Game of Survival (1989)

When I was a wee squirt, I use to write and draw my own comic books. My 10-12 page comics were a melange of crazy kid plotting and some of the worst artwork you’ve ever seen. I only had one storyline. In, for example, “Spider-Man vs. Captain America”, Spider-Man meets Captain America and they fight. All of them began like that. But, I let my imagination fly when the fighting started. This was a lucky break for everyone reading because the comics were 95% fighting with the occasional pause for some high quality braggadocio. Generally, the hero I liked more would win. (Usually, Spider-Man.) Some of my other epics were entitled “Iron Man vs. The Hulk”, “Thor vs. The Human Torch” and “Invisible Girl vs. Dazzler”.

Armand Gazarian, director of Games of Survival, and I may have drawn the same sort of comic books in our youth. When the grown up Mr. Gazarian got a chance, he concocted this 76-minute long brawl masquerading as a movie. A series of tussles featuring seven awesome looking tough guys straight out of The Road Warrior. From a huge leather man with a club to a dwarf with a bow and arrow to Zane, the sensitive one who just wants some peace, these guys are cool. The seven well-dressed fighters punch it up in the streets, alleys and outskirts of Los Angeles. They are slaves from another time, another place. They have been sent by a strange alien to find a spiked ball that will give the winner his freedom.

The film begins with some general running around that seems to promise Boredom City, USA. Zane and a dull man are chased by a funny looking car on an “alien” landscape. One of those Southern California landscapes that is uphill from the MASH unit or just to the left of a Rockford Files chase. The alien overlords aren’t much more interesting. (They rarely are.) Once the seven survivors hit the City of Angels, however, all bets are off. Apart from some brief setup as they arrive, it’s all running around and fighting. Zane befriends a lovely lady named Cindy. They develop a romance but, in true schoolboy writing style, it never gets in the way of beefy guys punching each other in the neck. Nor should it.

Games of Survival, more or less, bypasses every element a regular film would hit on to focus on these constant fights. Once in a while, there is some satire on modern day Los Angeles, involving the random people the fighters meet, or that Zane/Cindy romance seems close to developing into something. But, that’s not what Mr. Gazarian wants and, perfectly matched here, it’s not what I want. I expected that there would be more character development or, in fact, the smallest amount of character development. There isn’t. It’s a lot of fisticuffs and weapon spinning between goofy looking guys who yell a lot. Don’t yell. Just find that spiked ball. That’s all you need to do.

All the fighting kept me tuned in. The star of the film kept me watching. The man’s name is Nikki Hill and he plays Zane. He also played the eponymous Alien Private Eye. He was fine in that film but he’s awesome here. He looks like a mix between John Stamos and David Cross. Hell, in a parallel world, Nikki Hill is Our John Stamos. In this world, at this moment, I don’t know where he is. I hope he’s well. In this film, he does a lot of quality spinning, kicking and wielding a very large sword all for our pleasure. And he woos Cindy, immediately after she microwaves him a Celeste Pizza For One. I love a classy broad.

The film wound down. Zane saved the day. I was a kid again. I was sitting on my bed scribbling out those high-octane comics on a Saturday afternoon while waiting for the local UHF station to show The Thing With Two Heads. I wish I had kept some of those comics. I’d scan them and put them online somewhere so everyone could enjoy whatever it was I did. Mr. Gazarian got lucky. Raedon Home Video distributed his Fighter Vs. Fighter comics because he happened to make his fantasies into a film. Thank goodness for that. Games of Survival is a hoot. A brawling, sweaty, dwarf strangling, club swinging good time. Warm up a Celeste Pizza For One and get down to the business of a good night’s entertainment.

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