Sage Stallone was a lot of things in his too-short life: actor, DVD producer, film distributor and horror/exploitation superfan. He was also a filmmaker. He only directed one short film before he left this world but the results are worth seeing – and perhaps surprising to those who only know him from his work with Grindhouse Releasing.
Vic presents an insider’s-eye view from the bottom rungs of Los Angeles showbiz. The title character, portrayed by Clu Gulager, is a character actor who’s been in Hollywood long enough to become an anachronism. He ekes out a subsistence in cheap-o horror flicks but gets another shot at glory when a new director offers him a high-profile supporting role. However, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Vic to simply make it to the audition – and when the world’s been telling you you’re down and out, it’s hard to shake that mindset.
Given Stallone’s ties to the world of cult movies, viewers might be shocked to discover that Vic is an intimate, purely dramatic character portrait. Will Huston’s script is steeped in the kind of sun-baked quiet desperation that anyone who has spent time in L.A. will recognize. Its portrait of the sometimes callous nature of the casting process is particularly convincing.
Gulager anchors the film with an intense yet totally naturalistic performance, creating a painfully truthful portrait of a man who veers between weariness and anger at his fate as another one of Hollywood’s forgotten. Cult movie fans know his face well, usually for his role in Return Of The Living Dead, but he gets to show a fire and a depth that his better known roles seldom offered.
Stallone’s direction really drives the film’s atmosphere home. His casting shows his appreciation for Hollywood’s past – the casting sequence is packed with familiar faces like John Philip Law, Richard Herd, John Lazar and Robert Lyons – and his direction is visually fluid without allowing the camerawork or editing to get in the way of the dramatic moments. Instead, his visual technique externalizes the depth of emotion in the film’s lead character, choreographing itself to match the rising and falling intensity of Gulager’s performance in a truly intimate way. The powerful emotionalism of the piece is sealed by a moody score from veteran Italian composer Franco Micalizzi.
Simply put, it’s a shame that Stallone wasn’t with us a little longer because Vic shows he could have had a memorable directing career. That makes this little film all the more worth remembering.
DVD Notes:Vic was issued on DVD by Moonblood Pictures (Stallone’s film venture). It’s a pretty nice release, offering a good anamorphic transfer of this film and some cool extras. The most substantial of those extras is an interview with Gulager, who discusses why he came out of retirement to work on the film and how much the role meant to him. Watching him talk about the business reveals just how much of himself he poured into his work in this film.
There is also a “Vic Reeves montage,” a beautiful and smartly-edited set of clips drawn from all phases of Gulager’s acting career and set to the moving strains of the opening title theme from Soylent Green. A particularly nice inclusion is a set of text bios for all the veteran character actors in the film: it’s worth checking out because each actor’s page features a playable clip that offers up trailers, film scenes and even t.v. moments for each performer.