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Hipster Holy Grail: Dragon Fury (1995)

The Hipster Holy Grail is my ongoing quest to review an obscure movie before it becomes cool to talk about it. Good, bad, doesn't matter.  It just has to be at least 10 years old and have less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read Reviews

Dragon Fury is not quite the perfect good-bad movie to share with friends, but as far as David Heavener productions go, it's top-tier.  Be warned that there are some pockets of down time that you'll have to slog through.  The irony nuggets are worth it, though.

My Rating: 4 / 5 (Novice Bad Movie)

The Plot Summary

Y'all are up for more David Heavener, right?  After last week's movie, I realized I have a bunch of Heavener flicks readily available, so I decided to make November a theme month.  Why not.  It seems strangely appropriate, given our ambiguous and uncertain political environment.

It's the year "Sometime in the future" and everything sucks.  The world has been ravaged by disease and a deadly group of barbarian-ish leather-clad warriors.  We open with a strange ritual of some sort where several of the barbarian guys are menacing a little girl while her mother watches on helplessly.

Dragon Fury is one of those movies where a lot of important details are either grouped into huge exposition bombs where you only catch plot shrapnel, or they're dropped in casual asides and throwaway lines that you might not bother to remember.  So, I don't want to say that the movie doesn't make this clear, but I didn't realize until like fifty minutes in that they're trying to kill this kid because she's got the apocalypse disease and they're trying to contain the infection.

Actually, you know what, let me tell you all the other exposition now and get it out of the way.  That'll make the rest of this a lot easier.

So, the main villain is a dude named Vestor, played by Richard Lynch (naturally).  Vestor is the head of a vaguely bureaucratic / tyrannical post-apocalyptic group called the "AAMA." Whenever Vestor finds physically capable guys, he takes them to a brainwashing facility (where he calls himself the "Chief Medical Dictator," which I thought was pretty funny) and turns them into meathead slaves called "dragons."

The AAMA sends dragons all over the place to hunt down diseased folks, who appear to be mostly made up of kids, and kill them using a variety of small arms and close-quarter melee weapons.  Their favorite weapons are cheapass extendo-swords.  The handle kinda looks like a light saber, and whenever a dragon pushes a button, there's an obvious edit in the film where the light saber has been replaced with a katana.

There's also some kind of strange conspiracy hinted at where the AAMA had possession of a vaccine against the apocalypse disease, but they destroyed it and replaced it with an ineffective series of treatments that they sell to the diseased in order to rack up a profit... or something?  I don't really get this plot at all.  The apocalypse doesn't look like a world where people have day jobs and earn paychecks and all that crap.  Vestor's long term goals are a mystery, is what I'm saying.

Oh, and also there was a big earthquake at some point.  So, that's what, three things that ended the world now?  Disease, the AAMA, and an earthquake?  That's two too many.  Let's just focus on the disease, maybe.

So, anyway, the movie opens with Vestor and his dragons threatening that girl, right?  Fortunately for her, Mason (Robert Chapin) shows up just in time to save her from certain death.  Mason is a former dragon who rejected his brainwashing and now goes around doing battle with Vestor's minions.  He saves the little girl and her mom, and then they all hop on a motorcycle to drive to safety.

They end up taking sanctuary at a dark and gloomy house / compound run by Milton (Chuck Loch), a middle-aged dude in glasses who is clearly supposed to be the wizened old sage type, but who kinda just comes off as Saul Rubinek on a bad day.  Milton helps Mason and the victims hide behind a false wall.  Then Mason's girlfriend, Regina (Chona Jason), puts on a seductress act to distract anybody who might end up stopping by.

As luck would have it, Vestor shows up at Milton's house only a minute or two later.  He and his goons, Fullock (TJ Storm) and Dowe (Rick Taine), search high and low for Mason, but can't find him.  Then Regina offers her bare ass to the dragons and they politely decline.  This is pretty much her high point.  Regina is not a well-realized character, is what I'm saying.

The dragons leave, so Mason comes out of hiding and they send the girl and her mom on their way.  Then we get the first exposition bomb where they explain some of the stuff I already told you about.  Milton laments that they're not able to cure anybody; even though Mason keeps rescuing people from the dragons, they inevitably die from the disease, anyway.

Fortunately, Milton has a time machine.

Yeah, it's just kind laying there in the back.  Say, you think it might be useful?  Huh.  Could be.  I guess nobody thought about it before - not until Milton found some ancient newspaper scraps that explain that there was a cure for the apocalypse disease invented back in 1999, before the earthquake.

There's some (very) brief tension about the mechanics of the time machine.  Milton acts like it's a pretty damaging thing to use, as if it's tough to survive the trip.  But those concerns only ever come up for one person and even then it just kinda slows him down for twenty minutes, so you can pretty much ignore this whole paragraph.

Mason hops in the machine and gets sent back to 1999 to recover the vaccine and bring it to the present.  Shortly after he warps away, Vector busts into Milton's house - apparently he caught the little girl and her mother, and now he's out to find Mason and kill him once and for all.  Regina jumps into the machine to find and warn Mason, and then Fullock and Dowe jump in after her.

