Watching the above trailer for William Lustig’s 1983 revenge opus Vigilante, you might mistake it for a super-PAC attack ad. Which leads to the question: Was there ever a time in American history when a significant portion of the populace didn’t feel that the country was going to hell on a sled?
Certainly not if you assess the landscape from the vantage point of vintage crime melodramas. In this rabid Death Wish-derived bloodboiler, Robert Forster stars as Eddie, an ordinary guy with a loving wife and young son — one half of a ticket to Tragedyville in a movie like this. With gangs running amok in the streets, his co-workers form their own vigilante group (led by the always awesome Fred "The Hammer" Williamson) to defend their neighborhood. But Eddie wants no part of it — supplying the other half of said ticket. Sure enough, a group of hoodlums brutally attack his wife and son, and a corrupt judge turns the killers loose. Needless to say, Eddie’s ready for some hardcore payback.
You wouldn't expect anything less than 200-proof cinematic rotgut from the auteur behind the infamous Maniac and Maniac Cop (and the Blue Underground cult-movie DVD label), and Vigilante announces itself as a classic of NWA Cinema (No Wimps Allowed) right from the Hammer's opening address to the camera. Throw in a great supporting cast that includes Woody Strode, Richard Bright, Joe Spinell, Carol Lynley and salsa musician Willie Colón as the leader of the street gang. Add a great spaghetti Western-influenced soundtrack and enough grit to sandblast the Statue of Liberty. You then have all the makings of an exploitation classic. Admission is just five bucks, and show times are 8 and 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday on the mean streets of East Nashville at the Cult Fiction Underground below Logue’s Black Raven Emporium at 2915 Gallatin Road.
Also, starting next week, the Cult Fiction Underground will be open on Monday and Thursday nights for pro football games on the big screen in the theatre. Admission is free and the usual healthy fare of beer, popcorn, hot dogs and movie theatre nachos will be for sale at the bar.