ACTION U.S.A. (1988) - A film that lives up to it's title. This film's sole purpose is to cram as much stuntwork humanly possible into 89 minutes. This Waco, Texas-lensed obscurity's minimal plot begins with Billy (Ron Shaft) being abducted by goons working for crime kingpin Frank Navarro (80's cameo king Cameron Mitchell) while making love to girlfriend Carmen (Barri Murphy; ARMED FOR ACTION - 1992). The goons hang Billy Ray upside-down in a traveling helicopter to try to get him to reveal where he hid a fortune in diamonds that he stole from Navarro, while Carmen follows the helicopter in her Porche. The goons accidentally drop Billy Ray in a lake, so Carmen picks him up, the goons steal a car and the chase is on (Why the goons didn't just chase them in the helicopter is a question better left unasked). Billy Ray obliquely reveals to Carmen the location of the diamonds just before the goons shoot him dead. Before the goons can grab Carmen, she is saved by FBI agents Osborn (Gregory Scott Cummins; WATCHERS III - 1994) and McKinnon (William Hubbard Knight), who take her into protective custody. With no planes available (again, a question better left unasked), Osborn and McKinnon must drive their uncooperative witness to their destination, while Carmen tries to decipher the mysterious clues Billy Ray gave her before he died. This gives the film plenty of opportunities to show numerous car chases, gunfights and stunts, as Navarro's hired hitman Drago (Ross Hagen; THE PHANTOM EMPIRE - 1987) and assistant Hitch (Hoke Howell; THE GLOVE - 1978) try to kidnap Carmen and bring her back to Navarro. That scenario becomes moot when Carmen leads her two FBI escorts to the stolen diamonds. Now, our hapless trio must fight for their lives, which includes a stop at a redneck bar where a huge fight breaks out and Drago takes Osborn hostage. McKinnon and Carmen swing into action to rescue Osborn but, during the daring rescue, McKinnon is seriously injured. Osborn and Carmen (who are growing quite fond of each other) make it to the pick-up point, only to discover that someone Osborn trusted has betrayed them. With McKinnon's life hanging in the balance, Osborn and Carmen must figure a way out of this mess. Lights...Camera...Action!  Though nothing but a series of stunts held together by the thinnest plot imaginable, ACTION U.S.A. is still an enjoyable romp, thanks to the plentiful violence, nudity and humor. This is the first film directed by professional stuntman John Stewart, who would later make the excellent action film CARTEL (1990; also featuring Cummings) and the disappointing thriller CLICK: THE CALENDAR GIRL KILLER (1991; starring Hagen, who also co-directed). It's easy to see that Stewart was cutting his teeth here, as the stunt sequences are quite good, but he has difficulty when it comes to straight dialogue scenes. Still, this is nothing more than an excuse for Stewart to give his stunt buddies an opportunity to shine, and shine they do. Cars fly through the air, crash through motor homes, houses and explode into fireballs. There are also high falls, fire gags and gunfights galore. While the film tosses all logic out the window from the very first scene (Billy Ray's modified Corvette may be a thing of over-accessorized beauty, but there is no way in hell it would ever be street legal), it's always nice to see Gregory Scott Cummins in a rare good guy role. If stunts and action are your thing, this film is a good bet. William Smith (THE LOSERS - 1970) puts in an extended cameo as Cummins' crooked boss. Make sure you stay through the closing credits to see some funny outtakes involving Smith and Ross Hagen. Also starring Gary Beall, Malcolm King, David Sanders and Brennon Hatley. Originally released on VHS by Imperial Entertainment Corp. and not available on DVD. Not Rated, but definitely R-rated material thanks to bloody violence and plentiful nudity.

AGAINST THE LAW (1997) - The ever-busy Jim Wynorski (GHOULIES 4 - 1993, SORCERESS - 1994) directed this modern-day western in cop's clothes. Richard grieco stars as Rex, a fame-seeking fast-draw killer who rides around in a red Cadillac convertable challenging cops to see who can draw their gun the quickest. He always wins, taking the dead cops' guns and badges as souveniers. While watching TV, Rex spots reporter Maggie Hewitt (Nancy Allen) telling the story of how local cop John Shepard (Nick Mancuso, playing his normal alcoholic role) single-handedly gunned down a drug gang. Rex contacts the interested reporter and tells her that he wants her to film his quick-draw challenge with Shepard. After a series of double-crosses in which Shepard's partner and other cops get shot, Rex gets his wish, meeting Shepard on the beach for a showdown. Better production values than normal for a Wynorski film, it is also the first film he has done in recent memory that contains no nudity. He must be softening with age. AGAINST THE LAW is an OK actioner if you can ignore some implausable situations. Also starring Steven Ford, Thomas Mikal Ford, Gary Sandy, Jaime Pressly, James Stephens and a cameo by Heather Thomas (TV's THE FALL GUY [1981 - 1986]). Also known as GUNSLINGER. A Peachtree Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated.

AMERICAN FORCE 3: HIGH SKY MISSION (1989) - In between making their never-ending series of cut-and-paste martial arts films, producers Joseph Lai and sister Betty Chan (for their IFD Films And Arts Limited production company) and directors Godfrey Ho and Philip Ko created a series of six unrelated patchwork war actioners under the "AMERICAN FORCE" banner (and later, changing it to "AEROLITE FORCE", probably because American soldiers are not looked at by the world under the same glorifying light as they were back in the 80's), where they hired their usual bunch of lower-tier Caucasian actors, dressed them in military fatigues, filmed them running around a wooded park firing their weapons and then spliced the footage into some unreleased Hong Kong or Filipino war film, changing the plot to reflect the inclusion of the newly-shot scenes. As you can imagine, the films are a schizophrenic mess, but they're not without their own twisted entertainment value, even if it's for all the wrong reasons. In HIGH SKY MISSION, the film opens with a General MacArthur-like figure explaining to a small squad of American troops (while a cat walks aimlessly in the background!) that the Japanese are taking over the Philippines by joining forces with Filipino guerillas and killing everyone that don't share their new outlook for the country. Since the Japs just trounced us at Pearl Harbor, the General tells his men that they must go to the Philippines and defeat Tojo before the country is lost forever to the yellow menace. In the film proper, a group of Filipino freedom fighters must battle the Japanese and the guerillas to maintain their territory. When the nine American soldiers agree to help the freedom fighters in their cause (in a hilariously bad edit of old and new footage), but split up to do so, it gives the film an excuse to interrupt the main story every twenty minutes or so to splice in the new footage of the American soldiers firing their weapons at faceless enemy soldiers (When the leader of the Japanese forces hears that the Americans sent over only nine soldiers to fight them, he says, "They're sending a mosquito to fight a buffalo!"). The American soldiers, led by Cobra (Frank Juhasz) and Bazooka (Mike Abbott), see their numbers being slowly thinned-out by a single Japanese soldier, who kills three of the squad before he is cornered and blows himself up with a grenade. The squad (who act more like high school jocks than a well-trained Special Forces squad) then set a trap for an advance squad of guerillas, but the guerillas spot a lit cigarette and the word "Fuck" spelled-out with piss on the ground, both left there by careless American squad members, and almost escape the trap. Meanwhile, the Filipino freedom fighters continue to fight the Japs and their guerilla cohorts and must now blow up a bridge that is an important thoroughfare for the Jap supply line. Can they do it? And what will become of the Americans?  While nothing but a series of gunfights and explosions, HIGH SKY MISSION is still a complete mess. The dialogue, which consists mainly of exchanges like this between two American soldiers: Soldier #1: "Fuck you!" Soldier #2: "Your mother!" is about as inept as the American soldiers themselves. They are the most careless and juvenile bunch of soldiers that you're ever likely to see. Since the film is set during World War II, imagine my surprise in spotting 60's-era fighter jets, helicopters and weapons prominently displayed throughout. That's partly what makes these films so endearing. The filmmakers just don't care about things so miniscule as coherency, matching shots or keeping within the proper timeline, as long as they can turn in a film that is feature length. Director Philip Ko (also responsible for the first two films in this series, AMERICAN FORCE 1: THE BRAVE PLATOON [1988] and AMERICAN FORCE 2: THE UNTOUCHABLE GLORY [1988]) and screenwriter "Benny Chu" (actually a pseudonym for Godfrey Ho, who directed the fourth film in this series, AMERICAN FORCE 4: SOLDIER TERMINATORS [1988]) have created a patchwork film where nothing makes any sense. People do the most asinine things at the most inopportune times, the dialogue is ridiculous and the matching of old and new footage looks to have been done by a blind man. This film has to look up just to be at ground level and that's what makes it so watchable. Also starring Arthur Garrett, Gregory Rivers, Peter Bosch, Patrick Hedman, Alan English, Tim Nugent, Edowan Bursmea, Geoffrey Paul, Man Wai Lam, James Hsu, Chung Hung Lau, Ernest Yik and Yik Chee Wong. Never available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

AMERICAN FORCE 4: SOLDIER TERMINATORS (1988) - This is the fourth of six cut-and-paste war actioners from producers Joseph Lai and Betty Chan's IFD Films & Arts Ltd. production company and directed by Godfrey Ho or Philip Ko using a variety of aliases (here, Ho directed using the name "Charles Lee" and scripted using the pseudonym "Benny Hyman"), all of them under the "AMERICAN FORCE" banner (later changed to "AEROLITE FORCE" to downplay the American angle, thanks, in part, to the negative way America is perceived in the world today) and all of them unrelated. In this chapter, a squad of American soldiers hire a Filipino named Alexander Sampson (in an awful example of intercutting old and new footage, the old footage being an unreleased Filipino war actioner) to go undercover and join the revolutionary group The New People's Freedom Army, who are looking for new recruits to help overthrow the government. Alexander, along with a handful of new recruits, are blindfolded and brought by boat to the Freedom Army's training camp on an island somewhere in Malaysia, where they all go through basic training by the Freedom Army's leader, Abdul. Alexander turns out to be the most gifted of the new recruits, so after the training sessions are over, Abdul puts Alexander in charge of his own squad of soldiers and tells him to help "carry on the cause". Alexander and his squad head for the mainland and join forces with a larger Freedom Army squad, where they plan on attacking government military outposts. Meanwhile, in the newly-shot footage that interrupts the old footage every twenty minutes or so, a trio of American soldiers, led by the eyepatch-wearing Tom (Paul John Stanners), try to rendezvous with Alexander, but are met with resistance by Commander Victor (Anders Hallberg), who sends his men to kill the trio. This leads to several scenes of gunfights and hand-to-hand combat. When the military forces attacks Alexander's camp and many Freedom Army members are killed or injured, the camp's leader believes "someone sold us down the river" and begins his search for the traitor. Alexander finds himself in quite the conundrum when he falls in love with female Freedom Army member Terry and finds himself torn between his sense of duty and affairs of the heart. How will he resolve his problem? Will Tom meet Commander Victor for a showdown to the death in the finale? If you've seen any of Godfrey Ho's pastiche films, I think you already know the answers.  This is a particularly weak film, even for Godfrey Ho, and that's saying a lot. While there are some bloody action sequences, including Alexander scooping-up a man who just had both his arms blown off below the elbows (played by an apparently real double-amputee, who looks like his stumps were dipped in stage blood), the film itself is a bloody mess and doesn't make an ounce of sense. For one, Alexander is sent to infiltrate the People's Army and then report back to Tom, but there are already so many traitors within the group, it's hard to believe that Alexander could possibly have any new intelligence to offer. The film really bogs down during the middle section, where Alexander gets into a battle with the military and gets his kneecap blown off, which results in the amputation of his leg. Rather than retiring and taking it easy for the rest of his life, he agrees to help Tom (in another badly edited sequence of old and new footage) by continuing to stay undercover at the People's Army. He simply straps-on a prosthetic leg and continues his mission, oblivious to the fact that the same people he is working for are the ones responsible for the loss of his leg! The newly-shot footage is standard Godfrey Ho fodder: People duking it out or firing guns at each other, which offers nothing to the rest of the film (Although Tom repeating "Get up and fight!" over and over to one of Victor's goons and then shooting him in the back when he does is pretty funny, as is the final shot, where one of Tom's men fakes getting shot and then jumps up to surprise them when they rush to his aide. I would have shot him for real on the spot!). As normal for these films, the English dubbing is a hoot ("Tell that to the guy way down in Hell!" is my favorite line of dialogue here), but the lack of full balls-on action hampers one's enjoyment. AMERICAN FORCE 5: MISSION DYNAMO (1988) and AMERICAN FORCE 6: SOLDIER CHAMPION (1988) are the final two entries in the series. Also starring Frank Juhasz, Patrick Hedman, Earling Ho, Derrick Bishop, Vincent Pratchett, Nick Hotchison, Mick Silke, Christian Comte, Gerhard Howe, Crow Francis and Jackson Leon. Never available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a fullscreen Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

AMERICAN JUSTICE (1985) - During the late 70's and 80's, illegal immigration from Mexico was a hot topic (it's regained it's popularity as a hot-button political issue as of late) and films were made to cash-in on the subject, including Telly Savalas in BORDER COP (1979), Charles Bronson in BORDERLINE (1980) and Jack Nicholson in THE BORDER (1982). This film, originally known as JACKALS (a term for people who guide the illegals across the border), was one of the last. Ex-cop Joe Case (Jack Lucarelli) comes to an unnamed Arizona border town (actually filmed in Nogales, Arizona) to visit his ex-partner Dave Buchanon (Jameson Parker), a U.S. Border Patrol cop, and his wife Jess (Jeannie Wilson). While riding a horse alone in the desert, Joe watches as crooked Border Patrol cop Jake Wheeler (Gerald McRaney) shoots and kills a female wetback as she tries to escape after Jake raped her. Joe and Dave go to headquarters to report the killing to Sheriff Lawrence Mitchell (Wilford Brimley), but Jake is in the room (and it's at this time that Joe realizes that Jake is a cop). Joe tells Dave that Jake is the killer and when they go to the scene of the crime, the body is missing (Jake had one of his cronies rebury the body in another location). With no victim to be found, it's Joe's word against Jake's and even Dave has a hard time believing it. Just to be sure, Dave has his friend Warner (Warner Glenn), an expert tracker, go over the crime scene again. He finds a trail to follow and they find the girl buried in a new grave. Warner tracks the guy that reburied her and Dave arrests him, but Jake kills him with automatic sniper fire to keep him from talking. Sheriff Mitchell begins to suspect Jake when his alibi for the girl's murder doesn't pan out, but he can't do anything without more proof (among other reasons to be disclosed later). Joe and Dave cross the border to get proof of Jake's illegal women-selling business, where we learn that Sheriff Mitchell was Jake's business partner. When Jake threatens Jess' life and then kills Dave (in a scene that's pretty hard to watch), a wounded Joe must find a way to bring Jake down. Joe travels down to Mexico on a tip from a remorseful Sheriff Mitchell to get revenge the old-fashioned way, using the same shotgun to kill Jake that Jake used to kill Dave. It takes three blasts to kill Jake, but Joe seem to relish every pull of the trigger.  This is a pretty decent low-budget action flick that got some minor notoriety when it was made because both Jameson Parker (PRINCE OF DARKNESS - 1987) and Gerald McRaney (who got his career started by appearing in such low-rent horror films like NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR - 1969) were co-starring at the time on the successful comedy detective TV series SIMON & SIMON (1981 - 1989). Made during summer hiatus in 1985, this film must have come as a shock to fans of the series, especially Parker's death at the hands of McRaney who, at the time, wasn't really known for playing bad guys (He showed us much later that he would excel at it, especially on HBO's Western series DEADWOOD). Even though Wilford Brimley gets top billing, he has very little to do here besides looking concerned and trying to atone for his sins in the end. The script, by Dennis A. Pratt (who also plays the role of Connie, one of Jake's men), concentrates on Gerald McRaney's and Jack Lucarelli's (who's rather bland) characters, making this a study in contrasts. The gauntlet in the apartment building that Jameson Parker and Lucarelli (who are both the Producers on this) have to shoot their way through, resulting in Parker's death at McRaney's hands, is expertly filmed and a nail-biter. Director Gary Grillo (this is his only movie directorial credit, although he did direct an episode of Parker's and McRaney's series and was Assistant Director on many films, such as BLOODY MAMA - 1970) keeps things moving at a brisk clip and films nearly every scene with an over-abundance of dusty atmosphere. It makes you thirsty just watching it. It enjoyed this film, thanks to McRaney's badass performance and some well-staged gunfights. Give it a try. Also starring Rick Hurst, Sharon Hughes, David Steen, Robert Covarrubias and Randy Hall. A Lightning Video Release. Rated R. I have one question that has been bothering me for years: Has Wilford Brimley ever been young and, if he was, did he come out of his mother's womb with that beard?

ANGEL OF FURY (1991) - Here's an Indonesian action film starring high-kicking Cynthia Rothrock and written by Christopher Mitchum (sorry to report that he doesn't appear on-screen). Rothrock is courier Nancy Bolan, who enters Jakarta carrying a metal case that may or may not contain a top-secret computer coveted by bad guy Nick Stewart (Peter O'Brian; THE STABILIZER - 1984; THE INTRUDER - 1986). When Nancy manages to get her case stolen after a fight on a dock, followed by a speedboat/jet ski chase, she makes it her mission to protect the other two metal cases that will soon arrive in town, one being a decoy case and the other containing the real computer. Guess what? She ends up losing both of those cases, too; one at an airport that erupts into a gunfight and another that is dropped off by helicopter, which results in another gunfight and a car/helicopter explosion. It's apparent that Nancy has a traitor amongst her ranks, but she gets fired from her position because she was in charge of the operation. Now that Nick (who for some reason is now called "Bolt") has all three cases, he still needs Nancy to open them because all the cases are rigged with bombs that will explode if not opened using the right code. Nick has his men kidnap Sarah (Kiki Amir), a little girl who is close to Nancy, in a crowded mall, which leads to a car/motorcycle chase that results in Sarah getting shot in the back and dying in Nancy's arms (Geesh, Nancy really isn't good at protecting things, is she?). Nick finally kidnaps Nancy (with a knock-out dart to the neck) and tortures her (in a scene lifted directly from LETHAL WEAPON - 1987) to get the combination to the cases. She gives up the codes rather easily, but it seems Nick really only has two of the cases and they are both the dummies. Nancy figures out who has the third case (it's someone very close to her), which leads to an extended fight/stunt sequence in an abandoned warehouse, where the case passes from person to person until only one is left standing. Can you guess who that will be?  Although quite violent at times, this Indonesian actioner, directed by Ackyl Anwari (VIRGINS FROM HELL - 1987), seems to be lacking in the plot department and thanks to some friends overseas, I now know why. The version available on U.S. VHS is shorn of nearly twenty minutes and clocks-in at barely 72 minutes long. It was also retitled (it was made under the title TRIPLE CROSS and is available in foreign markets under that name), re-dubbed and re-scored in Los Angeles, disposing of the original titles, dialogue and music tracks. Sadly, most of the missing footage seems to deal with Peter O'Brian's character, who is called "Bolt" throughout the film even though in the closing credits he's listed as "Nick Stewart". Besides the opening scene, where O'Brian is torturing a man with a machete and a hand-powered drill (a huge chunk of this sequence seems to be missing, as it opens on a jarring note), we don't see much of him until the finale, which severely minimalizes his bad guy status (One funny bit of dialogue has Rothrock mockingly calling him "Rambo"). There are plenty of chases, stunts, bloody bullet squib deaths (including the little girl) and Ms. Rothrock's high-kicking abilities, but by editing out much of the exposition scenes, this version of the film deprives fans of Indonesian insanity one of the major enjoyments of watching these films: The crazy dialogue. Without that, all we have to enjoy is the violence, making ANGEL OF FURY seem more like an American action film than an Indonesian one, something I'm sure the powers-that-be that had this recut were aiming for. Try to find the full version instead. It's out there if you do your homework. Produced by Gope T. Samtani for Rapi Films. Deddy Armand, who wrote the screenplays for some of the most balls-out Indonesian actioners (including the two previously mentioned O'Brian starrers, as well as the Chris Mitchum opus FINAL SCORE [1986], the best Indo action flick of all time), is given story credit here. Since this is Mitchum's only credited screenplay, logic dictates that Armand was probably responsible for 90% of the script. Not to be confused with Rothrock's LADY DRAGON 2 (1993), which is also known as ANGEL OF FURY (Also produced by Gope T. Samtani for Rapi Films and released on VHS in the U.S. by Imperial Entertainment, the same company that released this film. Confused yet?). Also starring Chris Barnes, Zainal Abidin, Roy Marten, A. Melasz, Tanaka, Minati Atmanegara, Jureck Klyne and Robby Sutara, The bastardized version was released on U.S. VHS by Imperial Entertainment Corp. in SP mode and by Best Film & Video in the cheap EP mode. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

ARMED FOR ACTION (1992) - In this low-budget regional actioner, police Sgt. Phil Towers (David Harrod) is transporting Mafia hitman David Montel (Rocky Patterson) across country by car (why they didn't take a plane is never explained) for his trial in Los Angeles. They stop in a small Texas town for a bite to eat, unaware that crooked cops Detective West (Joe Estevez) and Detective Carter (Dean Nolen) have brought some Mafia goons to this town, cut the phone lines and are waiting to ambush Sgt. Towers and kill Montel, because his testimony could put a lot of crooked cops and Mafia chieftans behind bars. Two local yokels, Alex (J. Scott Guy) and Jake (Shane Boldin), grow suspicious of all the new faces in town (who seem to outnumber the local population 5 to 1) and end up helping Sgt. Towers fight the bad guys. When West tries to kill Montel while he is taking a shit in the bathroom of the town's diner, Towers shoots West (he only wings him in the head), then head to the town's bar, where they meet feisty Sarah (Barri Murphy), Alex's girlfriend. When the crooked cops kill the town sheriff (Jack Gould) and Jake's girlfriend Lori (Tracy Spaulding), Jake and Alex (who are avid hunters) go to the bar to lend a hand to Towers, while Sarah tries to find a way out of town and get help. She fails miserably and is taken prisoner. When West and his men surround the bar, Towers has no choice but to trust Montel. He gives Montel a gun and the quartet are able to escape the bar and go to Alex's house where, just like any good Texan, he has a stash of automatic weapons and hand grenades. When West and his goons surround Alex's house and threaten Sarah's life, Montel turns hero and saves her life. With Sarah now safely in Alex's arms, Towers, Jake, Alex and Montel begin picking-off West's men one-by-one until only West is left. West and Montel agree to go at it mano-a-mano, but Montel pulls a fast one and shoots West dead. Towers lets Montel walk away to freedom, but promises to recapture him some day. This impossibly-cheap action flick, directed by Bret McCormick (THE ABOMINATION - 1986; OZONE! ATTACK OF THE REDNECK MUTANTS - 1986), is terrible for one reason only: It has no action. Talky to the point of making you think you're watching a Henry Jaglom film, ARMED FOR ACTION fails miserably as an action film and the unbelievable situations and plot devices (script by actor Ted Prior, who had the good sense not to appear in this) further pulls this flick down into the mire. When Joe Estevez (who is absolutely horrible here) says to bartender Sarah, "Where I come from, a buck-fifty doesn't pay for the ice!" after she charges him $1.50 for a bourbon, you'll be screaming that the producers (Executive Produced by David Winters and David Prior) should have put that $1.50 into the film's budget. The most glaring budgetary restriction is the town itself. It's only populated by five residents and it tries to (unconvincingly) explain this away by telling us that everyone's away hunting! Oh, really? Does that include all the women and children, too? We know that there are supposed to be children in this town because a schoolbus comes into play (lamely, I might add) in the quartet's escape from the bar. By the time we get to the film's money shot, the shootout at Alex's house, the viewer has long-since lost interest. Joe Estevez looks like he's in a coked-out haze throughout this film and either screams out his lines or delivers them in a wide-eyed stare. I'm sure brother Martin Sheen is very proud. This film is about as much fun as slicing your dick open with a paring knife and dipping it in gasoline. Also starring Kirk McKinney and John Pask. Director McCormick (who sometimes uses the name "Max Raven") made a bunch of regional Texas-lensed action films during the 90's. Let's hope they're not as bad as this one. An Action International Pictures Home Video Release. Not Rated.

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) - I'm a big fan of director John Carpenter, even if he does have the capacity to run hot and cold. This is his second theatrical film (following DARK STAR - 1974; which was actually Carpenter's student film until producer Jack H. Harris gave him money to pad-out the film with 15 minutes of footage to make it theatrical length), and was part of the Carpenter renaissance which would continue until 1988 (at least in my opinion), which continued with HALLOWEEN (1978), THE FOG (1979), ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981), THE THING (1982), CHRISTINE (1983), STARMAN (1984), BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986), PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987) and THEY LIVE (1988). After that, Carpenter seems to have lost most of his mojo (or maybe he was just tired of dealing with the Hollywood System), but even his worst later films (like GHOSTS OF MARS - 2001) are better than most horror flicks (Especially after more than one viewing. Try it and you may agree with me.). I consider ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 one of his crowning achievements, not because it is well acted or even well paced, but because it shows what a fledgling director can do with plenty of imagination on what had to be an extremely small budget. The majority of the film takes place at a nearly abandoned police precinct (a newer one has been built across town), where police officer Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker; THE ZEBRA KILLER - 1974), dispatcher Leigh (Lauurie Zimmer; who had a very short acting career. This was her first film and her last film was a bit part in the TV movie THE SURVIVAL OF DANA in 1979) and a skeleton crew must deal with a final busload of prisoners who are being delivered to the precinct. As soon as the prisoners step off the bus, most of them are picked-off by a huge gang equipped with sniper rifles with silencers, before Ethan pulls prisoner Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston; RATTLERS - 1976) out the bus and puts him in a cell. For some reason (never made clear in the film), all the gangs in town have banded together and have only one thing on their mind: Taking over Precinct 13 and killing everyone inside (An earlier scene shows a little girl [Kim Richards; THE CAR - 1977, before becoming a national joke on The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills reality show during the 2010 - 2011 season] getting an ice cream cone from a truck [whose driver has just been killed and replaced by a gang member] and then getting unmercifully shot in the chest by a smiling gang member and dying on the sidewalk. The look she gives after being shot will live in your memory far a long time and whenever you mention this film to someone, this is the scene they immediately remember and rightfully so. It's one of the 70's most powerful moments in an action film.). Ethan and Napoleon form an uneasy alliance as the gangs first shoot out all the windows and then start picking-off the people in the precinct one-by-one. Ethan lets Napolean out of his jail cell and gives him weapons, a trust that is not looked upon as reasonable by some of the precinct's inhabitants. When the gang go on a full-out assault on the precinct, the nay-sayers change their minds almost immediately, as Napoleon proves to be a huge asset.  Carpenter definitely based this film on the Western films of John Ford (the Indians attacking the fort) and George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968; the zombies attacking the living), as the gang members keep coming (as one is gunned down, another takes his place) and they never utter a single word. Making them silent was a gutsy move by Carpenter, because we really have no idea why this gang are doing what they are doing. Their only motivation seems to be kill, kill, kill, something that was new to the genre of action films at the time. While the acting is nothing to write home about, Darwin Joston has one killer final bit of dialogue as the film ends and will have you smiling from ear-to-ear. This is a great action film to be seen with a group of friends, because if they have never seen it, they will thank you later and if they have seen it before, you probably will never have anyone give you a thumbs-down. It's a great sophomore effort by a talented director that is full of buzzing bullets, shattering glass, flying paper, people dying and an unnerving sense of unease that stays with you until the final scene. If you have never seen it, buy all means put it on your must-see list. Please ignore the awful 2005 remake, as it is nothing but a bastardization of a classic. Also starring Martin West, Tony Burton, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Loomis, Frank Doubleday, Henry Brandon, Gilbert De La Pena and John Carpenter as an uncredited gang member. Originally available on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and available on widescreen DVD from Image Entertainment. Also available on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory. Rated R. NOTE: Carpenter's latest film (as of the writing of this review), THE WARD (2010), got a token limited regional theatrical release before being dumped on DVD, Video On Demand (VOD) and then Pay Cable.

AVENGING FORCE (1986) - This exciting revision of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) is edge-of-your-seat entertainment from beginning to end and is probably Michael Dudikoff's best film role. The film opens up with two Special Forces agents being hunted down by four masked killers in the Louisiana bayou. After the men are killed, we find out the killers form four points of the Pentangle Hunting Fraternity, a sick group of politically-connected thrill seekers who "hunt" people that don't fall into their twisted criteria of what's best for America. The leader of the Pentangle is Glastenbury (the late John P. Ryan, in one of his best villianous roles) and the next target is Councilman Larry Richards (the late Steve James), who is running for Senator and, since he is Black, makes him a target for the all-white Pentangle. They try to kill Larry while he is riding on a float with his family during Mardi Gras, but Larry's best friend Matt Hunter (Dudikoff), an ex-Secret Service agent turned rancher, is along for the ride and stops the assassination, but not before one of Larry's young sons is shot and killed. Pentangle, pissed that they missed their target, redouble their efforts and now have Matt in their sights, too. Their next attempt ends badly for more members of Pentangle, as Matt and Larry kill them on a docked ship and issue a challenge to Pentangle. Glastenbury accepts and sends his men to Matt's farm, where they burn down his house, kill Larry (with a crossbow bolt to the back), his wife and other son (both shot at close range) and kidnap Matt's young sister Sarah (Allison Gereighty). They make Matt play the game where the four members of Pentangle are the hunters and Matt is the prey. After Matt saves Sarah from a bayou brothel run by a transvestite madam, they must travel through the swamp while Glastenbury and his three masked cohorts are close behind. Matt will have to use all his Secret Service training, as he kills three members of the hunting party one-by-one, by impalement, crossbow and knife. Glastenbury gets away, but not for long, as Matt shows up at his home and they battle using the many weapons scattered throughout Glastenbury's well-equipped home. Matt wins and then makes a surprising discovery as to who the fifth point of the Pentangle really is.  Directed with energy by Sam Firstenberg (who also directed Dudikoff and James in AMERICAN NINJA a year earlier) and written by James Booth (who also has a key role as Admiral Brown), AVENGING FORCE is just one breath-taking action setpiece after another. The Mardi Gras massacre in the beginning is one such sequence, where dozens of innocent bystanders, cops and members of the parade are gunned down, while Matt and Larry disarm and kill the assailants. Shortly afterwards, there's a stunt-filled car chase that ends on a docked ship, where Matt and Larry deliver their second beatdown of the Pentangle. Glastenbury gets so pissed off at the end result, he shoots fellow member Parker (Loren Farmer) in the gut for his bungling of the hit and leaves him on the ground bleeding and moaning as he walks away. There are also shocking bits of violence, such as the attack on Matt's house, where Larry, his wife and son (who takes a real nasty fall off a burning roof with Matt) all die horribly. John P. Ryan stands out in his role as a man with no conscience (if he had a mustache, he would be twirling it!), as we see in the finale when, even though he's been stabbed in the leg by Matt just a few scant hours earlier, we see him having a formal dinner with family and friends as if nothing ever happened. He is capably backed up by character actors Marc Alaimo and Bill "Superfoot" Wallace as members of his hunting party. This Cannon Films production (Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were the producers) is one of their better films and will have you wondering why it is not yet available on DVD. I guarantee that once you watch this, you'll never look at the John Woo-directed HARD TARGET (1993) the same way again. Same location, same plot, same outcome. Maybe that's why this earlier film is not available on DVD! Track this down on VHS and watch it now! Also starring Karl Johnson, Richard Boyle and Sylvia Joseph. A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release. Finally available on Blu-Ray from Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber. Rated R.

BEST MEN (1997) - A tight script that combines comedy and tragedy with excellent results. Toss in some unexpected bursts of violence along with some true acts of friendship and what you get is a thoroughly involving crime caper that hooks you from the beginning and never lets you go. Director Tamra Davis (GUNCRAZY - 1992) uses what had to be a limited budget to great effect, limiting locations to a single street for most of the film and culminating in a wild bus ride for the finale. Stars Dean Cain, Fred Ward, Luke Wilson, Sean Patrick Flanery, Brad Dourif, Andy Dick and Drew Barrymore turn in top-notch performances. These are people you actually care about. If you're wondering why I haven't discussed the plot, it's because I want you to watch this film knowing nothing about it. After viewing it you'll realize that the title has two meanings, the most obvious and a much deeper one. BEST MEN (shot under the title INDEPENDENCE) also has a downbeat ending that actually brought a smile to my face. This may seem to be a contradiction, but it isn't. Watch it to see what I mean. This film gets my highest recommendation. An Orion Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

BLACK FIRE (1985) - Another outrageous war actioner from late director Teddy Page (BLOOD DEBTS - 1983; JUNGLE RATS - 1987; BLOOD HANDS - 1990), who also co-wrote the screenplay with co-star Jim Gaines (who was responsible for the screenplays of other Page actioners WAR WITHOUT END - 1986; PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987 and FINAL REPRISAL - 1988). The film opens with a lone Vietnamese peasant docking his small boat on the shore of a river, where he is immediately surrounded by a platoon of gooks who are about to shoot him when he doesn't answer their questions. What the gooks fail to see are the five hollow reeds in the water moving closer to them and, in their best RAMBO imitation, out pops Sgt. Frank Johnson (Rom Kristoff; NINJA'S FORCE - 1984), Jim Anderson (Jim Gaines; FIREBACK - 1983) and Lance (Jerry Bailey) out of the water (don't worry about the names of the other two soldiers as they're about to be killed), guns blazing and killing all the gooks. Frank and his men are on a mission and two of his men are killed by a couple of treetop snipers (See, I told you!), whom Frank blows-up with an explosive-tipped crossbow bolt. Frank, Jim and Lance make their way to an enemy POW camp, but when they see that all of the American prisoners have been moved someplace else (Frank mentions the "Hanoi Hilton"), they still decide to attack the camp using grenades, more explosive crossbow bolts and good, old-fashioned gunfire. Lance is killed and Frank suffers from a nasty case of head trauma from an enemy grenade, but Jim rescues him and brings him to a hospital, where Frank has flashbacks to when he was a child and his grandfather trained him to become a ninja (Say what now?). Frank and Jim are transferred to a South American island called San Sebastian to become training officers. After meeting their Commanding Officer (Ruel "Ray" Vernal), Frank and Jim go to a bar for a drink and get into a fight with the locals (What would a Teddy Page film be without a bar fight?). Frank is nearly choked to death, but he has another flashback to his youth and uses his grandfather's ninja training to break the hold. Frank tells Jim about his flashbacks and how he may be a ninja, but Jim just laughs, blaming the head trauma he received in Vietnam. Frank begins taking late night walks around the base and discovers his Commanding Officer is working in cahoots with local crimelord Luis Sanchez (Anthony Carreon) to ship illegal arms to Africa. When Sanchez discovers the truth about Frank's background (he has a red folder marked "BlackFire" that contains Frank's entire life story), he orders the Commanding Officer to kill Frank. The C.O. has Roberto (Jim Moss) try to kill Frank, but Frank's ninja skills save him from getting a bullet between the eyes. Frank and Jim, with the help of the C.O.'s secretary, Nancy (Charlotte Maine), try to bring all the guilty parties to justice, but when Nancy is viciously stabbed to death by Roberto and Frank is framed for her murder (Roberto dips Nancy's dead finger in her own blood and writes "BlackFire" on the floor), Jim has Frank arrested and thrown into a South American prison (so much for being good friends!), where Frank is tortured and abused (including that old prison standby, the pressure hose shower). Frank escapes from prison, regains Jim's trust and goes on a one-man killing spree to get even with all those that wronged him.  While the screenplay is all over the place (the fictional South American island of San Sebastian sure looks an awful lot like the Philippines!) and hardly makes an ounce of sense, the always entertaining director Teddy Page (real name: Teddy Chiu) fills the screen with violent action, whether it is gunfights, explosions or hand-to-hand combat. This film switches constantly from war actioner, to crime drama to prison escape drama, but Page never forgets to deliver the bloody goods, whether it is neck-snapping, slit throats, stabbings or bullet-ridden bodies. The final thirty minutes are especially memorable, as Frank uses his ninja training to bust out of prison (his eyepatch disguise fools no one, though) and, with Jim's help, does a lot of explosive damage. Rom(ano) Kristoff is his usual stiff presence as an actor (but he's a damn good action hero) and it's always good to see Jim Gaines get a larger than normal role (even if he has to write it himself!). BLACK FIRE (also known as CODE NAME BLACKFIRE) is another winner from Teddy Page and uncredited producer K.Y. Lim for his Silver Star Films Company production outfit.  Also starring Dick Ilford, David Light, Ralph Johnson, Errol Giberson, Mars Jadali, Fred Collins, Benny Roberts and John Crocker. Never legitimately released on home video in the U.S. (so what else is new?); the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled tape from Standard Video. BLACK FIRE is now available streaming on Amazon Prime. Not Rated.

BLACK FRIDAY (2000) - When ex-Special Ops squadron leader turned lawyer Dean Campbell (Gary Daniels of RAGE - 1995) finds his house and family taken hostage by foreign terrorists (or so he thinks), the government agency (C.C.O.) that surrounds his house tries to kill him for reasons yet unknown. Bad mistake. After taking out about a half dozen agents at their headquarters, Campbell goes on a one-man war to stop the insanity. Along the way he finds out that the government is preparing to let loose a nerve agent in a neighborhood to see what effects it has on the populace. They plan on making it look as if terrorists are doing the nasty deed. They call this plan Black Friday and this action is to take place in his neighborhood. Campbell recruits some of his old Special Ops buddies to help him stop the attack while the other agency employs an old enemy of Campbell's from his Special Ops squadron. The action is minimal but potent when it does happen and Gary Daniels (also a Producer here) is still one of the best martial arts/actors making films today. Director Darren Doane (usually a music video director) creates a sense of compassion in Campbell that is very rare in action films today. Of course he's a successful businessman with a secret past, but he actually cares about people and the actions that they take. (As the head bad C.C.O. guy says: "A truly benevolent God would never let me inhabit this Earth.") The ending is especially unusual for an action film and takes place a few months after the smoke clears. Daniels is sitting in a diner all alone and strikes up a conversation with the singing counterman about how he is traveling across the United States all alone. The sequence says nearly all there is to say about his character. The music soundtrack is also a major plus (probably thanks to director Doane) as trance, thrash metal and emo play in the background to enhance the mood. I would recommend this film to all fans of action who like a little to think about while watching people getting shot, stabbed or beaten to a pulp. Also starring Christopher J. Stapleton, Ryan Kos, Christopher Janney, Markus Botnick and Paul Gunning. A Trinity Home Entertainment Release. Not Rated.

THE BLACK GODFATHER (1974) - When J.J. (Rod Perry) and his junkie friend Tommy try to rob the house of mob big Tony Burton (Don Chastain), Tommy ends up dead (he forgot to load his gun!) and J.J. gets shot in the arm. He is saved by betting kingpin Nate Williams (Jimmy Witherspoon), who takes small-time crook J.J. under his wing. J.J. rises up through the ranks and, although he's heavily involved in the numbers and prostitution rackets, he's totally against drugs. Since Tony Burton is the drug kingpin in town, J.J. forms an alliance with all the black gangs to bring down Burton and his mob family. J.J. at first issues a verbal warning to Burton to stay out of the black neighborhoods through crooked detective Joe Sterling (Duncan McLeod of GARDEN OF THE DEAD - 1972), a cop on Burton's payroll. Burton doesn't like being threatened, so he goes to Nate's office and offers his own verbal warning to Nate, hoping it will put J.J. in line. Meanwhile, the black gangs are ridding their streets of white pushers and drug suppliers, which only makes Burton hotter under his extremely large collar. J.J. and his gang (one who carries a spear!) kidnap stuttering white drug pusher Cockroach (John Alderman) and interrogate him (in a huge room with a single chair) about where and when the next big drug shipment is happening. After Burton sets up some brothers on trumped-up gun charges, J.J. goes on the offensive and intercepts the big drug shipment, killing some of Burton's men in the process. Burton kills Nate and kidnaps J.J.'s girlfriend Yvonne (Diane Sommerfield), holding her hostage in exchange for the stolen drug shipment (Burton says, "It's time to teach this spook the facts of life!"). This leads to a bloody showdown between J.J. and his gang and Burton and his boys in a hospital. In the end, it's Yvonne who gets the revenge (Nate was her father), thanks to a well-placed meat cleaver to Burton's noggin.  Slow moving and methodical, this well-acted blaxploitation flick seems more interested in the plight of the black man than the usual action elements associated with films of this type. Director/producer/writer John Evans (SPEEDING UP TIME - 1971; BLACKJACK - 1978) waits over an hour to get to the first major gunfight in the film. It's an interesting move that probably infuriated theater audiences looking for an action fix. The characters in this film aren't normal blaxploitation cliches. These people have principles that they adhere to. Hell, even crooked Detective Sterling has a code of ethics even Burton can't break and he pays for it with his life. It was also ingenious in having J.J.'s hideout be a casket warehouse as it gives the scenes filmed there extra meaning and urgency. Rod Perry (THE BLACK GESTAPO - 1975) is quite good as a man on a mission who, when even under extreme pressure, keeps his wits about him. This is not a bad little film (which was a minor hit when originally released) which brings you back to a time when films like this were socially relevant and were considered legitimate theatrical entertainment by a majority of moviegoers. If it were made today, it would go straight to video. Fun Facts: There are two Tony Burtons in this film: The fictional mob boss and actor Tony Burton, who plays Sonny, Nate Williams personal bodyguard. Art Names, who would direct FANGS the same year, was the sound recordist here. Also starring Damu King, Anny Green, Ernie Banks and Betsy Findlay. A Xenon Pictures Release, both on VHS & DVD. Rated R.

BLOOD DEBTS (1983) - Another outlandish Filipino action flick, which is short on logic but full of bloody carnage. When father Mark Collins (Richard Harrison) watches five armed thugs shoot his daughter Sarah (Catherine Miles) and her fiance in the back (he's lucky he didn't witness them gang raping her a few moments earlier), he gets shot in the head but, thankfully, the bullet bounces off his thick skull. When he awakens, he vows revenge on all those involved. In the first ten minutes he manages to kill four of them, which upsets their boss, Bill (Mike Monty). Bill sends his top henchman Peter (James "Jim" Gaines) to follow Mark around and take photos of Mark killing a rapist, beating up three purse snatchers and performing other acts of vigilantism (like killing three men for stealing some drunk guy's bar money and switching golf balls on the last of his daughter's killers with an explosive one!). Tired of killing, Mark hangs up his guns for romantic nights with his wife Yvette (Ann Jackson). You know that's not gonna last long. Bill sends some of his goons to Mark's house, but he ends up killing them all. Bill then has Yvette kidnapped and blackmails Mark (using the photos) into killing people Bill says are criminals that need killing. Bill sends hit woman Liza (Ann Milhench) to accompany Mark on the assigned hits, telling him that if anything happens to Liza, his wife will die. As they go on their killing spree, Mark has an old Vietnam buddy check out the names on the list because he wants to know if they are killing these people for the "right reasons". When Mark finds out that he has been killing all of Bill's illegal business rivals, he decides enough is enough. When he save Liza from a mad rapist (He says to her, "Tell me that I am handsome!"), she helps Mark get revenge. Liza is killed during one of their raids, so Mark goes on a one-man mission to bring Bill down. Bill blows up Yvette with a suitcase bomb, which only pisses Mark off more. Mark storms Bill's heavily guarded mansion, armed with a rocket launcher (and a mini-launcher hidden up his sleeve). May Bill rest in pieces.  BLOOD DEBTS takes such huge leaps in logic, you'll wonder what planet these people are living on. Prolific director Teddy Page (FIREBACK - 1983; BLACK FIRE - 1985; JUNGLE RATS - 1987) has Mark blow away dozens of people (usually in the head, heart or back) without any police presence anywhere. Not a minute goes by without Mark shooting someone and he usually never misses, even when he's not aiming. There's lots of unintentional humor (When Mark kills one thug, he says, "Hey, you monkey. Get your bananas!" What the fuck does that mean?) and some funny intentional gags (One thug wears a M*A*S*H t-shirt while golfing and there's a stickup at "Harrison House Of Wine".) but, if you're looking for a coherent plot to go along with the violence, boy have you got the wrong film! The dubbing is really bad here (a lot worse than usual), Harrison's voice especially, and the script (by Timothy Jorge) is full of lines like, "You bitch!', "You're an asshole!" and "Goddamn it!" Most of the time it sounds like a badly dubbed 70's martial arts flick. If it's mindless action you want and nothing else, this film should suit you fine. You got to love a film that ends with these on-screen words: "Mark Collins, age 45, gave himself up to the authorities after the incident. He is now serving a life sentence." Phew, that puts my mind at ease! Produced by the Silver Star Film Company (RESCUE TEAM - 1981). Also starring Pat Andrew, Willy Williams, Tom Romano and Ron Patterson. A Continental Video Release. Not Rated.

BLOOD WAR (1989) - Here's a little-known (and rarely-seen) Filipino "Muslim rebels vs. Christian military" action film with a strong religious (mainly pro-Muslim) storyline and a huge cast of Filipino talent (The opening credits lists over thirty actors, many who should be recognized by fans of this genre). The film opens with a battle between rebel factions and the Philippines military, where rebel leader Hadji is captured and sent to prison. A kind Colonel allows Hadji to see his family, including young son Basaron (Mabuhay Shiragi), one last time before he spends the rest of his life behind bars, where he tells Basaron to always obey the law, put his trust in God and not end up like him. The Colonel then promises Hadji to keep a close eye on his family and we then watch Basaron grow up in front of our eyes (thanks to the magic of camera dissolves) as he prays in a mosque. The adult Basaron (Anthony Alonzo; W - 1983; CLASH OF THE WARLORDS - 1985) is now a college student studying to be a lawyer and is dating the beautiful Narsheva (Rosemarie De Vera), when he learns that his father was just pardoned from prison. The townspeople hail Hadji as a local hero, but Basaron, who hasn't seen his father since that day in prison when he was a little boy, is a little reticent of his father's hero status since he has grown up following the straight and narrow. Complicating matters is the dastardly Bashir (Renato Del Prado), who has the hots for Narsheva, so he rapes her to stop her from marrying Basaron. Narsheva must marry Bashir to save face (Apparently, Muslim religion is very strict when it comes to women losing their virginity), but she really loves Basaron, who returns back to college after putting a beat-down on Bashir when he catches him slapping Narsheva around. Another civil war breaks out in Basaron's Mindanao village and martial law is put into effect by the military. When Basaron returns home, he is made offers by both sides of the struggle. The rebels want him and his father to join the cause (his father flatly refuses because he is now too old) and the friendly Colonel (who is now a General) wants him to join the Air Force. Basaron, who would rather be left out of this mess and finish up his studies to become a lawyer, decides to become a member of the Air Force, with his father's blessing. Basaron's life in the military is not an easy one because the majority of military recruits are Christians and his loyalty is constantly put into question. Basaron quickly puts those questions to rest when he heroically saves his squadron from a rebel attack. He does his job so well, in fact, that the rebels order his assassination and several unsuccessful attempts are made on his life. A cease fire is eventually agreed to between both sides, but a militant faction of the rebels stir up the shit and play both sides off each other, which forces a violent showdown between the rebels and the military (children are killed in front of Basaron's eyes). Can Basaron put an end to the madness and head back home, where he can question his father about the meaning of peace? What do you think?  This is a slow-moving and less-than-satisfying action flick, directed by Francis 'Jun' Posadas (WILD CATS ATTACK - 1981; WILD FORCE - 1986) and scripted by Conrad Galang. While the film does have its share of action set-pieces, they lack the insane spontaneity we come to expect from Filipino actioners (even the English dubbing lacks the humorous dialogue we depend on to get us through the slow spots). BLOOD WAR seems more concerned with Basaron's internal moral struggle than conflict on the battlefield and while I'm sure this plays well in it's home country, it loses a lot in the translation when played abroad. It's just as preachy as KRIS COMMANDO (1987) when it comes to Muslim vs. Christianity beliefs, but lacks the bloody violence we get to see in KRIS. While BLOOD WAR has lots of gunfights, most of the bullet squibs are confined to the ground and other inanimate objects. Here, when people get shot, they grab their chest or heads and we never get to see any carnage whatsoever. Major plot points are also dropped or forgotten (What happened to Narsheva and Bashir? We never find out.) and the film meanders along at a snail's pace, lumping one internal conflict onto another without a satisfactory conclusion to any of them. While the film ends on an uplifting and Muslim-loving note, it's just too damned earnest and well-meaning for it's own good. This is strictly lower-tier Filipino action that can be skipped by all those except diehard fans that must see every available Philippines-made action flick (A category I'm afraid I fall too easily into!). Also starring Joonee Gamboa, Ernie Ortega, Robert Lee, Fred Moro, Tony Martinez, Bob Duran, Rex Lapid, Dahlia Delgado, Grego Gavino, Naty Santiago, Vic Santos and Dave Moreno. Available on DVD from German company CMV Laservision in a fairly beat-up fullscreen print in both English and German dubbed versions. Not Rated.

THE BORN LOSERS (1967) - I was just thinking how lucky I was growing up in the 60's & 70's. Billy Jack was the first modern action hero to grace the silver screen, paving the way for your Seagals, Van Dammes, Lundgrens and other B-movie action stars. Tom Laughlin's Billy Jack is the American equivilent of Bruce Lee: the strong silent type not afraid to stand up to injustice. The difference with the Billy Jack films, though, is that they were more interested in the politics than action, or should I say, the absurdities of politics. The Billy Jack films preached peace and equality, but didn't have a problem wallowing in the dirt and degradation that it so preached against. THE BORN LOSERS began the Billy Jack mythos, but it wasn't until the second film, titled simply BILLY JACK, that the character took off and orbited in a world all it's own. It's a shame, because THE BORN LOSERS is an all-around better film and seems less dated than the second film, made four years later. The film opens up with a biker gang beating the bejesus out of a wise-mouth motorist (to be fair, he really was asking for it). Billy Jack (Laughlin) steps in and shoots one of the bikers in the hand when he comes at him with a broken bottle. The police arrive and arrest everyone. When Billy Jack stands before the judge, he finds out that his punishment (a $1,000 fine) is much greater than the bikers' (a $135 fine). That is the first injustice. The bikers rape five girls, including college student Vicky (the lovely Elizabeth James, who also wrote the screenplay using the name "E. James Lloyd"), and everyone is scared to testify against the bikers, except Vicky. She identifies her assailants and one of them is the brother of biker leader Danny (Jeremy Slate, who gives an excellent multi-layered performance). He decides the best way to get his brother out of jail is to make sure Vicky never makes it to court to testify. This is the second injustice. Vicky gets police protection, but that proves to be highly ineffective (the police are portrayed as sincere, but handcuffed by laws that protect the criminals more than they do the victims). Enter Billy Jack. He sees Vicky being kidnapped by the bikers and steps in, beating the crap out of three bikers with martial arts he learned as a Green Beret. Billy brings Vicky to his trailer home (overlooking the Pacific Ocean) where she learns some important life lessons about life, love and what it means to have convictions. When the bikers break into Billy's trailer, ransack it and steal all the money he has, he says enough is enough. This is the third, and final, injustice. Be we all know justice without law come with a price. Directed by Laughlin using his "T.C. Frank" pseudonym, THE BORN LOSERS is a pretty damn good piece of 60's exploitation with some political aspirations. Billy Jack is just one colorful character in a film full of colorful characters and he takes a backseat until the final third of the film. Along the way, we learn that Danny and his brother have an abusive father, the town deputy (future director Jack Starrett) likes to take the law into his own hands every now and then and a lot of laws (including punishment for rape) have mostly gone unchanged for the past 40 years. Although some of the dialogue is dated (Vicky postpones her rape by saying, "If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it." and then asking the bikers if they have any acid), the film is still as relevant today as it was back in 1967. The bikers are not portrayed as raving lunatics as with most 60's exploitation biker films. They have dimensions, even if they do commit heinous acts. Danny has a wife and a small son and we see him play with the boy like a doting dad in one scene. Some great character actors portray members of the biker gang, including William Wellman Jr., Robert Tessier and Jeff Cooper. Also starring Stuart Lancaster (GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS - 1973), Edwin Cook and Jane Russell as the mother of one of the rape victims. This was re-released after the enormous success of BILLY JACK and was more successful the second time around. This is available in various editions as part of a DVD compilation with the other Billy Jack films (from Billy Jack Enterprises) and Turner Classic Movies shows a nice letterboxed print on TV every now and then. Available on DVD with the other three Billy Jack films in THE COMPLETE BILLY JACK COLLECTION from Image Entertainment. Hard to believe that this was Rated PG (actually GP) on it's initial release. The subject matter would definitely demand an R rating today.

BROTHERS IN WAR (1988) - Interesting Italian financed, Philippines-lensed Vietnam War actioner. The film opens on some unnamed beachside U.S. military base, where a minimalist USO-like tour, which consists solely of a young woman named Mary (Sherri Rose; IN GOLD WE TRUST - 1990) and her manager Burt (James Pelish), put on a show where Mary strips while singing a bastardized version of "Hey, Big Spender!" on an even more naked stage. Suddenly, the base comes under enemy attack and many soldiers are killed. The base captain assigns soldiers Stereo (Christopher Alan; KARATE WARRIOR 2 - 1988) and Josy (Victor Rivers), who are not exactly the best of friends (Josy keeps calling Stereo "faggot", probably because he prances around in a pair of tight cut-off shorts), to drive Burt and Mary back to safety, which means traversing over forty miles of enemy territory in nothing but a Jeep. Almost immediately, they come under enemy fire and lose the Jeep, forcing them to make it the rest of the way on foot. After discovering that they have been traveling around in circles, Josy, who is a really sadistic and violent piece of work (not only is he a brutal jerk, he's a misogynist to boot), appoints himself as the leader of the quartet and tries to rape Mary later that night, but is stopped by Stereo (who we find out is really named John). Josy eventually does rape Mary when Stereo and Burt fall into a tiger trap during a raging thunderstorm and when they finally free themselves, Josy has abandoned them and the quartet is now a trio. They continue on their journey to safety, stealing a boat containing a bunch on VC corpses and heading down river. Burt is killed when the boat is attacked by a VC family pretending to offer them food and Stereo and Mary are captured by the VC and put in bamboo cages suspended in the river. Stereo tries to keep Mary distracted from the screams of other prisoners being tortured by singing "Jingle Bells" (!) and they eventually screw each other by fucking between the bamboo bars (!!), finally erasing any doubts in the viewers' minds of Stereo actually being a faggot. Mary is then raped by her VC captors and we then discover that Josy is also a prisoner there. When Stereo and Mary finally escape, he has to make a decision whether or not to save Josy. Stereo makes the right decision and saves Josy, only to have Josy sacrifice his own life so Stereo and Mary can escape. Stereo and Mary then try to catch a train to safety, but run smack-dab into a gunfight between a private army and the VC. Will they survive?  Though not as action-packed as we've come to expect from these Italian-made war actioners, BROTHERS IN WAR, directed by Camillo Teti (THE KILLER IS STILL AMONG US - 1986; COBRA MISSION 2 - 1988) under the name "Mark Davis" and scripted by Dardano Sacchetti (DEADLY IMPACT - 1984) under his frequent pseudonym "David Parker Jr.", is still an interesting film thanks to it's unrelenting tone. Though horribly dubbed in English, this film still manages to get the point across that war is hell, and sometimes the enemy is as close as the person fighting alongside you. Josy is a complete irredeemable douchebag and, even when he sacrifices himself at the end of the film, he tells Stereo (who comes back to rescue him a second time) that, if the roles were reversed, he would have let Stereo rot in the torture camp. While there is violence on view here, my favorite parts of the film are the little details, such as when Burt falls into the river and tries to pull himself into a boat by grabbing the arm of a VC corpse, only to discover that the corpse's arm has been blown off, or the opening shot of a frogman silently coming to shore under the cover of darkness and then the lights to the miniskirted Mary's show suddenly comes on, revealing a beach full of horny soldiers. This is not going to be on every action fan's must-see list, but BROTHERS IN WAR is just different enough to merit a look-see. Also starring Ana Silvia Gruyllon, Carles Irving, Thomas Rack, Victor Pujols and Jose Reies. This Fulvia Film Production (produced by Fabrizio De Angelis) never had a legitimate U.S. home video release (So, what's new?). The version I viewed was sourced from a fullscreen Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

BULLETPROOF (1987) - Gary Busey stars as Detective Frank McBain, who is nicknamed "Bulletproof" because he gets shot during every bust (usually because he is just plain reckless), but always survives. The film opens with McBain and partner Billy Dunbar (Thalmus Rasulala; MR. RICCO - 1975) stopping a major weapons transaction between buyer Sharkey (a nattily dressed Danny Trejo) and seller Montoya (Don Pike, also the film's Stunt Coordinator), who delivers the weapons in an ice cream truck. After a shootout (When Sharkey spots McBain, he shouts, "Who the fuck is that?", to which McBain replies, "Your worst nightmare, butt-whore!"), McBain and Dunbar get into a car chase with Sharkey and Montoya, who is driving the ice cream truck, McBain blowing it up with a well placed (and logistically impossible) grenade toss. Of course, McBain takes a bullet in the shoulder and removes it by himself with a pair of tweezers when he gets home, placing it in a glass jar with all the other close calls. We then switch to a bunch of nasty Mexican rebels, led by Pantaro (Juan Fernandez; KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS - 1989), as they ambush a U.S. Army convoy, stealing a top secret tank code-named "Thunderblast" and taking Sgt. O'Rourke (L.Q. Jones; ROUTE 666 - 2001) and Cpl. Devon Shepard (Darlanne Fluegel; FREEWAY - 1988) hostage after killing everyone else, bringing them and the tank to a small Mexican village ruled by evil Arab (!) Colonel Kartiff (Henry Silva; CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974). The U.S. government, in the personage of General Blackburn (R.G. Armstrong; TRAPPER COUNTY WAR - 1989), puts McBain back into military service (he use to be a an undercover military operative, until he accidentally shot and killed his partner in a bust gone bad) and tells him to retrieve the Thunderblast and save any hostages. Since Devon was his dead partner's fiancée (and his secret lover), McBain accepts the assignment and heads off to Mexico. While Colonel Kartiff tries to figure out a way to breach the tank's security system (it delivers a lethal jolt of electricity to anyone who tries to enter it without punching in the correct code), McBain begins his trek to the Mexican village and encounters resistance at every turn. When it turns out that this whole scenario was a set-up to get McBain into a face-off with an old Russian nemesis (William Smith; EVIL ALTAR - 1987), who was responsible for McBain accidentally killing his partner years earlier, McBain and Devon jump into the Thunderblast for some good-old American payback.  The first thing you'll notice about this film is the tremendous amount of excellent character actors in the cast. Besides the ones already mentioned, Mills Watson, Luke Askew, Rene Enriguez, Lincoln Kirkpatrick and Lydie Denier round out the roster. Director Steve Carver (BIG BAD MAMA - 1974; CAPONE - 1975; LONE WOLF MCQUADE - 1983) manages to even pull a good performance from the usually manic Gary Busey (EYE OF THE TIGER - 1986), who spouts some very funny dialogue (he likes to preface all his personal insults with the word "butt"), thanks to a screenplay supplied by T.L. Lankford and B.J. Goldman (Fred Olen Ray is given a co-story credit as well as an Associate Producer credit). Carver is best, though, handling the action scenes, as lots of objects explode, people are riddled with bullets and there's a ridiculously funny scene of McBain escaping on a giant wooden spool (which he is tied spread-eagle to) after Devon tosses a grenade behind it, forcing it to roll down a hill! Henry Silva is his regular bug-eyed, sweaty self (some of his expressions are priceless) and he even gets to rape Darlanne Fluegel. While not a great action film, BULLETPROOF is a thoroughly entertaining B-movie that could only come from the politically incorrect 80's. I'm still trying to figure out why the terrorists in Mexico are a mixture of Mexicans, Muslims and Russians. This isn't a sequel to RED DAWN (1984), you know (Or is it? Hmmmmm...). Less than a year later, Gary Busey got into a serious motorcycle accident that nearly cost him his life (he suffered serious head trauma because he wasn't wearing a helmet). Even though he still acts, Busey hasn't been the same since (This may explain why he starred as the title character in Charles Band's THE GINGERDEAD MAN [2005]). Not to be confused with the Adam Sandler/Damon Wayans action comedy BULLETPROOF (1996). Also starring James Andronica, Ramon Franco, Lucy Lee Flippen, Redmond M. Gleeson, Christopher Doyle and Jorge Cervera Jr. Originally released on VHS by RCA/Columbia Home Video and available on budget DVD from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment in a slightly washed-out fullscreen print. Rated R.

CARTEL (1990) - Rip-roaring action flick. Charter pilot Chuck Taylor (Miles O'Keeffe) is set-up when a delivery of what he thinks is medical supplies turns out to be a huge shipment of "Peruvian Flake". Drug kingpin Tony King (Don Stroud) orders his men to retrieve the cocaine and kill Taylor, but when the DEA and FBI show up at the airport, both Taylor and King are arrested and sent to the same prison to serve their sentences. It's apparent that there's no love lost between the two and when Taylor interferes with King's prison drug ring (as well as beating King at an arm wrestling match), King orders his men on the outside to kill Taylor's family and girlfriend. When King's goons, including right-hand man Rivera (Gregory Scott Cummins), drive a car through Taylor's house, rape and kill his sister Nancy (Suzee Slater) and shoot and injure both Nancy's young son Tommy (Bradley Pierce) and Taylor's girlfriend Donna (Crystal Carson), a distraught and revenge-minded Taylor must find a way to break out of prison. Things get worse when Rivera pulls a daring daytime prison breakout, with the help of crooked prison guard Mason (William Smith), which results in King escaping and making it look like he died in the attempt. After hearing from Donna that his court appeal is probably not going to happen, Taylor escapes from prison (using the old standby: a metal file!) and begins his systematic destruction of all things Tony King. Using information gathered by Donna, Taylor intercepts a drug shipment in a parking garage (He says, "Have a nice flight!" to a goon just before he throws him off the garage roof), but Rivera kidnaps Donna, forcing Taylor to attempt to save her in a boxing gym. After rescuing Donna, Taylor returns to prison (!) and, the next day, he's freed when new evidence (which he anonomously provided to authorities during his night of freedom) comes to light. King then kidnaps Taylor and Donna and puts them on a boat with a ticking timebomb. In the finale, Taylor breaks free and brings King to justice (if death is actually justice) and discovers that he had an unlikely ally at his back the entire time.  All low-budget action films should be this entertaining. No one ever accused Miles O'Keeffe (PHANTOM RAIDERS - 1988) of being much of an actor, but he's quite good here as a man determined to get even. I would go as far as to say that this is his best role ever. O'Keeffe doesn't have to emote much but, when he does, he's believable. There are also many well-done action set pieces and stunts, including multiple car chases and crashes, plane stunts, gun fights and hand-to-hand combat. The attack on Taylor's house, where Nancy is raped and killed, is a high point. You're not sure what's going to happen and, for a short time, you're led to believe that little Tommy is killed. Very unusual for an American-made action film from this time period. Don Stroud is, well, Don Stroud, as he acts crazy, kills anyone who gets in his way and overacts enormously. This was one of the last films he made before he was viciously mugged and knifed in real life, which resulted in him losing an eye and his face being partially paralyzed on one side (See 1991's THE DIVINE ENFORCER to view the damage to his face). He proved to be a real trouper and used his facial deformity to good effect in many of his later roles (He is now retired in Hawaii). Director John Stewart (ACTION U.S.A. - 1988; CLICK: THE CALENDAR GIRL KILLER - 1991) does a good job maintaining the viewer's interest and the script, by Moshe Hadar, keeps things moving at a brisk pace, tossing in so many action scenes you almost forget some of the film's gaping plot holes (the whole time frame of the film just doesn't add up, especially after Taylor escapes from prison). CARTEL is still one of the better DTV action films to come out of the early 90's, thanks to plentiful, well-executed action scenes and a palpable sense of tension that is displayed throughout it's 99 minute running time. Also starring Sal Lopez, Jim Maniaci, Marco Fiorini, Frank Torres, Gary Littlejohn, Reggie De Morton and Jack West. A Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available on a budget DVD from Simitar Entertainment. Rated R.

CERTAIN FURY (1985) - There are two ways that you can look at this female action film. One way is to look at it as the end of Tatum O'Neal and Irene Cara's acting careers. I prefer to take the second route: A pretty good and bloody film that contains two Academy Award-winning actresses who probably took the jobs to pay some bills. Tatum and Irene portray Scarlet and Tracy, who first meet in court where they are both about to be taken before the judge on drug (Scarlet) and disorderly conduct (the innocent Tracy) charges. When two other female cons slit a bailiff's throat and take his gun and begin shooting up the courtroom (killing 7 people), Scarlet and Tracy run for their lives and are mistaken as a part of the gang who killed the cops and innocent bystanders. The cops shoot one of the guilty women in the head and then shotgun her in the chest, the other guilty girl is pulled down on a spiked fence by the cops and is impaled. Tracy and Scarlet escape into the sewers, where one stupid cop, who has them cornered, lights up a cigarette and ignites the sewer gas, causing a massive explosion and his eventual death. A detective (George Murdock) and Tracy's father (the late Moses Gunn) try to find the pair (they both know that the girls are innocent, even if Murdock refuses to say it out loud), before the cops kill them both. Scarlet (who is illiterate) and Tracy are always bickering (Scarlet calls Tracy a "nigger bitch") but circumstances keep them together. Scarlet takes Tracy to her drug supplier Sniffer (Nicholas Campbell) in hopes of getting help, but he just wants them out of his apartment. Scarlet leaves while Tracy takes a much-needed shower. Scarlet goes to see Rodney (Peter Fonda, in what amounts to a cameo) to see if he can help her, but he turns her away. Meanwhile, Sniffer tries to rape Tracy in the shower and she beats the holy hell out of him. Scarlet comes back and steals Sniffer's cocaine stash in hopes of getting some cash. Rodney, after finding out that there's a reward for the capture of the girls, sends three of his goons to Sniffer's apartment. A bloody gunfight ensues, where Sniffer snuffs one of the goons with a shotgun as the two girls escape yet again. Scarlet takes the stolen stash to Superman (Rodney Gage), where he agrees to buy it for $1,000. More trouble begins as Rodney's two remaining goons and Sniffer follow them to Superman's lair. The goons set the place on fire, hoping to flush out the girls, while Sniffer begins to beat the crap out of Scarlet. Sniffer burns to death and the girls escape yet again. Hearing that they are considered dead in the fire (a false report planted in the papers by the police), Scarlet and Tracy think that they are now in the clear and plan on starting new lives in the country. Alas, thing don't always turn out the way we plan. Director Stephen Gyllenhaal (who mainly directs TV movies and series episodes, right up till today and he did write the screenplay for Sean S. Cunningham's THE NEW KIDS [1985]) keeps things moving at a brisk pace and keeps your mind off the gaping plot holes that are left unresolved at the film's end. Filled with bloody shootouts, explosions, needle-stabbings and other mayhem, this action film differs from most because it doesn't contain one single car chase. Both Tatum O'Neal and Irene Cara (who sings the title track) do a decent job with their roles. They never really bond as friends until the finale which gives this film a thumbs-up from me for the realistic way two girls from different sides of the track would actually relate to each other. CERTAIN FURY is a good way to spend 87 minutes. A New World Video Release in SP mode and in EP mode from Starmaker Video. Not yet available on DVD. Rated R.

CLASSIFIED OPERATION (1985) - Another outrageous actioner as only the Filipinos can make them. After a successful raid on a jungle hideout where Ramon (Rey Malonzo starring as "Raymond Malonzo") and his Army cohorts save women hostages and kill all the guerillas (including Ramon's amazing acrobatic backflip off the side of a cliff where he shoots the head guerilla square in the face while in midair!), Ramon is called to be by his mother's side in the hospital. Before she dies, she makes Ramon promise to quit the Army. Torn about his promise, Ramon decides to take his wife and son on a vacation to visit his old hometown and his Uncle Jose. As soon as they get into town, Ramon gets into a fight with a bunch of street thugs, simply for asking directions. Ramon soon discovers that his old hometown is now under the strict rule of Cmdr. Falcon (George Estregan as "George St. Reagan"). Every family must pay their "taxes" (which include their virgin daughters for sale to the slave trade) to Falcon. If they don't, the men will be beat-up (or killed) and the women raped. It's not long before Ramon is knee-deep in shit as the police chief is too scared of Falcon to be any help. Ramon takes on Falcon and his gang single-handedly and suffers a great personal tragedy in the process.  Shamed into action (by Ramon's son), the police chief and the town spring into action to save Ramon (who for some reason is now called "Cmdr. .45"). Viewed as a companion piece to 1984's SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE (which was also directed, like this one, by star Rey Malonzo using the pseudonym "Reginald King"), CLASSIFIED OPERATION is the weaker of the two, but not without it's charms. Besides the already-mentioned cliff stunt, there's also an hilarious scene where Ramon shows his quickdraw skills on a gang of gun-toting goons. The incidental dialogue (by screenwriter Arthur Simon) is also a hoot. When a gang of guerillas is walking through the jungle, one can be heard saying, "I killed four men today.", like it was a normal thing for him. When Falcon is interrupted while fooling around with two women, he turns to them and says, "Keep it hot while I'm gone. OK?" There's also plenty of hand-to-hand combat (with exaggerated sound effects), numerous gun battles (Ramon likes to shoot people in the face for some reason) and too many explosions to count. Hey, this isn't Shakespeare, but it sure as hell isn't boring. Try not to smile as Ramon does the final barrel-roll stunt with the succession of .45s lying on the ground.  Also starring Mariane Reeves, Maxie Dudale, Jose Romulus, Conrad Poe, Robert Miller and Andrew Tsien. Also known as COMMAND0 45FIRE DRAGON and DELTA TERROR. The version I watched was ripped from a Greek VHS tape. Not Rated.

COMMANDER (1987) - Overlong, but violent, Italian Rambo clone filmed in the Philippines. Commander (Craig Alan; GET THE TERRORISTS - 1987) and his small band of freedom fighters make life difficult for the VC after the Vietnam War is over. They free friendly Vietnamese prisoners and destroy enemy convoys every chance they get, which severely pisses-off evil Russian asshole Vlassov (David Light; EYE OF THE EAGLE - 1987), who is working with the VC in various nefarious enterprises. Vlassov vows to kill Commander no matter what it takes and, after torturing a VC traitor who was working with Commander, he may finally get his wish. Commander, whose real name is Roger King, lives in a tiny village across the Thailand border with his pregnant wife Cho Lin (Tania Gomez; MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE - 1987) and dreams of moving his wife back to the United States before the baby is born. Roger strikes up a deal with his old Commanding Officer to steal some top-secret Russian electronic equipment in exchange for two passports and relocation back to the States. Roger and his cohorts, Buffalo (Larry Brand) and Warrior (Max Laurel; COP GAME - 1988), sneak on-board the Russian ship containing the electronic equipment and steal it (after killing half the ship's crew), but Vlassov and his Russian commandos attack Roger's village a short time later, slaughtering nearly everyone, including women, children and Cho Lin's mother and father (it's a well-executed sequence with lots of pyrotechnics and exploding bodies). After Roger delivers the payload and returns to his village to find nothing but death and destruction, he discovers that Vlassov has kidnapped Cho Lin and Vlassov wants the electronic equipment returned in exchange for Cho Lin's life. Roger and his two buddies retrieve the top-secret equipment and begin a long, arduous trek through the jungle, where they will meet the enemy and suffer many hardships, including torture and the death of Cho Lin and her unborn baby. Roger goes Rambo (after tricking the Russians and gooks into thinking he's dead, thanks to some "death pills" given to him by Cho Lin's father just before he died) and proves that old adage "Revenge is a dish best served piping hot" by killing everyone responsible for Cho Lin's death. At 110 minutes, this war actioner may seem a little long in the tooth, but the violence is so over-the-top, you'll forgive the dead patches. Director/co-scripter Ignazio Dolce (LEATHERNECKS - 1988; LAST FLIGHT TO HELL - 1990), using the pseudonym "Paul D. Robinson", offers much violent depravity, including a really uncomfortable-to-watch torture session where Vlassov ties a plastic bag around Roger's head and pours filthy water through the top of the bag until the water is at Roger's eye level, slowly drowning Roger, and then opening the bag at Roger's neck to release the water. This is repeated several times and lead actor Craig Alan looks genuinely distressed, which is disturbing because it's the best acting he does in the entire film. He's actually the film's weakest asset throughout the rest of the film (his acting is simply awful), as all he does is look glum and give the same vacant stare throughout, not to mention he dresses exactly like Stallone does in his RAMBO films. Still, we don't watch these films for their acting finesse and COMMANDER (also known as THE LAST AMERICAN SOLDIER) contains all the violence, blood, gunplay and explosions anyone could ask for in an action flick, including multiple exploding bodies, throat slittings, knifings and plenty of bloody bullet squibs. The action set-pieces are well choreographed, as the gun battles are brutal and the explosions immense. What more could you ask for? This is a winner in my book because it has no other aspirations than being an entertaining war actioner. Also starring James Clevenger, Ho Tchan Chi, Ken Watanabe, Mary San and Mike Monty. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a widescreen Japanese-subtitled VHS tape that has all the Russian and Vietnamese dialogue translated into Japanese, but not into English, which makes me wonder if the Japanese took the time to translate dialogue that wasn't meant to be translated. In any case, it doesn't hurt the film one bit. Also available streaming on Amazon Prime. Not Rated.

COMMANDO LEOPARD (1985) - When it came to '80s war actioners, no one did it better than Antonio Margheriti (a.k.a. "Anthony M. Dawson"). Not only did he deliver the graphic violence, he also supplied the excellent miniature effects, full of explosions and destruction, all of them done so well, they didn't even look like miniature special effects, they looked like expensive realistic destruction, especially in this film. Many of the actors in this film were among Marghariti's regular repertoire, working before and after this film in many of his productions. Actors loved working with Margheriti because he allowed them to play to their strengths and this film showcases those strengths, but this isn't an actors' film, this is an action flick, so let's get down to the nitty-gritty.
     In some unnamed Latin America country (filmed in Venezuela and the Philippines), mercenary Carrasco (Lewis Collins; THE FINAL OPTION - 1982), his right hand man Smithy (John Steiner; Margheriti's THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD - 1983) and right hand woman Maria (Cristina Donadio), along with some Rebel freedom fighters, blow up a dam, destroying a bridge (great miniature effects) that is used by new dictator Hormoza (Subas Herrero; Margheriti's INDIO - 1989) to transport precious fuel to his army. The Rebels want Hormoza dethroned and their country free from tyranny, especially from under Hormoza's cruel thumb, including Hormoza's second-in-command, the extremely evil Silviera (Klaus Kinski; Margheriti's WEB OF THE SPIDER - 1971), who would rather shoot Rebels than look at them. During the destruction of the dam, there is a firefight and some of the Rebels are injured (including a dam employee who was working with Carrasco), so Carrasco, Smithy and Maria take them to the nearest village to get them some medical attention.
     The village is not happy to see Carrasco and the Rebels; they have no medical facility and they don't want Hormoza to send his army there for cooperating with the Rebels, but it's too late. The village is attacked by three helicopters, commandeered by Silviera. The helicopters are equipped with flame throwers (something I have never seen before, but, damn, Margheriti's miniature effects work is very believable here!), which burn down the village, Silviera and his men then exit the helicopters and kill every villager they come in contact with, ruthlessly gunning them down, even though none of them have weapons. Carrasco, Smithy and Maria fight back and blow up one of the helicopters (a Margheriti trademark), forcing Silviera to escape by the skin of his teeth. Corrasco tells Maria to take all the injured to the nearest medical facility, a makeshift hospital in a church run by Father Julio (Manfred Lehmann; CASABLANCA EXPRESS - 1989). Once at the hospital, Father Miguel (Michael James; RESCUE TEAM - 1983) tells Maria to leave with the injured because he doesn't want Hormoza'a army attacking the church, but he is overruled by Father Julio, who reminds Father Miguel that God wouldn't turn anyone in need away, so they won't either (a "What Would Jesus Do?" moment).
     Carrasco and Smithy get intel that Hormoza has quickly built a pontoon bridge across the river, replacing the one they destroyed, so they don scuba gear and place explosive charges under the bridge, while trucks containing fuel are traveling across it. Smithy doesn't get out of the water in time and is knocked unconscious by the shock waves of explosions and is captured by the enemy. The destruction of the pontoon bridge is successful and Carrasco is almost killed by the enemy, but is saved by a small band of Rebels headed by an unnamed man who was a good friend of Carrasco's dead father (Played by Luciano Pigozzi, better known as "Alan Collins"; Margheriti's NAKED YOU DIE - 1968; in an uncredited, but rather large role. Pigozzi appeared in 90% of Margheriti's films, including all of his '80s actioners.). Carrasco  and his new miniature army head to the makeshift hospital, not knowing that Silviera and his men are already there, killing some of the wounded by shooting them point blank, including the dam worker, whom Silviera calls a "traitor" and pumps three bullets in his chest. Maria is also wounded in the fracas when she tries to stop the unnecessary killing and when Silviera burns down the church, killing everyone inside (including Father Miguel), Carrasco and his small band of freedom fighters appear, forcing Silviera once again to retreat.
     Carrasco decides to rescue his good friend Smithy, not knowing he has escaped with the help of a small number of P.O.W.s. They show up at the destroyed church, where Smithy tells Carrasco that he has learned that Hormoza is traveling alone by plane, without his bodyguards at a nearby airport, for a secret visit. Carrasco, along with Smithy and the P.O.W.s, sneak into the airport with a rocket launcher  to blow up Hormoza's plane as it lands, but something smells fishy to Carrasco. Turns out he was right, as someone else blows up the plane as it lands (another good miniature effect) with another rocket launcher. It turns out the P.O.W.s were working with Silviera to set-up Carrasco, as the plane doesn't contain Hormoza at all, it contains over a hundred young orphan children! Carrasco kills the P.O.W.s as they try to escape and when Smithy realizes he has been duped, he is shot in the back and killed before he can apologize to Carrasco. It was Silviera who shot down the plane, but Carrasco will get the blame, especially when Silviera has helicopters dump thousands of flyers by helicopter blaming Carrasco for the death of the orphan children. When Carrasco tries to escape from the airport, he is seriously wounded, but he is saved once again but his dead father's friend. The unnamed man also has his small band collect all the flyers so the villagers don't turn against Carrasco.
     Father Julio takes all of the wounded, as well as the displaced villagers, to an abandoned monastery in the mountains, but before they get there, one of the busses drives into the middle of a minefield and explodes. The villagers run out of the bus, some of them stepping on land mines and blowing up, as Silviera, using binoculars, laughs as he watches them die, in the film's most tense and graphic sequence. Father Julio saves as many of them as he can, having them climb on the bus he is driving. The film concludes with Hormoza leaving the country in disgrace, after Carrasco and Father Julio blow up a fuel train that is passing by an oil refinery, which also explodes (more of Margheriti's excellent miniature work). Without fuel, Hormoza knows he stands no chance of winning the war, so he quickly leaves the country, which results in most of his soldiers taking the side of the Rebels, even shaking their hands, since most of them never agreed with Hormoza's brutal ways. But there is still a small band of soldiers who still side with Silviera and they attack the monestary, not knowing that the dictator's army are now on the side of the Rebels. It's a quick, bloody victory for the Rebels and when Silviera discovers this, he tries to escape the monestary, but he is cornered  by the villagers, the Rebels and the repatriated soldiers, who surround Silviera. Rather than shoot Silviera dead, they tear him apart with their bare hands. Carrasco tries to stop them, saying the time for violence is over, but he is too late, Silviera is dead. Father Julio is also mortally wounded (after picking up a rifle and acdentally shooting one of Silviera's men, who was about to kill Maria. The look on his face after doing this tells us he wishes he was dead and his wish is granted,) and dies in Maria's arms. The film ends with Carrasco picking up Father Julio, cradling his dead body in his arms, and walking away into the sunset, while a gospel tune plays on the soundtrack, telling everyone "We All Have To Die Sometime."
     This is a rip-roaring action flick with a weird religious subtext, but it is not shoved in your face like some religious war films do, it is subtle. Antonio Margheriti made some damn good war action films during the '80s, including his "Vietnam Trilogy" of THE LAST HUNTER (1980), TIGER JOE (1982) and TORNADO [THE LAST BLOOD] (1983), as well as CODE NAME: WILD GEESE (1984; also starring Lewis Collins and Klaus Kinski), and THE COMMANDER (1988; also starring Collins and Manfred Lehmann). This film ranks with the best of them, thanks to the non-stop action and Margheriti's excellent miniature effects, the show-stopper being the destruction of a train carrying full tankers of fuel. As it explodes tanker-by-tanker, it also destroys the oil refinery the train is slowly passing, which is the impetus for Hormoza leaving the country, because the refinery was needed if he had any hope of defeating the Rebels. It's a fantastic display of explosions, which will get your heart pumping, as Carrasco and Father Julio try to escape before their train car explodes.  Margheriti's son, Edoardo (who has a small role in this film), has said his father's favorite thing to do, besides directing, was creating miniature effects and this film showcases them in fine detail. If you like war films with plenty of action and a touch of humanity, this is the film for you.
     Shot as KOMMANDO LEOPARD (this was a Germany/Italy co-production), this film had no theatrical or home video release in any physical format in the United States, but if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can watch it streaming for free in a nice anamorphic widescreent print. This film looks to have been shot in English, since everyone, including Kinski, speak in their own voices. If you are not a Prime member, you can watch it streaming on YouTube from user "Film&Clips" in a widescreen (but not amamorphic) German print, also in English. There are many familiar faces in this film, many of them expatriate actors usually seen on Filipino action films, including Mike Monty (PHANTOM RAIDERS - 1988), David Light (PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987), Jim Moss (MANNIGAN'S FORCE - 1988), Eric Hahn (THE EXPENDABLES - 1988) and Ronnie Patterson (FIREBACK - 1983). Also featuring Thomas Danneberg (THE CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND - 1967) and Rene Abadeza (Margheriti's THE HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA - 1982). Not Rated. There's no nudity, but there's plenty of violence, some of it graphic.

