Happy 70th, Chuck Norris! Celebrating Silent Rage, the Action Star's Wildest Kick


While it's right and just that B-movie aficionados everywhere today celebrate the 70th birthday of Chuck Norris, it'd be tough to argue that any of the conservative chop-socky master's efforts actually belong on any list devoted to the best -- or worst -- cinema has to offer. The exception is 1982's Silent Rage, which even three decades on stands as a strong contender for the most bizarre tagline in Hollywood history. It's not so much a marketing blurb as a short synopsis that also manages to blur actor and character. And like the poster, the trailer leads us to think it's all about Chuck.

Norris is in it, all right, just not as much as we'd hope, nor doing enough of what we want. As if trying an early version of Walker, Texas Ranger he inhabits the form of Dan Stevens, a taciturn Lone Star-state sheriff whose best friend appears to be his cowboy hat. We open not on him but on jittery nutjob John Kirby losing his shit in a rooming house and taking to the landlady and a fellow lodger with an ax. Stevens arrives and subdues Kirby but, remarkably, this is one maniac who can snap his handcuffs and kick the door off a cop car before being blasted full of holes. Delivered to the local hospital, a trio of Nobel Prize-obsessed boffins pump the mortally wounded Kirby full of their experimental plot device, the drug Mitogen 35, which sends his brain waves crazier, heals his injuries and gives him supernatural strength. Later, Kirby will escape, do some darkened-house POV stalking and slashing a la Halloween, return to the medical facility to ape Halloween II, and finally go head-first down a well so he can [SPOILER ALERT] pop up in a final freeze frame lifted from Friday the 13th.

When I say later, I mean later because, perhaps fittingly for a movie about a Frankenstein-style monster, Silent Rage is stitched together from wildly disparate parts. In his autobiography, The Secret Of Inner Strength, Norris recounts that the film was based on a story by his younger brother Aaron, who "felt it was time I played a lover as well as a fighter." Thus much of the film's horror-skewed moments occur without Chuck but with the trio of scientists arguing about what to do with Brian Libby's silent but rage-filled Kirby before they succumb to his knife, syringe or bargain-basement throttling. Ron Silver, Steven Keats and William Finley have fun with the amusingly stinky dialogue ("What if he killed somebody?" asks Finley, reasonably, given he's talking about a recently resurrected murderous maniac on the loose. "Don't be ridiculous!" snaps Keats.)

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  • NP says:

    "C Nor and I had a falling out after I switched to another dojo."

  • WCP says:

    As I said on M.L.'s FaceBook page, before even realizing you were focusing on "Silent Rage," I asserted that it was one of his best. I called it a collaboration between William S. Burroughs, Jim Thompson and John Carpenter. I think that's a fair approximation. Those long stretches without dialogue have always been one of the reasons I dig this film. The leaden pace and weirdness makes it almost hyper-realistic in a and the silver jump-suit can be played off as my admittedly spurious Burroughs inference, cut-ups, natch. How old are you anyway? You're either ancient or too young to remember catching this on cable in the early eighties. I think it both scarred and shaped me for life.

  • Chuck Norris was a Trending Topic on Twitter all day today. I talked about the funny tweets on my show http://bit.ly/a1TXze

  • I love what Conan did with his Chuck Norris bits. Funny stuff.