The sadistic and psychopathic Colonel Hogan (David Campbell) is a mercenary for hire who finds a benefactor in Don Michaelson (Troy Donahue), a ruthless businessman in need of skilled killers for a special assignment. It’s a win/win for both sides. Michaelson will finance Hogan’s training camp and Hogan will use his trained mercenaries to help out Michaelson. Hogan has the manpower. What he doesn’t have is the prey to hunt in preparation for the big day. His solution: troll the streets of Los Angeles and randomly abduct people. What Hogan didn’t count on was that one of those people would be Mike Danton (Ted Prior). Danton, a Marine with killer skills, doesn’t take too kindly to being kidnapped. (From Slasher // Video’s official synopsis)
The same year he shot Killer Workout (1985), Prior returned to the B-action roots of his second movie, Killzone (1985), which was very obviously inspired by Ted Kotcheff’s First Blood (1982). With more money in his pocket and a new First Blood sequel to draw influence from (George P. Cosmatos’ Rambo: First Blood Part II, 1985), Prior set out to make a more ambitious pseudo-Rambo entitled Deadly Prey (1987), which he shot back to back with the female-centered action adventure Mankillers. In case the title wasn’t a clue, Prior’s screenplay is an adaptation of Richard Connell’s short story The Most Dangerous Game (originally published in 1924). By the ‘80s, Connell’s story was already embedded in the pop-culture and, for whatever reason, had a slight resurgence throughout B-action, including Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Turkey Shoot (aka: Escape 2000, 1982) and Robert Clouse’s Gymkata (1985). Even so, Prior’s take on the material – essentially “B-list John Rambo is the Most Dangerous Game” – may have inspired studio pictures, like John Woo’s Hard Target (Jean-Claude Van Damme vs. The Most Dangerous Game, 1993) and Ernest Dickerson’s Surviving the Game (Most Dangerous Game in urban America, 1994).
Deadly Prey is junk, but it does demonstrate random signs of ingenuity and creativity within the confines of its cruditity. This time, Prior can freely indulge in extended and surprisingly adept fistfights and shoot-outs. The death toll goes well into the double digits and the final victim is beaten with his own arm and then scalped. There’s also plenty of unintentional charm in the stiff deliveries of hackneyed lines, as well as some good laughs at the expense of star Ted Prior’s mullet-headed, short-shorted appearance, as well as the acutely erotic manner that the director shoots his own brother’s oiled and chiseled body. There’s more delicious Freudian subtext here than you’d find in a thousand brand name Rambo sequels. Homoeroticism aside, Deadly Prey cannot be confused with a studio action flick. It’s the kind of do-it-yourself jumble that talented high schoolers could probably make in a decent sized backyard. The dialogue-heavy sequences are the weakest and, because there are so many more of them, the space between action beats quickly becomes a slog. The pacing is so terrible that, at one point, it takes Mike’s wife literally a minute and a half to explain what she saw, including an excruciating bit where she tries to recall a license plate number. Poor Cameron Mitchell is forced to ask her to repeat the digits three times. Later, she is kidnapped by the bad guys between cuts, specifically so that she can be beaten and raped and recaptured and beaten and shot in the face (it’s actually a shockingly misogynistic movie at times, even by dumb bro action standards). These are the kinds of insane decisions that will likely be mulled over in film schools and critical circles for generations to come.
Like Killer Workout, Deadly Prey was not sourced from an HD Master – it was remastered from from PAL Beta SP and upconverted to BluRay and DVD specifications. As a result, this 1.33:1, 1080p transfer is more or less the same as the Killer Workout disc, meaning that those previous complaints about artifacts and resolution still apply, so go and read them again if needed. In terms of a more direct comparison, Deadly Prey falls behind in part due to its ambition. Almost the entire film is shot out in the elements, so cinematographer Stephen Ashley Blake isn’t able to hide the bitty budget behind stylized lighting rigs. The contrast becomes more difficult to moderate, the colors aren’t as vibrant, and the lack of detail is a bigger issue, because so much of the footage is shot using wide angles. Beta-to-1080p simply cannot support the business of medium shots. The full-frame aspect ratio, which worked for Killer Workout’s largely vertical compositions, looks completely wrong in this context. There is way too much headroom. The cover art claims that, unlike Killer Workout, Deadly Prey was shot on video (SOV), but I don’t think it was. Or, at least, I can’t find any verification that it was. All available information claims it was shot on film. I welcome any reader corrections in regards to this.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack is minimalist to say the least. Not only does the Beta source compress and flatten the audio, but the original sound design is already so weak (possibly the result of unusable on-set audio) that the sound falls out altogether when guns aren’t being shot and characters aren’t speaking. The lack of effects in some places seriously tricked me into thinking that I had accidentally turned off my receiver. I suppose that the dialogue is a bit more consistent this time, but it’s still awfully muffled. The electronic score is credited to Tim Heintz, Tim James, and Steven McClintock. The volume and clarity of their music isn’t as punchy as the Killer Workout disc, making me think that Slasher/Olive had access to separate musical tracks in that case.
Image gallery set to the film’s soundtrack (6:40, HD)
Dubbed Prey (6:10, SD) – Clips from a Spanish language version of the film
Interview Jack Hojohn (14:50, HD) – A short sit-down with the film’s special make-up effects tech/artist
Outtakes (3:50, SD)