Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Wow… I mean… wow.  This does not happen often, but in the thousands upon thousands of films we've seen at the FCU, rare is the movie that is uniformly awful, but yet completely enjoyable.  There have been bad movies that we've liked, but only a couple of awful movies that we've loved.  Before today, there were only two.  Billy Zane's 'Perfect Hideout' and Cynthia Rockrock's 'Undefeatable'.  Today we have a third one… a movie so amazingly awful and weird and bizarre that it's a wonder anyone behind this film completed it with a straight face.  That film would be the legendary Philip Michael Thomas and his epic ode to angel dust… 'Death Drug'.  I've read how Catcher in the Rye has changed many a person's life, well 'Death Drug' has just changed mine.

This film originally released in 1978, but rereleased in 1986, and as such we get an intro by Mr. Thomas in his Miami Vice, Rico Tubbs gear giving us an intro.  In it, he talks about the challenges of being an actor, then inexplicably he jogs over to a piano and starts belting out a tune.  It was strange.  My son, who I forced to watch this with me, was like 'Why is this happening?'  I could not enlighten him.  But Mr. Thomas was just setting us up for what we were about to see.  Another thing that concerned me was that this intro looked like total ass… poor lighting, bad sound… so I was afraid the whole movie would look like this, but these rock bottom production values were only for the intro and the outro, thank goodness.

Now into the movie we meet Jesse Thomas (Thomas) a hard working plumber and aspiring musician married to the lovely Carolyn (Vernee Watson).  Today is a great day for Jesse as he has been accepted to the Conservatory of Music AND got a record deal.  Jesse looks to be in his mid-thirties so the conservatory thing was a little confusing, but no matter, he won't have time with that nonsense because he will be too busy making money and hits with his new phat record deal.  That what's the record producer guy told him.
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Jesse, Carolyn and his white friends go out to celebrate.  I only mention their race because they are the only white folks at this club, and while they were clapping to the song that was playing, they seemed to be clapping to a completely different beat that everybody else was clapping to, thus feeding the myth that white folks have no rhythm.  As an aside, The Gap Band is the house band at this club which makes this club awesome.  While at the club, Jesse spies his weed connect and goes to the bathroom to pick up a stick or two, until he's interrupted by The Drug Dealer.  That weed that Jesse was about to smoke ain't about nothing.  He needs The Sherm… The stick with the kick, the tower with the power.  After the Gap Band allows Jesse to take the keyboard and sit in on a set, which is a personal dream of mine, Jesse sits down to smoke his Stick with the Kick.  It takes a few seconds, but Jesse's mind in now officially blown.  I mean he smokes this stuff and while gawking at a white woman across the room, The Sherm turns her into an alluring sista.  Amazing.  Even though I'm thinking since this is 1978 and all, maybe The Sherm should've turned that alluring sista into a white woman, thus feeding into another myth.  Work with me here Death Drug. 

No real damage has been done yet due The Sherm, as Jesse now has to visit his dad.  Best. Scene. Ever.  Look, I'm not saying you have to watch this movie, but you do kind of have to watch this scene.  I don't know who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1978, but whoever it was, they need to find Philip Michael Thomas, drop to a knee, and humbly pass it to him.  While speaking to his estranged father, Philip Michael went from calm, to agitated, to hysterical, to a complete freaking the f@#k out.  I had to drop to a knee while watching this scene because I was laughing so hard.  I couldn't breathe and if blacked out in my swivel chair I might've tumbled out and banged my head on a corner table and died.  But by taking a knee, if I black out, I'll just fall on my face until I eventually regain consciousness.  'Death Drug' almost killed me.   The problem is that this movie is just getting started on its attempts to murder me.

Follow that up with a bizarre music video, not in the original movie, but something Philip Michael had the producers insert as it was one of the tracks on the album he had just released in 1986.  The video itself… awful.  But Mr. Thomas' started the video doing a cross between The Jerk and the Robot which, again, forced me to take a knee.  And it's not done yet… there's still so much more.  I'm tapping out now… begging for mercy.

Eventually Jesse upgrades from The Sherm to all out Angel Dust, which we know is terrible because Gil Scott Heron told me it was, and he was the human embodiment of Truth.  Now all hell breaks loose for poor Jesse as he abuses his wife with random sheets of loose leaf notebook paper, blows his record deal, loses his job and freaks out early and often.  Now I thought Jesse was a big star by now so why he's still a plumber is beyond me, but Death Drug could give less of a damn about that silly thing filmmakers call 'continuity', so neither do we.

Eventually, Jesse realizes the error of his ways and gets clean but a Doctor played by the late, great Rosalind Cash gave us warning.  The Sherm, the Whack, Rocket Fuel, The Hog, PCP… once it has you, it has you.  You can be clean for years, but at any point and time, an episode might pop up.  This is what happened to Jesse while shopping with pregnant Carolyn at Kroger's.  And the career of the multi-platinum record artist who still worked his gig as a plumber was snuffed out… by Angel Dust.  In the words of the late, great Gil Scott… God only knew why they was dusting…

That's not the end though, there's more nonsense.   But once that ends we get to Mr. Thomas' outro, this time while shooting pool.  He talks some more cryptic craziness that only Philip Michael Thomas can utter, reminds us repeatedly that this was only a 'dramatization', just in case we thought he was really on The Whack.   Death Drug is amazing.  Stunning.  An achievement like few others.  I love this movie.  At the end, Phillip Michael Thomas took the time to thanks us for watching and listening.   No Philip Michael… thank you… thank you so very much.  If I live to be a thousand, I could never repay you for the joy you have given the Planet Earth on this day.
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