Pittsburgh was a 3rd world city. It’s main source of economic sustenance evaporated and jobs became scarce. The working age citizens abandoned the city. It fell on hard times.
Difficult to say definitively to what degree film production rescued Pittsburgh, but it certainly
played a part. The city became identified with its famous resident filmmaker George Romero
and his legion of iconic zombies that achieved worldwide recognition.
Buffalo is another of those metropolises whose main source of income was derailed, and the
slow climb it is experiencing back into financial prominence has also been aided by filmmakers. A number of my film projects over the years have surveyed Buffalo for picturesque abandoned locations, and I have even appeared in a few indie films shot there, once portraying a thinly disguised Donald Trump.
Probably the foremost exponent from the film community to push Buffalo back into cinematic
viability is Greg Lamberson, who was part of the mid 80’s horror comedy onslaught coming
mainly out of NYC. While I was churning out STREET TRASH, Greg was creating SLIME CITY. He then migrated to Buffalo where he and his wife Tamar have been producing feature films on a regular basis, as well as creating (with Chris Scioli) the ‘Buffalo Dreams. (formerly ‘Screams’) Fantastic Film Festival,’ a local exploitation-oriented fest that has lured participants from around the world.
I have no idea how many films Greg has written, directed, and lent his prodigious producing skills to, all in the Buffalo area. Of his many creations, GUNS OF EDEN, his latest, is also his best.
A novice cop accidentally kills one of her compadres during a convenience store shootout andgoes into an emotional tailspin. Later, trying to come out of her funk, she joins a fellow officer and two other friends for a day in the woods, and finds herself in a situation a hundred times worse…literally…than the one that pitched her into the doldrums!
Let’s start with casting, always (but rarely acknowledged) a substantial part of a film’s success.
GUNS features a large cast of extras and cameos, all of them chosen for their memorable, off-
culture appearances. You enjoy instantly identifying them - rednecks, mountain men,
survivalists, ultra-right-wingers – and you look forward to seeing them killed.
Equally strong is the casting of the leads (the good guys). This is the first time I’ve seen relative new comer Alexandra Faye Sadeghian. She’s already better than Chuck Norris was in his early and later work, and she far outdistances all of the 80s Cannon action stars and the like, including Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Reb Brown, Fred Williamson, Scott Bakula, Chris Mitchum, Jeff Speakman, Michael Dudikoff, Olivier Gruner, Brion James, David Hasselhoff, Kevin Sorbo, Steve Reeves, Steve James, Steve Austin, Richard Roundtree, Marc Singer, Bernie Casey, Buster Crabbe, Gordon Scott, Jim Kelly, Clarence Williams III, etc. She’s innately sympathetic, takes to action like a duck to an oil spill, and has never a false moment. (Now watch as I find out that all she really wants to do is musical-comedy.) You buy her as a cop, and you buy her as an everyday citizen rising to combat what appears to be an insurmountable threat.
Locations are important to action flicks, and 90% of GUNS OF EDEN is set in the woods. A
Location Manager is not named, so it was probably a group effort, but whoever deserves the
credit has managed to extricate stand-alone locations within an otherwise wide swath of
generic forest where it is nearly impossible not to make every scene look the same. Terrific job here.
The screenplay goes way beyond functionality, urging the viewer to see the narrative unfold
with anti-formulaic twists as well as layers of social commentary. The balance is deft.
Screenwriter/director Lamberson clearly was not satisfied with rousing action and suspense,
and these additional script elements make the film not only three-dimensional, but re-
watchable (which I just might have done, but won’t own up to: I wouldn’t want you to think
that I had that much free time on my hands…). There are many one-liners and rejoinders tossed at us and many of them work. Some don’t, but for comparison’s sake, the device is assuccessful here as the similar throw-aways were in the first James Bond films back in the 60s/70s which set the standard for that screenwriting aspect.
The film’s musical score, provided by Exec-producer Armand John Petri, is practically wall-to-
wall. A few cues sound a bit too familiar, but most of them are rousing, haunting, and there
when you need them. Also praiseworthy is the cinematography by Chris Cosgrave. Known for
his special effects work, Cosgrave provides splendid coverage for all the action scenes. His
camera placements are sensitive and display the actors to their best advantage. Essentially, by providing editor Phil Gallo with such dynamic spatial design, he has made a low budget indie look like a solid ‘B’ Hollywood production, and I look forward to more of his work.
I recommend taking the time to track down GUNS OF EDEN. And yes, as it happens, I know the director well. So fucking what? I knew George Romero and Wes Craven well, and I know Bill Lustig, Barbara Steele, Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, David Guglielmo, John Larkin and half a zillion other filmmakers currently working. Am I not supposed to review their work?