CONTRABAND (1980) - Now this is entertainment! But something stops it from becoming grand entertainment, namely Fabio Testi's (RINGS OF FEAR - 1978) poor performance as the film's central figure, Luca Di Angelo, a smuggler of contraband cigarettes and booze. Now don't get me wrong, Testi is usually an excellent and capable actor, but here he plays Luca as a man devoid of emotions, like he doesn't care about anyone or anything, including his wife Adele (Ivana Monti; THE FIVE DAYS - 1973) and young son. It's like Testi was punishing director/co-screenwriter Lucio Fulci (DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING - 1972; THE FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE - 1975) for some sleight we don't know about (Fulci was known to be abusive with his actors), giving his character no character at all, so we don't care what the fuck happens to him. Luckily for Fulci, he crams enough graphic violence into this film to allow you to overlook Testi's tepid performance. I know this is saying a lot, but this may be Fulci's most violent film of his career. When this film ended, my jaw was on the floor. Fulci shies away from nothing, making this a Eurocrime film that every fan of the genre should see.
     As I said before, Luca Di Angelo is a member of a criminal organization that smuggles booze and cigarettes by motorboat up and down the Naples coastline. The problem is, some unknown person is smuggling hard drugs in Luca's territory and that's where he draws the line. He has a young son in school and is fully aware that his son and his friends could become hooked on drugs because schools are the first place dealers hit in a new territory. Hook the kids and business booms. Luca and his brother Mickey (Enrico Maisto; VIOLENT NAPLES - 1976) are very vocal about it, not caring who hears it. One day, Luca and Mickey are stopped at a police roadblock, only they are not the police at all, they are thugs dressed as police. While Luca hides in the car, Mickey is machine-gunned to death, sending his body down an embankment full of used car tires to the ocean below (a very good stunt). When Luca gets out of the car and discovers his brother's dead body floating in the ocean, he has a look on his face as if he is about to fall asleep (!), but he vows revenge anyway. Thinking that the head of his rival organization, Scherino (Ferdinando Murolo; the "Farancksalan"/Frankenstein Monster in ASSIGNMENT TERROR - 1969), is involved, Luca kills one of Scherino's men and tosses his body through Scherino's bedroom window, but Scherino is able to convince Luca that he had nothing to do with Mickey's death. Still, Scherino has his men beat up Luca within an inch of his life, to teach him an important lesson. Luca's boss, Luigi Perlante (Saverio Marconi; GO, GORILLA, GO - 1975), tells Luca that Frenchman Francois Jacois (Marcel Bozzuffi; STUNT SQUAD - 1977), a.k.a. "The Marsigliese", is the guilty party, bringing hard drugs to Naples and killing his brother. The Marsigliese is somewhat of a dandy, wearing a custom "perfume" made just for himself (it becomes an important plot point).
     After Luca's injuries are treated by a greedy doctor named Charlie (Giordano Falzoni; Fulci's THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982), who believes every injury has an expensive price tag, Luca gets down to some violent business, but what he doesn't realize is that The Marsigliese is even more brutal and vicious, setting the face of a female drug courier named Ingrid  (Ofelia Meyer; RING OF DARKNESS - 1979) on fire with a blowtorch when he discovers from his chemist (played by our old friend Luciano Rossi [DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS - 1971] in a cameo) that the container of heroin she just pulled out of her snatch (!) is cut. (Rossi, unfortunately, tones down his usual craziness and just smiles as his boss takes his time burning off Ingrid's face, in a long and painful scene).
     To take control of the territory, The Marsigliese sends out his top enforcer (Romano Puppo; MEAN FRANK AND CRAZY TONY - 1973) to kill all the rival mafia dons so he can become king of his domain. This is the film's most visceral and violent sequence, as we see a machinegun blast open a man's head, a gun being shoved in another man's mouth and blowing his brains out the back of his head and other gory mayhem. Perlante barely escapes with his life when he makes his openly gay right hand man Alfredo (Giulio Farnese; THE FACE WITH TWO LEFT FEET - 1979) make love to a woman and his mattress explodes (!) from a bomb planted there by The Marsigliese's men.
     Luca convinces elderly retired Mafia Don Morrone (Guido Alberti; SYNDICATE SADISTS - 1975) to come out of retirement (he seems to be spending his retirement years watching Lucio Fulci movies on TV!) to put an end to The Marsigliese's drug business (another surprisingly graphic sequence which will have you rewinding the film more than once to make sure you just saw what you saw!). The Marsigliese then kidnaps Luca's wife and young son and makes Luca listen on the phone while his men rape Adele (Once again, Testi has a look on his face as if he is about to fall asleep. I've seen more emotion on an emoji! It makes this scene look comical rather than suspenseful and brutal). The Marsigliese forces Luca to agree to an unfair split in the drug profits for the safe return of his son, but once again, Luca ignores his family's safety and does things his own way, ending The Marsigliese's reign of terror once and for all. To symbolize the Marsigliese's worth as a human being, his dead body falls and rests on a garbage can. Even the Chief of Police (Fabrizio Jovine; Fulci's THE PSYCHIC - 1977), Police Captain Tarantino (Venantino Venantini; Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1980) and the Chief Prosecutor (Daniele Dublino; THE BIG RACKET - 1976) are happy with the outcome, letting Luca and Don Morrone go free, even though they have lots of evidence against them.
     I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed with this film when it first came on, mainly for Fabio Testi's awful performance, but the film became more and more violent as it progressed, so I basically ignored Testi's performance (hard, but not impossible) and sat agape at the graphic violence on view. This would have been considered one of Fulci's best films if not for Testi's performance, so I will call it an interesting failure. An entertaining interesting failure. There are some nice filmic compositions on view, especially Mickey's funeral procession by motorboat and the way Don Morrone gets his revenge., but I can't really get my mind off Testi's deliberate, awful performance. It ruins an otherwise excellent film (I guess his performance is difficult to overlook). Fabio Frizzi (Fulci's SILVER SADDLE -1978; ZOMBIE - 1979; and THE BEYOND - 1981) supplies a thumping music score that propels the film to it's violent conclusion.
     Shot as LUCA IL CONTRABBANDIERE ("Luca The Smuggler") and also known as THE NAPLES CONNECTION and THE SMUGGLER, this film received a limited, severely cut U.S. theatrical release (by Sandhurst Releasing) in 1982 and then appearing slightly letterboxed on VHS from Mogul Communications. Blue Underground then released an uncut, anamorphic widescreen DVD in 2004. No updated discs since then, but never say never. Amazon Prime offers a nice anamorphic widescreen print streaming, dubbed into English. Also featuring Tommaso Palladino (DEATH RAGE - 1976), Salvatore Billa (BLOOD AND DIAMONDS - 1977), Ajita Wilson (ESCAPE FROM HELL - 1980), Omero Capanna (FATAL FRAMES - 1996), Cinzia Lodetti (BEAKS: THE MOVIE - 1987) and Fulci as a retired Mafia Don. Not Rated, so prepare to be amazed by the carnage on view.

CROSS FIRE (1987) - After watching his wife and child getting brutally murdered in a home invasion, Richard Straker (Richard Norton) kills the invaders and becomes a drunken bum. One year later, the government asks him to return to Laos (during the war, he headed a Special Forces called "Black Thunder") to search for possible M.I.A.s and P.O.W.s. Major Straker travels to Bangkok and immediately gets into a bar fight (a prerequisite in films like this) and saves the life of a whore (who he fucks back at his hotel). Straker learns from C.I.A. operative Major Fowler (Frank Schuller) that he is bringing six wet-behind-the-ears soldiers on this mission and the government will disavow all knowledge of this mission if they are caught or killed. Straker and his new men parachute behind enemy lines and recon with their VC guides. They come across a burned-out village which turns out to be boobytrapped and one of Straker's men is injured. It seems no matter where they go, the enemy is waiting for them in ambush and, eventually, one member is shot dead. The head guide leads them to Hogan, "The Australian" (Glen Ruehland), an ex-patriate black marketeer who feeds Straker's men worms for dinner and then drives them to the border in a beat-up old schoolbus during the middle of the night. Hogan turns out to be a traitor and Straker and his men are captured and driven to a prison camp, headed by Dihn (Franco Guerrero of ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER - 1980), where the men are tied up and Dihn beats up Straker and then raosts him over some flaming embers. When morning comes, it's apparent that other American P.O.W.s are being kept there, including members of Straker's old Black Thunder squad. Straker and his men break free and rescue the P.O.W.s, only to find out that they're all infected with leprosy! Straker still rescues the P.O.W.s, completely destroys the camp and head towards the extraction point. Straker steals a train and then a jeep, only to learn his mission was a sham. After losing most of his men (and all the P.O.W.s!), Straker is not about to take this whole fiasco lying down.  This Philippines-lensed war action film, directed/produced/co-scripted by frequent Cirio H. Santiago collaborator Anthony Maharaj (MISSION TERMINATE - 1987), is standard jungle war thrills. It's basically a low-budget rip-off of RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985), as Straker and his inexperienced men trek through the jungle, get into firefights and try to avoid boobytraps while searching for living M.I.A.s & P.O.W.s. The real action doesn't kick in until the one hour mark, but once it starts, it's non-stop gunfights, hand-to-hand combat and explosions. I must admit that the leprosy angle was a nice, unexpected touch as were some later scenes, especially when Hogan, who turns out to be a good guy afterall, says to one of Straker's men when he doesn't want to touch the leprosy-infected P.O.W.s: "You Americans suffer from a worse disease, A.I.D.S.: Acute Ignorance Dumb Shit!" While the story lacks coherence and common sense, this film, originally known as NOT ANOTHER MISTAKE (a much better title, in my opinion), is a pretty solid way to spend 104 minutes of your life if you like a little pathos mixed in with your action. Richard Norton (GYMKATA - 1985; FUTURE HUNTERS - 1986; UNDER THE GUN - 1995) is one of the better martial artists-turned-actors and appeared in numerous B action films during the 80's & 90's, but he never got the proper recognition he deserved. I believe his Australian accent has handcuffed him in the United States, but that's a shame because he's a much better actor than most American B action stars. His refusal to Americanize his accent (like Mel Gibson and Nicole Kidman did) probably cost him a lot of roles in major U.S. action flicks. Our loss. Also starring Michael Meyer, Wren Brown, Daniel Pietrich, Don Pemrick, Eric Hahn, Steve Young and Angel Confiado. A Nelson Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.

THE DANGER ZONE (1986) - Undercovercover cop Wade Olson (FLESH GORDON's Jason Williams) joins an outlaw biker group in the Nevada desert led by the evil gang leader Reaper (Robert Canada) to bust up their cocaine smuggling business. (They smuggle the cocaine in from Mexico in radio-controlled planes). Five girls on their way to a singing contest in Las Vegas break down in the middle of the desert and are picked up by the gang, who proceed to torture the women with snakes, threaten rape several times and expose their breasts at every opportune moment. Wade must come up with a way to bust the gang and save the girls at the same time. The ending contains a showdown between Wade and the girls and Reaper and his gang. Wade and all the girls survive and so does Reaper, who swears to get even. The girls make it to their contest in Las Vegas and win as Wade moves in on Reaper's Mexico connection. This is a so-so action film that relies on the sleaze factor to get by. There's a whipping, death by immolization, snakebite to the face, several gun deaths and, of course, the ample samplings of the female cast. The standout cast member here is Juanita Ranney as Skin, who is Reaper's girl, but basically a good girl caught in a bad situation.  She's the only believable member of the cast. Jason Williams underplays his role as if to be sleepwalking and everyone else in the cast (including Robert Axelrod, Mickey Elders, Michael Wayne, Suzanne Tara, Kriss Braxton, Mike Wiles, Cynthia Gray and future Leatherface R.A. Mahailoff) emote as if they were in a school play with no sound system. They are loud! One and only time director Henry Vernon takes forever to get things going and seems to pull back on things when he needed to push them forward. Believe it or not, this film produced three sequels, all starring Williams (who also produced all four and co-wrote three) as Wade Olson and two different actors in the role of Reaper. They are DANGER ZONE II: REAPER'S REVENGE (1988), DANGER ZONE III: STEEL HORSE WAR (1990) and DEATH RIDERS (a.k.a. DANGER ZONE 4: MAD GIRLS, BAD GIRLS - 1993). All of these films used to be shown regularly on USA's UP ALL NIGHT in severely edited form during the early 90's. A Charter Entertainment Release. Rated R.

DAY OF THE SURVIVALIST (1985) - Here's a little-seen regional actioner that's truly a product of its time. After an on-screen disclaimer (read by an uncredited John Vernon) warning us that what we are about to see is based on a true story ("The names have been changed to protect the innocent..."), we are introduced to Vietnam veteran Fletcher (Steve Barrett), who has just been robbed and grazed in the head with a bullet (all of it off-screen) at the sporting goods store he owns. Disillusioned with all the violence in the big city, Fletcher decides to close down his store and move to the Oregon wilderness after watching a commercial on TV (He places a sign that reads "Moved To Paradise" on his shuttered storefront window!). He settles into his sleepy Oregon town, where he opens an archery store and meets Colonel John Swint (Roy Jenson; NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON - 1973), who invites Fletcher to his compound to participate in what Fletcher believes to be harmless war games involving paint guns. What Fletcher soon discovers is that Col. Swint and his men are actually rabid survivalists who want him to join their militia. The Colonel's heavily guarded compound sits directly in the middle of a valley that is a perfect sanctuary if the United States were to ever be attacked with nuclear weapons (which the Colonel believes will happen very soon), but when Fletcher discovers that the Colonel has all the bridges and roadways rigged with explosives to stop people from entering or leaving the valley when the bombs fall, he politely declines the Colonel's offer to join his backwoods band of militia misfits. This doesn't sit too well with the Colonel or his men, who decide to get rid of Fletcher before he spills the beans on their operation to the cops. After watching Johnny Paycheck perform "I Love Rowdy People" at a local bar (and then peppering him with small talk at a table near the restrooms!), the Colonel challenges Fletcher to break into the house of the hulking Reno (Richard Beyer) as an exercise to test Fletcher's silent breaking-and-entering abilities. What Fletcher doesn't realize is that he is being set-up, so when he breaks into Reno's house and Reno ends up dead due to one of the Colonel's forest booby-traps (which was meant for Fletcher), he becomes a wanted man by the law, who believe that Fletcher is suffering from "Post Vietnam Syndrome" and has snapped. Fletcher takes Reno's vengeance-minded sister, Evelyn (Karen Rae), hostage when she tries to kill him and they both head into the forest, with the Colonel (who has just killed the Sheriff and his deputy after they find the Colonel's explosives under a bridge) and his men not far behind. The remainder of the film finds Fletcher using the skills he learned in Vietnam to defeat the Colonel's men while falling in love with Evelyn. The finale comes when Fletcher and the Colonel duke it out in a cave, which culminates in Fletcher burying a hatchet in the Colonel's head. If I made any of this film sound the least bit interesting or entertaining, I apologize profusely because watching grass grow or paint dry is infinitely more exciting than anything this film has to offer.  This atrocious actioner, directed/produced by one-shot wonder William H. Humphrey and written by Barry Hostetler, is a chore to sit through. It's not only horrendously acted (Roy Jenson is the only actor here with previous experience), the action scenes are also badly-staged and photographed. Steve Barrett, who looks like Tom Savini's illegitimate brother, has the charisma of a piece of quartz and the acting talent to match, which makes every scene he's in a test of the viewers' patience. That's not a good thing considering he accounts for 80% of the film and, as if things couldn't get any worse, his on-screen chemistry with Karen Rae (who is also awful) is like watching a brother and sister French kiss. What DAY OF THE SURVIVALIST truly lacks is pacing, as it looks like it was edited by someone with a severe case of ADD. Scenes jump from one sequence to the next, sometimes in mid-sentence, with no narrative tissue to connect them. The violence is also rather tame and lazily filmed and includes a bloodless pitchfork-in-the-neck and various bloodless arrow impalements. There's zero entertainment value to be had here and it's not even good enough for an occasional unintentional laugh, so what's the point? Other films in the short-lived mid-80's survivalist sub-genre includes RAW COURAGE (1984), MASSIVE RETALIATION (1984) and THE SURVIVALIST (1987). Also starring Buzz London, John G. Frey, Hap Holm, Bob Bickston and Buddy Joe Hooker. Originally released on VHS by Marathon Video and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

THE DAY THEY ROBBED AMERICA (1987) - Outlandish Philippines-lensed production that's pretty hard to categorize. It's part war film, part heist film and 100% off-the-wall. The film opens up with soldier Duke Carson (James Acheson) watching VC soldiers shoot his nurse girlfriend when he refuses to answer their questions (He screams out a long "Nooooooo!"). The film then switches to a hostage situation at a restaurant where cop Robbie (Rudy Fernandez) shoots and kills hostage taker Junior. Junior's father Martin (Robert Arevalo), a local crime lord, retaliates and sends his men to kill Robbie, but they mistakenly shoot and seriously injure his father instead. Robbie quits the force and decides to go after Martin on his own. Meanwhile, Duke is reassigned to an American military base as an MP, close to where Robbie lives. Robbie's friends plan to rob the Bank of American Express on the military base and they want Robbie to join them, but he declines. Duke gets into a fight with local gunrunners at a bar where Robbie is having a drink. Robbie notices Duke's fighting abilities and compliments him on them. When Robbie learns his father is going to need an expensive operation, he has no choice but to join in on the bank robbery, but he brings in friends Boiler (a marksman) and Sausage (the brawny muscle) for extra insurance. Martin has his men burn down Robbie's house, nearly killing his wife and kids. Robbie grabs a machine gun and systematically begins gunning down Martin's men, nearly missing the robbery start time. They finally perform the robbery, sneaking into the military base disquising themselves as sandwich men. As they are robbing the bank, they are caught off-guard by Duke and the MPs, which leads to a shootout (Boiler, the marksman, is the first to die) and a hostage situation. Duke's new girlfriend Carol (Donna Villa), a bank teller, is taken hostage by Ronnie, which leads to a short car chase and another shootout. Duke rescues Carol as Ronnie and his gang disappear into the jungle. Robbie buries the money and disappears, as Duke goes commando and begins killing all the robbers one-by-one. The finale finds Duke and Robbie shooting it out and neither one comes out unscathed.  More plot-heavy than most Filippino action films, this flick (set in 1971) still has it's share of violent action setpieces, once the robbery starts. Until then, we are treated to Duke's numerous flashbacks to his dead girlfriend (he usually has them while trying to romance his new girlfriend!), various subplots involving gun runners trying to kill Duke and Martin trying to kill Robbie (who is credited as "Ruben" in the final credits). The funniest scene happens when Robbie's father is shot. Robbie stops a Jeep containing three American soldiers and asks for help, but they refuse! (To see a YouTube clip of this scene, supplied by the always reliable William Wilson, click HERE.). There are plenty of shootouts (lots and lots of bullet squibs), outrageous dubbing ("If he talks now, we're all in the shit!") and very unflattering depictions of the American military complex. I also love how Robbie has a mistress and the film seems to imply that there's nothing wrong with it. Another funny (and shocking) scene comes near the finale as Robbie is trying to drive to safety with his mistress in the car. With the sound of sirens and the glare of flashing lights in the background, she says, "Robbie, someone is following us! Maybe it's the police!", just before she gets shot in the back and dies immediately! While lacking the sheer lunacy of FINAL SCORE (1986) or the non-stop gunplay of other Philippines-lensed action flicks, THE DAY THEY ROBBED AMERICA (a.k.a. AMERICAN HIGH COMMAND) still contains enough head-scratching action to get my recommendation. Directed by Manuel 'fyke' Cinco (SANDUGO: FURY OF THE BLOOD BROTHERS - 1975; REVENGE FOR JUSTICE - 1985). Also starring Rio Locsin, Edu Manzano, Bomber Moran and appearances by such Filippino mainstays as George Estregan, Nigel Hogge, Nick Nicholson, Willy Williams and Rudolfo 'Boy' Garcia. Available on DVD from Eastwest DVD as a double feature disc, with the film FINAL ASSIGNMENT (1980). Not Rated.

DEADLY BREED (1989) - Early PM (Richard Pepin/Joseph Merhi) Entertainment production that delivers in the way only PM could. A crooked Police Captain (William Smith; MERCHANT OF EVIL - 1991) assigns brutal cop Kilpatrick (Addison Randall; HOLLOW GATE - 1988) to form a group of bigoted, violent vigilantes to combat street crime in a less-than-legal manner. Liberal parole officer Jake Walker (Blake Bahner; SPYDER - 1988), who believes every ex-con deserves a second chance, gets personally involved in this whole mess when Kilpatrick and his squad kill two of his parolees at jobs he just placed them at. It becomes apparent very soon that Kilpatrick and his squad act more like a white supremacy group than a band of crime vigilantes, as they seem more interested in killing Mexicans, Chinese and Blacks (in one scene, a bunch of Latino and Chinese men are lined up against the wall and repeatedly shot, St. Valentine's Day Massacre-style), no matter if they are crooks or law-abiding citizens. As more people of the non-white persuasion end up murdered (In a GODFATHER [1972] inspired moment, we watch an assortment of non-Caucasian citizens being murdered while Kilpatrick plays a classical tune on his piano), Jake seeks help from the police when more of his parolees end up dead, but the cops refuse to help him. The Police Captain (they really should have given him a name!) orders Kilpatrick to stop the killings because Jake is getting too close to the truth ("We don't kill cops, especially white ones!"), but Kilpatrick disregards his orders and has vigilante member Mr. Lewis (John Grantham) kill one of Jake's white parolees, Albert (Ron Moss), with a No. 6 piano wire. Kilpatrick and his team execute a search warrant at Jake's house and plant a gun that killed some of his parolees. Jake is arrested, but released after Kilpatrick makes a not-so-veiled threat against him and his wife, Lana (Michelle Berger), letting Jake know how easy it would be to set him up for his wife's murder. The Police Captain finally relents and orders Kilpatrick to kill Jake when he comes too close to uncovering the truth, but Albert's female cop sister, Alex (Rhonda Grey; TWISTED NIGHTMARE - 1987), joins forces with Jake after she becomes Kilpatrick's partner. Kilpatrick rapes and strangles Lana and plants evidence at the scene to make it look like Jake was responsible. When it is revealed that Jake's best friend Vincent (Joe Vance; L.A. HEAT - 1988) is involved in the conspiracy and tries to kill Jake, Alex shows up in the nick of time and shoots Vincent in the head. With Alex working from within the system and Jake working from the outside, they systematically bring down everyone involved in the racial killings (it turns out that Alex and her dead brother Albert are Jewish) in a hail of gunfire and dynamite, first at Kilpatrick's junkyard compound and then at the Police Captain's office.  Though rather restrained in the violence department until the bloody finale, director/screenwriter Charles T. Kanganis (CHANCE - 1990; INTENT TO KILL - 1992) maintains interest throughout thanks to a fast-paced script that touches on racism, religion and righting wrongs, as well as some unexpected flourishes in photography and editing. Don't get me wrong, this is strictly B-level stuff all the way (some of the sound recording is particularly bad) and contains a prerequisite topless lovemaking scene (Hey, I'm not complaining!), but DEADLY BREED is an energetic action flick that doesn't sacrifice story for action. Also starring Ron Ramirez, Robert Gallo and Kipp Shiotani. Producers Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi still hadn't finalized their PM Entertainment VHS label at the time of this film's home video release (most of their previous films, such as EPITAPH [1986] and DANCE OR DIE [1987] were issued on the City Lights Home Entertainment label), so they co-released it with RaeDon Home Video. It is also available on budget DVD from Platinum Disc (It's long OOP, but still pretty easy to find). Not Rated.

DEADLY COMMANDO (1982) - A crack unit of Amy soldiers (known as The Savage Six) are sent to rescue a kidnapped ambassador in this surprisingly expansive Filipino war action film, filled with stunts, gun battles and explosions. They successfully rescue the ambassador and celebrate at a bar, where they get into a (prerequisite) fight with a group of drunk patrons (one of the soldiers beats up half the bar using nothing but a food plate!) which ends with them being sent to the stockade. When an Army general agrees to a peace talk with some opposition guerillas, he's kidnapped by a group led by someone called the Professor (Boy Garcia). The crack unit is sent in to rescue the general in a commando raid, but first they must be freed from the stockade. The Professor's sister, Adora (Elisabeth Rope), agrees to work with The Savage Six from the inside (she's a guerilla, too, but it doesn't agree with her brothers politics), while the commandos parachute out of a helicopter and land behind enemy lines. The Professor is well aware of their presence and puts his camp on alert. When the Professor refuses to listen to his sister's plea for peace, Adora and her group join forces with The Savage Six, but when they raid the Professor's camp, it is deserted. The Professor then puts out word that his sister is a traitor and calls for all the guerillas in the area to kill her and her group as well as the Savage Six. Almost immediately, they are ambushed by the enemy and must fight their way out of a sticky situation (and amazingly, walk away without a single casualty). The Savage Six rescue the general in a cave, but become trapped there when the Professor and his guerillas surround them. The finale finds the Savage Six and Adora fighting impossible odds to bring the general back to safety. After the Professor is killed by a mortar round (he blows up real good) and our heroes make it to safety (with only one casualty!), an off-screen voice tells us that the general's mission was a success and both sides signed a peace treaty.  This early 80's Filipino action film, directed by Nick Cacas, (FORGOTTEN WARRIOR - 1986) and Segundo Ramos (DEATH RAIDERS - 1984), is more political than most Philippines-made actioners (script by Donald Arthur). This may be because some real-life Army generals and personnel portray themselves here, as the Americans are portrayed as understanding, willing-to-make-a-deal patriots, while the guerillas (one of them sports a mohawk!) are depicted as trigger-happy thugs (when one of the Professor's men suggests to him in the finale that they should surrender, he shoots him!). While the violence isn't all that bloody (just plenty of bullet hits, a couple of head shots and some stabbings), the action comes fast and furious. Particularly striking is the final scene of the film, a long shot in slow-motion of our heroes escorting the general down a hill while it is repeatedly bombarded by shellfire. It is a striking scene, almost poetic in it's execution. The opening raid on the bad guy's house to free the ambassador is also a triumph of execution, as the mansion the bad guy lives in is quite a set piece and is not the usual choice for explosions and carnage. While the middle portion of the film drags a little (politics, passion and pathos comes into play at this time), it's still fun watching a cast of Filipino pros, including Johnny Wilson, George Pallance and George Estregan (billed here as "George Regan") playing members of the Savage Six. Estregan, in particular, is a hoot, as he plays a ladies man who finds time to makeout with a female guerilla in the middle of a firefight! All three would basically reprise the same roles in Ramos' DEATH RAIDERS. Also starring Ray (Rey) Malonzo, Vic Vargas, Archer Vergel, Jimmy Santos, Red Lapid, Efraim Reyes Jr. and "Joel Sandoval's Group" of stuntmen. Originally known as SUICIDE FORCE, which is somewhat of a misnomer since only one member of the Savage Six actually dies. An International Video Presentation, Inc. Release. Not Rated.

DEADLY OUTBREAK (1995) - Jeff Speakman action vehicle that borrows freely from DIE HARD (1988) and OUTBREAK (1995). Speakman stars as a Special Ops officer who must singlehandedly stop a terrorist outfit led by Ron Silver. The terrorists have taken control of a research lab in Israel that has developed a chemical weapon capable of wiping out a large city. Speakman teams with a scientist (Rochelle Swanson) and tries to hold onto the weapon while fighting their way through the terrorists. Some of the sights include: A shotgun blast to the balls, a throat slashing, multiple gunshots to the head and other extremities, various explosions and Speakman's special brand of martial arts. Speakman (PERFECT WEAPON - 1991, HOT BOYZ - 1999) makes a servicable action hero, but in some interviews that I have read he is said to have a bad ego problem. Both Larry Cohen and William Lustig do not have nice things to say about him. Ron Silver is making a career out of playing bad guys in recent years, playing baddies in TIMECOP (1994), THE ARRIVAL (1996) and DANGER ZONE (1996). Director Rick Avery has used Speakman in THE EXPERT (1994), his directorial debut. DEADLY OUTBREAK (shooting title: DEADLY TAKEOVER) is a pretty good action film if you don't expect much. A Live Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.

DEADLY REACTOR (1988) - In this extremely awful and cheap post-nuke Western flick, a roving gang of sadistic scavengers, led by Hog (Darwyn Swalve; HANDS OF STEEL - 1986; OPEN HOUSE - 1987), invade the home of Cody (David Heavener), kill his niece and nephew (we see the young boy get shot in the back), rape and kill his sister and shoot Cody in the stomach with a shotgun blast. A nearby rancher named Duke (Stuart Whitman, beating out his role in NIGHT OF THE LEPUS [1972] as a career low) saves Cody's life and nurses him back to health. When Hog and his crew begin terrorizing, raping and killing a town of Amish-like pacifists, Duke teaches Cody how to handle a gun like a cowboy, smoke cigars and drink homemade gin. We soon find out that Cody is nothing like his peaceful brethren (he was formerly a cop before the bombs fell), as we see him shoot and kill two nomads who fatally shoot Duke when they invade his ranch looking for food. A dying Duke (He says to Cody, "A man knows when Death bites him in the ass!") makes Cody promise to get justice in town and kill Hog and his gang. Cody hops on his horse and sets out for the long ride to town. Dressed as a preacher, Cody's first stop is the town church, where he kills two of Hog's men (he then hops on the church's roof and shoots a rapist in the balls!). While Hog is away from town purchasing a large cache of weapons, the greatful townspeople make Cody the sheriff (Hog shot the previous sheriff in the head.). Cody makes Bolie (Norman Bernard), a hungry prisoner not affiliated with Hog, his deputy and together they try to make the peace-loving townsfolk take up arms in participation of Hog's return. Some people refuse, but will they change their minds when they see their friends and neighbors being killed? The finale shows Cody and some of the townspeople defending their town and defeating Hog. Just when it seems that everything is going to be OK, a new gang drives into town. Is history about to repeat itself?  This impossibly cheap, cut-rate action flick is the second directorial effort of one-man wrecking crew David Heavener (his first being the even worse OUTLAW FORCE - 1988). Besides directing and acting in this, he also wrote the highly-derivative script and even grabs a guitar and sings us a song! It's apparent that Heavener fancies himself as a low-budget Clint Eastwood, as he copies Eastwood's mannerisms, cigar chomping and Western clothing (this is like a sci-fi version of Eastwood's PALE RIDER [1985]), but the sad fact is that Eastwood's shadow conveys more emotion and range than Heavener could ever hope to possess. Heavener does fill the screen with plenty of nudity (Alyson Davis as Shauna, Cody's new love interest, looks particularly fine in the raw). The violence is bloody (most of the blood comes from the plentiful bullet squibs in the many gunfights), but the editing is confusing and choppy (Heavener narrates parts of the film to cover-up scenes he forgot to film or did not have the budget to film) and makes some of the sequences hard to follow and downright perplexing. The most perplexing part of the film comes when Hog assaults the town during the final thirty minutes and Cody disappears for no discernable reason, allowing Hog and his men to easily recapture the town since the townspeople couldn't hit the side of a barn with a firearm. Cody then reappears and takes back the town nearly single-handedly, which negates everything Cody has said up till then. When the rest of the town begin to fight back, Cody has already disposed of most of Hog's men. It makes no sense to me. The Western post-nuke subgenre was better served a few years later in the Pepin/Merhi (PM) Production STEEL FRONTIER (1995). Now that was an entertaining, action-packed low-budget film. DEADLY REACTOR (named because of Cody's actions, not a nuclear power plant), is an instantly forgettable action flick with not much to recommend. Other Heavener-directed epics include TWISTED JUSTICE (1990), PRIME TARGET (1991), EYE OF THE STRANGER (1993), FUGITIVE X: INNOCENT TARGET (1996), OUTLAW PROPHET (2001), DAWN OF THE LIVING DEAD (2004) and PSYCHO WEENE (2006). Also starring Barbara Kerek, Arvid Holmberg, Ace Cruzherrera, Ray Spinka and Dan Zukovic. An A.I.P. Home Video Release. Not Rated.

DEATH CHASE (1987) - While riding his bike with his sister one morning, Steven Chase (William Zipp) gets caught in the middle of a shootout and his sister is killed. A dying man hands him a chrome-plated .45 and says, "You're it! Good luck." before passing away. Chase is forced to kill another man brandishing a shotgun and demanding the .45. A little old lady sees him shoot the old man and now he is wanted by the police, who think he is responsible for all the killings. Chase has become involved in  a bloody game masterminded by bad guy Steele (Paul L. Smith), where armed men try to kill whoever is in possession of the .45. I'm not too sure what the point of the game is, but a shady businessman known as The Chairman (C.T. Collins) is monitoring Chase's progress and the end result seems to be whoever is the last person standing that is in possession of the .45 (which has a tracking device built into it) will receive one million dollars. Not only is Chase being pursued by a bunch of game players with guns, he is also wanted by Lt. MacGrew (the late Jack Starrett), who will do anything to bring Chase to justice (or so it would seem), especially when two policemen are gunned down with the .45 (by Steele, not by Chase). The only advantage Chase has is whenever any of the game players are near him, the .45 beeps to alert him. After a few close calls at his apartment and a strip club, Chase learns to use the beeping to his advantage and becomes a formidable opponent. Chase also finds a friend in Diana (Bainbridge Scott), a woman Chase initially kidnaps, but she eventually saves his ass on several occasions (he also saves her from two player/rapists by stabbing one in the crotch and beating the other's brains out with a pipe) and they become lovers. When Lt. MacGrew proves to be just, if not more, crooked and deadly as Steele, Chase (with the help of Diana and best friend Eddie [Reggie DeMorton]) must figure a way out of this mess and the only way seems to be by killing everyone who wants to kill him. In the finale, Chase gives The Chairman a taste of his own game that he will never forget.  Somewhere within this film is a germ of a good idea but, unfortunately, the execution and the acting by most of the actors leaves a lot to be desired. It will come as no surprise then to learn that this is an early film for production company Action International Pictures, who turned out dozens of low-budget action films from the mid-80's to the early 90's. Director/co-scripter David A. Prior (SLEDGEHAMMER - 1984; KILLER WORKOUT - 1986; NIGHT WARS - 1988) gives us a lot of action setpieces (car and boat chases, gunfights and fistfights), but they all suffer from a certain cheapness, the same problem that early Richard Pepin/Joseph Merhi Productions (such as REPO JAKE - 1990) suffered from before they learned from their mistakes and turned out exciting actioners (like RAGE - 1995). I'm not saying you can't enjoy DEATH CHASE (also known as, simply, CHASE), because there are some good scenes (I especially like the scene where Chase is being pursued by two hitwomen in an auto junkyard) if you can just get passed it's poverty level of filmmaking. Director Prior seems to love using bullet squibs here, so there are plenty of bloody gunshot deaths. I just wish he had a better editor, as most of the action scenes are poorly composed and could have used some tightening. I was surprised to see genre vets Jack Starrett (THE DION BROTHERS - 1974) and Paul L. Smith (SNO-LINE - 1986) appearing in a lower-level film like this but, hey, a paycheck's a paycheck. Also starring Paul Bruno, Christine Crowell, Brian O'Connor and Amber Star. A New Star Video Release. Not Rated.

DEATH CHEATERS (1976) - After THE MAN FROM HONG KONG (1975), director Brian Trenchard-Smith made this, a stunt-filled comedy action adventure about the exploits of two movie stuntmen, Steve (John Hargreaves) and Rod (Grant Page), on-and-off the movie set. After foiling (what they think is) a real bank robbery and getting heat from his wife Julia (Margaret Gerard), Steve relates (in a flashback) how he and Rod have been doing reckless things together ever since they were in the Army's Commando Forces during the Vietnam War. Steve and Rod are taken at gunpoint to the estate of Mr. Culpepper (Noel Ferrier), a top secret Australian government official who wants to hire them to perform a special assignment (the bank robbery was a set-up to test their skills). After thinking it over for a couple of days (Culpepper won't tell them what the assignment is until they agree to work for him) and performing some stunts on a film shoot, Steve and Rod take on Culpepper's assignment (Steve tells his worried, but understanding, wife, "I get a kick out of danger!"). Culpepper (who is like M in the James Bond films, complete with a Miss Moneypenny-like secretary named Gloria [Judith Woodroffe], who horndog Rod keeps hitting on) wants Steve and Rod to take a submarine to an island in the Philippines and break into the heavily-guarded fortress of international criminal Augustino Hernandez and steal some important documents from his safe. First, Steve and Rod must go to "The Farm", a secret government training facility, to get in shape, but after running through a boobytrapped obstacle course and coming out unscathed and beating their best martial artist, it's apparent that they are already in tip-top shape (they both wear t-shirts with "Cunning Stunts" printed on the front during this sequence). They then take the submarine to the island in the Philippines and begin their adventure. They split up once they set foot on the island; Steve heads for the fortress through the jungle (where he has a close call with a land mine), while Rod climbs the steep cliffs on the other side of the fortress. While Rod sets off some explosive diversions and draws enemy fire, Steve uses a hang glider to enter the fortress and then some stung gags to steal the documents, pick up Rod and head back to the submarine to safety and then on to the premiere of Rod's latest film role: As a knight who is set on fire for a deodorant TV commercial!  This lighthearted comedy action film benefits greatly from the chemistry between John Hargreaves and Grant Page. Their comic banter and breezy delivery enhances the proceedings immensely as do the stunts we see Page perform (he's a real-life stuntman), including fire gags, building falls and car chases and crashes (the illusion of danger is much greater when we see one of the stars actually performing the stunts). Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, who would make the crazy and even more stunt-filled STUNT ROCK (1978) next, keeps things moving at a brisk pace, skipping such important story elements as character development and plot details, but still giving us a little insight into Steve and Rod's personal and professional lives. The fact that no one dies in this film and we never actually meet international criminal Augustino Hernandez or see Steve actually steal the important documents should show you where this film's tongue is firmly planted. Noel Ferrier (the evil Secretary Mallory in Trenchard-Smith's bloody ESCAPE 2000 [1982]) plays Culpepper with a dry wit, falling asleep while showing the stuntmen an important roll of film, making comical asides and playing chess with Julia (and losing every game) while thay await word of the duo's success or failure. Ralph Cotterill also registers as Culpepper's right-hand man (listed in the credits simply as "Un-Civil Servant"), who dresses like a gangster (complete with white suit and fedora) and fancies himself an expert martial artist, only to be upstaged by Steve and Rod at every turn. Grant Page, who also appeared as the assassin in Trenchard-Smith's THE MAN FROM HONG KONG (and also did a hang glider stunt in that film) and starred in his STUNT ROCK (along with the rock band Sorcery), is still an active Stunt Coordinator in Australian films. Page and Trenchard-Smith would team-up again in 1975 for the stuntman documentary DANGER FREAKS. John Hargreaves (who died of AIDS in 1996) was a well-respected Australian actor and is probably best known on American shores for his starring roles in the ecological thriller LONG WEEKEND (1977) and the fantasy action flick SKY PIRATES (1986). Trenchard-Smith (who has a cameo here as a TV commercial director) is also responsible for the futuristic actioner DEAD-END DRIVE IN (1986), the martial acts actioner DAY OF THE PANTHER and it's sequel FISTS OF BLOOD (both 1987) and over forty other films, spanning many genres. DEATH CHEATERS (the end credits lists the title as DEATHCHEATERS) is nothing extraordinary, just a fun little romp with plenty of stunts and humor. Also starring Drew Forsythe, John Krummel, Peter Collingwood and Annie Semler. A Vestron Video Release. Not available on DVD at the time of this review. Not Rated, but nothing objectionable.

DEATH ON THE RUN (1967) - This Italian genre film skirts closely to the Eurospy genre, but ends up being nothing more than a "find the microfilm before the bad guys do" actioner. The film begins with master criminal Jason (Ty Hardin; BERSERK - 1967) being flown to Athens, Greece to serve time in prison. Some people at the airport are very interested in Jason, including Inspector Starkis (Fernando Poggi; THE HEROIN BUSTERS - 1977), British Secret Service agent Major Worthington Clark (Michael Rennie; THE POWER - 1968), "The Bulgarian" (Remo De Angelis; JOHN THE BASTARD - 1967) and his driver (Vassili Karis; THE ARENA - 1973), and "The Albanian" (Gordon Mitchell; THE SKIN UNDER THE CLAWS - 1975). The Bulgarian has his men cause a disturbance, which allows Jason to escape and elude the police. Jaason, who use to live in Athens, knows his way around town and goes looking for his old nightclub business partner Pizza (Vittorio Caprioli; BLOOD AND DIAMONDS - 1977) to help him hide, but is captured by The Bulgarian and his men. They don't want him dead, though, as the Bulgarian tells Jason that if he can retrieve an item he is after, he will pay him $20,000 (Jason has been in prison many times, but, like Houdini, he always finds a way to escape). The item turns out to be a tooth in the mouth of a dead prisoner, who is about to be transported to his burial. Jason manages to sneak into the prison, pull the tooth out of the dead prisoner's mouth with a pair of pliers and escapes by hiding the prisoner's body and taking his place in the coffin, getting out of prison easier than breaking into it. But why is everyone interested in the tooth, wanting it enough to kill for it? I already told you why (in the tooth is microfilm having the names of every British and American undercover agent in Europe), but Jason is a tough customer, looking for a way to double his money, by having Pizza make a copy of the tooth. Pizza doesn't know it, but a dancer at his nightclub, Rumba (Graziella Granata; SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES - 1962), has overheard his conversation with Jason and decides to turn it to her advantage and make some money by working with the Albanian, who wants the tooth enough to kill for it.
     After several close calls (including a rather good car chase, where Jason jumps a drawbridge in Pizza's new car to escape from the Albanian and the police; and a rather brutal piece of footage where the Albanian and his men machinegun a young boy named Jamie [Hum Silvers], who was helping Jason), Jason is disturbed to find that his former flame Greta (Paola Pitagora; REVOLVER - 1973) is working with the Bulgarian to get the tooth and microfilm. Greta tells Jason she is only doing it because her sister, who was dating the dead prisoner behind the Iron Curtain, had a baby with him and when they tried to escape by climbing over the Berlin Wall in East Germany, only he made it, as her sister and her baby were captured and her sister died in a Russian gulag not long after. She only agreed to work with the Bulgarian because he told her he would bring the baby to her if she succeeded in getting the tooth. Jason promises Greta that he will makes sure the baby gets to her, no matter what he has to do, but when the Bulgarian finds out Greta was talking to Jason, he kills her by shooting her in both eyes (offscreen). Jason is furious when Major Clark shows him Greta's body, but the Major says something that brings suspicion to him in Jason's eyes. When Rumba leads Jason to the Albanian and his men, she pays for it with her life when the Albanian shoots her point blank.  Jason gets shot in the shoulder and just when the Albanian is about to finish him off, Inspector Starkis and the Major show up and kill the Albanian's men, but the Albanian escapes.
     A short time later, the Albanian kidnaps Pizza, takes him to his old deserted nightclub that was run by Pizza and Jason, tortures him with a blowtorch and constant pummeling to get him to say where the tooth is, but no matter how much they hurt him, Pizza refuses to answer. Jason then breaks in and a gunfight ensues and the Major shows up and kills the Albanian. Jason asks Pizza where the real tooth is and he tells him he had it all along. It was in the keychain he gave Jason when he borrowed his car. Jason left the keychain at the front door in a padlock, but when he goes to retrieve it, it is gone. Major Clark orders Inspector Starkis to arrest Jason and he is taken to the station to be questioned. Jason makes a deal with the Inspector, offering the microfilm in exchange for a hefty sum of money and the return of Greta's sister's baby and he will tell him the name of a traitor in his group. The traitor is Major Worthington Clark, who is actually a double agent working for the Russians. A prisoner exchange is then arranged, Major Clark for the baby, but the Inspector arrests and handcuffs Jason, telling him he and Pizza will get the money when Jason finishes the prison term he was about to serve in Athens when he escaped. We then discover that Major Clark made a copy of the microfilm, so the allies and the enemies are in a stalemate, as all the undercover agents will have to leave their posts and the Russians gain nothing. Jason hands the baby to Pizza and tells him to take care of it until he returns, which won't be long because, "No prison can hold me." It turns out to be sooner than we think, as when Jason is being escorted away by the Inspector and his men, he forces the car to crash and he escapes, the film ending exactly as it began, with Jason running away on the airport tarmac and dodging gunfire. THE END.
     Directed by Sergio Corbucci, who was best known for his gut-wrenching Spaghetti Westerns, such as DJANGO (1966), NAVAJO JOE (1966), THE GREAT SILENCE (1968), COMPANEROS (1970) and SHOOT FIRST...ASK QUESTIONS LATER (1975), this actioner, co-written by Corbucci, Franco Rossetti (TEXAS, ADIOS - 1966) and Massimo Patrizi (the excellent Spaghetti Western THE PRICE OF POWER - 1969), is enjoyable fluff and nothing more, thanks to Ty Hardin's devil-may-care attitude through the entire film. The film also has some beautiful cinematography (by Aiace Parolin; BABA YAGA - 1973) that showcases some of Athen's favorite tourist spots, including a really long footchase on the ancient Greece ruins of the Acropolis, something that could never be attempted today (at least not without plenty of CGI). I have to admit that I was taken aback by the brutal killing of the young boy, as violence against children is not pleasant to watch, but I do give Corbucci credit for actually showing it and not turning the camera away. Hey, this is nothing extraordinary, just a simple chase film with plenty of gunfire, deaths and other violence, but it's still a fun film to watch, thanks to its Italian sensibilities. One thing that really stands out in this film are Gordon Mitchell's extremely blue eyes. But a word of warning: Staring at them will probably put you in a trance! If you like Italian actioners with a smidgen of Eurospy dressing, you are bound to enjoy this.
     Shot as BERSAGLIO MOBILE ("Moving Target", which was the title of the print I watched) and also known as HEADHUNTER, this film got a U.S. theatrical release from Producers Releasing Organization (PRO) in 1967, but never obtained a legitimate U.S. home video release in any format, relying on gray market sites such as Something Weird Video to release it on VHS and DVD-R. I saw this streaming on the YouTube channel "The Lost Movie Studio", who offer the Something Weird print (you can see the translucent "SW" bug on the lower right of the screen during dark scenes), which is fullscreen and dubbed in English (both Ty Hardin and Michael Rennie supply their own voices). Also featuring Giulio Coltellacci (a Costume Designer on THE 10TH VICTIM - 1965), Valentino Macchi (THE MANIAC RESPONSIBLE - 1975), Aldo Cecconi (SECRET AGENT FIREBALL - 1965), Nino Vingelli (BLAZING FLOWERS - 1978) and Alfred Thomas (LUANA, THE GIRL TARZAN - 1968). Not Rated.

DESERT SNOW (1989) - Good low-budget actioner about drug smuggling across the Mexican border. The film opens up with a van of wetbacks being massacred by two men with machine guns in the Arizona desert. An Indian (who is chugging a six-pack of Coors) sees the massacre and ends up getting murdered after trying to help the last surviving wetback. Max Collins (Steve Labatt) and Stone (Flint Carney) go searching the desert for the Indian, who happens to be Stone's uncle. They find the massacred wetbacks with their stomachs slit open. A DEA agent tells Max that a local drug baron, Angel Melendez (Simon Maceo), is using wetbacks to smuggle cocaine in their bodies as they illegally cross the border. The crooked sheriff warns Angel that Max and Stone are looking for the people responsible for killing Stone's uncle. Angel sends the crooked sheriff to kill them, but doesn't succeed. Angel has other problems. Mafia kingpin Don Russo (Sam Incorvia) sends his first lieutenant, Tony Sacco (Frank Capizzi), to Arizona to keep a close eye on Angel and to kill the "Mexican spic" if he proves to be an embarassment. Max and Stone break up a drug drop-off and walk away with the cocaine. Things get complicated when a mother/daughter team, in the desert on a camping trip, accidentally witness another wetback massacre. Max and Stone must also protect them as well as themselves. Things come to a boil when all three parties meet and fight to the death.  I really liked this film. It's well-acted by a cast of relative unknowns and one-time director Paul M. DeGruccio keeps the the action flowing at a speedy clip, letting enough blood and nudity creep in so that you are never bored. There also a hefty amount of humor in the script (by Dan Peacock and Paul Natale) that catches you off-guard among the grim proceedings. Tony Sacco complaining about the type of car that came to pick him up at the airport is a priceless piece of dialogue and editing. And just wait till you see what Tony uses under the wheels when his car gets stuck in the desert. The effects are also brutal. You will see several bloody head shots, a man shot in the groin, scenes of stomachs being slit open, throat slashings, a grenade being shoved into a goon's mouth and a major character has his hands nailed to a table and then stabbed in the back. Also, dig the carnage when Angel's girlfriend meets a cactus at 60 mph. I had a good time with this hard-to-find film. It's an almost perfect blend of action, violence and humor. If you can find this anywhere, pick it up! Also starring Shelley Hinkle, Caroline Jacobs, Ray Gamboa, Frank McGill, Cynthia Miles and Peter DeFalco. A Raedon Home Video Release. Not Rated. A special Thanks to William Wilson for giving me a copy of this.

THE DION BROTHERS (1974) - Good-natured action comedy from the always reliable Jack Starrett (THE LOSERS - 1970; SLAUGHTER - 1972: RACE WITH THE DEVIL - 1975), the kind of action film they don't make any more. Stacy Keach and Frederic Forrest star as Calvin and Russell Dion, two dirt-poor mining town hicks who join a gang of thieves and look for their own personal GRAVY TRAIN (the film's alternate title) in Washington, D.C.. Tony (Barry Primus), the gang's well-dressed leader, sets up the robbery of an armored car, which goes off without a hitch, netting the gang, which also includes goofy musclehead Rex (Denny Miller) and shifty Carlos (Richard Romanus), over $600,000 in cash. When Tony and Carlos betray Calvin, Russell and Rex and send the cops to their hotel room, Rex is killed but Calvin and Russell escape thanks to a couple of sticks of dynamite and some police uniforms. They steal a police car and then pull over three guys and rob them of their clothes, money and car (a very funny scene). By chance, they see Tony's girlfriend Margie (Margot Kidder) walking down the street and follow her home. They make her take them to Tony, but Carlos is waiting with a sniper rifle (he's a lousy shot). A chase ensues and they capture Carlos. After torturing him with a lobster (!), Carlos agrees to take them to Tony. Everyone finally congregates at a building that is being demolished. Besides fighting each other, Tony and the Dion brothers must also contend with a wrecking ball, a room full of chickens and holes in the floors. With the building falling apart around them, the Dion brothers battle Tony and his goons room-by-room and floor-by-floor, until only one is left standing. Even though the ending is a bummer, you'll find yourself laughing out loud many times before the film ends on a dour note.  This funny action flick benefits tremendously by Keach's and Forrest's performances as two guys completely out of their element. They rob to finance their dream (well, it's actually Calvin's, but Russell goes along) of opening a fancy seafood restaurant, even though they have never tasted seafood. They are totally devoted to each other, though neither of them basically has a clue as to what they are doing (This is Russell's opinion of school: "They fill your head with so much gosh-darned facts, there's no room left to think!"). There's not a mean-spirited bone in this entire film until the finale. Even though there are gunfights, violence and death, it's all so goofy and innoculous, it elicits laughs rather than shock. The final building demolition chase/gunfight is well-staged and exciting, as everyone runs, shoots and falls through floors as the wrecking ball continuously strikes the building, ending in a surprising death and a great fight between Calvin and Tony. The cast of genre vets are excellent and also includes Clay Tanner and Robert Phillips as members of Tony's gang, Paul Dooley as a crooked doctor, future director Joe Tornatore (THE ZEBRA FORCE - 1976) as a cop and a cameo by director Jack Starrett as a good ol' boy on the TV. Terrence Malick, the director of BADLANDS (1973) and other quality films, co-wrote the screenplay with Bill Kerby using the pseudonyn "David Whitney". Malick was also slated to direct this, but dropped out and Starrett took over. Never released legally on home video in either VHS or DVD. The print I viewed came from the satellite station The Drive-In Channel. It's uncut, but every 30 minutes, they insert 5 minutes of commercials! In the immortal words of Cal Dion: "Here's twenty bucks. Go change your name!" Worth your time if you happen to run across a copy. This Tomorrow Entertainment production was released to theaters thru Columbia Pictures. When are studios going to wise up and start releasing 70's gems like this on DVD? Rated R.

DOUBLE NICKELS (1977) - A good car chase is one of the most difficult things to capture on film, so you have a lot riding on a movie that is nearly 80% car chases. Very few movies can successfully pull that off. This small sub-genre really started with director John Hough's DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY (1974) and H.B. Halicki's GONE IN 60 SECONDS (also 1974; Halicki would return with THE JUNKMAN - 1982 and DEADLINE AUTO THEFT - 1983 before being killed on a stunt gone wrong on the unfinished GONE IN 60 SECONDS 2 - 1988) and then had a short-lived career in films like DEATH RACE 2000 (1975), EAT MY DUST (1976) and several others before Hollywood finally grabbed the sub-genre by the balls and beat it to death with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977), THE CANNONBALL RUN (1981) and both films' increasingly embarrassing sequels. DOUBLE NICKELS is director/producer/co-screenwriter/star Jack Vacek's (ROCK HOUSE - 1988) stab at the genre. Since he was also a cinematographer/production manager/actor in most of H.B. Halicki's productions, Vacek had a better handle than most on how to film car chases and this film works for the most part, even though it stars a cast of non-professionals and has a budget that wouldn't fill the craft table on a Hollywood film. Vacek stars as Smokey, a Highway Patrol cop who likes to drive fast (Just before he goes on duty, he loves to race his motorcycle to work, leading the exasperated cops in the next town on daily high speed chases. It's a game to Smokey, but the cops chasing him take it very seriously, even though they never catch him.). Smokey loves his job, but he's not your typical Highway Cop. He and his partner Ed (Ed Abrams) have fun at their jobs and not every chase ends in an arrest or a ticket. When Smokey and Ed pull over a guy named George (George Cole), who's in the repo business, he offers them a job repossessing cars in their spare time. They take him up on his offer (it gives them a chance to drive fast during their off-hours and make extra cash), but they only want to repossess fast cars, so George takes them on a trial run where they watch George repo a car and learn the ropes. Smokey meets a girl named Jordan (co-scripter Patrice Schubert, Vacek's real-life wife) when he stops her for driving too slow and he makes a date with her, but he shows up two hours late when he and Ed's first repo job doesn't go as smoothly as it should. Their next repo job is a disaster when Ed repos a Ford Pinto (what happened to fast cars only?), leading cops on a chase (both Smokey and Ed could be kicked off the force if they are discovered moonlighting) down a few flights of extremely steep concrete stairs (it's one of the slowest chases in film history!). The rest of the film is a series of car chases, as Smokey and Ed repo cars (disguised as lawn care professionals) or try to outrun the police that chase them. Needless to say, there's not a fruit stand, flower shop, stack of boxes full of Styrofoam popcorn or aqueduct that they don't manage to crash into, plow over or hydroplane on, as they try to avoid capture. Trouble ensues when Smokey and Ed discover that they are being played for fools, as the cars (and even a sailboat) that they have been repossessing are not repos at all; they are actually stealing perfectly legally-owned cars that are being sold overseas or stripped for parts by crime kingpin Lewis Sloan (Tex Taylor). How are Smokey and Ed going to pull their asses out of this fire? With George's help, Smokey and Ed steal a briefcase containing incriminating evidence of Lewis' criminal enterprise, which leads to the film's complex, stunt-filled car chase finale.  This is an innocuous actioner that contains no foul language, no bloody violence, no nudity and really nothing offensive at all. Just plenty of car chases and extremely bad acting (a lot of dialogue seems improvised). If that's your cup of tea, you should enjoy DOUBLE NICKELS for those simple pleasures alone. All that is missing is Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55". This was also retitled SPLIT-SECOND SMOKEY for some southern U.S. drive-in showings. Also starring Heidi Schubert, Mick Brennan, Michael Cole, Larry Dunn and Tom Syslo. Available on DVD as part of Brentwood Home Video's 10-movie compilation titled REVVED!, which is now OOP. Rated PG.

DOUBLE TARGET (1987) - Violent war actioner from director "Vincent Dawn" (a.k.a. Bruno Mattei; RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR - 1983; ROBOWAR - 1988; BORN TO FIGHT - 1989) that throws everything but the kitchen sink at the screen to see what sticks. Luckily, a lot of it does, making this film a good choice for action fans.
     A series of terrorist attacks and bombings are happening at U.S. military bases, hospitals and embassies in the Far East, ten years after the war in Vietnam ended. Former Special Forces soldier Bob Ross (Miles O'Keeffe; CARTEL - 1990) makes a trip to Vietnam to retrieve his ten-year-old son, Jan (Edison Navarro; Mattei's STRIKE COMMANDO - 1987), whom he was forced to abandon when the war ended. Bob tells a member of the Vietnam government that he is not leaving the country without his son, only to be told that his marriage to Jan's mother was not considered legal, therefore he has no rights to Jan, he is a ward of Vietnam. The official tells Bob if he were now to get remarried legally, he might have a right to claim his son, but Bob tells the official he damn well knows that his wife died in a Vietnam P.O.W. camp. The official corrects Bob, telling him it was a "re-education" camp, where women corrupted by American propaganda were schooled to bring them back to the Vietnam way of life. The official then gets a phone call and tells Bob to follow him, he may have a solution to his problem. Bob is then thrown into a dark room, where Russian nastie Colonel Galckin (Bo Svenson; BROTHERS IN BLOOD - 1987) tells Bob not to take another step closer, if he does, his right hand man, Talbukin (David Anderson; MANNIGAN'S FORCE - 1988), a martial arts expert, will kill him.  Colonel Galckin wants to know the real reason he is in Vietnam, not believing his story that he is here to get his son. Bob doesn't care if he believes him or not and pummels Talbukin, knocking him out and escaping the building, with Galckin's soldiers close behind, but Galckin tells them he wants Bob taken alive. Just when it looks like Bob is about to be captured, a helicopter appears and an American agent tells Bob to hop on, which he does (quite acrobatically) and he escapes.
     The helicopter takes Bob to a military base where his old commanding officer, Colonel Waters (Mike Monty; DOG TAGS - 1985), is waiting for him. He tells Bob that someone important wants to talk to him and if he agrees to this man's terms, it could very well mean that he will get his son back. That man is Senator Blaster (Donald Pleasence; LAST PLATOON - 1988), an asthmatic no-nonsense government official who tells Bob he wants him to find and kill Colonel Galckin and Talbukin because they are training terrorists to kill Americans all over the world, the latest attacks at a Hong Kong hospital and a U.S. embassy in Malaysia were done by terrorists trained by Galckin and Talbukin. Senator Blaster gives Bob five days to find and kill them and during these five days he will have the full backing and latest weapons from the U.S. government. If, after five days, he fails his mission, he is on his own and the government will deny all knowledge of him. Bob tells Senator Blaster that when he completes this mission, if he doesn't get his son back, he will shove his inhaler so far up his ass he will need a surgeon to remove it (the look on Pleasence's face is priceless!).
     We then see Bob in a submarine, being shot out of a torpedo tube in full scuba gear. When he surfaces, an enemy soldier in a rubber raft is waiting for him, gun drawn, but a shark knocks him out of the raft and eats him! The shark then chases Bob into an underwater cave, trapping him, but he uses one of his high-tech weapons to blow the shark's head clean off its body! He then surfaces and the next time we see Bob, he's in the jungle. A deadly cobra tries to bite him, but he is saved from certain death by Toro (Ottaviano Dell'Acqua, as "Richard Raymond"; Mattei's STRIKE COMMANDO 2 - 1988), who blows off the cobra's head with his pistol. Toro is Bob's first contact, so he and his band of jungle mercenaries take Bob to a village full of children and Toro tells Bob that his son Jan is here. Bob meets Jan for the first time in over ten years and he tells his son that there's something that he has to do first, but when he is done, he's taking him to the United States to live with him. Jan just sits there, no emotion whatsoever on his face. As Bob walks away, Jan looks at a photo his father gave him. It is a photo of Bob with Jan's mother. Jan tears the photo in half, discarding the half containing Bob's image and kissing the other half containing the image of his mother, which he then tucks in his shirt. Is it too late for Bob to connect with Jan?
     Toro and his men take Bob down river and into the jungle, where they come across a couple of "Ruskies" and kill them. Bob and Toro don their clothes, steal their truck and as they are driving Toro asks Bob if he is really doing all this for his son. Bob says yes and Toro admires him for it. They then enter a secret Russian military base and Bob sneaks into a building containing records and begins photographing some of the records pertaining to Colonel Galckin and Talbukin while Toro stands guard. A helicopter containing Galckin and Talbukin lands at the base and they know Bob is there. Bob and Toro steal a motorcycle with a sidecar and begin destroying everything they pass, escaping by the skin of their teeth by jumping into the river. Galckin and Talbukin take several helicopters to the village of children, taking the entire village hostage. Talbukin demands to know which boy is the American's son and when no one will talk he shoots a man point blank in the head and says everyone will be killed unless someone tells him who is Bob's son. Jan steps forward and says, "It is I, but I don't know the man you call my father and I don't want to know him. I hope you catch him!" Does he really mean it? I'm sure he does at the time, but things will change very quickly.
     Bob and Toro are staking out the village and discover all the children are being held in a single hut. Bob tells Toro it is time to "set all hell loose", so they begin destroying the village with grenade launchers and other explosive devices. While Bob is destroying the village and killing Galckin's men, Toro saves all the children by knocking the stuffing out of Talbukin. Toro then grabs Jan and brings him to his father. As Bob, Jan and Toro are running through the jungle trying to escape from Galckin's mercenaries, Toro steps on a landmine and is seriously wounded. Toro tells Bob and Jan to leave without him, go meet their next contact and he will slow down Galckin's approaching army. Bob and Jan reluctantly leave (after Bob clears the field of landmines with one of his high-tech weapons) and Toro waits with a grenade in his hand, the pin pulled. As the army approaches, Toro Sacrifices himself by stepping on another landmine and taking a few of Galckin's army with him, slowing them down enough for Bob to meet his next contact, Mary (Kristine Erlandson; FINAL REPRISAL - 1988), and her father McDougall (our old friend Luciano Pigozzi, once again using his "Alan Collins" pseudonym; OPERATION NAM - 1985). Mary tells Bob and Jan that they have eight hours before the submarine leaves, so she takes them to a trading village to get something to eat when Jan says he is hungry. Once in the village, Bob can smell trouble brewing, so he does a neat trick with a grenade and a coconut, killing everyone at a table who look at them suspiciously. It turns out Bob was correct, this is an enemy ambush and McDougall is gunned down while Bob destroys the village with plenty of fiery explosions (Bob has a thing for destroying everything in his path!). Bob, Jan and Mary hide in the jungle and must keep still as Talbukin and some men look for them. They almost blow their cover (and their lunch) when giant spiders crawl over their bodies, but they are able to brush them off when the enemy passes them.
     Meanwhile, Senator Blaster acts like he doesn't want Bob's mission to succeed, even threatening to cancel the mission, but Colonel Waters convinces him that Bob is the right man for the job and he will succeed (Blaster acts like he is the enemy rather than an ally). Mary takes Bob and Jan to a whorehouse (!) to hide out until it is time to meet the submarine, but Galckin knows they are there and it leads to a bloody firefight where Mary is shot and wounded and they are all taken prisoner by Galckin. Galckin hands Jan a pistol and tells him if he meant what he said before to shoot Bob in the head, but he can't do it. Galckin knew he wouldn't be able to and reveals that the pistol wasn't loaded, telling Bob he is to be executed tomorrow morning. Will Bob complete his mission? Will Jan call Bob "Daddy"? Will Mary join Bob and Jan in the United States to live with them? If you answered "yes" to those questions, you would be correct. When Bob completes his mission and radios in to Blaster, saying, "I get my son, you get a bigger desk. What else could you ask for? You little wimpy-ass, little son of a bitch!", everyone applauds, but what Senator Blaster does next will tickle your funny bone for weeks to come (best seen than explained!).
     I don't know what it is with Bruno Mattei and his '80s action flicks, but he takes chances other genre filmmakers fear to tread, such as over-the-top-explosions, ultra-bloody bullet squibs and even an exploding shark's head. All these ingredients work in Mattei's favor, as we should be shaking our heads in disbelief, but we find ourselves admiring Mattei's moxey instead. The screenplay, by Mattei and his longtime collaborator Claudio Fragasso (as "Clyde Anderson", the director of MONSTER DOG - 1985; WHITE APACHE - 1987; ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH - 1988: and the most enjoyable badfilm of all time, TROLL 2 - 1990), throws ingredients into the story not usually found in war action films, such as the shark and Donald Pleasence's loony portrayal of Senator Blaster, who can barely say two words without getting into a coughing fit and using his inhaler, but it all works here. Just go in not expecting APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) and you should enjoy this down 'n' dirty war actioner.
     Filmed as DOPPIO BERSAGLIO (a literal translation of the review title) and also known as THE HEROES NEVER GIVE UP, this film, lensed in the Philippines and India, was released on VHS and disc worldwide, but it failed to get a home video release in any physical format in the United States. It is available streaming on Amazon Prime, but for some reason, the sound is fucked-up (at least on my Roku), so turn on the subtitles so you know what is going on. It is also a fullscreen print, but it is perfectly watchable if you don't mind subtitles, that is, until something better comes along. Also featuring Massimo Vanni (as "Alex McBride"; Mattei's COP GAME - 1988), Gerald McCoy (HEROES FOR HIRE - 1984), Rene Abadeza (COMMANDO INVASION - 1986), James McKenzie (DESERT WARRIOR - 1988) and Gerald Tosco (WAR WITHOUT END - 1986). Not Rated.

DYNAMITE JOHNSON (BIONIC BOY PART II) (1978) - Director Bobby A. Suarez, fresh off the success of his previous two films, THE BIONIC BOY (1977) and THEY CALL HER...CLEOPATRA WONG (1978), decided to combine the characters of those films and make this, a wild Filipino action/comedy flick. The film opens with a giant mechanical dragon (it looks like the bastard step-cousin of Mechagodzilla), which shoots flames out of it's mouth and spits machinegun fire out it's tail, destroying a rival gang's headquarters. A severely burned victim of the dragon is taken to the hospital, where the Bionic Boy, Johnson "Sonny" Lee (Johnson Yap), is having work done on his bionic legs. His aunt, Interpol agent Cleopatra Wong (Marrie Lee), waits for word of his progress in the waiting room. While he is on the operating table, Sonny hears (with his bionic ear!) the burned guy scream about a giant dragon. When he tells Cleo later on about what he heard, she doesn't believe him (she thinks the anesthesia was playing tricks on his mind), but he is overheard talking about the giant dragon by a thug, who reports back to his boss. The crimeboss, who owns the mechanical dragon and would rather keep it's existence a secret, orders his men to kidnap the burned guy so he doesn't talk further. Sonny spots the goons kidnapping the guy and follows them to a warehouse, where he watches them kill the guy and talk about a smuggling shipment that they are going to pick up at the docks the next morning. Sonny goes to Cleo's house to tell her about it, but she still doesn't believe him, so he goes to the docks by himself the next morning, beats up all the smugglers with his bionic arms and legs (filmed in super slow-motion, while an electricic da-da-da sound plays on the soundtrack) and steals the metal briefcase containing the smugglers' goods (a new kind of radioactive uranium). With the briefcase as proof, Cleo has no other option but to believe Sonny (finally!). They both must now fight a succession of goons and, ultimately, the giant mechanical dragon, as the plot thickens and Nazis are brought into the mix. Agent DeLeon (Franco Guerrero) is assigned to babysit Sonny (easier said than done) while Cleo investigates. In the finale Cleo, Sonny and Agent DeLeon fight a bunch of wetsuit-clad bad guys on an island that holds a deadly secret. I laughed, I cried, I nearly died.  This goofy, entertaining movie once again proves that Director Bobby A. Suarez (ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER - 1980; AMERICAN COMMANDOS - 1985; WARRIORS OF THE APOCALYPSE - 1985) can do no wrong. Filled with wild scenes (Sonny outrunning a moving car and punching the driver in the face, knocking him out; Sonny tosses a goon through a basketball hoop) and crazy characters (including a flamboyantly gay gangster that kisses, slaps and runs around like a total flamer until Sonny hits him square in the nuts with a baseball, knocking off his hat and revealing a headfull of curlers!) that must be seen to be believed. The screenplay (by co-stars Ken Metcalfe and Joseph Zucchero) really doesn't make much sense (It involves illegal uranium mining being done by a tribe of loincloth-wearing natives, who are forced to work in the mines by a silver eyepatch-wearing Nazi, who plans on using this unique uranium to create a death laser and take over the world!), but there are so many funny scenes and out-there situations (including the giant mechanical dragon, which looks to be made out of sheet metal and cardboard painted gold), you'll find yourself in a constant state of laughter and disbelief (Nazis? Where in the hell did they come from?). There's also some side-splitting dialogue, such as when Kurz (Metcalf), the Nazi with the eyepatch, has captured Cleo and has her restrained on a big wooden wheel. Here's his interrogation of her: Kurz: "What is your name and why are you here?" Cleo: "Cleo Wong. Lady dragon hunter!" Kurz: You leave me no choice. We must spin the wheel!" And spin it he does. Unfortunately, this was the last adventure for Bionic Boy (Which was nothing but a knock-off of TV's THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, an extremely popular show worldwide at the time) and even uses the same slow-motion techniques (running the film backwards to show him jumping onto the top of walls and cliffs) and a bastardization of TSMDM's trademark bionic sound effect. Cleopatra Wong would return the next year in Suarez's THE DEVIL'S THREE (a.k.a. PAY OR DIE). Never legally available on home video in the United States (you can guess why), DYNAMITE JOHNSON (also known as THE RETURN OF THE BIONIC BOY) is available from gray market sellers in a dub taken from a Dutch-subtitled letterboxed VHS tape. Of course, the IMDB's listing for this film is 80% wrong, as many of the actors listed don't appear here and the screenwriting credits are false. Also starring Alex Pecate (also the Stunt Coordinator), Johnny Wilson, Pete Cooper, Joe Sison, Manny Tibayan, Gary Quinn and the P.I.S. Stuntmen (P.I.S.S.)! Not Rated. "Throw his body in the river or somewhere!"

EAGLE ISLAND (1986) - Another Swedish action epic from director Mats Helge, who previously gave us the extremely gory NINJA MISSION (1984; EAGLE ISLAND was shot under the title NINJA MISSION 2), the horror film BLOOD TRACKS (1985) and later gave us such films as ANIMAL PROTECTOR (1988) and THE FORGOTTEN WELLS (1989). Let me state right now that Helge should be considered a national treasure; not because he makes good films, mind you, but because he showed the world that Sweden was more than capable of churning out cheap, enjoyable exploitation films (once you get your head around all those "Swenglish" [a combination of Swedish/English] accents). This film opens with a sappy 80's power ballad (called, appropriately enough, "Eagle Island") playing on the soundtrack while we watch a group of Russian frogmen exit from a submarine and swim to the title island, where some poor guard dressed in military fatigues is killed with two crossbow bolts. The frogmen set off some silent alarms, so base commander Eddie Foster (Tom O'Rourke; TV's LAW & ORDER) sends his best man, civilian Simon (Tim Earle; WARDOGS - 1986) to check it out. Simon decides he is "too bushed" to check it out (he thinks it is just some errant rabbits), so he asks friend Tom (Henning Olofsson) to do it instead. Tom is pushed off a cliff by one of the frogmen (who are now dressed as black-clad ninjas!) and dies after crashing on the rocks below (his body smashes against the rocks with a resounding "Thud!"). The next morning, after a breakfast of fish and beer (!) with Eddie, Simon  decides to check out the area himself (apparently, Tom's body has been found, but the dead guard is still missing; it's just too confusing to really tell), when he spots two women, Anna (SummerLee Thomas) and Helen (Lisa Robinson), heading towards the island in a small boat. Eddie is in deep shit when his commanding officer, Colonel Frank Crayton (Terry D. Seago), comes to the island by helicopter and relieves him of duty, blaming Eddie for Tom's death (gee, news travels really fast, but what about the missing guard?). Eddie quits the military instead (a reasonable reaction considering the way he is being treated) and is told by Col. Crayton that he has to leave the island in ten minutes. Anna and Helen turn out to be two nosy photojournalists who say they are trying to get photos of rare eagles that only inhabit this island (hence its name), but it's plain to see that they're here to try and get evidence of why the military occupies this island. To make an extremely confusing long story short, Col. Clayton turns out to be a traitor working in cahoots with the frogmen/ninjas, while Eddie, Simon, Anna and Helen try to stop a crew from a Russian submarine from taking over the island with Col. Clayton's help. Why are Clayton and the Russians doing this? Well, you can be sure it's not over the tasty (and valuable) eagle eggs that litter the island. It's over an egg of a different sort: a device known as "The Egg" that contains data of all the locations of American spy satellites. The war is on!  Not much in the logic department happens during the film's running time but, damn, the film is goofy as hell, with weird fight scenes (the fight between Simon and Clayton is one of the unintentionally funniest, weirdly-choreographed fight scenes I've had the pleasure of watching, as Clayton is constantly interrupted from radioing-in to his Russian counterparts by Simon, who refuses to stay down), lines of English dialogue (screenplay by Madeleine Bruzelius; co-writer of THE FORGOTTEN WELLS) that could only make sense to the Swedish ("Everyone on their toes, got it?") and lots of bloody violence we have come to expect from a Mats Helge film. While not over-the-top as NINJA MISSION (but, to be fair, what is?), EAGLE ISLAND has more than its fair share of gunfights, stabbings, bullet-ridden corpses and deaths by crossbow, not to mention a romance between Eddie and Anna (that seems way out of place in context with the rest of the film) and a brutal beatdown and torture of Lt. Thomson (Mats Hudden) by Russian bad guy Petrowics (Willy Boholm) when he refuses to reveal the location of The Egg. Helen is also graphically (and rather matter-of-factly) shot in the face shortly after she stabs Petrowics in the back when he threatens to rape her. Tastes may vary, but in the right frame of mind, EAGLE ISLAND should satisfy your action fix for one night. Also starring Sten Bostroem, Roger Persson, Jan Nygren and Heinz Fritsche. Never legitimate available on home video in the U.S.; the print I viewed was sourced from a Swedish-subtitled VHS tape on the N.M. International label. Not Rated.

EMPIRE ON FIRE (1988) - An insane Indonesian period actioner you won't find on IMDB or many reference sites. The film opens with nasty Dutch villain Bogart (Mike Abbott; FINAL SCORE - 1986; PLATOON THE WARRIORS - 1988) and his army of Indonesian bad guys (including a pudgy midget who hitches a ride on the shoulders of an eyepatch-wearing giant [I guess the filmmakers just got done watching MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME - 1985]) invading a village and killing all the men and women they come across (but not before raping some of the females, as one shot shows a sweaty bad guy hitching-up his pants after walking out of a burning hut, followed by a village girl stumbling out a few seconds later holding her blood-covered vagina!). They cap off the invasion by decapitating the village leader in front of everyone while Bogart proclaims himself "King Bogart". Those villagers who are not killed are sold as slaves at auctions populated by rich Dutch Imperialists. Years later, Panji (Baron Hermanto) and his mother (Tatiek Wardiyono), who were the son and wife of the decapitated village leader, break-up a slave auction and save the beautiful Mira (Alba Fuad) from a life of servitude. The only problem is that Mira's cure may be worse than the disease, as Isabella (Nina Anwar), who is leading a revolution to overthrow the current regime, believes Mira is the only girl that can bring down the brutal Bogart, as long as she is trained right. Isabella puts Mira through a series of sexual tortures to toughen-up her body and mind, so she can become an undercover prostitute (The tortures include making her lay on a slab of red-hot piece of metal and pounding her vagina with a piece of wood until she loses all feeling in it!). Once Mira is deemed ready, she is sent out to seduce General Tengga (Atut Agustinanto) and Dutchman Captain James (Jurek Pheszynski). Mira has had a previous relationship with James, as he once promised to marry her, but then sold her into slavery once he got into her panties. Mira knows she must kill Bogart, but it is James that she really wants to put six feet under. Panji falls in love with Mira during her training sessions and he doesn't want her to go through with the mission, but her taste for revenge outweighs her love for Panji. When Mira finally gets the chance to bed the horny Bogart, her assassination attempt is interrupted when a jealous Panji invades Bogart's castle and he is captured and thrown in the dungeon. Mira must now decide what is more important to her: Killing Bogart and Captain James or rescuing Panji from the dungeon. Bogart's main concubine, the undercover Isabella (who is really working in conjunction with James to take over Bogart's empire [whew, this is getting complicated!]), pretends to get jealous of Bogart's attention paid to Mira and plays General Tengga against Bogart, which actually helps Mira and her mission. The finale finds Mira killing James by throwing acid in his face and slashing him repeatedly with a dagger; Captain Tengga offing Bogart with a spear to the gut; Isabella shot through the back with an arrow when she tries to hang Mira; and Panji killing Captain Tengga by planting a sword in his stomach (and breaking the blade in the process), God, I love happy endings!  Though not as violent as some period Indonesian fantasies (such as THE WARRIOR [1981] or THE DEVIL'S SWORD [1984]), director Manman Firmansjah (ESCAPE FROM HELLHOLE - 1983; I WANT TO GET EVEN - 1987) and screenwriter Darto Juned (THE SNAKE QUEEN - 1982; REVENGE OF NINJA - 1984) imbue EMPIRE ON FIRE with so many weird visuals and outrageous situations (The strangest being the sight of scores of scantily-clad women being tortured in the underground lair to toughen-up their bodies and private parts so they can withstand Bogart's rough rape sessions), you can't help but enjoy yourself. Particularly interesting is the way Firmansjah integrates so many sex scenes into the film without actually showing any female nudity (the closest the film comes is when we see some women's nipples through their wet clothing as they bathe by a waterfalls). Mike Abbott is his usual coked-out, wide-eyed self, chewing up the scenery in every frame he's in (yet his brutal rape scenes seem nothing more than gentle lovemaking sessions!). His death scene, where General Tengga stabs him with a spear just above his groin, is one of the film's bloody highlights. As usual with most Indonesian films, the English dubbing is horrendous and hilarious (although whoever dubbed Abbott's voice at least tried to match his lip movements), the violence is over-the-top and any depiction of the Dutch is not in the best light (even the Dutch women are portrayed as upper-class cunts), but considering Indonesia's history, this is to be expected. Another winner from Producer Gope T. Samtani and Rapi Films, Indonesia's main purveyors of sleazy entertainment. This never got a legitimate U.S. home video release (these films generally never do), but those lucky Greek bastards did get this on VHS (where my print was sourced from). Not Rated.

ESCAPE FROM SAFEHAVEN (1988) - It's post-apocalypse time once again, yet this American-made film is just different enough to hold your interest. After the "Collapse", the world is a shell of it's former self, as all the cities have become nothing but burned-out slums with barbarian nomads preying on what's left of normal human society. One such family, the Colts, have saved up enough money to move into a "Safehaven", a self-contained city block where society is civil and everyone lives in peace and harmony. Or so they thought. Once the Colts, which includes father Ben (William Beckwith), mother Janet (Sammi Gavich), son Jeff (John Wittenbauer) and daughter Natalie (Mollie O'Mara), make it to Safehaven 186, they will discover that it's rules and regulations are no better (if not worse) than living on the outside. As a matter of fact, Safehaven 186 is a living nightmare, as it's leader, Mayor McGee (Marcus Powell), runs the place with an iron fist. When Ben and his family are forced to watch two Safehaven residents being hanged for minor infractions, Ben speaks out against the injustice, which doesn't sit well with Mayor McGee and his goons and it puts his family's lives in jeopardy. Mayor McGee sends his goons to arrest the Colts at their apartment (which looks like a hovel) and they grab everyone except Jeff, who is out doing some shopping. Ben is falsely charged with assaulting an officer, head goon Preacher (Roy MacArthur), and sentenced to death, so Jeff has to find a way to rescue his father and the rest of his family (Mom is put in a cell and Natalie is sent to a whorehouse for training). Enter Pierce (Rick Gianasi; RIOT ON 42ND ST. - 1987), a loner in the best MAD MAX (1979) tradition, who previously saved Natalie from being raped when the Colts were making their way to Safehaven 186 and now helps Jeff save his family, with an assist from a blind black man (Damon Clarke), who, it turns out, is not blind at all, but is the leader of an underground rebel force out to stop the oppression. Complicating matters is an internal power struggle between Mayor McGee and Preacher (Preacher believes the Mayor is being too soft!), but Pierce will use this power grab to his advantage to rescue Ben from the hangman's noose, Janet from a prison cell and Natalie from Preacher and whorehouse madam Mama's (Jessica Dublin) greasy hands. It's not all going to be shits and giggles, though, as Pierce is captured and tortured, the blind man killed and the underground rebel force exposed. Pierce is also harboring a secret from his past, which will come into play during the finale, when he and Preacher face-off for a final confrontation.  This ultra-low-budget post-nuke actioner, co-directed and co-written by Brian Thomas Jones (THE REJUVENATOR - 1988; POSED FOR MURDER - 1989) and James McCalmont (UNDERGROUND TERROR - 1988; and also Director of Photography here) is an enjoyable seedy little film with a lot of ideas on it's mind, but not a lot of money to show it. I admire a film that shows how life in a supposedly "safe" environment may actually be worse that life on the outside, where scavengers roam the slum-ridden landscape and life isn't pretty. What this film lacks in budget, it more than makes up for in sheer chutzpah, as the real scavengers are shown to be those that are in authority; corrupt to the point of no longer acting humane. That's not to say that this film is all lofty ambitions, though. There are plenty of exploitative elements on view, including Pierce being tortured by a topless chick in a dominatrix outfit, some bad martial arts tomfoolery, a smattering of gore (including a scene of the blind man being crucified), gunfights and lots of people with big 80's hair and clothing. While we're not talking Shakespeare here, ESCAPE FROM SAFEHAVEN is just unusual enough to make it worthwhile viewing, as long as you can forgive it's extremely low budget. Filmed in New York City (look closely during the rooftop scenes and you'll notice that the city is not as empty as this film wants you to believe it is). The infectious opening and closing song, "Law Of Survival" is performed by TAJ, who was also responsible for the effective electronic score in UNDERGROUND TERROR. I'm still trying to get it out of my head. Also starring Ric Siler, Sharon Shahinian, Tere Malson and John Sklar. This actually got a theatrical release, followed by a VHS release from Sony Video Software, Inc. Rated R.

