After a strong start with “Evil Eye,” I randomly selected today’s film because, well, John Saxon. The grindhouse movie in question is “The Glove” aka “The Glove: Lethal Terminator,” from 1979, and costars the lovely Joanna Cassidy and Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier, and is packed with character actors such as Jack Carter, Aldo Ray, Keenan Wynn, Howard Honig, and Michael Pataki. It’s directed by Ross Hagen, who was also an actor, writer, and producer. The story revolves around bounty hunter Sam Kellog (Saxon), who works for bail-bondsman Bill Schwartz (Wynn), and chases down ex-convicts and criminals who’ve skipped bail. He narrates it as if he’s a 1940s Film Noir gumshoe, and is motivated by earning cash to pay off his already overdue alimony.
When police lieutenant Kruger (Honig) tells him that an ex-con named Victor Hale (Grier) is going around murdering prison guards in Los Angeles, and the bounty is an off-the-book $20,000, Kellog jumps at the chance. Along the way, he beats up and captures a deadbeat named Chuck, played by Nicholas Worth who made a career playing slimy heavies in such films as “Swamp Thing” (1982), “Darkman” (1990), and “Don’t Answer the Phone!” (1980), among many other movies and across the TV dial over the decades. A New York City bounty hunter named Harry Iverson (Pataki) wants in on the action, but Kellog works alone and doesn’t want to join forces with him.
Hale’s weapon of choice is something called a “riot glove,” which he uses to beat the prison guards and pretty much destroy anything in his path. But Hale is only seeking revenge after being brutally abused by them in prison, and is in reality a kindhearted neighborhood guy who helps his community and plays jazz at a local bar. It becomes a game of cat-and-mouse as Kellog must hunt him down for the bounty, so he can wipe his financial slate clean.
On paper, the plot sounds good, but seeing it in action…not so good. Kellog’s narration feels like something we’ve seen a thousand times before as he moans and groans that he has to work for a living, but can barely make ends meet. Sounds like most of us out there. Beyond paying the alimony, what really motivates him is that his ex-wife is working to prevent him from seeing his young daughter until he ponies up. But listening to him drone on about how his life sucks and hunting people for bounties is not very lucrative had me yelling at the screen for him to just get a real job. With his skills, he could easily work in a security firm and do the bounty hunting on the side. Kellog’s journey is obvious, and getting there is somewhat painful for the viewer.
The opening scene is fantastic as the mysterious Hale dons the glove, and goes after a guard named Tiny, played by Aldo Ray who looks quite a bit like Alan North (“Police Squad”) here. The glove somehow gives him superhuman strength as he not only throws Tiny around like a ragdoll and beats the crap out of him, he also destroys the car — literally ripping it to shreds and tearing the doors off it like the Six Million Dollar Man, while Tiny’s wife screams for her life inside. At this point, I’m sold on the film and ready for more. But it’s not until about an hour into it that we get another glove attack, and then it’s not until the last 10 minutes that Kellog and Hale finally face off. Very disappointing in that regard.
It was fun to see all the character actors in this. Keenan Wynn gives his routine performance as the grouchy but lovable bail-bondsman. Jack Carter (“Alligator,” 1980) pulls his usual sleazy charm as gangster Walter Stratton. Howard Honig (“Airplane!” 1980) has his familiar anxiety level up as Kruger shows Kellog what a riot glove is and lets him try it out. He destroys a table in Kruger’s office, but then Kellog gives it back!! Why wasn’t he allowed to take it with him so that at least he’d be on an even playing field against Hale?
Michael Pataki also gives his well-known solid performance here. He’s best known for “Grave of the Vampire” (1972), as well as playing police captain Barbera in “The Amazing Spider-Man” TV movie from 1978, and tons of other projects including “Happy Days” – as one of the Mallachi brothers, Myron – and “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” (1988) among so many others. Iverson has a nice character arc in this, which does help the enjoyment of the film significantly. And Joan Blondell, who comes from old school Hollywood having acted since 1930 and is probably most famous these days for playing Vi in 1978’s “Grease,” has a small cameo here as an old lady who Kellog swindles out of money she owes Stratton.
The film plays like a late 70s/early 80s made-for-TV action pilot, only on a lesser scale, and seems like a set-up for more adventures with Saxon’s Kellog. It’s got a great 70s score and theme song, “The Glove,” by Rober O. Ragland. With the Blaxploitation “Exorcist” rip-off “Abby” (1974), as well as “Grizzly” (1976), under his belt, the underrated Ragland was well-suited to handle this score with ease.
Former football star and needlepoint enthusiast Rosey Grier is entertaining here as his real-life interest in helping his local community out is mirrored in the film. Having had a hilarious turn in the 1972 schlockfest, “The Thing with Two Heads” – where Ray Milland’s head is attached to Grier’s body in addition to his own – his acting chops aren’t at the level of other Blaxploitation stars like Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (“Hell up in Harlem,” 1973) and Jim Kelly (“Enter the Dragon,” 1973).
The budding romance between Kellog and Sheila is nothing to write home about and isn’t very integral to the story. The real problem with this film is that there’s not enough Grier smashing things and people to a pulp, and too much Saxon going on about how much his life sucks. If you’re a Saxon completest, I definitely recommend it, but if not, you could probably skip this one.
Below are some newspaper ads from the film’s release. Click on all images to enlarge: