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ALMOST HUMAN (1974) - Movie posters tried to pass this off as a monster film to an unsuspecting public upon its' initial U.S. release in 1979 due to the success of ALIEN. Actually it is a fairly engrossing crime caper from Umberto Lenzi, the director of MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY (1981; a.k.a. CANNIBAL FEROX) and CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD (1980). Guilio Sacchi (Tomas Milian) is a monster of the human kind, a petty criminal who decides to graduate to the big time by kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy Italian businessman. (The original title of this film was THE KIDNAP OF MARY LOU in the United States.) Guilio shows no emotion as he blows away anyone who gets in his way, friends included. One particular scene stands out: During the kidnap, Mary Lou (Laura Belli) escapes to a house where a small party is going on. Guilio and his cohorts crash the party and force the guests (men included) to perform oral sex on them. The guests are then tied up and hung from the ceiling as they watch in horror as Guilio blows away the homeowner's 4 year old son. Guilio then turns his machine gun on them, slaughtering the helpless victims. Walter Grandi (Henry Silva), the police chief assigned to the case, follows the trail of bodies left in Guilio's wake. Guilio may be demented, but he is no fool. He never leaves any witnesses to convict him, and when he collects the ransom, he kills Mary Lou and his cohorts. When Grandi finally catches him, Guilio is released for lack of evidence. Grandi, in desperation, decides to take the law in his own hands. As in real life, there are no happy endings here. This violent, mean-spirited actioner could have only been made by the Italians. It is well made (though badly dubbed) and ugly to look at. It's chock full of nudity and bullet hits. Good fodder for fans of the genre. I saw this around the same time THE GODFATHER PART III (1990) was released on video, and while ALMOST HUMAN (a.k.a. THE EXECUTIONER and THE DEATH DEALER) lacks the former's budget, I found it more riveting. Also starring Gino Santercole, Mario Piave, Luciano Catenacci, Rosita Torosh, Franco Ferrari, Ray Lovelock, Tom Fellaghy and Anita Strindberg. A Prism Entertainment VHS Release. Available on DVD all around the world, including an English-friendly version from NoShame Films. Also available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.
AMERICAN COMMANDOS (1984) - A Filipino action film starring Christopher Mitchum (FINAL SCORE - 1987) and directed by the late Bobby A. Suarez (ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER - 1980)? I'm so there! When Dean Mitchell (Mitchum), a former Green Beret, is attacked in his store by drugged-out street gang, he shoots one of the gang members when he tries to run over Mitchell with his car. In retaliation, the gang invades Mitchell's house and rape his wife and kill his young son. Mitchell, upon returning home and finding his son dead and his wife bloody and bruised, calls the police (He says to the 911 operator, "They've killed my son and raped my wife and you want my phone number?"), not knowing that while he is on the phone his wife is in the bathroom slitting her throat with a straight razor. Mitchell goes on the warpath and begins to systematically hunting down and murdering all the members of the street gang (He even finds time to have a flashback, where he adopts a Filippino baby and marries the woman handling the adoption, which turn out to be his dead son and wife!). He eventually gets caught by the police, but an Interpol agent named Brady (Ken Metcalfe, who also co-wrote the screenplay) steps in and offers Mitchell a deal: Reform his old Special Forces squad and wipe out the Golden Triangle drug cartel (who are responsible for supplying the majority of heroin to the world) and his record will be wiped clean. Mitchell agrees and begins talking to all his former squad members, including Kelly (John Phillip Law), Creeper (Willie Williams) and Brutus (Robert Marius). The one former member Mitchell can't get to rejoin is Somsak (Franco Guerrero of ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER) and it becomes very clear to the audience why: He is the kingpin of the Golden Triangle. Somsak tries (unsuccessfully) on several occasions to stop the assault from ever happening, but once the final attack does happen, Somsak has one final ace up his sleeve. One of Mitchell's squad members is on Somsak's payroll. It's a long and bloody ride. This is great, mindless fun from beginning to end, with plenty of bloody action and "What the fuck?" moments. I'm still reeling from the adoption/marriage proposal flashback by Mitchell (which seems way out of place in a film like this). Mitchell also has a habit of saying, "There's noting we can do for them now. We've got to keep moving!" after losing members of his squad. I'm especially fond of the warbus Mitchell and his men (and scantilly-clad women) created. It looks like one of those short buses retarded kids take to school, tricked-out with steel armor and hidden rocket launchers and machine guns. One scene shows Mitchum on a custom motorcycle (which fits neatly in the warbus) destroying a section of road behind them with rockets, forcing an enemy truck that is following them to fall down a ravine and explode in a ball of fire (note the one stuntman on the right falling down the ravine and tell me he didn't end up seriously hurt!). A mistake in the mastering of the tape