EXIT SPEED (2008) - This is an exciting and tense action thriller that takes an overused and generic concept and turns it on its head. The concept: On Christmas Eve, a busload of passengers in the middle of nowhere in Texas (where, not-so-coincidentally, it's a dead zone for cell phone service) are being terrorized and killed by an outlaw biker gang. Yeah, I know it's been done to death, but EXIT SPEED contains enough surprises and good performances to merit a viewing. The passengers are a varied lot and pack a lot of personal demons: Meredith Cole (Julie Mond; REST STOP: DON'T LOOK BACK 2008), an AWOL Marine who is being pursued by MPO Sgt. Archie Sparks (Fred Ward; TREMORS - 1989); Sam Cutter (Desmond Harrington; WRONG TURN - 2003), who is on his way to see his son; Maudie McMinn (Lea Thompson; RED DAWN - 1984), a single mother who is traveling without her children; Annabel Drake (Alice Greczyn; SHROOMS - 2006), an artist and champion bow marksman (this will come in handy); Jerry Yarbro (Gregory Jbara; CEMENT - 1998), a high school football coach with a hair trigger temper; and Duke (Nick Sowell) and Desiree (Kelli Dawn Hancock), a young interracial couple more interested in sex than anything else. While these seem like pat characters in a pat situation, once bus driver Danny Gunn (David Rees Snell; TV's THE SHIELD [2002 - 2008]) hits two members of the motorcycle gang, it's plain to see that everyone of these passengers are harboring life-changing secrets of their own. The fun starts once Danny stops the bus to check on the condition of the two bikers he hit. While it is quite obvious one of the bikers is dead, the other one pulls out a gun and shoots Danny in the head, killing him (which is shocking because, up to this point in the film, it seems Danny is going to be one of the film's major heroes), wounds Meredith in the side (using her Marine training, she stops the bleeding by sticking a tampon in the wound and sealing it with duct tape!) and kills another secondary passenger by shooting her in the neck. As the film progresses, the passengers grab control of the bus, crashing it into an out-of-the-way auto junkyard, where our ragtag group must batten down the hatches and defend themselves against the ever-growing number of bikers, while bickering among themselves and discovering each other's secrets. To give away any more would be doing a disservice to first-time viewers. Let's just say that nearly everyone has their own hidden talents that will be needed to be put into use if they are to survive the night.  Similar in tone to John Carpenter's ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976), in that the bikers depicted here are mainly faceless entities with no dialogue, but director Scott Ziehl (EARTH VS. THE SPIDER - 2001; DEMON HUNTER - 2004; ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL - 2006) and screenwriter Michael Stokes (BRAM STOKER'S SHADOWBUILDER - 1998; THE MARSH - 2006) add depth to the film by giving most of the passengers some interesting back stories and integrating those back stories into advancing the plot. While the middle section of the film falters somewhat (there seems to be too much arguing amongst the cast), it does pick up steam once the passengers decide to work together and begin to kick some biker ass. That's not to say that they don't suffer some casualties of their own, as Ziehl is not afraid to kill off some  major characters in gruesome ways. There are also some welcome bits of humor, most of it coming from Spanish-speaking passenger Mr. Vargas (Everett Sifuentes), who no one understands, yet he manufactures a weapon that comes in quite handy (and is used in one of the film's stand-out deaths). While much of the violence consists of bullet hits to the head or other extremities, there's also a nasty machete throat-slashing, various arrow impalements, bloody shotgun blasts and a crowd-pleasing killing by Lea Thompson (whom I never liked as an actress, but she's bloody good here), who kills a nasty female biker while half-pleading/half-proudly declaring "I have children!" It will send shivers up your spine. All-in-all, not a bad way to spend 90 minutes. Nothing earth-shaking, just solid entertainment with a sense of heart and soul missing from most genre films of this type. A Peace Arch Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE EXPENDABLES (1988) - This Vietnam War action film opens with Captain Rosello (Anthony Finetti) leading a platoon into an enemy village and destroying a munitions dump, but not before taking on heavy casualties. When the mission is completed, the only people left alive are Rosello, another soldier and a baby that Rosello rescues after he is forced to kill it's traitorous mother. Back at base camp, Rosello is informed by his Commanding Officer that no other soldiers want to work with him because every mission he leads, very few soldiers come back alive. Rosello is then ordered to lead a squad of misfits, con men and criminals on his latest mission, but first he has to get them to work together as a team. That won't be easy. This group of roustabouts have more issues than National Geographic. There's the wise-mouthed black demolitions expert, Jackson (Kevin Duffis); deeply religious Bible-thumper with the prophetic name Elijah Lord (Loren Haynes, who also wrote and sings the film's closing tune); full-fledged bigot Richter (Jeff Griffith), who looks at Jackson and says, "Apes ain't my brothers!"; hard-partying pothead Sterling (Peter Nelson); and the mysterious Navarro (Eric Hahn). Before you can say THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967), Captain Rosello is seen whipping the squad into shape in typical 80's fashion, while we watch the members try to work out their differences, especially between Richter and Jackson (When Richter says, "I smell a nigger!", it leads to a lengthy fistfight between the two). Rosello finally leads his men on their first mission: Capturing a Viet Cong Colonel (Filipino staple Vic Diaz, in a much larger role than usual) and blowing up an enemy bridge. They somehow manage to complete their objectives, but they aren't yet working together as a squad (Rosello tells his Commanding Officer after the mission, "They can't even wipe their own asses!", to which his C.O. responds, "Then you wipe for them!"). Slowly but surely, everyone begins working together as a team and learn to put their differences aside. After taking a major casualty on their second mission, Roselli decides to take his men for a night out on the town, which leads to a prerequisite bar fight with a bunch of drunken Marines (one is portrayed by an uncredited Nick Nicholson). They all get thrown into the brig, but when enemy forces invade the hospital to free their captured Colonel and take some female nurses hostage, Captain Roselli and the Expendables swing into action in what will turn out to be their most dangerous (and fatal) mission. For the first time, Captain Roselli experiences the hollow experience of victory in the face of sacrifice.  This is Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's third 80's Vietnam War film, after EYE OF THE EAGLE and BEHIND ENEMY LINES (both 1987), and while it offers nothing new to the genre (all the characters are straight out of Stereotypes 101), it still manages to be strangely compelling, not to mention action-packed. Santiago always staffs his films with his usual cast of professionals and THE EXPENDABLES benefits from it. As a matter of fact, the weakest actor here is Anthony Finetti as Captain Rosello, who is a newcomer to the Santiago universe. Nearly everyone else, from Rosello's Commanding Officer (William Steis; the star of DEMON OF PARADISE - 1987) to all the members of the Expendables, have appeared in numerous Santiago productions, sometimes taking-on leading and secondary roles and other times appearing in uncredited bit parts. That is why most of Santiago's films, whether good or bad, are at least well-acted. THE EXPENDABLES also contains it's fair share of gunfights, explosions and bloody bullet squibs as well as a surprising amount of female nudity (much of it full-frontal), way more than usual for films of this type. The script, by Philip Alderton, is generic war action stuff, but I did like the inclusion of the deeply religious character, Lord, into the mix. It allowed for a couple of unusual sequences, such as when Lord pulls his gun on and threatens to kill a naked gook prostitute when she rubs her naked body on him. He also turns out to be the voice of reason during the final attack set-piece, basically telling the rest of the gang, "Hell, do you want me leading you or do you want the reluctant pothead?" The group picks the pothead. As much as I despise organized religion in general, it's refreshing to watch a film that puts a human face to someone devoted to their god, without pandering or preaching. If you are a fan of war action films, you will probably enjoy this. This is the first film produced by Christopher R. Santiago, Cirio's son. Christoper would go on to produce many of his father's later films. Also starring David Light, Leah Navarro, Don Wilson, Jim Moss, Don Holtz, Greg Rocero, Janet Price and Cory Sperry as Strzalkowski, an in-joke to frequent Santiago collaborator Henry Strzalkowski, who had nothing to do with this film. Available on VHS from Media Home Entertainment and not yet available on DVD. Rated R.

EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987) - This film, the first of Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's full-on 80's Vietnam War action flicks, finds Sgt. Rick Stratton (Brett Clark; ALIEN WARRIOR - 1985), Cpl. Johnny Ransom (Robert Patrick, wearing the same rebel cap he did in Santiago's EQUALIZER 2000 - 1986) and Cpl. Willy Leung (Rey Malonzo; SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE - 1984) saving a squad of American soldiers who are pinned-down by the enemy in the jungle. Sgt. Stratton fires his pistol in one hand and an AK-47 in the other, Cpl. Leung keeps the enemy at bay with his automatic rifle and Cpl. Ransom shoots his Winchester rifle from the hip. All three of them are crack shots, kill all the VC and lead the American soldiers to a waiting helicopter. We then witness a group of traitorous American soldiers, led by Sgt. B.O. Rattner (Ed Crick), invade the headquarters of Company C, laying waste to all the buildings and killing all the American soldiers stationed there. Col. Stark (Mike Monty) and Capt. Carter (William Steis) assign Stratton, Ransom and Leung on a mission to kill enemy Col. Trang (Vic Diaz) as he is traveling by train through the mountains. The trio sneak on-board the train, kill Trang and are forced to steal some enemy motorcycles and drive to safety when, for some reason, Capt. Carter never picks them up by helicopter. When the trio get back to headquarters, they make sure to voice their displeasure to Carter and then get into a bar fight with Sgt. Maddox (David Light) and his men (who were supposed to back them up on the last mission) when someone calls Leung a "gook". Meanwhile, journalist Chris Chandler (Cec Verrell; SILK - 1986) has discovered the secret location of the "Lost Command", a squad of rogue soldiers that are officially listed as AWOL or MIA, commanded by, you guessed it, Sgt. B.O. Rattner. When Chandler is discovered taking photos of the secret location, Rattner orders his men to kill her and get the film. That's not going to be easy, because Chandler's assistant, Lol Pot (Tony Beso), is also the leader of a local tribe of spear and bow-carrying freedom fighters. When Chandler makes it back to her base camp, she manages to get one radio message out before Rattner and his men appear to destroy the camp. Chandler is saved, but loses her camera and the film. When Stratton finds out that Rattner is involved, he has Chandler lead him, Ransom and Leung to the location of the Lost Command. You see, it turns out that Rattner murdered Stratton's brother years earlier and it's payback time. It looks like it's going to be a hot time in the old jungle tonight, especially after it's revealed that Capt. Carter is in cahoots with Rattner. When Rattner kidnaps and tortures Ransom, Stratton and Chandler race to the Lost Command headquarters to save him. Will they get there in time?  I'm not going to pretend that this film is nothing but a low-budget PLATOON (1986) rip-off, but it's still damn entertaining. Director/producer Cirio H. Santiago, working with a script by frequent Santiago collaborators Joseph Zucchero and Nigel Hogge, has fashioned a fast-paced, mindless actioner that's basically a non-stop series of action set-pieces connected by the barest of plots. Brett Clark is stiff as a piece of one inch-thick plywood and Robert Patrick, who would appear as the same character in Santiago's next Nam film, BEHIND ENEMY LINES (1987), only this time as the lead, mugs for the camera and screams out his lines. Luckily, we don't watch these films for the acting talent and Santiago doesn't disappoint when it comes to the carnage. People are shot in the head (our trio's preferred method of disposing of the enemy), blown-up or riddled with automatic gunfire and Santiago also includes a shot of a man on fire, a recurring gag in nearly all his films. I'm still trying to figure out why Ransom dresses like a Southern rebel from the Civil War and why he was allowed to bring a Winchester rifle and a Colt pistol to Vietnam, but I suppose it's best not to dwell on such matters. Unfortunately, Cec Verrell keeps her clothes on throughout, but there's a brief shot of a topless prostitute during the bar fight. If you like war action films, EYE OF THE EAGLE is a good way to spend 82 minutes. Two unrelated sequels followed, EYE OF THE EAGLE II: INSIDE THE ENEMY  (1988; directed by Carl Franklin and produced by Santiago) and EYE OF THE EAGLE 3 (1990; with Santiago returning to the director's chair). Other Santiago Nam epics include THE EXPENDABLES (1988), NAM ANGELS (1988), FIELD OF FIRE (1990), BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY (1992), KILL ZONE (1992) and FIREHAWK (1992). Also starring Nick Nicholson, Henry Strzalkowski, Willie Williams, Mel Davidson, Jim Moss and Jerry Hart. Originally issued on VHS by MGM/UA Home Video and later released on DVD by Roger Corman's New Horizons Home Video as part of their AMERICAN VALOR series. Rated R.

EYE OF THE SPIDER (1971) - I really wanted to like this EuroCrime film since it contains a cast of great actors, but I came away disappointed. The plot doesn't make very much sense and for what I could make out, it's just a revenge drama masked by a confusing plot.
     In Vienna, we see a prison van transporting career criminal Paul Valéry (Antonio Sabato; GANG WAR IN MILAN - 1973) stopping by the scene of an accident, only it's not an accident at all, but some thugs who gas the two guards and  drive the van to a secret location. Paul doesn't know what is going on, but Gloria (Lucretia Love; THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW - 1974) tells him to be patient, everything will be explained shortly. She drives him to the palatial home of Professor Orson Krüger (Van Johnson; THE PRICE OF POWER - 1969) and he tries to make a deal with Paul. It seem the Professor financed the job that Paul was pulling when he got captured. He was shot during a diamond robbery and left on the street for the cops to capture by his two partners. The Professor was supposed to get two million dollars worth of diamond and Paul was supposed to get $200,000 for the job, but his partners stiffed the both of them and Paul got 20 years in jail because of it (he was only on year five when he was "rescued"). The Professor tells Paul that he wants him to get even with his partners, but only on his terms. He knows Paul is a hothead and only wants the money due to him and to get even with his partners, but he tells Paul if he doesn't follow his instructions to the letter, the deal is off. Paul agrees and the next thing we see is the Paul got a nosejob and changed the color of his hair, to fool the police (who are looking for him) and also his partners (He originally had a pug nose [blatantly fake-looking] and blonde hair, but now he has his original God-given nose and black hair). His name is now "Frank Vogel" and he has a forged passport, supplied by the Professor, to prove it. The Professor tells Paul that one of his partners, Mark (Teodoro Corrà; FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON - 1970), is in Marseilles, France, so he and Gloria (who is his constant companion, on the Professor's orders), fly to Marseilles (Paul has a few close calls at the airport) and Paul/Frank sees Mark at an estate auction, but there'a also a photographer, Harpett (Goffredo Unger; THUNDER - 1983), who snaps some pictures of Paul without his knowledge. Paul calls Mark and tells him that he wants his money and Mark agrees to pay him. Paul tells him if he tries any funny business, he's a dead man. So what does Mark do? That's right, funny business, sending two of his assassins to kill Paul at their agreed meeting place, a lighthouse. Paul ends up killing the two assassins and, rather than waiting for the Professor's instructions (we never find out what they are!), Paul goes into Mark's office (he's now an art appraiser) with a gun and demands the $200,000 owed to him (The first time they were supposed to meet, Mark sent the police to a restaurant to check everyone's passports, hoping they would snag him, but Gloria saves his ass.). Mark sees that Paul means business, so he opens up his large walk-in safe and gives him the money, over half a million dollars, but he won't tell Paul where the second partner is, forcing Paul to lock him in the safe (even when he gives him the location!). Unknown to Paul, Harpett was watching the whole thing and when Paul leaves, he tries to free Mark, but he doesn't know the combination (they can't hear each other through the safe's steel walls) and Mark dies of asphyxiation (Way too quickly to be believable).
     The Professor is not happy with Paul for not following his instructions (whatever they were!) and takes the money away from him and has Gloria deposit it in a bank. He gives Paul one more chance to follow his directions to the letter. Mark told Paul that his second partner, Hans Fischer (Klaus Kinski; WEB OF THE SPIDER - 1971), a.k.a. "The Polack", is in Algiers, so he and Gloria head there, the Professor providing them a safe place to stay when they are there (The Professor knows their every move). What they don't know is that Harpett has phoned Hans, telling him he would sell him photos of Paul for $20,000. Hans agrees to pay, but crooks can't be trusted and two of Hans' men meet Harpett at a bar, take the photos and garrot him in his own car. Hans now knows Paul's new face, but Paul doesn't care, he just wants the money that is due to him. Just like Mark, Hans tries to kill Paul, but he survives, which leads to a shootout in a boatyard, Paul gunning down Hans' men and then getting into a fight with Hans, impaling him in the torso with a baling hook, killing him. Gloria, who has been trying to get into bed with Paul from the beginning (Paul says to her, "Sorry, but I don't like to start with the crumbs from the Professor's table!"), finally gets her wish and they make love. Good thing, too, because more of Hans' men have taken her prisoner and are holding her at Hans' house. Paul rescues her and when they get back to their villa, the Professor is waiting for them and he's not happy. He pulls a gun on Paul, telling him he cannot trust him since he refuses to follow his directions (What the hell were they????), so he has to die. As he is about to pull the trigger, a shot rings out. That's right, Gloria, who is now madly in love with Paul shoots and kills the Professor, but not before he puts a bullet into her. Both the Professor and Gloria die and the police surround the house (the Professor called them previously to find Paul's body). Paul is then gunned down by the police and the last thought to go through his mind is the vision of the failed diamond robbery, where Mark gunned him down and left him there for the police to capture. Only this time, all the police have is Paul's dead body.
     Like I said earlier, the plot is very confusing and nothing is explained fully. Just when it seems like the Professor is about to tell Paul why he has to die, he starts talking German! If you don't understand German, you are shit out of luck, because even the English subtitles don't translate what he says. Talk about stiffing the viewer! There is also a confusing bit of business when the Professor gives Gloria a gift, telling her, "This is the last link in the chain. Nothing exists to compromise your freedom." It looks to be a silver ring and the Professor then takes it back, saying it is best left with him. We know he is blackmailing her, but what does the ring stand for? We are never told. That's the problem with this entire film, nothing is explained. It's basically Paul killing everyone he comes in contact with and eventually it destroys his life. The "disguise" Paul wears in the beginning, which is supposed to be the "real" him, is so fake-looking, it's laughable. Bushy blonde eyebrows, moustache, beard, blonde wig and a putty nose that wouldn't fool a blind person, which is probably why we never see Paul get the nosejob, he just miraculously is "Frank" without any healing time (rhinoplasty takes a long time to heal!). Director Roberto Bianchi Montero (THE SLASHER...IS THE SEX MANIAC! - 1972; A WOMAN FOR 7 BASTARDS - 1974) doesn't seem to have control over Luigi Angelo (BLACK KILLER - 1971), Aldo Crudo (HITCH-HIKE - 1978) and Fabio De Agostini's (NIGHTMARE CASTLE - 1965) screenplay, forging ahead without bothering to explain anything, like some rogue train or a car going down a steep hill without any brakes. The gunfights are good, as is Carlo Savina's (KILL THE POKER PLAYER - 1972) music score, but they are not enough to get your mind off the gaping plot holes and why nothing is explained to the viewer's satisfaction. Oh, well, not every film can be a winner. At least Van Johnson dubs his own voice, which is also a plus.
 Shot as L'OCCHIO DEL RAGNO (a literal translation of the review title), and also known as DEADLY REVENGE (a more fitting title) and THE SPINDLE'S EYE, this Italy/Austria co-production never recieved a theatrical or home video release in any physical format in the United States. It is available streaming on Amazon Prime, but the print breaks into German at the finale and the anamorphic widescreen print is in less than perfect shape, which is unusual for Prime, but if you need to see every EuroCrime film out there, here it is. Also featuring Franco Marletta (SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971), Claudio Biava (CHURCHILL'S LEOPARDS - 1970), Maria Tedeschi (GIALLO IN VENICE - 1979) and Brigitte Brandt as the woman the Professor sends to Paul's room to bust his five-year-in-prison-breakout cherry. Not Rated.

EYES OF THE CONDOR (1987) - Loony action flick from Thailand, made by the director responsible for the equally insane films H-BOMB (1973), GOLD RAIDERS (1983), THE LOST IDOL (1990) and IN GOLD WE TRUST (1990). A group of rich people gather on a yacht to view the eighth largest diamond in the world, the 152-carat "Eye Of The Condor". During the unveiling of the priceless diamond, a commotion breaks out and thief Kenny Hemmings (Soraphong Chatri; OPIUM STRIKE FORCE - 1985) steals it, jumps overboard and is rescued by his dwarf partner, who is behind the wheel of a powerboat that is towing a hang-glider (!), which Kenny uses to escape into the sky. Back at the yacht, the owner of the purloined diamond dies of a heart attack after witnessing the heist and his son vows to find Kenny and make him pay. Kenny and his vertically-challenged partner deliver the diamond to rich businessman Mr. Anlucky (Douglas Dull), but when he tries to doublecross Kenny and his midget friend, a fight ensues where the diamond first falls into the cleavage of Mr. Anlucky's mistress, then a bucket of ice (what are the odds?) and, finally, getting tossed out the window of the highrise building and landing on the roof of a shack (more on that later). Kenny and his tiny friend escape (the little guy takes a dive out of the same highrise window and lands in a chicken coop!) and everyone, both good guys and bad, vow to find the diamond. Meanwhile, back at police headquarters, the son of the dead diamond owner is able to identify Kenny's mug shot, so the police brass assign Captain Ben Daniel (Joe Samenchai) and Lieutenant Phyllis (Den Dokprodoo) to go undercover and find Kenny and the diamond. Kenny retrieves the diamond when he finds it on the roof of a shack occupied by seven male midgets and their normal-sized sister (a funny take-off on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves), but Mr. Anlucky's goons show up and a comical chase ensues where the diamond once again gets lost when it falls into an ice-making machine (again, what are the odds?). Kenny cuts a deal with Ben and Phyllis to find the diamond if no charges will be filed against him or his seven little friends, while Mr. Anlucky is getting heat from his Big Boss (Craig James) to find the diamond or else. Kenny finds time to fall in love with the dwarves' sister, but when one of the dwarves accidentally swallows the diamond when he finds it, he is kidnapped by Mr. Anlucky's men in a hospital operating room (the doctors were just about to remove it). The sudden appearance of a bald monk, who tells Kenny, Ben and Phyllis that he must return the diamond to the temple it was stolen from before the diamond's curse goes into effect (something about death to all those that touch or possess it), puts pressure on everyone to find the diamond and quickly. Kenny uses his parachuting skills to steal the diamond in mid-air, just as Mr. Anlucky tries to deliver it to the Big Boss. When the Big Boss kidnaps the seven dwarves and their sister in exchange for the diamond, Kenny will once again have to use his hang-gliding skills to save them in the explosive finale.  This insanely comic action film, directed by Chalong Pakdeevichit (better known as Chalong Pakdivijit and P. Chalong) and written by Bancherd Thavee, never takes itself too seriously, but that doesn't mean that the violence is toned-down in the least. People are shot point-blank, stabbed, the dwarves are tossed around like rag dolls (god bless 'em, because they really take multiple beatings on-screen) and there are some well-done and exciting stunts on view, including Kenny's parachuting stunt and a jitney chase where Kenny and all seven dwarves climb into one small jitney (like a clown car at the circus) and are chased around the streets of Bangkok by the bad guys. This film may be nothing but nonsense about a diamond that keeps exchanging hands, but it is entertaining nonsense, full of action, violence, comedy and, above all, hilarious English dubbing that will have you howling with laughter, especially when any of the dwarves open their mouths to speak. They may be short on stature, but they are tall on humor. EYES OF THE CONDOR is a winner in my book. Also starring Krung Srivilai, Chris Kaelai, Thep Phongarm, Piak Pattani, Ron Yohe, Sonchai Samiphak, Noppon Komalachun, Sinaporn Philailak, Thom Thatien and Banchongsirichinda (that's a mouthful!). As usual, this film never got a legitimate U.S. home video release. The print I view was sourced from a (what else?) Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

FIGHTING KILLER (1974) - Every once in a while, I sit on my couch and search streaming movie channels on my Roku, looking for something to watch. I came upon this film by chance and, boy, was I entertained! This crazy Turkey/Italy co-production borrows ideas from DEATH WISH (1974) and countless other revenge actioners and gives us one crazy mash-up, full of WTF?!? action scenes, a little nudity and some really "out there" violence.
     The film opens with some members of a criminal organization being killed by hired thugs. We are then at a large table, where the bosses of said organization are having a meeting. One of the bosses, Joseph (Erol Tas; THE HAND THAT FEEDS THE DEAD - 1974), has his four men gun down all the other bosses so he can run the organization alone. Joseph sends his four men to kill a man with the unfortunate name of Tony Tiger (Turkish actor Irfan Atasoy, who actually uses the pseudonym "Tony Tiger"!; SPY SMASHER - 1968), who once worked for Joseph, but quit the organization. While Tony is out hunting, the four men arrive at his house, kill all of Tony's men (apparently, he is still involved in criminal activity) and then take his wife and young son captive. Tony returns from hunting and discovers all his men dead and then hears his wife scream. He yells out, "Do you know who I am? I'm Tony Tiger!" (I half expected him to end it with "I'm Grrreeeaaattt!") and enters his house. He then proceeds to beat up the men, jumping high in the air to deliver some drop kicks, before he is captured and hung from the ceiling spread-eagle horizontally, hooks through his wrists! He is then made to watch, as the four men kill his son (which could never be done in any film made in the USA, as the men actually throw this boy around, smack and punch him and use him as a football, kicking him and tossing him to the other members!) and rape his wife, killing her. They then pour kerosene over the dead wife and boy and set Tony's home on fire, one of the men saying that Tony will make good barbecue! Just when it looks like curtains for Tony, he is saved when ex-lover Olga (Olga Petrova) arrives at his house and frees him. Olga begs Tony to forget about what happened, but he tells her he will get even with Joseph, telling her about his three best friends from the army. They were so close, they promised each other that if any of them were in trouble, they would drop everything to help (the original title for this film was DORT HERGELE ["Four For All"]). Tony has Olga mail out letters to his three friends (Olga says, "What, are you like the Four Musketeers?"), asking them to meet him at the assigned place where they made their promise. We then meet these three man as they receive the letters. There's 1) Margherito (Gordon Mitchell; SFX RETALIATOR - 1987), a judo instructor, who has his students try to attack him when he is not looking (and failing). And then there's 2) Brad (Fikret Hakan; TARGET: HARRY - 1969), a lounge singer (And a really bad one. Wait until you see him perform in a nightclub. This scene alone is worth the price of admission!), who beats up a couple of hecklers in the audience when he is performing an "original piece". And, finally, there's 3) Joe (Richard Harrison; TERROR FORCE COMMANDO - 1986), a gambler, who we see beating up a bunch of thugs in a gambling parlor. They all meet Tony at the assigned place and each of them agrees to take down one of the four men who killed Tony's wife and son.
     Margherito tries to take down one of the men at a Turkish bath, where he ends up getting into a martial arts fight with some sweaty goons (so badly staged you'll cough up a lung laughing!) and ends up chasing his prey, only wearing a towel around his waist, through the streets of Istanbul (the look on some people's faces, unaware of what is going on, is priceless!), his prey getting hit and killed by a car sent by Joseph. Brad then confronts another killer, who ends up getting shot from a sniper (sent by Joseph) and dying before he can spill the beans to him. Joe confronts another killer on a ski slope, where it ends up on a chase on skis, his prey dying by falling over a cliff. Finally, Tony confronts the final killer, but he, too, is killed by one of Joseph's hired killers, but not before he tells Tony that he was sent by Joseph to kill his wife and son (None of this makes any sense since Tony already knew Joseph was involved!). The finale finds Tony and his three friends invading Joseph's well-guarded villa, where the foursome discover that it wasn't Joseph who sent the men to kill Tony's wife and son, it was Olga! It seems she wanted Tony for herself, so she hired the four killers to murder the wife and child and to set fire to the house, making her look like a hero in Tony's eyes so he will fall in love with her. The film ends in a wild shoot-out, where Tony, Joseph and Olga are shot dead and his three friends survive, once again agreeing to help each other in times of need.
     This wild and wacky actioner should fail miserably, but if you have watched any other Turkish actioners in your life (such as LION MAN - 1975), you will know that believability is not their strongest suit. When people get shot here, all they do is grab their chest and fall to the ground, no need for bloody bullet squibs, yet when Tony is hanged spread-eagle by his wrists and feet, we see hooks protruding out of his skin! Add to that Tony's uncanny ability to jump high distances without the aid of a trampoline and you have one strange flick. Particularly memorable is the scene where one of the four killers tries to run Tony over in his car. Tony simply jumps in the air and ends up in the killer's front seat and they continue fighting while the convertible continues driving down the road, ending up hitting a tree and Tony is ejected out of the car, landing on his feet! And nearly 90% of the male actors here sport Charles Bronson-like mustaches! Co-directors Giulio Giuseppe Negri and Yilmaz Atadeniz, who, together, use the name "Jerry Mason"; (SPECIAL SQUAD: SHOOTS ON SIGHT - 1976) have no problem showing Tony defying the laws of physics, as he is able to leap over high walls and deliver high drop-kicks in tight places. If you like your action films fast and furious, with a touch of mind-bending fantasy, look no further than this flick. You can thank me later. I found this streaming for free on Amazon Prime. It's only 78 minutes long, so it doesn't take up a lot of your time, yet the film moves so fast, you'll think the film is shorter than it actually is. It should also be noted that Richard Harrison looks like he is having the time of his life, as he is smiling through most of the film, even when he is fighting. It's that type of thing which makes this film so infectious, so catch its disease! Also starring Alicia Leoni, Ferita Gandell, Cesare Nizzica (EYES BEHIND THE STARS - 1977), Nicola Morelli, Süheyl Egriboz and Sami Tunç. Not Rated.

FIGHT THE KICKBOXER (1992) - Harry Wells (Steve Brettingham) and Rough Tati (Nick Brandon) are not only best friends and champion kickboxers, they also put on fixed matches with each other to make big bucks on the gambling circuit (it's hard to lose money when you already know who the winner is going to be). Rough wants to expand his crime empire to include arms smuggling, prostitution and drug dealing (you know, the trifecta of crime), but Harry doesn't agree and tells Rough that he's quitting the operation after the next fight. Before anything else can be said, the cops raid their headquarters, forcing Rough and Harry to split up, with Harry donning a disguise (if you count wearing a white golf cap a disguise!) and escaping with a satchel containing all of Rough and Harry's money. Rough is watching the action from a rooftop when he is startled to see Harry being arrested with no resistance by a single cop, who says to Harry, "Nice job!" before slapping on the handcuffs. Is it possible Harry was responsible for setting up the police raid? It doesn't originally look like it, as Harry is thrown in prison and shares a cell with a bunch of Filipinos in what is obviously a totally different film (Did I forget to mention that this is another cut-and-paste actioner from director Godfrey Ho [using the pseudonym "Vincent Leung"] and producer Joseph Lai? Sorry about that! When the interest in ninjas waned, Ho and Lai turned their attention to the kickboxing genre [thanks to Jean-Claude Van Damme] during the early 90's.). Not only does Harry not appear in a single frame with the Filipino cast (he does get an American and a Chinese man as his new footage adversaries), but when one of the cast members says to Harry, "So you're the new guy, huh? I hope you're not a fucking queer!", you'll be scratching your head and wondering: Wouldn't they rather he was queer? Anyway, Rough has sent word to the prison inmates to make Harry's life a living hell, so while he is pounding rocks with a sledgehammer in the prison quarry (why does every prison in films have a quarry?), the American and Chinese inmates attack Harry with shovels (Harry gets pounded on the side of the head with a shovel, rolls down a hill, smashes his head against a boulder and then gets up like nothing happened, continuing to fight his two opponents!). The inmates from the older footage start a riot and Harry escapes, along with ruthless killer Mason (Filipino staple George Estregan, here using the name "Boy Lenn") and some of his prison friends. The film then splits into two entire different entities: The newly-shot footage of Harry fighting a bunch of Rough's hoods every 15 to 20 minutes until his inevitable showdown with Rough in the ring; and the film proper, an unreleased Filipino revenge actioner where ex-cop Jason (Willi Kindo) rejoins the force to capture Mason and his men. Mason was responsible for the murder of Jason's wife, leaving Jason a widower and a single father. Jason joins forces with his old partner Mando (Mando Iva), while Harry goes to wife Joey's (Hannah Crawford) house, but she refuses to go with him. The remainder of the film finds Jason and Mando getting into a series of shootouts and martial arts fights in their pursuit of Mason, while Harry teams up with black kickboxer Billy (Rex Jackson) as they go after Rough and fight in a kickboxing match worth one million dollars.  This pastiche film contains all the elements we've come to expect from these Godfrey Ho/Joseph Lai collaborations for Lai's IFD Film And Arts Limited production company: Bad intercutting of old and new footage (The most obvious being when Harry is first put in the prison cell and even the prison bunk beds don't match! But there's a shootout in an auto junkyard that runs a close second.); hilarious and racist English dubbing (When a cop spots Billy's photo in Harry folder, he says, "Who is this nigger?" and then this bit of wisdom; "Not every scumbag could have a big fuckin' car and not every scumbag wants to be a fuckin' scumbag!"); and a rejiggered story that tries to accommodate both old and new footage, but the new inserts are so obvious, it becomes funny in its ridiculousness. As usual, the film proper is more interesting than the newly-shot footage and contains bloody shootouts (lots of bloody bullet squibs) and violence, while the new inserts contain kickboxing matches in a ring so small, even dwarves would complain about it. FIGHT THE KICKBOXER is worth a viewing just for the laughs, including Mason delivering Mando's girlfriend Lisa (Lisa Smith) suspended by both arms on a helicopter. Also starring Jioff Gabriel and Eddie Andre. The IMDB list this film's alternate title as KICKBOXER KING, but it's obvious to see by the credits that it is not the same film, but another cut-and-paste job made by the same crew with different Caucasian actors. Video label unavailable. Not Rated.

FINAL MISSION (1984) - Think about what a sad state of affairs we action fans would be in if Sylvester Stallone never starred as John Rambo in FIRST BLOOD (1982). No, really, think about it for a moment. If there were no John Rambo, about 80% of the action films that came out of the Philippines, Indonesia, Italy and even the United States during the 80's would never have been made. That's a huge cross to bear (I'm sure non-fans of the genre would disagree with me) but I, for one, am hugely grateful to Stallone. Not that there haven't been some real dogs to sit through, though. Thankfully, FINAL MISSION isn't one of those dogs. It's cheesy fun from beginning to end. The film opens with Sergeant Vincent Deacon (Richard Young) leading his men in an assault on a Vietcong camp in the jungles of Laos in 1972. After gunning nearly everyone down and blowing everything up (even chopping-off a head or two), Sgt. Deacon captures the traitorous Will Slater (John Dresden) and turns him over to the military authorities. Slater curses at Deacon, telling him that he will "see him in Hell" as he is being led away. Cut to present day (well, 1984) Los Angeles. Vince Deacon is now a SWAT team leader and we watch him nearly single-handedly take on a warehouse full of armed thugs (one of them is portrayed by an uncredited Donald Gibbs, "Ogre" in REVENGE OF THE NERDS - 1984) and saves the hostage inside. Deacon also has a beautiful wife, Jenny (Christine L. Tudor), and a young son named Steven (E. Danny Murphy). When a street gang, egged-on by Slater (who escaped from military prison and has been living on the lam), break into Deacon's house and try to kill him and his family, Deacon manages to kill most of them, which infuriates Slater. To show his appreciation, Deacon's captain suspends him from the force for being "excessive" (What?). Deacon and his family decide to spend his suspension time by camping at a lake in the mountains, where Deacon can clear his head, go fishing and reconnect with his family. Things take a sudden bad turn when Jenny and Steven are killed when the fishing boat they are on explodes, thanks to a bomb Slater placed there the night before. Now a widower, Deacon goes on a one-man mission to find the killers of his family, tearing-up bars and shoving patrons' heads in toilets looking for clues. Deacon quits the police force for good and begins putting heat on the street gangs. Slater and some gang members leave L.A. and hide out in the small town of Pinesville, where the sheriff, Warren Slater (Kaz Garas), happens to be Slater's brother. Deacon goes to his old commanding officer, Colonel Joshua Cain (John Ericson), with a piece of the detonator he found at the scene of his family's death. When it comes back that it could only have come from Slater, Deacon heads to Pinesville for some well-deserved justice. Something tells me that the peaceful, sleepy town of Pinesville is about to become very noisy.  This is just one in a long line of action films churned-out by prolific Filipino vet Cirio H. Santiago (T.N.T. JACKSON - 1975; FUTURE HUNTERS - 1986; RAIDERS OF THE SUN - 1991). Santiago directed many rip-offs during the 80's, but he always found a way to put his distinct signature on them. This one opens as a straight war actioner, then turns into an urban crime drama, which then turns into a revenge melodrama. The final twenty minutes are lifted almost directly from FIRST BLOOD, as Deacon lays waste to the town of Pinesville and then Sheriff Warren and his posse hunt him down in the forest, with disasterous results. There's boobytraps, do-it-yourself bullet removal (followed by a "cauterizing the wound with a flaming log" scene) and, finally, the National Guard are called in. Unlike Rambo, Deacon begins killing everyone who crosses his path. Colonel Trautman, er, Cain is brought in to talk Deacon into giving up. Let's just say the final shot leaves no room for a sequel. What's interesting about FINAL MISSION is the way Santiago treats some of his characters, especially Kaz Garas' (he was also in Santiago's NAKED VENGEANCE [1985], amongst others) portrayal of Sheriff Warren Slater. He is a man in the middle, not aware of his brother's traitorous war record and yet, deep down inside, he knows his brother is not quite right in the head, but he's still his brother and he'll do whatever it takes to protect him. While some may find this film a little slow in spots, I found the deeper characterizations refreshing (script by Joe Mari Avellana and Joseph Zucchero, frequent Santiago collaborators) and Santiago doesn't skimp on the nudity (every woman in this film has a topless scene), blood or action set-pieces. Sure, this is nothing but a low-budget B-movie rip-off, but it is an enjoyable one. Santiago directed THE DEVASTATOR (1985) next, which features some of the same actors (Kaz Garas again) and even recycles the same Vietnam footage (including an abbreviated shot of the decapitation) that was shown in the beginning of this film. Also starring Jason Ross, Karen Ericson, Jack Daniels, Don Gordon Bell, Willy Williams, Ken Barry and Steve Parvin. An HBO Video release. Not yet available on U.S. DVD. For some reason, the majority of Santiago's output has yet to reach U.S. DVD. Rated R.

FINAL REPRISAL (1988) - Filipino war actioner with a twist from late director Teddy Page (FIREBACK - 1983; BLOOD DEBTS - 1984; PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987) that features Gary Daniels (RAGE - 1995; BLACK FRIDAY - 2000) in his first starring role. Daniels portrays Lt. David Callahan, the leader of a band of Marines who are out to assassinate North Vietnam's top politicians and military officials when they meet in the same location within the next few days. The mission is codenamed "Operation Red Tide" and the squad, which includes Charles Murphy (co-scripter Jim Gaines; JUNGLE RATS - 1987), Douglas Anderson (David Light; SFX RETALIATOR - 1987), Steve (Michael Welborn; WAR WITHOUT END - 1986), Moore (Jeff Griffith; NAM ANGELS - 1988) and McGuire (Frank Wannack), train their asses off to perform their individual duties of the mission to perfection (each has a specific NV member to assassinate) while reminiscing about their pasts and discussing their future plans (you just know some of these grunts will never make it back alive). As David and his squad go on their mission and surround the building where all these important NV's are gathering, David is concerned by the lack of guards protecting the building. Still, a mission is a mission, so David leads his men into the facility, bypassing the electric fence and killing the few guards they come across. When they burst into the meeting room and find it empty (It turns out the meeting was rescheduled for tomorrow. Oops!), David and his men become trapped inside the building when Tran Van Phu (Protracio Dee; HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA - 1982), the organizer of the meeting, hears the gunshots and has his soldiers surround the meeting room, killing everyone but David, Charles and Douglas. Complications arise when David takes Tran's young daughter hostage and our heroic trio escapes by Jeep using the little girl as a human shield. When their Jeep hits a land mine, the little girl escapes, but one of the soldiers (Is it David, Charles or Douglas? All we see is his boots.) catches up with the little girl and puts a bullet in her forehead. When Tran sees the dead body of his little girl, he vows revenge (And rightly so. Marines should never use children as human shields!) and tortures a recently captured Charles with electric shocks until he gets information. The film suddenly shifts to five years later. The war is over and David is living in Thailand with wife Kate (Kristine Erlindson; AMERICAN COMMANDOS - 1984) and young son Paul. They get a visit from Charles (who David hasn't seen since that fateful day), who invites the entire family to a party on the beach. Once on the beach, they are attacked by a motorcycle gang carrying automatic weapons and when a bloody and battered David wakes up in a hospital, he's greeted by Douglas, who tells him that Kate and Paul are missing and Charles was badly beaten. Is there something more sinister going on here? When Kate and Paul are found dead, both with a single bullet to their foreheads, David must figure out which one of his friends is behind the murder of his family. David may not like what he uncovers.  Director Teddy Page (using the pseudonym "Tedd Hemingway") and screenwriters Ron Davis and Jim Gaines keep this film moving at a brisk pace by first making the film a war actioner complete with gunfights and explosions and then changing-up the second half by making it a mystery/revenge thriller. While it's not too hard to figure out who killed Tran's little girl, it's a nice change of pace from the normal war actioner, where the rest of the film would normally be jungle warfare with lots of firefights and explosions. Instead, we get a nice martial arts sequence where David must fight for his life against some counterfeit Thai military recruits; an invasion on the headquarters of Thailand's biggest drug kingpin, El Chameleon (Hassim Hassam); David's multiple torture session (including being dragged behind a galloping ox!) in Tran's hidden jungle camp; and David's realization that his revenge is closer than he thinks. Since this is Gary Daniels' first screen role, he's quite stiff as an actor (he would loosen-up considerably in his future films, especially the ones he did for PM Entertainment), but he is fine in his action scenes. FINAL REPRISAL (also known as PLATOON WITHOUT RETURN and WARRIORS WITHOUT RETURN) is a decent time-waster that would be so much better if the mystery wasn't so easy to solve. Also starring Richard King, Glaiza Herradura, Jack Serra, Clinton Young and Eric King. Never released on home video in the U.S.; the version I viewed was sourced from a fullscreen German DVD with an optional English soundtrack. Not Rated.

FIREBACK (1983) - More Filipino action insanity from director Teddy Page, producer K.Y. Lim (for his Silver Star Company production outfit) and star Richard Harrison. During the Vietnam War, Captain Jack Kaplan (Harrison; Page's BLOOD DEBTS - 1983) is demonstrating the military's newest prototype weapon, a multi-caliber gun code-named Omega (It's part automatic rifle, 30 caliber machine gun, grenade launcher, bazooka and mini-missile launcher that also has a built-in communications radio!). As Kaplan is showing a group of soldiers how to use the Omega, they come under attack by rebel forces and Kaplan and the Omega are taken prisoner. The film flashes forward several years, where the dastardly Duffy Collins (Bruce Baron; Page's HUNTER'S CROSSING - 1983, also starring Harrison) keeps hitting on Kaplan's wife Diane (Ann Milhench, here billed as "Ann Milhen"), but she spurns his advances and expensive gifts, still wishing instead that her husband will return to her. Duffy wants Diane by any means possible, so he hires someone to sneak into her house and abduct her. Meanwhile, a group of U.S. commandos raid an enemy P.O.W. camp and rescue Jack Kaplan. The only thing he wants is to be back in the loving arms of his wife, but when her returns home to find her missing and the house ransacked, he will revert to violence of every type to get her back. A bartender at a local gin joint informs Kaplan that "a man with a golden hand" (Ruel Vernal) may know something about his missing wife, so Kaplan hooks-up with old friend (and junkie) Digger (James Gaines; Page's JUNGLE RATS - 1987), who tells him the golden-handed dude's name is Dennis and gives Kaplan his address. When Kaplan gets his hands on Dennis and sticks a gun in his face after a short fight, he tells Kaplan that a stripper named Eve (Gwendolyn Hung; NINJA'S FORCE - 1984) hired him to abduct Diane. Kaplan confronts Eve and she gives him the name of another person involved, but she then calls Duffy after he leaves. Duffy orders Dennis to kill everyone who knows about Diane's kidnapping, beginning with Digger (Dennis thrusts his golden hand into Digger's stomach). Of course, Kaplan gets blamed for Digger's death, so the police chief (a blond-haired Mike Monty) assigns his best detective (Ronnie Patterson) to apprehend Kaplan (The Chief says to the detective, "Be careful. He can turn an ordinary drinking straw into a deadly weapon!"). Eve follows Kaplan around and reports back to Duffy, who sends an assassin (played by Sebastian Harrison, Richard's son) to Kaplan's motel room dressed as a plumber (He knocks on the door and when Kaplan asks him to identify himself, he says, "I'm a repairman. I was told there was a leak in the toilet!"). Kaplan watches him like a hawk, so the assassin is unable to plant a bomb in the bathroom and is forced to leave unsuccessful in his task. After several more attempts on Kaplan's life (by a guy wearing an eye patch; another guy wearing a French beret; and yet another man wielding a spike-tipped cane), Eve takes pity on him and discloses the location where Diane is being held. Eve pays for her betrayal with her life at the hands of Dennis and Kaplan kills Dennis in retribution. Alas, Kaplan is too late to save his wife, as Duffy has killed her for spurning his advances one too many times. Kaplan turns Rambo in the final third of the film, killing those responsible for Diane's death and then trying to avoid the police and a group of paid hunters out to kill him.  As with most action films directed by the late Teddy Page (PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987; MOVIE IN ACTION - 1987; FIST OF STEEL - 1991), the action comes at a fast and furious clip, but the storyline (screenplay written by Timothy Jorge, which some say is a pseudonym for Richard Harrison, a claim I find dubious at best) is a complete jumbled mess with hilarious dialogue to match (Eve: "You don't kill women, do you?" Kaplan: "Not yet!"). I'm still at a loss as to why Bruce Baron's face is obscured throughout most of the film (either hidden by objects in the forefront or just out of the frame) and then shown freely at other times. The only logical reason I could come up with is that he wasn't available for the entire shoot and a stand-in had to take his place several times. The film's real capper comes when Diane is killed just as Kaplan comes to rescue her, which turns the film into a completely different bird (I really shouldn't be surprised by these sudden turn of events in Filipino action flicks, because you should always expect the unexpected). Jack suddenly turns into a combination Rambo/MacGuyver, fashioning weapons and deadly contraptions out of junkyard scraps and then takes on Duffy, his men and the entire police force (where he has to kill innocent cops to survive). The final twenty minutes or so is a direct steal of FIRST BLOOD (1982), where an injured Kaplan hides out in the jungle and uses booby traps, as well as his military training, to thin-out the mass of people hunting him (Kaplan even cauterizes a wound using a red-hot piece of metal, mimicking Stallone's gunpowder procedure in BLOOD). The sudden appearance of a black-clad ninja (Tony Aaron), who fights Kaplan in a cave in the film finale, is just another piece of unexpected icing on the cake. Those expecting a reappearance of the Omega weapon during the finale are going to be majorly disappointed, which leads me to believe that the film's opening minutes were cribbed from an entirely different film. No matter, because FIREBACK is still a violent, bloody film that delivers the insane goods. Be sure to read about Kaplan's fate during the on-screen scrawl that appears just before the final credits and try not to laugh too hard. Also starring David Anderson, Steve Mark, Pete Mancini and Ron David. Originally available on VHS from U.S.A. Home Video as part of their "Sybil Danning's Adventure Video" series. Also available on a bootleg 10-film DVD compilation called MERCS from those thieving bastards at VideoAsia. Not Rated.

FIREHAWK (1992) - Here's a war action flick from Filipino director/producer Cirio H. Santiago that tries to be different. During the Vietnam War, hardened chopper pilot Stewart (Martin Kove; MINER'S MASSACRE - 2002) and his crew, co-pilot Jimmy (James Paolleli) and gunners Tex (Matt Salinger; CAPTAIN AMERICA - 1990) and Bates (Vic Trevino) are ordered to escort field doctor Davis (Terrence "TC" Carson) and his assistant Li (Ronald Asinas) as they tend to wounded American soldiers behind enemy lines. During one mission, which turns out to be an enemy trap, Stewart endangers everyone's lives when he turns his chopper around to get one more shot at the enemy. Jimmy is seriously wounded by enemy fire and when they get back to base camp, Davis complains to his superiors about Stewart's behavior, but they do nothing about it. As a matter of fact, they brush-off Davis' complaints as if they mean less than squat. On their next mission, Stewart gets a cryptic mayday message on his radio by someone in a plane that mentions the codeword "Firehawk", some sort of top secret project that shouldn't be mentioned over the airwaves. A short time later, the chopper develops engine trouble and it crashes in the jungle, stranding Stewart, Tex, Bates, Davis, Li and new recruit Hobbs (Jeff Yonis, who also wrote the screenplay), Jimmy's replacement, behind enemy lines. Stewart checks the chopper's engine and notices that someone messed with the fuel line so the engine would quit working in mid-flight. It's not long before the squad begins turning on themselves, accusing each other of being a saboteur and a traitor. When incriminating evidence is found in Li's backpack, Stewart shoots him in the back several times, even if it's plain to see to the viewers that the evidence was planted. The five remaining squad members try to make it to safety, but every move they make seems to be the wrong one, as if someone is reporting their movements to the enemy. As members of the squad start getting wounded, they start wondering why there is no rescue mission (even Jimmy, back at base camp, is wondering the same thing) and Davis begins questioning Stewart's map-reading skills because they seem to be heading in the wrong direction. The questions remain: What does all this have to do with the plane code-named "Firehawk"? What exactly is Firehawk anyway? Who sabotaged the chopper? I'm afraid you're going to have to watch the film to get those answers.  This is an above average war action/mystery film, thanks to a more literate script than usual for films of this type, good acting from a recognizable B-movie cast and some good action set-pieces. Some reviewers have likened this film to a jungle version of CUBE (1997), where people with different personalities must work together to survive circumstances beyond their control. While I wouldn't go that far, there are some similarities. In both films, the diverse groups are being led around like puppets and each person must use their separate talents to help the group survive. Unlike CUBE, the plot of FIREHAWK reveals the saboteur to the viewer about two-thirds of the way through, when we watch him shoot one of his own men point-blank after Jimmy steals a helicopter and tries to save them, only to watch the traitor assassinate his own man and then turn the rifle on Jimmy and the chopper. After a very prolific 70's & 80's, where director Cirio H. Santiago made dozens of action (TNT JACKSON - 1975; FINAL MISSION - 1984), war (EYE OF THE EAGLE - 1987; NAM ANGELS - 1988), post-nuke (STRYKER - 1983; THE SISTERHOOD - 1987) and even horror films (VAMPIRE HOOKERS - 1979; DEMON OF PARADISE - 1987), the demand for this type of film was beginning to dry-up during the early part of the 90's, partly due to an over-saturated home video market and partly due to cheap DTV action flicks being made in Canada. This is probably Santiago's best film of the 90's. There's plenty of gunfire and explosions, some gore (I liked the scene of a screaming wounded soldier passing by his dismembered leg, lying on the ground, as he is being carried to a waiting helicopter) and some palpable tension generated in some scenes. Hey, this isn't Shakespeare, but it's a good little actioner with much to recommend. Santiago is a much-respected director in his native Philippines. Though some of his films can be classified as tough to sit through and boring, he has proven himself to be a highly-competant director on many occasions. He has directed and/or produced almost 100 films (so far; his last directorial effort was 2005's BLOODFIST 2050) and I am a fan, but I am also very easy to please. Most of Santiago's films must be viewed with a forgiving heart, but FIREHAWK isn't one of those films. Also starring Henry Strzalkowski, Richard Curtis, Jim Moss, Rafael Soques and a cameo by frequent Santiago collaborator Joseph Zucchero, who is also this film's Editor). Originally released on VHS by LIVE Home Video. Like the majority of Santiago's output, this one is not yet available on DVD in the United States. Rated R.

THE FORGOTTEN WARRIOR (1986) - In 1974 Southeast Asia, soldier Steve Parrish (Ron Marchini) and two other American soldiers are being tortured by the VC in the jungle. They all break free and Steve fights the VC with his hands, feet and guns, while the other two try to get away. After killing a handfull of VC, Steve catches up with his comrades, only to see Major Thompson (Quin Frazier) viciously gun down the Lieutenant (Mike Monty) and then turn the gun on Steve, shooting him. Steve is rescued by a village of friendly Vietnamese, who heal him and accept him as one of their own. Two years pass and Steve has taught the villagers combat techniques and hand-to-hand fighting, to oppose evil warlord Colonel Minh (Sam T. Lapuz), whose men steal the villagers' food and rape their women. Steve has also fallen in love with local girl Maila (Marilyn Bautista) and has married her and they now have a baby boy. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government decides to look into rumors that there are American GIs still in Vietnam, either as P.O.W.s or living with the locals, so they decide to send a team into Vietnam to check it out. Guess who is in charge of the team? That's right, it's Steve's old friend Major Thompson! The Major and his team join forces with Colonel Minh and begin wiping out villagers in their search for Steve. After killing Maila's father, Major Thompson and the gooks invade Steve's village and kill nearly everyone. The Major rapes and kills Maila and Steve is knocked unconscious by a grenade before he can stop the Major. When Steve wakes up, he burns Maila's body and then begins to systematically kill the Major's and Colonel Minh's men, using knives, swords, guns or whatever's handy. When Major Thompson uses Steve's baby as bait, Steve shows his weakness and is captured. Colonel Minh's daughter, Minh Li (Vilma Vitog), sets him free and Steve and the Major face-off in the jungle in a final battle to the death.  This Philippines-lensed companion film to JUNGLE WOLF (also 1986), directed by Nick Cacas and Charlie Ordonez (SUICIDE FORCE - 1982; Ordonez also single-handedly directed JUNGLE WOLF), is very violent, as people are shot (lots of bullets to the head), stabbed, shot with arrows, impaled on spikes or blown-up. Luckily, Ron Marchini (DEATH MACHINES - 1976) doesn't have to do much emoting (he's not a very good actor), but he does make a good action star. He's very athletic, is good with a sword (there are a couple of lengthy sword fight here) and knows his martial arts (he's a real-life Sensei with a 6th degree black belt). He also produced this using his full name, Ronald Lee Marchini, as he does with most of the films he starred in. While nothing special, this film (which clocks in at a scant 76 minutes) is never boring or lacks for action. Hardly a minute goes by without someone getting killed in one way or another (there's a nasty spiked boobytrap-to-the-groin gag late in the film) and there's some good use of slow-motion photography during some of the action scenes. I've seen a lot worse than this so, if you see it anywhere, give THE FORGOTTEN WARRIOR a chance and pick it up. Marchini would return as Steve Parrish for a third (and final) time in RETURN FIRE: JUNGLE WOLF 2 (1988), a filmed-in-California (mainly in Stockton, Marchini's birthplace) action flick. Segundo Ramos (DEATH RAIDERS - 1984) edited this film, which is also known as COMMANDER RAINBOW (yes, there is a rainbow in this film) and U.S. WARRIOR. Also starring Joe Meyer, Sonny Villaneuva, Angel Confiado, Mark Joseph and Mike Cohen. A Monarch Home Video Release. Not Rated.

FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY (1981) - Here's a good reason why I love the Philippines. When the mysterious Mr. Giant (who only communicates through lighted circular mirrors) has his men kidnap American scientist Dr. Von Kohler (Mike Monty) so he can supply the formula for the dreaded "N Bomb" ("This bomb could end the world!"), the Philippines government send their "main man", Agent 00 (the 33 inch tall Weng Weng) to rescue him. His Chief (Tony Ferrer) supplies him with a bunch of gadgets, including a ring that can detect any type of poison ("It's made out of gold. Platinum was too expensive."), a specially-made sub-machine gun (with silencer) and a hat with a hidden blade, and then sends Agent 00 on his way. He meets a prostitute in a restaurant ("I like them little!"), who tries to poison his glass of Coke, but his ring starts to beep, so he drinks Coke straight out of the bottle! He gets in contact with undercover agent Irma (Beth Sandoval), who is working at one of Mr. Giant's drug factories, where drugs are inserted into loaves of bread (One of the head goons says, "There's a lot of dough in this dough. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker!" What???). Agent 00 (who is sometimes called simply "Wang") breaks up the operation with his expert martial arts moves, which pisses off Mr. Giant. He demands that his men steal some gold ("N Bombs today are expensive!") and Irma overhears the conversation. She reports it to Agent 00 and gets worried when he says that he'll take care of it himself (She says, "You're such a little guy, though. Very petite, like a potato!"). Agent 00 quickly breaks-up the gold robbery with a button grenade (shades of Matt Helm) and his Oddjob-like hat. Mr. Giant sends his goons to kill Agent 00 (one assassin has an umbrella gun), but he manages to defeat them all, usually with swift kicks or punches to their tackleboxes and caps it off by jumping off a highrise balcony using the assassin's umbrella as a parachute! He goes back to his hotel room, where three hitmen are waiting for him. Agent 00 puts on a pair of x-ray glasses that can see through walls and clothing (the hitmen are shown naked!) and shoots all three of them dead. Believe it or not, this is only the first thirty minutes of the film, as Agent 00 must battle a multitude of bad guys; in discos, warehouses, on the street and even on a bridge with a rapidly approaching train, before he has a showdown with Mr. Giant on his private island (where Agent 00 dons a jet pack and takes flight!) and tries to save the life of a captive Irma. If you don't like where this is heading, you can do like one of the bad guys says and "Button-up your hole!"  This corny, irresistable Filipino action flick, the second to star the diminutive Weng Weng as Agent 00 (the first being the yet-to-be-released outside the Philippines AGENT 00 [1981]), is so funny, thanks to the hilarious dubbing that makes all the goons (and Agent 00) sound like they were in a 30's Edward G. Robinson or James Cagney gangster film, that you'll ignore this film's many (pardon the pun) shortcomings. Besides having some of the most off-the-wall dialogue I have ever heard (I especially liked when one burly goon replies, "That's Boy Scout doo-doo!" when Irma tells him that she's loyal to Agent 00) and some action sequences that can best be describes as surreal (I thought I was going to shit a brick after watching Agent 00 jump on one bad guy's stomach and then proceed to smack him silly with his hands, clapping and smacking, clapping and smacking in some otherworldly hand-jive ritual), director Eddie Nicart (also responsible for the first Agent 00 adventure and the third, and final, film,  THE IMPOSSIBLE KID [1982]) fills the film with numerous James Bond references, even stealing riffs from the Bond music theme and from the title tune to FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)! Watching the tiny Weng Weng (who died at age 34 in 1992) running around punching and kicking bad guys in the crotch, being irresistable to women and spouting line like, "Ow, my little head!" and "Once you go tiny, you never go back!" is a hoot and I dare anyone not to fall for his charms. It's also apparent that the Australian dubbing team was having a lot of fun here. Besides the totally out-of-place 30's Brooklyn accents and phrases (hearing them with an Australian accent is worth the price of admission in itself), they also inserted a ton of "short people" jokes (One gangster says, when watching Irma coming out of Agent 00's room alone, "Where the hell's that little midget?" His partner replies, "Probably hiding in her handbag!") and funny asides, such as when someone in a crowd says, "I wonder if she also does weddings and bar mitzvas?" when a female police photographer takes pictures of a dead body. The final battle between Agent 00 and Mr. Giant who, if you haven't already guessed, is also a midget (he still towers over Weng Weng, though), is the stuff of legend. I also found it strange that while played as a comedy, there was a bittersweet ending at the finale. You know what? Just buy or rent FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY and you can thank me later. Also starring Yehlen Catral, Carmi Martin, Max Alvarado, Rodolfo 'Boy' Garcia, Romy Nario and Anna Marie Gutierrez. A Mondo Macabro DVD Release, as part of a double feature with CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER (1978). Not Rated. "Mission accomplished!"

FRENCH QUARTER UNDERCOVER (1985) - If this film feels disjointed and confusing, it could be because one of the main stars died during mid-production, leaving the filmmakers with one of two choices: 1) Re-film all the scenes of the deceased actor with a new actor, or, 2) Add plenty of voiceover narration, create a multitude of confusing flashbacks and re-edit the existing footage to make it look like the deceased actor made it through the entire shoot. Guess which choice they made? After we learn that three Cuban terrorists have made their way to New Orleans, we follow the exploits of two of Louisiana's Finest, police detectives Andre Des Moines (Michael Parks; PLANET TERROR - 2007) and R.J. Wilkerson (the late Bill Holliday, who also wrote the screenplay and suffered a fatal heart attack in mid-production), who are good at their jobs but disregard the rule constantly, which gets them in trouble with the Review Board, who want to split them apart after seventeen years of being partners. Instead of breaking them apart, they are used to the force's best advantage and put on special assignment to stop the three Cuban terrorists and their Russian KGB boss, who they believe are in New Orleans to blow up the World's Fair (remember them?). So far, so good, right? Well, at this point the film becomes a murky mess, as a series of documentary-like interviews with FBI agent David T. Anderson (Lee Holmes) and freelance journalist Kevin Fisher (Layton Martens) fill us in on what happened with Andre and R.J.'s investigation. It suddenly shifts from a first-person to a third-person narrative, where the two detectives hunt for the terrorists becomes a series of jumpy and badly edited flashbacks, It's not only confusing as hell, as the story shifts from Andre and R.J. seemingly shooting people for no good reason, to them investigating a rash of phony $100 bills flooding New Orleans, to them then investigating the murder of a hooker named Princess (Suzanne Regard), it also turns into a travelogue of 1984 New Orleans, where a huge chunk of the running time is watching badly dressed tourists gawking at the attractions at the World's Fair and Bourbon Street. When Andre and R.J. kill one of the terrorists, they find a biological agent that could have been used to contaminate the drinking water at the World's Fair, which only adds to this film's wobbly nature. After harassing a pimp and killing the second terrorist, Andre and R.J. must stop the third terrorist, who has commandeered a tram at the World's Fair and is threatening to drop the biological agent (which he keeps in a common thermos!) into the water below. What do our two detectives do? Why, they simply shoot the top of the tram until the cable snaps and the tram falls into the water! Luckily, the thermos doesn't break and New Orleans is saved. Or is it? An on-screen scrawl at the end of the film tells us that Andre and R.J. quit the police force to open their own P.I. agency to do consulting work for the government. Puh-lease! If all you are looking for is a colorful time capsule of 1984 New Orleans, FRENCH QUARTER UNDERCOVER is the film for you, as it gives you numerous scenes of the World's Fair and the bars and jazz clubs at night on Bourbon Street. But if it's a cohesive action film you are looking for, look somewhere else, because it makes about as much sense as a retard at a Mensa meeting. Co-directors Patrick C. Poole (SHADOWS ON THE WALL - 1986) and Joe Catalanotto (TERROR IN THE SWAMP - 1984; also starring Holliday) try to make the best of a bad situation (it seems Catalanotto shot the film proper and Poole took over when Bill Holliday died and filmed the interview sequences as a way to bridge the material already in the can), but it's hard to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, especially when the film proper was terrible to begin with. Old pro Michael Parks is given very little to do besides run around and fire his gun and Holliday's screenplay is full of groan-inducing dialogue, such as when R.J. says, "That's right Sambo, you ain't nothing but a two-bit douchebag" to a black pimp and then threatens him and his pimpmobile with a slingshot! There's very little to recommend here, but if you're a fan of murky nighttime photography, chainsaw editing and badly-staged action sequences (including an awful car chase and a terribly-filmed shootout/massacre at a restaurant), then by all means revel at the awesomeness that is FRENCH QUARTER UNDERCOVER (also known as ANTI-TERRORIST FORCE). It's like watching a train wreck in slow-motion, knowing full well that someone is going to die. Also starring John Wilmot, Bill Vint, Gus Souza, Jim Chimento and Michael Tedesco. Originally released on VHS by Lightning Video and not available on DVD. Rated R.

GANG WAR IN MILAN (1973) - Good Eurocrime film by director Umberto Lenzi (SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS - 1972; EYEBALL - 1975; CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD - 1980 CANNIBAL FEROX - 1981), who is unfairly called a "hack" by many critics out there, but I find him to be one of the better directors of Italian genre films. Lenzi has proven himself more than capable of making good films in this genre, directing ALMOST HUMAN (1974), one of my favorite Eurocrime flicks, and this film showcases his flair for the dramatic.
     Salvatore "Toto" Gangemi (Antonio Sabato; BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983) is leading two lives. He is a legitimate produce seller by day and a pimp with a stable of whores at night. One morning, while on his daily swim in the pool at his health spa, he finds the body of a young woman floating in the water. The doctor that examines her body tells Toto that she was murdered in salt water (most probably the ocean because he finds a piece of seaweed in her mouth) and dumped in the pool. There are clear bruises on her neck showing that she was purposely drowned. Is someone sending a message to Toto? It seems so, because he knew the young woman. She was one of his whores and her name was Francesca. Toto phones his associate Lino Caruso (Antonio Casagrande; WHY - 1971) to tell him the news and saying to send the "boys" to his office. He tells his "boys" that Francesca was his top-earning whore and whomever killed her is going to pay for it with their life, but first they must find out who murdered her. Chief Inspector Contalvi (Franco Fantasia; Lenzi's EATEN ALIVE! - 1980) shows up at Francesca's home, where the housekeeper tells him that two men broke into the house the night before. The Chief Inspector searches the house and finds two hidden photos of Francesca with Toto.
     We then see Toto and Lino "interviewing" young women to replace Francesca, making a young mother named Virginia (Carla Romanelli; THE FIGHTING FIST OF SHANGHAI JOE - 1973) strip and front of them and then wear a bra that exposes her nipples! A French mobster named Roger Daverty (Philippe Leroy; MILANO CALIBRO 9 - 1972) approaches Toto and offers him a deal to distribute heroin in his territory.  He wants to use Toto's whores to distribute his "snow", Toto to get 20% and he to get 80% of the proceeds. Toto tells Daverty, who likes to be called "Captain" (so that is what I will call him), that if he leaves his house now, he will forget he ever heard of this lousy deal. Captain then tells him it was he who killed Francesca and he will give him three days to agree to the deal. And, oh, if he doesn't agree to the deal, he hid a large quantity of heroin in Toto's house, but don't bother to look for it because he will never find it. One phone call to the police will put Toto in prison for a long time. Toto doesn't take kindly to threats, so he and Lino go to Captain's home and find a giant salt water terrarium, full of squid and octopus (octopi?), probably where he killed Francesca. Toto then has his boys tear his house apart looking for the hidden heroin and they find it hidden in a box of cereal. The Chief Inspector tells Toto he knows who he is and what he does and he will personally put him out of business. It looks like he is a man of his word, as we see the police round up all of Toto's whores, only they are not the police, they are Captain's boys dressed as police. Captain phones Toto and tells him is he wants to ever see his whores alive, he will agree to the deal and do business with him. Toto agrees, but he's a shrewd businessman, asking for 50% of the profits rather than 20% and Captain agrees to 30%. They now have a deal in place, but will Toto be a man of his word? Don't count on it!
     Toto steals Captain's best woman, Jasmina Sanders (Marisa Mell; PERVERSION STORY - 1969), and convinces her to come work for him. When Captain nearly dies when his car explodes, he retaliates by sending his men to rape and beat up Toto's whores (one of them is graphically sliced on her breasts with a switchblade). While Toto breaks in Virginia with an Italian dignitary, he goes to Jasmina's house, where he is jumped by some of Captain's men. Toto holds his own, but he is saved from certain death when the police show up. Lino then tells Toto that five of his whores have flown the coop, too scared to work any more. To add insult to injury, Virginia's cousin, Nino Balsamo (Tano Cimarosa; DELIRIUM - 1972), tells Toto that Virginia no longer needs a pimp and she is going to work on her own. Toto confronts Virginia and she tells him it simply isn't true, Nino works for Captain, so Toto invites Nino to have dinner with him at a restaurant, where he has some of his boys kill Nino in the bathroom (giving him a hotshot of heroin), while Toto and his pals sing an Italian song (loudly). How long can this back-and-forth go on before one of them dies?
     Lino goes to Italian godfather Don Billy Barone (Alessandro Sperli; THE VALACHI PAPERS - 1972), who has just returned from exile in America, to get him to come to Milan and take Toto's side, which he does. Don Barone (who has a huge scar under his left eye) introduces himself to Captain, making him feel very uneasy. Then, many of Captain's men are roughed-up or killed. Barone's men kill one of Captain's top men, Taki (Riccardo De Stefanis) and his wife in a drive-by shooting as they are transporting a huge shipment of heroin across the border, the wife hiding the heroin in her fake boobs! Taki doesn't die, so Barone's men go to the hospital and kill him by blowing air into his IV! The police raid Captain's gambling den, but he skates on the charges. Don Barone tells Toto that he and Captain are like America and Russia, fighting each other but accomplishing nothing (wise man). Captain then kidnaps Lino and tells him he could be the boss if Toto were dead. Lino tells him to drop dead, so Captain calls Toto and has him listen to his thugs torturing Lino, sending electrical shocks to his genitals. Captain then sends his men to Virginia's house to leave a message: Lino's bloody necktie. Toto thinks that means Lino is dead, but he's not. Lino escapes from Captain's hideout and makes it to Toto's house. Lino tells Toto that drugs are the new racket and he should get in bed with Captain. Has Captain turned Lino?
     Toto and Lino invade Captain's home and find him in bed with another man! Captain, fearing being outed as a fag (this is the '70s after all!), agrees to cut Toto and Lino in for 50% of the drug racket profits and they begin to do business together. Toto falls in love with Jasmina, where he tells her a heart-warming story about how he and Lino became friends. Don Barone, however, becomes greedy, demanding 20% of the take from Toto, since it was he who changed things for the better for him. But are they really? We discover that these "good times" are anything but for Toto, as an important dignitary dies with one of his whores and the friendship between him and Lino becomes very strained. Don Barone brings more of his men to Milan and he double-crosses both Toto and Captain, leading to a very depressing, nihilistic finale. When you ask for help from the Godfather, expect to pay for it.
     This film is basically a showcase for the usually bland and staid Antonio Sabato, who impressed me here. He doesn't take shit from anyone, which eventually leads to his downfall. Director Umberto Lenzi ladles-on one tense situation to the next, as we wait for the screen to explode with violence. It's not all the back-and-forth between him and Captain that leads to his downfall, but rather when Jasmina leaves him without saying a word that does him in.  You would think that a man with a stable of whores would know how to handle rejection, but, quite frankly, he loses his mind, taking the Chief Inspector hostage when he comes to his house and finds a large quantity of heroin, placed there, once again, by Captain. Toto drives to Virginia's house and tells her to go back to her baby and then visits his sick mother in the hospital, only to be betrayed by Lino and Don Barone, who kill Captain and then gun down Toto. He should have kept his friends closer than his enemies. The screenplay, by Lenzi and Franco Enna (STATELINE MOTEL - 1973), offers no apologies for Toto's behavior, so you know it can only end one way, but it's the journey to the finale that is enjoyable and poignant here. Toto's actions and decisions run contrary to what an intelligent person would do and it seems to work for him, but a man can't possibly be that lucky all the time and it eventually leads to his downfall. The music score, by Carlo Rustichelli (LIBIDO - 1965), is full of saxophone solos and soaring violins, reminding me of a low budget version of Nino Rota's score in THE GODFATHER (1972), adding some "oomph" to the scenes of death and destruction. While not as good as Lenzi's ALMOST HUMAN (1974), this film is still better than 90% of the gangster flicks that came from the U.S. in the'70s.
     Shot under the title MILANO ROVENTE ("Burning Milan"), this film never received a theatrical or VHS release in the United States, making its Stateside premiere on DVD and Blu-Ray courtesy of Raro Video, who do a wonderful job of presenting the film in its OAR and its original Italian with easy to read English subtitles (my preferred way of watching these films) or English dubbed. There are no extras on these discs, which is unlike Raro, just an intro from writer Mike Malloy, who also wrote the informative included booklet (which I have scanned HERE). Still, for less than $9.00, what else could you ask for? Also featuring Piero Corbetta (FIVE WOMEN FOR THE KILLER - 1974), Vittorio Pinelli (DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT - 1972), Claudio Sforzini (THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN - 1975), Ottavio Fanfani (DEATH OCCURRED LAST NIGHT - 1970), Naiba Pedersoli (DEVIL IN THE BRAIN - 1972) and the prolific Carla Mancini (FLAVIA THE HERETIC - 1974). Not Rated.

GATOR KING (1996) - This was one of those impulse buys that I come across every once in a while when trolling the DVD aisles. The Rhino Home Video box art caught my eye and, never having heard of this title before, I read the back of the DVD case. It listed absolutely no credits whatsoever but, in tiny type at the bottom, it listed a copyright date of 1970 by Crown International Pictures. Thinking that I found some obscure horror film that I never heard of, I bought it on the spot.  Boy, was I bamboozled! This is actually a lame 1996 actioner starring Antonio Fargas as Santos, a diamond smuggler who imports his diamonds from China in the bellies of Chinese alligators to his compound in Florida.  When environmental journalist Maureen (Shannon K. Foley) discovers Santos' smuggling scheme, she enlists help from ex-lover Ronnie (Jay Richardson), a sheriff's ranger, to put an end to Santos' slaughter of the endangered gators and illicit ice trafficing. This proves difficult as Santos has paid off the sheriff (a boozed-up Joe Estevez) and the local government to look the other way. This extremely talky actioner offers nothing of interest to the viewer. Antonio Fargas overacts shamelessly, seemingly basing his performance on Al Pacino's Tony Montana in SCARFACE (1983). The action scenes, as directed by Grant Austin Waldman (THE CHANNELER - 1990; TEENAGE EXORCIST - 1991) are poorly-staged and few and far in-between. The entire flick seems to be filmed on the first take as there are many flubbed lines and badly framed shots. Michael Berryman (THE HILLS HAVE EYES - 1977) has an extended cameo as "The Tech", one of Satos' henchmen, before he is mercifully shot in the head. This is a limp excuse for an action film and should be avoided by anyone with half a brain. Also starring Nicoll Bacharach, Karl Anthony and Scott Semple. A Rhino Home Video DVD Release. Rated R.

THE GLOVE (1978) - Victor Hale (Rosey Grier), a blues musician, kills a pimp who turned his sister into a prostitute and carved up her face. Victor ends up in prison where he is abused by the prison guards. He is released and goes out on a spree, nearly killing all the prison guards that abused him (one of them being Aldo Ray) dressed in full riot gear and equipped with a "Riot Glove", a five pound device that can literally tear a car apart. Debt-ridden bounty hunter Sam Kellog (John Saxon), who owes his ex-wife six months back alimony, takes on nickel and dime skip tracing jobs to make ends meet (We first see him bust gay phony check-writer Nicholas Worth for a $300 reward). Sam is offered $20,000 by the Prison Guard Association to capture (if not kill) Victor. Needing the money, Sam jumps at the chance, but becomes disillusioned after learning Victor's story. The majority of the screenplay is about Sam's pathetic life, losing at cards with the help of Jack Carter's cheating wife Joanna Cassidy, worrying about where his next paycheck is coming from, working out time to see his little daughter and having to deal with rival bounty hunter Harry Iverson (Michael Pataki). Director Ross Hagen (a frequent Fred Olen Ray collaborator; he passed away in 2011), who has acted in numerous genre films including WONDER WOMEN (1973), BAD CHARLESTON CHARLIE (1973), STAR SLAMMER (1986) BLOOD GAMES (1989) as well as directing and producing other films (such as MERCHANTS OF DEATH - 1988; and MURDER ON THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD - 2005), infuses this film with a sense of humanity up to a point where we care about both Sam and Victor. While this film is no big deal, it does entertain, especially during the last duel between Sam and Victor (where Victor gives Sam the Glove to make the contest even) and the general ambience of the sleazy 70's lifestyles. Both Saxon and Grier put in good turns (Saxon has never had a meatier role since). Also starring Hoke Howell, Frances E. Williams, Keenan Wynn, Howard Honig and Joan Blondell. The cast alone is worth the price of admission. The cinematography was by Gary Graver. Also known as BLOOD MAD and LETHAL TERMINATOR. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

HAMMERHEAD (1987) - When Greg (stunt coordinator Jeff Moldovan; MASTERBLASTER - 1986) sets foot in Miami, the first thing he does is contact his good cop buddy Hammer (Daniel Greene) and tells him he has gotten into trouble with some "heavy hitters" back in Jamaica. He gives Hammer a key and, before he can tell him what it's for, a blonde hitman (Frank Zagarino, who never says a word his entire time on screen) drops a shipping container on Greg's car, killing him. This leads to a car/motorcycle chase that ends up at a busy train station where a shootout occurs and several innocent people are shot dead. The hitman gets away and Hammer is forced by his Chief to take a 15 day vacation, so he decides to go to Jamaica to find out what Greg was involved in. His good friend, taxi driver Jose (Jorge Gil), meets Hammer at the Jamaican airport and drives him and fellow plane passenger (and writer) Julia (Donna Rosae) to a hotel. Hammer has to tell Greg's girlfriend D.D. (Deanna Lund) that Greg is dead and she tells him that there's a new bigshot on the island, but no one knows who he is. When Hammer goes to check out Greg's apartment, he notices a couple of burly guys with guns staking it out. He sneaks into the apartment to find it ransacked and when he leaves, Hammer spots the blonde hitman and gives chase, but he gets away again. After being warned by the Dutch head of the Jamaican Police, Commissioner Hendricks (Tony Hendriks), to keep his nose clean, Hammer gets a tip that an Italian businessman by the name of Giuseppe Vari (Lawrence McQuillan) may be responsible for Greg's death. When D.D. gets beaten to a bloody pulp by one of Vari's men, Hammer and Jose (who served in the same army outfit in Vietnam, along with Greg and a fourth member named Carlos, who is now missing), go to Vari's mansion and spot the blonde hitman riding a jet ski in the bay. Hammer grabs another jet ski and gives chase, which climaxes in hand-to-hand combat at a boatyard. Hammer kills blondie with a speargun ("Die you motherfucker!") and is promptly arrested. Jose tricks Commissioner Hendricks into releasing Hammer (Hendricks may be on Vari's payroll) and D.D. tries to get Hammer's mind off his troubles for a little while by setting him up with his old girlfriend Marta (Melonee Rodgers), who tells Hammer that Greg kept a notebook, written in code, that explained everything. Hammer and Jose discover that their missing friend Carlos may be involved with Vari and Jose is then betrayed, shot and tortured by someone he trusted. When Vari's men kill D.D., Hammer finds a tape that Greg made that says the key he gave Hammer is to a locker that contains a fortune in stolen money. Marta and her young daughter (who is, surprise!, also Hammer's daughter) are kidnapped, so Hammer and Jose (who escapes his captors after a nifty body explosion) have a showdown with the bad guys at a sugar factory. Expects lots of stunts, gunfights, fistfights and death by circular saw to follow.  This is a breezy Italian actioner that benefits greatly from the beautiful Jamaican location photography. Director/screenwriter Enzo G. Castellari (BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983; LIGHT BLAST - 1985; STRIKER - 1987) tosses in numerous chases, fistfights and other violent imagery (Deanna Lund's beatdown is especially disturbing) to keep your mind off how ridiculous the script really is. Using local actors alongside the Italian talent also gives this film an edge. Daniel Greene, who previously appeared in THE DEADLY INTRUDER (1984) and director Sergio Martino's HANDS OF STEEL (1986), and Jorge Gil (EYE OF THE TIGER - 1986) make a good team and the film is not without it's share of humor or surprises. There are jokes about the Dutch (And, really, when was the last time you heard a funny Dutch joke?), a tasteless "giving head" bit and a surprising revelation about one of the characters in the finale. There are also plenty of bloody bullet squibs, some good use of slow-motion photography in the action scenes and lots of stunts. HAMMERHEAD (the on-screen title is simply HAMMER, but I guess they didn't want this to be confused with the 1972 Fred Williamson blaxploitation classic with the same name, although the new name does share the same title with a 1968 thriller starring Vince Edwards) is nothing but cheap mindless, bloody fun. The finale at the sugar factory seems to cram in as much violence as humanly possible, as Hammer has his face ripped open by the spinning blade of a circular saw (he ends up throwing his attacker chest-first into the spinning blade), the corrupt Commissioner Hendricks is shot in the balls, there's an awesome car crash, another major character is burned to death, another is buried under a ton of raw sugar and still another is shot between the eyes. Toss in a pretty decent surprise ending and what you have is an enjoyable way to spend 92 minutes of your life. Also starring Nandy Lee, Anthony Carone, Peter Gold and Mike Kirton. I don't believe this ever got a legitimate U.S. home video release. The print I viewed came from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated, but this definitely crosses over into hard R territory, mainly for violence (there's very little nudity).

HELL HUNTERS (1986) - Deep in the jungles of Paraguay, notorious Nazi scientist Dr. Martin Hoffmann (Stewart Granger; THE WILD GEESE - 1978) has been toiling away for over forty years, experimenting on members of local tribes trying to perfect a deadly serum made from a rare poisonous spider, in hopes od resurrecting the Third Reich and spreading terror throughout the world. The serum, when put in the water supply, turns people into mindless zsombies, taking away their free will. Nazi hunter Amanda (Maud Adams; KILLER FORCE - 1976) will do anything to capture Dr. Hoffmann, so she marries his nephew, Karl (William Berger), just to get close to the good doctor. When Dr. Hoffmann's right-hand man, Heinrich (George Lazenby; THE MAN FROM HONG KONG - 1975), discovers Amanda's true identity and tells Dr. Hoffmann, he orders hitman El Pasado (Eduardo Conde) to kill Amanda and retrieve the blue notebooks she keeps that contains information that could prove fatal to Dr. Hoffmann. Amanda senses that she is in danger, so she and a clueless Karl hop a plane to Los Angeles. When they land in L.A., Amanda has to use the ladies room. El Pasado follows her into the bathroom and slits her throat with a straight razor. For some reason, Karl informs Amanda's daughter, L.A. doctor and gun expert Ally (Candice Daly; ZOMBIE 4: AFTERDEATH - 1988), that her mother drowned in a swimming accident and flies her down to Rio De Janeiro for the funeral. Karl gives Ally her mother's notebooks and at the funeral, Ally discovers that her mother was murdered. She confronts Karl and he assures her that he will not rest until he finds the murderer (he has his suspicions that his uncle is involved). Unfortunately, Karl won't have the chance because he is shot by El Pasado at the funeral and killed. He also tries to kill Ally, but she is saved by Tonio (Romulo Arantes), an old friend of Amanda's who informs Ally of her mother's Nazi-hunting background. El Pasado manages to steal three of Amanda's notebooks, but she hid the fourth and final one (the one that contains the location of Dr. Hoffmann's jungle hideout) and only Ally knows where it is. Ally and Tonio form an uneasy partnership to retrieve the notebook and then raid Hoffmann's fortress. Meanwhile, Dr. Hoffmann has perfected his serum and plans on testing it out in the Los Angeles water supply. Can Ally and Tonio put their personal and cultural differences long enough to stop Dr. Hoffmann before he carries out his wicked experiment? They hire crazy mercenary Kong (Russ McCubbin) to lead them down river and assault Dr. Hoffmann's jungle compound in the film's badly-staged finale.  This is a plodding and long-winded jungle action flick, marred by the non-chemistry between Romulo Arantes and Candice Daly, who have to carry the second half of the film and, quite frankly, don't have the chops to pull it off. Director/producer Ernst R. von Theumer (THE BIG BUST-OUT - 1972; JUNGLE WARRIORS - 1984), working with a script by James Dalessandro and Louis La Russo II, tosses in a little bit of everything, from jungle adventure, chases (and a plane crash), espionage and even a touch of WIP in hopes something will stick. Very little of it does, as von Theumer films it all in a very laid-back and lackadaisical manner, offering no urgency in the action scenes and saddling the actors with such cringe-inducing dialogue like, "I haven't heard a good idea since my husband's suicide!" There is occasional nudity, some good on-location photography and a few nifty explosions, but there are too many dead spots in the film where everything just screeches to a halt so Ally and Tonio can get to know each other better (in other words, have sex). Another problem is Dr. Hoffmann's serum. For a film whose main plot devise is Dr. Hoffmann's mind control serum, not once to we see it utilized. That's a shame, because this film could have used that exploitative element to jazz-up an otherwise uneventful film. Both Stewart Granger and George Lazenby are woefully underutilized here and look embarrassed. (Lazenby is misidentified on the VHS cover art, a head shot of actor Herb Andrews, who plays Johann in this film, is mislabeled as being that of Lazenby). Candice Daly was a tragic figure. After appearing in a handful of films, she was found dead of a drug overdose in a skid row motel room in 2004. She was 41 years old. Co-star Romulo Arantes, a champion swimmer, died in a plane crash while flying over Brazil in 2000. He was killed two days before his 43rd birthday. As a matter of fact, besides Maud Adams and Lazenby, all the other main actors here have died, all of them from cancer. That's just spooky. As far as jungle action films go, HELL HUNTERS is a minor entry that can be skipped. Available on VHS from New Star Video and not yet available on DVD. Not Rated, but there's nothing here that would go beyond an R-rating.

