Courier of Death (1984) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
5 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
5/10
I worked on this film
fiebiger510 July 2008
I worked on this film frm February to December of 1984. It was first released in mid-late 1985 to the American video market, for which it was originally intended, then in the UK and Europe in 1985-6.

Tom Shaw had a tiny movie studio at S.E. 75th Avenue and Division Street in Portland, Oregon. Before he made "Courier" (later re-titled "Courier of Death" by the distributors). Shaw co-owned most of the porno shops in Portland during the 60s-90s and built his studio, and funded his films, from funds generated by those shops. He originally bought his 16mm film equipment (an Eclair NPR camera and Nargra 4.2 sound recorder, plus various lights, stands, etc., and built a pair of small camera cranes himself) to shoot short porno films in the mid-late 1970s, which never got finished or distributed.

Then he made a short non-porn film, a 20 minute "Home Alone"-style "comedy" called "Brats On the Mountain" about two obnoxious kids who are kidnapped for ransom, but make life so miserable for the kidnappers they they give up and release the kids.

In 1980, Shaw attempted to make a feature-length "comedy" called "The Great Oregon Kidnap Caper", but the script and film was so convoluted that the "plot" was entirely incomprehensible and even several re-edits of the film failed to make it watchable. (The star of "Kidnap Caper", Ross Kerr, has a small part as one of the bad guys in "Courier".) Shaw then hired one Ron Schmidt, fresh from working on the student-Oscar-winning Steve Lusgarten feature film, "American Taboo" (1983) who came in and helped Shaw put together a comprehensible story for "Courier", and was instrumental in completing the film in some kind of watchable form in spite of Tom Shaw's involvement.

Tom was a chain-smoking alcoholic, and this affected both his health, energy level, and his judgment in "directing" his films.

He often staged impossible non-credible action scenes, which the rest of his the crews had to compensate for in shooting and editing as best as they could, and we spent much time making "Courier" the way Schmidt wanted and needed when Tom was taking his afternoon naps, sleeping off his latest round of beers and Vodka-7s. Three of us (Schmidt, myself, and D.P. Jon Henry Schmeer) effectively directed various sequences of the film when Shaw wasn't looking or was sleeping. Also vital to the film's completion was co-editor Gerold Howard, and actor Mel Fletcher, who played Carver in the film, but was also highly involved in post production work on the film. I, Dan Fiebiger, was the main composer, primary sound engineer, but also served many other production and post production functions on the production of the film, and wound up being a primary production organizer for most of 1984.

The entire film was filmed in the greater-Portland Oregon and S.W. Washington area. The river in the film is not one anywhere near in San Francisco area, but is the Columbia River that is between Oregon and Washington, or the Willamette river that runs through Portland. Ariel footage was also shot of various Oregon and Wahington coastal beaches and rivers using Shaw's small Cesna airplane, on which he rigged a Bolex camera mount on one of the wings. Tom's plane and home appear in the film, and Tom plays the old pilot in the film, with a voice dubbed by another uncredited Portland actor.

Yes, the film has lots of bizarre moments, and continuity problems, mostly due to Tom's lack of planning, poor staging, and usually non-existent direction, some of which we were unable to compensate for, as Tom often didn't allow for re-shoots when we desperately needed them. Complicating this further was the fact that actor John Benneth failed to show up for his final scene in the climax of the film, requiring the entire film to be re-structured, delaying the completion of the film for about six months, with about half the film being re-shot with Mel Fletcher as the primary bad guy henchman, who works for kingpin "Bigelow", played by D.P. Jon Henry Schmmer, also of considerable acting skills.

Many other actors and part time crew people volunteered their time to help out in front and behind the camera as the film was shot from January 1984 to mid-1985. Aisde from a constant supply of beer, almost no one was ever paid for their services, during or after the film's completion, except for Shaw who made his distribution deals solely for his own advantage.

Schmidt who, more than any other person, made the completion of "Courier of Death" possible, helped Tom Shaw complete one more feature film, "Take No Prisoners", finished in 1987, and simultaneously worked on two other local feature action films similar to "Courier" in the 80s for another local producer, Jim Lowry. Schmeer followed Schmidt to work on those two Lowry films, and continues to work with Lowry on various projects, including a recent feature film directed by Lowry about modern slavery called "Good Teeth".

Around 1990, Shaw tried to get funding for a supernatural ghost story, but funds never materialized and Shaw never made another film. Shaw's various vices worsened his health and he died in the late 90s.

