“Science created him. Now Chuck Norris must destroy him.” If the tagline alone isn’t enough to hook you into watching Silent Rage (1982), I don’t know what to tell you. This action-horror hybrid is one of those under-seen gems you’d stumble upon on late-night HBO in the early to mid 1980’s. That’s how I found it, in fact, a lifetime ago. It’s a fun stalker/slasher movie and a pretty darned good Chuck Norris film, too, if I do say so myself. The film celebrates its 40th anniversary on April 2, 2022, so I thought it would be fun to revisit and see if it’s still as much fun as I remember.
So what’s the verdict? Slip on your Chuck Norris Action Jeans, grab a tasty beverage, and travel back to 1982 for…Silent Rage!
But first? The trailer!
Silent Rage (1982) Synopsis
Sheriff Dan Stevens responds to a domestic disturbance that ends with one family dead and one ax murderer mortally wounded. Three doctors operate on the killer, rescue him from death, and unwittingly turn him into an indestructible force. For while their experimental formula heals his body at incredible speed, his deranged mind is tragically broken beyond repair. The killer escapes the hospital and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. Can Sheriff Stevens find the killer and stop him before he kills again?
Michael Miller (Class Reunion) directed the film. It stars Chuck Norris as Dan Stevens and Brian Libby as the killer, John Kirby. The film also stars Stephen Furst (Animal House, Babylon 5), Ron Silver (TimeCop), Steven Keats (Death Wish), and Toni Kalem (The Sopranos).
Here’s a look at the official poster art!
Release and Reception
Columbia Pictures released Silent Rage on April 2, 1982. The film opened in 4th place that weekend behind Porky’s, Some Kind Of Hero, and On Golden Pond. Opening in 1458 theaters, the picture earned roughly $3.7 million on its opening weekend en route to a $10.5 million worldwide gross.
The reviews were, overall, pretty negative. New York Times reviewer John Corry criticized Chuck Norris as being “just sort of there.” His review, which spoils the ending of the movie by the way (for shame!), praises the story for having “possibilities,” but calls the horror elements “sadistic” and “depressing.” Four of the five aggregated Rotten Tomatoes reviews are positive, yielding a critical score of 80%. The audience score is just 39%, however, which frankly shocks me.
“Possibilities” is a key component for many of the film’s reviews. Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert found the film interesting and both were hoping for more, but neither could bring themselves to ultimately recommend it. Two Thumbs Down from the legendary Chicago film critics, unfortunately. Their capsules for the film are quite interesting, though. You can watch them in this retro At The Movies segment below!
A Clash Of Titans
Silent Rage was written with Chuck Norris in mind. Though it was early in his career, Chuck Norris was already a larger-than-life action star. As such, he needed a larger-than-life opponent. That’s the beauty of pitting Norris against a scientifically enhanced killer. When I see Brian Libby as John Kirby, I think “Michael Myers.” And how can you not appreciate Chuck Norris vs. Michael Myers?
John Corry’s assessment that Chuck Norris is “just sort of there,” is brutal, but not entirely unfair. There’s a reason he doesn’t do a lot of romantic leads or love scenes. You’ll see why when you watch this. What Norris does do well is whip some ass, and there’s a fair share of ass whipping going on in this one. Perhaps the film’s best scene comes when Sheriff Dan Stevens singlehandedly takes down a bar full of bikers (led by frequent Chuck stunt double, Jay De Plano). To be fair, Stevens warned the bikers earlier in the film not to mess around. When their leader says, “This ain’t over, sucka,” Chuck cooly responds, “It better be.”
Libby, for his part, is suitably creepy, though, let’s face it, not quite in the same class as Michael Myers. He’s imposing. His 6’4 stature towers over the 5 ’10 Norris, and that adds a lot of gravitas to the fight scenes. John Kirby scared the shit out of me as a kid. He dispatches innocents with brutal efficiency, all while delivering unwavering crazy eyes. While it’s not perfect, it’s certainly memorable.
Embrace The Horror
Let’s be straight: this is a horror film. The whole thing has a great, Halloween-esque slasher vibe to it, particularly because Kirby is essentially silent throughout. (Is that the “Silent Rage?”) However, director Michael Miller insists he wasn’t a fan of slasher films, nor was he influenced by them. He viewed Silent Rage as an homage to Frankenstein. Regardless, there are definite horror roots here.
As far as the horror elements go, there are also a couple of pretty good (and not cheap) jump scares sprinkled in. Watch out for that ironing board! I’d also be negligent if I didn’t mention the soundtrack. Peter Bernstein and Mark Goldenberg’s original score is super creepy-cool and memorable from the start. I love it! The soundtrack is also interesting in that it features a pop song by Katey Sagal (Married…With Children): “It’s The Time For Love.” I’m serious!
This film has a little bit of everything. It has an unstoppable killer. It has the scientific horrors of a Frankenstein’s monster film. It also has the martial arts action you’ve come to expect from a Chuck Norris vehicle. Put it all together and you’ve got a fun action movie mashed up with a serviceable slasher film. If you’re a Chuck Norris fan, or just love checking out random, obscure horror movies, you’ll probably like this one a lot. I know I do!
Oh! Back to the soundtrack for a moment. Give the main theme a listen below. Isn’t it great?
Streaming and Home Video Releases
So where can you watch Silent Rage? The film is currently available to rent and own on digital platforms, including Amazon Prime Video and VUDU. The Riff Trax version is included free for Prime subscribers. If you like listening to guys bash a movie, MST3K style, you might enjoy giving it a watch. It’s amusing.
Physical media fans will be happy to know Silent Rage is available on DVD, Blu-ray, VHS, and even Laserdisc! The Blu-ray probably offers the best picture and sound, but unfortunately, it is devoid of special features. You can grab a copy on Amazon. The Laserdisc and DVD are also available on Amazon. If you’re interested in VHS, you can find at least three different editions on eBay for as little as $1.99 + shipping. Score!
I’d love to see Scream Factory take a swing at making a special edition. Much of the cast is sadly deceased, including Brian Libby, Stephen Furst, Ron Silver, and Steven Keats, but maybe we could get a commentary from Chuck Norris, Michael Miller, and Toni Kalem. Make it happen!
Chuck Norris has done a few horror pictures over the years. Hero and the Terror is a lot of fun. Norris takes on another, even bigger man-mountain in 6 ‘6 monster Jack O’Halloran (Superman II). Hellbound is also pretty cool. No, Norris isn’t fighting Andre The Giant, he’s fighting Satan himself! Finally, a worthy adversary! I kid, I kid! Where was I? Oh, yes. Chuck Norris has done a few horror films over the years, but Silent Rage is my favorite.
Is it perfect? Far from it. It suffers from some pacing issues and overall it is pretty uneven. Siskel and Ebert were spot on when they talked about its promise but observed it wasn’t quite all there. But, as it is with most horror films, if you don’t go in expecting Citizen Kane, you probably won’t be disappointed.
Verdict? Still fun! I’m glad I took the time to go back and watch it again. So what do you think? Are you a fan of Silent Rage? Tell us in the comments!
Oh, and before I forget, let me brighten your day with a little Katey Sagal. I told you I was serious!