HELL RIDERS (1984) - There are some questions that can never be answered, like why would Tina Louise agree to appear in crap like this (and EVILS OF THE NIGHT - 1984) and yet not want to "demean" herself by recreating her Ginger role in the GILLIGAN'S ISLAND TV movies? Louise appears as Claire, a Las Vegas blackjack dealer who, while driving through the desert, has some car trouble and she must take a back road to the town of Ramsburg to get to the nearest mechanic. She literally runs into a motorcycle gang called the Hell Riders and their leader, Snake (Ross Alexander), has his men rough her up (She says, "You want trouble? I'll give you trouble, jerk bastard!"). The action then switches to Ramsburg, where we are introduced to the citizens, including Sheriff Bates (Jerry Rattay), who is trying to marry off his daughter Suzy (Chris Haramis), so he can see her "barefoot and pregnant"; Dave Stanley (Adam West), the town's doctor who likes to jog (a lot!); and Joe (Frank Millen), the town's semi-retarded car mechanic and Suzy's husband-to-be. Claire rolls into town to get her car fixed and to file a complaint, but the sheriff refuses to listen to her (he calls her a "two hundred dollar hooker"!). Claire goes to Dr. Dave to have her wounds tended to, when the Hell raiders invade the town. When the bikers enter the town's only cafe and start bothering the customers, Dr. Dave dislocates Snake's shoulder and will only put it back into place if Snake agrees to take the Hell Riders out of town. Snake agrees, but after he rapes a woman tourist on the outskirts of town ("Take it easy or take it hard!") and beating up her husband, the Hell Riders return to Ramsburg and begin tearing up the town, beating up the men and raping the women. They lock up all the townspeople in the jail while Claire leads some of them on a chase when she steals a car. After Snake is killed by two of his own men in an internal power play, the townspeople escape from jail, grab some guns and kill all the bikers. Awwww, don't you just love happy endings?  Let me start off by telling you this film's good points....... OK, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about what's wrong with it. Director/co-scripter James Bryan (DON'T GO IN THE WOODS - 1981; which LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT actor Vincent D'Onofrio turned into a musical horror film in 2009!!!) frankly hasn't got a clue how to stage an action scene. It becomes even more clear when we find out that Renee Harmon was Producer and co-scripter on this. Harmon, that woman with the irritating voice that could break a mirror (and who also has a role here as "Knife", one of the female biker members), also starred in and produced/scripted such classic badfilms as FROZEN SCREAM (1981) and two of Bryan's other horrendous directorial efforts, EXECUTIONER PART II (1983) and LADY STREET FIGHTER (1978), has never made or appeared in a good film (Really! Try watching any of them and judge for yourself). Both Adam West and Tina Louise were paid $10,000 each for one day's shooting and director Bryan filmed most of their scenes in extreme close-up (usually wearing hats or scarves), so he could heve their scenes inserted at various times throughout the film. It's highly apparent that body doubles were used the rest of the time, as they are always filmed from behind or with their faces hidden from view (although the Adam West double does get some face time in the finale). The entire Hell Riders motorcycle gang is one of the weakest and most ineffective gangs you will ever see, as they are manhandled and abused by everyone they meet. Even their final assault on Ramsburg is ho-hum, as all they do is rip a couple of women's shirts, beat up the sheriff and lock everyone in jail. I get more excitement watching goldfish swim in a bowl. This should cement your opinion that James Bryan and Renee Harmon were two of the worst individuals to work behind (and in front of ) a camera. One of my favorite scenes comes early on, where Father (Frank Newhouse), the "religious" member of the Hell Riders, explains to Claire how his right hand was cut off. It's plain to see by looking at his bandaged stump that his hand is still underneath the bandages. It's sloppiness like this (including two of the worst car crashes ever committed to celluloid) which should put this film on your "must avoid" list. Also starring Ricco Mancini, Dan Bradley, Lynn Wiedermayer, Arline Specht and Sandra Sterling. The late Lee Frost was one of the Executive Producers. A Cannon Video Release. Not Rated.

HEROES FOR HIRE (1984) - Wonderfully weird action film made in the Philippines. As the film opens in 1980, a Miami doctor is seen inserting a metal object into an unknown patient's arm. The doctor then tells the patient that he's all "wired up" and can go home and relax. A short time later, the patient shoots the doctor between the eyes as he is walking out of his office. A "few years later", a group of gunmen, led by Charles Barner (Robert Mason; WAR WITHOUT END - 1986), invade the home of Professor Arlington (Mike Monty in a Speedo!) and shoot-up his pool party, killing all the professor's hired bodyguards except for McPearson (Bruce Baron; THE ULTIMATE NINJA - 1986) and kidnapping the Professor and his beautiful assistant Liza (Liza Hutton). The police believe McPearson was in on the kidnapping, but his boss, Cunningham (James Moss; SILK 2 - 1989), the head of Cunningham Security, doesn't believe it for a minute. Barner brings the Professor and Liza to the well-guarded mansion of Escaler (Eric Harris) and after being paid with a briefcase full of money, Escaler tries to reneg on the deal and orders his red beret-wearing soldiers to kill Barner, but Barner escapes after being grazed in the head with a bullet. McPearson is able to identify Barner from a mug shot and finds out from Cunningham that Barner was an old Vietnam buddy of his. McPearson begins his search for Barner, not aware that Escaler is now gunning for them both. McPearson learns from Curly (Jim Gaines; JUNGLE RATS - 1987), an old friend of Barner's, that Barner was offered a job from an "old boss", but before Curly is able to offer any more information, he is gunned-down in a crowded restaurant. Escaler sends a ransom tape to the Professor's wife (Barbara Parks), demanding ten million dollars for her husband's safe return. It is at this time that we learn that Liza is actually Escaler's girlfriend and was in on the kidnapping. Escaler and Liza are after some microfilm in the Professor's possession and are trying to trick the Professor into giving up the microfilm's location, but the Professor plays dumb and refuses to acknowledge the existence of the microfilm. Mrs. Arlington hires McPearson to find her husband and he gets a break when Barner calls him up and demands one million dollars for the Professor's location. McPearson and Barner meet face-to-face to make the exchange, only to have Barner shot in the back before he can turn over the map to the Professor's location. It turns out that Barner tattooed the map on his girlfriend's ass (!) and when McPearson goes to retrieve it, Escaler's men kill her, too. When Escaler kidnaps Mrs. Arlington to get the Professor to talk, Cunningham employs a trio of "Heroes For Hire", Magnum (Jerry Bayron), Cactus (Don Parker) and Ninja (Anthony Chang) to accompany McPearson in rescuing the Professor and his wife. Remember the unseen patient in the beginning of the film? He plays an important role in the film's triple-twist ending, where good guys are traitors, women are not who they seem and nearly everyone dies at the hands of the people they betrayed. Good times. Good times.  What I liked about this film, directed by John Lloyd (NINJA WARRIORS - 1984; NINJA'S FORCE II - 1986; KING OF THE KICKBOXERS 2 - 1992) and written by Timothy Jorge (for Producer K.Y. Lim and his Silver Star Film Company), is that it always zigs when you think it is going to zag. I always thought the film would conclude with McPearson and Barner reluctantly partnering-up to rescue the Professor (for totally different reasons, of course), so imagine my surprise when Barner is non-chalantly killed on their first meeting after the Professor's kidnapping. The inclusion of the three Heroes For Hire in the final reel of the film also comes out of left field, as we are given a brief vignette of each Hero, in flashback, performing a heroic deed and then immediately throwing them into the fray. They all join McPearson by choosing a different method of transportation to get to Escaler's island compound (scuba gear; rubber raft; jet ski; windsurfing) and then attack on all four sides, using explosive balloons (!), a machinegun/bazooka equipped motorcycle, ninja weapons and acrobatics, and good old-fashioned firepower to try to save the Professor and his wife. Since this film defies all normal expectations, it should come as no surprise that the Professor is shot dead before his wife's eyes long before McPearson or the three Heroes can save him and we then learn that wifey has an agenda all her own. The violence in this film is brutal and bloody, as people are blown apart, sliced, stabbed or riddled with bullets and Ninja's ability to split into five exact copies of himself will have you rewinding the scene several times in disbelief. HEROES FOR HIRE is worth the time and effort of locating it. The late Nick Nicholson puts in a cameo as one of the kidnappers. Also starring Warren Morgan, Bill James and Paul Williams. Never available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

HUNTER'S CROSSING (1983) - Here's one of late director Teddy Page's earliest Filipino actioners, filmed back-to-back with FIREBACK and BLOOD DEBTS (both 1983) and utilizing many of the same actors and technical crew. The film opens with a squad of American soldiers rescuing millionaire Mr. Burns (Pat Andrew), his daughter Lois (Barbara Peers) and several other women from a Vietnam slave camp. The soldiers battle it out with some gooks (you can tell they are gooks by the cone-shaped straw hats they wear) while Mr. Burns and the women hop on a junket and head for the safety of the sea. Their freedom is short-lived, however, when their boat is boarded by pirate leader Jamil (David Light) and his crew and Mr. Burns and the women are taken to Jamil's base camp deep in the jungle. After a short skirmish with some jungle rebels, Jamil and his hostages make it to the camp, which is heavily guarded. Jamil sends Burn's son, James Burns Jr. (Richard Harrison), a ransom demand of 4.5 million dollars for the safe return of his father and sister, so James hedges his bets by having his right-hand man Harris (Philip Gamboa) hire some of the best mercenaries he can find to assist him in the rescue of his family (and they will split a cool 1.5 million dollars if successful). Harris picks out bar brawler Max (Don Gordon), pussy-whipped Tom (James Gaines) and womanizer Al (Bruce Baron) for the rescue mission, but first they have to be rigorously trained (Cue the 80's-style training montage). When Jamil forces Mr. Burns to write a letter demanding the delivery of the ransom within 72 hours (Jamil says, "You'll write the letter or I'll have your daughter!"), Harris must immediately put his rescue plan into action, which includes customizing a black sedan and a three-wheeled chopper with machine guns, bulletproof shields and rocket launchers. Al puts the mission in jeopardy by taking a side job as acting as a wheel man in a bank robbery and then ripping-off all the loot, which really angers the crime boss who hired him for the job. The crime boss puts a price on Al's head, which leads to a shoot-out and a car chase, where Al uses the black sedan's rocket launchers to blow-up the car chasing him. After another attempt on Al's life and Tom finding his wife Sherri (Ann Milhench) in bed with another man (who Tom shoots three times point-blank!), the rescue plan is put into action. As more secrets are revealed (Harris is married to Lois!), the ragtag group raid Jamil's camp (Jamil had raped Lois the night before) and Harris grabs Lois, while Al grabs Mr. Burns. Tom gives up his life when he throws himself on a grenade (and is blown to bits) and Al is shot to death protecting the other women hostages (who also don't fare too well). Just when it looks like everyone else is going to make it out alive, Jamil kills Harris and Lois pumps a clip into Jamil. What about Jack Jr., you may ask? Well, it turns out he never left his office, so he was never in any danger (unless he stubs his toe on his desk). Oh, those crazy Filipinos. You gotta love them!  Like most of Teddy Page's films (NINJA'S FORCE - 1984; MOVIE IN ACTION - 1987; JUNGLE RATS - 1987; PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987), there are scenes of brutal violence, nudity and action set pieces mixed with a few "What the fuck?!?" sequences that throws the viewer for a loop. The screenplay, by Timothy Jorge (FIREBACK), switches gears so often, it's really hard for the audience to know who to root for. For one, we are supposed to feel sorry for Tom, because he is so much in love with his wife, only to discover that she's been cheating on him for years with numerous men. But instead of walking away from Sherri by giving her a curt "Fuck you!", he murders his wife's latest lover in such a way that it is hard to have sympathy for Tom. And then there's Al. All he cares about is himself and he puts his team members in dangerous situations several times. Harris, on the other hand, seems to be the only decent man in the bunch, but when it is revealed that he is married to Lois, it is also made clear that Mr. Burns never cared for Harris and disapproves of the marriage, which is why he makes Lois follow him around on all his business trips like some puppy dog. Richard Harrison's role as Jack is so underwritten (he spends most of his screen time talking on the phone and only interacts on-screen with Philip Gamboa), that it is nothing but a glorified cameo, even if he does get top billing. Max is the only character deserving of any sympathy (he's a divorced dad that has a young son that loves him), but his death is so matter-of-fact, it's the most forgettable of the bunch. You can see that Page was still getting his action chops here, as some of the action set pieces are awkwardly filmed (especially the car chase) and he made a choice to keep some of the violence off-screen (Tom shooting his wife's lover; Lois shooting Jamil), but there's enough bloody violence, gunfire and explosions, not to mention some weird turns of events, to keep fans of Filipino actioners happy. Also starring Ann Jackson, Tim Bismark, Biggie Mielke, Willy Williams and Arturo Estrada. Also known as DEADLY HUNTERS. Available on DVD from Cine Excel Entertainment. Not Rated.

HUSTLER SQUAD (1976) - Disappointing Filipino actioner that plays like a cut-rate female version of 1965's THE DIRTY DOZEN (so much so, in fact, that it was released on VHS in England under the title THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN). During World War II, Paco Rodriguez (Ramon Revilla; THE KILLING OF SATAN - 1983) and his army of freedom fighters try to infiltrate a Japanese stronghold on the island of Correbalas, only to discover that the Japs were expecting them. After watching all his comrades being viciously slaughtered (by gunshot, bayonette or, in one extreme case, beheaded [it goes by so quickly, you'll need to replay the scene frame-by-frame to get the full effect]), Paco barely escapes with his life. A stubborn American general (an extended cameo by Ken Metcalfe; THE WOMAN HUNT - 1972) wants to capture that stronghold at any cost (he even threatens to send his second-in-command to the island if he doesn't come up with a viable solution quickly), so Colonel Blake (Joseph Zucchero; SILK - 1986) orders Major "Stony" Stonewell (John Ericson; FINAL MISSION - 1984) to find a way to sneak onto the island and kill some important Japanese generals and admirals that will be visiting the stronghold soon. At first, Stony and Paco are stymied on how to infiltrate the island, but when an Australian woman beats the crap out of both of them in a bar fight, they come up with the brilliant idea to use "broads" to pretend to be prostitutes and make their way to the island as concubines for the visiting Japanese dignitaries (everyone knows how those Japs love their white women!). With the help of Lt. Jennifer West (Karen Ericson; John's real-life wife), Stony and Paco pick four women: death row inmate Rose (Nory Wright), terminally ill Anna (Johanna Raunio), rape victim Sonya (Lisa Lorena) and prostitute Cindy Lee (Lynda Sinclaire), to "volunteer" for the mission. First the women have to be trained in the finer arts of combat (both weapons and hand-to-hand) and how to be high-class hookers (Cindy Lee has the upper hand here and offers to show the rest how it's done). After the girls go through extensive combat and prostitute training, Colonel Blake (insert M*A*S*H joke here) still isn't convinced that they can perform their mission ("Women cannot overpower men!"), so he talks the General into calling the mission off. The girls change the General's mind when they single-handedly overpower all the men on the base (including a very embarrassed Colonel Blake), leaving them tied-up in their beds. The women and Paco then leave their base in Australia and parachute onto the island, where Paco and his freedom fighters assist the four women into joining a brothel run by Madam Colleen, which is frequented by the Japanese occupied forces. The girls are immediately picked by the horny Japs and are taken to the stronghold, where they go to a party and each are assigned as a concubine to their own visiting Japanese dignitary (Anna ends up in the bedroom of an understanding, Harvard-educated Japanese Admiral and Rose, the horniest of the bunch, ends up with a Nip General who prematurely ejaculates!). In the finale, the girls begin killing their targets on the inside while Paco and his freedom fighters stage a major assault from the outside. When the smoke clears, only the terminally ill Anna survives, as the rest of the women and Paco die in a hail of bullets. Oh, the irony of war!  For a Filipino action flick, HUSTLER SQUAD (also known as KUMANDER AGIMAT) is pretty slow-moving and uneventful except for the violent beginning minutes and the final twenty minutes, where the girls perform their mission. What happens in-between is pretty standard stuff, as we get to know Stony, Paco and the women, view their strenuous training regimen and watch various romantic interludes, especially between Stony & Jennifer and Paco & Anna. For a film that is so female-eccentric and full of sex talk, there is very little female nudity on view. Even during the prostitute training sessions, the women wear big white bras and granny panties, so those looking for a lot of lurid female flesh are bound to be disappointed. The violence on display is of the standard bullet squib and knife-stabbing variety, but I get the feeling that some of the more violent aspects of this film (including two decapitations) have been severely edited. Director Cesar Gallardo (BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN - 1974) tries his best, but the screenplay (which goes uncredited, but it has Ken Metcalfe's signature moves written all over it) takes far too long to get to the action. There are some interesting aspects here, especially the relationship between Paco and the slowly dying Anna and the fatalistic finale, but there's way too much dead air for the viewer to really get emotionally involved. Also known as COMMANDER STONEWELL. Produced by Cirio H. Santiago and Bob Waters. Filipino staple Vic Diaz puts in a cameo as a horny Japanese officer. Originally released on VHS by United Home Video and available on DVD from BCI Eclipse in two different double features: One with WILD RIDERS (1971) as part of their "Starlite Drive-In Theater" series and another with SUPERCHICK (1972) as part of their "Welcome To The Grindhouse" series. Both are now OOP and are taken from the same fullscreen print that is full of emulsion scratches and annoying audio drop-outs. Now available in its OAR from Scorpion Releasing as a double feature DVD, with MALIBU HIGH (1978). Rated R.

THE IMPOSSIBLE KID (1982) - The diminutive Weng Weng returns as Agent 00 (He's so tiny, when a rooftop sniper takes a shot at him, he hides behind a fire hydrant!), one of the Philippines' top crime fighters, in this comedy action flick. This is Weng Weng's third time playing Agent 00, previously appearing in AGENT 00 and FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY (both 1981) and, if you've already seen HEIGHT (AGENT 00 has yet to be released outside the Philippines), you know what to expect here: Weng Weng using his 33 inch frame to his advantage as he tries to stop a terrorist from killing the major businessmen in the Philippines. Agent 00, who is naturally irresistable to women, is informed by his Chief (Ben Johnson, who says to Agent 00, "Come on inside before you bust a blood vessel!", after catching him fooloing around with his secretary) that a master criminal is asking for a one million peso ransom (What's that, like $30 American?) from the big businessmen or else he will kill them one-by-one. Agent 00 arrives at a meeting between all of the Filipino top businessmen (One of the guards looks at Agent 00 and says, "What the hell is that?") and they watch a videotape of the villian (who wears a white KKK hood with a picture of a cobra imprinted on it) making his demands (He says, "You don't know me and you don't have to know me!"). Agent 00 reports back to the Chief, where he tells Agent 00 to "keep a low profile" while doing his investigation. Agent 00 does just that, hiding out in the bag of ransom money and almost catching the hooded terrorist. The terrorist seeks revenge, first trying to kill one of the businessmen by sending a hitman in drag (!), but Agent 00 forces the hitman to fall on a live grenade. The terrorist then sends an actual hitwoman and some goons to Agent 00's martial arts school, but the black belt Agent 00 makes short order of them pretty quickly. Some goons then try to kill the tiny agent in his highrise apartment, but he uses a sheet as a parachute when he jumps out of his window and lands in his pool (in a laugh-out-loud scene). When the Chief and Agent 00 try to question the female hitwoman by injecting her with sodium pentathol, she dies. Someone switched the truth serum with poison. Agent 00 becomes suspicious of businessman Senior Manolo Cervantes (Romy Diaz), since he always seems to be around when the shit hits the fan. He's right, of course, but how can he prove it? Things turn bad for Agent 00 when Senior Manolo gets him fired from the case. Now, Agent 00 must "unofficially" investigate the terrorist's dastardly plot. Have pity on poor Senior Manolo, the terrorist and his men.  This film is so goofy, you can't help but like it. Director Eddie Nicart, who directed the majority of Weng Weng's films, including the previous two Agent 00 adventures as well as D'WILD WILD WENG (1982) and THE CUTE, THE SEXY N' THE TINY (1982), fills this film with so many outrageous sight gags (including Agent 00's tiny motorcycle, where we can see Weng Weng riding it down busy highways and, in some shots, we can plainly see training wheels on it!), hilarious dialogue ("Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were an adult!" is what the proprietor of a whorehouse says to Agent 00 when he walks through the door.) and, above all, action, that you can forgive some of the film's glaring continuity errors (and there are plenty). Nicart also throws in some female nudity (only fleeting, though), bloody bullet squibs and Weng Weng's martial arts prowess (he was a real-life black belt), which usually starts with a punch to the testicles followed by a kick to the face and a finishing foot to the neck. It's hilarious. Nicart never takes the proceedings seriously, even though people are shot, blown-up, impaled or tortured. Weng Weng (a true freak of nature, who sports a bowl haircut and a bashful smile) doesn't have to do much acting (his dubbed voice is highly inappropriate here). He spends most of his time running, jumping, romancing the ladies or showing off his special brand of martial arts. The best way to describe him is with one word: mesmerizing. You just can't take your eyes off of him. Weng Weng (real name: Ernesto de la Cruz) died in relative obscurity of a heart attack on August 29, 1992. He was only 34 years old. THE IMPOSSIBLE KID also contains a music score that sounds suspiciously like Henry Mancini's theme from THE PINK PANTHER (1964), too many sight gags to mention (including Weng Weng trapped in a birdcage and dumped into the ocean and a TV that explodes, in a send-up of TV's MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) and some way-out action set-pieces. Other Weng Weng films include CHOPSEUY MET BIG TIME PAPA (1978), THE QUICK BROWN FOX (1980) and DA BEST IN DA WEST (1981). Also starring Nina Sara, Tony Carreon, Rene Romero, Romy Nario, Ruben Ramos, Ben Morro, Joe Cunanan and the S.O.S. Daredevils stunt team. The end credits tell us to watch for Weng Weng in LICENSE EXPIRED but, sadly, that never happened. Available on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment as part of a 50 movie compilation titled simply MARTIAL ARTS. The print looks surprisingly good for a cheap box set. Not Rated. "God-damned midget. He's beginning to get my goat!"

IN GOLD WE TRUST (1990) - Another wild Thailand-lensed action flick from director/producer P. Chalong (real name: Chalong Pakdivijit), filmed back-to-back with THE LOST IDOL and utilizing many of the same actors. The film opens with bad guy Jeff Slater (Sam Jones; JUNGLE HEAT - 1984) and his ragtag band of mercenaries ambushing a convoy carrying a fortune in gold. After killing everyone in the convoy (which includes a couple of impressive Jeep explosions, complete with human passengers), Slater discovers that the gold is housed in some newfangled NASA titanium safe and no one knows how to open it. The U.S. government hires Captain Oliver Moss (Jan-Michael Vincent; THE RETURN - 1980; DEMONSTONE - 1989) to retrieve the gold and the eight American POW's that the gold was going to be used for as payment for their release. Capt. Moss puts together his old team, which includes George (Robert Cespedes) and Debbie (Sherri Rose; KILLER CROCODILE - 1989), and they head deep into the Laos jungle where Slater keeps his home base. There's plenty of bad blood between Moss and Slater, as they served in the same unit during the Vietnam War until Slater went psycho and turned rogue, killing Moss' fiancée in the process (or so Moss thought). Meanwhile, Slater and his men try everything in their power to open the safe, including plastic explosives, with no luck. Slater works out his frustrations by raping the daughter of a Vietnam General he just killed. Moss and his small band of commandos parachute into the jungle and are instantly met with enemy gunfire, but are saved by a group of rebels led by Sai-Kam (Michi McGee), who just happens to be Moss' long-thought-to-be dead fiancée. She is also the sister of the woman that Slater is raping. (Moss is hanging in a tree by his parachute during the firefight and when he finally frees himself, Debbie asks him, "How you feelin'?" He turns to her and says, "Like a snake-bit, broke-leg, gut-shot dog dragging nine puppies uphill! That's how I feel!"). In the eight years since he last saw her, Sai-Kam has become a hardened rebel, who finds it hard to forgive Moss for leaving her behind. Slater decides to hide the safe in a cave, not realizing that the cave is actually home to a squad of Japanese samurai soldiers who have live and propagated there since World War II (They don't even know WWII has ended!). Moss and his squad join Sai-Kam and the rebels in their quest to locate Slater and the gold when one of the POWs comes stumbling into the rebel camp. He tells them that Slater is now in control of the American POWs, as well as Sai-Kam's younger sister. Things come to a boil when Slater gets the upper hand and captures nearly everyone. Moss has the key to the safe; it's a tattoo on his body that will magically disappear if he dies (!), so Slater reluctantly agrees to work with Moss to get the safe back from the Japanese. Expect a battle on a huge scale and then old scores being settled.  If you never thought you would see the day that the usually wooden Sam Jones would overact wildly, than this is the film for you. He's totally psychotic here, flailing his arms and spitting out his lines like he's the king of madmen on Madman's Day (I know it's not a real holiday, but imagine it is!). The scene where he tries to blow-open the safe with explosives is a classic of overstatement, as he screams at his men about having $54,000,000 in gold in his possession, but is unable to touch it ("54 fucking million dollars! Fucking 54 million dollars! 54 million fucking dollars!"). Jones certainly looks like he's having the time of his life here and I guarantee you'll never see him more animated. Director P. Chalong (S.T.A.B. - 1976; THE GOLD RAIDERS - 1983) peppers the screen with plenty of bloody action (lots of bloody bullet squibs and exploding bodies, including Jones' memorable demise), offbeat situations (The Japanese subplot is pure genius, as they still have an operational Jap Zero and their hatred of Americans, which has been passed from generation to generation, is even more intense than the days of WWII. So much so, that the pilot of the Zero turns kamikaze and flies it into an American rescue helicopter!), and even a lot of intentional humor (When Moss and George get into a fight early in the film, they crash through a chicken coop. A short time later, they are walking down a dirt road and hear a chirping noise. Moss reaches into his pants pocket and pulls out a baby chick!), making IN GOLD WE TRUST (also known as AMERICAN SOLDIER: KOMMANDO GOLD and GOLD OF THE SAMURAI) a great film for fans of Far East craziness. Hell, even Jan-Michael Vincent looks sober here! Also starring Nappon Gomarachun, James Phillips, Herb 'Superb' Jones, Dean Alexander, Guy L. Lyndar, Rit Luercha and big, hulking Christoph Kluppel as "Christoph", basically portraying the same role he did in Chalong's THE LOST IDOL. An Action International Pictures VHS Release. Not available on U.S. DVD, but there is a German DVD available under the AMERICAN SOLDIER title. Not Rated.

IN HELL (2003) - I am a big Jean-Claude Van Damme fan, even though after watching him on several talk shows, I have come to the conclusion that he's not the sharpest tool in the shed (in other words, he's stupid). Like most of the 80's and 90's B+-list of action stars (Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, etc.), most of his later films have been released direct-to-video (DTV) here in the States. Unlike most of them though, his later DTV films (REPLICANT - 2001; WAKE OF DEATH - 2004) are pretty good action films. IN HELL is no exception. Van Damme returns to prison, as he did in DEATH WARRANT (1990), and the results are entertaining as well as graphic and brutal. And the fact that Van Damme hardly uses his patented martial arts prowess only makes this all the more amazing. When Kyle LeBlanc (Van Damme) is sentenced to life with no possibility of parole for killing the person responsible for the rape and murder of his wife, the corrupt Slavik court system sends him to the most violent prison in the Eastern Bloc. After much degradation, including witnessing prison rape, getting into fights and being thrown into solitiary (it's literally a shithole) where he tries to kill himself, LeBlanc finally pulls himself together with the help of his brutish, but well-read, new cellmate, 451 (ex-NY Giants footballer Lawrence "LT" Taylor). After being roughed-up by some Russian mob cons and seeing some of his new-found friends seriously hurt or killed, he becomes an unwilling participant in a series of illegal guard-sanctioned bare-knuckle fight-to-the-death boxing/wrestling matches. But is LeBlanc becoming the monster that so disgusted him when he first entered this hellhole? With 451 (named after the novel Farenheit 451) to remind him, LeBlanc regains his humanity, just in time for his big fight against ringer Valya (Michael Bailey Smith). His refusal to fight and subsequent torture rally the prisoners to unite against their corrupt captors. A final fight leads to an escape and some well-deserved payback.  Ringo Lam, a well-regarded Hong Kong action director (CITY ON FIRE - 1987; TWIN DRAGONS - 1992), has worked with Van Damme three times so far, with MAXIMUM RISK (1996), REPLICANT (2001) and this one, and the results have all been entertaining. Lam seems to know Van Damme's strengths and weaknesses and uses them both to the film's advantage. I believe Van Damme is maturing as an actor which he seems to recognize as he doesn't always rely on his martial arts knowledge to get to the next scene. He actually acts and seems more controlled and patient on screen. The images of a moth fluttering around Van Damme in solitiary and Lawrence Taylor's voice-over narration are both spot-on and speak volumes about solitude and redemption. The film is also highly emotional in spots (Taylor's flashback as a child; Van Damme's fight with the masked behemoth who was in the cell next to him while he was in solitiary) and is quite effective as an action film and as social commentary. This was supposed to be a big A-list film, but when the producers couldn't raise the budget necessary to make it, they pared-down the screenplay and made this film instead. It's one of Van Damme's best. Maybe he isn't so stupid after all. Also starring Marnie Alton, Malakai Davidson, Billy Rieck, Robert Lasardo, Juan Fernandez (quite a sight as a transvestite con) and David Leitch. A Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

IN HOT PURSUIT (1977) - Here's something that could have only come from the anything-goes 70's: A PG-rated action flick about smuggling marihuana across the U.S. border. Real-life brothers Don & Bobby Watson star as Oosh and Boosh (!), two stoner hippies who have just taken a huge delivery of weed from a plane out of Mexico and, with the help of a couple of friends, have loaded it into their camper. Trouble is, the police have staked-out the location and have witnessed the transaction. A chase ensues and a couple of police cars are wrecked (one car is totaled when the landing gear of the plane hits it as it takes off) as well as the camper being destroyed by a passing bulldozer. The boys and the pot are seized and the police take them to jail. Boosh calls his girlfriend Denise (Debbie Washington) who, in turn, calls Joe King (Paul Weiner), the drug kingpin. Mr. King sets up a jailbreak and rescues the boys from prison using a helicopter. They are driven to Mr. King's house, only to discover Mr. King is no longer in charge. Sandy (Sandy St. Armour), a second kingpin, has taken his place. After shooting the helicopter pilot in the face (!), Sandy gives Oosh and Boosh a tractor trailer and instructions to pick up another planeload of pot. They make the transaction and, yep, you guessed it, they are again chased by the police. They make their delivery, but destroy the tractor trailer in the process. Sandy gives the boys seven days to pay him back $150,000; the cost of the first lost shipment and damages to the truck. The boys decide to rob an armored car to get the money and they devise a plan that involves a Camaro, the tractor trailer and some dynamite. Just like everything else these boys do, it goes wrong and Oosh and Boosh are now trying to outrun the cops in the Camaro. They wreck the Camaro, steal another car and deliver the money. They pull one more big pot delivery (and rip-off Sandy) before retiring from the business for good. I love happy endings!  If I were a betting man, I would be willing to wager that this film was made as a big "fuck you!" to law enforcement and I'm willing to lay odds that stars Don & Bobby Watson were drug-runners in real life, because they sure weren't actors. One-time director/producer Jim West has fashioned what is basically nothing more than a chase film, where the Watson brothers outrun the cops, destroy plenty of police cars and, in the film's best sequence, drive a tractor trailer through a house that is being transported on the highway. I was also surprised by the level of violence in this, considering it's PG rating. When the helicopter pilot is shot in the face, you see a very bloody shot of the aftermath. During the armored car robbery, Oosh and Boosh's two friends (one of them is called "Bubble Eye"!) are shotgunned in the chest and a guard is blown up. The problem with this film is that there is an uneasy mixture of comedy and death. There seems to be no repercussions (not to mention remorse) for the boys' actions, whether it be destroying property, shooting at the police or getting their friends killed. Everything is played in a tone that goes, "Look what I just got away with!" This shot-in-Georgia rarity (supposedly based on a true story) contains bad editing (some scenes look like director West didn't have enough time or money for a second take), terrible acting by a cast of non-pros, banjo music, no sense of justice and, as the closing credits proudly proclaims, "No stunt men were used in this film" (it's obvious that it is indeed the Watson brothers hanging off the helicopter as they are making their escape from the prison). A true product of the 70's. Also known as POLK COUNTY POT PLANE. Also starring Big Jim, Howard Smith, Bob Deyton, James Crews, Don Pierce and T.C. Jones. A Paragon Video Productions Release. Rated PG.

JUSTICE (1999) - Though the plot has enough gaping holes to drive a freight train through, I enjoyed this crime drama (released on video as BACKLASH) mainly for Charles Durning's (WHEN A STRANGER CALLS - 1979) performance as a tough-as-nails cop trying to protect his deceased partner's lawyer daughter (Tracey Needham) from some South American drug kingpin's (Henry Silva) hitmen. While short on logic, JUSTICE (which seems to be only the cable TV title) offers some outstanding action setpieces, especially where the severely overweight Durning ducks behind a car to avoid machine gun fire from a hit man. You half-expect the car to get up and hide behind Durning as he offers more cover than the car. Durning carries the film with his lovable but no-nonsense character, who wishes justice was dished-out like it was in the old days. He gets his wish when everything else in the modern judicial system fails to keep his friends and family alive. Director Jack Ersgard (MANDROID - 1993) infuses a tired plot with much-needed adrenaline, humor and some heart. This is Durning's first starring role in quite a while. He is usually assigned roles as someone's buddy (think Burt Reynolds) or some secondary character. He shines here. Just ignore the plot and enjoy Durning. I did. This was Durning's first major genre role since 1985's STAND ALONE. Also starring James Belushi (basically a cameo with a violent death), JoBeth Williams (as a very bad District Attorney) and the director's brother Patrick Ersgard. A Virgin Vision VHS release. Rated R.

KARATE COP (1991) - In this sequel to OMEGA COP (1990), Ron Marchini returns as John Travis, one of the last surviving cops in a nuclear-ravaged Earth. Travis saves Rachel (Carrie Chambers) from a group of mutants and she offers him a hot meal if he'll take her back to her compound. Travis agrees and drives her back, but a couple of blocks before they get there, they are attacked by a pack of mutants led by Snaker (Michael E. Bristow, his face made up to look like a snake). Travis and Rachel are able to make it to her compound, but Snaker and his gang trash Travis' car. Rachel introduces Travis to her family, who are nothing but a bunch of children who consider themselves freedom fighters (they call themselves "Freebies"). Rachel shows Travis a teleporter, which will transport anyone to one of the twenty teleporters scattered throughout the world. Unfortunately, the crystal used to power the teleporter is cracked and worthless, so Rachel makes a deal with Travis. If he can retrieve the only other available crystal located somewhere in this mutant-filled city, she will transport him to Washington, D.C., where he was headed when he saved Rachel. She supplies Travis with a motorcycle and he goes off on his search for the crystal. Also after the crystal is evil mutant leader Lincoln (D.W. Landingham), who sends Snaker and a bunch of mutants to steal the crystal and kill Travis. Travis locates and steals the crystal (from some religious mutant), but someone steals his motorcycle in return. He walks into Jackass Junction and stops at a bar/diner run by Dad (David Carradine). It seems Dad stole stole Travis' motorcycle and he now wants the keys, but Travis kills him and a bar full of mutants when they try to take them (while a mutant woman in a fur bra dances next to a broken jukebox). On his way back to Rachel, Snaker and his men try to ambush Travis, but he gets away. He then learns that Lincoln has kidnapped Rachel, so Travis must now go to Lincoln's compound to save her. After killing some of Lincoln's men in an arena cage fight, he rescues Rachel, but gets shot in the leg when they get away (he performs surgery on himself and removes the bullet). As Lincoln and his men attack Rachel's compound, she sends all the children through the teleporter to safety while Travis holds the mutants at bay. He must defeat Lincoln's best fighter (Michael Foley of THE DIVINE ENFORCER - 1991) and then kill Lincoln so Rachel and the kids can truly be safe. Travis must destroy the teleporter to achieve that safety, so he sets out on foot, alone (well, he does have is trusty dog sidekick), for Washington, D.C..  This film is so low-budget that smoke machines are constantly used to blur out the background, thereby saving money on set direction (you can practically see the machines pumping out smoke at the bottom of the screen in almost every scene). All logic is also thrown out the window (An exposed crystal to power an expensive teleporter? I would have encased that thing in bulletproof glass!). Ron Marchini (also a co-producer and co-scripter here) is a man of few words, as he prefers to let his hands and feet do the talking. Marchini does know his limitations (check out my reviews for DEATH MACHINES - 1976; FORGOTTON WARRIOR - 1986 and RETURN FIRE: JUNGLE WOLF 2 - 1988), but this film's plot is so uninvolving and preposterous (What the hell are Rachel and a bunch of kids doing with one of the only twenty known teleporters? Did they win it in a kickball game?), you'll wonder why Travis even bothers. The makeup effects are awful (Snaker's makeup in particular is laughable) and the action scenes, while lively, are few and far between. David Carradine is on-screen for all of two minutes and doesn't even fight Marchini. He speaks in this weird Southern drawl and then takes a shotgun blast to the chest after pulling a pistol on Marchini. The dialogue is also very hinky. Snaker speaks like Yoda ("Catch him, we must!") and Marchini never says more than six words at a time. I think his biggest piece of dialogue is when he says, "Asshole to ashes. Dictators to dust!" after he kills Lincoln in the finale. Directed by Alan Roberts, who got his start directing porn (PANORAMA BLUE - 1974) and sexploitation (YOUNG LADY CHATTERLEY - 1977; THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES HOLLYWOOD - 1980) and then unknowingly directed the anti-Muslim flick INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS (2012; for more on that story, click HERE). KARATE COP contains no nudity and is Robert's only action film. Odd choice if you ask me. Filmed in Marchini's hometown of Stockton, California. Also starring Dax Nicholas, Dana Bentley and Vibbe Haugaard. Available on DVD from Digiview Entertainment in a highly- watchable fullscreen print. Not Rated.

KILLPOINT (1984) - When Nighthawk (Stack Pierce) kills a guard and steals a cache of automatic weapons from a National Guard armory, it sets off a violent chain of events. Nighthawk's boss, Joe Marks (Cameron Mitchell), orders him to kill the city's only other illegal arms dealer, which results in a massacre of innocent people (including children) at a Chinese restaurant. The government sends Agent Bill Bryant (Richard Roundtree) to investigate the armory heist and the local police assign troubled cop Lt. James Long (Leo Fong) to investigate the string of robberies and killings involving the automatic weapons, which are now in the hands of street gangs and common criminals. Lt. Long's wife was recently raped and killed and when his captain asks him to look into the killing of a woman who was raped and burned on her breast (by the sadistic Marks), he keeps flashing back to the death of his wife. The woman's body leads him to Anita (Hope Holiday), a madame who runs a prostitution racket owned by Marks. When Anita goes to Marks' house to complain, he has Nighthawk shoot and kill her. When Agent Bryant's investigation of the stolen weapons and Lt. Long's investigation of Marks leads them both to the massacre of an Hispanic gang, they join forces to get the guns off the streets and to bring Marks down. Long goes undercover as a gun buyer from Arkansas (!) and has a meeting with Marks and Nighthawk. Marks (who calls Long "China boy", "chink", "slopehead" and a "slant-eyed bastard") sets up the delivery for the next day after testing Long by having his men put a beat-down on him to prove he's not a cop. At the time of delivery, a greedy Nighthawk proves traitorous and slits Marks' throat with a switchblade. Long brings a S.W.A.T. team with him on the buy and a huge gunfight/fistfight breaks out. As Long is chasing Nighthawk through a warehouse, we find out that Marks is not quite dead yet, as he gets revenge on Nighthawk for ventilating his neck before finally dying for good.  Although this is pretty standard low-budget 80's action fare (originally released by Crown International Pictures), it does contain a crazy performance by Cameron Mitchell as Marks. You won't hear this often, but he actually makes the film worth seeing. He plays Marks as some psychotic gay gangster, who cares more about his little pet poodle than any human being. The scene where Marks (who wears flowers in his hair to match his poodle's) is in a jacuzzi singing to his dog while bare-chested bodybuilders work out around him (and Nighthawk makes a "fag" remark), is worth the price of a rental or purchase alone. He eventually kills the poodle when is shits on his floor, proving he has no feelings for anything. To prove that he has no morals, there's also another scene where he's in a diner and kills a talkative waitress when she doesn't quiet her crying baby. He even steals the money from the register! Leo Fong makes an unlikely action hero, with his bowl haircut (with prominent bald spot) and a face that looks as if it was hit with an ugly stick more than a few times. His martial arts fights are awkwardly staged, but I imagine that this is closer to what a real fight would look like as opposed to the stylized fights in bigger-budgeted martial arts actioners. Richard Roundtree is wasted and only appears in a couple of scenes. He's not anywhere in sight for the final battle. Director/scripter/co-producer Frank Harris (LOW BLOW - 1986; THE PATRIOT - 1986; AFTERSHOCK - 1989) uses actual officers from the Riverside Police Department in California to portray nearly all the police officers in the film (including Fong's captain, who has a lot of lines), which brings a sense of realism to the S.W.A.T. assaults and other police procedurals. This is surprising considering the story line, where gang members slaughter many innocent people in restaurants, grocery stores and houses. I seriously doubt any city today would offer their entire police force in a similar situation. The violence in this film is brutal and some scenes (the Chinese restaurant slaughter and Anita's death) look to be trimmed in order to achieve an R rating. KILLPOINT is worthwhile viewing if you want to see Cameron Mitchell overact to the point of being truly looney. Also starring Bernie Nelson, Danene Pyant, James Lew and Branscombe Richmond. A Vestron Video Release. Also released by United American in a substandard EP-mode tape. Also available on the MAXIMUM ACTION DVD compilation from BCI Eclipse. Rated R.

KRIS COMMANDO (1987) - Here's a strange one: A Filipino morality tale about Muslim vs. Christian beliefs disguised as a war actioner. A group of Muslim rebels, led by the hot-headed Kiram Sali, attack Christian Philippine Army outposts every chance they get, which angers not only Army General Alfredo Basco (Eddie Garcia; THE WOMAN HUNT - 1972), but also Kiram's peace-loving teacher brother, Omar (Dante Varona), who doesn't believe killing is the answer, even if he doesn't agree with the Christian way of life. The Manila Tribune sends earnest, but wet behind the ears, female reported Mitch Vasquez (Aurora Sevilla) to the troubled region to get the real story and she ends up witnessing more than her young Christian mind can handle. General Basco sends his best man, Captain Reyes, to talk to Omar about amnesty for his brother and the rebels, but when Omar talks to Kiram about the offer, he turns it down. General Basco then personally goes to Omar's village to try and talk some sense into him and Kiram, but it turns out to be a deadly trap orchestrated by the village's evil mayor, who wants the Muslims and Christians to continue fighting for his own personal monetary gain. General Basco is slain and, of course, Kiram and the rebels are blamed, which leads to an all-out holy war between the Muslims and the Christians, resulting in the deaths of many innocent women and children. Omar gives up his peaceful ways when the Army kills Kiram and some of his own schoolchildren. Omar becomes the leader of the rebel forces and unites all the different rebel clans into one fighting force. The first thing Omar does is kill the mayor for his treachery (and we find out that Omar is actually the bastard son of General Basco!) and then he leads his fighting force on attacks against the Army. General Basco's real son, Raoul, becomes a Muslim-hating killing machine who leads his Army unit on many Muslim village raids (even members of his own unit believe Raoul is taking things too far, letting his hatred blind his humanity). The two half-brothers will eventually have to face each other in final combat. Who will be the winner? Are there any true winners when it comes to senseless war?  Those expecting a typical balls-out Filipino war actioner are going to be severely disappointed, because KRIS COMMANDO, directed by Wifredo "Willie" Milan (W - 1983; CLASH OF THE WARLORDS - 1985) and written by Pete Pascua, is more interested in theological warfare than battlefield warfare. Sure, there are plenty of gunfights and bloody deaths (including small children being murdered), but the viewer is also bombarded with plenty of Muslim and Christian ideology, some of it pretty heavy-handed, especially Mitch's plea to her soon-to-be Muslim-hating Mother-In-Law (General Basco's wife) on why she wishes Muslims and Christians can put their differences aside and live in a violence-free Philippines. Not all the symbolism is bad, though. There's an excellent sequence where General Basco is being killed in the enemy trap, intercut with scenes of Mitch, Raoul and the rest of the Basco clan celebrating Mom's birthday in Manila. The Muslim village that General Basco dies in is populated by sick and hungry women and children, while a healthy Momma Basco and her clan feast on cake. It's a potent sequences marked with excellent editing that magnifies the differences in the two religions, but doesn't play favorites, as both sides suffer equally. Most of the bloody war action is saved for the final third of the film, where Omar goes into Rambo mode (shirtless, but with a bandana tied around his upper arm rather than his forehead) and Raoul flips out and starts killing Muslims indiscriminately. There are plenty of bloody bullet squibs and even a decapitation, but how action film fans view this film depends on their tolerance level for religion in the storyline. It tries to play fair with both sides, but Muslims have the slight edge here, thanks to Christian Raoul wigging-out in the finale. I guess this film also makes a good parable about War in Iraq and the difference that religion plays there, but that's purely a coincidence. Or is it? Also starring Ronnie Ricketts, Kristel Romero, John Regala, Philip Gamboa, Tom Olivia, Lucita Sorano, Fred Gamboa, Dexter Doria, Eric Robles and Princess Punzalan. Never legitimately available on U.S. home video, the print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape on the Miami Home Entertainment label. Not Rated.

LAST FLIGHT TO HELL (1989) - DEA operative Mitch Taylor (Reb Brown) is sent into the South Asian jungle to capture drug kingpin Dugan (Mike Monty) and bring him back to the U.S. for trial. Just as Mitch is about to grab Dugan during a drug exchange, a Chinese warlord named Lin arrives on scene by helicopter and kidnaps Dugan after a firefight with Mitch and his men. Mitch receives orders from boss Red Farley (Chuck Connors) to keep a close eye on Dugan's daughter Sheila (Michele Dehne), because she has a key to a safety deposit box that contains millions of dollars in drug money. Mob goons are after Sheila for the key and they will kill anyone (one guy gets his eyes poked out when he doesn't talk) to get their hands on it. Sheila manages to duck both Mitch and the Mob and ends up in the South Asian jungle to trade the key to Lin for her father's freedom, avoiding border guards (one tries to rape her) and greasing the palms of money-hungry locals (one also tries to rape her) in order to get across the border. When she is betrayed by a group of locals (one tries to cut her ear off when she doesn't tell him where the ransom money is), Mitch shows up and saves her hide. They manage to make it across the border into Lin's territory and Sheila goes in alone to make the exchange. It's also at this time that we learn that Red Farley is a traitor and is after the money, too. When Lin renegs on the deal (he also tries to rape Sheila), Mitch again shows up and saves the day. Mitch brings Lin, Sheila and Dugan to Lin's plane, but when Lin breaks free, the trio must fight their way off the airfield. With the plane damaged and running out of fuel, Mitch crashes the plane but everyone survives. Sheila fall into a pit of cobras (!), Mitch saves her (yet again) and Dugan tells him the truth about Red Farley. Mitch makes it back to base camp, where Dugan saves Mitch's life by killing Red. Hooray for the drug kingpin!  This Italian-made, Philippines-lensed action flick, directed by Ignazio Dolce (LAST PLATOON - 1988), using the pseudonym "Paul D. Robinson", is an average action/jungle film with enough bloody carnage (eyes poked out; ears cut off; people riddled with bullets) to make the hackneyed plot (screenplay by Tito Carpi as "Tony Carp") bearable. I got the feeling by watching this that Sheila's main role was to see how many times she could be put into a situation where she could be raped. Reb Brown (ROBOWAR - 1988) makes a pretty one-note hero, as he has the emotional range of a piece of petrified wood. There's not much meat to the plot, just "get into trouble, get out of trouble" time and time again. The late Chuck Connors (TOURIST TRAP - 1978; SKINHEADS: THE SECOND COMING OF HATE - 1988) does what he can with an underwritten part and even takes part in a couple of major shootouts. LAST FLIGHT TO HELL is not worth going out of your way for, but if you've got 91 minutes to kill, it's better than burning your pubic hair with a magnifying glass. Also starring David Brass, Roberto Dell'Acqua and Eddie Gaerlan. An Action International Pictures Home Video Release. Not Rated.

THE LAST HUNTER (1980) - This is the first of director "Anthony M. Dawson's" (better known as Antonio Margheriti; HORROR CASTLE - 1963; THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH - 1964; WEB OF THE SPIDER - 1971) "Vietnam Trilogy", which continued with TIGER JOE (1982) and concluded with TORNADO (1983). This shot-in-Philippines war film is also the most graphic of the trio, full of gory violence, bullet hits and loss of limbs, guaranteed to get your blood pumping (if you know what I mean). So let's get right to the film.
     January 1973, on the outskirts of Saigon: Captain Henry "Harry" Morris (David Warbeck; Margheriti's THE HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA - 1982) is cooling his heels in a bar with some of his platoon, when his best friend Steve (Gianfranco Moroni) begins going off the deep end, partially due to the heat and partially due to PTSD, shooting a drunk soldier in the head with his pistol, asking Harry where his new wife Carol is, he needs to meet her now. Just when Harry has talked some sense into him and has brought his mania down, the enemy starts shelling the base and the area all around them starts exploding. Harry watches helplessly as Steve eats his own gun, placing his pistol in his mouth and pulling the trigger. Harry gets out of the bar just in time, as it then explodes into smithereens and he watches as the entire base explodes all around him (excellent miniature work by Margheriti, his second favorite thing to do besides directing). Henry is the only member of his platoon to survive the shelling and the next time we see him, he is in a helicopter about to be dropped behind enemy lines. The chopper begins taking enemy fire and the tail gunner is killed (shot through the eye). The chopper pilot wants to call off the mission, but Harry makes him touch down so he can jump off (it's obvious that Harry no longer cares if he lives or dies, putting other people in danger in the process). After almost being bitten by a poisonous snake, Harry meets his contact, Sgt. George Washington (Tony King; THE RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS - 1983), or "Wash" for short. Wash introduces Harry to the men who will accompany him on his mission (which he won't discuss with anyone, not even the men who will accompany him), but there is one person Harry wasn't expecting, female war correspondent Jane Foster (Tisa Farrow; ANTHROPOPHAGUS - 1980), who will be documenting this mission. Harry doesn't want her there, but his superiors overrule him, so he has no choice but to bring her along. As they hoof it through the jungle, they find a dead paratrooper rotting in a tree and avoid various spiked jungle booby traps. They come upon a destroyed village, but something doesn't feel right. A Vietcong woman carrying a crying baby approaches them and it turns out she is a decoy for an enemy ambush. A firefight ensues, but Jane doesn't seem too worried about losing her life, as she snaps away with her camera, so Harry plays savior, pulling her out of harm's way. Wash is seriously wounded in the ambush and Harry must get him across the river so he can get some medical attention, but they all must stop and take a rest break for the night. Jane tells Harry her life story, but it is clear Harry doesn't want to talk about his life (In Harry's mind, we see a flashback, were he is best friends with Steve and his new wife Carol [Margie Newton; HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1980], as they frolic on a beach, laughing and having a good time). When morning comes, Harry and the group head further in the jungle, heading for the river, but one soldier is cut in half by a spiked booby trap (He has lost the entire bottom of his body at the waist!), so Harry collects his dog tags and pockets them. They finally make it across the river and come to a remote American base, where Wash gets medical help from ad hoc doctor Carlos (Bobby Rhodes; DEMONS - 1985), but an enemy sniper takes out a couple of Harry's soldiers in the process. Harry talks to the commander in charge of the base, Major William Cash (John Steiner; Margheriti's THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD - 1983) and it is plain to see that Major Cash has lost touch with reality. He has Harry listen to his favorite "music": A tape of various guns firing! Harry can see that Major Cash is a sandwich short of a picnic, so when he asks Harry what his mission is, he tells him he is not authorized to tell him. Major Cash has lost all control of his base, as most of his men are addicted to drugs and walk around in a haze and even Jane worries that she is not safe around these soldiers, especially when a group of them try to gang rape her. Major cash punishes the leader of the group by making him run to a tree behind enemy lines and pull a coconut off it! We see the soldier dodging enemy bullets and grenade fire, but he retrieves the coconut and gives it to the Major. Jane complains to Harry, but he does nothing, telling her, "Maybe I don't wanna live anymore." (Jane calls him a "prick") Harry then wishes Wash well (giving him cigarettes and chocolate) because his injuries are serious enough to send him back to the States (Wash tells Harry he doesn't smoke and the only chocolate he eats is white chocolate, but Harry just smiles and walks away, telling Wash he will have plenty of time to take up smoking back in the U.S.).
     The base is then invaded by the enemy (no one is standing guard because they are either drunk or stoned!) and nearly all of Cash's men are massacred, including Cash, as we hear a Tokyo Rose-like voice on the radio telling the American soldiers that they should be home with their wives or girlfriends, not here fighting a useless war (we will hear her voice a lot during this film). Jane is taken prisoner by the Vietcong, while Harry fights them off with a flame-thrower. The entire base explodes and the only ones to survive (besides Jane) are Harry, Wash and Carlos. Harry tells Wash and Carlos that his mission is to blow up an enemy radio transmitter that is broadcasting those Tokyo Rose-like propaganda messages, but first they have to rescue Jane. As the trio gets closer to the enemy camp, they discover that there are American deserters partying with the enemy, so they go in with guns blazing, killing the deserters, but Carlos is killed and Wash is seriously injured again (he is shot and his foot is caught between two boards as he falls, his ankle bone jutting out of the skin). Harry leaves Wash on a boat, while he tries to sneak into the enemy camp on his own and, wouldn't you know it, the enemy camp is also where the enemy transmitter is located, so this is a "two birds with one stone" kind of situation. Wash's boat begins taking enemy fire from both side of the river and we see his leg blow off at the knee when it gets hit by machinegun fire (it's the same leg that he snapped his foot, so it's really not a big loss, he was going to lose his foot anyway. Hey, I'm a "glass half full" kinda guy!). Wash then loses his life when his boat catches fire and he burns to death (this poor guy just cannot catch a break!). Just when Harry hears Wash's death screams, he is captured by the enemy and thrown into a bamboo cage in the river, where he meets an American P.O.W., who is then eaten alive by rats! Harry tries to fight the rats off, but just when it looks like he is about to become rat chow, he is pulled out of the cage and beaten senseless by the camp commander. When Harry refuses to tell him what his mission is, he is stabbed in the side with a bayonet and thrown back into the cage, his blood attracting a pack of swimming rats. Jane sees that Harry has been brought to the camp, so she knocks out the guy guarding her with a tree branch and rescues Harry, but he refuses to leave the camp until he blows up the radio transmitter. Harry sees something in the transmitter room that catches his eye: A photo of him, Steve and Carol at the beach, taped to a wall. That's right, Carol is a traitor. She is the one transmitting those propaganda messages over the airwaves. Harry doesn't want to hear Carol's explanation on why she is doing it, he shoots and kills her for her treachery. He then radios-in for a pickup and blows up the transmitter. He and Jane then hightail it to the pickup location, but Harry refuses to get on the helicopter, pulling off his dog tags and throwing them to Jane. Harry's mission is over and so is his will to live. Jane watches as the land he is sitting on explodes, realizing that Harry is through fighting someone else's war.
     While this film makes precious little sense and the coincidences are far too many to overlook, director Antonio Margheriti piles on the graphic gore, as we see people get shot in the head, lose appendages (or the entire lower half of their bodies), get devoured by rats and a ton more war-related violence, all shown in extreme close-up. Margheriti, who has gone on record saying he hated gore, but my guess is he forgot about it when filming this (and CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE [1980], made immediately before this film). It's also obvious that screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti (THE PSYCHIC - 1977; ZOMBIE - 1979) just got done watching APOCALYPSE NOW (1978) and THE DEER HUNTER (1978) before writing this script, as there are more than enough "homages" to remind you of both of those films (including a commander who has lost control of reality and a soldier too drugged out to realize his base is being invaded [he just sits there, his head on a table, as all of his buddies are slaughtered, eventually getting gunned down and not feeling a thing!]). But this is in no way a bad film. It delivers what it promises in a war film. There are heroics, sacrifices, battles and torture galore, more than enough for a single war film. And since it was directed by Margheriti, it has a professional gloss missing from most low-budget Italian war films. In other words, it delivers the goods.
     Filmed as L'ULTIMO CACCIATORE (a literal translation of the review title) and also known as HUNTER OF THE APOCALYPSE, this film got a U.S. theatrical release in 1984 by World Northal Films and then immediately went to VHS (from Vestron Video), both edited of most of the gory violence in order to get an R-Rating. In 2007, Dark Sky Films released the film on DVD, uncut and in its OAR. Code Red then released it on DVD & Blu-Ray, also uncut an in its OAR. This is also available uncut in anamorphic widescreen streaming on Amazon Prime, free to Prime members. Since this was filmed in the Philippines, look for expatriate actors Jim Gaines (JUNGLE RATS - 1987) as an American deserter and Romano Kristoff (NINJA'S FORCE - 1984) as a helicopter pilot. Also featuring "Alan Collins" (Luigi Pigozzi; Margheriti's ...AND GOD SAID TO CAIN... - 1970), Massimo Vanni (1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS - 1982), Margheriti's son Edoardo Margheriti as "Pvt. Stinker Smith", the soldier who loses the lower half of his body, and Hal Yamanouchi (ENDGAME - 1983) as Vietcong soldier "Hoo Flung Dung", an obvious unscripted in-joke by the dubbers, who were having some fun with the dark subject matter. The theatrical and VHS versions are Rated R, while all the discs and the streaming print are Not Rated.

THE LAST RIDERS (1991) - Early PM Entertainment Group production that mixes biker gangs, corrupt DEA agents and revenge into a pretty satisfying brew. When two members of the Slavers motorcycle gang are ripped-off for $50,000 and a kilo of cocaine by a female wrestler/drug mule named Feather (Mimi Lesseos), the leader of the Slavers, Rico (Angelo Tiffe), sends fellow member Johnny (Erik Estrada; THE LOST IDOL - 1990) to retrieve both the money and the drugs. Things go terribly wrong when Feather's boss kills her and Johnny is forced to kill him, only for Johnny to discover that Feather's boss was a crooked DEA agent. Tired of the gang life, Johnny quits the Slavers and heads out on the open road, just him and his Harley. On his way to Canada, Johnny stops by the garage of old friend (and ex-Slavers member) Hammer (William Smith; GENTLE SAVAGE - 1973; EYE OF THE TIGER - 1986), who talks Johnny into sticking around and working for him as a mechanic. Johnny begins to settle down in this small Nevada town in the middle of nowhere and when he meets a woman named Anna (Kathrin Lautner) and her young daughter Sammi (Mindy Martin), whose car breaks down in town, Johnny falls in love and begins living a normal family life. Meanwhile, the dead DEA agent's partner, Davis (Armando Sylvester), lifts one of Johnny's fingerprints from the crime scene and begins his search for Johnny. When Johnny and Anna head to Las Vegas to get married, things begin to turn deadly. Davis comes up with a plan to dispose of Johnny without pulling the trigger himself and it all involves Davis having his picture taken with Johnny while he and Anna are walking on the Strip in Las Vegas. Davis then uses that photo to make Rico believe that Johnny has turned into a snitch, so Rico and the rest of the Slavers head to Johnny's new hometown and riddle his mobile home with automatic gunfire and shotgun blasts, killing Anna and Sammi. Johnny then goes on a revenge spree, tracking down members of the Slavers and killing them one-by-one until only Rico is left. If you think you know how it's going to end, think again, because living the life of a biker is a code most people will never understand.  This enjoyable, leisurely-paced action drama, directed/co-written by PM Entertainment co-founder Joseph Merhi (EPITAPH - 1987; REPO JAKE - 1990; RAGE - 1995), actually contains a pretty decent performance by Erik Estrada (who usually underplays or over-emotes in films like this). Somehow, he finds the right balance here and you really care about his character. Big Bill Smith is also good as the gruff, but sympathetic, Hammer, who sets Johnny straight on matters of the heart, but is still tough enough to beat the crap out of two drunks who put hands on his wife. Those expecting a non-stop PM actionfest will be severely disappointed, as Merhi and his co-scripters Ray Garmon and Addison Randall (who appears here as a Slavers gang member) are more interested in making a character piece rather than a full-out action flick. That's not to say there isn't any action, though, as there are plenty of bloody bullet squibs, stabbings, explosions and one scene where Johnny kills a guy by slamming his throat down on the top of a chain link fence (ouch!). This film also gets bonus points for showing Johnny's revenge spree as a montage of deaths that are intercut with clips of a female bar band (The Shebas) singing a song titled "Walking To The Beat Of A Drum" (not a bad song, by the way) and for not copping out in the finale. When Rico finds out that Johnny was set-up, he kills Davis himself, even though Johnny has killed all his friends. Johnny and Rico then face each other on their Harleys, give each other a knowing look and continue on their separate journeys. Not your typical PM-style ending. I went into this film expecting something completely different and it left me pleasantly surprised. This alternative look at the biker mythos is not a bad way to spend 87 minutes. Co-produced and Photographed by PM Entertainment co-founder Richard Pepin. Also starring Gary Groomes, Red Horton and Felicia Mercado. A PM Entertainment Group, Inc. Home Video Release. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

THE LETHAL HUNT (1985) - Here's a little-seen Filipino actioner that's bloody as hell. Police detective Ben Serrano (Fernando Poe, Jr.) and his partner break up a robbery in progress, which results in Ben's partner being killed when he takes a shotgun blast to the face (Just before he dies, he says, "Ben, I'm not feeling good. I'm so badly wounded! Well, tonight I will not be taste your wife's cooking!"). Ben gets even by shooting all the bad guys in the head, but he gets shot in the arm when one bad guy turns out to be not as dead as he thought. As he is recuperating at home (where his nagging pregnant wife begs him to quit the force), he is attacked by some more bad guys dressed as garbage men (When Ben asks one of the guys why he is knocking on his front door to collect the garbage, the bad guy replies, "We've improved our service!). Ben manages to shoot all the bad guys (one even takes a bullet to the groin) as his wife cries uncontrollably. Back on the force, Ben gets into a car chase/shootout with a bunch of robbery suspects, which results in Ben crashing into a Mercedes Benz containing rich bitch (and Mob connected) Dona Lucila (Armida Siguion-Reyna) and her daughter Leslie, who is killed in the crash (Dona Lucila orders her driver to run a red light, by saying, "It's only a foolish old red light!", so the crash is really her fault). Dona Lucila uses her money, family and influence to exact revenge on Ben, paying off a top cop to lie in court so Ben gets convicted of vehicular homicide and is sentenced to twelve years in prison. To cover her tracks, Dona Lucila has the lying cop killed after the trial is over so he can't recant his testimony. While in prison, Ben's wife dies while giving birth to a baby boy. Two years later, Ben is paroled from prison for good behavior, which doesn't sit too well with Dona Lucila. After firing her lawyer, Dona orders her people (including her sons) to kill Ben, but he has moved from busy Manila to his brother's farm in a small town in the mountains, where he hopes to raise his young son, Rico (Jeffrey Picar), in peace. As you can probably tell, that's not going to happen. Not only does Ben have to deal with Dona Lucila and her goons, he must now contend with evil Mayor Ledesma (George Estregan), since Ben's brother is running against him for mayor in the upcoming election. When Ben's brother and dozens of his supporters are viciously gunned-down in an ambush, Ben puts away his newly-acquired pacifist ideals and straps on the guns again, looking for some well-deserved revenge.  By making the chief villian in this film a woman, director/co-scripter Ben G. Yalung (ZUMA 2: HELL SERPENT - 1987) has crafted a memorable, if ludicrous, action flick that contains plenty of bloody violence (mostly of the bullet kind, although one guy gets a spear through his neck and another gets one in the gut) and even more badly-dubbed hilarious dialogue. Dona Lucila is a bloodthirsty broad who holds grudges for life, even though she's chiefly responsible for her daughter's death. She has no problem putting her own sons in harm's way to achieve her revenge. Long-time Filipino film star Fernando Poe Jr. (LANGIT AT LUPA - 1967; ANG ALAMAT - 1971; LITTLE CHRISTMAS TREE - 1977; ANG PADRINO - 1984; MUSLIM MAGNUM .357 - 1986) spends a good portion of his screen time shooting people in the legs or head (some bad guys get both) or grieving over the loss of loved ones, but he does have a screen presence that can't be denied. I can see why he was one of the Philippines' most beloved actors (where he was affectionately nicknamed "Da King") for over forty years until his death in 2004, the same year he ran for President of the Philippines and lost in a highly controversial election that brought a public outcry of fraud. This film's best and most tense scene comes when a drunk Greggy (Greggy Liwag), Dona Lucila's son, tortures a tied-up Ben by playing a game of Russian Roulette with Ben's son, Rico. Since this is the Philippines, you don't know what the outcome will be (they have no problem showing kids being killed on-screen), which makes the following few minutes a nail-biter. Thankfully, things turn out for the best (Ben breaks free and puts a bullet into Greggy's forehead) but, a few minutes later, Rico's life is threatened again, this time by a (real) cobra as he and Ben escape into the jungle. Pushing the limits of plausibility, Ben then finds a plane that has crashed into the jungle years earlier and uses various items on-board to fashion boobytraps and molotov cocktails to kill the throngs of Dona Lucila's men out to kill him and his son. One of the bad guys uses a three barreled machine gun/rocket launcher that must be seen to be believed (and you just know it's going to end up in Ben's possession before the film is done). THE LETHAL HUNT (original title: PARTIDA) is the type of low-budget Filipino action film that's low on logic (Ben has only been in prison for two years, but when he gets out, his son looks to be at least four years old!) but more than makes up for with mindless violence and a high bodycount. Also starring Michael St. James, Miguel Rodriguez, Paquito Diaz, Romy Diaz, Shalimar Alcantara, Candy Crisotomo, Eddie Arenas, Bing Davao and King Guitierrez. The print I viewed came from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

LETHAL HUNTER (1988) - This mind-boggling Indonesian action film opens with a portly black dude driving his Jeep through the window of the top floor of a high-rise building (We don't know how he does it, though it's implied that he's driven the Jeep off the roof of another building that's clearly over a hundred yards away!). He then shoots everyone in the office with a machine gun and searches the office for a piece of microfilm (When he finds a locked desk drawer or cabinet, he simply opens it by shooting his machine gun and riddling it with bullets). When he realizes that someone has already left with the microfilm, he radios down to another guy waiting in a black pickup truck and a short car chase ensues over the opening credits. The bad guys get the microfilm when they shoot out the car's tires and it crashes into some parked cars (The stunt looks exactly like one of those daredevil crashes you see at an arena, where the stuntman tries to jump over twenty cars and fails miserably). Special agent Jake Carver (Christopher Mitchum) is sent to buy the microfilm from black marketeer Tom Selick (Peter O'Brian and, no, his character's name is not a misprint!) for two million dollars, but when competing buyer Frank Gordon (Mike Abbott) phones Selick and offers five million dollars, Selick renegs on the deal. Frank Gordon never intended on paying the money, as he sends a bunch of his goons to Selick's building armed with machine guns (a recurring theme) and shoot up the place. During the ruckus, Jake saves the life of Janet (Ida Iasha), Selick's assistant, when he rams his Jeep (another recurring theme) into the door of a getaway car where Janet was being held hostage, graphically crushing the leg of a bad guy. Jake chases some more of Gordon's guys (He shots one guy in the ankle and then Jake falls three stories, crashing through scaffolding at every floor, and he gets up without a scratch!), following a blood trial of a wounded bad guy, which leads him to a temple basement, where Jake shows his martial arts prowess (in a sequence that must be seen to be believed) until some guys throw a net around him. Jake is tied up and tortured with electricity by Gordon himself (Who we see moments before kill Selick by hitting him with a car and then running the car through a brick wall with Selick still on the hood!), but when Jake won't talk (Gordon says to him, "OK, die a motherfucking nobody!"), Gordon orders his men to blow up the building with dynamite. Jake's partner, Roy (Roy Marten), arrives in the nick of time and frees Jake just before the building blows up. Gordon's boss, Adam (Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, who sometimes walks around with a monkey or a falcon on his arm), shows his displeasure of Jake getting away by beating the shit out of the two men responsible for the fuck-up and then feeding them to his dogs! An injured Jake goes to his master's temple to recover and, once he is well, he goes out on a date with Janet (She calls him a "lethal hunter" just before they make love and then take a clothed shower together!). The next morning, a couple of Gordon's men grab Janet and Jake gives chase in his car. Jake's car explodes in the ensuing chase, so he steals on an oil truck (which leads to a comedic "men ducking in a ditch" gag that dates back to silent films!) and rescues Janet, but she ends up in the hospital (Jake's efficient, but he's not gentle!). Since both Jake and Gordon think Janet knows the location of the missing microfilm (We know where it is, since Selick gives Janet a gift in the beginning of the film), Gordon's men, disguised as emergency technicians, grab Janet out of the hospital and whisk her away by helicopter. Jake gives chase in his own helicopter (Man, this film has it all!) and, when he spots Adam in the other helicopter (for some reason he calls him "Judas"), a gunfight happens in mid-air and Janet falls out of the helicopter into the lake below (don't worry she's OK!). Janet swims to shore, but Adam shoots her in the shoulder. Jake rescues her and Adam gets away, but he's pissed. Jake takes Janet to his master's temple to recuperate (hey, it worked for him!). Jake and Roy discuss Adam at a outdoor café, where we learn that under the code name "Judas", Adam tried to rob and blow up Wall Street (Jake says. "He thinks he's Lex Luthor!"). Suddenly, they are attacked by a half-dozen men to keep them occupied while Adam and a bunch of guys attack Jack's master's temple and kidnap Janet (again). While the master and Adam fight it out, Gordon shows up and shoots the master, killing him (Adam yells out "You asshole!" to Gordon, because he wanted to defeat the master on his own). Adam brings Janet back to his place, where he smacks her around and wants her to tell him where the microfilm is (He says to her, "The only thing worse than talking is wasting time!" which is, quite frankly, a head-scratcher). Adam can't make her talk, so Gordon gives it a try (Adam say's to him "Screw it up and you both die!"). Gordon lathers her neck with shaving cream and proceeds to shave her neck with a strait razor! When she still won't talk, Adam and Gordon think that Jake has the microfilm, so they set up a meeting with him at a restaurant to capture him (again). They fail (Jake beats three thugs up in the men's room) and Jake jumps on the roof of a bad guy's car and forces it to crash through a crowded grocery store, narrowly missing a baby girl! Adam loses it and kills Gordon when he thinks that Gordon actually has the microfilm (A few moments earlier, we see Gordon making out with a whore and we hear this exchange: Whore: "Last night I dreamt a snake bit me!" Gordon: "Was it black or brown? If it was brown it was me!"). The police and Jake surround Adam's compound, rescue Janet and Adam rigs his compound to explode as he escapes. Jake hops on a dirt bike and gives chase (By God, this film really does have it all!). Adam jumps on a passing train and Jake jumps on the train using the dirt bike (He lands in the aisle of a passenger car!). Jake and Adam get into a fight and Adam ends up getting killed when he falls off the train. Or does he? At a banquet celebrating Jake's success, a battered Adam resurfaces (Jake says to him, "Well, looks like you just don't know how to die!") just as Janet discovers the hidden microfilm. Jake and Adam face-off again, only this time there's no doubt that Adam's dead, since he gets impaled by a table leg in the stomach (As Roy bursts through the door, Jake deadpans, "I found Adam's body!"). The world (and Wall Street) is finally safe.  All hail the brilliance that is director Arizal! Working with his long-time team of producer Gope T. Samtani (of Rapi Films) and scripter Deddy Armand, responsible for SPECIAL SILENCERS (1979), THE STABILIZER (1984) and FINAL SCORE (1986), Arizal has fashioned another hyper-kinetic, non-stop action film that never lets up from the get-go. It's filled with funny dialogue (a lot of it intentional), stunts, chases of every kind and violence that's simply amazing. My description of the film just scratches the surface and I must say that I was laughing out loud most of the time, due to the crazy situations and absurd dialogue.  The stoic Chris Mitchum (who could never be accused of actually acting) looks like he is having a great time and, besides a few back flips and a couple of dangerous stunts, looks to be doing all the fight scenes himself, sans a stunt double (If you look close enough, you can spot Mitchum and Roy Marten jumping into mattresses when the building explodes after Marten rescues him). This is Mitchum's second-best film, right behind FINAL SCORE (I doubt any Indonesian action film could top that one!) and it's apparent that he and Arizal had a good working relationship. Peter O'Brian (THE STABILIZER - 1984; THE INTRUDER - 1986) has nothing but a glorified cameo here, but his death is one of the film's many highlights. It's nice to see Mike Abbott (who spends most of his time shirtless and flexing his muscles) and Bill "Superfoot" Wallace (AVENGING FORCE - 1986) given prominent roles for a change, too. They are usually assigned secondary roles in the majority of the films they appear in. Do yourself a favor and search this one out if you're a fan of Indonesian action flicks. You won't be disappointed. Also starring August Melasz, Leo Chandra, Atin Martino, Eddy Yonathan and Kiki Fatmala. The print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. When is some U.S. distributor going to get wise and buy the rights to films like this? With the right advertising campaign and some word-of-mouth, these films should clean-up here, especially with the crap that passes for "action" in American-made films for the past twenty years or so. Also known as AMERICAN HUNTER. Not Rated.

LETHAL JUSTICE (1991) - Oddball Oklahoma-lensed regional actioner. Three armed bandits are on a multi-state convenience store robbery binge (they are dubbed the "Mini Mart Killers"), leaving dead bodies in their wake. The killers' next stop is a gas station/convenience store in Edmond, Oklahoma (just before arriving at the store, Billy Logan [Johnny Judkins], one of the robbers, takes target practice on some headstones at the local cemetery), where they kill an old man and his wife behind the counter (offscreen), just as patrol officers Cliff Madlock (Larry Williams) and partner Jeff Evans (Barry Brown) arrive for a cup of coffee. Cliff kills Billy immediately and Jeff Captures Bartel (Tom Ward), but Zeke (Kenny McCabe), the last of the Mini Mart Killers, escapes through the back door. Cliff and Jeff then do something extraordinary: Instead of reading Bartel his rights, they kill him (offscreen) and are hailed as heroes. Meanwhile, Zeke has holed-up in the home Jim Jacobs (Guy Smith), an elderly resident of Edmond who gets no visitors. After Zeke kills Jim (offscreen), he uses the house as his hideout, planning his revenge on Cliff and Jeff for killing Bartel in cold blood. Nosy magazine reporter Jill Weatherby (Jodi Russell) smells a rat and begins pestering Cliff and Jeff for the truth. Jill tries to get close to Cliff (his wife and young daughter were killed in a car wreck a few years ago) and notices he has a rather broad view on what constitutes "justice", but Cliff is savvy to her tactics. She secretly follows Cliff as he tracks a young, black drug dealer back to his house (where he is watching the director of this film's earlier horror flick OFFERINGS - 1988) and she watches as Cliff and some other police officers force-feed drain cleaner to the drug dealer and then steal his drug stash. It seems the entire Edmond police force is as crooked as a corkscrew, so when Jill goes to the Mayor (Charlie Dickerson) to report what she has just witnessed, she doesn't realize that the Mayor is just as crooked (if not more so) than the cops. The Mayor tells police chief Bates (Dwight Scott), Cliff and Jeff that they must find Zeke but not kill him because, if the do, Jill will write a story exposing them all. Zeke kidnaps old man Jacobs' granddaughter (Jennifer Kukuk), but when he tries to rape her (offscreen), she escapes and flags down Cliff, who just happens to be driving by (Holy coincidence, Batman!). A shootout occurs between Cliff and Zeke (both are shot and injured), but Zeke escapes (after a Mexican standoff where he holds a gun to a small girl's head) and steals Cliff's police car. Zeke heads to Cliff's house, where he kills Cliff's sister, Linda (Debbie Potter), and her husband, Jim (Guy Smith). He then calls Jill (after finding her phone number in Cliff's house) and offers her an interview where he will tell her everything. Can Cliff and the Edmond police force silence Zeke before their dirty little secret leaks out to the rest of the world?  This no-budget actioner, directed/produced/written by Christopher Reynolds (A DAY OF JUDGMENT - 1981; the aforementioned OFFERINGS - 1988), is very short in the action and violence department (too many of the killings occur offscreen), but it tries to make a statement about crime in small town America. Mainly, if the police take the law into their own hands under the guise of making their town "safe", are they any better than the drug dealers and murderers that actually commit the crimes? At what point do you cross that invisible line in the sand and realize that it is too late to turn back? While Reynolds isn't completely successful in his task (the acting ranges from awful to simply bearable and the action scenes, what little there are of them, are haphazardly executed), he does manage to raise some valid questions. It's just too bad that the budget, the cop-out finale and some of the outrageous actions of the characters (When Zeke runs out of bullets, he throws his gun at Cliff, like it's an episode of the SUPERMAN TV series from the 50's!) derail the message. Better luck next time. The finale of LETHAL JUSTICE takes place at the 89er Stadium, a minor league baseball field for the Texas Rangers farm team that has since been torn down when the 89ers changed their name to the Red Hawks. Also starring Jerry Brewer, Ned Hockman, Sue Long and Albert Bostick Jr. Originally available on VHS from York Home Video and also available on DVD from Brentwood Home Video as part of a 10-movie compilation titled BULLET WOUNDS. Not Rated.

LIVE WIRE (1992) - Mindless, but action-packed, thriller with great fire stunts and plenty of violent set pieces. A madman (Ben Cross) has invented an explosive solution that looks and tastes like water. When ingested, it reacts with the stomach acid turning the ingestee into a walking timebomb. It's up to FBI agent Danny O'Neill (Pierce Brosnan) to stop the madman before he does major damage, such as targeting a senator who is having an affair with O'Neill's wife (Lisa Eilbacher). Brosnan handles himself rather nicely. One can see that James Bond was in his future. Exploding bodies, fantastic fire effects, bullet hits, impalements and other gory stuff make this fast-paced actioner a good bet for fans. This was director Christian Duguay's third film, his first two being SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER and SCANNERS 3: THE TAKEOVER (both 1991). Duguay (who should not be confused with the comedian with the same name who appeared as a regular on MAD TV [1995 - 2009]) would later go on to direct SCREAMERS (1995), THE ASSIGNMENT (1997) and THE ART OF WAR (2000). While he was still cutting his teeth on LIVE WIRE, he does imbue the film with some nerve-wracking and funny suspense. The scene with the mime in the wheelchair is both gut-busting and suspenseful at the same time. Ignore the holes in the plot and you'll have fun with this one. Also starring Ron Silver (giving his typical slimeball portrayal), the late Al Waxman, Tony Plana, Philip Baker Hall and the cleverly-monikered Clemont Von Franckenstein. Also known as HYDROTOXIN. A New Line Home Video Release. Available both in R-Rated and Unrated editions.

LOCKDOWN (1990) - During the 80's, Frank Harris directed five action films, beginning with the entertaining KILLPOINT (1984) and quickly deteriorating into awful fare like LOW BLOW (1986), the hard-to-watch THE PATRIOT (1986), the slightly better AFTERSHOCK (1989) and ending with this film (a play on words of the Stallone-starrer LOCK UP from the previous year), his most enjoyable since KILLPOINT. That's not to say that LOCKDOWN isn't a complete mess, it is; it's just an entertaining one. Detective Ron Taylor (Chris DeRose, who bears a striking resemblance to a mulleted Hank Azaria) and his partner Mac Maguire (Chuck Jeffreys; BLOOD STREET - 1990) are after drug kingpin James Garrett (Richard Lynch; THE PREMONITION - 1975) for killing rival drug dealers and murdering a rookie police officer. This leads to a car chase that ends with a shootout in an apartment building, where Garrett shoots his own accomplice with Ron's gun (after knocking Ron out cold), making it look like Ron shot an unarmed man (Garrett tells the rest of his gang that he had to shoot his own man because Ron was crazy and relentless: "He was a Pound short of a Shilling!"). Ron is convicted in court on first-degree murder charges and sent to a maximum-security federal prison for a term of fifteen years-to-life. Ron shares a cell with ex-professional baseball player Dieter (Joe Estevez; ARMED FOR ACTION - 1992), while ex-partner Mac has to defend himself from other cops who think he's a rat for turning Ron in. While Ron is in prison fighting for his life from a gang led by Shanks (Gary Kalpakoff), Garrett is disposing of his competition with shotgun blasts and explosives and Mac is trying to clear Ron's good name (There's one truly embarrassing sequence where Mac goes undercover at an auto junkyard and he goes into a sub-level Eddie Murphy routine that will have you staring at the screen speechless in disbelief!). After several attempts on his life (the crooked warden looks the other way because he is on Garrett's payroll) and receiving one of Mac's ears in the mail (courtesy of Garrett), Ron escapes from prison (by using that old prison escape standby: hiding under a laundry truck!) looking for some payback and to clear his name. In the completely under-whelming finale, Ron shoots Garrett in front of a bunch of police officers before realizing that Mac is still alive (Mac cracks a hard of hearing joke!). Thankfully, Ron is able to walk away a free man and ends up in the arms of his loving wife Monica (Elizabeth Kaitan; NIGHTWISH - 1988) and young daughter. Anyone have a tissue handy?  Besides having one of the most under-populated prisons in movie history (complete with a lone black homosexual prisoner who must feel very out-of-place!), a star who couldn't act his way out of a paper bag (Chris DeRose was also featured as "Apprehender" Brandt in director Harris' AFTERSHOCK) and some awfully-staged action scenes (a Harris trademark), LOCKDOWN is still a watchable hodgepodge of prison and action clichés thanks to some of the characters' strange predilections. Garrett is just crazy about cars, especially fancy sports and luxury cars and Dieter talks about everything in life as if it were a baseball game. His explanation to Ron about why he is in prison is hilarious (he killed an umpire when he was called out on strikes!). The storyline (screenplay by Joe Izzo Jr. and Joe Mangelli) also veers into some very weird directions and there are some very odd music choices during death scenes (you'll know what I'm talking about when you watch the film). The violence is fairly restrained for an 80's action flick (yes, I know this bears a 1990 production date, but it's very 80's in its execution) and just when you think it's about to get gory, such as when Shanks is about to get a hole drilled in his noggin, Ron steps in and stops it from happening. If you are looking for a non-stop gunfight or slugfest actioner, you might as well look somewhere else, but those willing to overlook this film's many under-budgeted distractions may have a good time with this. Frank Harris directed one other film (a 1993 drama titled GIRL TALK) before returning to his regular profession: cinematographer on other people's films (such as Efron C. Pinon's terrible TRANSFORMED - 2003). Also starring Larry Mintz, Mike Farrell, Francisco "Paco" Goodell, Chelsea Soggin, Greg Lagera and Diane Stevenett (one of the stars of Harris' THE PATRIOT and this film's Producer) as District Attorney Parker. Originally released on VHS by Vidmark Entertainment. Available on a no-frills fullscreen DVD from Image Entertainment. Not Rated.

