Blu-ray Review: Vice Squad: Collector’s Edition

One of the early screenings at Raleigh’s world famous Cinema Overdrive film series was Vice Squad. The movie made such an impact that whenever people were asked what sort of movies they ran, Vice Squad was one of the key mentions. Attendees kept asking for more Wings Hauser films. Now all of America can behold the glory of Wings in one of his most career defining performances. Now people might be confused about how a movie about prostitution in Hollywood could be part of the horror oriented Scream Factory line. But ten minutes into the movie, you’ll see that Wings’ Ramrod the pimp is an unstoppable monster that’s Pinhead in a cowboy hat. He’s so mean he takes out an MTV VJ and Rerun. Plus he sings the theme song. Vice Squad: Collector’s Edition brings the nightmare of walking the streets home.

Princess (Hardcore‘s Season Hubley) seems like a single mother who needs to have her child watched at night while she pulls a late shift. However after she drops the kid and the sitter off at the bus station to catch a ride to San Diego, Princess transforms herself in the bathroom. She’s ready to work the streets of Hollywood. At the same time her friend Ginger (Original MTV VJ Nina Blackwood) is wanting to get out of the life. She locks herself in a hotel room, but gets tracked down by her pimp Ramrod (Wings Hauser). She can’t resist the charms of Ramrod and makes the mistake of opening the door. Ramrod has no problem letting her retire from his stable, but first he needs to make sure she never works for anyone else. Detective Tom Walsh (Making Love‘s Gary Swanson) of the vice squad gets her case. He has to enroll Princess into his plan to capture Ramrod. And things go right. Princess wears a wire and his crew cuffs Ramrod. But on the way to jail, Ramrod decides not to wait for his lawyer to bail him out. He hits the street wanting revenge on the hooker who set him up. Walsh hits the streets knowing that he can’t let Princess end up like Ginger. Ramrod doesn’t track her down quietly as he goes after Princess’ former “agent” Sugar Pimp Dorsey (Fred Berry best known as Rerun on What’s Happening!!). This is going to be one scary night for a lot of people roaming the streets of Los Angeles.

Vice Squad is a rather intense affair thanks to Wings Hauser giving a career defining performance. He’s extremely scary when he turns off the charm. He’s relentless in his pursuit of Princess. Gary Swanson is the perfect guy for the vice squad detective role since he’s not too flashy and with the kinda face of a guy from out of town looking for hooker. He’s not Crocket or Tubbs from the not yet to be produced Miami Vice. While Nina Blackwood doesn’t have much screen time, she lays her fears all out when Ramrod performs his “exit interview” on Ginger. She probably could have had a bigger acting career if she hadn’t gone off to New York City to dedicate her life to revolutionizing TV on MTV. Season Hubley gives one of the most intense cinematic hooker performances of all time. She goes through a variety of Johns with various attitudes towards each. She doesn’t break easy to help the cops snare Ramrod. There’s a one moment in the film that doesn’t “ring” true for Princess’ character. After an uneventful encounter with a guy, she gathers up her clothes and changes in the bathroom with the door closed. She leaves her money back on the dresser. She seems like the kinda person that knows that you never leave your money near the customer. But maybe we’re supposed to believe that the business with Ginger and Ramrod has thrown off her game.

There are comic moments in the film that mostly involve the odd clients that pick up Princess. She misses the days when guys just wanted straight sex with her. There’s also a hilarious fight scene between the “security” at a hooker hotel and the vice squad members that includes Pepe Serna (Reno from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension). The film looks stunning even with all the night scenes thanks to the work of director of photography John Alton. He brings his low light expertise that won him an Oscar for Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. The movie is dark without losing the action in the shadows.

Vice Squad is a tale of Hollywood after dark that will leave you marked like Ramrod hit you.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The new 4K scan of the original film elements makes things look sharp in the darkness. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono. Things sound smooth so you can hear high heels clicking on the soundtrack.

Audio Commentary With Director Gary Sherman And Producer Brian Frankish has the two recount making the movie. They talk about getting Wings Hauser to sing the theme song “Neon Slime.” They wrote the song on Sunday and recorded it on a Monday. The opening montage was them capturing the action on Hollywood Blvd at night. Sherman had hooked up with John Alcott when they made commercials in Europe.

Tracking The Beast – An Interview With Actor Gary Swanson (58:05) goes in deep on his career and the making of the film.

Of Poltergeist And Neon Lights – An Interview With Director Gary Sherman (72:22) has him recount his career that includes quite a few horror films including Raw Meat.

Hollywood Magic – An Interview With Producer Brian Frankish (62:29) talks about how he grew up in the Southern California citrus orchards and ended up making films.

The Roots Of Reality – An Interview With Actress Beverly Todd (44:06) catches up with her. She liked how director Gary Sherman knew what he was doing and hired people who also knew what they were doing. She insisted playing the female member of the vice squad.

Catching A Killer – An Interview With Actor Pepe Serna (58:19) gets inside the star of Car Wash and Scarface. He talks of his life in Texas before acting.

Princess Driver – An Interview With Actor Michael Ensign (24:13) gets us to understand what went into playing the limo driver for the rich guy.

Hollywood Streetwalking – A Look At The Locations (11:36) compares clips from the film with how the streets of Hollywood look now.

Audio Commentary With Director Gary Sherman is an earlier track. He recounts how things went filming on various locations.

Theatrical Trailer (0:57) promises to show the dreams and the nightmares of Hollywood.

Radio Spots (0:59) breaks down the terms used in prostitution.

TV Spots (3:36) suggests the fear and danger is real is on the streets.

Still Galleries – Poster, Lobby Cards & Publicity Stills (3:07) of the vintage promo material

Press Kit (5:31) is what they sent the newspaper reviewers to know the details about the film since you couldn’t go on the internet back in 1982.

Scream Factory presents Vice Squad: Collector’s Edition. Directed by Gary Sherman. Screenplay by: Sandy Howard, Robert Vincent O’Neil & Kenneth Peter. Starring: Season Hubley, Wings Hauser, Gary Swanson, Pepe Serna, Beverly Todd, Nina Blackwood and Fred Berry. Rated: R. Running Time: 97 minutes. Released: August 13, 2019

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