There is a film I’ve seen a great number of times because I like the plot and I like the look and personality of its young star despite the fact she is not a great actress. She is great anyway!
The film is the little-known Prime Risk (1985) and the actress is Toni Hudson (1960-) who some may remember as one of the stars of Just One of the Guys (1985) which was a gender switch comedy made in the same year. She made a third film that year with an appearance in the slightly awful and sniggering sex comedy School Spirit. Otherwise no-one would have probably heard of her.
Hudson stars in Prime Risk along with former child actor Lee Harcourt Montgomery (1961-). Montgomery was one of the stars of the Disney movie The Million Dollar Duck (1971) about a duck that lays golden eggs. It was one of the first live action Disney films I ever went to the cinema to see. The following year Montgomery did the classic rat movie Ben (1972).
Other films he made appearances in were George C. Scott’s (1927-99 abdominal aortic aneurysm) The Savage is Loose (1974) and Dan Curtis’s (1927-2006) similarly unappreciated Burnt Offerings (1976). He modified his name to Lee Montgomery in the late teen or adult stage of his career.
Anyway, Prime Risk is directed and written by Michael Farkas (no info), who for some reason has not directed another feature film.
I caught up with Prime Risk on VHS and was immediately impressed… Yeah, Toni’s beautiful, but I also like its premise of a couple of teenagers who aren’t getting much satisfaction in life, teaming up for a 70/30 or was that a 60/40 split, when Toni’s character works out a way to rob automatic teller machines.
It is probably the first movie to deal with the subject and to this day, criminals are still working out ways to milk money from ATMs if they don’t actually chain the machine to a truck and rip it from its foundations.
Prime Risk opens with a key card getting put into an ATM and the machinations and computer chips involved in the original old-style machines. There is also Phil Marshall’s (no info) electronic music which is distinctive.
There are strange things happening in this Virginia set movie as bad guys play around using a supercomputer…. Well, so we learn! The head bad guy is Keenan Wynn (1916-86 pancreatic cancer) who looks at his watch as his workers test their machine against the security of the local bank where Montgomery is a customer.
The bank itself is another bad guy with officious staff and regulations causing young Montgomery much angst. Upon leaving the bank, he literally bumps into Hudson who has an interview at the bank but is treated with the same contempt despite showing she is smarter than the resident technician.
Poor Montgomery is near being kicked out of home as he wears his ‘I’d Rather be Flying’ sweater – he wants to be a pilot rather than go to Harvard as his father suggests. Dad calls his son’s dreams of becoming a pilot ridiculous.
Sitting dejectedly in his room in front of an Omni magazine poster on the wall, Montgomery isn’t cut out for college and later hangs out with a jerk at a party who dates Toni.
“What the hell do you think I am?,” she says as she throws a drink into her date’s face after he tries to make her pimp for him. There’s an attempted sexual assault between the two in a car outside the party and it is Montgomery who a little later offers Toni a lift home.
“You need a ride?,” he says and is obviously not judged a serial killer. Toni turns on the radio in his car in search of some classical music on the way home and hears electronic sounds being picked up on the radio from a local ATM.
Ingenious girl that she is, Toni figures she can use those signals for something. So, meeting Montgomery the next day using equipment ‘borrowed’ from the bank, she records the sounds which are the keypad number codes as they are being tapped out by the customers at the ATM. Reading frequencies on a spectrum analyser, she retrieves data which she can use with the sounds.
“It’s just an experiment… but if we’re lucky, we can pick up $200 from each account,” says Toni, something which immediately sends Montgomery’s knickers in a twist as he doesn’t like the idea of ripping off people.
“It’s a banking system, you’re not stealing from people,” she says, looking pretty with her blond hair and a small scar on her cheek and feeling pretty confident about herself.
Meanwhile people are getting murdered by Wynn’s men as they plan something BIG. And Montgomery takes his first flying lesson and learns the basics only to be shafted by the bank once too often when he goes to pay for further lessons.
“All right, you still planning your experiment?,” he says turning up at Toni’s door.
“This is strictly business,” she says, standing around her living room unselfconsciously in a long shirt and panties.
Toni Hudson isn’t overtly sexual. She is kind of girlish really. A clean late teen, or really mid-20s. Maybe it’s that scar on her face. Her voice is understated and despite being able to squeeze out a tear when wanted, her acting is unremarkable. But she still shines in this film. She has some quality about her which really is remarkable!
Toni’s plan, which includes using blank cards to which is attached a strip of tape on which is recorded something fed through a computer at her home as the sounds of the ATM help tell them which personal identification number to use… I’m not tech genius like Toni, but it seems to make sense. So, the pair go through having taped the sounds outside the bank through to making the cards, to taking a couple of dozen cards to an ATM late at night…
There while Toni waits in the car, Montgomery goes to try and make the withdrawals… successfully! This was obviously before the days there was a camera there to show who is using the machine… although by chance, while Montgomery is doing the dirty work, a policeman shows up to make a withdrawal and stands in line behind him.
Anyone who doesn’t like banks, whether it’s because of their hidden fees or because someone at the teller counter has been rude, will like Prime Risk.
But the pair’s rip-off is just the tip of the iceberg as their paths cross with the major criminals.
“A lot of computers are sending information back and forth,” says Toni reading her spectrum analyser, after following a suspect van to an unidentified auto shop. Below the ground there, the criminals work with their supercomputer.
“By the time we’re finished, money won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on,” says Wynn to his colleagues, as it finally dawns on us that they’re possibly going to ruin the economy of the United States.
Keenan Wynn was an actor going back to the 1940s. His father Ed Wynn (1886-1966 esophageal cancer) was also an actor and comedian. He said of his son as an actor: “He’s the one who when Esther Williams jumps in a pool, he gets splashed.” Thus, Keenan Wynn was in a couple of Williams movies and played the unsympathetic lead on many occasions.
Toni and Montgomery are spotted and barely escape with their lives as bullets are fired at their car. They are now the target of this organisation.
“I’m scared too,” Toni breaks down in tears in Montgomery’s bedroom and they end up sleeping together, only to have the bad buys track his numberplate and turn up at the front door in the morning… It all leads to kidnapping, escape in a light aircraft and finally Toni and Montgomery get in touch with the FBI… all before a climax of the possible ruin of the United States through the US Federal Reserve, then based at Culpeper, Virginia.
There are appearances by Clu Gulager (1928-) and Sam Bottoms (1955-2008 brain tumour) as FBI agents who immediately arrest the pair…
Prime Risk is a low-budget film and the tone is of a very competent film nonetheless. It’s got a good cast considering the amount of money that was probably spent on it… and did I mention I like Toni Hudson?
The climax is exciting and in the best low-budget tradition uses the cheapest of locations to shoot it in. Check it out if you are a fan of 1980s movies and you like films which have touch of ingenuity at their heart of their plot.
Hudson was married for several years to Dirk Benedict (1945-) from the A-Team and Battlestar Galactica tv series. He has an infamous reputation among fans who say he’s not a nice guy. Toni is the father of his two sons. She still acts and while never of an award calibre, she still looks pretty darn good. But I’m obsessed with this girl’s looks and her brains as she plays it in Prime Risk. She even has a lovely laugh. I wish I had a girlfriend like her once upon a time… the truth is I did but I mucked it up! Will I ever get over the cult experience of Prime Risk? Let’s go rob an ATM!
For an interview with Michael Farkas PRESS HERE.