THE LOST IDOL (1989) - Another wild made-in-Thailand actioner from the director of GOLD RAIDERS (1983). It's 1975, just after the fall of Saigon, and a platoon of American soldiers, led by Lt. Oliver (James Phillips; PRISON PLANET - 1992, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Tony S. Suwat), are trapped behind enemy lines in the jungles of Kampuchea trying to make it safely across the Thailand border. They discover an ancient temple hidden in the jungle during a torrential thunderstorm, when suddenly a bolt of lightning blasts through the temple, revealing a solid gold idol as big as a human being. Lt. Oliver orders his men to take the idol with them and promises that when the war is over, they will all share in the riches. They stash the idol in a cave until the war is over, but Lt. Oliver gets greedy and guns down all his men in the cave, except for Sgt. Kurt (Erik Estrada; LIGHT BLAST - 1985; ALIEN SEED - 1989), who escapes but is badly wounded. Lt. Oliver blows up the entrance of the cave, as Sgt. Kurt floats unconscious down a river, where he is rescued and tended to by a local girl. Lt. Oliver is hailed as a hero back home (he is given medals for bravery and promoted) and Kurt falls in love with his rescuer and stays with her in Thailand. Eight years pass and Oliver, now a civilian, returns to Thailand to retrieve his precious idol. The trouble is, he can't remember the cave's location, so he puts together a team, including brawny German musclehead Christoph (Christoph Kluppel) and a bunch of Thai mercenaries, to go back to Cambodia to find it. When Oliver finds out that Kurt is still alive, he kidnaps Kurt's wife and young daughter to force Kurt to locate the cave. A mysterious Frenchman (Pierre Delalande) is dogging Oliver's every move, even beating the crap out of Oliver's clueless Red Cross  girlfriend Kathleen (Myra Chase) and stealing Oliver's map of possible cave locations. Oliver, Kurt and the rest of the group begin their trek through the Cambodia jungle and, almost immediately, they are taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese and tortured. Kurt spills the beans about the golden idol and takes them to the cave, only to discover that the idol has seemingly changed location on it's own. In the explosive finale, Oliver and Kurt are forced to join with the Frenchman to retrieve both the idol and Kathleen, who are being held by the North Vietnamese.  Trying to describe how outlandish this film really is will only make you want to see it all the more. This is a mixture of sentimentality (Estrada's scene with his young daughter as they tend to a group of monks that pass through their land daily is so sweet, you may turn into a diabetic just by watching it), a preachy "plight of the refugees" drama (Kathleen acts more like a sexy nun than a Red Cross worker) and a super-violent action flick. Director P. (Philip) Chalong (real name: Chalong Pakdivijit), who also gave us the aforementioned (and similarly-themed) GOLD RAIDERS, as well as H-BOMB (1973) and KUNG FU BROTHERS (1973), can't seem to make up his mind what kind of movie he wanted to make here, which only adds to it's offbeat charms. One moment it's a straight action film where people are riddled with bullets or blown to bits, the next moment it's a touching family drama, then it turns into a POW camp torture session and finally it becomes a fantasy, where the idol uses it's mystical powers to stop the enemy nasties from touching it. Toss in some wild overacting (I smiled a lot when the leader of the North Vietnamese soldiers says to Kathleen, "Fuck the world!", the same line Sylvester Stallone would say to the Christian relief worker in 2008's RAMBO), a truly remarkable action finale where hundreds of people are shot or blown to bits (my god, all those explosions!) and one of the worst bluescreen helicopter fight/explosions you're ever likely to see. THE LOST IDOL is way too long at 101 minutes, but it's so loopy and all over the map that you'll never be bored. As with most Thai war action films, there's also a bar fight, a midget and plenty of risible dialogue (including Estrada's mind-boggling closing line) to go along with the rest of the weirdness. What more could you ask for? Erik Estrada was reportedly fined by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for traveling to Thailand and appearing in this non-union film. At that stage in his career, he wasn't being offered any roles in the U.S., so I don't see anything wrong with simply trying to survive. Fuck the SAG and more power to Estrada! He now sells land in Arkansas and other swampy locations in a series of annoying infomercials on TV. The SAG thinks that's OK! Also starring Sorapong Chatree, Noppol Gomarachun, Likit Ekmongkol, Apiradee Pawaputanond, Sirinand Rojanathum and Krung Sivilar. A Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment (SGE) Home Video Release. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

LOVELY BUT DEADLY (1981) - This is the incredibly dull story of schoolgirl Mary Ann 'Lovely' Lovett (Lucinda Dooling), a teenage vigilante who kills drug dealers because one dealer sold her younger brother drugs, which led to him tripping out and drowning in the ocean (trying to catch an imaginary tuna with his hands!). She gets the dealer that sold to her brother first, kicking him in the face a couple of times and then forcing him to swallow a fatal dose of his own stash. Lovely doesn't know that her own musician boyfriend, Javelin Scott (Mark Holden), is working for one of the biggest drug suppliers in the state, Franklin Van Dyke (John Randolph), who happens to be Superintendant of Schools! Lovely makes friends with school class president Steve Berringer (Michael O'Leary) and saves his life when school drug dealer (and football quarterback) Mantis Managian (Rick Moser) sends two of his goons, Driver (Judd Omen) and Gommorah (Irwin Keyes), to kill Steve when he refuses to look the other way when Mantis does his drug deals. Lovely uses her vast martial arts knowledge to kick the crap out of Driver and Gommorah. Lovely joins the cheerleading squad to get closer to Mantis and gets invited to a huge party thrown by rich drug supplier Warren Lang (Mel Novak). At the party, Lovely meets "Honest Charlie" Gilmarten (Richard Herd), a rich retail store owner who supplies the drugs to Warren and Mantis. She spies Mantis making a major drug transfer with Warren and she steals some of Warren's stash. Lovely gets into a catfight with Mantis' girlfriend Gloria (Pamela Bryant), which catches the eye of Gilmarten. He invites her to a party at his house which turns out to be a party of two, as Gilmarten tries to get into Lovely's panties. Lovely drops some high kicks on him instead and tries to forcefeed him the drugs she stole from Warren, but Driver and Gommorah save him in the nick of time and take Lovely prisoner. Gilmarten orders them to kill Mantis, so they beat him up, stick him in a cardboard box and shove a steam hose into the box, steaming Mantis to death (Gommorah says, "I hit my head and it hurts!" Driver says, "Why don't you take an aspirin?" Gommorah replies, "I don't like to do drugs."). Lovely is being held at a warehouse next to the docks where a big shipment of drugs is about to be delivered. Warren, Javelin and Gilmarten show up at the warehouse and Lovely discovers Javelin's deception. Luckily, Steve followed Warren and Javelin to the warehouse and he alerts her friends (the cops refuse to do anything). Lovely's female kickboxing friends show up and bring Warren and Gilmarten down and Lovely heads back to school to take care of Javelin and Van Dyke, ridding the school of drugs once and for all. Yeah, right!  This deadly-dull action film plays like a TV movie with some sex and violence thrown into the mix. Besides a couple of martial arts fights and one or two topless scenes, this film is a chore to sit through. Dreadfully acted and plotted (Lawrence D. Foldes, who directed the horrible films NIGHTSTALKER - 1979, YOUNG WARRIORS - 1983 and NIGHTFORCE - 1986, gets a story credit here), LOVELY BUT DEADLY never finds it's footing. You're led to believe that this is going to be a vigilante revenge film, but it quickly turns into a teenage soap opera, complete with mean cheerleaders, sexed-up horny teenagers and every adult shown is either scum, hates kids or is weak-willed. And, oh yeah, drugs are bad for you. Even the finale, where a bunch of female martial artists show up to save Lovely's hide, is so horrendously-staged and badly shot, you'll be yawning rather than cheering. Director David Sheldon would make (the unreleased and unfinished) GRIZZLY 2: THE PREDATOR next. All I can say about the quality of this film can be summed up with this one sentence: You know a film's in trouble when the best acting comes from Irwin Keyes (FRANKENSTEIN GENERAL HOSPITAL - 1988). Irwin Keyes, for Christ's sake! I almost wanted to become a junkie after watching this because the straight kids in this film all deserved to be smacked around. This film was cut to achieve a PG rating for it's theatrical release and was shorn of all the nudity and violence. Thankfully, the VHS version is of the R-rated cut, but that doesn't make it a better film. It just has boobs and a little more violence. Also starring Marie Windsor, Susan Mechsner, Mary McDonough, Martin Katzoff and Wendell Wright as the most useless police detective to ever join the force. Billy Warlock (SOCIETY - 1989) makes his first film appearance as Lovely's ill-fated brother. A Vestron Video Release. Rated R.

LOW BLOW (1986) - After the success of KILLPOINT (1984), Crown International Pictures commissioned this inferior follow-up, using much of the same talent both in front and behind the cameras. When Karen Templeton (Patti Bowling) disappears from college and ends up a member of the mysterious Yarakunda's (Cameron Mitchell; RAW FORCE - 1982) religious cult, her wealthy father, John Templeton (Troy Donahue; SOUTH SEAS MASSACRE - 1974), hires ex-cop and now private investigator Joe Wong (Leo Fong; ENFORCER FROM DEATH ROW - 1987; who also produced and wrote the screenplay here) to find his daughter and bring her home. Yarakunda is a Jim Jones clone who runs a commune with convicted conwoman Karma (Akosua Busia) called Unity Village, where their followers are kept half-starved, work long hours on the farm and are brainwashed into a new way of thinking called "Universal Enlightenment" (as in "Let me enlighten you of your family fortune"). As Karen slowly begins to fall under Yarakunda's control (although, as we find out, Karma is the real brains behind the scam), Joe puts a team together to help rescue her. The team members include boxer Corky (frequent Fong and Mitchell collaborator Stack Pierce; TRANSFORMED - 2003), Latino street gang member Chico (David Cochran) and busboy Sticks (Manny DeLa Pena), who has that name for a reason. Joe enters Unity Village under the guise of reporter "Jack Chan" (!), but his true identity is quickly discovered and the guards (one of them portrayed by Tae-Bo shiller Billy Blanks) knock him out and throw him in a room with follower Mark Sims (Paul Bogh), who tried to escape the commune but was captured. Joe and Mark escape (the old "fake fire in the locked room" trick) and flee in Joe's junker of a car (it refuses to start, so Joe has to hit the engine repeatedly with a lugnut wrench to get it going!). Karma sends some thugs to kill Joe, but he quickly teaches them all a lesson (one thug has a bunch of puppies dumped on his face and then Joe destroys their Mercedes with a two-by-four and an electric metal saw while they are cowering inside it!). After holding a strongman tournament in a mud pit to find two more people to help him (he picks gambler Fuzzy [Woody Farmer] and musclewoman Cody [Elaine Hightower]), Joe and his gang raid Unity Village and rescue Karen after a very underwhelming series of skirmishes, bringing her back to her appreciative Daddy. After paying everyone off, Joe and his secretary Diane (Diane Stevenett) decide to head to Las Vegas for rest and relaxation, if only Joe's car would start (Better spend some of your new cash on another car, Joe!).  It's hard to imagine after this synopsis that LOW BLOW could be boring and deadly slow, but that's exactly what it is. It doesn't help that director Frank Harris, who also directed the much superior KILLPOINT, as well as THE PATRIOT (1986) and AFTERSHOCK (1989), is working with an extremely low budget here, as the tech credits, including sound recording, photography and fight choreography are all exceptionally poor. I can't help but blame Leo Fong (who sounds like a Texas cowboy trapped in an oriental body) for the film's shortcomings, since he is the Producer and followed this film with a string of vanity productions using his Joe Wong character (RAPID FIRE - 1988; LICENSE TO KILL - 1988; BLOOD STREET - 1990), all of them technically poor and filmed on less-than-shoestring budgets. Unlike KILLPOINT, Cameron Mitchell is woefully underused here, appearing in a robe and dark sunglasses (with a huge star tattooed on his cheek!) and mumbling his lines like he's in an alcoholic stupor (which I don't doubt). As an action film, LOW BLOW fails miserably (it's filmed on barebones sets or in bleak, colorless locations), but as an unintentional comedy, it does have its moments (The scene with the puppies is sure to elicit a laugh and try to count how many times Fong is called "Chinaman" here. It would make a good drinking game.). Proceed at your own risk. Originally released on VHS by Vestron Video and available on DVD as part of BCI Navarre's MAXIMUM ACTION 8 MOVIE COLLECTION, which is now OOP, but easily obtainable (for now). Rated R.

THE MAD BOMBER (1972) - This is one of director Bert I. Gordon's (Mr. B.I.G.) most coherent and well-made films. It actually has a storyline that is interesting and contains none of those lousy giant monster bug shots that he was so intent on using in most of his horror and science fiction films. A mad bomber (Chuck Connors) is on the loose, blowing up places he holds responsible for his teenage daughter's drug overdose. He blows up a high school, a hospital and a women's lib meeting. The hospital bombing proves a problem for him as a rapist (Neville Brand) has seen him plant the bomb as he was raping a mute patient. A tough-as-nails cop (Vince Edwards), who has a low tolerance for anyone breaking the law, starts a search for the rapist in order to get a description of the bomber. Edwards catches Brand in the act of raping another woman and thinks he's got the right person. His hopes are dashed when the mute patient who could identify Brand tosses herself off the hospital roof. He's forced to release Brand for lack of evidence. Connors leaves messages to the police stating that he feels that they are not doing their jobs and he must step in to right the wrongs of the world. He admonishes people for littering, takes away a guy's car keys and throws them in a mail box for almost hitting him at a crosswalk and beats up two thugs who try to rob him. He even goes as far as to yell at a cop and tells him to solve more crimes rather than waste gas riding around in his police car! Edwards hounds Brand at every turn, making his life miserable, until he gives up and comes up with a sketch of Connors. With the sketch in hand, Edwards goes to the hospital where a nurse identifies Connors. The police raid his house but he is not there. Edwards questions Connors' ex-wife (Cynthia McAdams) and tells him the sordid story about their daughter dying of a drug overdose. Connors gets even with Brand by blowing him up while he is watching (and masturbating to) pornographic films of his wife (Ilona Wilson). Edwards sets up Connors to try and bomb a newspaper printing plant, but Connors becomes wise and fills a van with enough dynamite to blow up a city block. He intends to drive through the most populated part of the city and blow up the van. The police follow the van but keep their distance hoping that they will not piss him off and blow up the van. Edwards gets a lookalike for Connors' daughter and sets her up walking the route that Connors is driving. Connors spots her, takes a bomb out of the van and gets shot by Edwards. Connors then blows himself up, ending the madness. THE MAD BOMBER is not a perfect film, but it is an entertaining one. The late Chuck Connors, with his coke bottle eyeglasses and no-nonsense attitude, chews up the scenery and looks like he's enjoying it. The late Vince Edwards walks around like he has a salami stuck up his ass and it works here. The late Neville Brand is absolute slimey as the rapist. Realizing that all the major actors in this film are dead (and Bert Gordon is 84 years old as of this writing) makes me want to cry. At least we have THE MAD BOMBER and other films of the period to remind us how much we need actors of this calibre today, but that will never happen. So sit back, enjoy the show and think to yourself how your kids will never see new exploitation movies like this again. It's sad. A Goodtimes Home Video Release. Also known as THE POLICE CONNECTION and DETECTIVE GERONIMO (Edward's character). Rated R. NOTE: My friend William Wilson sent me a DVD rip of THE POLICE CONNECTION VHS and it is a revelation. It is an uncut version of THE MAD BOMBER (an insert card replaces the original title, with the words "Jerry Gross Presents".) with many scenes not seen in any other version (including the legal DVDs of the film distributed today). Included are six minutes of extra footage, including: the bloody aftermath of the high school bombing; tons of full frontal female nudity including a scene in a strip club not seen in the other versions and longer scenes of Brand's raping spree; a much longer look at Brand's porn-filled hideout and features Brand jacking-off to his wife's nude 8mm stag films while Connors places a bomb and it blows up just as Brand is reaching climax. The real coup de gras is the ending where Connors blows himself up. The scene lingers much longer on Connor's blown apart body and is bloody as anything seen in films at the time. A real shocking surprise. It looks as if the Goodtimes Home Video version is a T.V. cut. I'm amazed that I can be continually surprised like this. UPDATE: The uncut version of this film, under the title THE POLICE CONNECTION, is now available on DVD from Code Red. I suggest you scoop this up while there are still copies available.

MANIAC! (1977) - The town of Paradise is under assault by a madman called Victor (the always excellent character actor Paul Koslo), who is using a crossbow to kill the local police and rich bastards who control the town. Head bigwig William Whitaker (Stuart Whitman) hires mercenary Nick McCormick (Oliver Reed) to track down Victor and kill him. Victor demands one million dollars from Whitaker, who stiffs him and fills the bag with blank paper. Victor (whose motive is never explained but may have something to do with illegal land grabbing from the Indians by the rich white men) then kills everyone in Whitaker's security compound and demands four million dollars or he will kill every rich person and cop in town (Paradise boasts "more millionaires per square mile than any other town" according to one character). McCormick hires a man called Tracker (Jim Mitchum, who is underused here and looks extremely bored, although you can never tell with a Mitchum) to help him find Victor. McCormick also falls in love with local reporter Cindy Simmons (Deborah Raffin), who is clueless as to what is going on. There's a car and motorcycle chase, several more crossbow killings and a final showdown between between Whitaker and Victor before this all ends and none of it makes much sense. It looks like director Richard Compton (RAVAGERS - 1979) was severely compromised in the editing room as most of the killings are edited in such a way as not to go beyond it's PG rating and it looks like bits of the movie were cut out that would explain several major plot holes. Reed's character comes off as an asshole in the beginning but changes character as soon as he beds Raffin. It's pretty confusing about who you should be rooting for here. Victor dresses as an Indian when he kills but it's not clear if he's of Indian descent, although one cop recognizes him as a failed Olympic athelete. Mitchum is always riding around with an old Indian (his Grandfather) in his pickup truck, but he's given nothing to do. It's Whitman who saves the film, being a slimey, money-grubbing meglomaniac who will stoop as low as it takes to get his way. I'm not sure what Compton was going for here, but it's a muddled mess. Also starring John Ireland as the Police Chief on the take. Shown on TV under the title RANSOM and also known as THE TOWN THAT CRIED TERROR and ASSAULT ON PARADISE. An Embassy Home Entertainment VHS Release. Available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated PG.

MANNIGAN'S FORCE (1988) - Rip-roaring Philippines-lensed war actioner starring many expatriate American actors whose faces will be familiar to fans of this genre (It's a small fan base, for sure, but there is a fan base). The film opens in Central America in 1984, where Jack Mannigan (George Nicholas) leads his force of commandos on an assault of a regime military base, killing everyone they come in contact with (there are some astounding makeup effects on view, including a couple of graphic shots to the head and too many bloody bullet squibs to keep track of). They also blow up every shack, building and lookout tower in their way (the whole attack sequence is very well done, with some effective slow-motion scenes that could give Sam Peckinpah a run for his money). The local villagers are highly appreciative to Mannigan and his men for freeing them from government oppression, especially local girl Lucrecia (Khorshied Machalle), who is Mannigan's lover and wants to go back to the States with him, but some of Mannigan's men, including Aranda (Eric Hahn), Russ (Mel Davidson) and Smith (Jeff Griffith), wonder why the villagers don't make a stand and fight for themselves. Later that night, a squad of government soldiers attack the village, killing (rather graphically) many innocent children and women in the process. As the village is being blown to smithereens, an injured Mannigan, his men, Lucretia and some villagers escape into the jungle. The next time we see Mannigan, it's 1988 and he's living on a horse farm in the States with his fellow commandos, all retired from the military. Mannigan get a visit from General Bradley (Doc McCoy) and he wants Mannigan and his men to return back to Central America to rescue some American hostages and to retrieve crates of weapons, all being held in a prison fortress under the control of the nasty General Alfuero (Mike Monty). Mannigan agrees to do the job for one million dollars and puts his old team back together, with the addition of one new member: karate expert Hang Kook (Tsing Tong Tsai). Mannigan and his team sneak into Central America, but when their contact fails to appear, it's quite clear the mission is going to be anything but easy. As Mannigan and his men make the long journey to General Alfuero's prison fortress, they will encounter many firefights, which starts to thin-out Mannigan's team one-by-one. It is Lucretia, who Mannigan hasn't seen in four years, that comes to Mannigan's aide. He'll need all the help he can get when it is revealed that General Bradley and his aide Randall (Anthony East) are actually working with General Alfuero, making this whole mission nothing but a sham and Mannigan and his men were never expected to survive. When it turns out that Lucretia is General Alfuero's mistress, things look dire for Mannigan, but she proves to be a good girl and the remainder of Mannigan's Force take General Alfuero hostage and mete out justice to those who have betrayed them.  If it's violence you want, MANNIGAN'S FORCE (also known as AMERICAN WARDOG) delivers in spades. Director/co-scripter John R'yan Grace (this seems to be his only film credit) and co-scripters Joseph Le Carre and our old friend James Gaines (who has a cameo as a TV announcer) have fashioned a film where violence is not only a way of life, it's also a means to obtain the upper hand. This film doesn't shy away from showing what war does to the innocents caught in the crossfire. Quite the opposite, actually, it revels in it, as children are shown getting shot in the head, women slaughtered and their homes destroyed. Very little is left to the imagination (head violence is predominately displayed) and the action scenes are very well handled. There are also shocking scenes of other violence, including Smith's sudden death, Bill Peters' (Jim Moss) torture, killings at the hands of General Alfuero and the sprawling battle sequences. Some of the acting may be amateurish (especially by lead George Nicholas), but that's a very small complaint in an otherwise action-packed film. Fans of Filipino actioners (and why aren't there more of us?) will not be disappointed. Also starring David Anderson, Gabriel Terry and Gerard Donlon. Available as part of a DVD compilation titled MERCS: SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE 10 FEATURE FILM COLLECTION from those thieving bastards at VideoAsia as part of their "Grindhouse Experience" line. As with all of VideoAsia's product lines, the prints are stolen from other sources; in this case from a Japanese-subtitled widescreen VHS tape that is overly dark, but serviceable. Not Rated.

MASTERBLASTER (1986) - This is the paintball action film to see if you want to check out all the Florida-based talent that worked behind the scenes. William Grefe (STANLEY - 1972) was Executive Producer, notorious badfilm director Brad Grinter (FLESH FEAST - 1969; BLOOD FREAK - 1972) was Unit Coordinator and stunt man extrodinairre Glenn R. Wilder (he was David Janssen's stunt double on the TV series THE FUGITIVE (1963 - 1967) as well as doing stunts on most of the major motion pictures produced since the 70's) turns in his only directorial effort. The plot concerns a bunch of regional paintball champions who gather in the Florida woods for the National Championship, the winner taking home $50,000. The only problem is that someone is not using paint in their gun and is killing off the champions one-by-one. Could it be Hawk (Jeff Moldovan), the Viet Nam vet who killed innocent people during the War? Samantha (Donna Rosea), a cop who got her partner killed because she froze during a shootout? How about De Angelo (Joe Hess), a bodyguard for a Mafia bigwig? There's also a Japanase Yakuza, a couple of Puerto Rican thugs and some nasty Southern Backwood Scum who don't like strangers in their neck of the woods. Let's just say that the finale will have you shaking your head in disbelief, as the motive for the killings comes not from within the group but out of the closet (watch it and you'll know what I mean). Most of the actors in this film are also established stunt men and women, which adds a sense of realism to the fight scenes. The fight between Moldovan and Hess towards the end of the film is a standout because you can see throughout the fight that it is actually them pummeling each other. There's also a bloody beheading, several stabbings, martial arts fights, a paintball full of acid and a healthy dose of humor. I was expecting a lot worse and was pleasantly surprised when I found myself enjoying the film despite the out of left field ending. I only have one problem with this film: Having played in my fair share of paintball games during my younger days, I can tell you that it stings like a motherfucker when you get hit with a paintball. There's a scene in the movie where one of the Puerto Rican guys gets hit in the penis with a paintball while taking a piss in the woods. Believe me, if that happened in real life he would need to head off to the hospital immediately, not shake it off like he did in the film. Nitpicking aside, this is good entertainment for both mystery and action film fans. Also starring Robert Goodman, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Richard St. George and porn star R.J. Reynolds using the name "Jim Reynolds". Randy Grinter, brother of Brad, wrote the screenplay along with Wilder and Richard Pitt (and star Moldovan) and was also Second Unit Director as well as doing some of the stunts. A Prism Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R. UPDATE: For some interesting background info on this film from star/screenwriter/stuntman Jeff Moldovan, please click HERE.

MEAN FRANK AND CRAZY TONY (1973) - This enjoyable Eurocrime flick mixes action, violence and humor with equal measure and, although it should fail miserably, it doesn't, thanks to the talents of Lee Van Cleef (THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER - 1974) and Tony Lo Bianco (THE FRENCH CONNECTION - 1971).
     The film opens with a rash of gangster killings in Sicily, where we see a car's 8 Track player explode and an assassin pretending to be a masseuse (Romano Puppo; CONTRABAND - 1980) giving another gangster a massage to the back of his head with an electric drill!  Lo Bianco is Tony Breda, a low-level crook who pretends to be a big shot and even lower-level crooks believe he is a man of importance. Tony idolizes big-time gangster Frankie Diomede (Van Cleef), so much so that he has a giant head shot poster of Frankie hanging on his living room wall. Tony's girlfriend, Orchidea (Edwige Fenech; THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH - 1971; who is dubbed with a ridiculous Brooklynese accent!), wants Tony to go straight, get a real job and quit pretending that he is a gangster (She also makes fun of his lack of lovemaking skills, saying, "I ask for a matinee and you send me to the movies!"), but Tony won't listen. He learns that Frankie is coming to town, so he comes up with a plan to ingratiate himself into Frankie's life, meeting him at the airport, but Frankie (who is a man of few words) ignores him. Tony doesn't give up, following Frankie's car on his motorcycle (He couldn't be more conspicuous, wearing a bright red leather outfit with a white helmet!). The first stop Frankie makes is one of his illegal gambling dens, where he tells the manager (Claudio Gora; MAD DOG - 1977) to empty out the joint because the police are on the way (The manager asks how he knows the police are on the way and Frankie responds, "Because I haven't called them yet!"). Frankie then calls the police, giving them the address of the gambling den and telling them if they hurry up, they may be able to catch the elusive Frankie Diomede red handed. Frankie then waits for the police to arrive. When Tony hears the sirens and realizes that Frankie is still in there, he goes into the den to "save" him, only Frankie doesn't want to be saved, so Tony is arrested with Frankie on illegal gambling charges and both go to the local jail, Frankie getting his own private cell while Tony is thrown into a cell with twenty other crooks. It turns out Frankie wanted to get arrested because he needs an alibi for his plan to work. Frankie is secretly let out of his cell by a paid-off police officer and he goes to the home of Joe Sciti (Mario Erpichini; SPASMO - 1974), a former friend who is setting up Frankie to take the fall for the rash of murders. He forces Joe to take a dive off his terrace (while on fire!), where he falls and dies on a car below. Frankie then secretly returns to his cell, no one the wiser. Or so he thought. Tony sees him return to his cell and Frankie is aware of it.
     Frankie and Tony are then thrown in prison on the gambling charges and, once again, Frankie gets his own cell, complete with its own comfy cushioned easy chair and a bottle of J&B Scotch, while Tony is thrown into general population with all the other hardened crooks. Frankie then gets a visit from his lawyer, Massara (Fausto Tozzi; CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974), who tells Frankie that a French gangster by the name Louis Annunziata (Jean Rochefort; DIRTY HANDS - 1975) is beginning to take over his territory and when Frankie learns that he will have to serve three months for the illegal gambling charge, he tells Massara that it is too long to wait, so he better start paying off people to get him out of prison. Unfortunately, Massara never gets the chance because Annunziata has him kidnapped, where he is tortured by the same goon with the electric drill to his knee until he gives up the name of the police officer Frankie paid off so he could kill Joe Sciti, who was his friend. Massara gives up the name and is then killed. On visiting day, Orchidea comes to see Tony and his lawyer tells him he will be freed in a couple of days. Frankie is visited by his straight-laced doctor brother Sylvester (Silvano Tranquilli; THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY - 1971) and Frankie gives him a key he has hidden in his shoe, telling Sylvester that the key is to a locker at the train station and inside the locker are files that will put away the entire criminal organization. Sylvester knows that it would mean Frankie would be put away for a long time, too, but Frankie tells him that he doesn't care, at least he will have the satisfaction of putting away the killers of Massara and those who are trying to set him up. As soon as Sylvester leaves the prison, he is followed by Annunziata's goons, who stab him to death in a photo booth (the booth then spits out photos of a dead Sylvester). Annunziata now has the key and suddenly Frankie's short sentence becomes a life sentence, as the police reveal to him the officer whom he paid-off, telling Frankie he may want to change his testimony, he no longer has an alibi in Joe Sciti's murder.
     Frankie loses all his prison luxuries and is thrown into general population, where Annunziata plans to kill him via some violent prisoners, including one unnamed prisoner (Nello Pazzafini; SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS - 1972) who makes life difficult for Frankie. Time after time, Tony comes to Frankie's defense, but it is not until he saves Frankie from an assassin's (Claudio Undari, as "Robert Hundar"; CUT-THROATS NINE - 1971) bullet in the prison yard that Frankie begins to trust him and they become friends (Well, Tony acts like they are friends, but like I said before, Frankie is a man of few words, so it is hard to tell). When Tony is released from prison, he comes up with a plan to break Frankie out of the joint, which he does as Frankie is being transferred to court. Tony steals some cars and then a truck, as they head for France so Frankie can get some payback on Annunziata for killing his brother. This leads to a pretty tense chase down a twisting narrow mountain road as they cross the border, Frank behind the wheel of the truck destroying about a dozen police cars. They then meet Frankie's old friend Jeannot (Jess Hahn; WHITE FIRE - 1984), who sets Frankie and Tony up with some weapons, leading to the tension-filled climax, as the duo battle Annunziata and his goons in a fish factory/illegal drug warehouse.
     This amiable Eurocrime film, an Italy/France co-production presented by Dino de Laurentiis, directed by Michele Lupo (WEEKEND MURDERS - 1970; AFRICA EXPRESS - 1975; CALIFORNIA - 1977; THE SHERIFF AND THE SATELLITE KID - 1979) and written by the team of Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Donati (DUCK, YOU SUCKER - 1971; CIPOLLA COLT - 1975; ORCA THE KILLER WHALE - 1977), is a very quick 85 minutes, thanks to the talents of Lee Van Cleef and Tony Lo Bianco, who make quite an impression in their roles. While there is plenty of humor, usually a death knell for this genre, it's not the laugh-out-loud kind, but sly in its execution, the majority of it pertaining to Tony's quirky character, who looks at Frankie the way a groupie would look at a rock star. There are many little moments that impress, such as when Orchidea throws some food at Tony and it lands on Frankie's face on the poster. Tony gingerly wipes the food off the poster, apologizing to Frankie, telling him he knows what women are like. There is also a little throwaway moment with Tony and Frankie in a car that involves the car's cigarette lighter that raised a chuckle from me. The way Tony looks at Frankie in prison, admiring him from afar, may give pause today, but somehow Lo Bianco makes it work, not making it seem strange at all. The clothes Tony wears are also comical because he thinks that is what all successful gangsters wear, but he just looks ridiculous and stands out like a sore thumb. There is also some graphic violence on view, especially the electric power drill, which Frankie uses on Annunziata's goon two-thirds into the film (drilling it into his neck), making his retribution fitting for killing Massara. It is the first time Tony sees anyone killed and it affects him in a way that makes him realize he is not cut out for the gangster life. The only negative thing that I can come up with is the dubbing for the beautiful Edwige Fenech. Not only does it take you out of the film, she is also wasted in a do-nothing role, but women in these films are generally there to get slapped, raped or physically assaulted, none of which is done to her in this film (Hey, blame that on Italian filmmakers!). Otherwise, everything gels together rather nicely, making this film a recommended treat for Eurocrime fans.
     Shot as DIO, SEI PROPRIO UNPADRETERNO! ("God, You Are Truly A God!"), this film played theatrically continually throughout the '70s & '80s in the United States thanks to Terry Levene's Aquarius Releasing, who released it under the review title, as well as POWER KILL and ESCAPE FROM DEATH ROW (this alternate title uses completely fake credits, the only real one being Van Cleef's, omitting Lo Bianco and Fenech completely, the way Levene did when he released ROME: ARMED TO THE TEETH (1976) as ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON, trying to fool audiences into believing they were seeing a new film. Stuff like this wouldn't be tolerated today, but that was the life of a huckster in the '70s). It was then released on VHS (under the review title) by U.S.A. Home Video as part of their "Sybil Danning's Adventure Video" label and also by Paragon Video (using the ESCAPE title).  The only DVD I could find was a pirated box set titled GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE (under the title FRANK AND TONY) from those thieving bastards at VideoAsia. While this film is available streaming on Amazon Prime, I don't recommend you watch it there unless you understand Italian, since 30% of the film is in Italian with no English subtitles (even though the rest of the English track is subtitled!). I found a rather nice open matte fullscreen print on YouTube from user "Eurocrime Realm" that is completely dubbed in English (both Van Cleef and Lo Bianco dub their own voices). Also featuring Adolfo Lastretti (SYNDICATE SADISTS - 1975), Steffen Zacharias (STREET LAW - 1974), Teodoro Corra (FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON - 1970), Fulvio Mingozzi (THE BIG RACKET - 1976), Claudio Ruffini (THE HEROIN BUSTERS - 1977) and cameo king Tom Felleghy (DAMNED IN VENICE - 1978) as a police commander. Rated R. NOTE: If you truly want to understand why this genre of film is so fascinating, you really need to watch the amazing documentary EUROCRIME! (2012). Once you view it, I guarantee all you will want to watch are Eurocrime films for weeks to come. It is available on Amazon Prime, free to Prime members. It's over two hours long, but it is the quickest two hours you will ever experience. As a matter of fact, I didn't want it to end.

MERCENARY FIGHTERS (1988) - With the Press watching his every move, the president of an unnamed Central African country has to find a way to displace a group of his fellow countrymen, led by opposing rebel Jaunde (Henry Cele; CURSE III: BLOOD SACRIFICE - 1990), so he can flood their land and build a new hydroelectric power plant. He orders his head of the Army, Colonel Kjemba (Robert DoQui; COFFY [1973] and Sergeant Reed in the three ROBOCOP films), to come up with a solution to this problem that can't be traced back to the government, so the Colonel hires a band of mercenaries, which includes Virelli (Peter Fonda; SPASMS - 1982), D.J. Christian (Reb Brown; STRIKE COMMANDO - 1987), Cliff Taylor (Ron O'Neal; SUPER FLY - 1972) and Wilson (James Mitchum; CODE NAME: ZEBRA - 1986), to do the job for them. At first everything goes swimmingly, as the mercenaries begin clearing out villages by force, but when they invade a village being tended to by a white nurse named Ruth Warwick (Joanna Weinberg) and kill an innocent villager, Jaunde vows revenge. D.J., who has never worked with this group of mercenaries before, begins to get a conscience and slowly realizes that he may be working for the wrong side, especially when he witnesses Colonel Kjemba slaughter a bunch of innocent men and women villagers when they refuse to reveal Jaunde's location. After watching Kjemba order his men to shoot nosy press photographer Deke (Jonathan Rands) in the back of the head when he spots him taking photos of the slaughter, D.J. joins with Ruth to try and save the villagers, much to the dismay of Virelli, who is only in this for the money and couldn't give two shits about the villagers' troubles (He calls Ruth a "gash"). Ruth introduces D.J. to Jaunde , who opens D.J.'s eyes to the plight of his people. Ruth and D.J. fall in love, so when Virelli orders an attack on Juande and kidnaps Ruth when he mistakenly believes D.J. set up an ambush on his caravan, D.J. becomes the new leader of Juande's tribe when Juande dies. D.J. leads an assault on Virelli and Colonel Kjemba and gets help from Cliff (who switches sides). The finale finds mercenary battling mercenary in a battle to free Ruth and save the villagers from certain genocide.  This South Africa-lensed actioner contains a good cast of pros as well as some decent action scenes. Director Riki Shelach (who was assistant director on director Menahem Golan's THE MAGICIAN OF LUBLIN [1979]; Golan and partner Yoram Globus produced this for their Cannon Films production company) gets a lot of mileage out of the lush South African landscapes and people, allowing Henry Cele to speak his native tongue rather than forcing him to speak English, which infuses this film with much more intensity and realism. There are some truly stunning and vicious scenes on display, such as when Virelli and his caravan are ambushed by Juande and his men. The camera pans across a field of seemingly harmless boulders, only to have Juande's men suddenly jump out behind them in a blink of an eye. It's an effective sequence that conveys how the natives have adapted to their environment and use it to their advantage. While the film is extremely violent (director Shelach has a fondness for setting people on fire or blowing them to bits), this is not without some humor, such as when Virelli choppers-in some hookers for his men, but the women refuse to touch them until they bathe ("You stink!"). It's always great to see Peter Fonda portray a bad guy for a change and say what you want about Reb Brown (YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE - 1983; ROBOWAR - 1988), but the guy has a presence and a goofy charm that can't be denied. If you like your action films with a little bit of political and social commentary (script by Bud Schaetzle, Dean Tschetter and Andrew Deutsch), MERCENARY FIGHTERS (a.k.a. FREEDOM FIGHTERS) may be a film that interests you. Also starring Jerry Biggs, Laurens Cilliers, Graham Clarke, Robert Whitehead and Leslie Mongezi. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and available on DVD-R as part of MGM's Limited Edition Collection MOD program. Rated R.

MERCHANTS OF WAR (1988) - After recently watching a handful of 80's action films, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: I wouldn't have given many of these films the time of day back when they were released, but now, over twenty years later, they hold a certain charm, thanks to the politics of the time. Most of these films were made when Ronald Reagan was President, back when our foreign policies were pretty rock solid and not considered a joke to the rest of the world, as they are now. Back then, when we said something valid and important (Such as Reagan's famous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech), the world tended to listen. Films like FIRST BLOOD (1982), MISSING IN ACTION (1984) and countless others would never have been made if Reagan wasn't in office, because their political views relied greatly "accept no bullshit" way of thinking. That's not to say he was always correct (far from it), but at least the public was aware what was going on, not like today where most decisions are made behind closed doors by people you wouldn't trust to feed your pets. America today is a society that is too scared to publicly speak their individual minds, thanks to a government that feeds us fear on a daily basis, often quoting "national security" as a way of keeping us in the dark. I don't know anyone over the age of thirty that wouldn't love to see this country revert back to it's 80's sensibilities (AIDS and coke-fueled greed notwithstanding). What does all this have to do with MERCHANTS OF WAR? Nothing much really (I just wanted to vent), except for it's sense of camaraderie and a commitment to endanger your life to save your buddies. Two ex-soldiers-turned-mercenaries, Nick Drennen (Asher Brauner; TREASURE OF THE MOON GODDESS - 1987, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Weston, the director of the cult horror film EVILSPEAK - 1981) and Frank Kane (Jesse Vint; FORBIDDEN WORLD - 1982), are sent to some unnamed African country to assassinate a Middle eastern despot named Musa (Adrian Waldron), who is secretly supplying weapons to the enemy rebel forces. Things go terribly wrong when both Nick and Frank are captured and tortured by Musa's soldiers. Nick escapes and returns from the States, where he puts together a team to return back to Africa and rescue Frank. The CIA convinces Nick to wait until they try to secure Frank's release by monetary means, but when the ransom team is savagely gunned-down in an African bar, Nick and his team enter Africa to save Frank's life the old-fashioned way: With guns, explosives and senseless violence. Nick and his team kidnap Musa and use him as leverage to rescue Frank, braving leech-infected waters, boobytraps and enemy forces that outnumber them twenty-to-one. Revenge and political intrigue play and important role in the finale, just like most war films made in the 80's.  Though talky at times, MERCHANTS OF WAR does contain some gory set-pieces and a surprising amount of heart for a B-action film. I particularly liked the scene of Nick discovering the decapitated head of a ten year-old boy who helped him escape from Musa's camp, the head laying on a table as a warning for Nick when he returns to Africa. Director Peter M. Makenzie (MISSION MANILA - 1987) also offers-up lots of other bloody mayhem, including exploding bodies, bloody bullet squibs and throat slashings. The script is also full of politically incorrect racial remarks, such as when Nick calls Musa a "fucking towel head" or the scene where Nick chases down a black assassin in an African restaurant and calls him a "filthy monkey" just before impaling him on a meat hook. Try doing that today without Al Sharpton picketing your ass off. Not a bad little action film, if you don't mind plenty of politics mixed in with the blood and guts. Judging by the end credits (a lot of crew members have last names that begin with "Van Der") and the accents of some of the cast, this was filmed entirely in South Africa. Also starring John Barrett (AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2 - 1991), Robin Smith, Norman Anstey, Joe Stewardson, Bonnie Beck, Calvin Tau, Graham Weir, Japan Mteembu, Tullio Moneta and Brian O'Shaugnessy. Originally released on VHS by Vidmark Entertainment and available on budget DVD from Platinum Disc Ltd. Rated R.

MIAMI VENDETTA (1986) - Hey kids, here's a SOV (shot on video) action film which gets everything wrong. It's an action film with no action, a police procedural film with a cop (who chainsmokes incessantly) with a chip on his shoulders for a hero and a blood quotient that is woefully low. Just who was this film made for? L.A. Detective Colin Malone (Maartin Goslins) is taken off vice duty after a questionable shooting and put on desk duty with homicide detective Salvatore Sanchez (Frank Gargini), who is ordered to babysit him. When Colin's friend Jesse, a Cuban refugee, is found dead with his fingertips cut off, Colin disobeys orders and begins investigating the murder. This leads to a trail of murders linked to Cubans who came to Florida in 1980 when Castro sent some of his worst criminals over here along with the regular law-abiding citizens. The further Colin investigates, the more it seems that Sanchez is involved in it somehow. Sanchez immigrated from Cuba in the 70's and became an American citizen, eventually becoming a cop in Miami. During the mass immigration of Cubans in 1980, Sanchez was put in charge of interrogating the refugees to try and weed the good ones from the bad ones. He gets involved in a murder of a big Cuban criminal during this time and then moves to L.A. where he becomes a homicide cop. The past catches up with him and the other people who were responsible for that murder as someone is killing them all and cutting off their fingertips. Colin figures it out and knows who the murderer is. When Sanchez comes clean with Colin, they clean up the mess and the film ends with Sanchez saying that now it is the time for the truth to come out. The story may sound interesting, but the execution is way below sub-par. Besides being shot on video (a major no-no in my book), first and only-time director/producer/screenwriter Stephen Seemeyer has made MIAMI VENDETTA a poor-man's SCARFACE (1983) with a little bit of MIAMI VICE (1984 - 1990) thrown in. Too bad it is set in California as it could have used a little of Miami's colorful backgrounds to liven things up. Also bad is the lack of any type of action and the blood and gore is limited to a few shots of corpses with their fingertips cut off and an impalement at the finale. No car chases, gunfights or fistfights here, just shot after shot of Colin with a cigarette in his hand or shots of his girlfriend in lingerie. If you see this floating around anywhere (which I doubt you will, unless you specifically look for it), just stay away and jam a roll of quarters up your ass instead. It's less painful. A shout out to William Wilson for sending this to me. He must think I'm a masochist (He's probably right). Also starring Sandy Brooke and Barbara Pilivan. A Continental Video Release. Not Rated.

MISTER DEATHMAN (1977) - Grade-Z South African-lensed actioner that is good for a few laughs, but little else. After a rather confusing opening where a gunfight seems to be happening at some makeshift airstrip (it concludes with a black stuntman being blown sky high in a fiery explosion), we meet retired black superspy Geoffrey Graves (David Broadnax; ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE - 1984; he also wrote the story that the screenplay is based on here) as he turns down a job from his ex-boss, telling him he is through with the spy business. He is then kidnapped in a hotel's underground parking lot by two mob guys, who beat him up (one of the mob guys says, "Don't think, just listen, spadehead!"), but Geoffrey traps the two guys in an elevator, sprays them with a fire extinguisher and throws a mini-hatchet between one of the goon's legs until they give up their boss' name. Geoffrey calls his ex-boss back to tell him that he has reconsidered his offer, which involves a scientist called Dr. Alfred Halstead, who is threatening to turn over top-secret space shuttle plans to foreign buyers unless he is paid fifty million dollars. Geoffrey has to find Dr. Halstead (who everyone believes has gone mad due to his wife's death from cancer six months earlier) in South Africa, bring him back to the United States and also find out who the foreign buyers are. Geoffrey arrives at the South African airport in Johannesburg with a briefcase supposedly containing fifty million dollars in bearer bonds chained to his wrist and is immediately taken for a ride on a ski tram by two bad guys. When they discover that all Geoffrey has in the briefcase are copies of Fortune Magazine (!), the bad guys try to torture him with a huge needle, but Geoffrey gets the upper hand and kills them both (one guy takes a header off the tram and crashes to the rocks below) after getting a clue as to the whereabouts of Dr. Halstead. On a train ride from Capetown to Durbin, Geoffrey meets a priest who tries to poison Geoffrey's drink (Geoffrey does the old "What's that over there?" switcheroo trick) and when the bad guys come to pick up his body at the next stop, Geoffrey pretends to be knocked-out so the bad guys can take him to their destination. That turns out to be a shack in the middle of nowhere, where the bad guys plan on pumping him full of truth serum, but Geoffrey once again gets the upper hand, blows up the shack and gets Pamela (Lena Nicols), the only survivor, to help him. Geoffrey and Pamela are joined by U.S. operative Vince (Arthur Brauss) and learn from bad girl Reagan O'Leary (Myra Shelton) that her boss, Mr. Vlees (Larry Taylor), is willing to turn over Dr. Halstead if Geoffrey agrees to leave South Africa. Geoffrey agrees, and Dr. Halstead is delivered by helicopter in a metal coffin in the middle of the ocean, alive but with no recollection of where he has been for the last two months. A clue the doctor gives Geoffrey about a plane he heard fly overhead at the same time every day when he was in captivity leads Geoffrey, Pamela and Vince to an island near Madagascar. On the island, Geoffrey meets Liz Greer (Stella Stevens; CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD; LAS VEGAS LADY - both 1975; THE GRANNY - 1994), Mr. Vlees' right-hand woman, who tries to bribe Geoffrey with a Lamborghini and $50,000 if he'll come work for them. Geoffrey discovers that the Lamborghini's brakes have been tampered with, so he fakes his own death, but Liz catches on quick and recaptures him. In the finale, Geoffrey learns that Vince is a traitor and Geoffrey is chained to the rocks as high tide moves in, while Mr. Vlees and Liz make their escape. Can Geoffrey get out of this mess and make everyone pay? Remember the airstrip fight in the beginning of the film and you already know how it ends.  Whoo, boy, is this film a pile of stinking crap! Gold crap for sure, but crap nonetheless. Director Michael Moore (KILL A DRAGON - 1966; THE FASTEST GUITAR ALIVE - 1967) and screenwriter Emmett Murphy have no idea what constitutes an action film, as the fight scenes in MISTER DEATHMAN look to have been choreographed and blocked by a blind man (it's very easy for the viewer to see that the punches and kicks miss their targets by a good foot-and-a-half). This film a career low for Stella Stevens (she's done plenty of bad films, like WACKO [1981] and LITTLE DEVILS: THE BIRTH [1993], but none of them are as awful as this) and leading man David Broadnax (who passed away in 2000 at the age of 57) is so flat in his line delivery, I half-expected him to disappear whenever he was shown in profile. Never mind that the plot makes absolutely no sense (What exactly is Geoffrey after once he has Dr. Halstead in his possession? Is it space shuttle plans or merely revenge for the multiple attempts on his life?); the film just seems to be a nonsensical series of vignettes, as Geoffrey gets into one scrape after another, such as falling out of an airplane without a parachute, getting into a laughable fight in an airport, flying a glider onto Mr. Vlees' island (well, you get the idea). Yet none of it is exciting in the least bit, it's just boring as hell. One observation: For a superspy, Geoffrey sure gets overpowered and captured a lot. James Bond he ain't. Also starring Brian O'Shaughnessy, Marius Weyers, Ian Hamilton, Ian Yule, Ronald France, Victor Melleney and South African staple Ken Gampu (ENEMY UNSEEN - 1989) as bad guy "Sue". I don't believe that this film had a legitimate VHS release in the United States, but it is available on bootleg DVD as part of the 20-film GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE VOLUME 2 box set from Fortune 5 (another shell company for those thieving bastards at VideoAsia). The print was sourced from an overly dark VHS copy complete with rollouts and tracking problems. Not Rated.

MR. RICCO (1975) - Here's a film (still unavailable in any form on legitimate U.S. home video) that just oozes that 70's vibe. When San Francisco lawyer Joe Ricco (Dean Martin) gets black militant Franklin Steele (Thalmus Rasulala) off on a murder charge due to phony evidence planted by members of the police department, someone kills two cops by calling in a false crime and then shooting the officers who show up to investigate. A young black boy named Luther (H.B. Barnum III) witnesses the killer shotgunning the two cops in a tenement building and tells his mother, who happens to be a client of Ricco's. She tells Ricco that he son thinks the killer is Franklin Steele, so Ricco takes Luther to the police station to make a composite sketch of the killer. The sketch, along with a description of a medallion the shooter was wearing around his neck, leads the police to a black militant group called the Black Serpents, whose leader is, you guessed it, Franklin Steele. The police put an all points bulletin out on Franklin and raid the Black Serpents headquarters, where crooked cop Tanner (Michael Gregory) shoots an unarmed Serpents member (he then places a shotgun next to the body). Franklin gets away by ducking out a secret passage, but the cops arrest the dead man's brother, Purvis Mapes (Philip Michael Thomas), and interrogate him back at police headquarters. Ricco takes a professional interest in the case (he's continually being raked over the coals by both the cops and the Press for representing Franklin and springing him), but the more he digs into the case, the more it looks like Franklin is innocent of the cop killings. Ricco interviews Purvis' sister, Irene (Denise Nicholas), and he agrees to represent Purvis. This pisses-off police Captain George Cronyn (Eugene Roche), one of Ricco's oldest friends, who tells Ricco that he has to get Purvis to turn-in Franklin so the whole town doesn't erupt in violence. This puts a severe strain on their friendship, even though Captain Cronyn knows deep-down inside that this case stinks to high heaven. After a couple of attempts on Ricco's life (the shooter certainly looks like Franklin, but Ricco can't be sure), Purvis is brought to trial and Ricco gets him off (Even though we see Ricco in court several times throughout the film, not once do we hear him argue any of his cases! We only hear the verdicts and see Ricco shake his clients' hands in victory.). The suspicion falls on Tanner (even Capt. Cronyn thinks he's guilty), but when he ends up dead, the killer turns his attention to Ricco fulltime. The finale finds the real killer gunning for Ricco at a cocktail party at Denise's art gallery. The killer murders Ricco's new girlfriend, Katherine (Geraldine Brooks), with a shotgun blast to her back, so the normally non-violent Ricco picks up a gun to get some justice of his own. The killer, it turns out, is the brother (a white guy in black latex makeup) of the white girl that Franklin killed, but planted evidence released his sister's murderer (Franklin admits to Ricco in the latter half of the film that he did kill the girl, which leads to a prolonged fistfight between the two in an abandoned church). This was the brother's way of punishing everyone who let his sister's murder go unpunished. Sounds like a legitimate reason to me.  This is a pretty good slice of 70's cop drama, thanks to a cast of TV veterans and capable direction by Paul Bogart, who was better known for directing episodes of TV series (including 97 episodes of ALL IN THE FAMILY [1968 - 1979]). This was also Dean Martin's last starring role in theatrical films (he did have guest roles in the first two CANNONBALL RUN films as well as a couple of dramatic guest starring roles on TV after this) and he's pretty good here playing against type (he walks into a bar and orders a glass of milk!) and going nowhere without his faithful little dog Hank. Martin delivers his lines with a certain amount of laid-back flair and gets off some good one-liners. There's no denying that he had a screen presence and it's unfortunate he didn't do more dramatic roles later in his life (he died in 1995). The script, by Robert Hoban, is fairly complex for a 70's cop/courtroom drama, but director Bogart doesn't sacrifice the action set-pieces. The shotgun attack on Ricco's apartment is very well handled and even contains a humorous moment where Ricco dials 911 and gets an inexperienced operator. The killer's attack at the art gallery is also fairly intense and vicious and doesn't skimp on the blood bullet squibs. Even though this film is rated PG, you have to remember this is the 70's version of a PG rating, where blood and violence (and even nudity) were allowed. My favorite scene, though, is when Ricco drives into a garage and pays a guy a huge sum of money to paint his red Mustang a different color in just a few minutes ("What color do you want?" "I don't care!"), just to throw off his police tail! He drives off a few moments later in a still-wet white Mustang that wouldn't fool a retard, nevermind a cop, but it works! The hilly streets and some of the more "unsavory" locations (including an abandoned church) of 70's San Francisco are used to good effect, so much so, that I doubt that any of the local politicians would have recommend this film as a tourist video. LAVERNE & SHIRLEY's (1976 - 1983) Cindy Williams also stands out as Ricco's wise-cracking assistant Jamison, as does John Quade, who puts in a cameo as a gay racist thug who Ricco sucker-punches in a bar (he did deserve it, though). Toss in a funky 70's jazz and wah-wah guitar soundtrack, good cinematography and an underscored sense of humor (Hank gets Ricco's snooty neighbor's dog pregnant) and you'll be wondering why this film is not yet available on U.S. home video in any form (It was released on VHS in Britain by MGM/UA Home Video). For those of us who grew up during the 70's, this film is a blast from the past. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. Also starring George Tyne, Robert Sampson, Joseph Hacker, Frank Puglia and Nicky Blair. Rated PG.

NAM ANGELS (1988) - This is Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's remake (or rip-off, if you prefer) of Jack Starrett's THE LOSERS (1970). During the Vietnam War, Lt. Calhoun (Brad Johnson; the LEFT BEHIND series) and his squad are ambushed by the enemy in the jungle, forcing them to take cover in a cave that happens to contain a fortune in gold dust. Hopelessly outnumbered and ready to make their last stand, Lt. Calhoun and his men are suddenly saved when a flurry of arrows appear out of nowhere and kill all the enemy soldiers. A tribe of natives (including a topless woman) brandishing bows and spears then attack Calhoun and his men and only Calhoun and double agent Trinh (Archie Adamos) are able to escape to safety (by swinging across a waterfalls on a rope). It turns out the tribe is controlled by a "Roundeye", a Colonel Kurtz wannabe called Chard (Vernon Wells; ENEMY UNSEEN - 1989), who takes two of Calhoun's men prisoner. When Calhoun gets back to base camp and explains to General Donipha (Ken Metcalfe) that he wants to return to the jungle to save his men, the General tells him that he has no men to spare, but if Calhoun (who only has two more weeks left to serve in the military) can come up with an alternate plan, he will gladly sign-off on it. While sitting in a bar wondering what he can do, Calhoun spots four Hell's Angels getting into a bar fight (what they are doing in Vietnam with their Harleys is never explained). Calhoun gets the bright idea to recruit the Hell's Angels, led by Larger (the late Rick Dean; RAIDERS OF THE SUN - 1991), to head out into the jungle to save his men. Rather than tell them about Chard and the natives, Calhoun entices them with tales of the gold dust instead. They bite, hook, line and sinker and, together with mechanic Hickman (Kevin Duffis), who replaces their Harleys with Yamaha dirt bikes (the Angels nearly shit bricks at the thought of riding them), they helicopter behind enemy lines, hop on the Yamahas and begin the mission. Almost immediately, they come under enemy fire, but the Angels prove to be proficient killers, with both guns and knives. The Angels suffer their first casualty when member Turko (Romy Diaz) has his arm blown off by riding his motorcycle over a landmine and he dies. They learn to respect both Calhoun (who is the Indiana Jones of rope manipulation) and Hickman and actually begin to operate as a team. Things turn bad when Chard captures the three Angels, but Calhoun and Hickman save their asses, along with Calhoun's two captive squad members. The Angels abandon their gold quest and instead fight alongside Calhoun as they battle Chard and his bloodthirsty natives. The finale finds our unlikely heroes trying to make it across a rickety, broken wooden bridge, while Chard, the natives and even the VC (who show up with tanks!) try their damnedest to make sure they don't make it across to the other side.  If you've seen any of director Cirio H. Santiago's other Nam action flicks, such as EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987), BEHIND ENEMY LINES (1987), THE EXPENDABLES (1988), FIELD OF FIRE (1990) and FIREHAWK (1992), you know what to expect here: Lots of gunfights, explosions galore, gore (including the aforementioned arm removal, slit throats and arrows through the neck), some brief nudity and, of course, Santiago's patented "running man on fire" gag. This one also contains plenty of motorcycle stunts and some unexpected humor, such as when the remaining Angels stand over Turko's grave and Calhoun asks them to say a little something out of respect. The best they can come up with is when member Bonelli (Mark Venturini) thanks Turko for making the surviving members shares of gold a little larger! An interesting side note is that when the real Hell's Angels heard that this film used their name without permission, they successfully sued and won a fairly large cash settlement. It didn't help that Rick Dean's character was named "Sonny Larger", which sounded too much like the name of real Hell's Angels founder Sonny Barger to be a coincidence. NAM ANGELS (a.k.a. HELLS ANGELS IN VIETNAM) is a fast-paced, if derivative (it's basically THE LOSERS with a little bit of APOCALYPSE NOW [1979] thrown in for good measure), war actioner that delivers what it promises: Motorcycles, machine guns and massacres. Also starring Jeff Griffith, Eric Hahn, Tonichi Fructuoso, Leah Navarro, Ruben Ramos and Frederick Bailey. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and available on VHS and DVD from New Horizons Home Video as part of their AMERICAN VALOR series. Available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.

NIGHTFORCE (1986) - Another craptacular action film from director/co-scripter Lawrence D. Foldes, who previously gave us NIGHTSTALKER (1979, with Aldo Ray) and YOUNG WARRIORS (1983, with Ernest Borgnine). This time it's Cameron Mitchell's turn to embarass himself as Senator Hansen, whose daughter Christy (Claudia Udy) is kidnapped and raped ("I'm gonna make a whore outta you!") by Central American terrorists. They demand the senator pay a 2.5 million dollar ransom and read an on-air manifesto within 72 hours decrying the U.S.'s involvement in Central America or Christy will be killed. The senator and Christy's fiance Bob (Casey King) refuse to do anything to help (for political and professional reasons), so Christy's friends Steve (James Van Patten), Carla (Linda Blair), Henry (Chad McQueen), Mack (James Marcel, who would later change his name to James Wilder) and Eddie (Dean R. Miller) head down to Central America to free Christy from her captors. Once in Central America, these five fish-out-of-water enter a smokey cantina and immediately get into trouble, get into a shootout, then a car chase and meet Bishop (Richard Lynch, in a rare good guy role), a flute-playing mercenary with a monkey sidekick who agrees to help them free Christy. Estoban (Bruce Fisher, who looks like Fidel Castro), the leader of the terrorists, keeps Christy tied-up and half-naked in a bamboo cage, while one of Estoban's men, Raoul (Cork Hubbert), takes pity on her and secretly gives her food and clothing (How the hell do you secretly give someone clothing? Wouldn't Estoban notice something like that?). After another shootout in a town between our group and Estoban's men (where Bishop saves Carla's life), Bishop captures and tortures one of Estoban's men (off-screen) and gets Estoban's location. After Christy makes an unsuccessful escape attempt with Raoul's help (he's killed for his treachery), Bishop and the quintet invade Estoban's camp and rescue Christy, but not everyone makes it out alive. The survivors must make it to a waiting helicopter, but there is more carnage waiting for them there. Who will survive to make it to another day? Do you really care?  Almost immediately as soon as the film starts, it's apparent (at least to me) that it's going to be a rough time for the viewer. Deadly slow for an action film (the first major gunfight doesn't happen till past the 45 minute mark of this 82 minute film), NIGHTFORCE takes forever to find it's pulse. The action scenes are pretty good when they finally happen, as people are shot, stabbed or blown up in slow motion (the action scenes are probably this good because Joe Tornatore [THE ZEBRA FORCE - 1976] was Executive In Charge Of Production here). There are so many holes in the storyline (How did these kids get a Jeep and a U-Haul trailer full of weapons down to Central America without being detected?) and unresolved sub-plots (What happened to Christy's fiance or her father for that matter?) that you'll wonder how anyone could take this seriously. This Vestron Films-funded production is nothing but a thinly-veiled copy of Foldes' earlier YOUNG WARRIORS, starring the same wooden actor (James Van Patten) and using the same behind-the-scenes talent (co-scripter Russell W. Colgin and producer Victoria Paige Meyerink). Claudia Udy spends most of her screen time in various states of undress (that's not a bad thing) and gets raped once and near-raped a second time (not a good thing). Linda Blair keeps her clothes on throughout (not even a shower scene, though she does work out in a gym in a skimpy outfit) and Cameron Mitchell is on-screen for less than two minutes. Blair also sings the opening and closing tune, titled "I Still Remember" (which I'd rather forget). Also starring Jeanne Baird, Mitchell Edmonds and Bob McCracken. A Lightning Video Release. Later released on a crappy EP-mode VHS tape by Avid Entertainment. Rated R.

NIGHT OF THE WILDING (1990) - This is PM Entertainment's stab at "social relevance". Remember the catch-word "wilding" during the late 80's and early 90's? The term meant an unruly bunch of kids who go around doing physical harm, raping and killing just for the fun of it. This film shows three wealthy kids who attack a store security guard and then go to the house of the female cashier, who called the cops on them, and rape her and her female friend as well as bashing their male friend with a baseball bat. They are arrested and are then represented by hot shot defense attorney Joseph Gainer (Erik Estrada), who proceeds to portray the victims as the real criminals. This does not sit well with prosecuting attorney Marion (Kathrin Lautner), who also happens to be the ex-wife of Gainer. When the lead witness is shot and killed by the leader of the gang, Carl (Isaac Allen), Marion tells the court that a new secret witness has come forth to testify in the case. She's making it up, of course, to trap Carl who has already hung one of his friends and shot the other. When Carl comes the Marion's house to kill her, Joseph shows up in the nick of time to save her and chases Carl through the streets (whichs includes a patented slow-mo car flip, a PM staple), both ending up in a swimming pool where Joseph drowns Carl. Joseph is arrested and charged with murder. Now Joseph knows how it feels to be on the other side of the fence. For a PM Entertainment production, this is woefully short on action and long on courtroom procedures. Director Joseph Merhi, one of the founding members of PM (which has since closed up shop), keeps the violence and action to a minimum so don't go looking for the usual PM fare here. Instead you'll find a bored-looking Estrada walking the streets probably wondering how his career has sunk this low, an unreal look of how the courts operate and a cameo appearance by Joey Travolta as a sleazebag lawyer (are there any other kind?). This is a long 85 minutes kids. For better PM fare, watch RAGE (1995) instead, also directed by Merhi. Merhi has gone on to produce "A" films, including the David Mamet-directed SPARTAN (2003). Co-founder Richard Pepin, who produced this and directed many PM films, including DARK BREED (1996), is still making films. WILDING also stars Pamela Dixon, Charles Ganis, Robert Dickey, Jean Levine and Addison Randall. An M.C.E.G. Virgin Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

NIGHT WARS (1987) - Director David A. Prior, who started out his career with the abominable SLEDGEHAMMER (1984), made a string of war films in the 80's. This is one of the worst of them. It's a mixture of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and MISSING IN ACTION (both 1984) as a soldier has nightmares about the friend he left behind in a Vietnam P.O.W. camp. He wakes up with cuts and bruises as if he were back in the war. With his war buddy and the help of a psychiatrist (Dan Haggerty, how do you still keep getting acting jobs?), they go to sleep to try to bring their P.O.W. friend back from the netherworld into the real world. They succeed, but it all turns out to be a dream itself as the soldier wakes up and finds himself back in Vietnam. What preceeded it was all in his mind. He does take matters in his own hands and kills the traitor in his platoon who will eventually become their enemy. Talk about friendly fire! This film is entirely short on logic as the enemy cannot shoot straight and the good soldiers kill everyone with one shot apiece. When bales of hay are hit with bullets, sparks fly and there are sounds of ricochets! The underacting of Haggerty (who says, "Oh, my God!" as if it's commonplace when he sees the two sleeping soldiers getting riddled with invisible bullets), the overacting of the lead baddie (Steve Horton), who stares wide-eyed and laughs at every conceivable moment and the stunts and action sequences are all sub-par. Nothing could have save this excrement of a film except for a complete rewrite and cast change. Changing directors wouldn't be a bad idea either. Prior, who dabbled in nearly every type of genre film, excluding comedies (except for the unintentional type), also directed KILLER WORKOUT (1986), THE LOST PLATOON (1989 - unarguably his best, if derivative, film) FUTURE FORCE (1989), WHITE FURY and FUTURE ZONE (both 1990), FELONY (1994), MUTANT SPECIES (1995) and many others. His brother Ted Prior, who was a Playgirl model for much of the 80's, has appeared in many of his films as well as writing some of them. He does not appear in this one, although he did co-write the story which the screenplay was based on. Also starring Brian O'Connor, Cameron Smith, Chet Hood, Jill Foor, Mike Hickham and David Ott. A Sony Video Release. Not Rated. A.I.P. Home Video (co-owned by controversial director/producer/actor David Winters of THE LAST HORROR FILM [1982] fame, Peter Yuval, the director/producer/writer of FIREHEAD [1991], and Prior) would release the majority of Prior's films before going out of business in the mid-90's.

NINJA'S FORCE (1984) - In the opening of this Filipino actioner, a black-clad ninja invades the guarded mansion of Professor Hamilton, killing him, along with his young wheelchair-bound daughter, with a sword and stealing a red folder stamped "Top Secret". The folder contains the formula for a virus that could "wipe out the entire world", so a group of scientists and politicians decide to hire the "most daring, cold and deadly man alive...a ninja!" to retrieve or destroy the formula (After hearing the plan, one scientist says, "I think you're out of your mind, Senator, but I'm with you!). They send two of their best men, David Reynolds (Mike Monty; DESERT WARRIOR - 1988) and his unnamed partner (Jim Gaines), to Japan to search for the best ninja and after a long trek through the woods (where David's partner and guide Kioshiro are killed for not adhering to the rules set forth in the beginning of their search), Dave is taken to a secret ninja temple, where he meets master ninja Kenzo (co-director Romano Kristoff; TERROR FORCE COMMANDO - 1986), who agrees to help David retrieve the formula. The formula is now in the hands of evil businessman Mr. Duncan (Tony Carreon) and he will do anything to keep it. Once Duncan catches wind that Kenzo is on his trail, he sends his men to kill him and David. They place a bomb in David's car, but Kenzo smells it (!) and they both jump out of the car seconds before it explodes (David flatly says, "Well, there goes my car."). Duncan tries unsuccessfully to kill Kenzo on several occasions (his men shoot arrows into a sleeping Kenzo's chest, but he is wearing a shield under is pyjamas!), which forces Kenzo to don several disguises (in one instance, he puts on a dress, a wig and huge glasses and tries to pass himself off as the ugliest woman this side of the Ukraine!) to find out who kidnapped Carla (Cristina Guadagno), the best friend of David's sister, Laura (Jeselle Morgan). It seems a spate of kidnappings of young women has been happening in the area for some time and they are being used as guinea pigs by Mr. Duncan's lead scientist, Professor Yamamoto (Ken Watanabe, who co-wrote the screenplay with Kristoff), to test the effects of the formula (It's never made abundantly clear what the formula actually does, but it has something to do with LSD and mind control, turning the kidnapped young women into zombified killing machines). When Mr. Duncan has Laura kidnapped (who Kenzo is now quite fond of) and then kills David, Kenzo goes on a revenge spree, sneaking onto Duncan's secret island compound and killing everyone (including Duncan, who gets decapitated in the film's bloodiest effect) and then facing-off with Professor Yamamoto, who turns out to be the ninja who murdered Professor Hamilton and his gimp daughter in the beginning of the film.  This is a pretty weak Filipino actioner that was clearly made solely as a starring vehicle for Romano Kristoff, who makes for one of the most unconvincing ninjas in recent memory. Kristoff, who co-directed this with the usually competent Teddy Page (BLOOD DEBTS - 1983; JUNGLE RATS - 1987), makes sure to give himself plenty of screen time playing the action hero, stopping the action sequences long enough to have a naked love scene with Jeselle Morgan. Kristoff also adopts multiple disguises, including the aforementioned woman (a laugh riot!) and an elderly bearded fisherman, while spouting cringe-worthy dime store Confucius bits of wisdom, like "Apologies are like sunshine after a hurricane...beautiful but useless!" The action scenes, especially the martial arts fights, are poorly staged and many of them happen under the blanket of darkness, making viewing what's going on a real chore. The film's not a total loss, though, thanks to some gory deaths (impalement by arrow seems to be the favored method here, followed by sword slicing, throat slitting and being bashed over the head repeatedly with an ashtray), female nudity and some truly risible dialogue ("Who are you?" "I am your executioner!"). The film would have been so much better if the script focused more on the illicit experiments (which held promise) and less on Kenzo's exploits. As it stands, NINJA'S FORCE (also known as BUSHIDO'S FORCE, NINJA COMMANDO and NINJA MISSION) is a mildly enjoyable actioner that could have used a little more polish in the action set-pieces. Followed by a non-related sequel, NINJA'S FORCE II (1986) also known as DOUBLE EDGE. Also starring Gwendolyn Hung, Steve Mark, Tony McQueen, Bob Campbell, Willy Williams and Pat Andrew. Never available on home video in the U.S., the version I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

NINJA'S FORCE II (1986) - This is not a real sequel to the 1984 film NINJA'S FORCE, except that it stars many of the same people, but in different roles. As a young boy, Mark Quinn witnessed his mother and father being gunned down by vicious loan shark Maraccio (Anthony East; THE SISTERHOOD - 1987). Twenty years later, Mark (Romano Kristoff; TERROR FORCE COMMANDO - 1986) is a cop in the Dirty Harry mold, who shoots first and asks questions later (We first spot the adult Mark breaking up a robbery/rape in progress at a gas station, where he shoots two of the coke-sniffing goons and blows up the gas station to kill the third, muttering "You have the right to remain silent" just before he sets the business aflame). After being chewed-out by his Captain (Who says, "Sergeant Quinn, what you did last night was just sensational...but for this department it's bullshit!"), Mark stops at a supermarket with cop buddy Jackson (James Moss) to get some beer, only to discover Jackson is being held hostage in the store by some robbers. Suddenly, a black-clad ninja sneaks into the store and kills the robbers with some fancy swordplay before disappearing out the back of the store. When Jackson follows the ninja, he discovers Mark unconscious, apparently knocked-out by the ninja (When their Captain doesn't believe the vigilante was a ninja, Jackson says, "Well sir, he was wearing the same damned costume as Lee Van Cleef was in his TV series!" to which the Captain relpies, "Jesus, the next thing you're gonna be telling me is that Rambo walks into McDonalds and Spiderman busts him for being an unlicensed samurai!" What?!?). Pretty soon, the ninja begins showing up at the scenes of crimes in progress, disabling the criminals (when he doesn't kill them, that is) and anonymously turning them over to the police. The Captain is pissed-off and wants the vigilante off the streets, but it becomes apparent to the viewer after a short period of time that Mark is actually the ninja (especially after Mark talks an armed suspect into giving up his weapon and later that night the ninja delivers money to the suspect's sick wife and hungry children). Mark is a cop by day and a ninja at night, using his ninja skills to right wrongs that a crooked legal system can't solve. When Mark discovers that old family friend Frank is smuggling heroin in religious statues (When Mark confronts him about it, Frank shoots himself in the head!), he sets out to free Frank's son Antonio, who is being held captive by the people who were forcing Frank to smuggle smack. Mark saves Antonio and then begins dismantling the drug business by using his ninja skills, which will lead him all the way to the top of the drug trade. The drug kingpin just happens to be Maraccio, which will give Mark the chance to get revenge on the one person who murdered his parents, as well as cleaning-up the town's heroin supply.  This Filipino action film, directed by John Lloyd (NINJA WARRIORS - 1985; TRIGON FIRE - 1989) and written by Lloyd, Sean Sommers and Jim Gaines (who also has a role here as a pimp named Sly), is nothing but a series of action film and TV series clichés, including the obligatory police station Mexican standoff, where a bad guy in police custody grabs a cop's gun and holds the entire station hostage until Mark talks him down, but it's an enjoyable collection of clichés nonetheless. The funniest scene comes when Maraccio captures Mark and slowly hooks him on heroin (shades of FRENCH CONNECTION II - 1975). Instead of killing him, Maraccio drops him off in an alley, where a bunch of bums steal his clothes and Jackson miraculously find him seconds later and detoxes Mark in an amazingly short period of time. Romano Kristoff is his normal stoic self, hardly showing any emotions at all (I half-expected that any flesh wounds he incurred would reveal a metal skeleton and a bunch of wires, but I was wrong) and Ken Watanabe (who was Kristoff's adversary in the original NINJA'S FORCE) shows up in flashback scenes as Mark's ninja teacher and adoptive father. If you like films with plenty of gunfire, fighting and a smattering of gore (throat slashings, impalements and ninja stars to the forehead), NINJA'S FORCE II (also known as DOUBLE EDGE) should be right up your alley. Just mind your shoes and clothes. Also starring Dan Anderson, Robert Mason, Jerry Bayron, David Light and Walter McLean. Another fine production from K.Y. Lim's Silver Star Film Productions. Never released on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

NINJA WARRIORS (1985) - In this Filipino action flick from Silver Star Films (BLOOD DEBTS - 1982; SFX RETALIATOR - 1987), a group of gasmask-wearing black-clad ninjas stealthily break into a well-guarded highrise building and steal a folder marked "Classified: Top Secret". After taking the file, the ninjas then kill all the guards as they exit the building (Why they didn't just kill them on their way in is never explained). An exasperated Captain Henry Marlowe (Mike Monty) assigns Lt. Kevin Washington (Paul Vance) to the case. Kevin thinks ninjas are involved, so he goes to his friend, master martial artist (and white ninja) Steve (Ron Marchini) for some help. From the outset of their first meeting, Steve and Kevin are constantly attacked by the black ninjas (Who still wear their gas masks. Maybe they just eat a lot of Mexican food.). It then comes to our attention that the stolen top secret folder contained a formula for mind control, but when crime kingpin Kuroda (Ken Wantanabe, who also receives story credit) is informed that some of the pages of the formula are missing, he has his black ninjas kidnap the daughter of the scientist who wrote the formula. Unfortunately, they grab an undercover policewoman instead and Kuroda's right-hand man, Mike (Nick Nicholson), tortures her with a defibrillator until evil scientist Dr. Anderson (Mike Cohen) sees through her charade. Steve and the bumbling Kevin capture Tom (Romano Kristoff), one of the black ninjas, but he won't talk (Steve says, "Forget it Kevin, he's a ninja!"). A note is delivered to Captain Marlowe's office that offers to trade the undercover policewoman for Tom. At the exchange, the policewoman is killed and Tom gets away. Kuroda has his ninjas kidnap the real scientist's daughter (a female ninja carries a tennis racket with a knife hidden in the handle) and they find a key around her neck (It's so big, I'm surprised the poor girl didn't have back trouble!) which leads them to a safety deposit box that contains the formula's missing pages. Kuroda makes Tom commit hari-kari for getting caught as Steve and Kevin get closer to Kuroda and stopping the mind control experiments from being completed. When Captain Marlowe is brutally murdered by Kuroda (he shoves a sword through the back of Marlowe's head until the blade protrudes out his mouth!) and Kevin is taken prisoner and tortured (and, eventually, killed), Steve springs into action and invades Kuroda's secret underground compound to exact some well-deserved justice.  Though not as crazy and off-the-wall as some other Philippines-made actioners, NINJA WARRIORS is not without it's charms. Although it is badly-dubbed (none of the actors dub their own voices) and some of the martial arts fights are clumsily-staged, director John Lloyd (NINJA'S FORCE II - 1986) offers up enough violence and lunacy to keep you entertained. First off, it's a miracle that the stupid and awkward Kevin even graduated kindergarten, much less the police academy. He's an oaf of the first degree, as he constantly puts Steve and other cops lives in jeopardy with his rash decisions and stupid choices. If I were Steve, I would have said "Thank God!" when he found out that Kevin was kidnapped and counted my blessings. Ron Marchini (MURDER IN THE ORIENT - 1974; DEATH MACHINES - 1976; FORGOTTEN WARRIOR - 1986; RETURN FIRE: JUNGLE WOLF 2 - 1988; KARATE COP - 1991) is stiff as a corpse in Winter, but it's a hoot when he gives a knowing stare (where the camera zooms in on his eyes) every time he senses something is amiss, like the time he walks into Marlowe's office, gives the stare, tosses a throwing star into the ceiling and a hidden electronic bug falls into Marlowe's hand! The violence is pretty much over-the-top, such as Marlowe's death, Steve's battles with multiple ninjas in the finale (where Kuroda dons a red devil kabuki mask) and a scene where Steve spits a bunch of spiked ball bearings into an opponent's face. Although the mind control subplot is never resolved, NINJA WARRIORS is a mindless diversion for action fans. This tape is hosted by Sybil Danning as part of her 80's "Adventure Video" series for USA Home Video. Besides her looking pretty in a low-cut dress, cracking some pretty bad puns and mispronouncing some martial arts terms (such as "shuriken"), there's not much point to it. Also starring Joe Meyer, Michael Krus, John Grimmer and Charlotte Cain. James (Jim) Gaines (JUNGLE RATS - 1987) was the Assistant Director and also puts in a cameo. A USA Home Video Release. Not Rated.

NO DEAD HEROES (1986) - Another mindless Filipino actioner, this time borrowing themes from THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) and THE CHAIRMAN (1969). CIA agent Frank Baylor (Mike Monty) sends soldiers Ric Sanders (Max Thayer) and Harry Cotter (John Dresden) on a rescue mission to a gook POW camp containing American prisoners, one of them being a CIA agent. Baylor wants Sanders and Cotter to either save or kill his agent (he doesn't give a shit about the other American prisoners), because the camp has a Russian "advisor" named Ivan (Nick Nicholson, in an over-the-top performance [He doesn't even attempt to use a Russian accent!]), who will use the info the agent has to further the cause of Communism. Ivan is a real motherfucker, who begins torturing and killing the POWs looking for the CIA agent. He cuts off fingers, shoots prisoners in the back and puts a bullet in one prisoner's heart for spitting on him ("Nobody spits on my face, godamnit, nobody!"). Sanders and Cotter lead a midnight raid on the camp and defy Baylor's orders. They release all the POWs and, as they try to lead them to safety, Cotter is shot and captured by Ivan. Ten years pass and we learn that Cotter has had a microchip implanted in his brain by Russian scientists to turn him into a perfect killing machine, his actions controlled by a small remote control device in Ivan's watch. Sanders, who is now a private citizen with a wife and young daughter, is reactivated into service as a CIA agent by Baylor to "neutralize" Cotter before he becomes a major headache for American freedom. Too late. Cotter shows up at his "widowed" wife's birthday party and kills everyone in sight with a machinegun, including Sander's wife and daughter. Now it's personal. Sanders goes through extensive combat training to get back in shape and his first assignment is to take a group of men and blow up Ivan's communist training camp in Kampuchea. He succeeds in his mission, but Ivan and Cotter get away. Sanders hooks up with a foul-mouthed female CIA operative named Barbara (Toni Nero) when Sanders follows Ivan and Cotter to Central America. Cotter kills everyone in a church during Mass and Sanders learns that Ivan plans to use Cotter to kill the Pope (the freakin' Pope!) when he visits San Salvador in three days. Trouble ensues when Sanders and Barbara are captured and tortured by Ivan and Cotter when they visit the country of a dictator who looks like Castro. They eventually escape (though I'm sure Barbara's ass is a little sore), which leads to a fatalistic finale where only one person walks away. Can you guess which one?  If you like action films with plenty of gunplay, NO DEAD HEROES is a pretty safe bet. But if you're looking for something to stimulate your brain cells, boy are you in the wrong ballpark (They age people by ten years simply by putting white powder in their hair and beards!). Director/ producer/co-scripter Danilo Cabreira (CROSSBONE TERRITORY - 1988), here using the pseudonyn "J.C. Miller", fills the screen with bloody violence, including impalement on bamboo poles, an arrow in the crotch and bullet squibs, lots and lots of bullet squibs. The films is also crammed with loads of pro-U.S. flag-waving dialogue, such as this gem from Sanders: "I use to think that America should mind it's own business, but I was wrong. We can't afford to fall asleep. We are the watchdog of the world!" Or this beauty from Barbara, who speaks with a thick Spanish accent: "I love America! I love freedom!" Only a few scant months after this movie was made, Communism would come down with the Berlin Wall, making this entire film seem outdated, especially Nick Nicholson's (NINJA WARRIORS - 1985) performance as Ivan, who gives a bug-eyed speech to a bunch of recruits at his training camp about the benefits of Communism. There's also the appearance of the Fidel Castro lookalike and soundalike, who ass-rapes Barbara while she is tied-up, just to keep reminding us how bad Communism really is (It's ass-rapin' bad!). Max Thayer (THE RETRIEVERS - 1981; NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 2 - 1988) is pretty stiff as an actor, but he does handle a gun and his action scenes like a pro. There's really no meat to the plot, as we never get to San Salvador to meet the Pope (I guess that lookalike was too expensive to hire) and the film does drag in spots (especially the sequence where Sanders and Barbara make-out by a campfire while a lousy love ballad plays on the soundtrack), but there's enough carnage and explosions to put your brain into neutral and enjoy the ride. Also known as WAR MACHINE. Also starring Dave Anderson, Steve Rogers, Paul Vance and John Carr. Available on VHS from Sony Video Software Company. Not Rated.

NOMAD RIDERS (1981) - When a cop with the incredulous name of Steve Thrust (Anthony Laschi) watches his wife and son killed by a biker gang called the Marauders while he is piloting a glider plane, he quits the police force and decides to go after the bikers who were hired by Mafia kingpin Mr. Vacci (played by director Frank Roach) to only rough them up, not kill them. The Mafia then also put a hit out on the Marauders, who also blow up a surveyor in a porta-potty with a grenade and trash an elderly lady's house for no reason at all. These guys get off on killing and pillaging. Thrust, along with ex-con Charlie (Don Martin), track down Vacci and the Marauders, killing them one-by-one while Vacci's men try to kill Thrust. That's basically the entire plot of this late entry into the biker genre and it's a pretty bad one. The biker's names are Grenades (Wayne Chema), Cannibal (Richard Kluck) and Crud (Ron Gregg) which tells you which road this film takes. It's not the high one. When the Mafia gang have a shootout with the Marauders, one of the Mafia goons is left behind and scalped by Grenades. They then deliver the scalp to Mr. Vacci (Vacci says after seeing the scalp: "The monkeys are smarter than the trainers.").  In another unbelievable scene, Thrust makes love to fellow female cop Linda (Lynne Kocol) just a few days after losing his wife and kid! Talk about grieving! Charlie gets kidnapped by Vacci and they try to set up Thrust, but he gets away (Charlie, unfortunately doesn't) after killing three of Vacci's goons (including an axe-wielding brute called Bronco, played by Marlon D. Robinson, the film's best performance) in a badly-staged action sequence. After getting the location of Vacci from Bronco before killing him, Thrust then goes on a one-man killing spree, breaking heads and shooting goombas until his final one-on-one showdown with Vacci. Thrust kills Vacci by crushing him under a forklift. In a surrealistic ending, Grenades goes bonkers, talks to his dead friends Cannibal and Crud and swears vengeance on Thrust.  Things don't work out quite so well for Grenades as he is shot by Thrust after a chase through the woods and is blown up by one of his own grenades. The films ends with the line: "...And the Madness Lived On." What the HELL does that mean? Director Frank Roach is better known for directing the even more risable horror film FROZEN SCREAM (1975), starring that epitomy of German ingenuity, Renee Harmon. These are the only two films Roach directed, so count your lucky stars. A Vestron Video Release. Not Rated but no harder than an R.

OMEGA SYNDROME (1986) - Agreeable actioner starring Ken Wahl (with a mullet haircut) as Jack Corbett, a washed-up alcoholic freelance writer who is a widower with a 13 year-old daughter (a young Nicole Eggert) he only gets to see once a month thanks to his affluent doctor father-in-law (Bill Morey), who won a custody fight for her guardianship. When a snitch is being escorted to  a hideaway house and his assassination is botched by the Omega Group, a Nazi organization headed by Ron Kuhlman and Xander Berkeley (who has rotten teeth here), they stage a mock liquor store hold-up with Corbett and his daughter in the store. They take the kid in what police detective Milnor (the late Doug McClure) thinks is a hostage situation to get out of the store. Corbett notices the Omega symbol tattooed on Berkeley's arm and, since no ransom is demanded, seeks help from his old Army buddy Philly (George DiCenzo, in the film's best performance) to help them figure out why a Nazi organization would want his daughter. It turns out that the Nazis want Corbett's father-in-law to kill the snitch at the hospital and they will release the girl. Milnor (who is on a diet that he hates) soon comes around to Corbett's way of thinking and stops the in-law from killing the snitch. Corbett and Philly then launch an all-out war to find out where the girl is hidden. After investigating and interrogating some neo-Nazis (including the old flaming tire bit and some good-old beating them to a pulp), they find out the girl is being held in an abandoned warehouse. The finale finds Corbett and Philly taking on the Nazis single-handedly, shooting and fighting each one of them until Corbett finds his daughter on the roof and throws Kuhlman off of it. Director Joseph Manduke (KID VENGEANCE - 1977) injects some needed humor into the proceedings (including McClure's dietary habits and Philly's one-liners) and doesn't forget to include the action, including a good car chase (provided by stunt director Spiro Razatos, who also makes a cameo appearance as "Marshall #3") and plenty of fights and shootouts (including some racially motivated ones by Omega). While in no way first class entertainment, this Grade B actioner does keep your attention and has you rooting for the good guys. I just wish that the ending had a scene between Corbett and his father-in-law where he punches him out for putting his daughter in such danger. That aside, put your brain in neutral and enjoy the ride. Also starring Colm Meaney as a bomb maker for Omega (whom Berkeley shoots in the back calling him a "Mick Bastard"), Robert Gray, Al White and Bob Tzudiker. After this, Ken Wahl went on to become famous for playing Vinnie Terranova in the great TV series WISEGUY (1987 - 1990). He was then in a terrible car accident and gave up acting due to severe back pain and an addiction to pain killers (which he has since overcome). He then married one of the Barbi twins (the lucky bastard!). A New World Video Release. Rated R. Not available on DVD as of this writing.