repeats an entire reel of footage (where the scantilly-clad women get machine-gunned while working on the warbus), which adds five extra minutes to the running time. No matter, though. You'll be too engrossed in the insane action, plentiful shootouts and bloody deaths. There's also lots of female nudity in AMERICAN COMMANDOS to keep your eyes busy, too. What more could you possibly ask for? Both Christopher Mitchum and John Phillip Law are stiff as boards acting-wise, but they more than acquit themselves when they are beating the snot out of or gunning down the rest of the cast (including Franco Guerrero, who wears a striking white nehru jacket throughout most of the film). Bobby A. Suarez is fast becoming one of my favorite directors to come out of the Philippines. Originally known as HIT MAN. Also starring Don Gordon Bell, David Brass, Kristine Erlandson and Nigel Hogge. A Lightning Video VHS Release, followed by a budget EP-Mode VHS from Avid Entertainment. Still awaiting a DVD release, but don't hold your breath. Filipino action flicks are a very small niche market, which is a crying shame. Rated R.
ANGELFIST (1992) - Champion martial artist Kristie Lang (Sibel Birzag) catches the murder of an American soldier in Manila with her camera and calls the American Embassy to report what she saw. Before she can hand over the film to Embassy representative Victor Winslow (Joseph Zucchero), she is viciously slashed and stabbed to death by the same black-garbed people who murdered the American soldier. Luckily, she passed the film to a cabbie before she was killed, telling him to give it to a stripper friend of hers named Sulu. Kirstie's sister, L.A. cop Kat Lang (Cat Sassoon, who has the fattest lips this side of a spousal abuse victim), travels to Manila to investigate her sister's death, but it's strictly off the books. After losing her luggage and money immediately after setting foot in Manila (this film is not an endorsement for tourism), Kat meets con man Alcatraz (Michael Shaner; BLOODFIST - 1989), who knew Kristie and offers to help Kat find her murderer (he has ulterior motives, though, like getting into Kat's tight pants). He convinces Kat to take her sister's place in the upcoming big martial arts tournament, so he hooks her up with Kristie's trainer, Bayani (Roland Dantes), and tournament promoter Mr. Carrion (Tony Carrion), who's not quite what he seems to be. As Kat begins rising through the tournament ranks (and making Alcatraz a hefty sum on side bets), she slowly makes friends with fellow tournament fighter Lorda (Melissa Moore; ONE MAN ARMY - 1993), while Alcatraz gets closer to finding Kirstie's stripper friend Sulu. Kat discovers Kristie and Lorda were working undercover with the FBI to find out the identities of members of the Black Brigade, a militant group that wants to destroy the relationship between America and the Philippines. Kat gets into deep trouble when Lorda is kidnapped by the Black Brigade and they put Kat, along with visiting American Ambassador Franklin (Ken Metcalfe), at the top of their hit list. When Victor Winslow blackmails Alcatraz to keep Kat off the trail of the Black Brigade, Alcatraz finally gets to bed Kat and decides that she's too good to deceive. He finds Sulu, recovers the film and brings the proof to the American Embassy. Lorda escapes her captors, helps Kat save Ambassador Franklin's life and brings down the Black Brigade. The Philippines is safe once again for Americans, but please use caution when drinking the water. This is director/producer Cirio H. Santiago's third time to the well telling the same story, starting with TNT JACKSON in 1975 and FIRECRACKER in 1981. The problem here is, Cat Sassoon (DANCE WITH DEATH - 1991) is a terrible actress, although she has the best tits money can buy, not to mention plenty of nude scenes, including a topless fight in a bedroom that copies both TNT and FIRECRACKER. Cat, who was the daughter of hair care specialist Vidal Sassoon and sister of director Oley Sassoon (BLOODFIST III: FORCED TO FIGHT - 1993), died at age 32 of a heart attack (drugs were suspected but never confirmed) while attending a New Year's party to ring in 2002. ANGELFIST is not a very good film (the martial arts fights are clunky and badly-staged), but Santiago offers a ton of nudity (both Sassoon and Melissa Moore disrobe as much as possible and there are more communal shower scenes here than in most WIP films) and some truly demented sequences, such as when Black Brigade leader Cirio Quirino (Santiago regular Henry Strzalkowski) tortures Lorda in an icehouse by stripping off her blouse and pressing her naked breasts on a block of ice! This short, 80-minute film is light on blood and gore (just a few stabbings in the beginning), has no gunfights and nothing explodes. One gets the feeling that Santiago was on cruise control here and was taking a break from his usual shoot-em-up actioners, but the sad fact was that Santiago would go on to direct a few of these modern-day martial arts flicks and would not go back to his mindless gunplay flicks. Too bad, because he was quite good at 'em. This is a lesser, latter-day entry from Santiago that can be avoided unless you like lots of nudity (Sassoon is well-oiled in all her full-frontal shots) and the sight of lips that can best be described as "distracting". Also starring Denise Buick, Jessica Roberts, Christina Portugal, Jim Moss, Bob Larson, Sheila Lintan, Ramon D'Salva and Ronald Asinas. Available on VHS and (fullscreen) DVD from New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.
