone Cold is a must-see.

What really sells LH in this flick is the ease with which he laughs.
The motherfucker’s enjoying himself!

Chains laughs because he’s smart.

Chains laughs because he can see the absurdity of it all.

Chains laughs because he’s having fun.

It’s especially noticeable at around 41 minutes in, when Chains has video-looped a tape of a DA talking about seeking the death penalty for one of Chain’s bros.
Chains is planning a courthouse Armageddon, with the DA Number One on the Hit Parade—
The face on the TV is in a loop, saying, “Death-death- death- death- death- death- death- death- death- death- death…”
And the way LH laughs is sublime.

(I think LH is enjoying it on three levels—as the character; as LH watching his character and digging it; and LH imagining an audience watching it; yeah: meta…)

Often I feel LH is channeling Kung Fu-era David Carradine and Glory Stompers-era Dennis Hopper; then synthesizing them into a Charles Manson/Sonny Barger mutant
—“You gonna fuck with my serenity?” Chains threatens an interloper at one point. (A line that should make Friends of Bill howl with laughter when it’s delivered.)

Not that I think LH is stoned, he’s just having a real cool time, man.
Chains is Zen Anarchy, and fucking beautiful. A solid stone groove. I wanna be him when I grow up.

“You and me: we’re gonna get in each other’s heads,” Chains tells the movie’s so-called “hero” (more on that in a moment)—
Chains is AWARE.
He can step back and assess.
But what else would you expect from the man who put a bullet into John Cazale’s forehead?

LH is the best thing in Stone Cold, followed by Brooklyn’s own William Forsythe,
incredible in his slightly-more-than-a-cameo role as Ice, Chains’ henchman and go-to assassin—a particularly nasty piece of scooter trash
(showing off his true biker belly! Yes!),
referred to as a “cockroach.”
(It’s the flip-side of Forsythe’s sympathetic and confused crippled biker character in the underseen but recommended The Waterdance—check it!)
(Y’know, if anyone was going to make “The Ron Asheton Story,” Mr. F would be a good casting choice…)

LH & Billy Forsythe RULE: Bad Asses of the Bad Asses!

--An Aside: In addition to the almost perfect casting of the biker extras (bad tats, muscle, sunburns, the beer guts, missing teeth, bald spots, grease stains on the skin: these make them seem authentic, despite the flick’s goofball/comic book script, which is hardly realistic…),
Stone Cold is one of the handful of movies dealing with motorcycle clubs where the actors playing the bikers really feel the part: LH and Forsythe truly seem to belong to some club—unlike the phonies in Larry Bishop’s self-indulgent and useless Hell Ride,
and basically almost every other biker movie made—except Northville Cemetery Massacre, Australia’s Stone, The Wild Angels and Hells Angels ’69, which featured genuine Hells Angels, with the president of the Oakland Chapter Sonny Barger prominent.
And of course, Gimme Shelter.

Hey, man, Chains LOVES being in an MC—in describing the colors, the vest with the patch on the back for all you ignant citizens, he says:
“This may be a rag to the walking dead out there, but this is my flag, my cross, my church.
And these colors don’t run.
If they hit the ground even in a fight, I will peel your skin off with a knife dipped in shit!”

Obsessed with his position as a “born loser”—and fighting back every second—
often Chains paraphrases John Milton: “Better to be first in Hell than second in Heaven!”

Of course, the crowd loves this line from Chains:
“This reminds me of my father's last words: 'Don't son, that gun is loaded!' ”
Heh-heh, yeah man, I can dig it…

Stone Cold: Bikers Vs. Cops Vs. Mafia Vs. National Guard—trashing the halls of government! Anarchy in the USA! A total spit in the eye of authority—Motorcycles in the court! (With a plan that is nothing if not a self-designed Gotterdammerung!)

Technically, Stone Cold is an exciting, kinetic flick with great stunts that are shot well, with an editing scheme that isn’t overly hyperactive.

But sometimes I wonder if Stone Cold is a supposed to be satire?
The Bad Guys are more masculine, loyal, ingenious and genuine than the bizarre amalgamations of character tics that’s supposed to be “Our Hero” (and the less said of the other jokes pretending to be cops in this flick, the better).
Chains calls Bosworth “a grown-up version of Bam-Bam.”
But Bosworth is Vanilla Ice on too many steroids.
He looks like new wave rough trade.
Bosworth only exists as a goofball superman (as smug and impervious and dull as the Man of Steel from Krypton) whom the existential hero Chains (our real hero!) can wage war against.
Bosworth never sheds the sense of entitlement that pervades the rich, pampered jock.

