Junkfood Cinema: Never Too Young to Die

By  · Published on November 4th, 2011

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; now get off our lawn. This is the weekly internet bad movie column that gets winded as you scroll up and down the page. Every Friday I assault your senses with whatever terrible movie I happen to being using a coaster that week. I will pummel and pistol whip the movie with its own flaws – and a pistol apparently – until it can barely stand, but then I will congratulate the movie on its acceptance into the gang and lavish it with praise.

I will then buy a beer and a disgustingly awesome snack food for the film as we stand as friends at the bar singing our gang’s…theme song (?).

This week’s punk: Never Too Young to Die

What Makes It Bad?

Never Too Young to Die existed in this very brief span of time in which Hollywood, well not Hollywood but someone with a movie studio and few hundred dollars, thought it would be a great idea to turn young John Stamos into a movie star. Apparently the thought process was that if much bigger studios had success with Emilio Estevez, then surely another vaguely ethnic pretty boy was a surefire win…especially if he’d work for a fraction of Estevez’s asking price. I mean, how could they possibly afford the future star of Free Jack? Stamos, for all his giant hair and muscleheadedness, is quite flat and dull. He seems as if he rolled out of bed and directly onto set without having read a single page of the script. He delivers his lines with a conviction that absolutely screams, “won’t someone please hurry up and invent Full House already?”

Stamos plays Lance Stargrove, the son of master spy Drew Stargrove. Only, get this, he has no idea his dad is a spy. So we get to see Lance whine about his daddy not being there for him while the old man is busy, you know, saving the planet. We get scenes of dad taking care of espionage business set against angst-ridden cavorting on Olympic rings as if those two events hold exactly the same amount of excitement. Or maybe not. There’s probably someone who will watch this movie and think, “Gee, I wish someone would get all these pesky gun battles out of the way so we could focus on this wicked thrilling gymnastics meet.” Drew Stargrove is played by George Lazenby, but as it turns out, his appearance in this film is as brief as his time as James Bond, and just as effective. So naturally, little Lance becomes a spy too, what with his all-too-vital abilities like…jumping on trampolines, mumbling, and achieving victory over his adversaries by throwing shit into the air.

And what an adversary this kid goes up against! He must do battle with the tornado of gender confusion that is Velvet Von Ragner who wants to contaminate the country’s water supply. Ragner is played by, I can’t believe this isn’t a joke, KISS frontman Gene Simmons. Simmons, wearing what is clearly his weekend gardening attire, may not be recognizable without his makeup; or rather in his more differenter makeup and his Cher wig…and Cher wardrobe. From the moment he utters his first line, “Hello turd nuggets,” it’s clear that he lacks the subtlety and quiet dignity of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Ragner’s favorite means of killing involves one hideously long, and desperately obviously plastic, finger nail. It’s every bit as intimidating as being stabbed with a Bugle corn chip or a dull pen cap. Ragner performs burlesque in front of an army of biker punks haughtily singing, “what you see is what you get.” Considering the source, that lyric seems like flagrant false advertising. If Simmons is not the greatest hermaphrodite archvillain, s/he is definitely in the top 25.

Teaming up with Stamos is honest-to-goodness female agent Danja; or at least I think that’s what she was called, but then people may have just been sneezing at her a lot. Danja is played by 80s flash in the pan Vanity, an actress with as many names as she has dimensions. If you aren’t familiar with Vanity, that’s ok, really. She was brought in as the vaguely Candian love interest to Stamos’s vaguely ethic teen heartthrob. She really delivers – mediocrity – as the agent so badass that she has to take off her shirt to apply a tiny band aid…to her arm. Her love scene with Stamos is among the most awkward mating displays not to be narrated by David Attenborough. She is coming on to him as if his naked body is constructed of more acting work and he is resisting for reasons only he knows and he feels are too personal to share with the audience. So what is his response to her getting progressively more nude on his patio in an act of seduction? He compulsively eats. First he sucks down a Perrier, then he rushes inside for an apple, and then another apple. They finally do end up awkwardly boinking, I’d don’t think anything has so spectacularly lost its sexiness over the last twenty years like the sexy saxophone, but not before Stamos reveals his sexual bulimia.

