Action Rewind: From Billy Blanks to Gary Daniels, it’s the Best DTV 90’s Action! Part 1

By: John M Jerva

I recently started to post on my Action-Flix group page some of my favorite 90’s DTV action flicks and I figured I would put them all here on the site. So today as I sit outside in Maine on my In-Law’s beautiful porch enjoying the summer weather, I have compiled the first five of some of the best the decade had to offer as I serve up some Rapid Fire Reviews for the best in video store shelf high-octane ferocity!

From Billy Blanks to Gary Daniels, this list is prime with some of the best bullet riddled and fisticuffs filled action drenched entertainment that came along in that era. These are in no particular order so lets get it rolling!

5) TC 2000 (1993)

First up, we have the truly epic example of 90’s DTV awesomeness with TC 2000 which was a prime example of the Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment string of martial arts actioners. The company was formed in 1984 by producer Leonard Shapiro and director James Glickenhaus and basically put out the guiltiest of action pleasures in the 80’s and 90’s.

This Sci-Fi flick which was basically one long commercial for the TC 2000 line of fighting gear which I used back in the day of tournament fighting and featured some of the greatest martial arts stars of the era including Billy Blanks, Matthias Hues, Jalal Merhi and the one and only Bolo Yeung.

Blanks, who was a martial arts action whiz before he created his Tae Bo empire, stars as Jason Storm (another entry in the coolest action names ever) who is an elite guard protecting the underworld environment where most of humanity lives now from the criminal element of the surface world of an Earth that is dead. When he learns of a larger conspiracy at hand, he wages war on the real evil.

The fight action is virtually non-stop and Blanks and crew are given every opportunity to showcase their skills. Before Blanks retired from film for his Tae Bo empire, he was the elite of the elite in onscreen empty handed combat.

The plot is your standard post apocalyptic nonsense but that doesn’t matter as it’s all about the punching and kicking here and man does it deliver in spades. The choreography is first rate and Bolo Yeung, while in a smaller role, is still given plenty to do in the fighting department which is a treat in itself.

The finale is a host of one on one, two on one and multiple opponent bouts that feature a dazzling array of top tier fight action with all the stars getting in on the chaos.

According to the IMDB, Blanks gave the script to Yeung while serving as a consultant on Bloodsport which sounds ultra rad.

A definitive example of just how awesome the 90’s were.

4) Operation Golden Phoenix (1994)

More Shapiro-Glickenhaus goodness. Not as stellar as TC 2000 that also featured Merhi but still an enjoyable 90’s DTV punch fest. 90’s action staples Jalal Merh and No Retreat No Surrender franchise leader Loren Avedon duke it out with style and Karen Sheperd dishes out some fine fisticuffs as well. Along with Cynthia Rothrock, Sheperd was a prime example of 80’s and 90’s bad ass femme fatales that gave the men a run for their money.

This is probably one of the weaker entries in the Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment era but it’s a definite guilty pleasure with some astonishing international filming locales that enhances the movie and it its own character.

Jalal and Avedon are the best parts about it along with Sheperd and they all give the audience what they came for in the Kumite department. This is also probably one of the rare action-adventures in the vein of Indiana Jones that was loaded with martial arts battles featuring Malal as an agent tasked with protecting a priceless medallion and the stars’ throw down at the end is worth the price of admission.

Worth a watch for the finale alone.

3) Tough and Deadly (1995)

The Shapiro-Glickenhaus train keeps rolling. This was a near perfect example of 90’s DTV action. First off you have the stars in Billy Blanks & Rowdy Roddy Piper who have spectacular natural on screen chemistry together.

Second, this is probably one of Blanks’ best fight movies as he is non stop and the choreography is triumphant with numerous jaw dropping shots of the kicking machine doing what he does best. Piper just hit the shit out of people with awesome blunt force trauma which was a wonderful yin to Blanks’ yang.

Blanks stars as John Portland a CIA agent who develops amnesia and must figure out the bigger picture of a drug smuggling op run by high officials of the government while dodging assailants left and right with the help of P. I. Elmo Freech (best name ever) played by Piper. There’s plenty of witty banter to go along with the chaos and these two were the original action odd couple.

This was Blanks and Piper at their best with both stars getting to shine in the film’s numerous action set pieces. Too bad they only did this one and Back In Action together. I would have taken a dozen more at least with these two.

2) Back In Action (1994)

I talked about Tough and Deadly the last time so it’s only fitting that I do their first team up. I’m talking of course of Back In Action with Billy Blanks and Rowdy Roddy Piper. Although I prefer their second outing more in terms of action this one still delivers the goods and it’s a prime example of how awesome 90’s fight action was. Blanks kicks it into overdrive in the fisticuffs and once again Piper is all about the blunt force trauma.

Blanks is featured as ex-Green Beret Billy who must break into action when his sister falls in love with a mobster leading to all kinds of mayhem. Piper is copper Frank Rossi who gets sucked into the predicament after a chance encounter with Billy and the two race the clock to save his sister while dismantling a criminal empire all at the same time. All in a day’s work.

Like I said before, their onscreen chemistry is legendary and it’s a shame we didn’t get more with these two. The finale is a balletic blend of bullets and hand to hand and there’s no shortage of slo-mo money shots which includes double Uzi action from Blanks. Definitely worth a purchase and it’s a valued member of my collection and a great example of the films that Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment churned out.

1) Recoil (1998)

Everyone knows that I’m a tried and true Gary Daniels fan and I’ve been one since I first saw him in Ring Of Fire way back in the day. It’s time to throw Mr. Daniels some love and today I’ve picked his 1998 PM Entertainment classic #Recoil. If you noticed, I didn’t pick cover art for this one as none of them did justice for what Daniels can do with a jump spinning hook kick so I chose the below picture. Pure empty handed combat poetry in motion.

Here Daniels plays a cop who after a botched robbery becomes the target of a vengeful monster. Two/Thirds of this movie is bombastic good old PM thrills and Daniels gets ample opportunity to display his particular set of skills. This is evident in the finale where Gary goes full on one man army mode and obliterates a host of baddies with guns and fisticuffs in spectacular slo-mo fashion.

Along with the empty handed combat, you get the usual explosions, car crashes and insane stunt work that PM was known for which enhances the greatness of the us lower budgeted flick. Money well spent. PM was basically the 90’s version of Cannon Films and they continued the awesome run of this style of action pic.

Plus it has arguably one of the best endings to a DTV 90’s action flick that I can think of with Daniels walking away as he sets the main villain on fire as it cuts to black with the credits rolling. If you enjoy Gary Daniels, and you should, then this one is a definite must for any serious collection.

That’s all for my first five helpings of 90’s DTV goodness. Check back in the future for another dose of high-octane firepower and fisticuffs from the decade that gave us some of the best action on the small screen! Next time, we’ll have some prime cuts from DTV action heavies Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Jeff Wincott to name a few so keep it locked and loaded right here as we are your destination for everything action! Past, present and future!!!

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