American Rickshaw (1990)

Following in the well-talced footsteps of gymnast movie stars Kurt Thomas and Bart Connor, Olympic gold-medalist Mitch Gaylord sticks the landing and scores a perfect 10 as the American Rickshaw in question, Scott Edwards!

With a screen presence that may remind the viewer of the annoying Ralph Macchio, but much, much worse due to his acting technique of looking like he just got whupped upside the head with a pommel horse, Mitch is perfect for the role of the rickshaw driver caught up in a plot involving a really ugly Chinese statue of a warthog.

Feathered hair, bad sunglasses, and a wardrobe straight out of Kirk Cameron’s Growing Pains closet only add to his authenticity as late 80s/early 90s tool who you hope will somehow find a way to botch everything up to allow evil televangelist Donald Pleasence to take over the world or gain immortality or top the TV ratings or whatever it is we’re fighting over.

Pleasence, taking a break from picking up Halloween paychecks, teams up again with director Sergio Martino (they previously collaborated on 1989’s Casablanca Express) and appears in the movie sporadically as Reverend Mortom. Most of his scenes see him pontificating from his pulpit about something or other, though he does pay a visit to his arch nemesis, the Chinese witch Old Madame Luna, to strangle her.

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This results in the famous “Siamese cat attack” scene that was immediately followed up by the also famous “pet snake attack” scene. As I watched Donald wrestle with that cat, I was thinking “this has to be the most humiliating thing that he’s ever done.” I immediately retracted that thought as foolishly premature when I saw him partially transform into a warthog at the end of the film. Two years later, Donald would be working with Woody Allen which just goes to show that Soon-Yi was probably a big American Rickshaw fan.

So how does Mitch get himself mixed up in this fight over a magically-powered statue of a warthog? That’s a pretty easy one for those well versed in these sorts of movies: a stripper!

A lot of people probably would turn their noses up at a movie like this, complaining that the presence of a stripper and the necessary strip club scene are just there for titillation. What these Pollyannas fail to recognize is that these films are actually cautionary tales about the dangers of trying to bang strippers. Why, if Mitch had just resisted the questionable charms of the skanky Joanna, he would have never been in this mess in the first place!

Joanna gets Mitch to go back to her boat for some floor exercises and just when things are getting interesting, Mitch discovers that there’s a pervert in the closet videotaping him! Mitch uses all his gymnast superpowers to beat the piss out of the guy and trashes the boat before leaving with what he thinks is the videotape. The tape was switched however, so Mitch returns to the boat, finds the guy dead, and the boat catches fire. The dead guy turns out to be Reverend Mortom’s son!

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A killer (Daniel Greene from Martino’s After the Condor) working for Mortom is responsible and is attempting to locate a key that the son had, but which Mitch threw into the ocean for some reason during their brawl.

The killer somehow tracks Mitch to his apartment, kills his roommate, and forces the stripper to give a statement to the police implicating Mitch in the murders. I can’t remember if there was any strategic reason to pin all this on Mitch other than because the killer thought he might have the key, but if so, how does having Mitch in lockdown at the county jail help you gain possession of the key?

Despite the stripper doublecrossing him a couple of more times and even worse, revealing that she has a young son, Mitch still wants to be with her and they spend a good portion of the film on the run.

They manage to recover the key with the assistance of Old Madame Luna’s magic Siamese cat, but lose it when Mortom’s hired goon takes it away from Mitch during a beatdown. They recover it yet again, when the key burns through the killer’s hand and into the floor. The magic cat is once again on the scene, this time inexplicably laying on the key!

The key unlocks the locker where the warthog statue has been hidden, though how the killer was going to discern the location of the locker merely from the key is probably ancient Chinese secret.

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A final chase ensues between Mitch and the killer as Mitch attempts to return the warthog statue to Old Madame Luna. While Mitch completely embarrasses himself by tripping on some railroad tracks (remember – he won the gold medal in 1984 when all the good gymnasts were boycotting), the killer ends up with the short end of the stick by being run over by a semi and then having a snake come busting out of his eye socket!

At some point during this whole wonderful mess, the witch feebly attempts to explain why any of this makes sense and fails miserably. She was a young, immortal witch when she met Mortom (Pleasence in an awesome wig) and he stole her warthog and turned her really old and nasty.

Since Mitch and Mortom’s son were both born on 6-6-66 (which is 9999 upside down and means something in Chinese astrology) she was going to use them to get the warthog back, but her first choice (Mortom’s son) decided to use the stone against his dad instead or giving it back to Luna, so she used the stripper to get Mitch involved.

She never explained how she had all these powers to use her magic cat and cobra and to set fires and to keep up with all the happenings through a series of headache-inducing editing tricks by director Martino yet couldn’t get her hands on one crappy key, but in the end she left Mitch, his stripper girlfriend and her son the magic cat, so it’s not like all this was completely meaningless.

Probably in the top five of all the gymnast-stripper-witch-televangelist-warthog statue-magic cat movies of the period.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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