THE ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER (1980) - Another crazy Filippino action flick that grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let up. It's in no way a good film, mind you, just crazy from the get-go. When a dwarf informant is killed by a hit man (he is trapped in a phone booth and thrown in the river!), newlywed Interpol agent Ortega (Franco Guerrero) is assigned to the case to find out the information the dwarf was trying to sell. Ortega and his men go to an airport and stop a plane that contains a briefcase belonging to drug kingpin Edwards (Mike Cohen). In that briefcase is a coded diary that contains all of Edwards' drug contacts. Unfortunately, a gunfight breaks out and the plane blows up, destroying the briefcase and the diary. Ortega decides to play it as if the diary wasn't destroyed and confronts Edwards, telling him he has a diary. Bad move. Edwards sends some of his men over to Ortega's house and they tie both Ortega and his new wife Ann (Jody Kay) to chairs and demand the diary back. When Ortega tells them that the diary was destroyed in the plane explosion, the goons don't believe him and make him watch as they kill Ann by running her through with a sword. They then cut off Ortega's left arm with the same sword (he was left-handed) and leave him bleeding but alive. When Ortega wakes up in the hospital and sees his missing appendage, he vows revenge on all those responsible (His boss at Interpol, on hearing Ortega's vow, insensitively says, "Listen, fathead, and listen straight. Hands off!" Ouch, what a dickhead!). Ortega at first feels sorry for himself, gets drunk and talks to his dead wife (surprisingly, she talks back!). He soon comes around, thanks to a friendly Chinese sensai, and begins training, learning how to handle a gun with his right hand and also how to fight with one arm and both feet. After his training is through, he systematically kills all those responsible for Ann's death, eventually leading to a final showdown with Edwards and his leading henchman Jason (Pete Cooper) at his drug hideout. Expect lots of bullets and things that blow up real nice.  Director Bobby A. Suarez doesn't give you enough time to realize the ridiculousness of the story, thanks to the frequent violence and other crazy situations (including Ortega's rehabilitation sequence at a martial arts training facility) on view. Suarez, who directed other entertaining, but mindless, actioners such as THE DEVIL'S THREE (a.k.a. PAY OR DIE - 1979), AMERICAN COMMANDOS (1985) and WARRIORS OF THE APOCALYPSE (1985), fills the screen with gunfights where people are shot in the head, back and legs and, in one rousing scene, Jason is shot multiple times, the last shots being to his groin and back. There's also multiple explosions, impalements, a speedboat/helicopter chase, martial arts fights, torture and dismemberments. There's also enough gravity-defying stunts and head-scratching moments for a dozen action flicks. While not as crazy or as action-packed as FINAL SCORE (1986), THE ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER is still a good bet for those tired of dry American action films. One interesting aspect of Ray Hamilton's script has one of Edwards' associates, Milo, be a walking thesaurus, offering Edwards better words for his conversations and written communications, thereby making Edwards seem more sophisticated than he actually is. You won't see stuff like that in American action films. If I really have one complaint, it's that the fullscreen transfer is framed dead-center. Since much of the action takes place on the right and left sides of the screen, a widescreen transfer would have been preferrable, or at least pan-and-scan, because Paragon Video's transfer shows a lot of dead space on-screen during some key scenes. Also starring Nigel Hogge, James (Jim) Gaines, Joe Zucchero and Leopoldo Salcero. A Paragon Video Release which is long OOP. Finally available on a widescreen double feature DVD (with Suarez's THEY CALL HER...CLEOPATRA WONG - 1978) from Dark Sky FilmsNot Rated.

ONE MAN ARMY (1993) - When interest in his post-nuke and Vietnam War actioners began to wane in the early 90's, director/producer Cirio H. Santiago switched to making modern-day martial arts flicks. Unfortunately, these films are Santiago's most anemic, thanks to ever-shrinking budgets and a severe lack of star power, especially in his choice of leading actors. This is one of the worst of the bunch. Martial arts teacher Jerry Pelt (Jerry Trimble) is called back to his hometown to attend the funeral of his judge grandfather. As soon as he enters his birthplace, he notices that the town has changed (for one, it's now full of Filipino extras) and it's not for the better. Jerry hooks-up with old girlfriend Natalie Pierce (Melissa Moore; Santiago's ANGELFIST - 1992), who informs him that the town has been taken over by a man named Sidney Sharperson (Paul Holmes), who has ties to organized crime and smuggles illegal aliens into the country to work for slave wages in his fields. Jerry finds evidence that his grandfather may have been murdered for discovering the illegal alien smuggling operation, so he sets out to find definite proof. It doesn't help that the corrupt sheriff, Pat Boze (the late Rick Dean; Santiago's RAIDERS OF THE SUN - 1991), is a childhood enemy of Jerry's, who dogs his every move. When Natalie, who is a lawyer, suggests that Jerry runs for sheriff, he initially rejects the idea, but after a series of deadly "accidents" in town, Jerry decides that running for sheriff is probably just what this county needs. Natalie is shot and wounded by a couple of motorcycle helmet-wearing thugs while taking a topless dip in a lake with Jerry (who are now lovers again), so Jerry, along with his grandfather's intelligent German Shepherd "Hank" (played by "Yup", who shows a wider range of emotions than the leading man), begin to tear the town apart looking for the shooters as well as picking up support from the townspeople who are sick and tired of all the corruption. When Sharperson tries to bribe Jerry, Natalie secretly records the conversation and has a radio DJ (Henry Strzalkowski) broadcast it. Thanks to the recording, Jerry easily wins the election and, with childhood pal Eddie Taylor (Dennis Hayden), begins cleaning up the town. Eddie, it turns out, is not such a good friend after all, as he's a coke addict and is on Boze's payroll. Eddie kills his wife Pilar (Yvonne Michelle) in a coked-out haze, knocks-out Jerry and sets the house on fire. Thinking Jerry is dead (He's not. Hank drags him out of the burning house.), Eddie takes over as sheriff and brings Boze and the other corrupt cops back on the payroll. When Jerry finds out that it was Eddie who killed his grandfather, he goes on a one-man murder spree, killing everyone (including Boze, who shoots Sharperson in the back for slapping him in the face one too many times) until only he and Eddie (who has kidnapped Natalie) are left.  The first thing you'll notice about this film is how one-note champion kickboxer Jerry Trimble is as an actor (Trimble has the fastest kick ever recorded, clocked at 118 mph). Trimble is simply terrible and has the emotional range of a rock, which makes me wonder why director Santiago used him as the star of two other films, 1992's LIVE BY THE FIST and 1994's STRANGLEHOLD. The second thing you'll notice about the film is how many times Trimble gets hit in the face every time he gets into a fight. For someone so proficient in the martial arts, he certainly takes more than his fair share of the punishment. I'm still trying to figure out if that's a good or bad thing. Santiago tries to keep our minds off the film's gaping plot holes by tossing as much female nudity at us as possible (Melissa Moore has several nude scenes, as do most of the women here), but the sad fact is that Trimble (who is married to actress Ami Dolenz [TICKS - 1993; PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS - 1994]) is not able to hold up his end as an actor and the normally wild Rick Dean (Santiago's NAM ANGELS - 1988; NAKED OBSESSION - 1990) is much too subdued here. The only humor comes when Jerry and Eddie go to break-up an illegal martial arts tournament in one of Sharperson's bars, only to find a bingo tournament instead, thanks to the traitorous Eddie tipping-off Sharperson in advance. The fight scenes are fairly lively and somewhat bloody but, all-in-all, this action flick is average at best, thanks to Trimble's non-existant thespian talents. As with most of Santiago's films, this was financed by Roger Corman and clocks in at a scant 79 minutes. Originally known as KICK & FURY. Also starring James Paolleli, Peter Shilton, Joseph Zucchero, Nick Nicholson, Ramon D'Salva and Bill Baldridge. Available on VHS and DVD from New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.

ORDER OF THE EAGLE (1988) - A group of ninja-like assassins enter the well-guarded home of an important man (a framed photo shows him as Newsweek's Man Of The Year. Wait a minute; isn't that Time Magazine's job?), killing everyone inside except their target, who saw them coming and escapes. The assassins' faceless, cane-carrying boss is pissed-off and orders his black clad goons to find him. The film then switches to an Eagle Scout camp in the woods, where Scout Greg (Casey Hirsch) is about to spend three days alone in the mountains to earn a merit badge. Greg begins his lonely trek, only to fall over a small cliff and land next to the wreckage of a single-engine plane that must have crashed there years earlier, judging by the condition of the pilot's corpse. Greg searches the plane and finds a briefcase containing some important-looking floppy disks (the 5.25" kind, remember them?) in a case with a flashing red light. As soon as Greg opens the floppy disk case, it sends out a homing signal to the computer terminal of evil businessman Mr. Quill (Frank Stallone; DEATH FEUD - 1987; in what amounts to an extended cameo). It turns out that the corpse of the pilot is actually that of our dear Newsweek Man of The Year and he has been missing for over two years. The disks he had in the briefcase are plans for some Star Wars Missile Defense Strategy (ah, the 80's!) and Mr. Quill will do anything to get his hands on those disks, including murder. Quill has his security expert Leo (David Roger Harris) hire five hitmen to go into the woods and retrieve the disks. To show how nasty these five hitmen are, we watch in flashbacks as they perform some previous hits. One shoots a U.S. senator with an arrow; another shoots three survivalists point-blank; another blows-up a restrained man in a car with a grenade; another pushes a woman out of a helicopter; and the last one, a crooked cop, shoots a dealer and steals his drugs. Back to the present, the five hitmen converge in the woods looking for Greg and the disks, but Greg gets some unexpected help from local yokels John Billings (William Zipp; MANKILLERS - 1987), Freddie (Perry Hill) and pretty local store owner Monica (Jil Foor). The hitmen take Greg prisoner, but he refuses to tell them where he has hidden the disks. Monica alerts John and Ranger Mike (Mike Hickam; who died during production) of the hitmen's presence when they stop by her store looking for directions (She notices a .45 pistol in one of the men's belts and immediately grows suspicious, because, c'mon, who goes hunting with a pistol?). When Ranger Mike is shot dead, Greg escapes with John's help. Quinn sends professional killer Jack LaRouse (David Marriott), the mysterious man with the cane from the beginning of the film, and a nameless tracker (Ner Reodica) to finish the job that the hitmen failed to do, but John, Freddie and Monica help Greg retrieve the briefcase and defeat Quinn and his cadre of killers. Greg the Boy Scout may not have been prepared as he would have liked to be, but he was damned lucky to have made these new friends that know a thing or two about forest warfare.  This low-budget Action International Pictures in-house production, directed by first-(and only)timer Thomas Baldwin (who was First Assistant Director on many A.I.P. films, including KILLER WORKOUT - 1986; DEATH CHASE - 1988; and SHE WOLVES OF THE WASTELAND - 1988) and written/produced by star William Zipp, may be a common "chase through the woods" actioner, but at least it's a bloody one, with plenty of bloody bullet squibs, stabbings, impalements and explosions. Though no one here is going to win any acting awards and some of the plot developments scream of desperation (especially the amazing coincidence of John being a Special Ops Vietnam War veteran, even though he looks way too young to have fought in that war), the film does move at a quick pace and you just gotta love when one of the hitmen tells Greg that he got kicked-out of the Boy Scouts for "eating Brownies" (an old joke for sure and one that leads me to believe that this film wasn't sanctioned by the Scouts, even though their emblem and badges are prominently displayed). Another amusing quick bit is where Greg mentions Rambo to John and John replies, "Who?" Nothing special, but not bad for what it is. The music soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a cheap 50's horror film. Also starring Brian O'Connor, John Cianetti, Steve Horton, David Campbell and Sonny King as the hitmen. Released on VHS by A.I.P. Home Video and not available on DVD. Rated R.

PAROLE VIOLATORS (1994) - Strap yourself to your seats, folks. You're in for a bumpy ride. Miles Long (Sean Donahue), host of the TV show "Parole Violator". where he shows audience-submitted videos of people on parole committing crimes, is also a disgraced ex-cop who videotapes parolees breaking the law and catches them for the police. The cops call him the "Video Cop" because he leaves the crooks tied up with a VHS tape of their crime taped to their body. Miles newest prey is Chino Lopez (Rey Garcia), a child pedophile/murderer he put away six years earlier when he was a cop. The parole board determines that Chino is rehabilitated, but Miles knows better. Sure enough, Chino and his right-hand man Toos (Michael Kiel) kidnap a young girl in the park and Miles gives chase on his motorcycle, forcing Chino and Toos to toss the girl out of their moving car. In retribution, Chino kidnaps the daughter of Miles' cop girlfriend Tracy (Pamela Bosley). Chino and his goons then beat up and kidnap Miles and Tracy in a bar, but Miles breaks free in transit (leading to one of the most ludicrous fights in a moving van you will never see), disarms two goons and proceeds to crash the van. Toos grabs Tracy out of the van and he and Chino take her to a barn, where Toos tries to rape her. Miles arrives in the nick of time (Toos: "Where'd you come from? Miles: "Through the window!") and beats the snot out of Toos (he even slightly impales him in the stomach with a board), but Chino gets away with Tracy's daughter. A short time later, Chino has Tracy's daughter tied-up on a raft in the middle of a pool. When Miles and Tracy arrive, Chino tells Miles that he has to fight his gang to win the girl's life and for every 30 seconds of the fight, he will poke a hole in the raft (this Chicano means business!). Miles wins the fight, but not before Chino pokes dozens of holes in the raft (he's not a man of his word), leading to Tracy's daughter being in a coma from being underwater for too long. Chino then hires a bunch of skinheads (with names like "Knuckles" and "Goon") to kill Miles and Tracy. They kidnap Tracy and Inspector Davis (Leeds Landain), an Internal Affairs officer investigating Tracy's recent behavior, but Miles saves the day (again) and they all end up at a warehouse, where the final battle is fought. No one comes out unscathed, but it all ends on a happy note.  This is definitely a film that needs to be seen to be disbelieved. Horribly acted by everyone (although Pamela Bosley easily wins hands-down for impersonating an actor) and clumsily directed and co-scripted by Patrick G. Donahue (KILL SQUAD - 1981; SAVAGE INSTINCT - 1989), this film is just one non-stop unbelievably bad fight scene or stunt after another and, therefore, must be seen by everyone. Patrick's son Sean Donahue (who was also co-scripter and stunt co-ordinator) gets hit with so many cars and falls down so many times, I'm surprised he not retarded or eating his meals through a straw. His many martial arts fights (there are too many to count) are awkward, but not totally without merit, as people have their noses broken, eyes gouged out, impaled, shot numerous times or blown up, all of it extremely bloody. While there are plenty of stunts (cars flip and explode, a motorcycle flys off a cliff, people fall off buildings and crash through windows) and multiple fights to keep your eyes occupied, the screenplay will have you laughing till you puke with lines like, "I'll kill you, you son of a bastard!" The scene towards the end where Tracy tries to seduce skinhead Goon (Joe Edwards) and the camera pans down to show her bad case of cameltoe, almost made me spit up my soda! There's also a scene where Miles goes through a window and he gets up and spits glass shards out of his mouth. The finale alone is worth the price of a purchase as Miles, Tracy and Inspector Davis, all shot repeatedly, get their revenge on Chino and Toos. There's also jokes about Miles Long's name ("What kind parents would give their kid a name like that?"), car windshields that break way too easily and a very funny scene where Miles is tossed back and forth on top of a car. This is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination but, damn, it is entertaining! Patrick G. Donahue (who made this film for less than $100,000) makes his living as the owner of a machine shop, Power Manufacturing, in San Jose, California. Also starring Lindsay Rhodeos, Mike Donahue (as Jo Jo, who keeps getting hit in the nose by Miles), Kerry Casey, Havier Mims and Christine Moon. A Digiview Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.

THE PATRIOT (1986) - When three terrorists, led by Atkins (Stack Pierce; ENEMY UNSEEN - 1989), steal some nuclear warheads from a military base in the Mojave Desert, they send one of the warheads to an oil rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean through a series of underground and underwater pipes (a highly unlikely scenario), where a crew of frogmen pick it up undetected. Unfortunately, they aren't as stealthy as they think they are, because female oilrig worker Maggie (Diane Stevenett) spots their underwater lights and goes on a dive to investigate. She finds an important piece of evidence on the ocean floor and brings it to her ex-lover, former Navy SEAL Matt Ryder (Gregg Henry; SLITHER - 2006), who recognizes it as a piece of a hydrogen bomb warhead. Matt goes undercover as a demolitions expert on the oilrig to investigate, but he fools no one, especially Atkins and his crew, who also work on the rig. When Maggie is blown-up underwater while checking out a tampered-with piece of munitions, Matt does a 230 foot free-dive to save her, but when he puts her into a booby-trapped decompression chamber, Maggie dies a horrible death when her body decompresses way too fast. Matt is put back on active duty by Admiral Frazer (Leslie Nielsen; PROM NIGHT - 1980) and is ordered to work with old Navy nemesis Michael Mitchell (Jeff Conaway; who is more famous today for his stints in celebrity rehab) and the Admiral's niece, Sean (Simone Griffeth; DEATH RACE 2000 - 1975), to find the nuclear warheads and destroy the terrorist cell. Matt also has a history with Sean, as they were once lovers who served in the same unit, but they lost touch when Matt was dishonorably discharged for slugging a superior officer (he had good reasons to, though). Matt and Sean get reacquainted, both romantically (insert nude lovemaking scene here) and professionally, which upsets Mitchell immensely (He and Sean are also lovers. Wow, who knew the Navy was such a hotbed of fucking?). Mitchell confesses to Sean that he has one of the nuclear warheads (he's working with Atkins) and it is set to go off at some unknown location. Since only he can disarm it, he blackmails Sean to go away with him. Matt has old friend Howard (Michael J. Pollard; AMERICAN GOTHIC - 1987) help him and Sean (who has escaped from Mitchell) find all the warheads and dismantle them, but it's not as easy as it sounds. They will have to fly back to the oilrig where all of the stolen warheads now reside, ready to be purchased by the highest bidder. All except one, that is. That one is activated and ready to explode, wiping out all evidence of the illegal transaction once the purchase is made. Can Matt and Sean stop the illegal sale and disarm the active warhead before it is too late? If you are wondering what happened to Howard, don't worry. He is left to fly the helicopter and is never heard from again (It looks as if Pollard took this role just because he gets to frolic with a scantily-clad woman in a couple of scenes, even playing Twister with her while they are both dressed as cheerleaders! Either that or he needed some quick cocaine money.).  This hopelessly dated and boring actioner, directed by Frank Harris (KILLPOINT - 1984; LOW BLOW - 1986), should have been much better than it turned out, since it was written by the talented team of then-husband-and-wife Andy Ruben and Katt Shea Ruben, who were responsible for some of the more intelligent Roger Corman productions of the late-80's and early-90's, including STRIPPED TO KILL (1987) and STREETS (1990). Unfortunately, Frank Harris is much too weak of a director with no sense of timing or knowledge of how to stage an action sequence. THE PATRIOT just slogs along at a languid pace, offering little suspense and even less action. I'm still shaking my head over Mitchell nonchalantly telling Sean that he is one of the terrorists and then expecting her to understand and follow him blindly. It makes no sense at all. What even makes less sense is the ridiculous finale that takes place on the oilrig. Why would Matt kill Mitchell before making him diffuse the bomb? It was probably because director Harris wanted one of those stereotypical "cut the right color wire before the clock counts down to zero" endings, but he even manages to bungle that completely. There's nothing remotely interesting in this film for action fans or any other type of film fan. If movies were turds, this one would fill the bowl. Director Harris' next film would be the weak post-nuke actioner AFTERSHOCK (1989). Also starring Glen Withrow and Larry Mintz as Pink and Bite, two of the most idiotic terrorists in film history (You'll have to watch this abomination to discover why). Also featuring Anthony Calderella, Mike Gomez and Larry Moss. Released theatrically by Crown International Pictures and originally available on VHS from Vestron Video. Available on DVD as part of BCI Eclipse's MAXIMUM ACTION 10 MOVIE SET compilation. Rated R.

PHANTOM RAIDERS (1988) - In this mindless Filipino actioner, the evil Colonel Marshall (Mike Monty) and his squad of terrorists capture a small platoon of American soldiers on a recon mission in modern-day Vietnam. The Colonel has his men kill all but one of the Americans when he pits them against his best fighters in a twisted boobytrapped arena, where the loser not only gets killed by impalements on spikes, but another tied-up soldier is machine-gunned to death when the winner trips a triggering device. The Colonel kills the last American himself, by setting him free and hunting him down in the jungle. An undercover photographer takes pictures of Colonel Marshall's terrorist training facility and passes the photos to a female operative just before the Colonel captures him and has him killed. The photos make their way to the CIA, where an official hires Python Lang (Miles O'Keeffe) to put together a team and either bring Colonel Marshall back alive or kill him if he's truly a traitor. Python hires three of his former Nam buddies (who are now selling heroin in the private sector!) after promising them $250,000 each when they complete the mission (One of them says to Python when he finds out they are selling skag, "We need money to feed our families, not medals."). After Python and Howard (Colonel Marshall's son, who is also going on the mission) put the trio through comprehensive "special training" (a boobytrapped-filled jungle obstacle course mixed with martial arts training), the quintet travel to Vietnam to begin their mission. They begin to slowly make their way to the Colonel's headquarters and meet resistance at nearly every turn. It almost seems like someone tipped-off the Colonel that Python and his team were after him. Is it possible Python has a traitor in his ranks? When they finally get to the Colonel's training facility, Howard hopes for a touching reunion with Dad, but learns that his father is nothing but a cold-hearted bastard (His father says to him, "You may be a soldier, but you've got no guts!" when Howard hesitates and Dad gets the drop on him). Python ends up killing the Colonel and only he and Howard make it out alive. The other three members are killed, probably because they were heroin dealers back in the States. Really, did we expect them to live?  While lacking any type of cohesive plot (We know that Colonel Marshall is a bad guy from the opening scene, so bringing him back alive isn't really an option, is it?) and the believability factor is thrown out the window the moment Howard is allowed to participate in the mission (Even I know that you don't send a relative, much less a son, on a mission such as this), this film should please Filipino action fans because it is nothing but a series of shoot-outs, explosions, spiked boobytraps and stealthy ninja-like action (including death by throwing stars, bolo and good, old-fashioned neck-snapping). Director Sonny Sanders (His only directorial effort. He also co-wrote the screenplay to Jun Gallardo's THE FIRING LINE [1991]), who also co-scripted this with Timothy Jorge (scripter of Jun Gallardo's SFX RETALIATOR [1987]), supplies a non-stop series of action set-pieces, where people are shot (lots of bloody squibs), stabbed, impaled, blown-up or otherwise dispatched by other means. Buildings, vehicles and other objects also blow up at regular intervals. If you want a story, forget it, because PHANTOM RAIDERS is not that type of film (The whole film has about five minutes worth of dialogue!). If you like the sounds of guns firing, grenades exploding and rockets firing, you can't go wrong here. It accomplishes what it sets out to do: Be a mindless barrage of death (If I were to guess, I would estimate over 200 on-screen deaths), violence and macho heroics. Miles O'Keeffe (CARTEL - 1990; CLAWED: THE LEGEND OF SASQUATCH - 2005) has precious little face time here. He spends most of his screen time hiding behind a black nylon mask and I'm willing to bet that most of the time it's a stand-in or stunt double. The opening credits list no less than forty (!) actors' names and it's strange because not one of those names sounds Filipino (names like "Jim Hope", "Dick Curtis", "Gary Sampson"), yet 90% of the cast is plainly Filipino. One actor is seen wearing a "Getting Strong" tee shirt during the heroin transaction. PHANTOM RAIDERS is a Silver Screen International Production, not the famous "Silver Star Films" as it is erroneously listed on IMDB. Also starring Don Holtz, Jim Moss, Kenneth Peerless, Anthony East, David Anderson and Karen Roberts. Available on budget DVD from Digiview Entertainment. The synopsis on the back cover mistakenly gives O'Keeffe's character the "Howard Marshall" moniker, but the rest of the synopsis is pretty spot-on. PHANTOM RAIDERS is also available streaming on Amazon Prime. Not Rated.

PRIMARY TARGET (1988) - March 1977, Chiang Mei, Thailand: When the wife of rich industrialist Phil Karlson (John Ericson; FINAL MISSION - 1984) is kidnapped by rival Jack Sturges (Chip Lucia; SYNGENOR - 1990), he hires three ex-CIA operatives, Cromwell (John Calvin; TV's TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY - 1982), Frank Rosi (Joey Aresco; CIRCLE OF FEAR - 1989) and Joe Lewis (Henry Strzalkowski; EQUALIZER 2000 - 1986) to save his wife and bring Sturges down. With a promise of $250,000 each, the trio (who are old friends and served in the same Army unit together) readily agree to take the job, especially when they find out Sturges is involved. Sturges also was a member of their old Army unit until he went bad and now smuggles heroin out of Laos. Knowing full well that Phil Karlson is a bagman for the CIA and that their mission smells a little fishy (Sturges may be a drug smuggler, but kidnapping a woman is out of character), the trio, along with a female guide named Pao (Miki Kim), begins their trek down river into Laos to free Mrs. Karlson (Colleen Casey). Along the way, Pao picks up an infant and everyone encounters enemy soldiers. They stop at a village, only to find that nearly all the villagers, including women and children, were viciously gunned-down in the center of town. Pao gives the baby to a young mother who just witnessed her baby being killed by heartless drug smugglers (It's a reasonable solution to a sticky situation). Frank is captured by the drug smugglers, tied to a cross and is tortured by being submerged in a lake while hanging upside down. Cromwell, Joe and Pao rush in and save Frank's ass, killing all the drug smugglers in a hail of automatic gunfire. They make it to Sturges' jungle compound, but it looks as if Pao (after just making love to Cromwell) has turned traitor and joined Sturges' side. To make matters worse, Sturges and Mrs. Karlson are actually lovers (the kidnapping was all a set-up to extort money from her husband), but our trio do manage to snatch her back and intend to complete their mission. Joe is seriously wounded during the "rescue" and dies, leaving Cromwell, Frank and Mrs. Karlson to hoof it by foot to their pick-up point. The finale finds Cromwell and Frank taking the side of Sturges and Mrs. Karlson when it is revealed that Phil Karlson is actually the drug smuggler and Sturges is only trying to help the locals, with the help of his lover, Mrs. Karlson. It's a crazy world we live in, isn't it?  This minor actioner, directed and written by Clark Henderson (WARLORDS FROM HELL - 1985; SAIGON COMMANDOS - 1987), tries too hard to be socially relevant (The plight of the poor locals, who have to deal with the drug smugglers, who use them as slave labor, as well as the brutal government who couldn't give a rat's ass about their well-being. Boo-frickin'-hoo!), but the film comes across rather flat and pedantic. Though some of the action scenes are very bloody (people are shot in the head; women and children are killed on-camera), this Philippines-lensed film seems overly familiar and stale. Even the twist ending is telegraphed early on and the death scenes have an over-reliance on using slow-motion (Henderson is no Peckinpah, that's for sure!). The only plus here is the easy chemistry between John Calvin (who would appear in the far-superior SIEGE OF FIREBASE GLORIA the next year), Joey Aresco and Henry Strzalkowski (a regular in the films of director Cirio H. Santiago). They seem quite comfortable in each other's company and their dialogue seems natural and unforced. That's little compensation for what amounts to be a miniscule footnote in Filipino action film history, though. A small ripple in an ocean of killer waves. Also starring Leo Martinez, Frederick Bailey, Annabelle Roa and Joonee Gamboa. Originally released on VHS by MGM/UA Home Video and not yet available on DVD. Rated R.

QUIET COOL (1986) - Pretty good U.S.-made actioner that stars James Remar in a rare leading role. New York detective Joe Dylanne (Remar) gets a call from ex-girlfriend Katy Greer (Daphne Ashbrook) to come to come to her small northwest town to investigate the disappearance of her brother and his family. We see what happens to the family as younger brother Joshua Greer (Adam Coleman Howard) accidently stumbles on a group marijuana growers, led by Valence (Nick Cassavetes), executing a man who has discovered their secret pot farm deep in the woods. Valence and his gang (which includes a young Chris Mulkey) chase down Joshua and kill his brother and wife (shooting them both point-blank in the head) who are having a picnic. They throw Joshua off a cliff and he survives. When Joe come to town, he immediately butts heads with the town's sheriff (Jared Martin), who is in league with the pot growers and gets into a bar fight with Handlebar (Travis McKenna) after he makes a derogatory remark about Katy (Joe rips off his moustache!). While searching for Katy's brother, Joe gets caught in a booby trap set by the pot growers. As he is about to get shot by one of the gang, Joshua saves him with a well-placed spear to the gut.  From this point on. it's Joshua and Joe against the bad guys, as Joe uses his gun and New York know-how, while Joshua uses his survivalist skills against anyone who comes before them. When Katy is killed in an ambush, Joe and Joshua notch-up the violence to revenge mode. You'll witness motorcycle chases, gunfights, fistfights and other mayhem before everything is settled in the unexpected finale (with a surprise villian). The action is particularly graphic for an action film as the bullet hits are splattery, the deaths gory and some scenes are downright cruel (there's a nasty cigarette-in-the-ear gag that made me wince). While the film is short on logic (I always pictured marijuana farmers as laid-back, not the bloodthirsty goons as portrayed here), it doesn't skimp on the action. Director Clay Borris (PROM NIGHT 4: DELIVER US FROM EVIL - 1992) ladles on the graphic mayhem in buckets as you witness various impalements, limb-severing explosions and other bloody mischief. You'll not even notice the gaping plotholes because you'll be too busy trying to count the dead bodies. This flm feels just like those Canadian action flicks. The Canadians churned out a lot of these revenge action films during the 80's, with titles like THE KILLER INSTINCT (1982) and BULLIES (1986) as just two examples. At slightly over 80 minutes, QUIET COOL never overstays it's welcome and should prove a good bet for action fans. Also starring Fran Ryan (the lost film SCREAM, EVELYN, SCREAM [1970]; who doesn't get a mention in the credits, for reasons you'll soon realize if you finish the film), Joe Sagal, Bob Moran and New Line (who produced this) honcho Robert Shaye as "Franklin". An Image Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE RAGE (1996) - Sidney J. Furie, who directed the wonderful HOLLOW POINT (1995), throws a lot of action into this one, but because of a weak script (by Greg Mellot) full of absurd and implausable set pieces, it cannot achieve its goal to entertain serious action junkies. Gary Busey is Dacy, a severely psychotic ex-Black Ops officer who, during the Vietnam War, had his dick shredded by a gook prostitute with razor blades hidden in her vagina! Dacy and his other military buddies have slaughtered over 60 innocent Americans since they were released from a psychiatric institute (due to lack of funding). Innocent women are turning up dead with their hands cut off and razors shoved up their pussies. FBI agent Nick Travis (Lorenzo Lamas) and his new partner Kelly McCord (Kristen Cloke of TV's MILLENNIUM [1996 - 1999]) are assigned to stop Dacy and his group, whose goal is to kill the government officials they believe betrayed them during the war. And wouldn't you know it? They're all getting together this weekend at a retreat in the mountains. It's coincidences like this that make this film (originally titled WORD OF HONOR) so hard to like. Add some unbelievable situations (the scene in a trailer park, where over 20 federal agents fire on Dacy and his van while he drives around in circles, yet neither hit him or the windows, has to be seen to be disbelieved!) and some highly questionable plot and character motivations and what you have here is a hodge-podge of confusing histrionics mixed with some good action scenes (the log truck and car chase is well done with a surprising climax). In short: Good action, bad story. Also starring the late Roy Scheider (who was fast becoming a staple in B films) as Lamas' scummy boss, Brandon Smith (the best performance in this film) as a sheriff and a cameo by David Carradine as a wigged-out vet. A Buena Vista Home Video Release. Rated R.

RAIDERS OF THE PARADISE (1985) - The islands that form Palawan in the Philippines have found much prosperity thanks to the discovery of oil in the surrounding ocean bed and it has made some of the locals very rich people. This prosperity has not gone unnoticed by some of the less fortunate locals, some who raid a Hawaiian-style party thrown by a rich local bigwig for his affluent friends. The raiders kidnap all the young daughters at the party (when one young girl tries to escape, they shoot her in the back several times) and bring them to their hidden camp on one of Palawan's many small islands. Since the raiders used rubber rafts to make their escape, the military concludes that they couldn't have traveled further than 30 kilometers, so they send out commando units to search all the islands within that radius. One commando unit finds the island where the girls are being held, but the kidnappers manage to avoid detection (the girls are being held in a hidden room on the island's lighthouse). The kidnappers demand a ransom of 50 million pesos from Mr. Hercules Perlas (Chito Ponce Enrile), the rich father of Melissa (Josephine Estrada), one of the kidnapped girls, and he must deliver it within 72 hours or the girls will be killed. Despite objections from the General (Eddie Garcia), who says, "You'll be draining the commercial banks of their cash flow!", Mr. Perlas tries to get the money together and wait for further instructions. Unfortunately, scraping 50 million pesos together is not as easy as Mr. Perlas thought it would be, so he begs the kidnappers for more time. The kidnappers, who take their orders from some unseen man called "The Boss", nearly shoots all the girls firing squad style, but they get a reprieve when The Boss agrees to a three-day extension. Melissa, the strongest and most level-headed member of the female hostages, puts together an escape plan that involves digging a tunnel, but one of the girls turns traitorous and makes a deal with The Boss, which leads to another female hostage getting raped. The military have finally figured out where the girls are (based on photos the kidnappers sent Mr. Perlas) and devise a plan to rescue them with a "bladed" attack, using edged weapons instead of guns to silently kill the kidnappers. Melissa and the other girls escape through the tunnel under cover of darkness, only to find the kidnappers waiting for them on the other side, which results in one girl being shot dead and Melissa getting the shit kicked out of her. The girls must now depend on the commandos, who are given 90 minutes to sneak onto the island and dispose of all the kidnappers (Why they are only given 90 minutes is never really made clear). The rescue attempt turns out to be a long and bloody one, where not everyone survives. The finale reveals that The Boss is actually Mr. Perlas' assistant Bernie (Roel Vergel De Dios), who was upset that Mr. Perlas was going to turn the business over to Melissa and leave him without a job. Don't worry, folks. Bernie meets a fitting demise.  This Filipino hostage drama, directed by Romy Suzara (THE GUNFIGHTER - 1983) and written by Avelino Zapanta, is a little slow-moving, but does contain some tense scenes, including the nerve-jangling firing squad sequence. While the violence is somewhat tame throughout most of the film (just a couple of shootings and an off-screen rape), the final rescue, which involves scuba divers, who sneak onto the island and kill the kidnappers as silently as possible, is the film's bloody highlight. Kidnappers are sliced and diced with knives until the rescue attempt is exposed, where it then turns into a bloody gunfight, as Melissa's Uncle Chuck (Vic Vargas) and the other commandos try to get the girls safely off the island. It doesn't end too well for everyone, as one girl sacrifices herself by falling on a grenade (a bloody effect that leaves nothing to the imagination), Uncle Chuck is shot and killed and Melissa pumps the raping kidnapper full of lead. When Mr. Perlas makes the ransom drop in the finale, only to discover that Bernie is the mastermind, it turns into a non-stop bulletfest, with bad guys getting shot in the head, a team of cross-dressing commandos (!) lending a hand and Bernie running into the spinning blades of an airplane. What more could you possibly ask for? This one is tough to find, so if you ever find a copy, grab it. Also starring Raul Aragon, Julie Ann Fortick, Connie Angeles, Renato Robles, Dick Israel, Franco Rivero, Mitos Del Mundo, Margie Braza, Francis Montilla, Dennis Roldan and the S.O.S. Daredevils stunt team. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S.; the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

RAPID FIRE (1989) - In this Grade Z action flick (not to be confused with the 1992 Brandon Lee/Powers Boothe-starrer with the same name), an ex-CIA operative named Eddy Williams (Michael Wayne, the eldest son of John Wayne, whose face looks like a skull with a thin layer of tightly-wound skin. Would someone please give this guy a sandwich!) breaks Middle East terrorist Mustapha Amed (Del Zamora) out of a well-protected Navy ship by using a new prototype weapon that is capable of firing six different types of ammunition. Hansen (Joe Spinell, in his last film, looking frail and talking with an audible lisp), the head of a black ops agency, hires ex-agent Mike Thompson (Ron Waldron) to find Mustapha and bring him back to justice. The fact that Thompson and Williams are old enemies, dating back to the days when they served in the same Army unit together (where Williams shot Thompson several times), is just an added bonus for Thompson. Mustapha is so impressed with Williams and his weapon, he hires him to kidnap a U.S. four-star General for reasons not made clear. Thompson (who drives around in a pickup truck with the words "Rolling Thunder" emblazoned on the front windshield, just so he stands out!) makes contact with old Williams nemesis Pappy (Douglas Harter), who gives Thompson the first clue where to find Williams: An ice cream bar named Bananas that is staffed with hookers with names like "Pistachio" and "Chocolate Swirl". Thompson gets into a dust-up with the male bouncers (he pokes one guy's eye out with a pencil) and gets the next clue to Williams' location. Thompson teams up with female operative Corle Parker (Dawn Tanner, who is a terrible actress), who lost her last partner by Mustapha's hands. Of course, Thompson and Corle fall in love in the process. Williams and his gang (including the guy who had his eye removed with the pencil, who now sports a black pirate patch!) try to kill Pappy, but he whips out a hand grenade and pulls the pin, forcing Williams to back off (the grenade turns out to be nothing but a cigarette lighter). Williams kidnaps Corle and uses her as bait (he also abandons the plot to kidnap the General) to kill Thompson. Hansen tries to interfere, but Thompson and Pappy eventually rescue Corle and then turn their attention to Williams, while Corle goes after Mustapha. Williams grabs his prototype weapon and battles Thompson and Pappy. Corle kills Mustapha and Thompson gives Williams a beat-down, who is then killed by his own weapon.  It should come as no surprise that this completely awful actioner was directed/co-scripted by David A. Prior, who also unleased the equally terrible films SLEDGEHAMMER (1984), DEATH CHASE (1987), NIGHT WARS (1988), WHITE FURY (1990) and many others upon unsuspecting home video viewers. If you've seen any of Prior's previous action films, you know what to expect here: Badly-staged action scenes, plenty of bloody bullet squibs and acting that can best be described as anemic. It's particularly distressing watching Joe Spinell (this film opens and closes with a dedication to him) in this, his last film. He looks visually ill and emaciated (he died of a heart attack, brought on by years of alcoholism and drug abuse, before this film was released) and it looks painful for him just to talk (The script, co-written by frequent Prior star William Zipp, gives Spinell a line that excuses the way he talks by saying he recently had dental surgery!). This is no way to end such an illustrious career and I was sorry to see Spinell (who had a fantastic career in A-list and B-list films, although he is best remembered for his rare starring role in William Lustig's MANIAC [1980]) appearing in crap like this. And RAPID FIRE is crap of the worst kind, padded out with flashbacks, nightmares (where Williams battles himself because he fears Thompson is the better fighter, which really negates his villian status) and a finale where Pappy wrestles a bear in a bar (!) for no other reason than to increase the running time (it clocks in at 85 minutes, but it is a looooong 85 minutes). Not recommended to anyone, especially Joe Spinell fans. Filmed in Mobile, Alabama. Also starring Gary Olsen, Sue Hawkins, Robert Willoughby and Tracey Shepherd. An Action International Pictures (A.I.P.) Home Video Release. Not Rated.

RAVAGE (1997) - For years people have been emailing or writing me to watch this shot-on-video action film. I generally shy away from SOV flicks because, let's face it, the majority of them are crap. I finally relented after reading too much good press and purchased the DVD. After viewing it, I must say that I was not as impressed as the people who got me to watch it. It's badly acted, terribly underlit and, let's face it, it's shot on video. What it does have in its favor is a visceral energy that just won't quit. It's full of bloody shootouts, stabbings, fist fights, throat slashings, eyeball gougings and other gory mayhem. The plot is simple: Widower Gregory Burroughs (a miscast Mark Brazeale) comes home from a date with a co-worker Lydia (Dina Harris) to find serial killer Charles (Dan Rowland) slaughtering his two daughters. Charles escapes, leaving Gregory stabbed in the back and several policemen dead. Gregory makes it his life's work to track down Charles and end his miserable life. What Gregory doesn't realize is that Charles is also tracking him. When Gregory sees a news report on TV about a murder/robbery in Chicago and recognizes the robber as Charles, he leaves his Missouri town and hightails it to Chicago. Complications arise when Lydia finds out the guy in Chicago is actually Charles' twin brother Samuel, a bloodthirsty leader of a gang of ruthless killers. Charles and Samuel do not know each other exists. When Lydia travels to Chicago to be with Gregory, Charles follows her, which leads to an unexpected (and very bloody) meeting of the brothers, which in turn leads to one of the bloodiest set-pieces in low budget history. It's obvious that director Ronnie Sortor (SINISTRE - 1994) is working with an extremely small budget (Sortor has said that he made this film for under $5,000.00!). The actors generally never rise above amateur status, although Dan Rowland could give anyone the creeps with a simple stare and producer Frank Alexander scores in his role as a Chicago detective. The real stars of RAVAGE are the frequent shootouts and stabbings. People are shot and stabbed in the head, chest and every conceivable body part. The best scene is the shootout in the police station, where one disciple of Samuel blows away about 20 cops before finally being taken down with about 100 bullets. There's some really awful sound effects that cheapen the fight scenes but, overall, this is not a bad way to spend 85 minutes. Some major film company should give Mr. Sortor a decent budget so he can remake this film with professional actors and crew. It's guaranteed to be a hit. Until then, this will have to do. A Sub Rosa Studios DVD Release. Not Rated.

RUCKUS (1980) - Dirty and dishelveled Vietnam vet Kyle Hanson (Dirk Benedict; TV's THE A-TEAM - 1983-1987; DEMON KEEPER - 1993) drifts into the small California town of Madoc County run by Sam Bellows (Ben Johnson; THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN - 1976; TERROR TRAIN - 1980), orders a raw hamburger at the local diner and then begins to walk out of town. Mr. Bellows notices that Kyle is wearing the same type of Army jacket that his M.I.A. son wore, so he gives a photo of his son and ten dollars to his right-hand man Sarge (Taylor Lacher; DEVIL TIMES FIVE - 1974) and asks him to stop Kyle and question him if he has ever seen his son in Vietnam (the ten bucks being for Kyle's answer whether positive or negative). Instead of being polite about the inquiry, Sarge brings a small posse to harass Kyle and it turns violent quickly. Kyle beats-up Sarge and the posse and the police become involved, with Kyle escaping into the forest. While Sheriff Jethro Pough (Richard Farnsworth; HIGHWAY TO HELL - 1991) , Deputy Dave (Jon Van Ness; HOSPITAL MASSACRE - 1981) and half-wit Cecil (Matt Clark; BRUBAKER - 1980) search the woods, Kyle steals the Sheriff's car and ends up at the home of Mr. Bellows' daughter-in-law, Jenny (Linda Blair; HELL NIGHT - 1981), the wife of Mr. Bellows' missing son, who has a young son of her own, Bobby (Bobby Hughes). Kyle is a man of few words, but he tells Jenny that he has never met her husband. Jenny cooks him a hot meal, but it's not long before Mr. Bellows, Sarge and an even larger posse shows up to hunt him down. Kyle steals a dirt bike and hides in the forest, where he fashions a homemade bow-and-arrow and shoots Homer (Clifford Pellow) in the ass. Sheriff Pough sends Mr. Bellows and the posse home, as he has just obtained Kyle's military service records, where it is revealed that Kyle was in the Special Forces and was twice a POW, but escaped both times. Kyle returns to Jenny's home, where they bond by riding dirt bikes together (where an obvious stunt double is used for Ms. Blair) and talking about their pasts. Sheriff Pough wants to end this whole situation peacefully (both he and Mr. Bellows are not bad men at all), but since Deputy Dave has the hots for Jenny, he disregards the Sheriff's advice and gathers all the regular town goons to lay siege on Jenny's house while Mr. Bellows is out of town on business. This leads to many chases, stunts and gunfights, but the difference here is that Kyle doesn't want to kill anyone. That's not sayong he won't lay plenty of whup-ass on them, though. When the good-old boys take Kyle prisoner, he must escape his bonds one final time and teach all the goons a lesson before living happily ever after with Jenny and little Bobby.  Directed and written with a sense of humor by stuntman Max Kleven (who directed a handfull of films, including THE NIGHT STALKER [1986; starring the late Charles Napier] and BAIL OUT [1989; also starring Linda Blair]), RUCKUS is an interesting mix of 70's exploitation and early-80's political agendas, which would become much more prevalent two years later with Sylvester Stallone as Rambo in the much more violent FIRST BLOOD. While FIRST BLOOD was very low on the humor scale, RUCKUS contains the right amount of hicksploitation laughs, usually at the expense of character actor supreme Matt Clark (who always does the wrong thing at the right time here), mixed with some well-staged action set pieces. There's hardly any blood spilled here (although it is obvious some trims were made to achieve a PG Rating, since the PG-13 Rating didn't exist yet), but there are plenty of car crashes and chases, explosions (there's an excellent police car explosion where the stuntman barely makes it out alive) and stunts, probably to give Kleven's stunt buddies a chance to shine. The excellent cast of experienced character actors (both Richard Farnsworth and Ben Johnson started out as stuntmen) also helps RUCKUS be better than it has any right to be, but it does have its charms even if Benedict and Blair (who still has her baby fat here) make for a pretty bland romantic couple. Worth at least one viewing if only to see how action films changed when the 70's ended and the 80's began. This is one of those transition films. Also starring Ben Bates, Jerry Gatlin and Bennie E. Dobbins. Willie Nelson and Hank Cochran contributed some Country tunes to the soundtrack. Originally released on VHS by Paragon Video Productions and available on widescreen DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Rated PG.

RUNNING SCARED (1980) - Overlooked little actioner that stars fresh-faced Ken Wahl and Judge Reinhold as two soldiers in 1961 who return home from Cuba by catching an illegal ride on a plane and landing smack-dab into unknown trouble with a Black Ops group led by baddie Bradford Dillman. They are pursued across the Florida Everglades by a group of Cuban soldiers (commanded by John Saxon) which leads to car chases (and plenty of explosions), airboat chases (more explosions), gunfights and the occasional snake or two. We never really know why the guys are being chased (something about Reinhold taking infrared photos out of the plane window), but it leads to many perilous, and sometimes very funny, situations. Along the way they pick up a girl (the wonderful Anne McEnroe), who turns out to be quite handy when the chips are down.  The whole film is quite breezy and enjoyable and full of funny little bits that will bring a smile to your face. They get picked up by a teenager who turns out to be quite a daredevil (and leads to Reinhold biting his tongue). They escape a kidnapping attempt by jumping out of the back of a moving truck and land in the middle of a munitions testing field. They steal an airboat after getting drunk on Reinhold's father's (Lonny Chapman) moonshine and blowing up his still. There's even a homage to NORTH BY NORTHWEST's (1959) plane chase in the cornfield scene. Things take a serious turn when Wahl finally makes it to his father's (played by Pat Hingle) house and is called a traitor and Reinhold is captured and tortured. Director/producer Paul Glickler (THE CHEERLEADERS - 1973) even throws the Bay Of Pigs conflict into the mix as it plays an important part in the finale. The use of actual early 60's music, radio broadcasts and clothing greatly enhance the atmosphere. The fact is not many films use this period of history thereby making RUNNING SCARED a must for fans of action films. There is no actual bloody violence or nudity on view here, and, quite frankly, is not needed because the film holds your attention due to good acting, a brisk screenplay (by David Odell) and good old-fashioned action. This is one film where you'll actually like Judge Reinhold. What more could you ask for? Not to be confused with the 1986 action/comedy starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines or the brutal 2006 action film starring Paul Walker. A Thorn EMI Video VHS Release. Available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated PG.

THE SATAN KILLER (1993) - If one could fart out a film, it would probably look and smell like this one. An alcoholic detective (Steve Sayre) goes off the deep end after his fiance is brutally murdered by a serial murderer dubbed the "Satan Killer" (James Westbrook) by the press. While the Satan Killer (a.k.a. "Jimbo") keeps going on a killing spree, shooting men, stabbing and raping women and hitting a handicapped wheelchair-bound man over the head with a beer bottle (!), the detective is also leaving a trail of bodies in his search for the killer, shooting everyone who gets in his way (including a poker player and a pimp who is bitch-slapping his whore). He eventually joins forces with a private detective (Billy Franklin) and a male nurse (Nick Delon) in his search for the killer, who really does nothing that can even be called Satanic except rape and kill (Don't be fooled by the cover box art). Alas, neither of them last very long as they are shotgunned down by the killer. As a matter of fact, the detective kills more people than the Satan Killer himself! Sloppily acted (many one-take shots are apparent), edited with what looks like a rusty spoon, hilariously-performed action sequences, sound recorded through a coffee can, bad early-90's music and filled with plenty of nudity and blood, this is truly a Z-movie fan's dream. Director Stephen Calamari (no squid jokes please) is actually a pseudonym for lead actor Steve Sayre (and why is he wearing a black stocking on his right leg during his sex scene?). He does neither very well. Sayre also wears the same yellow shirt throughout the film. Keep an eye out for it. You'll have some fun. This film is very funny if you watch it in the right frame of mind. But, I think it's illegal to reach that state. Also starring Belinda Creason and Cindy Healy. Also known as DEATH PENALTY. An A.I.P. Home Video Release. Not Rated.

SAVAGE (1973) - Early 70's action film directed/produced by Filipino stalwart Cirio H. Santiago, one of his very first to get a U.S. theatrical release (through Roger Corman's New World Pictures). Jim Haygood (James Iglehart of Santiago's FIGHTING MAD - 1978) works as a mercenary for the Filipino Army, capturing rebel guerillas and turning them over to Major Melton (Ken Metcalfe; THE WOMAN HUNT - 1972) and the Filipino government for "interrogation". Jim gets a conscience when he finally realizes that the men and women he turns over end up dead or raped and he snaps when one Filipino Major brags about sharing a female rebel (that Jim captured) for sex with the rest of his men. Jim breaks the Major's neck and ends up in the slammer, but he escapes and looks for help from two American showgirls: Amanda (Carol Speed; ABBY - 1974), a dancer, and Vicki (Lada Edmund Jr.; RAPE SQUAD - 1974), a knife thrower, who both work in a local cabaret. When the two women are visited by a horny Filipino Minister of Defense (Santiago regular Vic Diaz; EQUALIZER 2000 - 1986; LIVE BY THE FIST - 1992), it leads to a series of events where Vicki is captured and tortured (with an electric prod to her vagina) by the government and Jim and Amanda escape, only to be captured by the rebel guerillas when their jeep runs out of gas. Jim proves beneficial to the rebels' cause when he saves their ass by diverting enemy fire (he radios-in to the Army and has them shell their own troops!), so the rebels accept him and Amanda into the fold. The first thing they do is break Vicki and rebel leader Flores (Eddie Guitierrez) out of prison while disguised as firemen. Flores and female rebel leader China (Aura Aurea) are still a little reticent in trusting Jim, but his vast military experience and street smarts soon wins them over. Eventually, Jim becomes a leader of the rebels and devises a plan to capture the Minister of Defense, but a traitor in their ranks may spell doom for the rebel movement. The finale takes place at a radio station, where a pirate broadcast goes out to all the citizens exposing government corruption, while Jim and the rebels defend the station until the broadcast is complete. The traitor, along with some good guys and gals, are killed in the ensuing battle, but the rebels live on to fight another day.  This mixture of action and exploitation elements gels quite nicely under Santiago's steady hand. There's a ton of nudity on view (even some full-frontal), as well as plenty of gunfights, explosions and even a dollop of gore. The script, by Ed Medard (possibly a pseudonym for Santiago), also has plenty of political and racial intrigue, as it seems to compare the rebels' plight in the Philippines with that of the Civil Rights movement in America. James Iglehart (who also starred in the Santiago-produced BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN [1974]) does a good job here as an angry black man (the Filipino government even goes as far as to label him a "black savage") who shares a lot in common with the rebels and teaches them techniques he learned back on the mean streets of America. Santiago, whose other 70's films include FLY ME (1973), TNT JACKSON (1975), THE MUTHERS (1976), WOMEN OF HELL'S ISLAND (1978) and VAMPIRE HOOKERS (1979), also has the good sense to break up the action and political intrigue with numerous scenes of female nudity and nearly every woman in the cast gets the chance to display their assets. Not everything about this film is taken seriously, though, as there are a few comical scenes, such as when Vicki interrogates an enemy soldier with her knife-throwing talents or when Vic Diaz gets a phone call in mid-cunnilingus from Ken Metcalfe. This is also the earliest example of Santiago using his trademark "man on fire" gag, a stunt he would use in nearly all his later action films. Sad to say, no midgets, though. All-in-all, SAVAGE (also known as BLACK VALOR and THE TECHNICIAN) is a dated, but entertaining, film from the anything-goes 70's. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Also starring Sally Jordan, Rosanna Ortiz, Harley Paton and Marie Saunders. Originally available on Bingo Video (under the BLACK VALOR tag) and not available on DVD. The print I have is a nice fullscreen print on DVD-R under it's original title from gray market seller Trash Palace. Rated R.

SAVAGE JUSTICE (1988) - Here's a Filipino actioner that actually received a U.S. DVD release, even if it's only on a budget label. Some unnamed Far East country goes into revolution mode, forcing all Americans, including Ambassador Allan Howard (Ken Metcalfe; THE WOMAN HUNT - 1972), his wife Margaret (Liz Shepherd) and daughter Sarah (Julia Montgomery; GIRLS NITE OUT - 1983) to flee the U.S. Embassy in a hurry. Sarah, who is dressed in Army fatigues, rides in the back of her father's car as they are given a military escort to the airport, when, suddenly, their convoy is attacked by the revolutionaries and everyone is killed except Sarah, who is captured and taken prisoner. Sanchez (Raul Vernal; MUSLIM MAGNUM .357 - 1986), the leader of the revolutionaries, takes an instant shine to Sarah and makes her his bitch (even branding her with his mark!). One year later, rice farmer (and ex-Special Forces soldier) Rick (Steven Memel) lives a peaceful life with his wife An Lee (Millicent Bautista), working in the rice fields and enjoying his life. The town doctor (Anthony East; THE SISTERHOOD - 1987) informs Rick that Sanchez intends to raid the village and wants Rick to use his military experience to train the villagers to defend themselves, but the now-pacifistic Rick refuses. That will soon change. Sanchez and his goons, which now includes a fully converted and battle-trained Sarah, invade the village (they arrive in cars and motorcycles that look like hand-me-downs from one of Cirio H. Santiago's post-nuke films) and shoot-up the village marketplace. A series of events occur where Angelica (Chanda Romero), Santiago's second-in-command, viciously runs over An Lee, killing her, and then jealously shoots Sarah, leaving her for dead in the village square. Rich arrives at the village too late, finds his wife's bloody and broken body and vows revenge. A wounded Sarah comes stumbling through town and is recognized by her old Embassy housekeeper Sun Lee (Esther Chavez), who nurses Sarah back to health. Rick reluctantly agrees to partner-up with Sarah to bring Sanchez down, but the question soon becomes: Is Sarah doing this to avenge for the deaths of her parents or does she want to get even with Angelica for making her past year a hell on Earth? While Sarah leads five martial monks on a mission to receive a secret arms cache, Rick trains the villagers for combat and waits for Sanchez's eventual return. Can Sarah return with the weapons before Sanchez arrives? Will Sarah teach bitch Angelica a lesson she will never forget? What do you think?  This is a stunt-filled and explosion-heavy actioner, that, unfortunately, wears too much of it's heart on it's sleeve. Director Joey Romero, the son of Filipino exploitation legend Eddie Romero (BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT - 1971; SAVAGE SISTERS - 1974), displays too much sappy sentimentalism, as the screenplay, by David Howard and Parker Bratel, force-feeds the viewers plenty of pacifist dialogue (We get it. War is bad. Peace is good.) and pseudo-intellectual fortune cookie parables. All is not lost, though. There's some strange shit on view here, such as when Sarah and the five monks have a run-in with a gang that lives on an abandoned ship. The gang's leader, a dwarf (played by Rey Big Boy, a familiar face in countless Filipino post-nuke and action films, who, for once, actually gets a screen credit), makes Sarah fight his best man in a one-on-one match-up, which she easily wins. Sarah and the dwarf (who is dressed nattily in a three-piece suit!) then become friends and some of his gang join Sarah in her cause. As Sarah, the monks and her new friends leave in a boat, the dwarf and his followers can be heard yelling "Hey diddle-diddle!" over and over in some victory chant. I haven't got a clue what it means, but it's weird as hell. There's also some pretty good stunts (including a nice slow-motion jump off a waterfalls by Sarah and Rick), bloody deaths (with plenty of bullet squibs), numerous gunfights and plenty of explosions but, strangely, no nudity, although the film does come close when Angelica sexually assaults Sarah during a torture session in the beginning when she is captured. I guess your level of enjoyment for SAVAGE JUSTICE depends on your tolerance for schmaltz. Also starring Hero Bautista, Willie Williams, Carl Morris, Frank Campbell and blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos by David Giberson (JUST A DAMNED SOLDIER - 1988) and Filipino staple Henry Strzalkowski. Available in a decent-looking fullscreen print from budget label Platinum Disc Corporation. Not Rated.

SAVAGE STREETS (1984) - A graphic, often brutal, revenge melodrama centering on overage high school tough girl Brenda (Linda Blair) enacting her own brand of street justice on a gang of thugs who raped her deaf-mute sister Heather (Linnea Quigley) and killed her soon-to-be- married best friend Rachel (by throwing her off a bridge). There's death by crossbow, bear traps, hit and run and fire. The leader of the gang, Jake (well-played by Robert Dryer), is an unredeemable punk who refuses to sit back and be killed, making for an exciting finale. There's plenty of nudity (even Blair looks good this time around), tough talk (the word "cunt" is used by both men and women) and extreme violence to make this film a good choice for fans of this type of film (you know who you are). I first saw this in the theaters back in the early 80's and the audience was cheering Blair on. Also starring John Vernon as the horny school principal with a thing for Blair, Johnny Venocur, Sal Landi and Scott Mayer as the rest of Jake's gang, and Debra Blee as Blair's unfortunate best friend Rachel. Director Danny Steinmann does a good job here building suspense and later went on to direct FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV: A NEW BEGINNING (1985), probably one of the worst in the series. He also directed the underrated THE UNSEEN (1980) using the pseudonym "Peter Foleg" and directed a porn film in 1973 called HIGH RISE using the pseudonym "Danny Stone". He then disappeared off the face of the Earth until DVD rolled around and he did some commentaries for his movies and appeared as himself in a couple of horror documentaries before passing away in 2012. SAVAGE STREETS is a great treat for fans that like their action raw and uncensored. A Vestron Video VHS Release. Also available on a long OOP deluxe 2 DVD-set from Navarre Corporation and a much cheaper (and available) single DVD from Arrow Video. Now also available on DVD in a really great 2 DVD-Set from Scorpion Releasing with a reversible cover and many new extras. Code Red has also released a Blu-Ray of this title. Rated R.

SEABO - BUCKSTONE COUNTY PRISON (1978) - Shelby, North Carolina's favorite son, Earl Owenby, produces and stars as Amos Seabo, a half-breed bounty tracker hired by Sheriff Deese (Sunset Carson) to bring back two escaped prisoners from the nearby Buckstone County Prison, run by the iron-fisted Warden Coley (Don "Red" Barry), who has a severe dislike for Seabo (Seabo was dishonorably discharged from the Korean War and may have had something to do with the death of Warden Coley's son, but more information on both of those subjects will be revealed as the film progresses). The Sheriff wants Seabo to bring back the prisoners alive, but when they invade the home of a poor black family and one of the prisoners tries to rape the family's young daughter, Seabo has no choice but to shoot one of the escapees when he is threatened with a pitchfork and the father shoots the other prisoner in the back (Seabo takes the blame for both deaths, because he's just that kind of man). Sheriff Deese's corrupt underling, Deputy Jess Clary (Ron Lampkin; DARK SUNDAY - 1976, also starring Owensby), believes Seabo is guilty of murder for shooting the prisoner in the back (he not only calls Seabo a "redneck", he also believes he is a communist!), so he conspires with Warden Coley to find a way to incarcerate him in the Warden's prison. Meanwhile, Seabo (who walks around with his trademark sawed-off shotgun strapped to his hip) forces some local bigots to destroy their own car when they deface his Jeep with racial epithets. He then goes to the local whorehouse, where prostitute Effie (Holly Conover) makes him breakfast before he and local redneck Reb Stock (Country singer David Allan Coe) have an altercation over something said about Seabo's father and Seabo ends up accidentally decking Deputy Jess instead. Seabo is sent to Buckstone County Prison on charges of assaulting an officer and Warden Coley couldn't be happier that this "communist traitor" is now one of his prisoners. The Warden threatens to "rehabilitate" Seabo until he can't stand up and is beaten with a billy club by sadistic prison guard Jimbo (stunt coordinator Ed Parker), who can beat the shit out of a prisoner without leaving a mark. Seabo makes friends with stuttering black prisoner Zack (Leonard Dixon), while the Warden and Jimbo make his life a living hell, beating him daily and forcing other prisoners to make his every waking hour a fate worse than death. When the prisoners finally realize that Seabo can be beaten but not broken, they slowly come to respect him, especially when they see how he reacts when Jimbo beats Zack within an inch of his life for not being able to say his name without stuttering (Jimbo: "What's my name?" Zack: "Mister J-j-j-j-imbo." WHACK!). When six prisoners escape from a federal penitentiary with the help of Reb Stock as their guide, Sheriff Deese offers Seabo a pardon (over the Warden's protests and the eventual truth about his son's death and Seabo's dishonorable discharge revealed) if he brings the prisoners and Reb back alive. Seabo brings four of the prisoners back alive (he is forced to shoot and kill one prisoner and Reb Stock, as well as forcing Deputy Jess swallow all six bullets in his revolver), but Warden Coley has an ambush waiting for Seabo as he escorts the prisoners into Buckstone. All of the prisoners are shot dead in a hail of gunfire, but Seabo disappears, never to be seen or heard from again. A legend is born.  At 117 minutes, SEABO (originally titled simply BUCKSTONE COUNTY PRISON before Owensby video-generated the "Seabo" name before the title and released it on his own VHS label in uncut form for the first time) may be a tad long in the tooth, but it delivers in the violence and revenge departments, if not the acting department. Thankfully, Earl Owensby as Seabo is a man of few words (he also looks chunkier than in most his other films) and director Jimmy Huston (DARK SUNDAY - 1976; FINAL EXAM - 1981; MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE - 1988) and screenwriter Tom McIntyre (DOGS OF HELL - 1982, also starring Owensby) play to Owensby's strengths as an actor; namely, giving him as few words as possible to speak and letting him get his revenge after nearly two hours of being abused in every possible manner. SEABO may not be in the same league as COOL HAND LUKE (1967) or BRUBAKER (1980), but it is a fine example of a prison revenge flick, with bouts of racist dialogue, bloody violence and even some bits of humor (the car destruction sequence is hilarious). Both Don "Red" Barry (BLAZING STEWARDESSES - 1975) and Sunset Carson (ALIEN OUTLAW - 1985) are good in their roles, but the rest of the cast is strictly amateur hour, but passable, in their roles as prisoners, guards or hookers who visit the prison for some convict nookie. This is one of Owensby's better regional outings, which also includes CHALLENGE (1973), its sequel MANHUNTER (1974), DEATH DRIVER (1977), WOLFMAN (1979) and HYPERSPACE (a.k.a. GREMLOIDS - 1984), as well as the others previously mentioned. Also starring Rod Sacharnoski, Kristina Reynolds, Brownlee Davis and Jerry Rushing. Many of Owensby's films never saw a release above the Mason/Dixon line until their appearance on VHS in the 80's, but this one actually got a wide theatrical release through Edward Montero's Film Ventures International, although it was shorn by nearly twenty minutes (mostly exposition). An Earl Owensby Studios VHS Release. Rated R.

SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE (1984) - This incoherent Filipino action film opens with one of the worst hostage dramas to hit the screen. Four thieves are caught by the police robbing a bank so they take a blabbering old woman hostage. The police shoot tear gas into the bank and one thief is shot trying to escape. Two more surrender and the last one is shot in the head by Vito, the head of the cop squad, as the thief tries to get away using the old woman as a shield. Vito and his squad get a lecture from the police chief telling them not to use their guns to kill any more. In what can be best described as the worst case of retaining information, Vito and his squad are next seen gunning down dozens of drug smugglers and then Vito shoots and kills the local mob boss' son in a bar fight. Vito is suspended from the force for not listening to the police chief. The mob boss is not so pleased losing a million dollar shipment of drugs to the police, but he's more mad about losing his son, so he vows to get revenge on Vito. He sends a package bomb to Vito's house, but it only kills Vito's wife. Now Vito vows revenge. The rest of the film is a series of shootouts and fisticuffs as Vito and the boss' gang go after each other. Vito becomes legendary and the populace consider him a modern day Robin Hood! That is, until the mob boss makes Vito look like a ruthless killer which force the people catch him and crucify him on a cross! Only an impassioned plea from Vito's young son saves him and then Vito faces the mob boss one-on-one. The mob boss has a few knives up his sleeve in his climatic battle with Vito in a graveyard. Put your brain in neutral and be prepared to be sent on a very surreal voyage. The kind of voyage where bars play an instrumental version of Michael Jackson's "Beat It", there's an awkward martial arts fight every 10 minutes and the dialogue has to be heard to be appreciated. Director Raymond "Rey" Malonzo, who also acts in this film as Vito using the name "Reginald King" (and also directed CLASSIFIED OPERATION - 1985 [a.k.a. FIRE DRAGON]), also tries to inject sappy sentimentalism into the mix, as the scene where we are introduced to Vito's wife and son. Vito gives his son some money to go out and buy candy so he can do the down 'n dirty with his wife, only to have his son say, "Dad, I don't like candy!" I had fun counting the times the mob boss' cowardly gang would plead, "Please don't kill me!", whenever Vito would beat them in a fight. It's also filled with hilarious dubbing, such as, "Stone that son of a bitch!" and "Take him down from the cross. Relieve him from his suffering." I believe Malonzo was also trying to put some religious subtext into this film, but it gets lost among the gunshots and badly-staged fights. This film has a weird type of energy to it, such as the scene when Vito's son pleads for his father's life only to get shot in the arm by one of the boss' goons for his good deed. That alone is worth at least one viewing. Also starring Charlie Davao and George Estragon (both in THE KILLING OF SATAN), Johnny Wilson, Fred Param, Liz Allen, Anne Marie and John Reed. SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE is a.k.a. NIGHT OF FIRE and CITY WARRIOR.  A Paragon Video Release which is long OOP. The version I saw came from a boot of a Greek-subtitled VHS. Not Rated. Special thanks to William Wilson for the copy.

THE SEXY KILLER (1976) - Sex, drugs and violence as only the Chinese can do it. When her sister Wanjing is found raped, naked and unconscious from a drug overdose in a discoteque/drugden, Wanfei (Chen Ping) makes it her mission in life to kill every drug dealer she can get her hands on (She says, "Drugs, drugs, I hate it so much!"). She pretends to be a drug-addicted hooker named Sally (apparently, "Sally" also means "kill me" in Cantonese) and picks up a man called "Third Brother" (these are literal translations from the English subtitles, so bear with me) and offers to have sex with him as long as he brings her to his drug lab and gets her high. Once there, she gets topless and stabs Third Brother to death with her bracelet, which transforms into a double-bladed knife. She then kills two other workers after finding out that Long Tou (Chan Shen), also known as Brother Ma, was the man who raped her sister and made her a brain-dead addict (we see her sister in a psych ward room, a drooling, babbling basketcase). Brother Ma's boss (he has no name, everyone calls him "Boss"), a drug kingpin with a limp, thinks a rival organization called the Red Cabinet is responsible for the recent destruction of several of his labs and orders his men to bribe more cops and get the skinny on the perpetrators. Wanfei is unaware that her politician boyfriend, He Jingye (Sze Wei), is also a drug dealer, even though he's an anti-drug crusader on TV. Wanfei's close friend, police officer Deng Weipin (Yuen Hua), also known as the "Drug Smasher", seems to be the only honest cop on the force. Every time he gets a good tip on a drug deal, some crooked cop will call up the bad guys and he looks like a fool when he goes to make a bust. When Deng goes on a bust at He Jingye's house and turns up nothing (thanks to crooked cop's tip-off), Wanfei accuses him of being jealous of her relationship with He Jingye (he actually is a little bit!). Deng's old cop boss, Leifan, now works for the "Boss" and tries to bribe Deng into joining them, but he throws the money back at Leifan and tells him, "You get yourself a good coffin with this money!" Five men with pantyhose on their heads attack Deng and Wanfei with miniature shovels and pipes and Brother Ma cripples Deng with a blow to the head (He says, "Drug Smasher? Potato masher!"). Wanfei then goes after Brother Ma, tricking him into taking her to the Boss' whorehouse, where she talks Brother Ma into setting up a meeting with the Boss. When she meets him at his home, she attempts to kill him, but fails. She is captured and finally learns of her boyfriend's betrayal. Luckily, she doctored Brother Ma's drug stash, so when she gets a hot shot, it's harmless. She then goes on a one-woman killing spree and saves her boyfriend for her final victim in the way-out conclusion.  This hyper-kinetic Shaw Brothers production, directed by Sun Chung (THE DEVIL'S MIRROR - 1972; BIG BAD SIS - 1976), is chock-full of violence, nudity and an anti-drug stance that, for lack of a better word, is comical. Wanfei's sister becomes a blubbering, brain-damaged mental patient after only one fix and everyone shown doing drugs is either a hooker, gang member or a disco-loving sweat monkey. Ignore the film's simplistic, moralistic politics and just wallow in the sleazy fun and violence. The most off-the-wall character here is Brother Ma, as his fey, gay-like characteristics disguise an interior that can best be described as animalistic. He not only rapes Wanjing, he hits on every woman he meets, even if all his physical actions and body movements make him look like a total flamer. This film also takes a dim view of the police where, besides Deng, all the other cops are crooked or buffoons (one cop even says to Deng that he's crooked because he gets paid so little for being a cop). There are a lot of visual highlights here, especially the way they hide Wanjing's pubic hair from the camera (by using Brother Ma's excited fist to hide the offending body part). There's also a pillow fight between Wanfei and whorehouse madam Lilly, the Boss whips one of his girls while watching porn on a super 8 projector (he also has a hidden S&M room where he attempts to rape Wanfei), one guy is thrown off a building with a noose around his neck (ala THE OMEN [1976] , filmed the same year) and Wanfei's erect nipples are prominently displayed in several close-up throughout the film. The finale, where Brother Ma attempts to rape Wanfei on a sewer pipe and the Boss whips some poor chained-up girl in his S&M room is classic Chinese cinema. After killing Brother Ma in the sewer, Wanfei drives a car through the Boss' living room, grabs a shotgun and begins blowing everyone away, which climaxes in a pretty nifty slow-motion waterbed explosion. She then goes to her boyfriends house and teaches him a painful lesson which he will never forget. This is the Hong Kong equivalent of the blaxploitation flick COFFY (1973, it's nearly a scene-for-scene rip-off!) or THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE (a.ka. THEY CALL HER ONE-EYE - 1974), although it's apparent that some of the nudity and more violent scenes, including He Jingye's death, have been edited. This is an extremely insane action film that should be seen by all. Also starring Hsu Hsia, Chiang Yang and Corey Yuen as one of the Boss' henchmen. A Celestial Pictures DVD Release. Not Rated.

SHOOT FIRST, DIE LATER (1974) - After watching director Sergio Martino's excellent THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS (1973), I just had to watch this film since it also stars Luc Merenda (SILENT ACTION - 1975) and Richard Conte (NO WAY OUT - 1973). It also helps that this film was directed by Fernando Di Leo, who many believe (myself included) to be the king of the Eurocrime genre, giving us MILANO CALIBRO 9 (1972), MANHUNT (1972), THE BOSS (1973), LOADED GUNS (1975), KIDNAP SYNDICATE (1975), BLOOD AND DIAMONDS (1975) and MADNESS (1980), as well as directing such non-Eurocrime fare as NAKED VIOLENCE (1969), SLAUGHTER HOTEL (1971; a personal favorite) and TO BE TWENTY (1978). I'm glad to report that this film lives up to Di Leo's reputation, as it is a thrilling flick with two great central performances, some excellent car chases (supplied by Remy Julienne and his crew of stunt drivers), graphic violence, nudity and an interesting story to tell, one that was common to police officials in Italy during the 1970's. In other words, a film made for Eurocrime fans.
     The film opens with crime boss Pascal (Raymond Pellegrin; A SPECIAL COP IN ACTION - 1976) and his goons interrupting a meeting with a smuggling outfit who are interested in listening to a Swiss smuggler, who is telling them that they will make more money with him rather than with Pascal, whom is their boss. After killing the lookout point blank with a machine gun, Pascal confronts his former smuggling outfit, telling them that this Swiss prick will not give them a better deal ("He's not me!") and takes the Swiss man away. He has his goons beat up the smuggling group and then shoot them all in the legs for trying to betray him! We then see Police Lt. Domenico Malacarne (Luc Merenda; TORSO - 1973) undercover as a gun smuggler, making a deal with two wise-ass Portuguese men, Rio (Elio Zamuto; HOW TO KILL A JUDGE - 1975) and Raba (Massimo Sarchielli; A MINUTE TO PRAY, A SECOND TO DIE - 1968) to drive a truck containing "cinderblocks" (a code word for hot guns). Domenico doesn't like the way these two men act, so he tells them he will think about it. While Domenico and his beautiful girlfriend Sandra (Delia Boccardo; HIGH CRIME - 1973) are having a bite to eat in a bistro, he notices some strange activity outside, so he goes to investigate. It turns out to be a jewelry store robbery, the robbers killing the owner as he runs outside and yells that he has been robbed. After a short foot chase, the main robber steals a car and speeds away, so Domenico hops in a car driven by his partner Garrito  (Rosario Borelli; DEATH RAGE - 1976) and gives chase (This is a long car chase, full of great stunts and filmed for maximum impact). It all ends when Garrito and the robber get into a game of chicken, Domenico telling his partner not to swerve and he doesn't, getting into a head-on collision, resulting in Domenico arresting the injured robber.
     Later that day, Domenico's superior, the Superintendent of Police (Gianni Santuccio; QUEENS OF EVIL - 1970) holds a press conference and praises Domenico for a job well done. Reporter Barbara (Monica Monet; SPASMO - 1974) wants to do a story on Domenico, but he refuses. He won't even let her cameraman take his picture, but, as we will learn later, there is a reason for that. He is doing something that is not legal and he doesn't need the exposure. After the press conference, Domenico meets his nameless father (Salvo Randone; MY DEAR KILLER - 1972), a sergeant at another police precinct (so I'll call him "Sgt. Malacarne"), outside in the police parking lot. He asks his father why he didn't attend the press conference and he says he didn't want to get in the way of his son, whom he believes is an excellent police officer. If he only knew! That night, Sandra tells Domenico that he treats her as a prostitute, only seeing her when he wants to have sex and he says that's not true, his job keeps him too busy to spend a lot of time with her, but that doesn't mean he does not care about her (the word "love' is not in his dictionary).
     We then find out just why Domenico is so busy. It turns out he is on the take, helping Pascal and his mouthpiece lawyer Mazzanti (Richard Conte; EVIL EYE - 1975) with their coffee and cigarette smuggling business (there was a huge black market for both in Italy at the time). He tells Pascal that he wants nothing to do with their gun and drug-smuggling businesses, but Pascal has a more pressing matter on his agenda. He wants Domenico to get him a report filed by a man called Esposito (Vittorio Caprioli; Di Leo's RULERS OF THE CITY - 1976), who wrote down the license plates of the car blocking the entrance to his house that his "associates" were driving, because, "Our friends don't like being noted down on a piece of paper." It turns out Esposito reported it to Domenico's father at his district in Santa Maria, but Domenico doesn't know it yet. Trying to get that report from his father is going to be more difficult than Domenico could ever imagine. It will turn out to be deadly. But before that happens, a group of school kids discover a body in a cement-filled oil drum, all they can see are three fingers sticking out of the dried cement. Could this be related to Pascal's problem? Damn right it is! We then discover that Garrito is also on the take, but Domenico makes him sell his Ferrari, because no cop should be able to afford such a car. If anyone were to discover he owns such a car, it would raise red flags. Garrito agrees to get rid of his car immediately.
     Domenico goes to his father's office and asks him for the report, but he won't let him walk away with it, telling Domenico it is already registered. Sgt. Malacarne tells his son not to worry, the report will be filed away and forgotten, because Esposito is a serial complainer; he comes to his office several times a week to complain about one thing or another, including troubles with his own cat! Domenico visits Esposito to see for himself and learns that the car that was blocking the entrance to his house had Swiss plates. Esposito explains, "The guy in the Swiss car was drunk because as he walked away the others were holding him up. I'm betting the guy was dead. They came back without the drunk and drove off. How do I know this? Because it was 7:30. At 7:30 I have to go out and get milk for my cat, because he likes milk at night." Domenico asks Esposito if he saw the plates for both cars and he says yes, the other car had Swiss plates, too, and the driver was wearing a polka dot bowtie and he was hefty. Domenico immediately knows that Esposito is describing Pascal, because he only wears bowties and he's a hefty man. When Domenico returns to his car, Pascal's transvestite goon, Gianmaria (Gino Milli; PROPERTY IS NO LONGER A THEFT - 1973), is waiting for him in his car, asking for the report. Domenico tells him not to worry, the report is buried in the police archives and no one will ever see it. This does not placate Pascal, who sends two goons to Esposito's house, where they suffocate him by putting a plastic bag over his head. They even kill Esposito's cat by putting it inside a plastic bag and sealing it up!
     The next day, Sgt. Malacarne phones his son and tells him to meet him at Esposito's house. Sgt. Malacarne is suspicious of his son for asking for Esposito's report the day before he is found dead, but he reasons that his son is such a great cop, the only reason he asked for the report was because he was working on a secret investigation. The look on Domenico's face tells a different story and his father immediately knows something is wrong, but he is not expecting what comes next. Domenico demands his father hand over the report, telling him to quit his job and to disappear for a few days, saying now that Esposito is dead, he is the only one who knows anything and it could be deadly for him if he stays put. Sgt. Malacarne is pissed, telling his son he won't obstruct justice, not even for his own son. Domenico tells him he's just trying to save his life; these "people" don't play around. Sgt. Malacarne then realizes that his son is an accomplice to murder and yells out, "Oh my God! It can't be!" Domenico retorts, "Stop weeping in your pillow! Don't make a big deal out of it. I'm corrupt. I'm a traitor. I've saved up 60 million (lire), I have a fancy girl and when I speak, everyone stands up!" His father can't believe his son sold out; getting paid to do illegal things, which goes against everything he believes in. Domenico tells his father to quit preaching to him, he seen what kind of life he has lead, "licking the shine off other people's shoes till their toes showed!" Domenico tries to make himself feel better saying he saw his father beat people to death to make his bosses happy, made up phony stories to convict people and has abused his power, telling his father that the only difference between them is that he gets paid to do the exact same things. Sgt. Malacarne gives his son a disappointing look and walks out of the room, Domenico yelling for him to turn his son in, if "they" let him live long enough. He will regret saying that.
     Pascal confronts Domenico at a party at an art gallery, demanding that the report be destroyed. A certain Countess Nevio (Marisa Traversi; FRANKENSTEIN '80 - 1972) from Switzerland has identified the body in the oil drum as that of her husband. It won't be long until the body will be connected to Pascal, which is why he needs the report destroyed. Domenico tells Pascal that the report will be delivered to him tonight, but it will cost him plenty of money to get it. Pascal agrees and Domenico phones his father and begs him for the report. Later that day, Sgt. Malacarne hands his son the report and tells him he can sell out if he wants, but he never wants to see him again; he is no longer his son, he's no better than a crook. Sgt. Malacarne walks out of the luxury apartment Domenico pays Sandra to live in and Sandra appears to comfort a hurt Domenico. While Sgt. Malacarne is sitting in a park nursing his emotional scars, Gianmaria sneaks up behind him and throws him to the ground, stepping on his head, putting it underwater at the edge of lake and killing him (We're not supposed to know it is Gianmaria, but it is quite obvious). This act of cowardice is all Domenico needs to finally change his stripes, but before he learns about his father's murder, he delivers the report to Pascal, who burns it in front of him as Domenico demand 20,000 lire for delivering it to him. Mazzanti tells him the money will be wired to his account tomorrow morning, but Pascal has no intent of paying him.
     As Domenico is making love to Sandra, the phone rings and it's Garrito. He tells Domenico to meet him at the park immediately, not telling him why. When Domenico arrives at the park and sees the dead body of his father, all he has on his mind is revenge, especially when he hears that a "lady" with long blonde hair was seen leaving the scene of the crime. He goes to Gianmaria's pad, beats up all of his strange friends and Gianmaria threatens Domenico with a switchblade, threatening to cut "handsome's" face. Domenico bangs Gianmaria's head against the wall repeatedly and when he falls to the floor, snaps the transvestite's neck with a twist of his feet. We then see two of Pascal's goons slapping the shit out of Sandra, then kneeing her it the face an strangling her with a phone cord (as she dies, all we hear is a busy tone on the phone's receiver). A bunch of Pascal's thugs then go after Domenico, trapping him in a liquor store. He phones Garrito and tells him to come immediately. When Garrito arrives, with another officer, Domenico jumps in the car and they head to Sandra's place. Domenico tells the officer to ring the doorbell on the back door (he knows something is wrong) and when the officer rings the doorbell, it explodes, killing the officer. Domenico and Garrito run inside and find Sandra dead on her bed. Domenico's Superintendent puts him on indefinite suspension for "health reasons. This leads to a short car chase between Pascal's head killer (Loris Bazzocchi; BLACK LEMONS - 1970) resulting in the killer's death. Mazzanti offers to set up Pascal for Domenico (after Pascal calls Mazzanti a "third-rate mouthpiece" who isn't worth killing) and they trap him in the basement of an abandoned building and Domenico shoots Pascal point-blank in the face. Just when you think it is all over, Garrito comes up behind Domenico and shoots him in the back of the head. THE END.
     This excellent Eurocrime film contains some terrific acting from Luc Merenda and Salvo Randone as father and son. Their scenes together pack an emotional wallop for the viewer, especially the sequence where father discovers his son is nothing but a crook. Luc Merenda is a hit-or-miss actor. When he is on target, his performances are quite extraordinary, such as here, but he sometimes phones-in a performance (Di Leo's NICK THE STING [1976] is a good example) and he is quite terrible. Thankfully, director/screenwriter Fernando Di Leo (Story by Sergio Donato; WEEKEND MURDERS - 1970) knows Merenda's limitations, using him in several of his films, giving him meaty roles he can chew on and making his performances award-worthy and memorable (all except NICK, which is a rare Di Leo loser). The two car chases here may not be in the same league as THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971; although there are many similarities between the two films), but stunt coordinator/driver extraordinaire Remy Julienne gives the chases enough energy to make them stand out from most films in this genre (but still not as good as the one in STRANGE SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM - 1976, which Julienne also coordinated). The plot to this film follows closely to the way it was in the Italian police forces during the time. Most police officials were on the take. Being a police officer and taking graft from criminals was considered normal until a major crackdown got most of these officials shitcanned, but it wouldn't be until nearly a decade later until it happened. This was one of the major reasons why law and order in Italy was in such dire shape during most of the '70s (mirroring the police force in New York City at the time), which is the reason why the Eurocrime genre was created. The genre basically told the Italian justice system that they knew what was really going on and calling them on it, even if people in other countries never understood the reasons, preferring to enjoy the films as just pure entertainment. But, believe me, there were valid reasons why these films were being cranked out. Today we look at them as action thrillers, but, back in the day, they were a reflection on Italian society and the blind eye people turned to the law and order/justice system. In other words, these films had a different meaning back in the '70s than they do today. History lesson over. Try to see how many times you can count the J&B Scotch bottles, as it appears (in all sizes) scattered throughout the film. This film swims in the stuff! There is also some pretty graphic violence in the film, especially Domenico's death, which comes as quite the shock. There is also some female nudity in the film, but not as much as normal for a film in this genre. Still, this is a recommended delight for fans of Eurocrime, thanks to the acting and non-stop action.
     Shot as IL POLIZIO E MARCO ("The Policeman Is Rotten"), this film did get a limited U.S. theatrical release (I found a poster, but no releasing company information available), but no U.S. VHS release. It made its first appearance on U.S. home video as a stand alone DVD from Raro Video, who later put it in a box set titled FERNANDO DI LEO: THE ITALIAN CRIME COLLECTION VOL. 2. It is also available streaming on Amazon Prime in two versions: The original Italian with English subtitles or English dubbed. Finding both versions on Prime may prove to be difficult, but it is not impossible if you are diligent enough (I just wish they would make it easier than they do!). I always prefer the original language, but I'm glad to report that the English dubbed version is an almost exact mirror of the Italian language version, which is very rare. Also featuring Salvatore Billa (WEREWOLF WOMAN - 1976), Attilio Duse (THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW - 1978), Marcello Di Falco (CALIGULA - 1979) and Sergio Ammirata (LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN - 1976) as Officer Curcetti, who is not much of a cop, but is a terrific brownnoser to the Superintendent. Not Rated.

