If you’re going to make a bad low-budget version of First Blood, better to go all out, right? That’s basically what David A. Prior does with his explosion-filled action flick Deadly Prey, the epitome of the ’80s’ testosterone-fueled blow-em-ups – and if you thought First Blood was lacking a plot, wait until you get to the meat of this film.
Ted Prior stars as the deadly prey himself, Mike Danton. He’s picked up by some bad mercenary guys while he’s taking out the trash, and then he’s stripped to his shorts and told to run through the wilderness while dozens of other bad guys hunt him down with guns. Along the way, we find out that Danton fought in Vietnam, knows his way around the jungle (or in this case, the wilds somewhere outside of LA), and that he’s facing off against Col. Hogan (David Campbell), the guy that trained him in the art of war. Other than that, Deadly Prey is a manhunt where Danton tracks down the people tracking him, and then murders them in vicious traps.
That’s it – that’s the film in a nutshell, for 88 glorious minutes. Prior’s script is almost non-existent, really only there to provide much-needed exposition along the way. It allows people like Troy Donahue to show up as Don Michaelson, a threatening guy who wants Hogan to train the best mercenaries money can buy; or Cameron Mitchell as a character simply known as Jaimy’s father, helping to track down the missing Danton because he used to be a cop and has the nose for it or something. Prior doesn’t show that he’s thought out too many details about Deadly Prey’s storyline, and that’s the best part about the film’s over-the-top action set pieces: there’s no semblance of realism to get caught up on, so when a rocket launcher takes out a helicopter in a fiery explosion and then barely blows when fired at a group of men, the audience doesn’t have to worry about the verisimilitude.
Instead, Prior is focused on coming up with the best shots of Danton taking out bad guys, bad guys who are only bad in the sense that they’re on the opposing side of our main character. Danton hides in a swamp and pulls someone into the water; he jumps from a tree onto an unsuspecting victim; he sets blast charges at the base of trees via trip cable. In a way, Deadly Prey is a montage of how someone could use a jungle to take out a whole army of men, despite the erroneous depictions of these methods.
It’s probably good that Prior doesn’t try to give his brother Ted too many lines; Ted Prior, at least in this film, is a very bland actor, giving Danton almost no personality. Compare that to another film that’s basically about blowing stuff up – The Terminator – and one finds the reason that that film is so successful is because it relies on a memorable action figure. The tedium of watching tepid special effects – clearly, Deadly Prey does not understand the real dangers of grenades – slowly but surely wears on the viewer, and watching a ripply Danton murder another unsuspecting mercenary with a poorly thrown spear eventually becomes tiresome even at the film’s short running time.
Yet Deadly Prey reminds that sometimes action films don’t need the elaborate complexities of plotting. Sometimes it’s fun to sit down and watch shit blow up again and again, even if it doesn’t make sense. And yes, at times, audiences just want to see a guy beaten with his own arm. Does that make Deadly Prey a good movie? No, but it sure does make it a party-watch, and that’s the best compliment one can pay to a film that clearly takes itself less seriously than its attempts at philosophizing on war suggest.
Slasher//Video has released Deadly Prey on Blu-Ray using a BetaSP PAL and upconverted to Blu-Ray. I’ll be honest, I’m not well-versed in video equipment and don’t know what this process requires, but what I do know is that Deadly Prey was a shot-on-video film and so there’s no master for a lovely HD transfer. What we get is the best possible quality, a 1.33:1 ratio image that looks quite a bit better than the last time I saw a bootlegged copy of Deadly Prey. There’s only one noticeably bad frame, and the rest looks as clear as one could expect.
The audio, however, suffers quite a bit. This is most likely due to the condition of the original and no fault of Slasher//Video, but the muffled speech makes it difficult to make out any dialogue spoken in a low voice. Even with my volume turned up high, I missed some of the softer dialogue.
Included for bonus features is an interview with special effects artist Jack Hojohn. It clocks in around 14 minutes and has some interesting tidbits about the stunts behind Deadly Prey; not exactly a must-view interview, however. There’s a special called “Dubbed Prey,” which features clips from dubbed versions of Deadly Prey. Honestly, I’m not even sure why this was included as a special feature, because it doesn’t offer much at all.
There’s an outtakes reel included that has some cool behind-the-scenes footage of different takes, flubbed stunts, and multiple versions of scenes not included in the final cut. A trailer and lengthy photo gallery are also included.
If you’ve never seen Deadly Prey, or if you’re a huge fan looking to get a better copy than an old VHS tape, then you can’t go wrong with Slasher//Video’s Blu-Ray, since it has the best video you’ll find despite some audio issues. The collection of special features isn’t huge but it’s a nice addition. However, if Deadly Prey doesn’t really tickle your fancy, you won’t need to hunt down this Blu-Ray.