Along with Vanity (such a ridiculous name) Stamos is also aided by his token best Asian friend who is a veritable convenient store of techno plot devices. Cliff, as he is so called, is somehow able to create flamethrowers and gadget-laden motorcycles in his dorm room without anyone noticing or offering him something better than community college. He is a strange cross between Q and Data from The Goonies..if either or both of those characters ever dressed like a Devo cosmonaut. The existence of Cliff does call into question Stamos’s later “insult” of Ragner as a “Japanese fruit fly.” Not that we didn’t already call it into question as a suitable slam, but maybe don’t use thinly-veiled, and poorly constructed, derogatory Asian slurs considering Cliff is the one saving your ass every ten minutes.

Never Too Young to Die is another movie featuring a depiction of punk culture so accurate it borders on documentary. For one thing, and this is something most people don’t know, punks run in packs with an age range of 18–45. They love to deck out their motorcycles like horses; not fire-breathing hell stallions as one would expect, but rather dainty little carousel ponies. They dress in post-apocalyptic attire because no one in mainstream society bothered to tell them that there was in fact no apocalypse. This is why we get villains like Green Skunk, Step-Dad Biker, and Chaka Khan the Barbarian who was never afforded the education necessary to come up with threats better than, “we’re going to tenderize your butt.” But where Never Too Young to Die really nails punk culture is its depiction of their worship of transsexual terrorists. If I had a nickel for every…you know what, I can’t even finish that joke. This movie harbors as much understanding of punks as I have of balanced diets.

Why I Love It!

This is the kind of film that could only exist in the 80s. In addition to the hockey-haired hero, the Casio-heavy soundtrack, and the plucky Asian friend, this film is firmly rooted in its decade of release. Watching the army of villainous henchmen, all I kept thinking was, “hey, you got Road Warrior on my teen spy flick…no, you got teen spy flick on my Road Warrior.” Finally I just gobbled up the whole thing and realized that the two great tastes went deliciously awry together. Sure, they could make – and unfortunately have made – teen spy flicks nowadays. But I can almost guarantee you Nick Cannon or Zack Efron or Jersey Twitterplanking would not be going up against hermaphroditic supervillains to the sounds of syntho-electric guitar and a theme song comprised almost solely of the character’s last name. Plus, if modernized, the action sequences in Never Too Young to Die would lose their we-had-to-shoot-this-in-a-day aesthetic. And as underwhelming as he is, Stamos’s 80s despite-his-best-efforts charisma really does make the film…an ill-advised novelty.

Never Too Young to Die is not available on DVD, and rightfully so. It is not the sort of film that demands of a wide viewership, or any viewership composed of people who like themselves, their eyeballs, and their precious time. It is however, to freaks like me, a VHS gem of the highest caliber. This sort of cinematic zeppelin is precisely why we collect VHS in the first place, and just having proof that this film exists justifies the outrageous expense of purchasing it. Oh it was only $1, but much of my little-remaining dignity was forfeit.

In addition to Gene Simmons’ insane-but-somehow-captivating-in-a-way-that-will-cost-my-therapist-thousands-of-hours-of-his-life performance, there is also a cameo from a horror icon that makes Never Too Young to Die worth…this sentence. Robert Englund appears as a nerdy computer technician first seen in a smart varsity sweater. This, of course, marking possibly the only time Englund has appeared wearing a sweater in a film and didn’t end up killing people in their dreams.

Junkfood Pairing: Lady Fingers

In honor of Ragner’s method of dispatch, and bold fence-ridding about his/her own sex, I highly suggest devouring as many of these “upscale” pastries as you view this decidedly “working for scale” action film. Maybe if you eat enough ladyfingers, dipped in copious amounts of rum, Stamos’s homophobic statements during the climactic fight scene will actually be funny…instead of wildly uncomfortable.

Get even more uncomfortable with more Junkfood Cinema

Related Topics:

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.