THE SIEGE OF FIREBASE GLORIA (1988) - Excellent Philippines-lensed war actioner that takes place in South Vietnam just before the January 1968 Tet Offensive. A platoon of American Marines, led by Sgt. Maj. Hafner (R. Lee Ermey, who also narrates) and Cpl. Dinardo (Wings Hauser), enter a friendly village only to discover everyone, except for a lone young boy, have been savagely slaughtered by the Vietcong (We are treated to sights of heads on sticks, dead naked raped women in huts and bodies of murdered children piled on top of each other like cords of firewood). Unnerved on what he has just witnessed, Hafner orders his men to burn the village down, bodies and all (the platoon were friendly with the villagers), before they grab the boy and move on. As they are traveling through the jungle, the platoon stumbles across two gooks guarding a cave. After killing the two enemy soldiers, Hafner discovers an injured American soldier (Richard Kuhlman) in the cave. He has been held as a POW for so long, he can't remember his name, so Hafner nicknames him "Ghost". After killing over 20 Vietcong at a riverbank, Hafner and his motley group are picked up by helicopter, only to be shot down just as they make it to a remote American jungle outpost called Firebase Gloria. Hafner and Dinardo discover that the outpost's commanding officer, Capt. Williams (John Calvin; PRIMARY TARGET - 1988), is nothing but an opium-smoking, brain-dead basketcase (He greets Hafner and Dinardo in the nude while babbling about the perfect tits of some centerfold model!), so they frag his ass (they don't kill him, just blow him up a little!) so Hafner can take over commanding the outpost. It's a good thing, too, because a regiment of VC soldiers, commanded by Col. Cao Van (Robert Arevalo), is about to assault Firebase Gloria as part of the Tet Offensive, in which Vietcong soldiers all across South Vietnam lay a massive assault against all American military bases, outposts and embassies. Greatly outnumbered and with limited help on the way, Hafner and his men must endure wave after wave of enemy VC soldiers as they try to defend the outpost and their lives. As the battles get bloodier and the losses pile up on both sides (there's a particularly bloody attack by the enemy on the outpost's hospital), we discover that there are no real superheroes in war, just flesh and blood human beings that are capable of heroic deeds. Still, no matter how heroic you are, you can't outrace a bullet if your name is written on it.  This is an unheralded, low-budget masterpiece about a portion of the Vietnam War where both Americans and the Vietcong suffered their greatest amount of casualties (all in a period of about four months). Director Brian Trenchard-Smith (THE MAN FROM HONG KONG - 1975; STUNT ROCK - 1978; DAY OF THE PANTHER - 1987), working with a literate script by William Nagle and Tony Johnston, offers a fair and balanced portrayal of both sides of the war, allowing the viewer to witness the brutality and viewpoints from both the Americans and Vietcong. Surprisingly, Trenchard-Smith portrays some of the American soldiers, especially Wing Hauser's (DEAD MAN WALKING - 1987; WATCHERS III - 1994) Dinardo, as capable of performing brutal acts of savagery, such as when he orders his men to kill all the wounded VC laying in a field after their first unsuccessful assault on the outpost (he can't be bothered with dealing with wounded POWs) or his painful interrogation of a wounded VC soldier (whom he kills after extracting the information he needed). The plight of the young Vietnamese boy, who is protected by Dinardo (the boy is the only aspect of the war that keeps Dinardo from going completely bonkers and proves to be his Achilles' heel), is the perfect metaphor of the horrors of war. His fate in the finale is realistic and uncertain, as Col. Cao Van "rescues" him from the Americans and he ends up in the arms of the very same person responsible for giving the orders to kill his parents in the first place. Here, the VC soldiers aren't the faceless demons most war actioners paint them to be. They have the same personal lives and follow the same orders the Americans do. Still, this film wouldn't be half as good as it is if it weren't for the excellent performance and authoritative narration by R. Lee Ermey (FULL METAL JACKET - 1987; THE TERROR WITHIN II - 1990). He adds an air of authenticity (even during the midst of an all-out assault, he still finds the time to reprimand a helicopter pilot for not shaving!) and grace that may have otherwise been lost by a lesser actor. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of bloody violence and carnage on view (the early sights of the village slaughter; two VC women getting blown to smithereens; the final assault of the outpost), but there's an emotional core that's usually not found in low-budget films of this type (the uneasy professional and personal relationship between Hafner and Dinardo is highly emotional). A must-see. Also starring Albert Popwell, Mark Neely, Gary Hershberger, Clyde R. Jones, Margi Gerard, Erich Hauser, Dan Austin, Henry Strzalkowski and Nick Nicholson as a pot-smoking combat photographer. Second Unit Director and Film Editor Andrew Prowse went on to direct DEMONSTONE (1989), also starring Ermey. THE SIEGE OF FIREBASE GLORIA was originally released on VHS by Fries Home Video and on fullscreen laserdisc by Image Entertainment. In 2001, it was offered on VHS by MGM Home Video as an "exclusive" and has yet to be released on DVD. Rated R.

SILK (1986) - Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago strikes again. Cec Verrell (HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN - 1987; TRANSFORMATIONS - 1988) stars as beautiful no-nonsense cop Jenny "Silk" Sleighton, who we first see chasing and killing four theives, two who jump on a moving train with Silk close behind. The next time we see her, she's breaking up a drug deal between seller Frampton (Mike Monty) and buyer Carnahan (David Light). Silk shoots and kills Frampton (she doesn't believe in taking prisoners), but Carnahan gets away. Silk and fellow detective Tom Stevens (Bill McLaughlin) go to court to watch a criminal named Haskell (Don Gordon Bell) be prosecuted for murder, but when a key witness refuses to identify him, a mistrial is called and Haskell is released. Stevens is devastated because a conviction meant his appointment for Councilman would have been sealed, but Silk gets his mind off it by making sweet love to him. Carnahan's boss, Austin (Peter Shilton), threatens to kill him for dealing drugs (Carnahan was freelancing the drug deal, which jeopardizes Austin's business of creating new identities for violent criminals), but Carnahan has a list of all Austin's clients, which he threatens to use if harm should come to him and it saves him from being killed (for now). Silk and Detective Yashi (Joe Mari Avellana) are assigned  to a case of a murdered body found at the banks of a lake and the more they investigate, the closer they get to Austin. Silk has a more important problem, though. It seems someone is murdering criminals who have recently escaped justice on technicalities. The killer not only murders them, he also cuts-off one of their ears as trophies and the deeper Silk digs into the cases, the more it looks like her lover Tom is responsible. When Carnahan is killed by two men, his girlfriend turns over the list to Silk. Tom is there, too, and when he sees the names on the list  and hears a description of Carnahan's killers, he knows it's two old Nam buddies of his, Tyler (Nick Nicholson) and Vernon (Ronnie Patterson), who are now on Austin's payroll. Tom really can't do anything about it since he's also a killer and they know it (Tom use to cut the ears off his gook victims back in Vietnam). As Silk begins interviewing the people on the list, Austin orders a hit on her. Silk has to find a way to stay alive, bring Austin down and deal with her lover being a cold-blooded killer.  Set in Honolulu, Hawaii, but filmed in the Philippines (it's all those Filipino extras that give it away), SILK has a fairly complicated plot for a Cirio H. Santiago film. The script, by Frederick Bailey (who also co-stars as Detective Brown), juggles several plots at once and manages to generate some real suspense, even if it's hard to keep score sometimes. Cec Verrell (who has the same facial features and stark blue eyes as Meg Foster) is steely cool as Silk (When Austin says to her, "I don't know why they call you Silk.", she shoots back, "Because I'm so fucking smooth!"), who would rather shoot and ask questions later. Everyone she comes up against ends up dead (whether it be by pistol, shotgun or flaming car wreck) and the only time she actually shoots to wound, she ends up being taken hostage. Director/producer Santiago turned out dozens of these little actioners during the 80's (see reviews for FINAL MISSION [1984] and THE DEVASTATOR [1985]). Most of them were forgettable war actioners (EYE OF THE EAGLE - 1987; NAM ANGELS - 1988), but every once in a while, he was capable of churning-out something halfway decent and watchable like this. Make no mistake, this is low-budget stuff, but Santiago is a professional who knows how to squeeze the most out of a meager budget. SILK's 83 minutes fly by quickly, as there are gunfights, car chases and explosions galore, not to mention a cameo by Filipino staple Vic Diaz (we actually get to hear his real voice here, as he is usually dubbed by someone else). Santiago made a sequel, titled appropriately enough SILK 2 (1989), which unfortunately did not star Cec Verrell. Instead, Monique Gabrielle (ANGEL EYES - 1993) took over the role. Also starring Henry Strzalkowski, Rex Cutter, Joseph Zucchero and Joonie Gamboa. Released on VHS in the mid-80's by MGM/UA Home Video and still awaiting a DVD release. Now available on uncut Blu-Ray from Code Red as a Screen Archives exclusive. Rated R.

SILK 2 (1989) - In this sequel to 1986's SILK, police detective Jenny 'Silk' Sleighton (Monique Gabrielle, replacing the original film's Cec Verrell) and partner Sgt. Chris Meadows (Bon Vibar) are first seen assaulting a group of Palestine terrorists that have taken over the Israeli Embassy in Honolulu, Hawaii. When one of the terrorists shoots one of their hostages in the back of the head (we see the bullet exit out of the front of the head, blowing out the poor guy's eye socket), Silk and Chris enter the building and quickly kill the terrorists (Silk's weapon of choice is a sawed-off shotgun) before any more hostages are harmed. Crooked museum owner Hancock Gish (Jan Merlin) sets up a fake robbery where he has his men switch a briefcase containing the "Four Scrolls Of The Temple Of Immortality", valuable ancient Japanese artifacts that were supposed to be on loan to Gish's museum. Gish hangs the four phoney scrolls in his museum thinking no one will be the wiser (he intends on keeping the originals and collecting the insurance money when he has the fake ones destroyed in an explosion), but when art expert Tony (Peter Nelson) spots them as fakes, the shit hits the fan. Tony calls Japanese art collector Kashi Hashimura (Joe Mari Avellana) and tells him about the fakes. Kashi contacts his old friend Chris, tells him about the fake scrolls and asks Chris to investigate. Chris, who is about to retire from the force, begins digging into the theft on his own time and nearly gets killed by two of Gish's goons, Trent (Robert Ginnivan) and Dodge (Jim Moss).  Chris needs help, so he informs Silk what is going on and they follow Trent and Dodge onto a boat, where Chris is wounded and taken prisoner and Chris has to jump overboard to escape, but not before she grabs one of the real scrolls. Silk's superior, Captain Henry Sharp (Ken Metcalfe), tells her that she is off the case, but we know better, don't we? When one of Gish's goons tries to kill Silk while she is taking a shower, she is forced to kill him (Gratuitous exposed breasts kung-fu alert!). When an exchange of Chris for the scroll goes horribly wrong and Chris is stabbed to death by Trent, Silk grants Chris' dying request and travels to the island of Kona to return the scroll to Kashi, where she meets Tony and a young woman named Holly (Maria Claire), who will both play an important role in Silk's life in the next few days. Trent and Dodge try their best to kill Silk and retrieve the scroll, but she is always on the ball. Gish kidnaps Tony and Kashi in the finale and plans to blow them up, along with his museum and the fake scrolls and collect his insurance money, framing Tony and Kashi as terrorists. Silk and Holly show up in the nick of time and save the day, retrieving the real scrolls, rescuing Tony and killing Trent, while Kashi restrains Gish as they both blow up in the explosion.  Those expecting the same fun experience as the first film are bound to be disappointed because returning director Cirio H. Santiago cast the wrong woman in the leading role. Monique Gabrielle (ANGEL EYES - 1993) may look great naked (she has a couple of nude scenes, including a really blurry slow-motion sex scene with Tony), but she's not much of an actress. Her monotone line readings are simply awful and hamper the film's overall effectiveness. She's a major distraction. Santiago offers a bit of major gore in the beginning of the film, but unfortunately fails to follow through, as the rest of the film is relatively blood-free and predictable (script by Robert King, who also wrote the screenplays to the creepy horror film THE NEST [1987] and the martial arts actioner BLOODFIST [1989]). While there are a few gunfights, martial arts sequences and car chases, it by no means measures-up to Santiago's usual action standards. Even the big explosion in the finale is an obvious miniature and there is a severe shortage of Santiago's usual overabundant use of bloody bullet squibs. This 76 minute flick is pretty terrible and I am usually very forgiving when it comes to Santiago's films. Skip this and watch the original instead. Also starring Henry Strzalkowski, Jeff Griffith, Archie Ramirez, David Light and Joseph Zucchero. Available on VHS from MGM/UA Home Video and not yet on DVD. Rated R.

SKELETON COAST (1987) - Anyone who doesn't like Ernest Borgnine doesn't like great actors in my book and here's a rare 80's action film where Borgnine carries most of the film on his broad shoulders. This film opens in Angola, where CIA agent Michael Smith (Jonathan Rands) is taken prisoner at a rebel camp by the soldiers of mean Angola-backed crime lord Major Schneider (Robert Vaughn). Michael happens to be the son of Colonel Bill Smith (Borgnine), who gets information on where his son is being held by corrupt Angolan official Elia (Herbert Lom in a small cameo; both Lom and Borgnine were born in 1917 and both passed away in 2012), in which Bill pays Elia $100,000 in counterfeit bills (!) to get the information. When Elia finds out the money is counterfeit, he nearly blows a gasket and sends Diamond Security head Captain David Simpson (Oliver Reed in a five minute cameo) to stop Bill from rescuing his son. Meanwhile, Bill is putting together a mercenary team together to rescue his son. He hires friend Rick Weston (Daniel Greene; HANDS OF STEEL - 1986) to put together a merc team. The team consists of Bill, Rick, Chuck (Leon Isaac Kennedy; FIGHTING MAD - 1978), Tohsiro (Peter Kwong; BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA - 1986), Blade (Arnold Vosloo; THE MUMMY - 1999), Armando (Tulio Moneta; RED SCORPION - 1989), Robbins (Larry Taylor; MISTER DEATHMAN - 1977) and Sam (Nancy Mulford; THE REVENGER - 1990), the only female of the group (Bill first spots her naked in a makeshift shower stall in the desert), each one of them a specialist in their own field of expertise (Vosloo and Mulford married after meeting on this film). They take four vehicles into the desert (Bill says that they are doing this just in case one of their vehicles gets destroyed by the enemy, not all of them will die. Good thinking!) as they head to Major Schneider's compound and almost immediately they are attacked by a cackling Captain Simpson, who blows the hell out of Bill and his merc's four vehicles with a tank, but leaves them all alive to die in the desert (We never see Oliver Reed again. He probably did this cameo for some booze money.). Luckily for Bill and his new friends, they noticed a plane a few miles back and make a trek to it, where they discover it is owned by a drug smuggler and when Bill tries to buy the plane (with more counterfeit money!), a shootout occurs, where Bill and his gang kill the drug smuggler and his gang. They also discover a satchel of diamonds, and they divvy them up equally among each other (eight diamonds each, each bundle worth about $500,000). They take off in the plane en route to their destination, when their plane is shot down by rebel leader Sekassi (Simon Sabela) and his band of rebels (pretty good plane destruction scene for such a low budget affair). Bill and his gang are taken prisoner, only to discover that Sekassi is Bill's friend. Sekassi agrees to help Bill and his team attack Major Schneider's compound, but they are lacking in weapons. Bill unselfishly gives Sekassi his eight diamonds, which Sekassi says will equip his band of rebels with all the weapons they need. Bill and his mercs enter the compound under the guise of inspecting the compound from the President of Angola's orders and at first their ruse works and Bill finds his son naked and lying on the floor of a dirty, hay-filled cell (Borgnine does a great acting job here when he looks at the state of his son and tries to hide his emotions from the rest of the group, but all of them feel for him.). As Bill rescues his son, Sekassi and his rebels begin bombing the hell out of the compound to cause a diversion, but Major Schneider captures Sam and tells the rest of Bill's group to drop their weapons, which they do. This is now where the group of merc's show off each of their specialties, as Blade begins slicing and dicing the enemy, Toshiro uses his martial arts training to beat the snot out of his opponents and Bill and his gang pick up the guns and begin shooting, killing Major Schneider (and picking up a briefcase), but not without some of them getting shot in the process. Bill still uses his guise as an Angolan official to get some of the enemy to help him move his son and some of the injured mercs out of the compound! When Bill has no way of making it back to civilization with his injured son, Sekassi has one more trick up his sleeve: He gives Bill and his gang a vintage 1930's Rolls Royce (!) so they can leave the country in style and make it back to freedom. As they are traveling, Bill stops the car to see what is in the briefcase. It is full of diamonds, millions and millions of dollars worth and Bill wonders whether he should go back to Sekassi and deliver them to him. The final shot shows him saying "What the hell!" as he puts his hand in the mound of diamonds and throws them up in the air, to the cheers of the mercs and his son. That is where the film ends.  While no big shakes as an action film, you can't help but enjoy Ernest Borgnine (who was 70 at the time, but looked like he was in his late 40's), who is in 95% of the scenes of this film. And he looks like he is having the time of his life, which translates well to the viewer's enjoyment of the film. Director/actor John 'Bud" Cardos (KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS - 1977; THE DARK - 1979; THE DAY TIME ENDED - 1979; MUTANT - 1984) keeps things nice and loose and the chemistry between Borgnine and his merc friends seems natural and not forced. There are plenty of gunfights and explosions to keep most action films happy, but if you are a fan of the late Ernest Borgnine (like I am), this film is a must because it is one of his biggest roles in the latter part of his career (when Bornine passed away at the age of 95, you could swear that he was no older than 70) and he kills it here. He has no problem blowing the bad guys away, while also showing sympathy to his crew and his son (He keeps asking everyone if they are OK, like he is father to them all). SKELETON COAST is not a high budget affair, but it is quite enjoyable for what it is. You should have a good time with it. Also starring Robin Townsend, Rudi De Jager, Anthony Wilson, Joe Ribiero and Nigel Kane. Nadia Caillou's screenplay (her only one) is based on a story by Harry Alan Towers (as "Peter Welbeck"), who was also this film's Producer. Filmed on location in Nambia. A Nelson Entertainment VHS Release. Also released on a supremely bad DVD from Troma Films, but you would be better off finding the VHS, It looks so much better. Rated R.

SLASH (1984) - Peter "Slash" Harris (Romano Kristoff; NINJA'S FORCE - 1984) is a Vietnam War hero who we first see saving his platoon from enemy gunfire. When The United States decides they've had enough and decide to pull out of Vietnam, CIA agent Major Andrew Scott (Mike Monty; PHANTOM RAIDERS - 1988) orders his second-in-command, Bruce Grant (Paul Vance; NINJA WARRIORS - 1985), to destroy all the top secret documents before he pulls out of Cambodia. As Bruce races to the office to destroy the papers, he finds the safe empty and the documents missing, as they were already taken by Major Scott and his assistant Barbara (Gwenn Hung) a few minutes before he arrived. Major Scott and Barbara flee in a Jeep with the papers with three MP bodyguards, but they end up driving into the middle of a heated battle. Major Scott is ejected from the Jeep before it explodes, killing the MPs and Barbara ends up missing with the briefcase full of top-secret documents. Major Scott ends up in the hospital minus a leg, yet he still wants to find Barbara and the documents. He hires old friend Slash to find Barbara, but first Slash saves Major Scott from a kidnap attempt in the hospital. Barbara, it turns out, is the wife of a Vietnamese General (Patrick Lee), who knows that she and Major Scott are father and daughter (Slash has not been made aware of this fact yet), so Slash and his small group of commandos (which includes Filipino staple Nick Nicholson) now have two reasons to bring Barbara back alive. As Slash and his squad traverse the jungle, they stop a gang rape of a village girl by a bunch of VC soldiers (which leads to a nifty slow-motion bridge explosion) and then locate the enemy camp where Barbara is being held (she's tied spread-eagle to some bamboo poles). Slash saves her under the cover of darkness, but loses the rest of his squad in the process, so now Slash and Barbara, who is in a drugged-out stupor ("I want morphine!"), must locate the hidden briefcase and make it to safety while a squad of enemy soldiers dog their every move. Luckily, Slash has this incredible weapon, that's one part radio, one part laser telescope and one part rocket launcher, to keep the enemy at bay. With the briefcase in his hands, Slash reunites Barbara with her father, but her dastardly General husband has other plans. He takes all three of them captive when the briefcase turns up empty. The finale reveals who the real traitor is, yet Slash gives him a chance to decide the eventual outcome. Heroes may shed no tears, but they still can act humane.  This Filipino war actioner, directed by Jun Gallardo (RESCUE TEAM - 1983; COMMANDO INVASION - 1986; SFX RETALIATOR - 1987) under the pseudonym "John Gale" and written by co-star Paul Vance (as "Paul Van") and Rod Davis, leaves a lot of questions unanswered (The biggest one being: Why would Major Scott tell Bruce to destroy the documents if he already knew that Barbara was taking them out of the safe? It only makes sense if Major Scott is a bad guy, but, as the film proves, he's not.), but it does have some entertaining moments and violent scenes, especially Slash destroying the enemy camp in the finale with his rocket launcher thingamajig. There are a few "What The Fuck?!?" moments, such as when Slash sneaks into an enemy hospital to steal morphine for Barbara's fix and ends up getting the hospital, doctors and injured patients blown-up in the process. When he injects Barbara with the morphine, she says to Slash, "You got me just in time!" and proceeds to act like a non-junkie for the rest of the film! The unbelievable ending, where Slash lets the traitorous Bruce commit suicide after promising to destroy photos showing Bruce screwing a whore ("Think of the embarrassment it will cause my family!"), will have you shaking your head in disbelief. Bruce acts more ashamed that he got caught with a whore than betraying an entire nation! SLASH is another winner from (uncredited) producer K.Y. Lim and his Silver Star Film Company that's low in horse sense but high in entertainment value (I dare you not to laugh when the bare-chested Slash screams out the General's name on two separate occasions. They are both classic scenes of overstatement.). Also known as RANGER. Also starring Ronnie Patterson, Jim Fisher, Peter Vernon, Roger Duff, Tony Loy, Richard Feist and Benny Randall. As usual, this film never received a legitimate U.S. home video release. The print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. SLASH is now available streaming on Amazon Prime. Not Rated.

SO DARLING, SO DEADLY (1966) - This Germany/Italy/France co-production is the third film in the Kommissar X series (1966 - 1971) of comical and action-packed Eurospy films. Agent Jo Walker (Tony Kendall; RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD - 1973), code named "Kommisar X" and his exasperated partner, Captain Tom Rowland (Brad Harris; ZAMBO, KING OF THE JUNGLE - 1972) are called to Singapore (filmed on location) for some unknown business. All they know is someone code named "Apollo" is supposed to contact them when they check into their hotel and will fill them in on why they are there.
     As soon as they step off the plane, we can see that the bad guys know they are there, because the plane explodes just after they disembark (It looks as if they actually blew-up a jetliner. I know that is not in the budget, but the explosion is spectacular!). Leaving the airport in a taxi, Jo and Tom are shot at by two thugs who are following them, Jo throwing a smoking cigar box (!) at their car, forcing the bad guys to crash their car into a tree (Some fat local on a bicycle taxi picks up the cigar box, smokes a lit cigarette inside it and then tosses the box to the bad guys! Why? I don't know, but it is sure as hell funny!). Jo, who is irresistable to women (a running gag in the series), gets a phone call from an unknown man, who tells him to hop on the next plane to New York City and get out of Singapore, if he knows what's good for him, just before an assassin takes a shot at him through his hotel room window. Jo stops the bullet with his bulletproof briefcase and gets into a fistfight with the assassin, killing him. Meanwhile, Tom goes water skiing and he notices that the guy piloting the speed boat is trying to kill him. Tom plays possum in the water and then beats up the guy, asking him who sent him. Before he can get an answer, a sniper kills the guy and we then find out that Tom has a gun hidden in his bathing suit! (I would ask where he hid it, but I really don't want to know!). We then discover that Apollo is actually Sybille (Barbara Frey), the daughter of Professor Akron (E.F. Fürbringer; THE PUZZLE OF THE RED ORCHID - 1961), who has created a "filter" that can turn a laser into a deadly weapon, able to knock-out the electrical system of any plane in flight (Why would a good scientist invent something like this? I guess so the bad guys can try to steal it!). Sybille wants Jo and Tom to protect her father and the filter until he unveils it at a conference later in the month. Jo and Tom hop on a train to meet Sybille and fight a car full of bad guys, easily winning. Sybille takes them to meet her father, where we find out that the professor's near-deaf servant, Lapore (M. Ojatirato), is working for the bad guys and has bugged the Professor's home.
     The head of the criminal organization, Li Hu Wang (Nikola Popovic), orders his best assassin, Stella (Gisela Hahn; CONTAMINATION - 1980), to kill Lapore (He's afraid Lapore will talk, but how can he talk when he is stone-cold deaf??? What could he have possibly heard?) and steal the filter, killing anyone who stands in her way. Jo and Tom learn of Lapore's treachery and chase him through the streets of Singapore. Lapore thinks he has gotten away, but Stella sees him and says, "Pray Lapore!", before killing him with a speargun bolt to his back. Jo and Tom chase Stella and she disappears into a tour group. Jo meets another female assassin called Selena (Margaret Rose Keil;  THE BIG BUST-OUT - 1972, also starring Kendall) and she instantly falls in love with him, but Jo tells her he is too busy to pay attention to her and that he will see her later (He usually finds time for the ladies!). Sybille drives Tom And Jo back to their hotel, so they can get their bags, but she is kidnapped by two male goons on Li Hu Wang's payroll. Wang calls up Professor Akron, telling him that if he wants his daughter back alive, he better hand off the filter to him. Jo and Tom, unaware on what is going on, meet Selena and another woman in the hotel lounge, where they dance the frug (!). Selena tells Jo that she is going to avenge the death of her fiance, who was murdered by Li Hu Wang, but she dies in Jo's arms, the apparent victim of a poisoning. A local police inspector tells Jo not to leave the hotel until he can get to the bottom of Selena's death.
     The Professor phones Jo, telling him that Sybille was kidnapped. Jo tells the Professor not to hand over the filter, as he will rescue his daughter (Jo always gets his woman!). Jo then goes undercover as "Mr. Hamilton", a seller of a large quantities of bananas (!) and goes to Li Hu Wang's headquarters, which is also the base of operations of his criminal empire. Jo and Tom fall victim to one of Wang's booby traps, where they fall though a trap door and an elevator descends, threatening to crush them. The quick-tinking Jo saves both their hides (He hops inside the elevator, saying "Going up!"). Tom hears the words "Golden Dragon" being spoken and Jo knows where they have to go. They escape Wang's hideout and another attempt on their lives by Stella and head to a transport ship called "The Golden Dragon", but Wang's thugs and Stella are waiting for them. Another fistfight erupts (Brad Harris was fight and action choreographer on all the films in the series) and Jo rescues Sybille, but the pier catches on fire. Jo grabs a high-pressure fire hose and foils Stella and the thugs attempt on their lives. Jo, Tom and Sybille then go to the Professor's house, but he's not there, he went to Wang to turn over the filter. Wang has Stella shot dead for not stopping Jo and Tom and our duo head to Wang's hideout for a final confrontation. How do you think it is going to turn out? In another fistfight and plenty of explosions, I guess!
     Though not nearly as entertaining as ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS (1969), the sixth, and penultimate, entry in the series, it is still good for a few laughs if you leave your brain at the door and just go along for the far-fetched ride. Director/co-screenwriter Gianfranco Parolini (YETI: GIANT OF THE 20TH CENTURY - 1977; THE SECRET OF THE INCAS' EMPIRE - 1987), using his "Frank Kramer" pseudonym, uses the Singapore  locations to good effect (rather than using stock footage, Parolini puts the actors in the middle of the travelogue footage, giving the film a skewered sense of reality) and Tony Kendall's easy-going performance lifts this film a couple of notches above most Eurospy fare. Brad Harris has precious little to do here, besides fighting, water skiing and looking puzzled at Jo's actions. They do make a good team, if only in the way they play off each other. It seems natural, not forced. Case in point is the film's finale, where Tom tries to pull away a case from Jo, which is set to explode. When Tom finally gets the case and throws it away, Jo refuses to believe him, even when the case eventually explodes. Instead of apologising to Tom, Jo hops on a helicopter and leaves without him! All Tom can do is smile, knowing that Jo will eventually return for him. That is what makes this series so memorable. They make believe they don't care, but they save each other's skin time and time again. While only a Grade B example of the James Bond films, this is still an enjoyable slice of Eurospy nonsense. Nothing more, nothing less.
     Filmed as KOMMISSAR X - IN DEN KLAUEN DES GOLDENEN DRACHEN ("Commissioner X - In The Clutches Of The Golden Dragon") and also known as AGENT JOE WALKER: OPERATION FAR EAST (it played on TV during the late-'60s & early-'70s using this title, before disappearing), this film never had a legitimate VHS release, only appearing on tape in the early-'90s from Something Weird Video and, later, from Sinister Cinema). Sinister Cinema then transferred the film to DVD-R (along with the other six films in the series) and the only legitimate pressed DVD release it received was a triple feature of Kommissar X films from Retromedia Entertainment (which is long OOP). I saw this for free on Retomedia's streaming site, Retromedia TV. The print is fullscreen, cutting off important information on the sides of the image, but it is serviceable until something better comes along, but I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for it to happen, as Eurospy flicks are not that popular in the United States. Also starring Luisa Rivelli (LIGHTNING BOLT - 1966), Giuseppe 'Pino' Mattei (THE FLOWER WITH THE DEADLY STING - 1973), Jacques Bezard, Carlo Tamberlani (MINOTAUR, THE WILD BEAST OF CRETE - 1961) and Gianfranco Parolini (using the name "Frank Littleword") as Rex. Not Rated.

SPYDER (1988) - Millionaire industrialist Roderick Pendleton (Paul Holme; ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING - 2007) lost his son Kevin when he was shot down while flying a mission over Vietnam in 1965. Pendleton never gave up hope that his son is still alive, so he hires a guy named Sid Friedkin (Michael Vlastas) to train a bunch of mercenaries on his Hawaiian estate to rescue his son if he is still alive (they stage a phony raid on a fake POW camp, using illegal immigrants as the VC and firing live rounds, killing them all!). To milk even more money out of Pendleton, conniving Friedman hires junkie Jeffrey Stokes (Derek Williams) to pretend to be a rescued POW (he is actually an Army deserter) that spent time in the same prison camp as Kevin, falsely verifying to Pendleton that his son is still alive. Pendleton falls for the ruse hook, line and sinker and gives carte blanche to Friedkin to spend whatever it takes for a rescue attempt. The only problem is that Jeffrey figures out that he's about to be murdered by Friedkin's mercenaries and escapes, so he must be found and killed before he can spill the beans to Pendleton. We then switch to Los Angeles, where cop buddies Lee Stokes (Ronald William Lawrence; EYE OF THE EAGLE 2 - 1989), Jeffrey's younger brother, and Brad Spyder (Blake Bahner; LETHAL PURSUIT - 1988) break up a major drug deal. After a short car chase and shoot-out, Stokes is shot in the leg and Spyder tosses a crooked ambassador's son off the roof of a highrise building. After being chewed-out by his Captain (John Dulaney), Spyder heads to Stokes' house, only to find out from his wife Nancy (Meski Gelahun) that he is heading to Hawaii after getting a frantic phone call from Jeffrey, who everyone thought died in Vietnam. Spyder catches up with his partner at the airport, but Lee tells him to mind his own business. We know that's not gonna happen. Jeffrey is being hunted down by Friedkin's head goon Ed Skinner (Gary Rooney), who kills both Jeffrey and Lee in a hotel room shootout and plants half a kilo of heroin in Lee's room to make it look like a drug deal gone wrong. Of course, Spyder doesn't buy it and heads to Hawaii, where he has to deal with hard-ass Police Chief Bill Akida (a badly-dubbed Vic Diaz), who makes Spyder's investigation more difficult than it has to be. Friendly uniform cop Ted Kanaka (Henry Strzalkowski) helps Spyder in his investigation, which leads him to Jeffrey's drug dealer Weasel (Louie Del Castillo), who informs Spyder (after some "friendly" persuasion) that all roads lead to Roderick Pendleton. Spyder confronts Pendleton and his daughter Karen (Roxanne Baird) and learns to whole sordid story about Kevin. As Spyder starts piecing the puzzle together, attempts are made on his life (Kanaka is killed by a bomb planted in Spyder's hotel room) and he is nearly killed by Skinner. Spyder joins forces with Karen when her father is kidnapped by Friedkin and Skinner and held for $5 million in ransom. In the finale, Spyder and Skinner have a bare-knuckle fight to the death, while Friedkin shoots it out with the cops after callously killing Karen. With nothing left to live for, Pendleton flies a helicopter into a building, killing Friedkin and putting an end to this whole sordid affair.  This is a fast-paced, but horrifically acted, Filipino actioner, Executive Produced by the late Cirio H. Santiago (his son Christopher was Associate Producer here) and directed by frequent Santiago actor/collaborator Joe Mari Avellana (FIST OF GLORY - 1991). The action scenes are well-choreographed and bloody (especially the hotel shootout), but the film is nearly ruined by the non-acting talents of Blake Bahner (a martial artist-turned-actor who had a very short film career) and Roxanne Baird, who are just simply awful (They keep stepping on everyone's lines and the dialogue scenes have a "one-take" feel). The screenplay, by Steve Rogers (SUDDEN THUNDER - 1990; TRIPLE IMPACT - 1992), is fairly complex for a cheap actioner, but the lead actors are unable to pull it off convincingly. While watching this film, a severe case of déjà vu overwhelmed me, until I realized that I already saw much of this footage in a later film called BLACK BELT II: FATAL FORCE (1993). Executive Produced by Roger Corman (in true cost-cutting fashion), BLACK BELT II is nothing but a slightly-edited version of SPYDER (which never had a U.S. home video release) with some newly-shot wraparound footage directed by Kevin Tent (a respected film editor who also directed new scenes for Corman's piecemeal film ULTRA WARRIOR [1990], one of the worst examples of re-use of film clips from several Concorde films to make a "new" film). SPYDER is a violent, blood-soaked film, but, technically, it is very sloppy, as are the production values. This has the look and feel of a porn film, with acting to match. American expatriate actor Nick Nicholson puts in a cameo as a bartender in a pool hall. Since this was never available in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

STONER (1974) - This Raymond Chow production for his Golden Harvest Films is an exciting mixture of gangsters, martial arts action and exploitation elements. An incoming cargo ship pulling into the port of Hong Kong is going to be sold for scrap, so why does Mainland China crime kingpin Mr. Chin (Joji Takagi) pay three times what it is worth at a heated auction? A Chinese police inspector wonders the same thing, so he assigns police officer Angela Li (Angela Mao; DEEP THRUST: THE HAND OF DEATH - 1972) to travel to Hong Kong, wait for the ship to dock, search it discreetly and report back what she has found. On the ship, Mr. Chin's scientists have created the "Happy Pill", a drug that "Works better than marijuana and is more habit-forming than LSD. It blinds the senses, arouses sexual desire in females, who would then craze for love making." (Sign me up for the trials!). Rather than try the Happy Pill on the people of Hong Kong, Mr. Chin has the first batch shipped to Australia, where the drug quickly becomes popular with the young generation. A religious cult is born, where young people have mass orgies and "surrender themselves to the Pill" (We watch as one hopelessly-addicted naked white chick named Melanie gives up her last shred of dignity for one more pill, while her black cult leader, Rupert, and his followers chant "More! More!" She ends up fucking Rupert standing up while the camera cuts to a female cult member fellating an ice pop. Talk about gratuitous symbolism!). Terminally pissed-off Australian cop Joseph Stoner (George Lazenby; THE MAN FROM HONG KONG - 1975) is looking for his girlfriend Melanie and when he finds her at Rupert's commune, she looks just like a heroin junkie and all she can say is, "I want...more men! I want...happiness!" (she dies a short time later). Stoner beats the crap out of Rupert to find the source of the Happy Pills and it leads him to a shopkeeper named Chu, whom he finds dead with a knife in his stomach, but Stoner finds an important clue in Chu's clenched fist. As he is leaving the shop, Stoner is attacked by some masked Chinese gang members, whom he easily defeats. Stoner, who majored in Chinese philosophy in college and speaks Chinese (even though it's easy to hear that someone else dubs him when he speaks Chinese), heads to Hong Kong to get some payback. He is followed closely by two of Mr. Chin's employees, Agnes Wong (Betty Ting Pei) and Chen (Hong Kong superstar Sammo Hung, who looks impossibly young here), a man with a huge black mole on his face. Agnes has Chen and a bunch of goons beat-up Stoner and she brings him to her apartment under the guise that she is a concerned new friend. Actually, Agnes is Mr. Chin's main squeeze, and she keeps close tabs on Stoner, but when he joins forces with undercover cop Angela (who has been pretending to be a peasant girl while watching the ship), they infiltrate Mr. Chin's underground compound to end the Happy Pill menace.  Filmed five years after George Lazenby's only turn as James Bond in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969; which happens to be my favorite Bond film), STONER may seem like a step down from a Bond film (what isn't?), but director Huang Feng (DEADLY CHINA DOLL - 1972; STING OF THE DRAGON MASTERS - 1973) and screenwriter Ni Kuang (BLACK MAGIC - 1975; HUMAN LANTERNS - 1982) offer plenty of weirdness to go along with the numerous martial arts fights, especially in the fully uncut version (American audiences had to make do with an R-Rated VHS edition released by Harmony Vision, that was shorn of nearly 25 minutes of footage!). Some of that weirdness includes the cult orgy scene (plenty of female nudity) and the realization that Mr. Chin is keeping everyone in his hometown hooked on Happy Pills by spiking their daily communal "soft Drink" ceremony at the temple! Mr. Chin's laboratory and office on the cargo ship is a delightful mixture of lounge motifs (his desk rotates in a circle and becomes a martial arts set piece during the finale) and sci-fi trappings. Mr. Lazenby acquits himself nicely in his fight scenes and it's plain to see he used no stunt doubles (he has a nice one-on-one with Sammo Hung that is well choreographed and keeps both of their faces on screen at all times), especially in the sequence where he and Angela Mao are trapped in a cage while Mr. Chin's minions try to stab them with spears. Lazenby also has a freakout scene where he is injected with the Happy Pill and tries to rape Angela, but she knocks him out before he can go through with it (I love the way he hides his erection by cupping his hands over the groin area of his pants!). He even shaves his moustache off so no one will recognize him! Lazenby gets plenty of bad press in some critical circles, but I have always found him to be an above-average action star and a more than adequate actor. Watch STONER yourself and make up your own mind. Also dig the funky music score. The first few bars of the theme music sounds exactly like The Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein"! Also starring Whong In Sik, Samuel J. Peake, Chin Lu, Romanolee Rose, Yang Wei, Sun Luan and Chin Chi-Chu. The fully unedited version is available on DVD from Fortune Star as part of their "Legendary Collection". Not Rated.

STUNT ROCK (1978) - This film has a minor cult following and it's easy to see why. The fictional story is about Australian stuntman Grant Page (playing himself) traveling to Hollywood to handle the stunts for the new TV series "Undercover Girl", starring Monique Van De Ven (playing herself) as the title character. Grant hooks up with his cousin, who is a member of a rock band called Sorcery (playing themselves) and tours the streets of Hollywood, taking a stroll on the Walk of Fame while we see theater marquees in the background (one of them is showing DEEP THROAT). Sorcery uses real "magic" onstage with their music and their entire stage show is a rock opera that tells the story about a duel between the King of the Wizards (Paul Haynes) and the Prince of Darkness (Curtis Hyde). While on his way to a stunt shoot on the new TV series, Grant meets magazine reporter Lois Wells (Margaret Gerard, who previously appeared with Grant Page in DEATH CHEATERS - 1976), who is on assignment covering a story about why people find danger so exciting, so Grant is a perfect specimen for her article. Grant performs some dangerous stunts on the set of Undercover Girl (the director keeps screaming for more blood!) and later on Grant, Lois and Monique (who wants Grant to help her perform her own stunts) go and watch Sorcery rehearse in the studio and then to an actual stage performance, where the band uses fire gags, sleight-of-hand and some pretty awesome prog-rock tunes to tell their story about good versus evil. That's about the entire plot of the film, as Grant performs a series of dangerous stunts (along with footage of other stunt men and women) and Sorcery performs a series of original tunes and magic to an appreciative audience. A small sub-plot involves Grant trying to woo Lois, who wants nothing to do with stuntmen (he climbs a wire thirty stories in the air without a harness by Lois' apartment window, just so he can invite her to a pool party!) and Monique's unflinching need to perform her own stunts, much to the chagrin of her agent (we actually see her rappel down the side of a building on a rope harness). Grant then performs a stunt at Sorcery's stage show and they dedicate their song "Stunt Rocker" to him. The End.  Director Brian Trenchard-Smith treads a fine line between fiction and reality and, by all accounts, he should have failed miserably. Surprisingly, though, this film is a total blast from beginning to end, thanks in no small part to Grant Page's on-screen charisma and devil-may-care stuntwork and Sorcery's kick-ass music and stage show. Page (a world-class stuntman and stunt coordinator), who worked with director Trenchard-Smith previously on THE MAN FROM HONG KONG (1975) and the stunt-filled DEATH CHEATERS (1976), is seen performing every type of stunt imaginable, from high falls, car crashes, fire gags and getting hit by a speeding car. There's even some real-life documentary footage of Grant getting seriously injured performing stunts (he broke a few bones when getting hit by the speeding car). But none of this would have mattered if it didn't gel with the concert footage. Luckily, Trenchard-Smith chose Sorcery, a big-haired prog-rock band (the keyboard player wears a hood over his head and his voice is electronically altered) with a loyal cult following (they still perform as of this review). I must confess that I never heard of them or their music before this film, but their songs and stage show won me over pretty quickly. They are kind of like Emerson, Lake and Palmer mixed with an Arthurian Legend stage show, complete with a Merlin-like wizard (who at one point is spun on the tip of a sword and then impaled!) that performs many magic tricks. It's like watching a David Henning magic show with fist-pumping rock music, but without the extreme overbite. There's not very much meat to the plot (the script was written by Trenchard-Smith and Paulmichel Mielche Jr.), but who cares? It's a feast for the eyes and the ears. At one point, Grant Page does chin-ups on top of the giant "H" of the Hollywood sign! Good stuff. There's also a clip from GONE IN 60 SECONDS (1974) and the credited Stunt Coordinator is Tony Cecere (who did the long fire gag in SWAMP THING [1982]), but that's probably because union rules dictate that the stunts filmed in the U.S. must have an American stunt coordinator. Also starring Dick Blackburn, Ron Raley and Chris Chalen, who does a Houdini escape trick at the bottom of a pool. The print I viewed came from a widescreen Dutch-subtitled print. I can't imagine watching a fullscreen version of this since a lot of the stunts are shown using split-screen. STUNT ROCK is also known as CRASH. Edward L. Montoro released this theatrically through his Film Ventures International unit. Originally released on VHS in (what else?) a fullscreen print by U.S.A. Home Video. Also available on widescreen DVD from Code Red and shown on cable station Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in uncut widescreen. Rated PG.

SYNDICATE SADISTS (1975) - This "poliziotteschi" film from director Umberto Lenzi (VIOLENT NAPLES - 1976; FROM CORLEONE TO BROOKLYN - 1978) and screenwriter Vincenzo Mannino (Lenzi's ROME: ARMED TO THE TEETH - 1976; STRANGE SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM - 1976) is remarkable for two reasons. The first being that star Tomas Milian (THE FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE - 1975) portrays this film's hero, a disgraced former cop named Rambo (more on that later) and the second reason being the air of implied homosexualism that permeates every frame that one of the main bad guys, the son of a Milan crime boss, is in.
     The film opens with a motorcycle-riding Rambo returning to his brother's place in Milan after being in self-imposed exile in Hamburg, Germany for a couple of years. His brother, Pino (Mario Piave; Lenzi's ALMOST HUMAN - 1974), is happy to see him, as is Pino's wife, Maria (Maria Fiore), and their young son Luigino (Duilio Cruciani; DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING - 1972). It is obvious Luigino idolizes Rambo and they have a very funny banter with each other (One of Rambo's jokes to Luigino: "What's round and red and rides a big mare? The Lone Orange." Huh? Since when is an orange red???). Pino works for an "organized private police force" and wants Rambo to join him (Rambo calls him a "night watchman", which Pino doesn't find funny). Milan is full of crime, including robberies and kidnappings (a big problem in Italy at the time; read my review of KIDNAP SYNDICATE [1975] to see how Italy combatted kidnappings), so Pino tells Rambo it's a perfect job for him, just like being a cop, only the pay is much better. Rambo is not interested (telling his brother he has learned to mind his own business and as long as no one bothers him, he will not bother anyone else), but Pino convinces him to visit his headquarters tomorrow morning. The next day, Rambo shows up at the headquarters, where he meets Pino's boss, Commandante Ferrari (cameo king Tom Felleghy; BLOOD AND DIAMONDS - 1977) and watches members of this private police force train in a karate class. Rambo joins in, kicking the crap out of everyone, including his brother. He then shows his mastery with a pistol at their target range, Impressing Ferrari, who invites him to join their team. Rambo still says that he is not interested, but his brother tells his boss that Rambo will be riding shotgun with him on his next assignment tomorrow. We then see some men, who are members of a crime syndicate run by Conti (Luciano Catenacci; SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS - 1971), kidnap a young boy named Gianpiero (Alessandro Cocco), the son of rich Dr. Marco Marsili (Silvano Tranquilli; SMILE BEFORE DEATH - 1972) and his famous actress wife (Evelyn Stewart; THE PSYCHIC - 1977), who doesn't want the police involved because, whenever they are, the kidnapee usually ends up dead. Dr. and Mrs. Marsili will pay anything to get their son back alive and they are willing to do it without any police intervention, even though one police detective (Gianni De Benedetto; THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW - 1974) is working in the background, collecting evidence on the kidnappers.
     We then see Rambo riding shotgun with his brother on a truck whose firm is experiencing hijackings, so they hired Pino's firm to catch the hijackers, who work for Conti's syndicate. A car containing two of Conti's men pulls alongside the truck and tosses a Molotov cocktail at it, setting the truck on fire. Luckily, Rambo has his motorcycle in the back of the truck and gives chase to the car, forcing it off the road into a field, where it rolls and explodes, but Rambo "arrests" the two men, turning them over to Pino. Rambo also reconnects with his old flame, Flora (Femi Benussi; STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER - 1975), whom he meets at his old hangout, The Billiard Saloon (the owner of the saloon, Pops, is portrayed by Guido Alberti; SPASMO - 1974), and he shacks up with her while he is in Milan. Pino phones Rambo at the saloon, telling him that he discovered where Conti is holding Gianpiero and he wants Rambo to help him rescue the boy. Rambo tells his brother to tell the police and keep out of it, but his brother hangs up the phone. Pino never gets a chance to rescue the boy, as two of Conti's men, murder him by running him off the road and bashing his head against a boulder repeatedly. Big mistake. Now Rambo is personally involved and nothing will stop him from getting revenge.
     Rambo discovers that Philip Duval (Antonio Casale; AUTOPSY - 1973) is the man who murdered his brother, so he goes to Duval's place and begins to choke the life out of him, demanding to know where Gianpiero is being held. Duval gives him the address of a warehouse and Rambo is forced to shoot and kill him when he reaches for a gun (Rambo has explosive dum-dum bullets in his pistol, which are illegal, but leave a nice big hole in their target). Rambo then goes to elderly crime syndicate boss Paterno (Joseph Cotton; LADY FRANKENSTEIN - 1971), an old "friend" of Rambo's (he's the man that got Rambo kicked off the force) and Conti's main adversary, and makes a deal with him to rescue Gianpiero for a cut of the two billion lire ransom demand Conti has given Dr. Marsili for the safe return of his son. Rambo knows the police won't be involved, so it's a win-win situation for the both of them. Paterno agrees and sends his son, Ciccio (Adolfo Lastretti; DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS - 1973) and Ciccio's right-hand man Franco (Mario Novelli; EYES BEHIND THE STARS - 1977) to accompany Rambo on this rescue mission (Right away we can see that Franco means more to Ciccio than just a right-hand man, if you know what I mean). Rambo goes to the warehouse and demands to talk to Conti (one of Conti's men is portrayed by our old friend "Alan Collins"; SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE - 1973; who uses his real name, Luciano Pigozzi, here). While Rambo is talking to Conti, Ciccio, Franco and some of their men, who are dressed as police, raid the warehouse and a large gunfight breaks out, giving Rambo time to find and free Gianpiero, but before he can get him out of the warehouse, Conti confronts them and threatens to kill Gianpiero if he doesn't hand him over. Rambo has no other choice but to do so, but he promises a scared Gianpiero that he will return and free him, jumping out a window before Conti can shoot him. Rambo still gets his payment from Paterno (he may be a crime boss, but he's a man of his word), which he hands over to Maria and promises to buy Luigino a motorcycle just like his, only smaller. He tells Maria if she needs to talk to him to phone the Billiard Saloon and leave a message with Pops, he stops there several times a day.
     We then see some of Conti's thugs raid one of Paterno's gambling parlors, murdering some employees and destroying the joint. Paterno tells Ciccio to get even with Conti, so he and Franco stop a car containing a few kilos of Conti's heroin, ripping up the bags and scattering the heroin in the wind and then making the driver swallow an open bag of the drug, killing him. Flora tells Rambo that he must be stirring up the shit, because some thugs grabbed her at the saloon and wanted to know where he was staying, but she didn't say anything. Since criminals can't be trusted, Paterno and Conti form a truce and agree to kill Rambo because he is bad for both their criminal empires. Ciccio and Franco show up at Flora's place and when she won't tell them where Rambo is, Ciccio kicks her in the face, killing her. The nameless owner of the Billiard Saloon tells Rambo that Maria just called and she sounds worried, so when he calls her back, she tells them that Luigino has been kidnapped, but we then see that Ciccio and Franco are holding a gun to the boy and making Maria lie to Rambo. Rambo smells something fishy, but he goes to Maria's place anyway, only for Ciccio to shoot him three times and then leave, but we then discover that Rambo was wearing a bulletproof vest, much to Maria and Luigino's relief. Now everyone thinks Rambo is dead and no longer a problem, but when he finds out Flora was murdered, all bets are off, as Rambo begins to kill everyone involved in Gianpiero's kidnapping and Flora's murder. Crime never had it so bad.
     What I really liked about this film is that Rambo isn't perfect and makes some questionable decisions, such as letting Gianpiero play an important part of his rescue, putting the young boy in further danger and nearly getting him killed in the process. The film also has some choice dialogue, such as when Rambo holds a gun to Conti's head and says, "Listen, Conti. Life is just one hole. You start from a hole, you feed yourself through a hole, you shit from a hole and you finish up in a hole. And the one in this barrel can put you in that last hole." I never thought about life that way, but truer words were never spoken. Tomas Milian is his usual marvelous self as Rambo. Any film he's in improves exponentially just by his presence. How his character was named Rambo is also interesting. It seems he read David Morrell's novel "First Blood" while waiting for a plane and liked it so much that he tried to get some Italian producers to make it into a film starring him as John Rambo. They all turned him down, so he used the name as his character in the next film he appeared in, which was this film. My mind still boggles at the thought of Milian portraying John Rambo. The producers blew their chance of making a shitload of money, but when Sylvester Stallone's FIRST BLOOD (1982) became a smash boxoffice hit, Luciano Martino, this film's producer, renamed this film RAMBO'S REVENGE to cash-in on that film's success! It's an apt title for this film, but highly misleading. Another very interesting aspect about this film is Ciccio's relationship with Franco. It becomes apparent after a short while that Ciccio needs Franco's approval on everything he does, ending every sentence with "Right, Franco?" Homosexuality was frowned upon in the poliziotteschi genre (for further proof, read my review for LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN - 1976), but filmmakers found a way around it, using dialogue and certain looks to convey man's fellow sexual admiration for their fellow man. Just listen to Ciccio's cries when he sees Rambo gun Franco down and you'll see and hear what I mean. Joseph Cotton is also good as an aging gangster whose only hope is that his son will take over his criminal empire. He is also hiding a secret only Rambo knows about; a secret that would get the elderly gangster killed if his adversaries ever found out about it. What he does when he discovers Ciccio is dead will touch you to your core. Yes, I liked this movie, warts and all; the biggest wart being that Rambo is supposed to be an excellent motorcycle rider, but Milian looks so uncomfortable behind the handlebars, it's hard to believe he rides one at all, which explains why he wears a red scarf around his face whenever he rides one, so as to not see the stunt rider's face (Riccardo Petrazzi; TEX AND THE LORD OF THE DEEP - 1985). Still, that is a minor complaint (as is the person who dubs Milian's voice), as this film is an enjoyable ride from beginning to end, showing a lot of heart and soul in-between, helped immensely by Franco Micalizzi's (BEYOND THE DOOR - 1974) synth and horn-heavy music soundtrack, which adds greatly to the proceedings. Also, look for lots of J&B Scotch bottles, Italy's favorite beverage. And, yes, Rambo buys Gianpiero his own motorcycle, a miniature version of his own. I never understood why Umberto Lenzi has a reputation for being a hack director by some critics (especially in the giallo book BLOOD & BLACK LACE, by writer Adrian Luther Smith, a book I still highly recommend), as I find most of his films to be very accomplished and entertaining. Just as this one is.
     Shot as IL GIUSTIZIERE SFIDA LA CITTA ("The Executioner Challenges The City") and also known as FINAL PAYMENT and JUST ONE MAN, this film received a U.S. theatrical release (slightly edited) by Sam Sherman's Independent International Pictures and a VHS release from Super Video (who handled most of Sherman's releases). Early in the New Millennium it received an uncut widescreen DVD release from Media Blasters/Shriek Show with totally misleading cover art, showing a man with a blowtorch torturing Conti and his girlfriend (portrayed by Shirley Corrigan; CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT - 1973), something that never happens in the film (This scene actually has Rambo handcuffing Conti and his girlfriend to a pipe in a bathroom, peeing in the toilet and then throwing the handcuff key into it. When Conti's boys find him, Conti has one of his men reach into the toilet for the key, not telling him that his hand is in piss!). No disc updates have followed in the States, but if you have an all region player, British outfit 88 Films offer the film on DVD & Blu-Ray with a wealth of extras. I saw a nice uncut widescreen print on YouTube, which was dubbed in English. Joseph Cotton definitely dubbed his own voice here, but others were dubbed by the likes of Nick Alexander and Edward Mannix, two pros in their field, but they had nothing to do with Milian's awful dubbing, which sounds monotonous and bland. Also featuring Claudio Ruffini (WOMEN IN CELL BLOCK 7 - 1973), Rosario Borelli (DEATH RAGE - 1976), Bruno Di Luia (BLAZING FLOWERS - 1978) and Giuseppe Castellano (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE - 1970). While the theatrical version was Rated R, the print I viewed was Not Rated.

TERROR FORCE COMMANDO (1986) - Richard Harrison directs! He also stars, co-produces and co-scripts this tale about a terrorist planning to kill the Pope when he visits the African nation of Cameroon. Terrorist Zero (Romano Kristoff; JUNGLE RATS - 1987) and his cohorts burst into the home of peace crusader Professor Green with guns blazing, killing the Professor and his entire family (including two small children), as well as his staff. Zero then steals papers out of the Professor's briefcase that details the Pope's itinerary and is nearly captured by Cameroon police inspector Michael Baiko (Alphonse Beni; NINJA: SILENT ASSASSIN - 1987, also starring Harrison) in an ensuing chase and shootout, but Zero manages to get away. Inspector Baiko wants to cancel the Pope's visit, but his superiors refuse, saying it will ruin Cameroon's image if they do so. Baiko interrogates a captured terrorist (The terrorist says, "I want a cigarette" to which Baiko replies, "You'll get a cigarette up your ass!"), but when he removes the terrorist's handcuffs on superiors' orders, the terrorist commits suicide by jumping out of a conveniently opened window. Inspector Baiko flies to Rome to personally try to stop the Pope's visit, but the Pope's people also turn him down. While in Rome, Baiko meets Secret Service agent Matthews (Harrison, wearing a black leather trench coat with a matching black fedora), who wants to work with him in capturing Zero, but Baiko turns him down (Matthew's reply is a curt "Fuck you!"). Baiko enlists the help of elderly Italian boxer friend Killer Milian (Lorenzo Piani) and the pair begin tearing-up Rome looking for clues, with Matthews clandestinely shadowing them. It's a good thing he does, because Baiko is captured by some Italian thugs, hung upside down and nearly dismembered with an electric chainsaw before Matthews saves him with some well-placed shotgun blasts. From that moment on, Baiko and Matthews are a team, although they really don't trust each other that much. They begin busting heads in their search for Zero and learn that the terrorist organization plan on murdering Andrew Milhenge (Gordon Mitchell; ENDGAME - 1983), the chairman of the Organization for World Peace. Unfortunately, they are too late (Milhenge has his brains blown out in bloody close-up), but they duo do manage to injure and capture Zero's girlfriend, Olga (Ninette Assor). They stake out the hospital where Olga is recuperating in hopes of catching Zero making an unscheduled visit, but Zero manages to sneak in disguised as a doctor and kills Olga to stop her from talking. Baiko and Matthews then head back to Cameroon, where Zero kidnaps Baiko's young daughter. How will Baiko and Matthews handle this situation? Will they let Zero (who suffers from bouts of uncontrollable seizures throughout the film) kill the Pope to save Baiko's daughter? Don't count on it!  This is one of the most preposterously entertaining Italian action films that I have witnessed in quite some time. Director Richard Harrison, better known for his appearances in Filipino action flicks like FIREBACK (1983) and BLOOD DEBTS (1984) or his many "starring" turns in the cut-and-paste Hong Kong martial arts films of director Godfrey Ho (SCORPION THUNDERBOLT - 1985; NINJA THE PROTECTOR - 1986; NINJA SQUAD - 1987), apparently took everything he learned while appearing in these films, threw it in the trash and decided to make his own fucked-up movie. TERROR FORCE COMMANDO (filmed under the title THREE MEN ON FIRE) is full of bloody action set-pieces with lots of car crashes, shoot-outs and bullet squibs. It also has some very unintentially funny dialogue (script by Harrison and co-star Romano Kristoff) and some "What The Fuck?!?" scenes, such as when Matthews and Baiko are reading newspapers in a park looking for clues and a child's red rubber kickball interrupts Matthews' train of thought. He gets up, grabs the ball out of the kid's hands, kicks the ball over the hedges and then threatens the kid's father with his gun when he tries to intervene! The only purpose for this scene is to show how much Matthews hates children! It has nothing to do with the rest of the film. There's also a scene towards the finale where a wigged-out Zero delivers a cringe-worthy monologue about his whore mother abandoning him as a child while he's groping Baiko's gagged daughter ("There's so much evil in the world!"). It's uncomfortable to watch, but oddly compelling at the same time. I guess that's the best way to describe this film on a whole: It's unpolished, but it's still a diamond-in-the-rough. This is not Alphonse Beni's (who Produced this along with Harrison) first time portraying Inspector Michael Baiko. He originated the role in CAMEROON CONNECTION (1985), which he also directed. Also starring Maurizio Murano, Paolo Ricci, Don Hobson, Paolo Pizzichemi, Enzo D'Ausilio, Riccardo Pedrazzi and Jerry the American. Harrison's sons, Sebastian, Robert and Richard II, all have bit parts. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

THE TERRORISTS (1980) - Holy Christ! Here's another horrible actioner from director Nick Millard, the auteur behind .357 MAGNUM (1977), as well as SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING (1975), CRIMINALLY INSANE (1975) and many others. Just like those films, THE TERRORISTS contains god-awful acting, terrible photography, bad sound recording, editing that looks to have been done by someone having an epileptic fit and a minimal, droning music score (it's nothing but someone tapping on a drum in military cadence). In other words, this is a film that demands to be seen by every badfilm fanatic. The film opens with a terrorist in a car holding a sawed-off shotgun killing an American soldier who is guarding the front of McGraw Army Base in Munich, Germany. We learn from a German newswoman, Andrea Hueller (Irmgard Millard, Nick Millard's wife, who is so flat and lifeless in her line delivery, I half-expected an ambulance to show up and take her pulse), that a terrorist organization called The Peoples War has claimed responsibility for the murder. Since the murdered soldier's father is an American bigshot, the military assigns Captain James Luke (Marland Proctor), a CIA spook with a short fuse who gets results quickly, to investigate the soldier's death. The German police assign Inspector Paul Steger (Hans Grabinger) to investigate the case and, as he knocks on doors looking for witnesses, he gets into a shootout with a bank robber who is hiding out in an apartment. After one of the funniest gun battles in recent memory (actually, one of two in this film!), Inspector Steger kills the bank robber. We then learn, just like James, that Steger is a loose cannon, this being his third killing this year alone. James (who, thanks to a drug bust gone bad, has his left arm in a sling throughout all of the film) gets an important clue from Soviet friend Sergei Goncharov (Ray Miles). James then gets into a shootout with two of the terrorists (where he must fire at least thirty shots without reloading his revolver!), killing them both. James is next on the terrorist's hit list, thanks to his latest antics, yet he finds time to romance Andrea! James and Paul join forces when Sergei is shot in the back by the terrorists, led by someone known as The Professor (who is a college professor!). Can they stop the terrorists before they assassinate President Carter, who is visiting Munich in a couple of days?  Like most of Millard's films, this is less than sixty minutes in length but seems four times as long. Like .357 MAGNUM, Millard (who uses the pseudonym "Jan Anders" as the director credit and "Gunnel Kjellin" for the screenwriting credit) always aims his camera way too high, almost always cutting off the lower jaw of people's faces in the close-up and framing the other shots way north of the Equator. The film is so cheap, rather than show a bomb explosion planted by the terrorists, we only hear about it from the lethargic newswoman Andrea during one of her many on-camera reports. Some of the dialogue is absolutely surreal, such as when James questions the dead soldier's personal life by asking the Army base commander, "What about drug use or homosexuality?" (As if being high on drugs or being gay was a reasonable excuse for being gunned down!). Here's my favorite piece of dialogue between Paul and James: Paul: "My girlfriend left me today for a wo-man." James: "A what?" Paul: "A funny one." James: "You mean a fruit?" Paul: "Yes." James: "It sounds to me like she may have a few problems." Simply precious. The gunfight between James and the two terrorists is something that was spoofed in THE NAKED GUN (1988). Besides defying all bullet-loading logic, they are no more than three feet away from each other as they are shooting it out! The quick, chainsaw editing only adds to the confusion, as the camera manages to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Millard also pads out the film's short running time with an out of place, nearly hardcore, insert of a stripper cutting a hole in her panties with scissors, exposing her pubic hair, and then gyrating for the camera while she squats over some soda bottles (!), as a bad saxophone solo plays in the background. THE TERRORISTS is as bad as they come, but all it's inadequacies adds-up to maximum enjoyment for lovers of rightfully obscure cinema. Although this film was made between 1978 - 1980, it was not released on VHS until the mid-to-late 80's (James remarks about the "tragedy in Dallas fifteen years ago", yet on Paul's gravestone, it lists 1980 as the year of his death. Either Millard is bad at math [Kennedy was shot in 1963] or it took him two years to complete this.). Also starring Christian Kazan, Albert Eskinazi and Gunter Grabinger. A World Video Pictures, Inc. VHS Release. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

THE TERRORISTS (1986) - Here's an Indonesian action film that will have you howling with laughter at the terrible miniature effects and the blatantly obvious rear-screen projection process that's littered throughout. During the mid-80's, a time when terrorist groups are hijacking planes and blowing up buildings around the world, a group of crooks pretend to be terrorists to pull off a bank robbery. Little do the crooks know that a world-renown terrorist named Gozal (El Manik; HELL RAIDERS - 1985) was hired to head the robbery team by a crooked hospital executive named Mr. Santos, who needs the money to save his floundering hospital. Gozal recruits professional crook John (Advent Bangun; THE BLIND WARRIOR - 1987) to help him pull off the robbery and he agrees to do it as long as politics aren't involved, but as he will soon find out, politics is the least of his problems. When the crooks try to enter the bank and the newly installed bomb detector goes off, it leads to a lengthy (and hilariously inept) car chase, where the crooks destroy their car, steal a truck and crash it into the front of a hospital. Guess which hospital it is? Yep, it's Mr. Santos' hospital and soon Gozal uses the time bombs in his possession to hold the hospital and it's occupants' hostage as the police surround the hospital and SWAT helicopters hover overhead. The first thing Gozal does is kill Mr. Santos to keep him from talking and he then plants the bombs around the hospital, setting them to go off at 7:00 PM. The police call in a SWAT team Captain (Barry Prima; THE WARRIOR - 1981) to kill the "terrorists" and he does just that, killing every one of them (including John) except Gozal, who escapes through the stairwell after setting off a bomb, engulfing the hospital in flames (you gotta see it to believe it) and trapping many innocent people, including infirmed patients, inside. Gozal, who has now gone completely bonkers, roams the hospital's smoke-filled corridors firing his weapons aimlessly and shouting "You're all gonna die!" while the fire department and police try to rescue people in the hospital. Gozal grabs a newborn baby, goes to the hospital's roof and demands a helicopter picks him up or he will kill the baby. Instead, the police helicopter-in Gozal's wife and young son to the roof in a rope net (!) to distract Gozal long enough so that the SWAT Captain can shoot him (and an innocent doctor!) dead in front of his family. Un-fucking-believable!  Where do I begin to describe how badly entertaining this no-budget actioner really is? It's a cross between DIE HARD (1988) and HARD BOILED (1993), but made years before anyone even heard of those two films. All the explosions are done with miniature model buildings that are so bad, they make the structures stomped on by Godzilla in the 60's look highly detailed. Clearly, 80% of the film was shot using out-of-focus rear-projected backgrounds, most of it so ineptly obvious, especially the car/truck chase, that I nearly peed my pants from laughing so hard. The entire hospital sequence is so chintzy in it's execution, it takes on an otherworldly quality. Director/co-scripter Imam Tantowi, who also directed BLAZING BATTLE (1983) and wrote the screenplays for SATAN'S SLAVE (1982) and THE DEVIL'S SWORD (1984), hasn't got a clue on how to pace a film, as THE TERRORISTS simply jumps from one mind-numbing scene to the next (including a hilarious encounter with a bomb maker who secretly poisons the entire robbery team until they pay him!), culminating in one of the most unbelievable (not to mention unlawful) endings I have ever witnessed. What law agency in their right mind would ever put a terrorist's wife and kid in a rope net and hover them over the roof of a burning hospital so they can try and talk him into giving up? Add to that constant scenes of people getting shot (lots of bloody bullet squibs), running around on fire, jumping off the hospital roof and hitting the ground (more rear projection work that elicits laughs rather than gasps) and a police force more concerned about killing bad guys than saving innocent lives (the cops end up killing more innocents than the bad guys!) and what you end up with is a deliriously illogical actioner that is must-viewing for all fans of Indonesian insanity. Search it out. Also starring Deddy Mizwar, Yos Cano, Janis Badar, Belqiez Rahman, Elyzabeth Tvonne, Yoseano Wasa, Anto Indracahya and Tizar Purbaya. El Badrun, who also has a role here, handled the shoddy miniature effects work. Never legitimately available in the U.S. on home video, the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Also available on DVD-R from gray market seller Trash Online. Not Rated.

.357 MAGNUM (1977) - How can I begin to describe how bad this film is on all levels? After watching the first five minutes, I was convinced I was watching an edited version as it seemed rather choppy and to be missing some shots. Then came a scene with a nude woman making love to our hero and I realized it wasn't cut at all, it was just edited by someone who has no sense of pacing. It is so bad that it becomes an annoyance and this film is full of annoyances. Let me list a few others: You know how some people take photos and they sometimes cut the top of people's heads off in their shots? Well, the cameraman on this film does the exact opposite. In all the close-up shots, everyone's chin is missing from the frame. It's hard to decipher who is talking. The sound recording is like listening to someone talk into a tin can. The action scenes are laughable, especially the gunfights and scenes of gunplay as the pistols themselves look like starter guns and the gunshots sound like caps or firecrackers and barely synch up with the pull of the trigger. This all makes sense once you learn that the director is none other than Nick Millard who, under various names including Jan Anders (the one he uses here), Steve Millard, Nick Phillips, Joe Davis and several others, gave us such cinematic triumphs as NUDES ON CREDIT (1961), THE EROTIC MR. ROSE (1964), ODDO (1965), CONFESSIONS OF A DIRTY PAIR (1967), SAPPHO '68 (1967), UNUSUAL REQUESTS (1968), FRAULEIN LEATHER (1969), DR. CHRISTINA OF SWEDEN (1970), GUNILLA (1971), PLEASURES OF A WOMAN (1972), FIRE IN HER BED! (1972), PLEASURE SPOTS (1972), WENDY'S NAUGHTY NIGHT (1972), CRIMINALLY INSANE (1975), SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING (1975), CRAZY FAT ETHEL II (1978), GUNBLAST (1978), THE TERRORISTS (1980), DEATH NURSE (1987), DOCTOR BLOODBATH (1987), CEMETERY SISTERS (1988), DEATH NURSE 2 (1999), DRACULA IN VEGAS (1999) and numerous softcore, hardcore and horror features during the 60's, 70's, 80's & 90's (His last film as of writing this review is a 2003 adaptation of Henry James' TURN OF THE SCREW, which is nearly impossible to find.). .357 MAGNUM is an exercise in tedium as secret agents Jonathan Hightower (James Whitworth, Jupiter in THE HILLS HAVE EYES - 1977) and alcoholic friend Steve Barrett are sent to kill a hitman known as Mr. Clay (Marland T. Stewart, who looks like Adam Sandler with an Abraham Lincoln beard), who is murdering important businessman all over the world (a chance for Millard to insert stock footage of London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and San Francisco to pad out the running time). Jonathan and Steve are set up by their superiors as Mr. Clay ambushes them, kills Steve and seriously wounds Jonathan. He vows revenge on his boss and Mr. Clay and begins a slow process of healing and training to get back in shape so he can exact his revenge. His girlfriend, Claire (Kathryn Hayes), helps him in the healing process, nursing and fucking him back to health. Jonathan's old boss sends two hitmen to kill him ("Hightower's shacked-up with some cunt in Carmel"), but only manage to kill Claire before Jonathan kills them. Now he's really pissed! At least I think he is (it's hard to tell).  It's difficult to put into words the ineptitude going on here. There's scenes of a woman performing fellatio on a vibrator for no other other reason than to pad out the film. Don't expect any bullet squibs either. When someone gets shot, they grab their chest and the next shot shows them with blood on their shirt, but no bullet holes (sometimes they don't even bothering showing that!). The climatic gun battle between Jonathan and Mr. Clay should be a primer on how not to shoot an action scene. Hell, this whole film is a study on how not to make an action flick. Consider it an anti-action action film. Even with a running time of only 70 minutes, it seemed like a lifetime when it ended. Avoid this at all costs. It was apparently made as a quick cash-in of Clint Eastwood's MAGNUM FORCE (1975). Also starring Gary Boyd, Silvi Walter, Aldo Girotti and Angela O'Neal. Millard wrote this mess using the pseudonym "Gunnel Kjellin" and tries to past this off as a Swedish film in the final credits! A World Video Pictures Release. Thank God this still isn't on DVD. Not Rated.

TIGER JOE (1982) - Tiger Joe (David Warbeck) and his partner Midnight (Tony King) are gunrunners looking for one final big score so they can retire. Joe is flying some guns to rebels in Cambodia when his plane is shot at by the guerillas, forcing him to crash behind enemy lines. He must trek through the jungle, trying to avoid the guerillas and their many jungle booby traps. He is captured (rather quickly) by the rebels, put in a bamboo cage, has his wounds tended to by Kia (Annie Belle) and is marched through the jungle until they come to a seemingly deserted village. It is a guerilla trap and Joe witnesses the slaughter of most of the rebels he is with. He saves the lives of Kia and Tatu (Rene Abadaza) and they begin to accept him as one of their own. They agree to get Joe across the border and, on their way there, Joe witnesses the many hardships and atrocities the rebels must endure to stay alive. Joe becomes sympathetic to their cause (although he pretends not to care) and falls in love with Kia. Meanwhile, Midnight, with the help of mechanic Lenny (Luciano Pigozzi, a.k.a. "Alan Collins") and fey gun supplier Bronski (Giancarlo Badessi), begins a search and rescue mission. Kia is nearly raped by two guerillas, Tatu is shot and stabbed saving Joe (he eventually dies) and Joe must contend with cobras, dodging bullets and trying to keep Kia safe. Midnight crashes his plane in the jungle and he, Lenny and Bronski join forces with Joe and Kia and look for the rest of Kia's rebel group. They find a cache of weapons (which leads to Lenny and Bronski's death) which they will use to right some wrongs, including blowing up a guerilla train depot. While Kia leads a village full of children to safety, Joe and Midnight hold off the advancing guerillas and steal an enemy gunboat, leading to Midnight's death. Joe finds Kia later on and they live happily ever after.  This is a very minor war/adventure film directed by Antonio Margheriti, using his frequent "Anthony M. Dawson" pseudonym. Simplistic in it's approach to right and wrong (the guerillas kill anything that moves, slaughtering villages of women and children while, whenever the rebels are on screen, sad music plays in the background), the closest this film ever comes to making a political statement is when Joe says to Kia, "It not sadness that is killing the world, it's causes." or when Midnight dies, Joe remarks, "Causes. Those damn causes!" Being an Italian-made film, there's ample examples of racist dialogue (Midnight, who is [what else?] black, is referred to as 'son of Sambo" and "spearchucker".) but, strangely, nothing is made of Bronski's overt homosexuality (Midnight just calls him "fat ass" a lot). There's also an out-of-place fight between Joe and Midnight towards the end of the film when Lenny dies that makes absolutely no sense and an actual tiger does make an appearance, but it is dropped as fast as it appears. There's also plenty of bloody gunfights, sharp bamboo booby traps and some graphic violence, but the story is just not very involving, as all the characters are one-dimensional or uninteresting (Wait until you hear Midnight scream when Lenny dies!), the situations unbelievable and the violence unremarkable. Antonio Margheriti would use the late David Warbeck to much better advantage in his two RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) rip-offs, HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA (1982) and ARK OF THE SUN GOD (1983). Margheriti (who died in 2002) also directed  CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980) and many other films and TIGER JOE is the middle film of his Vietnam trilogy, which includes THE LAST HUNTER (1980) and TORNADO (1983), both better in terms of quality and story than this one. A Lightning Video VHS Release. Also available on a bootleg 10-film DVD compilation called MERCS from those thieving bastards at VideoAsia and streaming on Amazon Prime (in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen print). Not Rated.

TOP MISSION (1987) - Here's a little-seen cut-and-paste actioner from director/screenwriter Godfrey Ho (who uses the pseudonyms "Henry Lee" and "Benny Keung" respectively) for producer Tomas Tang's Filmark International Limited production company (although Tang's name isn't listed in the credits). The newly-shot footage concerns two government agents, Lester (Alphonse Beni; TERROR FORCE COMMANDO - 1986) and Bruce (Kurt Eberhard), who are sent to stop ex-agent Mike Graves (Philip Gordon), an old friend of the two agents that has gone rogue and formed his own terrorist organization. Lester and Bruce try to talk some sense into Mike before bringing him in (It seems all three of them like to practice martial arts together while wearing brightly-colored ninja outfits with matching masks!), but Mike tells them that he's tired of being a good guy and wants to make some real money (His exact words are, "There is no honor. It's all just bullshit!"). Lester and Bruce walk away, telling Mike that the next time they meet, it won't be under pleasant circumstances. The old footage, the major portion of this film, is some unreleased Filipino actioner (I recognize one of the actors as Yusuf Salim, the star of KRIS COMMANDO [1987]) about a soldier named Abbott, who comes home to find his wife being raped by four scumbags, but before he can stop them, he is knocked-out and his wife and young daughter are killed. He gets revenge by killing the four scumbags in a disco (he shoots one of the guys in the balls), but he is arrested and sent to prison. While behind bars, Abbott joins a gang of crooks called the Tigers and they break out of prison. Meanwhile, another gang of crooks (who are supposedly working with Mike, in a bad melding of old and new footage) have kidnapped an American Professor and two women, but they are saved by a crack team of commandos called the Eagle Force, led by Capt. Alvarez, after a prolonged shootout in an abandoned building. About every twenty minutes or so, Mike sends some of his men to kill Lester and Bruce, which results in quick scenes of gunfire where Mike's guys end up dead. After Abbott and the Tigers escape from prison, they hop on an airplane bound for Manila and hijack it, threatening the lives of the passengers and crew (which includes a horny pilot and his stewardess girlfriend). Abbott demands that a top-secret laser targeting system is delivered to the plane in exchange for the lives of those on-board. Capt. Alvarez and the Eagle Force are sent in to resolve the situation, while Lester and Bruce battle Mike to the death in the finale.  While nothing special, TOP MISSION does contain plenty of violence and much more nudity and sex than a normal Godfrey Ho film (The first time we see Lester, he's making love to his girlfriend Julie [Olivia Ortiz] and Ho makes sure that the camera lingers lovingly on her erect nipples). The film is basic Ho formula: Grab some unreleased film (Ho has used films from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand) and rejigger the plot slightly so that the newly-shot footage can be incorporated (You just know that whenever anyone answers or picks up a phone or radio in the old footage, someone in the new footage will be on the other end trying to justify the insertion of the footage. In this case it's Mike, who talks with both the military and the crooks on the phone to make it look like he's behind the plane hijacking). Truth be told, Abbott's transformation from vigilante to heartless hijacker really doesn't make much sense in this version, but I'm sure it does in the original version, which seems to be a cheap knock-off of THE DELTA FORCE (1986). I'm also pretty sure that Abbott and the Tigers didn't ask for a laser targeting system as payment during the hijacking in the original film, but that's half the charm of Ho's pastiche films, spotting the badly-intercutted sequences and laughing at the absurdity of it all. There's also the usual hilarious dubbed dialogue (My favorite: "Killing is one thing, but rape's another. Keep your damn pecker in your pants!"), lots of bullet squibs and three (count 'em, three) rape scenes, making this one of Ho's better entries in his non-martial arts cut-and-paste films. It's total nonsense, but it is lively nonsense. Also starring Mike Smith, Bembol Roco, Marco Antonio, Paul Roldan, Jerry Hart and David Anderson. Never available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from an English-dubbed German DVD on the CMV Laservision label. Not Rated.

