It’s around 1995, and I’m in film school at Chapman University in Orange, California when the film department there was still in Moulton Hall and VHS was still the way to watch movies at home. Once a week my film school friends and I held Mystery Movie Night, each taking turns bringing in an unannounced film to share with friends, and friends we are to this day. Mystery Movie Night, however, was certainly not the glue of that friendship because while they brought How Green Was My Valley (1941), Plague Dogs (1982), and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), I brought the Roger Corman distributed Starcrash (1978), War of the Gargantuas (1966) and a science fiction action film about cyborg cops in the future. Think Blade Runner (1982) or even Robocop (1987) and then forget they exist for just a moment and recall if you can or put it in your queue: Nemesis (1992), directed by Albert Pyun. I love Bergman and Murnau, took an amazing class on Demille, love the French New Wave, love film noir, but I wanted my friends to experience something new to them, and Nemesis for me was an undiscovered gem I found on the video shelf, a beautifully executed sci-fi flick that looked like it should’ve been up on the big screen, with great action scenes, great special effects, and a gunfight scene atop a huge partially collapsed building, and not only that, but starring Olivier Gruner, Tim Thomerson of Trancers (1984) and Dollman (1991) fame, character actor in over a hundred movies and TV series, Brion James, and Thomas Jane early in his career. So flash forward over twenty years to 2016 and get off of my lawn when I had an opportunity this summer to see Nemesis on the big screen at Weird Wednesday hosted by Laird Jimenez at the Ritz, an Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, Texas. I always thought Pyun’s work was above par for what was direct-to-video work, though Nemesis did receive a theatrical release. I grew up and have lived occasionally in my hometown in rural Louisiana where, if the movie is anything but a sure winner, it’s not coming to the Leesville Cinema Six and might as well be direct-to-video for us. The very next day after the Nemesis screening I’m looking for a movie to watch, and I find Dollman, and whose name pops up but Albert Pyun as director. So I looked him up and my mind is blown consecutively and repeatedly like a Russian Nesting Doll or a treasure map that leads to treasure maps, so much so that I even checked out to see if Albert Pyun was the new Alan Smithee, which he is not. Please forgive me for that, Mr. Pyun. I knew I had seen his movies elsewhere, however. Had I even looked him up since the mid-90s? So here’s that Russian Nesting Doll effect for you with his best and most well-known work: Adrenaline: Fear the Rush with Christopher (Highlander) Lambert and Natasha Henstridge right after Species (1995); a great post-apocalypse movie, Knights (1993) with Kris Kristofferson and Lance Henricksen; Captain America (1990), which has gotten some discussion for the last few years for some reason; Cyborg (1989) with Jean-Claude Van Damme; Alien from L.A. (1988), an interesting curiosity with Kathy Ireland; and The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) with Lee Horsley, who’s kept himself busy in television and lately as a Tarantino regular. Not only that but Pyun wrote the screenplays solo for all of those except Captain America, and he shares credit on The Sword and the Sorcerer, and those aren’t the only ones he wrote or co-wrote. He’s also responsible for directing Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991); three sequels to Nemesis; a Lovecraft adaption, Cool Air (2006); the cult favorite Radioactive Dreams (1985); something called Bulletface (2010), which looks interesting; and as of this writing he recently finished shooting Interstellar Civil War, which probably won’t be released till 2017. For me, however, his most notable 21st-century work has got to be the found footage film Invasion (2005) also known as Infection, the story of a contagious zombie-like alien outbreak slash invasion captured from the dashboard camera of a police car. For a movie that’s limited to that one perspective, it rises above most found footage films, and might even be better than Colin (2008), a similar film limited by its camera which stays with the main character for the whole film. I found Invasion searching Netflix late at night, just like Altered (2006) and Banshee Chapter (2013), and like those films, Invasion creeped me out that late at night and alone, and very few films do that to me. His films, though, only tell half the story. Raised a well-rounded army brat, he started making movies on 8 and 16mm and nearly worked for Akira Kurosawa (which means “God” with a capital “G” in film language, so look up all of his films). Pyun was supposed to intern on a Kurosawa film for Toshiro Mifune, which is like saying Clint Eastwood in Japanese, but Mifune wound up not doing the film, instead, doing a TV series, so instead, Pyun worked under Takao Saito, Kurosawa’s director of photography—not a bad education there. His career spanned some Charles Band productions and some Cannon Films, and he is featured in the recent documentary, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014). Some of my favorite directors are the low budget independent underdogs who worked mostly on their own terms, such as Ed Wood, Don Dohler, Frank Henenlotter, and a dozen others; directors with only a few films to their credit. Albert Pyun is way up there with a much longer list of great films and is easily included in that category. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.