Color, 1985, 93 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Alan Beattie
Starring Charles Durning, Pam Grier, James Keach, Bert Remsen, Barbara Sammeth, Cory Yothers Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
The movie formula of an aging war vet finding a new kind of combat back home has been the source of countless action films with notable examples like Rolling Thunder and First Blood leading the pack. One odd entry in the cycle came from New World in 1985 with Stand Alone, which casts Charles Durning (still fresh off back to back Oscar nominations for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and To Be or Not To Be) doing the honors as an all-American guy pushed to the brink by disrespectful scum who more than earn some violent payback. Though beloved to horror fans for Dark Night of the Scarecrow and When a Stranger Calls, Durning rarely got leading man roles but got to indulge here with an entertaining revenge saga that satisfies a lot of (highly dubious) wish fulfillment that was simmering in the public consciousness around the time.
First seen fighting in World War II in the "1943 South Pacific," Louis Thibadeau (Durning) settles down for a nice quiet life in the Texas suburbs. In his twilight years four decades later, Louis is alarmed by the Latino gang members infiltrating the neighborhood and terrorizing the locals, particularly restaurateur and fellow war vet buddy Paddie (Remsen) in a particularly nasty afternoon firearm assault. The police take on the case with Detective Insgrow (Keach) imploring Louis to testify about the aggressive invaders, but attorney Cathryn Bolan (Grier) advises him to stay out of it for his own good. Concerned about the welfare of his daughter (Sammeth) and grandson (Yothers), he decides to put his well-honed combat skills to good use once and for all.
At least for the bulk of its running time, Stand Alone could pass for one of those straight-to-cable dramatic thrillers that were all the rage in the '80s (which is nothing to be ashamed of given that's exactly what happened to solid action fare like The Park Is Mine). However, the real reason to watch it is the final fifteen minutes when it suddenly goes all semi-Straw Dogs with a barrage of throat slashings, bloody bullet squibs, and other bodily mayhem for a protracted home invasion sequence. As far as a depiction of Latino culture this is about as accurate and commendable as the "She likes it" scene in New York Ripper, but there's an undeniable novelty value in seeing Durning (whose physical build is about as far from the ideal action hero as you can get) go from a gradual simmer to a full-on agent of destruction as the full scope of his abilities comes into play.
Quite easy to find on VHS in the late '80s but missing in action for decades afterwards, Stand Alone came back into circulation as a Blu-ray release from Scorpion Releasing. The transfer looks quite nice throughout and makes for a mammoth upgrade over the really bland tape version while retaining that trademark New World film stock look (e.g., pretty flat blacks). Director Alan Beattie (whose most notable other contribution is the odd horror film Delusion) doesn't do much in the way of visual flashiness here, but this more than gets the job done. The DTS-HD MA English mono track is fine as well and comes with optional English SDH subtitles, which miss the opportunity to comment on the film's incessant synth score. A very lo-res trailer is included along with bonus ones for Omega Syndrome, Delivery Boys, The Killing Time, Fraternity Vacation, Bad Manners, and Pretty Smart.