In Vietnam, he was the best.
He still is.
Just think, if they’d spent the same kind of energy and wit on a single line of dialogue as they did on that tag line, 1987’s Deadly Prey could have been a masterpiece of cinema.
And yet, despite its many catastrophic, self-imposed handicaps, it’s still by far the greatest film ever to come out of Riverside, CA.
My mother will be the first to tell you: if I’m dogging you, it means I love you. (Deadly Prey, not Riverside.) So yeah, let’s get this out of the way fast—this movie is very low budget and (not so) borderline incompetent. However, it’s definitely a Top 10 Action Film for me. Without question.
*Spoiler alert for the 1976 masterpiece of cinema, Grizzly. Imagine the pure bonkers assness of the final scene in Grizzly where Christopher George blows up the bear with a fucking rocket launcher. Now, imagine an entire film constructed of those types of moments. Then throw in the fact this is an obvious First Blood/Rambo rip-off.
If you’re currently questioning your sexual attraction toward bears, you’re not alone.
But I’m getting way too ahead of myself here. It shouldn’t even take half this long to give you the plot of this action juggernaut. Local businessman, Don Michaelson (Troy Donahue) hires Colonel Hogan (David Campbell) and his team of mercenaries for reasons that are never really explained. More important to us, however, is that Colonel Hogan needs to train some new recruits, so he begins kidnapping innocent civilians and releasing them into the backwoods of Riverside, where his men hunt them. Everything seems to be going to plan, though Michaelson, using brain power elusive to the writers who created him, begins to question the futility of such an exercise.
Enter: Mike Danton, Vietnam War hero, played by Ted Prior, whose prior acting experience appears to be unpaid soliloquies to his biceps in the gym mirror. Danton just happens to be taking out the trash when a white van driven by Colonel Hogan’s goons pulls up and abducts him to the training woods—which, for some reason, doesn’t quite feel as far removed from southern California urban society as it should. It is here that the tables are turned on the mercenaries, as Danton begins to take them out one by one.
This is about 15 minutes into the film. If you’ve taken my advice and watched this sucker, you’ve probably been actively hating me up to this point. You may have wondered just what in the absolute fuck I got you into. This is where it all changes. For the next hour, it’s literally scene to scene of Ted Prior walking up to people and killing them in a variety of ways. Pure unadulterated action. And some fun gore to boot.
For what Ted Prior lacks in any kind of acting chops whatsoever, he makes up tenfold with his goofy, All American Boy charm. He teams up with an old war colleague half way through, and the film turns into an adorable lil’ buddy movie. Other than a meandering subplot involving Danton’s wife and father-in-law (and subsequent, ill-advised rape), there is not an ounce of fat on this thing.
And best of all, Deadly Prey is a pretty accessible film to get your hands on. I bought a Slasher Video blu ray off eBay for like $15. It’s a terrible transfer, but for some reason, it just feels totally right. This is the Blood Rage of action films.
Final item of note: There is actually a 2013 sequel, Deadliest Prey, which also stars Ted Prior, that I haven't seen.