Cut to Los Angeles, 1999.  More specifically, a hospital.  Mason, suffering ill effects from time travel, was found unconscious and incoherent on the street, and a mob of doctors are trying to diagnose him to make sure he stays alive.  There's a lot of jargon and forced drama here, but the bottom line is that Mason has amnesia and his attending physicians, Dr. Ruth Ames (Deborah Stambler) and Dr. Charlie Stenton (Tony Tuce), are finding a lot of oddities in all the tests they keep running on him.

Mason's going to stay in the hospital for a little while, so let's cut away to a random hotel.  A newlywed couple - featuring writer/director David Heavener as the groom - is making out and getting ready for some honeymoon lovin'.  The bride goes off to the bathroom to slip into some lingerie, which leads to Heavener repeating over and over again that he's ready for sex.  Like, to the point at which he's basically begging.  I mean, no judgment, guy.  I've been there, too.  I just never made a movie about it.

This scene is actually kind of important for me as a David Heavener fan, though, because this is honestly the first time I've ever seen Heavener attempt to play a character.  The groom is a nervous dork.  He wears huge glasses and keeps hemming and hawing and basically playing a wimpy creep.  It's an incredibly broad performance, but you know something?  It is anything besides Heavener's usual stoic cowboy act.  So I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that this is his finest performance.

Anyway, out of nowhere, Regina materializes on the hotel bed.  (Topless, by the way.  Time travel is very harsh on shirts.)  The groom freaks out and insists he doesn't know who she is, but his bride isn't having it - she demands a divorce and starts throwing stuff at him.  Regina steals his jacket and car keys, then sneaks out of the room just as the groom suggests a threesome and defends himself from a hurled vase.  And that's a wrap on Heavener.  Great work, everyone!

So, Regina drives off to find Mason.  Which is weird because A) she didn't lose her memory - just her clothes, apparently, and B) I didn't know she knew how to drive.  The movie acts like there are no cars or anything in the future.  Just motorcycles and extendo swords.  Oh well.  Minor details.

Now we cut to a group of street toughs hanging out in an industrialized lot of some sort.  They see Fullock and Dowe materialize nearby, and then have the following conversation:

"Hey!  Look at them muscular dudes!"
"Oh, yeah, I see 'em.  Look like queers to me."
"Yeah.  Wanna go beat 'em?"

So they go pick a fight and all end up getting horribly murdered because it turns out it's usually not a good idea to pick a fight with muscular dudes, gay or otherwise.

This fight scene is actually one of the better parts of the movie - not because it's good, but because it's just plain funny to watch.  The various street toughs are clearly not fighters, so the camerawork and editing is all really stilted and slow.  Words don't do it justice, but if you're in the mood for a laugh, tune into this sequence.

After that, the movie kinda turns into the Fullock and Dowe show for a few minutes.  You get to see them wander around and have a few more misadventures, which include killing a homeless guy and then having a fight with a second group of street toughs.  The second fight happens only about four minutes after the first, and it almost feels like Heavener watched his movie and said, "Jeez, we need another scene here to show that these guys are legitimate badasses.  Let's hire actual fighters this time."  Consequently, the second fight is technically much better and more competent, but also kind of more boring since it's not very funny.

Anyway.  It turns out that those extendo-swords that the dragons have been carrying around also double as tracking devices.  Fullock and Dowe are able to use them as dowsing rods to find Mason, and they track him down to the hospital.  Unbeknownst to them, Regina also has a dowsing-rod extendo-sword, and she's also coming to the hospital.

Cut back to Mason's room, where Dr. Ames is trying to help him recover his memory.  He has some flashbacks, through which we learn that Fullock killed his wife and daughter, which is why Mason now goes around fucking with the AAMA any chance he can get.  Mason doesn't totally have his memory back yet, but he's cognizant enough that he knows he needs to escape before Fullock comes after him.

For the record, this is about twenty minutes after Mason came back to 1999, and the movie is only 80 minutes long.  This means that Mason spends a quarter of the movie in bed.  Just throwing that out there.

So, Mason finally decides to become an action hero again.  He meets up with Regina in the parking garage and they have a fight with Fullock and Dowe.  Dowe is beheaded, and then Mason flags down Dr. Ames and gets her to drive him and Regina away.  Fullock chases after them and does one of those hop-on-the-roof moves, but it's to no avail; Ames shakes him off and our heroes get away.

I've not spent a lot of time talking about Dr. Ames, and that's probably because she's not much of a character.  She's kind of just a plot device.  Whatever brief skepticism or aversion she had about Mason's aggression and exposition are very quickly extinguished, and she is brought into the loop pretty effortlessly.  But first, she drops Mason and Regina off at a seedy hotel so they can fuck.

I'm not joking.  There is a line here somewhere that literally goes, "I'll answer more questions after we rest and have sex."  So, insert more footage of Chona Jason's breasts.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Mason and Regina enjoy a post-coital moment.  Then Fullock shows up and kills Regina, and Mason is on the run again.