ANGEL'S BRIGADE (1978) - A CHARLIE'S ANGELS rip-off with Jack Palance as the villian, cheezy disco songs, dancing, women in skimpy outfits and a guest star roster that includes Peter Lawford, Jim Backus, Alan Hale, Neville Brand, Pat Buttram and Arthur Godfrey as himself? How can you possibly go wrong? With Greydon Clark directing, producing and co-scripting (with Alvin L. Fast), it's quite easy, actually. When Las Vegas lounge singer Michelle Wilson (Susan Kiger) learrn from her manager, Manny (Hale), that her younger brother Bobby was beaten-up and hospitalized trying to steal drugs from kingpin Mike Farrell (Palance), she and friend April (Jacqulin Cole) form a squad of all-female vigilantes to destroy Farrell and his drug business. Each woman is an expert in their field. Terry Grant (Sylvia Anderson) is a black movie stuntwoman and expert driver. Kako Umaro (Lieu Chinh) is a black belt martial artist. Maria (Noela Velasco) is a beautiful model, whose looks will be used as a distraction to the bad guys. Elaine Brenner (Robin Greer) is a policewoman, who is secretly working with her boss, Captain Miller (Brand), to infiltrate the women's group and use the information to bust Farrell before the women get him. After stealing a van from a horny used car dealer (Buttram) and tricking it out with rocket launchers and other goodies, the women then steal a shitload of guns and ammunition from an even hornier gunrunner (Backus) and his comical crew of nimcompoops (one who looks and acts like Oliver Hardy!). The ladies kidnap Farrell's #1 street dealer, Sticks (Darby Hinton), and hang him upside down while Kako beats him about the nutsac with a metal pipe until he gives up the location of the latest drug drop. They steal the drugs and Elaine and the girls bring it to Captain Miller who, at first, is pissed at Elaine for spilling the beans to the girls, but soon sees the advantages of having non-police personnel doing his dirty work for him. The girls attack and destroy Farrell's drug processing plant but, in the fracas, Farrell kidnaps April and brings her to his boss, Mr. Burke's (Lawford) house, where they torture her in his swimming pool. The girls rescue her in the nick of time in a hail of bullets, some swordplay and a motorcycle stunt. Farrell is attacked and killed by a pack of dogs (!) and Burke is shot and drowns in his own pool. Hooray for women power! The main problem with this film is that it's played like a broad comedy, but it's not funny at all. Director Greydon Clark (THE BAD BUNCH - 1976; THE RETURN - 1980; DARK FUTURE - 1994) also forgot what makes an exploitation film exploitable: Namely, nudity, bloody violence and action. Unfortunately, ANGEL'S BRIGADE (Shouldn't it be ANGELS' BRIGADE since there's no one named "Angel" in this film? Oh, well, I'm nitpicking.) contains none of those, as it is a PG-rated family-friendly mess. Whenever someone is punched or hit over the head, cartoon sound effects are heard, like birds chirping or a "boiiinggg!" sound. This is the type of film where instead of killing Sticks after beating the info out of him, the girls set him free after he promises to go straight! Nevermind that he hooked Michelle's young brother on drugs or is known as the city's biggest street pusher, the girls take him at his word and send him on his way. In all fairness, he dies a short time later when he falls off a tenement roof trying to escape from Farrell. The music soundtrack is a second-rate knock-off of the CHARLIE'S ANGELS theme and the action scenes look like they were filmed on the first take, as they have that rough, badly-staged feel. Some of the women look very uncomfortable holding and firing weapons (it's apparent Clark just handed them weapons and yelled out "Fire!" without any practice beforehand) and, while there are some decent stunts and explosions during the attack on the processing plant, it all looks rather rushed. The film does have some camp value thanks to the eclectic cast of has-beens and fringe stars, but both Jack Palance and Peter Lawford look like they would rather be any place besides here. The women do look good in bikinis and tight fitting jumpsuits, but when we watch films like this, we want to see what's underneath those outfits. ANGEL'S BRIGADE is nothing but an inoffensive theatrical film that could play on TV with no edits. What's