Five Favorite Things:: Death Wish Club (1984) By Michael Ferrari of Cinema Du Meep

Note: Michael can also be found at The Retro Movie Love Podcast & The Last American Video Store Podcast





DEATH WISH CLUB has many titles, but I’ve always gone by the title I discovered it as a kid with a Video Store card and a dream way back in the ‘80s. The clamshell VHS cover led it on to be a James Bond-ish karate Film with some gambling, and boy oh boy is this Movie not that. It’s the kind of Movie that I like to show people just to gauge what kind of reactions they have. Some have told me it was the weirdest Movie they have ever seen. Others have dismissed it as low budget trash. Either way I’m fairly sure they won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. Nor should they!  I’ve always championed this Film but its cult seems to be pretty small. Some will remember scenes from it in the compilation film NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985) but that doesn’t do this Movie justice. You need to experience the entire Film from beginning to end. You need to meet Gretta. 

5:This crazy and unpredictable Movie was written by the same person who scripted EL-CID, KING OF KINGS and JOHNNY GUITAR. Look up Philip Yordan’s credits and you’ll see a lot of great genre Films of the 40s, 50s and early 60s. I love that some old dude in the ‘80s decided it was finally time to write a Movie about a young man who falls head over heels about a woman who does porn, has a split personality and is involved with an older rich man who is part of a club where people play elaborate games of russian roulette. I wouldn’t even begin to crack the plot of this. My friend Amanda Reyes (of Made for TV Mayhem) mentioned to me after I had her watch it that it reminded her of David Lynch. I would say that is a fair assessment. I think Mr. Lynch would enjoy this Film. 

4:Merideth Haze. The performance of Merideth Haze has to be seen to be believed. This is go for broke. This is what actors need to be studying in class. Merideth sadly only starred in this one Film and then disappeared into the ether. You’ll never meet a character like Gretta/Charlie White in Film. I would love to, though. I want to know why she thinks she’s a fish when she takes a bath. I want to know why she is glad Chopin is dead. I have so many questions for her. 

3: The lead character Glen is a college student who has an aunt who visits him at his job at the morgue and likes to check out dead corpses’ junk. Glen is played stiffly by Rick Barnes (who only showed up in one other Movie – MARILYN ALIVE AND BEHIND BARS (1992) by the same director, John Carr). I don’t know why the writer and the director felt this was necessary but it’s a touch that only makes any kind of sense in the framework of this crazy pants Movie. I also love that Glen, when pining for his lost love Gretta, goes to the Movies and you see him staring sadly at a poster for John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982). This is a Movie that has it all. Naturally Carpenter’s THE THING makes some sort of appearance. 

2: The unexpected dive into the world of porn, sex shops and jazz clubs. There’s something about the worlds these characters inhabit. I haven’t even mentioned the actual Death Wish Club itself. There’s so much other stuff happening in this. There’s a Tanzanian winged beetle in this Movie. But yeah, when you do see Gretta on the set of an adult Movie it’s like, what the hell is going on. Something about a mad doctor who is switching brains? Sure, why not. Let’s go with it. Glen’s visit to a sex shop where he gets the hard sell for lube, toys and more pleasurable items is pretty hysterical. Did I say this Movie is pretty funny? I find it funny at least. Maybe it’s just my warped brain. And yes, Gretta is a jazz pianist at the “Club Manhattan”. This is where Glen first lays eyes on her. The poor guy will never be the same again. 

1: The mysterious case of Gretta/Charlie White. Since JUST ONE OF THE GUYS (1985) is practically my all-time favorite Movie, it’s natural that I love the left field idea of Gretta turning into Charlie White. The Movie poses many wacky and out there ideas, but none greater than an apparently dead Gretta who then resurfaces as a man named Charlie White. And not just a guy named Charlie White. A guy named Charlie White who most of the time sounds like he’s in a ‘30s gangster picture. He’s even chomping on a cigar in a scene. Why? Why not! Ultimately Glen needs to stop Charlie White, THE GRADUATE style, from getting married. He does this with his expert use of karate. Now you’ll finally learn why there is martial arts on the VHS cover. Will we get to see Glen and Gretta unite? Will Charlie White stick around to the end or will he be exorcised by the sheer power of Glen’s penis? Will Glenn & Gretta survive the DEATH WISH CLUB? Will you?

Now imagine seeing all of this as a kid in the 80s. Hey, i’m fine. How are you doing. 

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Meep Parker
2 years ago

I feel honored as always to be a part of Kindertrauma! Thank you, Unkle Lancifer!

2 years ago

I’ve never seen Death Wish Club on its own, but I’ve seen Night Train to Terror. I didn’t know what to make of the DWC sequence at the time. If I had known it was edited scenes from another movie, it would have made more sense. Gretta’s hair change from long to short with no explanation was a “what the hell?” moment.

Phillip Yordan sometimes worked as a “front” for blacklisted screenwriters. Film historians have debated whether he actually wrote some of the scripts with his name credited. I’m assuming he really wrote this one.