He tracks down Dr. Ames and re-enlists her help.  Together, they go to visit her friend, Dr. Charlie - you remember that guy?  He was kinda in this movie once.  Anyway, Charlie has some intel / plot device that will let them get into the Browning Institute, which is the facility where the all important vaccine has been developed.  Charlie takes a bit of convincing, but decides to help Mason and Ames.

But not before he utters one of the most bizarre lines I've ever heard: "You are asking me to swallow a very big fish."  Is... is that a thing?

Anyway, Fullock shows up again and kills Charlie.  So, yeah, Mason runs away again.

You know, Mason is pretty dumb sometimes.  Every time he sees Fullock, he acts surprised.  Like, "Where did you come from?!"  But the movie already established that Fullock has a tracking device that points him in Mason's direction, so what exactly is he expecting?

Well, whatever, it's time for the exciting conclusion.  Mason dresses up in a doctor disguise and he and Ames sneak into the Browning Institute where they find the formula for the vaccine, along with a sample that Mason can take to the future.  But then Fullock shows up - and yes, Mason still acts surprised - and holds Ames at sword-point.

Mason's had enough of it by now, so he and Fullock have their final showdown.  It's... okay, I guess.  I mean, there's some decent choreography.  But action scenes are not Dragon Fury's strong point, so whenever people decide to throwdown and fight, it feels like you can just gloss right over it.  All you need to know is that Mason beheads Fullock.

So, we cut back to the future one more time to see that the magical time travel gate is opening up.  Vestor hops through it, and instead of being warped to some random ass place like everyone else, he just shows up right next to Mason.  They start fighting, and Mason is mortally wounded.  So he gives the vaccine to Ames and tells her to go through the portal.  She does, and then Mason sets Vestor on fire and kills him.

Which is actually a pretty badass way to end your final fight, to be honest.  Not enough movies end with the hero setting the bad guy on fire.

We cut to the future one last time for a brief epilogue.  Ames is wandering around a brightly lit garden with that diseased girl from earlier, only now she's healthy and everybody is happy.  Then Ames suddenly breaks in with some heavy-handed voiceover about how she found faith and she's going to do everything she can ~~for the children~~.

I know I should just accept this as a happy ending, but I'm a bit lost.  The AAMA still exists, right?  And there are still more dragons?  Like, what exactly does the social structure of the apocalypse look like?  Who's in charge, if anyone?  How was the vaccine distributed and... ah, who cares.

What I Liked / Didn't Like

Even though David Heavener did not cast himself in the main role, this movie still has all the same telltale signs of his style.  That's overall a good thing if you're up for some ironic movie watching.

He's almost the perfect kind of bad filmmaker.  He's competent enough that his movies are technically cohesive and presentable - the lighting and sound are good enough that you can see and hear what's going on.  But he's also so bad at telling a streamlined, clear story that you'll find plenty of bits of nonsense to enjoy.

His editing remains the big problem.  Sometimes bad editing can just end up being really funny - refer to my review of Parole Violators for a perfect example.  (And then go watch Parole Violators.  It's worth your time.)  Other times, bad editing just grinds a movie down to a halt.  An overly long scene here or a bad cut there and you take away all of the scene's momentum and energy.

That ends up being the biggest crime in Dragon Fury.  There's some halfway decent stunt work in here, but the action scenes are simply not punchy. Like when Fullock hangs onto the getaway car - yeah, it's an impressive move, but then you see a long distance shot of the car going down an industrialized street... and slowly getting smaller... and then disappearing from frame.  What was once an intense action scene is now more like a living painting of decayed Americana.

If you can get past those moments, there's a corny B movie in here with some laughably stupid lines and ridiculous moments.  Ultimately, the enjoyable outweighs the painful, so I would recommend this as a backup bad movie if you've already watched the better known titles.

One other thing that makes this one a delight is that this is possible the first time I've seen a Heavener movie that didn't feel arbitrarily politicized.  There's a little bit of that here and there - Milton has a throwaway lamentation about "the government" and there's a bit of weirdness in Dr. Ames's final narration, but otherwise it's straightforward camp.  It's quite refreshing.

I'll end with this screenshot that came up on Dragon Fury's IMDb page, since a picture's worth a thousand words and all:

How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth?

At 92 ratings on IMDb, it's right on the border of the 50 point / 40 point split for obscurity.  So I'll go right in the middle and give it 45 cred for obscurity.  I'll give it another 25 points for David Heavener, which is down from the usual 30 I give because he only plays a bit part instead of the lead.

It gets another 5 cred for Richard Lynch, who you always want, and then another 15 as a recommendation bonus. Then let's round up all the sci-fi tropes and nonsense into a big basket of hipster content and give that 10 points.

It all adds up to a perfect score of 100 hipster cred out of a possible 100.  It's not the most enjoyable movie I've seen for the Holy Grail, but it's absolutely the hipsteriest.

Where You Can Watch

Dragon Fury was released on DVD, so you can either buy a copy or you can stream it on  If you have Prime, you can watch for (basically) free.