the point? Also starring Liza Greer as Trish, the underage would-be member of the female gang who saves all their lives in the finale. Director Clark cameos as a (what else?) movie director and Arthur Godfrey cameos as himself, who the audience at Michelle's Vegas act treat like the second coming of Elvis Presley. Also starring Ken Minyard, Ralph Harris and Cody Palance, Jack's son, who died in 1998 at age 42 of cancer. Originally released on VHS by Lightning Video and then by Warner Home Video. It was given the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 treatment (under the title ANGELS REVENGE) from Rhino Video on VHS & DVD. Also available on an anamorphic widescreen DVD from Scorpion Releasing with the original film and the ten-minute longer anamorphic widescreen SEVEN FROM HEAVEN cut, which, until now, has never been seen on home video. Rated PG.
THE ANNIHILATORS (1985) - This is one of those action films where a Vietnam vet comes home only to find out his home town is being terrorized by (choose one or mix-and-match): 1) A Street Gang; 2) A Motorcycle Gang; 3) Organized Crime; 4) Drug Dealers. Joe Nace (Dennis Redfield) returns from the war in a wheelchair and works at his father's grocery store. A vicious street gang, led by Roy Boy (Paul Koslo), comes into the store demanding protection money and, when Joe refuses, they kill a female customer with a knife to her stomach (after ripping her blouse off) and beat Joe over the head repeatedly with a meat hammer, tenderizing his skull and killing him. Joe's squad leader, Bill (Christopher Stone), comes for the funeral and stays after hearing the pleas of help from Joe's father (Sid Conrad). After calling Popeye, his mysterious and unseen superior, Bill gets his old squad together to teach the townspeople how to defend themselves and to kick some gang ass. Everything goes well at first, as the townspeople begin fighting back and reclaim their town. Lt. Hawkins (Jim Antonio) is not too pleased that the squad is in his town practicing vigilante justice, but the police commishioner (Bruce Taylor) is pleased with the results and tells Hawkins to lay off. During a shootout in the middle of town, one of the squad members, Ray (Gerrit Graham), is shot in the back protecting a small child and is killed. Bill discovers that the gang is merely a front for a bigger drug running operation and, when the squad intercepts one of the drug shipments, the shit hits the fan. The shipment turns out to be millions of dollars worth of heroin and Roy Boy (armed with a flame thrower) calls in backup of his own and holds the entire town hostage until he gets his drugs back. Bill, Garrett (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) and Woody (Andy Wood), along with the entire town, band together to fight the gang. Things go bad when Roy Boy hijacks a schoolbus full of kids. In a surprising turn of events, the kids disarm the hijackers (one kid jams a pencil into one of the gang member's neck) and Bill has a final fight with Roy Boy on the roof of a building. It is then we learn the identity of the mysterious Popeye and how he was secretly helping the squad all along. This is standard 80's action fare elevated slightly by a few well-executed setpieces and some extreme bits of violence. Director Charles E. Sellier Jr. (SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT - 1984) offers plenty of explosions, gunfights, stabbings, impalements, fistfights and other violence to keep your mind off the one dimensional characters and generic plot. Paul Koslo, a genre vet who excels at playing bad guys (MANIAC! - 1977; ROBOT JOX - 1990) is wasted here, as all he does is bark orders and fire weapons. He does have the best line in the film, though, when he says to Bill, "All this for a shitty little cripple?" before falling to his death on the roof of a burning car. The late Christopher Stone (THE HOWLING - 1980; CUJO - 1983) is likewise given the thankless task of spitting out orders or firing a gun. The only actor who registers is Andy Wood as Woody, the alcoholic squad member who finds redemption, sobriety and love in this little town. Consider THE ANNIHILATORS (also known as ACTION FORCE) brain-dead action fare for those with short attention spans. Also starring Millie Fisher, Bruce Evers and Tom Harper. A New World Video Release. Rated R.
APOCALYPSE MERCENARIES (1987) - Cheapjack Italian World War II actioner that is marred by frequently "borrowing" footage from other war films. It is so obvious (it's easy to spot the difference in film stock between the old and new footage), that it takes the viewer completely out of the film, not that there's much to the film that is interesting in any way. As a matter of fact, this may be the most uninteresting war film to ever come out of Italy.
A snotty, snide U.S. General (Paul Muller; NIGHTMARE CASTLE - 1965), who operates under the code name "Red Fox" ("You hear that Elizabeth? I'm coming to join you, honey!" Okay, bad joke, but it's better than anything in this film!) puts Captain Tony Hale (Vassili Karis; GAILLO IN VENICE - 1979), a.k.a. "Mister", in charge of a mission to locate and eliminate the Nazi Command Headquarters directing the offensive against the Yugoslav Liberation Army, operating out of a limestone cave located somewhere in the area around the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina. But first, Mister must collect the four men who will make up his new squad: Felipe Hierro (Bruno Bilotto, better known as "Karl Landgren"; URBAN WARRIORS - 1987), simply known as "Hierro", a combat veteran who will be the brawn of the squad; Abraham Bridges (Maurice Poli; FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON - 1970), codename "Priest", an explosives expert whose former occupation was, you guessed it, a man of the cloth; Mikhail Hertz (Peter Hintz; CROSS MISSION - 1987), a.k.a. "Doctor", a combat surgeon who can speak and understand German; and Liam O'Connell (Thomas Rauser; IT'S HAPPENING TOMORROW - 1988), codename "Flyer", a radioman/pilot who can fix any plane and make it airworthy.
Mister collects all his men (introducing us to their "special" talents in the process), as well as saving nurse Mirka (Marinella Magri, as "Marlee Foster, in her only film) from certain death by an approaching German garrison, making her the sixth member of the ragtag squad. On their way to the limestone cave, the squad meets Dragomir (Tino Castaldi; THE MINES OF KILIMANJARO - 1986), the leader of the Yugoslav Liberation Army. Dragomir and his flock need precious supplies to succeed in their mission, so Mister and his squad blow up a train full of German soldier and destroy a German airfield, so supplies can be dropped by plane without any interference (both the train explosion and the airfield massacre are footage from other films). During the airfield destruction, Doctor is shot in the stomach by a German soldier and Mirka says she cannot remove the bullet because it is lodged too deep in him, he needs to be taken to a hospital immediately. Doctor says no, he is needed for this mission to succeed and it will take a couple of days for sepsis to set in, killing him, so they better get to the cave in less than two days (You'll hear such classic dialogue as: Mister: "Don't die on me now!" Doctor: "Who's dying? There'll be plenty of time for that later!").
Long story short, the squad make it to the limestone cave and Doctor dies after making one final radio message in German to throws off the advancing Nazi troops from discovering what the squad is doing. Flyer is shot and killed protecting his squad from German soldiers in the cave. Priest is shot in the back by a female Nazi soldier, but he lives long enough to blow-up the Nazi Command Headquarters inside the cave. Survivor Hierro joins Mirka on her quest to join her Yugoslav Liberation Army cohorts to make Yugoslavia Nazi-free, leaving Mister alone to report back to the wise-ass U.S. General, who acts worse than a ten-year old having a fit of rage.
Not only is this film cheap beyond belief, it is also horrendously acted, not helped by the people who dubbed it into English, including Edward Mannix and Ted Rusoff, two of the greats in the dubbing field, who were probably more bored than I was watching this no-budget mess and put zero effort in dubbing their characters. Especially flabbergasting is Paul Muller (LADY FRANKENSTEIN - 1971) as the General who created this squad and gives them their mission. Whenever Mister radios-in to tell the General their progress, he belittles the squad, calling them "fat heads" and other put-downs. If I were a member of the squad, I would save a bullet in my pistol and the next time I saw him I would put that bullet right between his eyes. But the General is not the only problematic character in the film. Check out Priest's response when he watches the train explode. It looks like he is having a spastic fit, quite unbecoming from a former man of the cloth. And don't get me started on Mirka, either. She begins the film as a frightened nurse, but at the end of the film, she's a full-fledged freedom fighter, deadly with both her hands and her body and even deadlier with a machinegun, all within the span of two days! There's not one thing in this film that is remotely interesting and that is because director/screenwriter "John J. Dawson" is actually Leandro Lucchetti, the man who also gave us the execrable BLOODY PSYCHO (1989) and CAGED WOMEN (1991). It is highly obvious he put no effort into this film, as 85% of the action scenes are footage from other films and all the actors do is "react" to something they aren't even seeing. The fight in the cave at the film's finale seems to be the only original action footage in the film and it is nothing to write home about. When people are shot, there are precious few bloody bullet squibs, as the majority of gunshot victims grab their chest and fall to the ground. Even the music score, by the late Stelvio Cipriani (who I happen to admire), sounds like warmed-over themes from better war action films. I have seen my share of lousy Italian war actioners, but this one sits on the lower rung of the ladder for this genre. It's not even worth an unintentional laugh, so why bother? I have to watch these things, but you don't have to, so heed my warnings and watch something else.
Shot as MERCENARI DELL'APOCALISSE (a literal translation of the review title), this film never had a theatrical or home video release in any physical format in the United States (and rightfully so), making its first appearance here streaming on Amazon Prime (I also saw it on the streaming Roku channel B-Movie TV), who offer a rather soft anamorphic widescreen print dubbed in English. It is also available on DVD-R from various Internet gray-market sellers if you must watch it or if you are a genre completist. Also featuring David Maunsell (THE GREEN INFERNO - 1988), Brigitte Christensen (BLOOD DELIRIUM - 1988) and Marco Di Stefano (TOUCH OF DEATH - 1990). Not Rated and not worth it.
BATTLE RATS (1989) - When a platoon of American soldiers are ambushed on the side of the road by a group of young Vietnamese school children (one little tot threatens the soldiers with a hand grenade!), Captain Rosenblatt (Corwyn Paul Sperry) orders his men to slaughter an entire village of Vietnamese men, women and children when they do not tell him the whereabouts of the person in charge of the ambush, who disappeared in the maze of underground tunnels located underneath the jungle. Rosenblatt trains a squad of soldiers to become "tunnel rats", a special force designed to crawl through the tunnels and kill the enemy. In charge of the squad is Sgt. Bruce Burns (Jack Gilbert) and it is his duty to lead his men into the tunnels and capture or kill Commander Von Dram (Louie Katana), who is responsible for most of the ambushes in the area. After a short period of time, where we are introduced to the members of the squad (which also includes a prerequisite bar fight just before shipping off), our tunnel rats get down to business. They enter the first tunnel, where they are attacked by snakes, dismantle some wired boobytraps, are attacked by bats and one squad member is captured and tortured by Von Dram (The soldier says to him, "Fuck you, you slimy goddamned stinking gook!", just before Von Dram pokes his eyes out with his fingers!). Sgt. Burns begins a love affair with VC girl Nama (Mylene Nocum), not knowing that she is a spy for Von Dram. The tunnel rats then raid another village and find another tunnel, which results in the death of some members due to spiked boobytraps, a snake pit and VC ambushes (the rest of the squad members get Purple Hearts, even though they weren't injured!). Sgt. Burns stupidly tells his new gook girlfriend that he and his men will be raiding another tunnel in the morning, so, you guessed it, Von Dram and his men are waiting in ambush. Captain Rosenblatt shoots Von Dram multiple times at close range (while comically repeating, "Fuck you, old man!" over and over), but Von Dram is wearing a bulletproof vest and stabs the Captain several times. Sgt. Burns and his skeleton crew must then blow up the tunnel (it's the VC's main communications base) before they are killed and Von Dram escapes. While