TORNADO (1983) - This is the third and final film in director Antonio Margheriti's (using his frequent "Anthony M. Dawson" pseudonym) shot-in-the-Philippines "Vietnam Trilogy", which began with THE LAST HUNTER (1980) and continued with TIGER JOE (1982). While not as graphic as the first two films (it is also the only one not to star David Warbeck; THE BEYOND - 1981; FORMULA FOR A MURDER - 1985), it is a perfectly good time-waster, mixing wartime violence with a message of how war can change a person, not always for the better, doing it in a way that will shock some viewers with its matter-of-factness.
     Captain Harlow (Antonio Marsina; ROLF - 1983), Sgt. Salvatore Maggio ("Tony Brent"; real name: Giancarlo Prete; THE NEW BARBARIANS - 1983) and a small platoon of Green Berets are dropped by helicopter behind enemy lines to destroy a Vietcong ammo dump. The helicopter pilot gives Captain Harlow twelve minutes to complete the mission, because it is far too dangerous to be there any longer. If they are not back by then, he is taking off without them. They come upon a village in the jungle that looks abandoned, so Captain Harlow sends two men to check it out, but it turns out the land leading to the village is mined and the two soldiers are instantly killed when they step on landmines. The platoon starts firing their weapons, but Sgt. Maggio tells them to cease-fire because no one is firing back at them. Captain Harlow orders soldier Tom (David Brass; THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL - 2006) to go into the village, but Sgt. Maggio tells him to ignore that order, asking Captain Harlow that they already lost two men, what does he want to do, wipe out the platoon? The Captain doesn't want to hear it, ordering Tom to move his ass, the rest of the platoon will cover him. Tom runs toward the village, steps on a landmine and shatters his right leg (a gory shot of bones jutting out of the skin). The Captain says it is probably clear of landmines now, so he gets up and orders the platoon to follow him into the village. When they get to the village, they discover it is an enemy ambush from all sides and it turns into a real firefight this time and they lose another soldier's life to the gunfire, but they kill all the Vietcong in the village. The Captain orders the platoon back to the helicopter, but Sgt. Maggio goes to retrieve Tom (he did promise to come back for him). The Captain doesn't want to wait, ordering the helicopter pilot to take off, which he begrudgingly does, leaving Maggio and Tom behind enemy lines (Tom says, "That bastard is always on schedule!"). Maggio and Tom must find a way back to base, not helped by the fact that Tom is full of morphine to stop him from screaming in pain. After killing a couple of gooks with his knife. Maggio steals a canoe and he and Tom head down river, making it to their base. A journalist named Freeman ("Alan Collins"; real name: Luciano Pigozzi; Margheriti's JUNGLE RAIDERS - 1985) wants Maggio to tells him all about Captain Harlow, because he believes the Captain is guilty of putting his men's lives in unnecessary danger, but Maggio refuses, telling Freeman, "We're all in this together". But does he really believe that?
     Maggio tells the base commander that three men are dead and one lost the use of his leg on a mission that could have been done better with a single pass of a Skyhawk armed with two rockets. The base commander doesn't want to hear it, telling Maggio he knows he is tired and strung-out, but Maggio tells him, "And some are so strung-out they can't make rational decisions any more." The base commander warns him that one more act of insubordination and all the citations in the world will not save his ass. Just who is the base commander? Why, none other than Captain Harlow!
     The platoon gets five days leave, so everyone celebrates at the local bar. Maggio catches some of his platoon smoking hashish, so he tells them they may think hash makes them invincible, but all it does is slow them down and make irrational decisions. The men ask Maggio why he is so down and he tells them it's because he just learned Tom had to have his leg amputated. Maggio goes to drive them back to base, but one soldier buys a souvenir from a little gook boy on the street, only to have it explode in his face in the back of the Jeep. Maggio drives the soldier to the hospital, where he and his men wait for the news on his condition. Another soldier is in the hospital, telling Maggio that he, too, was the victim of a booby-trapped trinket, but he was lucky because he only received a small scratch, saying to Maggio he doesn't know which is worse, the jungle or the city. It turns out neither is safe if you are an American.
     On their next mission, Maggio and his men are about to discover just how dangerous the jungle really is, as the helicopter they are in is shot down and they are, once again, pinned behind enemy lines, but this time they only lose one man to the violence (even one man is too many to Maggio) before a rescue copter picks them up. Meanwhile, Freeman begins asking some important people why Captain Harlow has a 60% casualty rate, which begins to open some eyes, but not in the way you would think. When Maggio returns to base, he discovers that Tom has killed himself in his hospital bed, the pistol still smoking in his hand (Tom was a sprinter back in high school and can't stand only having one good leg, asking Freeman earlier if he knows what it feels like to kick a bed sheet off your body, only to discover you have no leg to do it.). Maggio loses it and runs to put a beatdown on Captain Maggio, but M.P. Sgt. Pike (Ronnie Patterson; Margheriti's COMMANDO LEOPARD - 1985) subdues him. Captain Pike then enters the room and makes a disparaging remark about Tom, so Maggio punches the Captain in the face and throws him over a table. Harlow makes Sgt. Pike arrest Maggio and promises him a court martial, but the truck carrying Maggio to transport him to prison is shelled by the enemy and he escapes (The M.P. tells Maggio to run away, but not to take a gun because then it will be a "shoot on sight" situation which he will not be able to ignore.). Will Maggio be able to teach Captain Harlow a lesson he will soon not forget, while Freeman continues his crusade exposing Harlow as a dangerous command officer? Harlow paints Maggio as a deserter (something akin to a serial killer during wartime), but is anyone buying it? Maggio learns some important lessons in the jungle, where he is captured by the enemy and put through all kinds of torture, as Harlow and some soldiers who have drunk his kool-aid hunt him down, but are the lessons enough to free him from a life spent behind bars? I'm afraid you'll have to watch the film to get the answers to those questions. Needless to say, the finale, which tosses some WAGES OF FEAR (1953) action into the mix, is bittersweet, yet satisfying in a strange way. None of Margheriti's war films end on a happy note and this one is no different, yet I was still surprised nonetheless.
     This is the only film in Margheriti's Vietnam Trilogy to take some of its cues From FIRST BLOOD (1982), since it was the only one to be made after that film was released and is also known as THE LAST BLOOD (clever, huh?). While nothing but a series of vignettes showing that war is hell, it is still a fairly tight little war film with much to recommend. The firefights and explosions (some excelent miniature work by Margheriti) are very well done, as are the photography (by Sandro Mancori; Margheriti's WEB OF THE SPIDER - 1971; THE HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA - 1982; and THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD - 1983) and special effects (including various gory wounds, such as a Vietcong woman getting shot in the eye, Tom's super-gory leg wound and Maggio performing emergency surgery on his bullet wound, a direct steal from FIRST BLOOD). Just like in THE LAST HUNTER, Maggio is thrown in a bamboo cage with a pack of rats, which begin feasting on his flesh. The enemy then begins torturing him, beating him up and throwing him in a pool full of pig shit up to his neck, his hands tied to a bamboo pole, while his body is weighed down by a boulder attached to a rope, which is tied to his feet. Maggio manages to escape (but not before getting a mouth-full of pig crap!) and then goes on a one-man killing spree, where he learns sacrifices have to be made, but unlike Captain Harlow, he discovers self-sacrifices are necessary, not other men's lives, even though they are the enemy. While there are some lessons to be learned, Antonio Margheriti never lets Producer Gianfranco Couyoumdjian (Margheriti's CODE NAME: WILD GEESE - 1984) and Tito Carpi's (Margheriti's THE COMMANDER - 1988) screenplay get preachy, rather making the action come first and foremost and delivering it as only Margheriti can, with style, suspense and a look of professionalism, missing from most Italian war films. This may not be top tier material, but Margheriti delivers what he promises, nothing more, nothing less. This film also has a fairly large role for actor Luciano Pigozzi, who, as "Alan Collins", had been acting since the mid-'50s. He is best known for the Italian films he appeared in the '60s, like WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS' DORMITORY - 1961, THE WHIP AND THE BODY - 1963, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE - 1964, TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE - 1965, as well as Margheriti's VENGEANCE - 1968 and NAKED YOU DIE - 1968 (he appeared in many of Margheriti's films). This is perhaps his largest role in any film he did in the '80s (he passed away in 2008) and he's very good here as a reporter on a mission (I have been a fan for a long time and I have read where one person describes him as Italy's answer to Peter Lorre and it's quite apt, in both looks and acting style.). His conversation with a legless Tom in his hospital bed is the film's most poignant scene, so rather than explain it, I'll let you discover it for yourself. If you are a fan of war films (and who isn't?), put this film on your must-see list.
     This film first appeared in the United States on edited fullscreen VHS from Lightning Video and has yet to appear on disc in any format (if you have an All Region player, Germany offers both a DVD and a Blu-Ray, but they, too, are cut). A nice uncut anamorphic widescreen print can be found streaming (where else?) on Amazon Prime, free to Prime members ($1.99 for non-members). Let's hope some enterprising company realizes there is a market for these kinds of films and releases this on Blu-Ray (Are you listening Code Red?). Since this was filmed in the Philippines, look for expatriate actors Romano Kristoff (JUNGLE RATS - 1988) as the helicopter pilot, David Light (SAIGON COMMANDOS - 1987), Michael James (RESCUE TEAM - 1983), Paul Vance (SLASH - 1984) and Mike Monty (PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987) as Captain Bolen, an understanding superior officer, who lets Maggio go free when he has the chance to kill him. Be aware that this film lists a bunch of actor's names in the opening credits, none of whom have any other credits on their resumés, which makes me believe they are pseudonyms or don't exist at all. Those names are: "Tony Jackson", "Denzil Best", "Morris Lane" and "Leo Parker". Not Rated, due to scenes of extreme violence.

TOUGH TO KILL (1978) - When I realized this was a war action film directed by Joe D'Amato, boy was I psyched. After watching it, all I can say is boy, was I disappointed. D'Amato directs on autopilot, lacking his usual sleazy style and bloody gore. So why bother? You'll be asking yourself that same question should you decide to view it.
     We see Martin (Luc Merenda; THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS - 1973) arrive by plane in Switzerland and the first thing he does is go to a bank and rent a safety deposit box, where he places his wallet and a tiny envelope (we don't see what is in it) and hides the safety deposit key in a secret compartment in his dog tags, which he wears around his neck. He then goes to a mercenary recruitment center looking for a job, telling the recruiter he doesn't have any identification, but he spent twelve months in Angola. The recruiter then says something in Portuguese (Angola's native language) to Martin and when he doesn't respond, the recruiter gets suspicious. Martin turns to him and says, "I only had to kill them, not talk to them" which the recruiter understands, giving Martin a job that starts in the morning. When morning comes, Martin boards a small plane, noticing a woman named Stella (Lorenza Rodriguez Lopez), who was also at the bank where he rented the safety deposit box. Is this woman keeping a close eye on Martin or is it just a coincidence?
     When the pilot of the plane, Whitey (actor unknown), asks Martin why he is going to this destination, he replies, "All I know is a bunch of niggers are trying to kill another bunch of niggers. I guess I'll spot my enemies when they start shooting at me." Whitey lands the plane, telling Martin that this country (I'm guessing somewhere in Africa, because the name is never mentioned) has been at war ever since they declared independence and "Since this country is rich in oil, they can afford white mercenaries." On the ground, Martin meets his contact, O'Sullivan (Laurence Stark), who tells Whitey he better take off because this region is hot with enemy fire. Whitey tells him he's not worried, the safest place is on his plane. These are Whitey's last words, as an enemy shell explodes near him, killing him and destroying his plane. O'Sullivan looks at the plane and says it's too bad, the plane had twelve cases of booze on board, because he hates scotch, forcing him to buy three cases of J&B Scotch (what else?) from a black marketeer.
     O'Sullivan points out the people Martin will be working with, including Major Haggerty (Donald O'Brien; THE NEW GLADIATORS - 1983, who is trying to figure out if recruit DuShane (Isarco Ravaioli; MANIA - 1974) is command material by dropping a live grenade at his feet to see how long it takes him to move (the longer you stay still, the more likely you are to become command material, that is if the grenade doesn't blow you up!). Unfortunately for DuShane, he ducks for cover before Haggerty does and fails the test. There's also Polansky (Wolfango Soldati; HOTEL FEAR - 1977), a "Pollock" who carries a white rabbit with him ("Why settle for the foot when you can have the whole rabbit?"), the mysterious Leon (Piero Vida; SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS - 1971) and various other war film stereotypes. The Major decides to test new recruit Martin, so he makes him run an obstacle course against black man Wabu (Percy Hogan; HUMAN COBRAS - 1971). Martin loses, so the Major makes him a member of the black brigade over Martin's protests. Wabu is forced to sit in a vat full of feces by Leon, who threatens to cut off his head with a machete if he doesn't hold it under the crap for a long period of time. Stella ends up working at the mercenary camp bar and she is still keeping a close eye on Martin, telling him he's "mysterious", but "nosey". Wabu, who can't speak a lick of English, becomes friends with Martin, who trains with the black squad. Major Haggerty, who is a raving racist, tries the grenade trick with Martin, but Martin outlasts the Major and nearly gets blown to smithereens. This brings out the Major's admiration for him and he is now part of the white mercenary platoon.
     The Major announces he is about to go on a "suicide mission" and asks for twenty volunteers. No one volunteers until the Major announces that there will be hefty bonuses for those who survive the mission. Then everyone volunteers, including Martin. The next morning, Martin and the rest of the mercenaries make the trek on foot to their destination, but Martin discovers that Wabu is following him. The racist Major is none too pleased, telling Martin he's responsible for this "boy". Martin puts his life at risk saving Leon from some quicksand and we soon find out why (and it's all so confusing, I was getting dizzy!). Martin tells the Major his mission is to bring Leon in dead or alive and he will be paid a million dollars. The Major says he will join him on his mission as a partner. O'Sullivan and Polansky overhear the conversation and offer their services to Martin for a piece of the pie and he agrees. The Major makes DuShane and the other mercenaries stay behind (they are all soon killed by the enemy), while he, Martin, O'Sullivan, Polansky and an uninvited Wabu (who doesn't understand because he doesn't know English) take the captive Leon deep through enemy territory to deliver him to the intended destination. Who will survive and collect the hefty reward money (which Martin says is hidden in a safety deposit box)? It turns out a person will do anything for a million bucks. A mercenary will turn against his fellow mercenaries, even kill them in cold blood, to not share the reward money. But which one is it?
     This uninvolving war actioner, directed and co-written by Joe D'Amato (THE BLACK COBRA - 1976; EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS - 1977), is pretty poor, lacking D'Amato's usual flair for bloody violence or sleazy situations. All this film ends up being is another "walk a few miles and lose another member" type of war flick, filmed (cinematography by D'Amato, using his real name, Aristide Massaccesi) without any style or urgency. If it wasn't for Donald O'Brien (listed in the credits as "Donal O'Brien"), I would have turned off the film after the first fifteen minutes, something I never do. He is the only actor in this film to give his character any meaning or energy, even though he is portraying a racist. When it is revealed who the person Martin was assigned to bring in for the million dollars, a collective "Huh?!?" can be heard from the audience, as it makes no sense at all. I mean, why do they have to traverse enemy territory when Leon was already at the mercenary camp? It makes no sense. Wouldn't it have been easier to radio-in for another plane or helicopter to land at the camp than to walk through miles of enemy territory? Screenwriters D'Amato, Giuseppe Zaccariello (as "Joseph McLee"; A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971) and Sergio Donati (WEEKEND MURDERS - 1970) rather you not think about that because logic has no place in this film. Top-billed star Luc Merenda (KIDNAP SYNDICATE - 1975) spends the final half of this film with a bullet in his leg, so he's basically worthless as this film's action hero, as his fellow mercenaries have to assist him walking and when they are dead, using Wabu to carry him on his shoulders as his own personal slave until Wabu can take no more (Martin says to Wabu, when he doesn't have the strength to carry him any longer, "You dirty nigger, don't do this to me!" Real nice, Martin, you are no better than the Major. Some would say you are worse.). This film is full of possibilities, but none of them are ever realized, such as Martin cutting off Leon's head after his body becomes to smelly to carry (Martin tells the other mercs, "Teeth are just as good as fingerprints!"). Since this is a D'Amato film, you would think he would show Martin cutting off Leon's head but, no, it's not in the budget, just as when some jungle animal is about to attack Martin, all we see is Martin firing his weapon, we never see the animal! Even the "surprise" reveal is not much of a surprise at all. Warning: SPOILERS!!! It turns out Wabu can speak and understand English very well, killing Martin and then taking the security deposit box key and cashing-in on Leon's head. But do we see what's in that tiny envelope? No, I guess it just wasn't that important to reveal to us (or they just plain forgot). Even the Stella subplot is dropped mid-film without any explanation. END OF SPOILER!!! Do yourself a favor and skip this one. Just like that tiny envelope, it just not that important to view.
     Shot as DURI A MORIRE ("Last To Die"), this film never received a U.S. theatrical release, but it did get a Canadian fullscreen VHS release from label Mr. Video (a sub-label of Lettuce Entertain You, Inc). This also had many DVD releases in the States, including a "widescreen" (actually a fullscreen print matted to look like widescreen) DVD from an outfit called Stallion Releasing and as part of BCI's long-OOP Maximum Action 8 & 10 Movie Collection DVD compilations. No Blu-Ray at the time of this review. Also starring Alessandro Haber (WHO SAW HER DIE? - 1972) and Bill Vanders (NIGHT OF THE DEVILS - 1972). Not Rated.

TRACKDOWN (1976) - Revenge actioner that is strictly 70's in its style and execution. Montana horse farmer Jim Calhoun (Jim Mitchum; HOLLYWOOD COP - 1987) leaves his ranch for a couple of days to corral some of his stock and when he comes home, he discovers that his pretty teenage sister, Betsy (Karen Lamm; THE UNSEEN - 1980), has left to find fame and fortune in Los Angeles. As soon as Betsy begins walking the streets looking for work (including taking a stroll on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where we see a movie marquee displaying a double feature of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL [1975] and the Peter Sellers-starrer WHERE DOES IT HURT? [1972]), she gains the attention of various lowlife pimps, biker gangs and street gangs, including a Latino gang, where the leader makes member Chucho (Erik Estrada; THE LOST IDOL - 1990) sweet talk Betsy while other members steal her suitcase and money. Chucho begins to feel sorry for Betsy and the predicament she's in, so he gets her a job in a guitar shop as a secretary. Chucho and Betsy begin to have a romantic relationship, which doesn't sit too well with the rest of the gang. Not that Chucho is a total angel, though, as he introduces Betsy to the pleasures of pot and takes some less-than-wholesome photos of her, but he's basically as good a guy as you'll find on the Sunset Strip. When the rest of the gang want Chucho to share Betsy with them, he refuses and has the crap kicked out of him. They gang-rape Betsy (one member of the gang is a lesbian), pump her full of drugs and turn her out on the streets as a two-bit whore. Jim drives to L.A. in his beat-up pickup truck and goes to the police to report Betsy as a missing person. When Sergeant Miller (John Kerry) discovers that Betsy is underage and tells Jim, "We only handle people, not kids!", Jim realizes that he will have to find Betsy on his own. Meanwhile, Betsy ends up being bought for $100 by crooked strip club owner Johnny Dee (Vince Cannon) and his business partner Barbara (Anne Archer; GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK - 1977) and she takes Betsy under her wing, cleaning her up, buying her new clothes, feeding her happy pills and turning her into a high-class call girl. Jim hooks-up with Lynn Strong (Cathy Lee Crosby; THE DARK - 1979), a tough-as-nails chick who runs a halfway house for runaway girls, and they pound the seedier streets of L.A. looking for clues as to where Betsy may be. After a few altercations and a case of culture shock (Jim is hit-on by a gay cowboy and attacked by a gang of black transvestites!), Jim and Lynn trackdown Chucho and he agrees to help Jim find Betsy. What follows next is Montana-style justice, as Jim uses his fists and guns to find his sister. Lynn talks Jim into using the legal system one more time to free Betsy from Johnny's control, but when Sergeant Miller tells him that vigilante justice may be the only way to get his sister back, Jim gets the hint and turns into a Wild West vigilante, making Johnny Dee's life and business a shambles. When Jim discovers that Betsy is dead, the film turns into a crowd-pleasing revenge actioner with an obvious twist that will fool no one, but is fulfilling nonetheless.  Director Richard T. Heffron (FUTUREWORLD - 1976; OUTLAW BLUES - 1978; I, THE JURY - 1982) and screenwriter Paul Edwards (HIGH-BALLIN' - 1978) paint a seedy picture of life on the streets of L.A. for young runaways, yet the story doesn't pander to the situation. Betsy seems pretty at ease in her new life as a high-priced call girl because the money is good, but just like all less-than-legal occupations, there are drawbacks, including death. When one of her rich johns beats the shit out of her (it's his "thing") and Johnny refuses to take her to a hospital (He says, "I need this like I need a hole in the head!"), Betsy dies of her wounds. Though most of the action doesn't come until the final third of the film, the story contains enough twists and turns to keep viewers thoroughly entertained. Just like his brother Christopher, the erstwhile Jim Mitchum is stiff as a board, but completely likeable, and both Erik Estrada and Anne Archer register in their roles. While TRACKDOWN isn't very bloody, it is violent as hell, as people are pummeled, shot, stabbed and, in Ms. Archer's case, drugged and has her head stuck in an oven. This film played a lot on TV in the late-70's and early-80's in a severely edited form, missing the rape, nudity, drug use and some foul language, so finally seeing the film in unedited form is a real treat. Also starring Tony Burton, Roberto Rodriguez, Ernie Wheelwright, Zitto Kazann, Elizabeth Chauvet, Rafael Lopez and small roles for Ray Sharkey, Simmy Bow and Joe Tornatore. As far as I know, this film (released theatrically by United Artists) never had a home video release in the U.S. The print I viewed was sourced from the British VHS tape on the Warner Home Video label. Rated R.

TRANSFORMED (2003) - Holy fuck! What a total piece of shit. I could crap on a roll of toilet paper, run it through a film projector and it would be better viewing than this badly acted, poor-on-all-technical counts urban actioner. The fact that this is the brainchild of director/co-scripter Efren C. Pinon (ENFORCER FROM DEATH ROW - 1978; THE KILLING OF SATAN - 1983) and producer/co-scripter Leo Fong (REVENGE OF THE BUSHIDO BLADE - 1978; BLOOD STREET - 1990) only makes it that much more sadder. In the busy town of Westgate, drugs are such a bad problem, even five year-old children are hooked on the hard stuff (one shot shows a young boy with a straw up his nose, snorting cocaine). The crooked Mayor (Stack Pierce; ENEMY UNSEEN - 1989), who is working in concert with drug kingpin Cholo (Ken Moreno) to make Westgate the illicit drug distribution center on the West Coast (filmed in and around Los Angeles, California), has banned citizens from owning handguns and even orders the police force to only use their guns as a secondary measure. He hires Special Agent Dillman George (portrayed by George Dillman!) to teach the cops how to use pressure points on the human body to subdue subjects. Martial arts master and church preacher Pastor Debra (Sherlee Knudson) starts kicking some drug-dealing butt when one of her parishioners, Martha (Gina Honda), loses her little boy Kevin (played by the director's son, Efren Pinon Jr.) to a drug overdose. The ass-kicking Pastor does her best to clean up the town, but it is obvious she can't do it alone. A secret government agency unofficially helps Pastor Debra in her quest to rid Westgate of drugs by hiring two vigilantes to help her: The Hammer (a paunchy Fred Williamson, reprising the character from his 1972 blaxploitation classic HAMMER) and The Fist (a black-clad and round sunglasses-wearing Leo Fong). The Mayor and Cholo fight back by unifying all the street gangs into one massive entity, but when Cholo's young son is shot in the head by a rival drug dealer and ends up in a coma, Cholo sees the ways of God and prays to the Big Guy to spare his son's life (Uh, oh! I think I can see where this film is heading!). Cholo goes to Pastor Debra and begs for forgiveness, not only from her, but also from her boss, God. Cholo suddenly becomes a good guy and, along with The Hammer, The Fist, Special Agent Dillman George and the high-kicking Pastor Debra, cleans up the town of drug-dealing scum and the crooked Mayor. God rewards Cholo the gift of his son's life, as he miraculously comes out of his coma. The police also forgive Cholo for his drug-dealing-to-kids ways and he apparently gets off scott-free. I guess God forgot about poor Nancy and her dead son. You know what they say: "God works in mysterious ways." Or is it "The good die young?" I think it's just lazy scriptwriting, but I'm afraid to say so because God may not understand.  How can I describe how truly awful this film really is? Besides having that flat, shot-on-video look (even though it was filmed in 35mm by Frank Harris, the director of KILLPOINT [1984] and LOW BLOW [1986], both starring Leo Fong) with bad sound recording to match, TRANSFORMED has that preachy "God forgives all" tone that is mixed with scenes of violence towards children that made me want to reach through the screen and slap everyone silly for participating in this God-fearing mess. This film basically tells its audience that it's OK to murder innocent people (including children) and get people (including children) hooked on drugs as long as, in the end, you confess your sins to God, ask for forgiveness and then turn State's evidence against your partners-in-crime. It makes me want to puke on the next preacher I run into. This film is nothing but thinly-veiled religious programming disguised as an urban actioner, which basically preaches that it's fine to kick the shit out of or kill your enemies as long as God is on your side (Isn't that what's religion is really about, anyway?). It's insulting to genre audiences that aren't religious (that includes me) and is really nothing but a double standard, showing violence against children as a pretext to redemption. Director Pinon has no problem showing young kids getting shot in the head or overdosing on drugs because it is "relevant" to God's plan. Fuck that shit. If another film showed the same type of violence without the religious overtones, the Christian Fundamentalists would be up in arms, calling for boycotts or burning the films in community bonfires. Shame on everyone involved here. The only novelty factor this film holds is watching a bunch of over-the-hill action stars (including Tadashi Yamashita [SWORD OF HEAVEN - 1984] as "The Ninja") beating the crap out of actors less than half their age. Still, it's not enough to get that bad religious taste out of my mouth. Also starring Charles James, Jeremy Flynn, Louis Luciano, Susanne Bonner and D'Arcy Ludwig. Available on DVD from Code Red/Media Blasters as part of their RAREFLIX.COM TRIPLE FEATURE VOL. 4 box set. Not Rated.

TRAPPER COUNTY WAR (1989) - Two friends from New Jersey, Ryan (Rob Estes; PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC'S REVENGE - 1988) and Bobby (Noah Blake), are driving to California when they become hopelessly lost. They come to a fork in the road and decide to make a left. They should have taken a right, because they end up in the unfriendly town of Luddigger in Trapper County, North Carolina (Jesus Christ, how long were they driving before they noticed that they were lost?). After stopping at the local diner and meeting waitress Lacey Luddigger (Betsy Russell; CAMP FEAR - 1994), who Ryan takes an instant shine to, the two boys get a dose of Southern inhospitality in the form of deputy Walt Luddigger (Don Swayze; LETHAL VICTIMS - 1987), who tells them to take their faggot earrings and get the hell out of town. Rather than heed the warning, Ryan and Bobby decide to stay (it wouldn't be much of a film if they left) and, at the local bar that night, Ryan hooks up with Lacey and is forced to beat the crap out of Walt when he tries to ambush them in the parking lot. Lacey tells Ryan her sordid story (She and her brother Elmore [Todd Maxwell] were taken in by the Luddigers when their parents were killed and "step-brother" Walt has tried to rape her on several occasions), so Ryan tells her to pack her bags and they'll leave town that night. They should have left right then and there because walt arrests Ryan and Bobby on kidnapping charges when they try to leave town with Lacey (who is a few weeks short of eighteen years-old) later that night. As Ryan and Bobby are hauled off the jail by Sheriff Sam Frost (Bo Hopkins; SWEET SIXTEEN - 1982), Walt brings Lacey home to Mom and Pop Luddigger (Sarah Lunley and R.G. Armstrong), who nails her bedroom window shut and locks her in her room. A few hours later, Walt kidnaps Ryan and Bobby from the jail and brings them to the middle of the woods, where Mom and Pop are waiting to torture them with a sledgehammer. Ryan and Bobby break free, but during the ensuing fracas Bobby is shotgunned to death, Elmore is accidentally hit on the head with a sledgehammer and killed, while Ryan escapes into the forest. Mom, Pop and Walt must find and kill Ryan before he spills the beans to Sheriff Frost, who is tired of the Luddiggers' brutal hold on the town. Ryan is about to find out that the Luddiger's reach is long (there are more Luddiggers in the county than the name Chin in a Chinese phone book, thanks to what looks like centuries of inbreeding), but he finds an ally in Vietnam vet Jefferson Carter (Ernie Hudson; LEVIATHAN - 1989), who has a long-standing feud with the Luddiggers that needs to be settled. The finale finds Ryan and Jefferson battling the Luddigger clan in a forest full of boobytraps, with Lacey (who is tied to a tree in the best villain tradition) separating the good guys from the hicks. When Sheriff Frost joins the side of Ryan and Jefferson, the odds even up a bit, as the Luddiggers all meet their demise one-by-one until only Mom is left. Lacey makes sure that Mom doesn't live to take another swig of moonshine. The only good hillbilly is a dead hillbilly, or so I'm constantly reminded in films like this.  This is one in a long line of hicksploitation revenge flicks that was made popular by the success of DELIVERANCE (1972). If there's a fault with this film, it's that director Worth Keeter (WOLFMAN - 1979; DOGS OF HELL - 1982) and screenwriter Russell V. Manzatt (RUSH WEEK - 1989) downplay the Luddiggers' brutal tactics to the point that we only hear about their viciousness and see very little of it. If it's one thing we have learned about this genre of film, which includes GOD'S BLOODY ACRE (1975), JUST BEFORE DAWN (1980), SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981), KILLER INSTINCT (1982), BULLIES (1986), SNAKEEATER (1988) and WRONG TURN (2003), it's that if you want the audience to root for the city folks, you have to get them to really hate the hillbillies. TRAPPER COUNTY WAR fails to generate that hate because, besides a couple of uncomfortable scenes between Don Swayze and Betsy Russell, the rest of the Luddigger clan is about as threatening as the sight of puppies and kittens frolicking in a field of flowers. This is not a bad film, mind you. It's rather well-acted and contains a few good action scenes, but it's all basically pointless because it fails to generate the suspense needed for films like this to succeed. A missed opportunity. Also starring Terrence Evans (THE PUMPKIN KARVER - 2006), Royce G. Clark, Sage Parker, Wallace Merck, Red West, Mark J. Miller and Parker Shelton. Released on VHS by Republic Pictures Home Video and on budget DVD by Simitar Entertainment. Rated R.

VENDETTA (1985) - Bonnie is sent to prison for manslaughter after killing a man who raped her. Bonnie is killed in prison after refusing the advances of butch Kay (Sandy Martin, in the film's best performance), leader of a gang of murderous female inmates. Laurie (Karen Chase), Bonnie's stuntwoman sister, tries to get justice through the legal system, but because the coroner's report lists Bonnie's death as a suicide, the court will not hear the case. So Laurie steals a judge's Cadillac and robs a jewelry store so she will be sent to the prison where her sister was murdered. Laurie has a vendetta to fulfill. Kay is running a drug distribution and prostitution ring from inside with the blessings of most of the guards. Kay and Laurie have a few run-ins which makes life pretty unbearable for Laurie. Once she finds out who the people responsible for Bonnie's death are, members of Kay's gang start turning up dead. Laurie uses her stunt expertise to her advantage, dwindling down Kay's group until only Kay is left. This is the type of film where the women's penitentary is supervised by male guards just so scenes of heterosexual sex can be shown. Of course, since this is a women-in-prison flick, there are the prerequisite nude shower scenes and lesbian encounters. Very little blood is spilled although the martial artistry is plentiful. Roberta Collins, a veteran of this type of film (THE BIG BIRD CAGE [1972], CAGED HEAT [1974]), also stars. Originally titled ANGELS BEHIND BARS. Competently made, but nothing special. Watch WANDA THE WICKED WARDEN (1977) instead. Directed by Bruce Logan (he was cinematographer on JACKSON COUNTY JAIL - 1978, DRACULA'S DOG - 1978, TRON - 1982 and many others). VENDETTA is Logan's only directorial effort. A Vestron Video Release. Rated R.

THE VERNONIA INCIDENT (1989) - Two thieves, Link (David Jackson) and Bike (Shawn Stevens), drive into the town of Vernonia, Oregon and hold up the town's mini mart. After killing the town's only police officer, the thieves attempt to leave town, but the citizens follow them in their cars (they keep in touch with each other by CB radio). The thieves kill another guy by forcing his car off the road (in one of the slowest car chases in film history) and then hear on the radio that they are wanted by authorities (this, just a mere three minutes after pulling off the robbery!). The citizens block all the roads out of town, forcing Link and Bike to crash through a blockade, which disables their car. With the townspeople not far behind, Link and Bike hole-up in a farmhouse and hold the family inside hostage. As the townspeople surround the house, Link calls his brother Hank (Robert Louis Jackson) on the phone and asks him to come to Vernonia and rescue him and Bike. As Hank steals a car and heads to Vernonia, he and partner-in-crime Vern (Tony Hyde) are cornered by police, but manage to commandeer a helicopter! With the townspeople shooting at the farmhouse (ignoring the fact that there's an innocent family in there!), Link and Bike keep low and get drunk until Hank arrives. Hank forces the helicopter pilot to stop at a construction site, where he steals a crate of dynamite and then heads for Vernonia. Meanwhile, Link tries to rape the woman hostage, but is interrupted when tear gas in lobbed into the house (again ignoring the innocent family). Hank begins throwing lit dynamite from the helicopter at a police car, causing it to crash and burn. Hank makes it to the farmhouse, throwing dynamite at the citizens (blowing up empty cars parked in the middle of a field) and they, in turn, return fire at the helocopter. Link and Bike run to the helicopter with the little girl hostage as a shield. When they attempt to take off, they find they are out of fuel. It is at this time, the little girl's mother (who was nearly raped) and the townspeople surround the helicopter and open fire, supposedly killing everyone inside (we never do actually see the carnage).  This pitiful excuse for a film is a prime example of how not to make a film. Filled with terrible acting, bad post-synch dubbing and a grating music score, THE VERNONIA INCIDENT is the type of film that's best forgotten and tucked away in some dark corner and never heard from or seen again. Director/producer/scripter Ray Etheridge (whose next film would be FART: THE MOVIE - 1991) hasn't got a clue how to frame a scene and definitely hasn't a clue how to stage an action scene. It's plain to see that all the cars used in explosions and crashes are gutted junkers, as most are missing windshields and are rusted beyond repair. This is the type of film where everyone owns a gun, but no one could hit the side of a barn (they do manage to shoot a lot of windows, though). There are also entire scenes where it switches from day to night (One scene shows a citizen firing at the thieves and it's plainly daylight. When the thieves are dodging the bullets, it's pitch dark!), Shawn Stevens (as Bike) is constantly humming out loud (even when he's getting shot at) and the people point guns and we hear a "bang!" even though they never pull the trigger (I guess that saved some money on blank cartridges). Wait until you see the tear gas canisters: They are nothing but tin cans with holes poked in them! Though most of this movie is shot on film, videotape is utilized for most of the helicopter scenes and the finale. The finale is edited in such a haphazard way, that it gives the impression that the mother and the citizens kill the little girl and the innocent pilot, along with the crooks. I can honestly say that this is one of the crappiest, most boring pieces of celluloid sludge that I have ever seen. Don't take that as a recommendation, though, because it's not even worth viewing for shits and giggles. It's just bad. Believe it or not, Sub Rosa Studios released this on DVD under the title REVENGE OF THE REDNECKS. Also starring Floyd S. Ragner, Ed Justice, Don Jackson and J.J. Cahill III. Originally released on VHS by Rentertainment Productions. Not Rated. WARNING: Watching this film is akin to suffering the pain of every person who died a violent death in the past 500 years.

W (1983) - Outlandish Filipino actioner. A gang of bald-headed, chopper-riding drug peddlers (even the female members are bald!) roll into town and get into a fight with police sergeant W2 (Anthony Alonzo). He ends up shooting one of the gang members and his boss, Major Medina (Joonee Gamboa), suspends W2 from the force. The gang members steal their comrade's dead body from the morgue and bring him back to their leader, Nesfero (Johnny Montero), who declares war on W2 because the dead gang member happened to be his brother. The gang attack W2 and some police buddies (they all have single letter names followed by a number) at a restaurant using machine guns, but W2 and his buddies escape. Things really go south for W2 on his honeymoon, where Nesfero and his men castrate W2 and rape his wife (Ann Marrie). When W2 wakes up in the hospital, discovers that his package is a little light and realizes that he will no longer be able to satisfy his wife, he vows revenge (Later on, he watches his naked wife masturbate in the shower and totally loses it. He screams to his wife, "I'm useless! I'm a eunich!"). Nesfero is expecting a huge shipment of opium and the Syndicate is worried that he is fixating too much on W2, so Nesfero kidnaps W2 and tortures him (he's strung-up and hung horizontally by ropes between four posts). He is rescued by female gang member Pratings (Ada Hubert), who tells W2 that Nosfero raped her and that he's the Devil ("He's gone mad!"). Major Medina assigns Lieutenant V1 (Bing Davao) to find the missing W2. So what's the first thing V1 does? Why he goes swimming in flesh-colored Speedos with W2's horny wife and then makes love to her! W2 returns home and catches them in the act (She says haltingly, "I really don't know what came...over us!") and throws his wife out of the house. Pratings tells W2 about Nesfero's upcoming opium shipment, so W2, Pratings and some buddies intercept and steal the shipment, which puts Nesfero in hot water with Syndicate boss Praxis (Paul Vance). What Nesfero does next is truly brain-busting. He and his men take an entire Catholic nursery school hostage and threaten to kill all the children unless the opium shipment is returned and W2 is delivered to them! Police reporter Alice (Alicia Alonzo, Anthony's real-life sister) gets involved in the case when she finds out her daughter is one of the hostage children, but her stupidity gets her daughter killed. W2 comes out of hiding (after he creates an armor-plated car, body armor and a hand-held rocket launcher) and faces Nosfero and his gang in the explosive finale.  This crazy Philippines-lensed action flick, directed and scripted by Willie Milan (ULTIMAX FORCE - 1986), is one wild ride. The plot makes absolutely no sense and looks like it was edited with a chainsaw (some violence and nudity seems to have been cut out in this version, especially noticable in the shower masturbation scene), but this film is so perverse and out-there (A castrated man as an action hero? Who would have thought?), you'll wonder what alternate universe this film was made on. Filled with hilarious dialogue (When one of the cops asks Major Medina where they should look for the missing W2, he snaps back, "Search in Hell if you must!" or W2's rant to Major Medina when he won't lift his suspension: "I put my ass on the line while you sit back and polish your medals!" That line of dialogue is repeated at least three time while Major Medina has a crisis of conscience in his office!), and mindless violence, including explosions, multiple gunfights, child killing and W2's assault on Nesfero's beach compound in the finale, where both he and Pratings don handmade steel helmets, which make them both look like the Rocketeer! Hey, this isn't rocket science, but W (also known as W IS WAR and FIRESTORM) is a mindless, fun action romp the Filipinos excelled at making. Director Willie Milan made a sort-of sequel in 1985 called CLASH OF THE WARLORDS. Besides a couple of the same actors appearing in similar roles, it really has nothing much in common with this film (For one, the sequel is a post-nuke film and this one isn't). Also starring Richard Jones as Nosfero's henchman Pentagon, who thinks he can outfight a machine gun. He can't. Not to be confused with the 1974 thriller starring Twiggy, which shares the same single-lettered name. A Paragon Video Productions Release. Not Rated.

WAR BUS (1985) - After their goodwill mission is attacked by the Vietcong, the remaining survivors escape in their yellow schoolbus. A short distance down the road, their bus is commandeered by Sgt. Dixie (Daniel Stephen) and his two-man squad of American Marines. The missionaries, which includes three women; Ronny (Don Gorden Bell), a nervous man; Debrard (Steve Eliot), an Australian soldier and a VC Major named Kutran (Ernie Zarate), form an uneasy alliance with the American soldiers as they make the perilous journey behind enemy lines to freedom. Running low on gas, the soldiers raid an enemy depot looking for some fuel, not knowing that the sweaty (and possibly traitorous) Ronny has reserve gas hidden under the bus. While the soldiers are on the raid, Ronny fuels up the bus and tries to take off, but is stopped by Debrand and Major Kutran. Sgt. Dixie and his men, Gus (Romano Kristoff) and Ben (Urs Althaus), become pinned-down at the enemy depot, but the bus, driven by Major Kutran, comes to their rescue. They manage to get the gas and blow up the enemy depot, thanks to the Major's help. Their next obstacle is a bridge they need to cross that is guarded by enemy soldiers. Ben comes up with a plan and it goes off without a hitch (they manage to kill dozens of enemy soldiers with no casualties on their side), which earns them respect from the Major (he salutes the soldiers for their bravery). They next happen upon a field of dead American soldiers, all of them crucified and boobytrapped. Since they can't bury them, Sgt. Dixie blows them up (the film's most affecting scene). They find a cave to hide the bus in while the soldiers check out a village with an American helicopter in the middle of it. They find all the American soldiers dead (one body is riddled with steel nails!) and then realize that the enemy was waiting for them. Everyone manages to escape alive, thanks again to the Major and Ronny, who proves to be no traitor. They next stop at a deserted VC village, where Major Kutran finds a radio and calls for help. Instead of being saved, our ragtag group of soldiers and civilians must fight for their lives when enemy soldiers intercept the Major's transmission and not everyone will make it out alive. War is truly hell and hell is for heroes.  Directed with much pyrotechnics and a surprising amount of humanity by Fernando Baldi (COMIN' AT YA! - 1981; TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS - 1983; TEN ZAN: THE ULTIMATE MISSION - 1988), here using his "Ted Kaplan" pseudonym, WAR BUS is one of the better Italian-made Vietnam War action flicks. The action comes at a steady clip as dozens of people are gunned-down, blown-up or stabbed. There are many surprises along the way, such as the reveal that Ronny is a schizophrenic epileptic (which explains his earlier actions) and that Debrand is a convicted murderer. The three women on the bus have precious little to do except look scared, go skinnydipping or act as romantic interests for the soldiers. There's a scene towards the end where Major Kutran finds a radio in a deserted VC village and tunes to a station playing music and, for a few short moments, everyone on the bus and in town relaxes and forgets the trouble they are in. It's a poignant scene that's unusual in a film like this and foreshadows the tragic events that are about to happen. The final assault by the enemy on the town is well-handled and full of scenes of bravery. WAR BUS tells an excellent story to go along with the action and should satisfy fans of the genre. An unofficial (and inferior) sequel, WAR BUS COMMANDO, was made in 1989, starring Mark Gregory (1990: THE BRONX WARRIOR - 1982), the late John Vernon (SAVAGE STREETS - 1984) and directed by Pierluigi Ciriaci (DELTA FORCE COMMANDO - 1987). Also starring Gwendolyn Cook, Zeny R. Williams and Josephine Sylva. An Embassy Home Entertainment Release. Also available on a bootleg 10-film DVD compilation called MERCS from those thieving bastards at VideoAsia. WAR BUS is also available streaming on Amazon Prime. Rated R.

WAR BUS COMMANDO (1989) - This unofficial sequel to WAR BUS (1985) contains nothing in common with the first film. The leads are different, the locations are different (this one takes place in Afghanistan) and the dates are different (this one takes place in the present day, while the first one took place during the Vietnam War). They both contain busses, though. Green Beret Johnny Hondo, (Mark Gregory of 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS - 1982) is informed by government agent Ken Ross (a badly dubbed John Vernon) that his dying father, General Hondo, wishes to see him. His father pleads with Johnny to go to Afghanistan to retrieve important documents that he left on a school bus years earlier and rescue some friends and colleagues he had to leave behind. Ross puts together a team to help Johnny in his mission:  Linda Cain (Savina Gersak), Bobby Lee and Norton, who will all help Johnny get across the Afghanistan border to safety once he finds the documents and rescues the prisoners. Johnny is forced to bail out of his helicopter way too early and lands 82 miles from his objective, so he must fight his way to the bus, while Ross and the team wait to hear from him. It's also plain to see that Ross and Linda know more about this mission than they're letting on. Johnny finally makes it to the bus after getting help from a young boy named Kabir (who he promises to take to America), but he is captured by an Russian captain and tortured. Kabir's sister frees Johnny, but she loses her life in the process. Johnny and Kabir find his father's colleagues, but Ross informs him by radio that his team cannot come and rescue him. Johnny and his ragtag group then decide to fix the bus and drive themselves to safety. First they must find the parts to fix it and reinforce it with armor plating. They are then relentlessly pursued by Russian troops. Running low on gas, they raid a remote Russian depot, steal some fuel and destroy the depot before continuing on their way. In the finale, Johnny learns that there's traitors within his ranks, but instead of getting even, he just shrugs it off. The Green Berets would not be pleased.  The two main distractions that severely affect this film are obvious: Mark Gregory is an unappealing and stiff action hero here and his only facial expression makes it seem like he is always smelling someone's stinky farts. It gets annoying after a few minutes and it's apparent he's a one-note actor. So apparent, that he quit acting soon after starring in this. Good move. The second glaring distraction is the dubbed voice used by John Vernon. Any lover of film is well aware what the late John Vernon's voice sounds like, so to hear such a strange voice come out of this mouth every time he speaks is just not right. It throws the viewer off balance and Vernon's scenes don't work because of it (I guess the producers couldn't afford Mr. Vernon's dubbing fee). The action scenes are also very dry and not very exciting. While there are plenty of gunfights and explosions, director Pierluigi Ciriaci (using the pseudonym "Frank Valenti") uses a minimal amount of bullet squibs and keeps the blood and carnage to almost non-existent levels. Ciriaci, who also directed DELTA FORCE COMMANDO (1987) and DELTA FORCE COMMANDO 2 (1990), hasn't got a clue how to film an action scene and the script, by Dardano Sacchetti (using the name "David Parker Jr.) is a generic war clichés that offers no surprises and even less excitement. While the first WAR BUS was an excellent war action film, WAR BUS COMMANDO is nothing but a pale imitation. Skip it. Also staring Antony Freeman, Bobby Rhodes and Branko Djuric. Also known as AFGHANISTAN: THE LAST WARBUS and WAR BUS II. A Trylon Video Release. Not Rated.

WAR WITHOUT END (1986) - In Cambodia during 1982, a small platoon of American soldiers are sent behind enemy lines to retrieve the top-secret "WILD WEASEL" (a missile guidance system and the film's alternate title) from a downed aircraft. Captain Ted Wilson (Robert Mason) and Lt. Jim Garvey (screenwriter Jim Gaines) are then captured by the enemy before they can deliver Wild Weasel into safe hands. Wilson and Garvey are then "rescued" by some Vietnamese rebels, who plan on holding them and Wild Weasel hostage until the U.S. government pays them one million dollars in ransom, but an enemy attack on the rebel base affords Wilson and Garvey the chance to grab Wild Weasel and escape into the jungle. They make it to the hut of friendly peasant Ngu-Yen and he agrees to take them to the church of French priest Father Francois. The good father introduces them to his adoptive daughter Nam (Nancy K. Lee), who will lead them, along with Ngu-Yen, on the long road to safety (The priest introduces Nam to Wilson and Garvey by saying, "I'm what you call an unmarried Father." and everyone laughs). It's a long, arduous road to safety, marked by many gunfights and explosions, as everyone, from the enemy, the U.S. government and the Russians (one of them played by Filipino film staple Nick Nicholson) wants to get their hands on Wild Weasel and don't care if Wilson or Garvey survive (One American arms smuggler, working as a liaison between the Russians and a crooked U.S. government official, calls up the crooked official and says, "You realize you just screwed-up my future!" to which the crooked official replies, "I'm sorry to hear that." and then hangs up the phone. A few seconds later, the arms smuggler is shot dead by the Russians!). As the film advances, it becomes apparent that both Lt. Garvey and Ngu-Yen may not be who they seem. Ngu-Yen mortally stabs Garvey one night and delivers the Wild Weasel to the commander of the enemy forces (who promptly shoots and kills Ngu-Yen for being a traitor!). When Garvey commits suicide because he can't stand the pain, Wilson and Nam (who have fallen in love) must find their way across the Thailand border into safety, but there are a few surprises to be had along the way (especially concerning a necklace that Nam wears, which is a doozy!). This is another crazy Filipino war actioner, directed by the late Teddy Page (BLOOD DEBTS - 1983; NINJA'S FORCE - 1984; PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987), that contains plenty of "What The Fuck?!?" moments and dialogue. My favorite is when the foursome finds a disabled dune buggy in the middle of the jungle and, in true 80's montage fashion, go through a lot of trouble getting it in running condition and outfitting it with a machine gun torrent. They end up abandoning it a few miles down the road when it stalls and refuses to start back up. For all the time and effort they spent on fixing the cursed buggy (Which Garvey calls an "FRV", but never explains what it stands for!), they could have walked ten times the distance the damned buggy traveled before it broke down. Another hilarious sequence comes when the foursome are lost in the jungle and Wilson says, "If we only had a map!" Ngu-Yen looks at him and says, "I have a map...but it's in French!". I nearly pissed my pants. Toss in plenty of bloody bullet squibs, fiery explosions and a coincidence during the finale that's too good to be true (Nam and the Commander of the enemy forces are long-lost sister and brother and he suddenly turns into a good guy and helps her, Wilson and Wild Weasel escape from the nasty Russians and corrupt U.S. officials!) and what you have is a film that's short on logic, but hugely entertaining. I've just scratched the surface on what's on view here. I'll leave the rest for you to discover for yourselves (including the incredibly downbeat ending). WAR WITHOUT END is another winner from Producer K.Y. Lim's Silver Star Film Company. Also starring Richard King, Dan Dee, Jerry Bayron (also the Stunt Coordinator) and Filipino action staple Mike Monty. Never legitimately available on U.S. home video. The print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

WEAPONS OF DEATH (1976) - In Naples, Italy, two masked men rob a bank, one of them kicking a pregnant woman in the stomach and killing the bank guard. After stealing all the money out of the drawers and safe, they don't notice that one of the tellers has set off the silent alarm and two undercover cops show up and make the robbers give up. The regular police show up and the two undercover cops tell them they have the situation well in hand and drive the two handcuffed robbers and the stolen money away. Only they aren't two undercover officers, they are members of the gang, and they think they have gotten away with it, but they don't know they are dealing with Police Commissioner Belli (Leonard Mann; DEATH STEPS IN THE DARK - 1977), who knows what they are up to (he knows the real undercover cops they were pretending to be) and captures them at a roadblock.
     We then see young street boy Gennarino, a.k.a. Gianni (Massimo Deda) and his young fat cohort Nardi (played by Massimo's real-life brother, Mario Deda) running another one of his scams on the street, selling used newspapers to necking couples in cars (He tells them they can use the newspapers to cover the car's windows, so no one can see what they are doing and they fall for it!). Gianni is wise beyond his years (he is also a cripple who walks with a limp), always thinking of ways to make money on the streets (He tells the man he sold a newspaper to, "I hope it's a boy."!). Hampering his scams is Commissioner Belli, who promised his predecessor to keep a close eye on Gianni and if he doesn't stay on the straight and narrow, to send him to reform school. It is quite obvious Belli admires and likes Gianni, letting him get away with more than he should, but he keeps threatening to send the boy to juvie if he doesn't straighten out (He wants Gianni to go to regular school and take up an honest trade). Belli doesn't know that Gianni one day will save his life, but at what cost?
     We then see protected street hood Santoro (Henry Silva; CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974) and his gang pull off a daring daylight train robbery, killing all the men in one of the train cars protecting a payroll safe. Santoro proves he is ruthless, leaving no one to identify him, even one of his own men, who is shot and wounded during the robbery, shooting and killing him point blank. Belli knows it was Santoro who masterminded the robbery and also knows Santoro is "protected' by Godfather Don Alfredo (Tino Bianchi; HOT STUFF - 1976), but he vows to put him away, telling Santoro to his face, "I know you! You better believe it!"
     Taxi driver and undercover Special Squad officer Guidi (Jeff Blynn; the egg-eating detective in GIALLO IN VENICE - 1979) goes to the home of a totally nude woman (Kirsten Gille; SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN - 1974; and yowza!) to take her to the airport (damn it, she puts clothes on!). On the way to the airport he sees two men on a scooter grab a woman's purse (one of the robbers puts a gun to a boy's head and threatens to shoot him if the pedestrians don't hand over their wallets and valuables) and speed away, so he gives chase through the busy streets of Naples, knocks the purse snatchers off their scooter and hands them over to Belli, who doesn't know Guidi is a special squad officer (he does now). Belli then meets Gianni at a poolhall and threatens to send him to boarding school if he doesn't keep his nose clean. Gianni is all about making money, beating Belli at a game of foosball and demands a thousand lire for the win, which Belli pays (All he is doing is enabling the boy to keep up with his petty crime ways).
     Local mobsters Don Licata (Enrico Maisto; CONTRABAND - 1980) and Don Calise (Tommaso Palladino; DEATH RAGE - 1976) are tired of Santoro's violent ways and want him put down (He is losing a ton of money in their gambling parlor), but they know Don Alfredo protects him. Calise doesn't care and leaves to make a phone call. When one of Santoro's hoods tells him he is losing too much money and he should quit, Santoro tells him, "I'm a successful man in life because I never give up." Later in the night, when Santoro leaves the gambling den, he is blitzed by three men with guns, who open fire, killing Santoro's driver. As the hoods fire away at Santoro in his car, they discover that the car is bulletproof, so one of the hoods grabs the dead driver's keys and goes to unlock the car's door. Just when it looks like Santoro is about to die in a hail of bullets, Belli arrives on the scene, shooting and killing one of the hoods and saving Santoro's life. Santoro thanks Belli for saving his life and asks him if he knew if it was him he was saving (he didn't), would he have saved his life? Belli replies, "They pay me to protect everyone, the honest people and pimps like you." Santoro tells Belli he has no idea who was trying to kill him, but that's an obvious lie. Santoro knows that Calise and Licata are behind the assassination attempt and he is about to dish out his own brand of justice, beginning with two of his hoods blowing up Calise's unfinished mansion with dynamite, which was still under construction.
     Belli gets into a chase with one of Santoro's hijacked tanker trucks, which runs a family of four off the road, causing their car to roll down and embankment and fall off a cliff, exploding and killing them all. When Belli's police car is disabled in the chase, he commandeers a van on the highway, telling the driver to follow the truck. Belli is quite the acrobat, jumping out of the van onto the back of the truck, walking on top of the two tankers until he gets to the driver, whom he shoots in the head when he pulls out a gun, pulling the truck to the side of the road.
     Santoro and his men then rob the payroll from an oil refinery; killing everyone they come in contact with. This results in two car chases, one between the police and Santoro's hoods and one between Belli and Santoro. When one of the officers is severely burned when their car rolls over and catches fire (and the hood's car explodes, killing them all), Belli and Santoro's chase ends when both of their cars are destroyed (Santoro just drives his car head-on into Belli's). Santoro can easily kill Belli as he lies on the ground dazed from the impact, but he decides not to, telling Belli, "Now we're even." This action casts doubt on Belli being an honest cop, especially with his superiors. Belli tells them this is exactly what Santoro wants them to think and promises to bring Belli into their office alive to prove he is not corrupt ("Even though I would like to stick my gun down his throat and pull the trigger."). Three of Santoro's masked men rob Licata & Calise's gambling parlor, taking all the money and everyone's wallets, only they are not Santoro's men, they are Belli's undercover officers. They deliver the money and wallets to Belli, who finds a very incriminating letter in Licata's wallet (Belli tells an officer to donate the money, 27 million lire, to the fund for orphans of police officers killed in the line of duty and make sure it is from an unnamed benefactor). Belli then goes to Licata and threatens to release the incriminating letter to the Press unless he plays ball with him. Licata agrees and agrees to set-up Santoro (he's now a wanted man with charges that will stick). After taking one of Santoro's associate's car, Licata calls the associate and tells him to deliver a message to Santoro personally.
     Gianni is running another one of his moneymaking scams, holding a prime parking space for the most expensive sportscar driver who is willing to pay for it. After asking the elderly driver (who is obviously with a prostitute) how long he will be and being told about two hours (really?), Gianna and Nardi go to work, removing all four tires from the car and selling them to an illegal chop shop. This boy has a real future as a conman, that is if Belli doesn't catch him in the act and send him to reform school. Now that Santoro is a wanted man, Belli puts his plan into action. When Santoro's associate finds his car missing, he takes a taxi, driven by Guidi, to Santoro's hideout, but he is far too cunning and escapes capture, after killing his associate, whom Belli was following (like I said before, he leaves no witnesses!).
     When Gianni sees a photo shoot taking place on the streets of Naples, where a famous racecar driver is being photographed, he steals the driver's racecar, taking it for an extremely fast joyride through the busy streets of Naples and then ditching the car by the side of a road. Belli knows it was Gianni, but he can't prove it (He actually admires the kid's moxey). An undercover officer, who is watching one of Santoro's associate's apartment, tells Belli that something smells fishy; the associate hasn't left his apartment for days. When Belli goes to investigate, he finds that Santoro is there. Gianni's driving skills come in handy when Belli gets into a foot chase with Santoro and captures him, but several of Santoro's men approach Belli, knives and guns drawn. Gianni shows up in the nick of time in Belli's car and saves Belli, who takes Santoro to his superiors' office, proving he is not a corrupt cop. Even in prison, Santoro's reach has no boundaries, as two of his hoods kill the undercover cop who fingered Santoro by decapitating him with a wire strung around two trees as he speeds down the road on his motorcycle (a scene copied nearly verbatim in RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS - 1983).
     We then see a pedophile (Adolfo Lastretti; SPASMO -1974) being attacked in a park by parents and on-lookers when he tries to abduct a young girl. He is sent to the same prison Santoro resides in, which is key to him escaping from prison. When the pedophile is sitting in the prison yard, a riot breaks out when all the prisoners beat up and stab the pedophile. Santoro swaps places with the pedophile as he is being transported to the hospital, a plan cooked-up by Don Alfredo. Alfredo tells Santoro that he should get out of Naples for good, so Santoro make plans to travel to Metz, France, which Belli find out about. Belli discovers that an old flame of Santoro's, Lucia Parisi (Evelyn Stewart; SYNDICATE SADISTS - 1975), lives in Metz and Belli comes up with a plan to capture Santoro again by transporting Lucia back to Naples and making sure that Santoro finds out about it (Santoro knows that Lucia is coming to Naples to sign an affidavit that could put him away for life). With Guidi protecting Lucia on the train, Belli stakes out the train station for Santoro. Gianni and Nardi are also at the train station, selling tap water that they have bottled themselves and selling it as expensive mineral water to people on the train. Santoro arrives and Gianni tells Belli where he is. A shootout between Belli and Santoro takes place, which results in Santoro getting shot and falling from a moving train; getting graphically run over by the train's metal wheels. In what should be a satisfying ending to Belli's mission, he discovers that Gianni has been shot by one of Santoro's stray bullets. Gianni tells Belli that he decided to go to regular school and become a professor or engineer, as he dies in Belli's arms. Films like this rarely have a happy ending, as Belli walks away with a dead Gianni in his arms.
     This Poliziotteschi ("Tough Cop") film, directed by Mario Caiano (ULYSSES AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES - 1962; ERIK THE VIKING - 1965; NIGHTMARE CASTLE - 1965; SEVEN PISTOLS FOR A MASSACRE - 1967; SHADOW OF ILLUSION - 1970; EYE IN THE LABYRINTH - 1972; THE FIGHTING FIST OF SHANGHAI JOE - 1973; THE MANIAC RESPONSIBLE [a.k.a. CALLING ALL POLICE CARS - 1975]; BLOODY PAYROLL - 1976; THE CRIMINALS ATTACK. THE POLICE RESPOND. - 1977; NAZI LOVE CAMP 27 - 1977) and written by the team of Gianfranco Clerici & Vincenzo Mannino (both giving us the screenplays to STRANGE SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM - 1976 and MURDER-ROCK: DANCING DEATH - 1984, among many others), is a sequel to director Umberto Lenzi's VIOLENT NAPLES (1976), which starred Maurizio Merli as Commissioner Betti. Those of you who have seen the film (as I have) will instantly recognize Massimo Deda as Gianni and know why he walks with a limp in the sequel. Deda is the only actor to return as the same character, but many more actors from the first film return for the sequel, but in different roles. (Notice the difference between "Betti" and "Belli", as Belli makes a reference to Betti by mentioning him as a "predecessor", but not mentioning his name). This is one of the best poliziotteschi films out there (but I prefer to call the genre "Eurocrime"), due to its early eye-opening full-frontal female nudity (once again, yowza!), graphic violence (including a decapitation, a fire gag [we get to see the burned policeman's face towards the end of the film, as he is still alive and tells Belli that he's going to return to duty] and too many bloody bullet squibs to count) and non-stop action, including shoot-outs, car chases and fistfights. I always admired Mario Caiano's directing style and this film cements that admiration. The music score, by Francesco De Masi (THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982) is also very memorable, especially the music used whenever Gianni is on the screen, giving his petty crimes some added humor (you'll have to listen to it to appreciate it). I also believe this is Leonard Mann's best role of his career (he's still alive [at the time this review was written]), but he suddenly quit acting in the late-'80s and became a film teacher in the Los Angeles school district! He was one of those American actors that fell in love with Italy, but when genre movie-making waned there (and never recovered), he moved back to the States, appearing is films such as NIGHT SCHOOL (1981), FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (1987), and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 3: BETTER WATCH OUT! (1989), before quitting the acting profession in 1989. He occasionally returned to Italy in the '80s, appearing in COPKILLER (1983), CUT AND RUN (1985) and THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE (1985) and his last film, an Italian production titled THE LAST EMOTION (1989), an erotic thriller that has basically gone unseen since its theatrical release in Italy, before retiring from his profession and becoming a teacher. I often wonder if the downfall of Italian cinema had anything to do with his quitting the profession, because in the documentary EUROCRIME! (2012), he states that he would gladly return to Italy if genre filmmaking were to become popular again. What can I say about Henry Silva that hasn't already been said? He's one cool cat as Santoro, killing friends and foes alike, always with a smile on his face. It's easy to see why he was in demand in Italy. No one could play a villain better than Silva. His bad guys (and even good guys, such as the flawed cop in ALMOST HUMAN - 1974) were always very memorable. Silva is in very poor health as I write this (He's 90-years-old for Christ's sake!), but if anyone could beat the Grim Reaper at his own game, it's him! Be aware that even though Evelyn Stewart (real name: Ida Galli; THE PSYCHIC - 1977) is given star billing, her role is basically an extended cameo, appearing during the finale of the film, her screen time no longer than three minutes. But it's Massimo Deda as Gianni who steals the show here, giving his character just enough street smarts and sass to make his death an emotional journey for the viewer. It is too bad that his career never materialized, this being his penultimate performance. If you want to watch a Eurocrime film that fires on all cylinders and then steals some more to fire on, you can do no better than this film. I'm a huge fan of this genre and this film is what most Eurocrime flicks aspire to be. No bullshit.
     Shot as NAPOLI SPARA! ("Naples Shoots!"), this film was basically unknown in the United States until label Dorado Films released it as part of a double feature in a limited edition Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack in 2017, along with the Eurocrime film A SPECIAL COP IN ACTION (1976), which is already OOP. It is also available streaming on YouTube from user "Eurocrime Realm" in a fairly nice anamorphic widescreen print, dubbed in English. It is also available streaming on Amazon Prime (also in widescreen and English dubbed), but it will cost Prime members $1.99 to view it (it will cost non-Prime members $3.99).  The Blu-Ray/DVD gives you the choice of watching the film English dubbed or in its original Italian language with English subtitles, my preferred method of watching foreign films. Whatever way you watch it, this is one of the best Eurocrime films out there. Also featuring Maurizio Mattioli (THE SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS - 1982), Massimo Vanni (THE BIG RACKET - 1976), Benito Pacifico (HEROIN BUSTERS -1977), Ottaviano Dell'Acqua (ROME: ARMED TO THE TEETH - 1976), Franco Marino (A MAN CALLED MAGNUM - 1977), Enrico Chippafreddo (APACHE WOMAN - 1976) and Omero Capanna (MANHUNT - 1972). Not Rated.

THE WILD TEAM (1985) - Italian/German co-production which mimics many of the 80's American actioners, including Schwarzenegger's COMMANDO, made the same year as this. When a young boy, the son of exiled president Guillermo Cordura (Franco Fantasia, also the Assistant Director), is kidnapped during a Mardi Gras-like celebration on the island of Manioca, a conglomerate of businessmen with mining interests on the island hire a squad of mercenaries to rescue the boy, defeat the dastardly General Gomez and restore Cordura to his formal role as President of Manioca (This is all strictly political, as the viewer gets the distinct impression that the mining conglomerate is as crooked as a British smile). In what has to be one of the weirdest turn of events in an action film, the mining conglomerate has three parapsychologists try to find the boy's location by hooking up their brains to a computer and using their psychic powers to pinpoint the exact location. Using the information collected from the psychics, the mercenary squad, led by Martin Cuomo (Antonio Sabato; BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983) and including members Theo (Werner Pochath; COP GAME - 1988), Paco (Sal Borgese; SUPER FUZZ - 1980), Marius (Dante Fioretti; THE SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS - 1989)) and explosives expert Sybil Slater (Julia Fursich, a.k.a. "Julia Kent"; MIDNIGHT COP - 1988), leave Miami and fly to Manioca, where they nearly get arrested by soldiers at the airport, but quick-thinking by new member Slater saves all their hides. Martin and his team head down the crocodile-infested river and make it to the halfway point, where they must traverse the rest of the way through the jungle by foot. Meanwhile, the kidnapped boy tries to escape his jungle camp hideout, but is captured by the mean Fuego (Ivan Rassimov; SPASMO - 1974), who shoots and kills his own guard dog when it refuses to attack the boy (it licks the boy's hand instead!). Martin and his team witness the atrocities committed by General Gomez firsthand when they watch an entire village of innocent women and children being slaughtered by Gomez's soldiers, so Martin and his squad kill all the soldiers in retribution (Paco is extremely talented with his bow). Martin and his team then assemble some hang gliders (Where were they hiding them? They definitely weren't lugging them along on their trek!) and fly through the air, landing less than a mile from the boy's location. They battle their way to the jungle camp, where Paco silently infiltrates the camp and takes-out the generator, turning off the electric fence that surrounds the camp. Then, Martin and his team do what they do best: Killing the bad guys, blowing up everything and everyone they can get their hands on and rescuing the boy. Things take a tragic turn when the mining conglomerate switch sides and assassinate Cordura and then try to kill Martin, his team and the boy, which results in Marius getting killed and Theo heading out on his own. As the little boy leads the rest of the team to safety, Theo is captured by Fuego and turns traitor. The finale finds our heroes battling it out with Fuego and a platoon of soldiers while the boy tries to discover if a local legend (a hidden tunnel behind a waterfall that will let them escape through the mountains) is true. Who will make it to safety?  This is a pretty enjoyable and entertaining action flick once you get past the slow-moving first thirty minutes. Director Umberto Lenzi (ALMOST HUMAN - 1974; BRIDGE TO HELL - 1986; WARTIME - 1987; HITCHER IN THE DARK - 1989) and screenwriter Roberto Leoni (THE FINAL EXECUTIONER - 1983) provide plenty of bloody violence (squishy bullet squibs; arrow impalements; people being blown apart) and enough twists and turns in the plot (even though most of them are telegraphed early on) to keep the viewer's mind from wondering about some of the gaping plot holes (the storage of the hang gliders being one of the biggest "Huh?" moments). The inclusion of the psychics to find the boy's location was a very entertaining idea, but it is dropped after a couple of minutes (it's a shame, too, because it would have been an interesting running gag). Although the boy seems to have some kind of supernatural power (How else to explain how he made an attack dog so docile?), but it is never really expanded upon throughout the rest of the film. Lenzi does that with a lot of his films: He throws anything he can come up with at the screen, no matter how weird or out-of-place, just to see what will stick. WILD TEAM (also known as THUNDER SQUAD) is no different and your enjoyment level will depend on your degree of forgiveness for Lenzi's multiple transgressions. Personally, I give Lenzi a wide berth and just let him rip. Also starring Geoffrey Copleston, Andrea Aurelli, Gabriella Giorgelli, Diego Verdegiglio and Gustavo Matos as the boy. Filmed in the Dominican Republic. I don't believe this ever got a legitimate home video release in the U.S., but it is available on Dutch, Greek, Japanese and British VHS and can be purchased from many gray market sellers on DVD-R. Now available streaming on Amazon Prime (using the THUNDER SQUAD title). Not Rated.

YOUNG, VIOLENT, DANGEROUS (1976) - Extremely tough Italian Eurocrime flick that shows us how youth gone wild can lead to incredibly violent death and destruction. It also shows us how one violent young man can turn his friends into killers. Yes, this is Italy in the '70s, when anything can happen and it usually does, from a director who is often overlooked. Unfairly, I might add.
     The film opens with young woman Lea (Eleonora Giorgi; BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA - 1971) squealing to a police inspector (Tomas Milian; ALMOST HUMAN - 1974) that her boyfriend, Louis (Max Delys; GANGSTER'S LAW - 1969), has hooked-up with two undesirable young men, Paul (Stefano Patrizi; ROME: ARMED TO THE TEETH - 1976) and Joe (Benjamin Lev; EYE IN THE LABYRINTH - 1972). Lea fears for Louis' life, so the Inspector (who is never given a proper name) and his squad of officers follow the trio. They watch them pull into a gas station, where Paul, who is the leader of this small gang, shoots and kills a gas station worker (He thinks Paul's gun is fake, so he shows him it's not!), which leads to a shootout between them and the police (the police lose). They steal another car (almost running over a young boy crossing the street), as the Inspector tries to get Lea to tell him what their next move is. It's robbing a bank, as Paul callously shoots and kills the assistant manager.  Paul and Joe are definitely young, violent and dangerous, but Louis seems to be the only one in the trio with a conscience, as he only drives (and steals) the getaway car and does not take part in the killings...yet.
     After robbing the bank and throwing the money out the car window to some appreciative pedestrians (they do the robberies for kicks, not for the money), they ditch their car and steal another one, always keeping a step ahead of the police. The Inspector brings the trio's parents into his office in hopes of learning anything that will result in their arrest and capture, but all he learns is that they come from privilege, their parents not caring much of what happens to their sons. The trio hide out at the house of Paul's friend, Lucio (Diego Abatantuono), where Louis calls Lea on the phone. Joe, who is always laughing and cracking jokes at the most inopportune times, nearly rapes the girls Lucio has staying at his house, before Paul breaks it up. Lea tells Louis to get away from the other two, unaware that the Inspector has tapped her phone. Lucio, who is about to rob a supermarket with his friends, has a wall full of automatic weapons, so he and Paul put some of them in a bag and head out to the supermarket. The trio leave the house just before the Inspector and his men arrive. Lucio and his friends rob the supermarket and the trio tag along, Paul killing Lucio's friends in cold blood as they rob the market. Once again, Louis does not participate in the robbery or the killings (Paul promises to tell the police that if they are ever caught), ignoring the fact that the law doesn't discriminate, as there is no difference in the law's eyes between participating or guilt by association. Louis then meets Lea, so Paul kidnaps her, telling Louis that he doesn't trust her, not knowing that they have crossed the line with the law, as kidnapping is punishable by death. They stop at an auto junkyard to get some forged passports and papers, but when one of the forgers (Salvatore Billa; WEREWOLF WOMAN - 1976) refuses to do the work for them, telling Paul he better turn himself in to the police (there is a lot of heat on the streets), they are repaid with a hail of bullets and one of the forgers is crushed by a car, driven by Louis. Lea goes bonkers, finally realizing that Louis' friends are cold-blooded murders and Louis is becoming one, too. She tries to escape, but fails.
     Trying to escape the country, the trio stop their car at the border when they see a roadblock up ahead. Paul keeps Lea close by his side, pretending to be boyfriend and girlfriend, distracting the officers, while Louis and Joe sneak by the roadblock on foot. Once across the border, Paul steals another car and Lea stops him from killing the driver, who runs to the roadblock and tells the officers what just happened. This leads to a lengthy car chase, where Joe cracks wise while the cops chase them, disgusting Lea. Luckily, Louis is a great driver, which Paul notices (paying him a compliment), as the police cars behind them get into wrecks (in spectacular fashion). They stop at a farm to steal another car (Joe says, "Maybe we can steal one of their tractors!"), but they find the farm empty, no car to steal. They hide their current car in a barn while Louis tries to comfort Lea, but she will have none of it, finally realizing that Louis is just as bad as his two new friends. The quartet, unable to find a car, travel by foot through the beautiful countryside, hiding whenever they hear police sirens (The farmer has alerted the Inspector that someone left a car in his barn). Suddenly, a police helicopter appears overhead and Paul makes Lea take off her blouse, jumping on her topless body, making it look like two young lovers having some afternoon nookie. The ruse works and the copter flies away, but the look on Louis' face speaks more than any words can convey (Joe jokingly [?] says, "Maybe he is really going to bang her!"). Lea is thoroughly disgusted with the trio, especially Louis for letting this happen to her (during their fake lovemaking session, we and Louis see Paul fondling Lea's breasts).
     Realizing that they haven't eaten in a while, the quartet try to find something that will satisfy their hunger (Joe says, "I'm so hungry I could eat a traffic cop!"). Paul discovers a couple of campers eating and tells his friends that he will ask them for something to eat and if they won't give it to him, he'll take it by force. Louis has had enough and points a gun at Paul, telling him that he and Lea are leaving. Paul tells him to pull the trigger, but Louis can't, because he is really a good guy at heart (Is he really?). The quartet then approach the campers, a big Dutchman named Oberwald (Peter Berling, one of the screenwriters of the great giallo flick RINGS OF FEAR - 1978) and his son. When Joe tries to steal some of their food, Oberwald grabs him by the neck and begins to choke him. Paul then murders the father and son, shooting them in the back. Joe is unconscious, so Paul, Louis and Lea leave him behind (some friends, huh?), where one of the police dogs the Inspector has following their trail rips Joe's throat out, killing him. Paul, Louis and Lea meet a forest ranger who has no idea who they are. When the ranger leads them to civilization, Paul pays him for his kindness by shooting him in the back (Paul's preferred method of killing, proving him to be a coward). The Inspector and his men are getting closer to their prey, as they find the dead body of the ranger, still warm. Louis steals another car but, before Lea can get in, he takes off without her, making Paul "proud" of him, yet he still holds a gun to Louis' head as he drives. Lea sits crying in a public bathroom, unaware that Louis has just saved her life. As in most of these Eurocrime films, we know the guilty and even the innocent never get away, without leaving some scars. Louis, who finally realizes the deadly spot he is in, drives the car over a bridge, killing himself and Paul, while Lea continues crying. All the Inspector can do is sigh at the uselessness of it all, the expression on his face telling us that he has seen this same thing more times than he cares to remember. Murder is a coward's way out.
     Although nothing spectacular, this is an entertaining potboiler full of nudity and senseless violence. Director Romolo Guerrieri, who also gave us the giallo THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH (1968) and the post-apocalypse THE FINAL EXECUTIONER (1983), gives us enough of the good stuff to keep our minds off the fact that this film is populated by a bunch of unlikable people, from the trio to their parents, who are more worried more about lawsuits than they are for their sons' lives. This should come as no surprise, since one of the screenwriters is Fernando Di Leo, director of the brutal SLAUGHTER HOTEL (1971), the wonderfully violent MANHUNT (1972), the better-than average Eurocrime flick KIDNAP SYNDICATE (1975) and the gory MADNESS (1980), all films populated with unlikable characters as the main protagonists. There's a reason why Di Leo is called "King of Eurocrime" and one look at this film will tell you why. Stefano Patrizi as Paul is a real charmer. Every time he smiles, someone dies, which makes his character fascinating. Less fascinating is Benjamin Lev as Joe, who makes a joke out of everything, even his death. His character is a cliche, which brings this film down a notch for me. The screenplay was co-written by Nico Ducci, who wrote the screenplay to director Guerrieri's COVERT ACTION (1978), but it is easy to see Di Leo did the majority of the writing, as this film contains his "touch" for the dramatic. But this is still an interesting film, full of unexpected deaths, some eye-opening nudity, tense situations and a nihilistic ending, typical for a '70s Eurocrime film. Not that it's a bad thing but because it runs opposite to most American crime films of the '70s (With the exception of, off the top of my head, ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE [1973] and DOG DAY AFTERNOON [1975]).
     Filmed as LIBERI ARMATI PERICOLOSI ("Free Armed Dangerous"), this film never had a U.S. theatrical release or legitimate VHS release, making its first appearance on these shores as a DVD from Raro Video. This is the first time I was disappointed with a Raro disc, for two reasons: 1) the print is in 4x3 windowbox, so when you go to blow-up the image to fill the screen of an HDTV, the lower line of the English subtitles are cut off and 2) the DVD sleeve says that there is a .PDF booklet on the disc that gives background on this film, but it is not there. I Googled the problem, thinking it was an isolated incident, but it seems the same thing happened to many people with this disc. I went to Raro's website to see if they offered the .PDF booklet to people who purchased this DVD, but they don't. This is not typical for Raro, who usually give us a physical booklet, but more of their later releases have a .PDF booklet instead, saving them paper and money. I just wish this film had one or the other. There is an extra on the disc, though, an interview with director Romolo Guerrieri, who regales us with info on making this film and why he changed his name (His last name is actually "Girolami", but he changed it because he didn't want people to confuse him with Marino Girolami, a director of genre films such as DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D [1980], who used the pseudonym "Frank Martin"). A nice little extra that almost makes up for what is missing, almost. No Blu-Ray at the time of this review. Also featuring the late Venantino Venantini (SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE - 1973), Tom Felleghy (EYEBALL - 1975), Gloria Piedimonte (NAZI LOVE CAMP 27 - 1977), Antonio Guidi (THE KILLER IS ON THE PHONE - 1972) and Luciano Baraghini as the Inspector's assistant. Not Rated.

YOUNG WARRIORS (1983) - You gotta love a film that opens with the following on-screen scrawl: " This film is dedicated to King Vidor with deepest appreciation for his invaluable creative assistance", and then proceeds to show a film that sucks so hard, you'll swear it was made by a vacuum cleaner salesman. Kevin Carrigan (James Van Patten) is a frustrated college student who expresses his emotions by making trippy animated films and hazing fraternity pledges by shaving their asses, making them sit bare-assed on a block of ice and attaching bricks to their peckers. His younger sister, Tiffany (April Dawn), is out on a date with high school senior Roger (Nels Van Patten), when their car is run off the road by a street gang in a black van. Roger burns to death in the car, but Tiffany escapes, only to be gang-raped by the gang (she screams "Mommy!" over and over). She ends up in a coma at the hospital and eventually dies while Kevin's policeman father, Lt. Bob Carrigan (Ernest Borgnine), tells him that there's nothing that the police can do until more evidence can be found. Kevin, tired of all the red tape, decides to take the law into his own hands and gets help from friends Fred (Mike Norris), Jorge (John Alden), Stan (Ed De Stefane) and Scott (Tom Reilly). They go back to the scene of the car crash and find a matchbook (I guess the police are sloppy as well as ineffectual) which leads them to a dive bar in town. It leads nowhere (although the audience is shown one of the gang members was there when Kevin was questioning the bartender) and Kevin becomes more frustrated, venting his anger at a snooty college professor (Dick Shawn). His friends decide that Kevin is right, the police are worthless, so they band together and form a vigilante squad. They stop a car robbery, but they end up arrested, which pisses off Kevin's father and his new partner, Sgt. John Austin (Richard Roundtree). The Young Warriors begin cruising the streets, which is noticed by the street gang, who slit Jorge's throat. They begin cleaning up the streets, collecting guns and other weapons from the people they beat to a pulp. They become so obsessed in their roles as crimefighters that they kill three guys who have kidnapped and raped a girl. The finale finds Kevin and his friends, now nothing but lawless vigilantes, shooting up the dive bar, killing the innocent as well as the guilty and losing most of their lives in the process. Kevin finally wakes up and realizes what he has done and blows himself up with a hand grenade.  I can't begin to describe how truly awful and banal this film is, but what else would you expect from director/co-writer Lawrence D. Foldes, who also gave us the mind-numbing horror film NIGHTSTALKER (1979) and the similarly-themed action film NIGHTFORCE (1986). This film is full of scenes that lead nowhere, pointless dialogue scenes between Kevin and his father and badly-staged action scenes that are few and far between. This overlong (103 minutes) film takes forever to get moving, but there are some nude scenes early on by Linnea Quigley, who plays Ginger, and Anne Lockhart, who plays Kevin's girlfriend, Lucy. Ernest Borgnine and Richard Roundtree are wasted in their roles (Borgnine looks totally embarassed and Roundtree disappears before the film is finished) as is Lynda Day George, who plays Kevin's mother. The main problem with this film is there are no real villians to truly hate. The street gang is basically faceless (none of them are even given names) as are all the other crooks, rapists and thieves on view. A good action film usually has at least one bad guy for the audience to hiss at. This one has none. Director Foldes' only bright spot is showing Kevin's spiral into depression as a series of his animated films, which get darker and more alarming as the film progresses. This film also cements the fact that the only talented Van Patten sibling is Timothy (who is now an Emmy-winning TV director), as both James and Nels have the emotional range of a piece of quartz. The violence in this film is limited mainly to gunshot deaths and one guy gets his foot blown off with a shotgun blast. Do yourself a favor and pass this one by, unless you are a masochistic glutton for punishment. Originally known as THE GRADUATES OF MALIBU HIGH and released by Cannon Films. An MGM/UA Home Video Release. Rated R.

THE ZEBRA KILLER (1973) - Detective Frank Savage (Austin Stoker) and his partner, Detective Marty Wilson (Hugh Smith), are called to a crime scene; a house where three women (two white, one black) are found viciously slashed to death. Also at the scene is a note left by the killer that cryptically says, "One Down 13 To Go" and is signed "MAC". One girl is found alive hiding under a bed, but she is in such bad shape, it will be at least 24 hours before Savage can question her. The killer then plants a bomb in the car of a suburban white family and blows it up, killing Dad, Mom and three young kids, cackling like a madman as the car is engulfed in flames and the kids scream out in their last breaths. Savage finds a note nearby that reads "Two Down 12 To Go". I think you can see where this is heading. Savage can find no link between the two crime scenes, so he heads to the hospital to question the woman who survived the first massacre (The woman, who is black, says to Savage, "Did they pick you because you are black?" He says to her, "No, baby. They picked me because I'm good!"). The only thing she can tell Savage about the killer is that he is black, has a big afro and has a wicked laugh. After breaking up a fight where a bunch of hookers are beating up their pimp (played by D'Urville Martin, whp wears the same zebra pimp suit in William Girdler's SHEBA, BABY [1975]), Savage and Wilson are called to the scene where a man had his head caved-in with a sledgehammer, a note painted near the body that says, "Three Down 11 To Go". A pattern begins to emerge, as all the murdered people were killed with tools from their trades. (The three women, who were nurses, were killed with a scalpel. The family, whose father was a contracter, were killed with explosives. The most recent murder was a man who was a construction worker, killed with a sledgehammer.) Another clue turns up: A synthetic black hair, which means the killer's afro is a wig and he may not be black after all. We soon find out that is true, as the killer murders a cleaning woman (he tosses her down a flight of stairs in her cleaning cart) and is nearly caught by the cops. It turns out that the killer is a raving white lunatic in blackface (played by James Pickett) and he calls Savage and gives him a clue: "November 1971". What could this possibly mean? Savage better find out quick, because MAC is still on a murder spree. Maybe this riddle will help: What contains twelve people, a lawyer and a judge? Yes, it's a trial and all the people being killed served on one that sent the killer's father to prison (where he was murdered by other prisoners) and MAC is murdering all those involved in sending Dad to jail in retribution. Savage better make the connection quick, as the killer has kidnapped his lady (Valerie Rogers) and the clock is ticking.  This is probably the rarest of director William Girdler's short output of 70's exploitation films (nine total) before his life was cut short in 1978 in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for a film in the Philippines. Made in 1973, just before his blaxploitation EXORCIST rip-off ABBY (1974; also starring Stoker), but not released until 1975, Girdler at first makes THE ZEBRA KILLER seem like a racially-charged cop thriller, having James Pickens (the star of Girdler's THREE ON A MEATHOOK - 1972) dress in blackface (Pickens pulls it off) and spewing-out racial epithets, but it becomes clearer as the film progresses that it's less about race and more about a lunatic who wants to make it seem like his killings are racially motivated when they are, in fact, anything but. Austin Stoker (HORROR HIGH - 1973; ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 - 1976) is good as Detective Savage, who gets along fine with his new white partner (He says to Marty: "I don't know how to tell you this, but I really think you're black!") and doesn't get very upset when his fellow cops use the word "nigger" (which is a lot). Maybe that's because he's a pretty lousy cop. Everything he does in this film endangers his partner, witnesses and fellow cops, like refusing help when he really needs it; he never calls for backup, even when he really needs it; he mistakenly shoots at his own partner (not once, but twice in the film!); and he roughs-up an innocent citizen on the street when he simply asks him for a match. It's hard to believe that this film received a PG rating, considering the amount of racially-charged language, subject matter and violence on display. While the bloodletting is kept to a minimum (most of the killings are shown after the fact, although there are bloody bullet squibs every now and then), the overall tone of this film is dark and relentless, but not without some humor, such as the scene of the hookers beating the shit out of their pimp or the appearance of the "city's biggest pimp", a black midget who steps out of a huge limousine.  While THE ZEBRA KILLER (also known as COMBAT COPS, THE GET-MAN and PANIC CITY) may be an obscure 70's actioner, it doesn't deserve to be. It's quite entertaining in a way only films from the 70's can be: It's politically incorrect, contains plenty of "wah-wah" guitar on the soundtrack and makes you wish films like this were still being made today. A piece of trivia: Not once is the phrase "Zebra Killer" mentioned in the film. Filmed in Girdler's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Also starring Charles Kissinger (the star of Girdler's first film, ASYLUM OF SATAN [1971], who has appeared in nearly all of Girdler's films), Tom Brooks, Ruby Brown, Harriet Knox, Mike Clifford and Don Henderson. I don't believe this ever got an official home video release in the United States. The print I viewed looks to have come from a beat-up 16mm print. Rated PG.