A small fan club has formed in Scotland (of all places) around the "Courier of Death", the only Shaw film to survive total obscurity. They are attempting to arrange for a CD soundtrack album, a DVD release, and to produce a documentary of the making and history of the film. They are attempting to find members of Shaw's estate and various people who appeared in or who worked on "Courier" to facilitate the revival of the film. Anyone associated with "Courier" who reads this should contact myself via the IMDb or at fiebiger5@juno.com, or Matthew Aldworth at matthewaldworth@hotmail.com.
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
Unfortunate use of film
Diana-Bauer7 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I was, unfortunately, one of the women sucker punched in the gut in the complete waste of about 86 minutes. Anyone familiar with the Portland area of Oregon will have a little fun seeing/remembering what it looked like in 1984, but my favorite is the shot from the airplane, headed west down the scenic Columbia Gorge, while supposedly flying to Nevada. Then there are the bloopers - a few gunshots where the BANG is heard, but no smoke comes out of the gun barrel. AND my magically appearing purse - in my kidnapping scene, I walk out of the building, sans purse. In the next shot, from a slightly different angle, my purse has miraculously appeared from nowhere, and is hanging from my shoulder. This film is good for a giggle, but it's about an hour and a half of your life that you'll never get back.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
2/10
Courier Of Death
dukeakasmudge12 June 2017
You know what watching Courier Of Death had me thinking? It felt like somebody came into some $$$ or was already well off so they bought a camera & whatever else you need, got some friends together & asked them *Hey you guys want to be in a movie?* & started shooting an Action flick.The best parts were the shoot out scenes at the start & at the abandoned building.They were so badly done & you know they probably weren't meant to be that way that they were hilarious.If you're reading this & haven't watched the movie yet, be on the lookout for them & you'll see what I mean.And the acting..... The acting was BAD from beginning to end.There were a few scenes I know I wasn't suppose to laugh at but I couldn't help myself because of the acting that I felt bad afterwards.Towards the end, with 30+ minutes to go, I was counting down the minutes till it was over.It was a real struggle to sit through the entire movie without turning it off but I did it.If anybody's interested there are 2 reviews on IMDb from 2 people who worked on the movie (1 from some guy who worked on the movie & the other from Diana Bauer who played Nancy Neuberger) that are worth reading.There's some info about the director & behind the scenes stuff that will make you go WOW (Now I see why the movie is the way it is) I would say Courier Of Death is a movie to watch, just to say that you watched it or if you come across it & are looking for something to watch especially a BAD movie to watch
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
COURIER addenda and change of e-mail address
Daniel J. Fiebiger19 September 2009
In case you have been trying to contact Dan Fiebiger, his latest e-mail address is fiebiger5@gmail.com, effective on Jan 1, 2009 - on. After 25 years, he's recently released his soundtrack album for THE COURIER OF DEATH, available via CD Baby. A DVD edition of the film is still pending, with no firm release date yet set.

COURIER D.P. Jon Schmeer and Shaw Associate Jim Lowry recently completed a comedic short film, MAKE THE PIE HIGHER, available on U-Tube.

Oscar-winning actor Andrien Brody is currently making a similar film, also called THE COURIER, with a semi-similar story and publicity art. No release date has been set yet.

The Joey Johnson who is a songwriter linked to this COURIER OF DEATH entry is not the same Joey Johnson who stars in the COURIER. Nor is he the same Joey Johnson who has starred in subsequent films as listed in the IMDb. The star of the 1985 COURIER OF DEATH film didn't appear in any more feature films and now works for the State of Oregon in the state capital of Salem.

Likewise for Ron Schmidt. There's are several Ron Schmidt's working in the film industry. The Ron Schmidt who was the defacto co-director of COURIER OF DEATH in 1984-5 continued working in the inde film industry for several years, but was mainly associated with feature film work by Jim Lowry, Steve Lustgarten, and/or some films of Phil Roth (who later directed many films seen on the Sci-Fi cable TV channel), Look for those associated names when compiling a more accurate filmography of that particular Ron Schmidt.

Schmidt retired from the film industry several years ago. He and his wife Wendy (who also worked on COURIER OF DEATH) currently own and run two gift shops (one is also a comic book store) in Florence and Reedsport along the Southern Oregon coast.

Dan Fiebiger and Jon Schmeer are organizing a reunion of anyone who worked on the 1984- 5 COURIER film in Portland to happen on November 7, 2009. Please contact Dan at fiebiger5@gmail.com if you'd like to attend, or communicate with other COURIER personnel.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
3/10
Back off--this is personal!
John Seal17 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
J. D. (Joey Johnson, who I can pretty much guarantee is NOT the Joey Johnson featured in 1964's Jerry Lewis vehicle The Patsy) is a Vietnam veteran who now works for a very important courier service that delivers very important things on behalf of very important people. After he and his partner are robbed of $77,000,000 dollars worth of bonds and his wife is kidnapped and killed, he decides to get out of the business--but an old Army buddy convinces him that the money was stolen by a group of fascists conspiring to take over the government. It's up to our hero to infiltrate the plot and save the nation. This film is spectacularly bad from any perspective: it's poorly acted and filmed, features copious amounts of misogynistic torture porn (twenty years ahead of its time!), terrible action sequences (note the handguns that recoil even when no shots are fired), and complete absurdities (note the river seen from the plane in which J.D. is flying into 'San Francisco'!). It's not exactly Plan 9 From Outer Space, but it is pretty bad.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews