G-Men From Hell
No, we haven't
seen the actual DVD to this film. But two years ago at the San Diego
Comic-Con, Sawmill Entertainment previewed G-Men From Hell in one of
its few North American showings. On Tuesday, July 30, the DVD will be
This review originally
ran on Daily Radar in August of 2000.
Cue cool jazz music.
It was a beautiful
day in Snap City, the kind of day that birds sing about if only you'd
listen. FBI Special Agents Mike Mattress and Dean Crept weren't listening
as they bounded down the steps of their building, especially not after
they got gunned down by an unknown guy in an unidentified car. A mysterious
scar-faced figure watched from the shadows with satisfaction. Across
town, Crept's wife got into her car with their daughter, and it blew
up. The girls went to heaven; the boys went to hell. And all of this
takes place in the opening credits of G-Men From Hell. And appropriately,
it's all told in comic book panels lifted straight out of the source
material, Michael Allred's Grafik Musik.
The live actors
show up in Hell. The Devil (Robert Goulet) unloads to his therapist,
feeling persecuted that people always blame him for all the evil in
the world. Watching from a distance, Mattress (Tate Donovan) and Crept
(William Forsythe) hatch a plan. It seems that satanic powers alone
don't quite cut it; The Devil needs a certain crystal to travel to Earth.
And he keeps a spare locked away in case of emergencies.
The two G-Men steal
the spare crystal, attracting the attention of a zombie (Paul Rodriguez).
Quickly making work of him, they teleport to Earth, ending up in the
bathtub of a beautiful dame with a Marilyn Monroe complex (Vanessa Angel).
Once on Earth, they swear to do a hundred good deeds in order to make
their way to Heaven. But first, they've got to solve their own murder.
In about a minute,
they have, laying it on small-time mobster Buster (Bobcat Goldthwait),
killing him before he can kill them again. (It makes sense at the time.)
Since they're considered dead by the bureau, the G-Men immediately open
their doors as private investigators. At last they're free to pursue
the actual plot of the film, which involves eluding a very angry yet
never less than suave Devil while helping that same beautiful dame from
the bathtub get out of a bad marriage that can only end in murder. Of
course, it's not so much the tale as the telling, and G-Men From
Hell does that well.
For those familiar
with Allred's work, you know that a wild cast of secondary characters
get in our heroes' way. To complete the G-Men's hardboiled image, they
hire a sassy secretary (Kari Wuhrer) who starts out as a furniture mover.
The mysterious Dr. Bouffard (David Huddleston) resurrects Bobcat as
a poorly constructed pink robot, aided by his mute henchman (Charles
Fleischer) and the evil hand puppet who's the real brains of the operation.
And every now and then the ineffectual and possibly brain-damaged Cheetah
Man pops into view, muttering that "evil must be punished."
further is a police investigation into Buster's murder. (And how murdering
him counts as a good deed for the G-Men never quite gets explained.)
The two detectives assigned to the case serve mainly as a distraction
rather than a diversion, though Gary Busey strives mightily to make
his "sado-masochistic kind of homosexual cop" interesting. At worst,
they're a minor misstep in an entertainingly goofy lounge-lizard thriller.
It wouldn't be
hard, in fact, to envision this movie having been made in the early
sixties. Like Allred's comics, G-Men From Hell has a great retro
feel. Though there have been good comic book movies before, none have
captured the source material so well. The set and costume designs, while
simple by low-budget necessity, throb with stylized colors, matching
perfectly the work colorist Laura Allred does on her husband's books.
This might have been what Joel Schumacher wanted to achieve with his
Batman films, before his nipple fixation took him down. The dialogue
pops, though occasionally gets a little too expository. (There's a lot
of weird stuff to explain.) Smooth jazz plays throughout, underscoring
the cool factor. If the film had included Snap City's zombie beatniks,
they would have dug that crazy beat.
The actors clearly
do. Almost everyone settles neatly into the film's rhythm. Donovan turns
his usual smugness to good advantage here, as a guy who's been to Hell
and back but hasn't really learned a thing from the experience. As stock
noir characters, Wuhrer and Angel both fill their roles excellently,
Wuhrer being particularly fun. It's also a shame that no one has ever
thought to cast Goulet as The Devil before.
Of all the actors,
however, William Forsythe really stands out. His tough looks usually
relegate him to playing heavies, but here he burns with dark dignity.
In the midst of a wacky plot, you never lose sight that this guy really
wants to join his wife and daughter in Heaven. He knows he has a long
way to go, though. Forsythe really should have been born two or three
decades earlier; he might have been a bigger star rubbing shoulders
with the likes of Bogart and Cagney, two rough guys who knew how to
With the success
of X-Men, Hollywood has gone into a frenzy over comic book properties.
The big studios have ignored anything not in spandex. It's a bit myopic.
After all, comics aren't just about superheroes, any more than movies
are just about one-liners and explosions.
G-Men From Hell
paves the way for a new wave in comics to film adaptations - those that
play the art house (and aren't originally in Japanese). This is only
the tip of the small iceberg.
In coming months,
we'll see Daniel Clowes' Ghost World on the screen. Another quirky
title, Hellboy, is currently in pre-production with the same
team that's doing the higher-profile Blade 2, and director Robert
Rodriguez is busy developing Allred's better known book, Madman,
after he finishes his next feature. If you're interested in reading
the comics, the latest issue of Madman features the G-Men. Grafik
Musik, alas, is long out of print and hard to find. We hope that
changes. We want to know if they ever get to Heaven.
off of G-Men From Hell at Amazon.com