Are you in or are you out?
I do love anthology movies; as a kid I remember watching Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror, and for weeks I needed my mommy to turn out the lights when I went to bed. Today I can turn the lights off all by myself — most nights anyway — after watching cheesy fun anthologies like Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt. The Dark Dealer isn’t as good as those two films, but it’s not a bad way to spend a night at home.
It’s the epitome of high stakes poker in The Dark Dealer when three desperate men play with the devil in the game of their lives. Through each of their stories we find out what brought them to the card table of Satan, as they try and beat him in order to save their miserable souls.
The Dark Dealer was not originally a feature length film; initially there were two shorts, “Cellar Space” and “Blues in the Night,” both made in the early ’90s. Then the “Dark Dealer” short was written as a wraparound story meant to tie the others together in an anthology format, which was released in 1995 as the feature film The Dark Dealer.
Look, this isn’t Shakespeare, but it is good clean fun, especially when all signs pointed to it being a total mess. There are no stars in this low budget fare, but all of the actors do a decent job of playing their parts.
The first story is called “Cellar Space” and is about a lowlife thug named Pete (Rocky Patterson) who has his henchman Fred (Charles Carroll) kill some poor sap who owed him money. Pete and Fred realize that an old man living in a basement apartment near where the murder took place may have witnessed the crime. But this is no ordinary old man. Why, you ask? Because his name is Nicodemus and he likes to eat soup made with human skulls and dead rats. It won’t take you very long, dear reader, to realize that Pete and Fred are in deep doo-doo.
“Blues in the Night” involves two souls destined for hell. Samson Burke (Vincent Gaskins) was a wannabe blues singer, whose career never made it out of the seedy clubs and bars of the 1960s. 30 years after his death, a weaselly entertainment lawyer (is there any other kind) named Phillip Barton (Kevin Walker), stumbles upon Samson’s unreleased music and begins marketing the dead singers songs as his own. An angry — albeit dead Samson — makes life pretty miserable for Barton, and once he loses a game to the devil, Samson also offers up Phillip’s soul for consideration.
Our final short is “Dark Dealer,” the story of Ray (Richard Hull, Jr.) who helps his addicted girlfriend, Denise (Kim Fraizier), repay a debt to her drug dealer, Cracker (Jeff English — and yes he is of the Caucasian persuasion), by stealing pharmaceuticals from the company where Ray’s father works. But unlike the others who sit at Satan’s table, Ray has no intention of going to hell without a fight. And he battles like, well, like hell, to save his soul and at the same time save his beloved Denise.
Yes, the performances are hokey and mediocre, the budget was minimal, and I’ll give it to you that these stories aren’t incredibly unique. But The Dark Dealer is a decent attempt to entertain an audience with a few scares and a little bit of humor to boot. It doesn’t try to live above its means; it came off as cheesy because it is, and it seems that Tom Alexander and Wynn Winberg — the films writers as well as its directors — embrace their inner cheese and use it to provide a truly fun time.
Presented in 1.33:1 standard definition full screen, The Dark Dealer’s small budget is most noticeable with its grainy picture, and the subpar Dolby 2.0 Stereo track. It’s not enough to hurt the experience, but it’s fairly obvious that the filmmakers were limited on cash. Extras include a nicely made featurette that shows the behind the scenes of the 1991 short “Blues in the Night.”
The Dark Dealer is just pure junk food fun; I know nothing good will come from watching, but despite my better judgment I was entertained more than I could’ve hoped. Pick this one up on the cheap, and invite some friends over for a night of cheesy fun.
The hand I was dealt is Not Guilty
Dark Dealer (DVD)
2013, MVD Visual, 85 minutes, NR (1995)
VIDEO: 1.33:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English) SUBTITLES: None
EXTRAS: Featurettes ACCOMPLICES: IMDB