The Last Action Hero

on June 09, 2009 by Steve Simels


riverbend1-1.jpgYou know, there are cultural tragedies and then there are Cultural Tragedies. And among the latter, I am shocked to discover that there is no currently available DVD of the 1990 shoot-em-up classic Street Hunter, co-starring and co-written by my old college bud, the late great Steve James.

Rightly dubbed The King of the B-Action Film by The Phantom of the Movies®, Steve had a pretty amazing career. Mostly he worked in lower budget flicks where things had a tendency to blow up pretty good -- basically, if it starred Michael Dudikoff and had a colon and a roman numeral in the title, Steve was in it. But he also had a memorably scary turn in William Friedkin's brilliant To Live and Die in L.A., and in the 1986 The Delta Force, he was co-billed with Chuck Norris, Shelley Winters AND Fassbinder stock company star Hannah Schygulla, a feat few actors could boast. Steve was such an icon, in fact, that he got to be the next to last celebrity cameo in Altman's The Player; in the film within the film at the end, he plays the prison guard who gets the phone call that Julia Roberts' execution has been stayed after the poison gas has already been released. Steve's big line: "What?!?!?!?!?"

Here's a little compilation of his best scenes, put together by one of his many fans.

And here he is in Street Hunter, with co-star John Leguizamo.

I ran into Steve for the last time in 1991, when he was getting ready to shoot McBain, one of the many films Christopher Walken made in the 90s like other people smoked cigarettes -- compulsively, one after another. We reminisced for a while, and when we parted, I told him I was going to write a little tribute in the video magazine I was toiling for at the time. "Make sure you mention Street Hunter," he said. "With me doing my Lee Van Cleef thing."

Which I did, and after it ran -- including a great picture of him in a particularly Van Cleef-ish outfit -- I got a message on my answering machine.

It was Steve, in his inimitable macho tones.

"Simels," he said. "Saw the piece. It was great -- if I was a ho, I'd kiss you."

That was the last time I heard from him. He died unexpectedly in late 1993, right before the premiere of M.A.N.T.I.S, a sci-fi pilot he did for the Fox Network. Sidney Poitier spoke at his memorial service.

In any case, as I mentioned up top, there's no DVD of Steve's masterpiece, but you can still find a VHS copy of Street Hunter here. You can also pre-order the Friedkin-supervised Blu-ray upgrade of Steve in To Live and Die in L.A. here.


Tags: Street Hunter, The Phantom of the MoviesĀ®, Michael Dudikoff, William Friedkin, To Live and Die in L.A., The Player, Christopher Walken, M.A.N.T.I.S, Sidney Poitier, Steve James

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