Bosworth is ridiculously out of place in this movie. He’s thisclose to being “too much, baby.”
It’s insane, inadvertent camp.

Bosworth is a “so-called” hero because the musclehead doesn’t stop ANYTHING that Chains starts:
Bosworth doesn’t save the girl (she’s shot in the head by Chains in a disappointingly bloodless moment).
Bosworth doesn’t stop the biker’s attack on the courthouse.
Bosworth doesn’t save ANY of the gang’s assassination targets (oh, sure, the Brotherhood MC is eventually stopped, but only after destroying EVERYTHING).

And y’know what else?
Bosworth doesn’t laugh either.

Stone Cold is like a James Bond flick where 007 greases Ernst Stavro Blofeld after SPECTRE’s orbiting particle-bean weapons platform has already vaporized Washington DC, London and Moscow.

All of which furthers my belief that somewhere along the way, there was somebody involved in the flick that considered all a big nihilistic joke—almost as if Chains himself had gotten into the editing room.

As for the film’s female lead (listed fourth after the Boz, LH and Forsythe),
Arabella Holzbog’s Nancy (in photo at left, and behind EL Bozerino on the motorbike immediately above) looks like the character Death from the Sandman comic books instead of what you’d expect would be in a biker flick—not that I’m complaining—she’s beautiful, but not necessarily fitting the standardized description of hillbilly biker trash slut.
So it is disappointing that her back-story is so boring—and the dialog they give the poor girl is, at best, unfortunate.

Full disclosure: I went to college with Ms. Holzbog, and used to have an insane, almost psychotic crush on the poor gal. Honestly, I was probably stalking her.
I’m not proud of it, but I was a kid with a lot of problems and a very fucked-up noggin—who was drawn to and obsessing over an incredibly beautiful woman.

This sort of sharing from the inner Ivanlandia vaults does have a purpose: Since I’ve stopped stalking her, I only have the IMDB to help, and have no idea why or how she chooses her film projects—
but I think that Arabella’s career never took off like it should have because her beauty—or more appropriately her intoxicating aura—was impossible to translate into film—
She needed a Mario Bava to do for her what he did for Barbra Steele with Black Sunday, or at least what Hammer Pictures and James Bond did for Martine Beswick.

But here’s an interesting tidbit: Before she was in Stone Cold, Ms. Holzbog was in a flick called The Last Samurai (nothing to do with Tom Xenu’s flick), released like Stone Cold in 1991. The star of that flick? Mr. Lance Henriksen.
Hey, what’s going on?


  1. Ivan, thank you for sharing this. You are one hell of a writer!

  2. Damn son. Yes, I do love Lance Henrikson. He is just so epic.

  3. Ivan,

    My God, I love this article more each time I read it. I love that you picked "Chains" and Stone Cold as the focus, and then really went to town with it. A great contribution.

    Thank you so much for this,


  4. Wow, thanks everyone!
    Joe: Thank you very much--good luck with Not Bad for a Human; I can't wait to read it. And congratz on Nightmare in Red, White and Blue: I really enjoyed your documentary.

    Hoaks2: Epically epic!

    JKM: Thank you sir--we aim to please (and I really enjoyed writing it).

  5. It's funny I read somewhere this movie took 17million to make and grossed like 9million in theaters. Which makes for another reason it's my favorite movie. Recently I found a "Brotherhood MC" vest worn by an extra in the movie on's proudly displayed in a frame in my house now! Best movie ever! LH was the man, and he had some Hella good quotes in the movie. I've watched it a hundred times. Long live Chains Cooper!

    P.S. Check out the movie "Beyond The Law" with Charlie Sheen, it's another Good N' Terrible biker flick....

  6. Adam, welcome aboard--and I'm jealous about your Brotherhood MC vest. Stone Cold's original/working title was "The Brotherhood" before they punked out with the generic title of Stone Cold.
    Yep, I've seen Beyond the Law, and had some comments about it at my last biker movie megapost:

    BTW, some more biker movie madnes is percolating here in Ivanlandia, so stay tuned!

  7. Adam, Ivan, I was in the movie when it filmed in Little Rock. I was an extra and played a Natl Guard, FBI, and Biker. I had the vest I wore in the movie stolen, along with the T shirt. I still have the sweatshirt with the "club" logo on it. I recently picked up a replica patch from a guy in Australia.

  8. Hey Adam, If you want to lose that vest, let me know. I have a "vested" interest.

  9. Adam, Ivan, I was in the movie when it filmed in Little Rock. I was an extra and played a Natl Guard, FBI, and Biker. I had the vest I wore in the movie stolen, along with the T shirt. I still have the sweatshirt with the "club" logo on it. I recently picked up a replica patch from a guy in Australia.