Welcome to The Prime Sublime, a weekly column dedicated to the underseen and underloved films buried beneath page after page of far more popular fare on Amazon’s Prime Video collection. We’re not just cherry-picking obscure titles, though, as these are movies that we find beautiful in their own, often unique ways. You might even say we think they’re sublime…
“Sublime /səˈblīm/: of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe”
The Most Dangerous Game has informed genre cinema since 1932, with countless filmmakers reapplying the concept of humans hunting down their fellow species like prey to great effect. Furthermore, in the 1980s, following the release of First Blood, several low budget hucksters mined the adventures of John Rambo for inspiration when creating their own action movies. David A. Prior’s Deadly Prey, meanwhile, did something even better and merged the best of both of these worlds to create an entertaining slice of micro-budget mayhem that all trash connoisseurs ought to check out at least once.
What’s it about?
A group of mercenaries prepare for war by kidnapping poor schmucks from the streets of Los Angeles, taking them to a remote woodland area 75 miles away, and hunting them down like wild animals. However, when none of their prey proves to be too challenging, they make the mistake of taking Mike Danton (Ted Prior) from his home and forcing him to become a part of their wicked games. Unfortunately for them, though, Mike is well versed in the art of combat.
As it turns out, Danton is a Vietnam veteran who was trained by Colonel Hogan (David Campbell), the leader of the mercenaries. According to the commanding officer, Danton is also the best soldier he ever trained, and he isn’t wrong about that. The buff — and mostly shirtless — Danton is a one-man army who’d give Rambo a run for his money, most probably because he’s almost a carbon copy of his more famous counterpart.
The mercenaries also make the mistake of taking Danton’s wife, Jaimy (Suzanne Tara), and using her as a pawn to try and manipulate their hard target. But this only makes Danton more emotional, which in turn gives his enemies more reasons to be worried about their mortality. Of course, this doesn’t stop the bastards from being mercilessly cruel and villainous towards her either, and it’d take one cold viewer not to want to see her husband deliver some of that hard justice.
What makes it sublime?
Deadly Prey doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it’s ripping off other movies. While it’s hardly the first movie to riff on The Most Dangerous Game and First Blood, there are also moments which have been lifted from other action movies. For example, in one scene Danton and his old army buddy recreate the iconic handshake scene from Predator, albeit without the arm wrestling match that follows. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Deadly Prey was released a few months after Predator, and probably set out to cash in on that film’s buzz as well.
However, Deadly Prey blends these moments of unoriginality in a way that’s utterly charming and laugh out funny, even though its tone is supposed to be quite serious. The entire macho cast all deliver their best tough guy impersonations, and Prior is actually pretty good when he’s making threats. In those moments, he’s quite believable as a loose cannon harbinger of doom, but when he’s expected to show other emotions, he chews more scenery than an atomic bomb. His delivery of tough guy dialogue is tremendous, though, and he comes out of several exchanges looking like an admirable Stallone clone.
Danton is also immune to bullets for some reason. There’s one scene where an enemy — who is supposed to be a highly trained killer in his own right — fires shots at him from a couple of meters away while Danton charges towards him with a machete to chop off his prosthetic, bloodless arm right off. But these are the little moments that make Deadly Prey magnificent. I don’t want to spoil them, but the moment I just referred to connects to a very emotional death for Danton, and leads to him forcing an enemy to take his clothes off.
You won’t see any impressive gunplay or fight scenes in Deadly Prey, but characters do get picked up and thrown into trees, and some of the deaths are so hilariously mean spirited that you can’t help but appreciate what you’re seeing. And even though it’s derivative of so many other movies, Deadly Prey is never boring as something funny happens every few minutes. Whether that’s the monotonous delivery of a line, a stern facial expression, a fight, or a stolen idea, it’s just wonderful throughout.
You’ve probably gathered by now that this isn’t a movie that’s good in the conventional sense, and that’s a fair assessment. A lot of people’s enjoyment of this film will lie in their ability to mock it, but Deadly Prey deserves better than that. While it is chock full of scenes which boast incompetent filmmaking, the reality is that it’s entertaining, and that’s a victory, regardless of its quality compared to other movies. Put it this way: there are “better” movies out there that wish they possessed a modicum of Deadly Prey’s ability to entertain.
And in conclusion…
Deadly Prey represents an unsung but nonetheless impressive era in B movie history. The film was produced by Action International Pictures (not that AIP, another one), which carved a small niche for itself churning out cheap action and horror movies during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The company survived with their model of keeping the budgets low and their casts mostly in-house, and after the company went defunct, the Priors still made movies in the same vein for decades afterwards. There’s even a 2013 sequel to Deadly Prey called Deadliest Prey, which exists solely because there are fans of this beautiful nonsense.
Deadly Prey is one of the studio’s better releases, but fans of this type of schlock have a treasure chest of treasures to discover should they decide to check this one out and want to see more. Grab a few buddies, keep the drinks flowing, and let Deadly Prey be your entertainment for the evening.