Combustible Celluloid Review - The Dark Power (1985), Phil Smoot, Phil Smoot, Lash La Rue, Anna Lane Tatum, Cynthia Bailey, Mary Dalton, Paul Holman, Cynthia Farbman, Marc Matney, Tony Shaw, Robert Bushyhead
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lash La Rue, Anna Lane Tatum, Cynthia Bailey, Mary Dalton, Paul Holman, Cynthia Farbman, Marc Matney, Tony Shaw, Robert Bushyhead
Written by: Phil Smoot
Directed by: Phil Smoot
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 80
Date: 11/30/2004

The Dark Power (1985)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Indian Givers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like Ed Wood before him and Quentin Tarantino after him, filmmaker Phil Smoot made it his mission to rescue a faded star and resurrect his movie career. Lash LaRue was a "B" movie cowboy actor from the1940s, famous for his skill with a bullwhip. By the 1980s, he was washed-up and nearly forgotten when Smoot met him and cast him in two horror films, The Dark Power (1987) and Alien Outlaw (1988).

In the first film, Lash plays a small town sheriff. Four local girls move into a cursed house built on Indian burial grounds. When the Indians come back to life, Lash rushes in to save the day. The film's no-frills, no-budget ways give it a certain charm and low-key energy. Smoot waits for almost an hour before starting his zombie attack, so we get to know the characters fairly well. The film has far more funny moments and likeable character developments than one might expect. Smoot even sets up a subplot about a Black student and the racist rednecks that try to intimidate her. A beautiful, athletic actress named Susie Martin (who could be Denise Richards' big sister) walks around half-naked all the time, and the students have a fairly cool collection of posters hanging all over their walls.

VCI Entertainment has released The Dark Power on a new DVD, transferred from high-grade source materials. Extras include a commentary track by Smoot, a Smoot biography, and a tribute to LaRue.

VCI has also released Alien Outlaw, which teams up LaRue with newcomer Kari Anderson as the gun-slinging star of a target-shooting sideshow. With her Crystal Gayle hair, her winning smile and her skimpy outfit, she has an easy appeal that helps carry the film. Yet this film runs a good deal longer than The Dark Power, and it's painfully obvious which parts are dragging it down. In this story our heroes fight off cheesy alien forces who have landed on earth, brandishing firearms to hunt humans. The box claims that Predator got its inspiration from Alien Outlaw, but that's a stretch.

The Alien Outlaw DVD comes with even better extras: a commentary track by Smoot, interviews with LaRue and newcomer Kari Anderson, a news conference previous to shooting, a video diary from the shoot and the The Dark Power trailer.

In 2023, Kino Lorber (under its Kino Cult label) gave both these films a Blu-ray upgrade, both restored in 4K from the original 16mm camera negatives! Both also include optional subtitles. Bonuses on Alien Outlaw include Smoot's commentary track, a cast and crew audio commentary track, a making-of featurette (22 minutes), an interview with editor Sherwood Jones (9 minutes), the news conference, archival interviews (12 minutes), behind-the-scenes footage, and trailers for two other low-budget sci-fi films, Without Warning and The Astro-Zombies.

The Dark Power disc includes another Smooth commentary track, a cast and crew commentary track, a featurette with Smoot and the cast (26 minutes), an interview with editor Jones (12 minutes), an image gallery, and trailers for Rawhead Rex and Parasite (the Demi Moore horror movie, not the Oscar-winner).

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