the acting in BATTLE RATS is some of the worst and stiffest I have seen in recent memory (I was howling with laughter throughout the entire film), the violence is so over-the-top, it makes watching this almost seem like you are having a fever dream. This Philippines-lensed action film, directed by Benjamin Bridges (using his "Briggs Benjamin Sr." pseudonym), is full of so much bloody imagery, the acting can be forgiven. People (including women and children) are shot in the head, stabbed, impaled or blown apart. The eye-gouging scene is (pardon the pun) an eye-opener as are most of the tunnel scenes where the VC pop-out of their hidden trap doors in the floors, walls and ceilings and silently slice up the cast with their knives. The subplot involving Sgt. Burns falling in love with Nama is the only real negative part of the film, as the action stops dead in it's tracks while these two non-actors try to convince us they are in love. They fail miserably. The finale, which finds Sgt. Burns facing Nama and Von Dram in the tunnels is one of the most pathetic pieces of acting you will ever see. It is only saved when he happens upon Captain Rosenblatt, who is hanging by his arms with his eyes dangling out of their sockets, as he pleads over and over to Burns, "Shoot me!" (which he finally does). But hey, the bodycount is high, the deaths bloody and the action fast-paced. What more could you want? When it comes to Grade B action films, nothing comes close to the ones made in the Philippines and Indonesia. Why? Because there are no rules or taboos that they aren't willing to break. Also starring Tony Lao, Paul John, Albert Dominguez, David Giberson, Eric Hann and Chris Castilleios. Never legally available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed came from a surprisingly good dub of a Greek-subtitled VHS ripped to DVD-R. Not Rated.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES (1987) - Lieutenant Johnny Ransom (Robert Patrick; THE MARINE - 2006) leads his squad of soldiers deep into enemy territory during the Vietnam War. Their mission: To find American POWs and bring them back alive. After capturing a gook soldier and "questioning" him (by sticking a live grenade in his mouth), they head to an enemy camp where four American POWs are being held. It turns out to be a trap, as Lt. Ransom and his men are outgunned, overpowered and forced to surrender. The head of the camp, Tran Van Minh (scripter Joe Mari Avellana), and Russian advisor Dimitri (Robert Dryer; SAVAGE STREETS - 1984), then shoot the four American POWs point-blank in front of Ransom and his men. After a short sequence where everyone but Ransom, Jacobs (William Steis) and Keller (Morgan Douglas) are tortured and killed, Ransom escapse, leaving Jacobs and Keller behind. When Ransom gets back to base camp, he finds out that the Paris Accord has been signed, effectively ending the war. Ransom and fellow soldier Sam (Rey Malanzo; CLASSIFIED OPERATION - 1985) grab some soldiers, hop in a helicopter and assault the enemy camp, rescuing Jacobs and Keller and killing Tran Van Minh. Dimitri gets away and Ransom is seriously injured and is sent to a military hospital in Thailand, where he is tended to by old flame Terry (Barbara Hooper). Meanwhile, Sam is assigned to escort an important enemy General back to base camp. The General has switched sides and is willing to turn over a secret codebook to the Americans that contains the names of American double agents. Dimitri has other plans, though, and ambushes Sam's squad, taking Sam and the General prisoner and killing everyone else. After getting a little nookie from Terry, Lt. Ransom heads out to rescue Sam and the General, aided by Captain Dupre (Lydie Denier) and her squad of French resistance fighters, as well as Jacobs and Keller, who have a score to settle with Dimitri. They all manage to save the General and kill Dimitri (unfortunately, Sam is long-dead, hanging upside down from a tree and being eaten by rats). Keller even finds the time to romance Capt. Dupre, but when Ransom gets back to headquarters and the codebook is deciphered, he discovers that someone close to him is a traitor, which forces him to seek justice through the barrel of a gun. I didn't see that coming. This is the second of Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's Vietnam War action flicks that he made in the 80's. Robert Patrick reprises the same role he portrayed in Santiago's first Nam film, EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987), only this time it's a starring role rather than a secondary character, as he was in EYE. Patrick, who got his start in other Santiago-directed films like EQUALIZER 2000 and FUTURE HUNTERS (both 1986), still comes off as too over-animated, yelling out his lines rather than speaking them. It would take him a few more years to find his acting groove (his breakout role in TERMINATOR 2  was basically a non-speaking role) and he would also make his mark on TV in such series as THE X-FILES [1993 - 2002] and THE UNIT [2006 - 2009]. Santiago offers his usual cornucopia of action set-pieces, including lots of gunfights, explosions and bloody bullet squibs. There are also some brief nude scenes, a smattering of gore (shots to the head; Sam being eaten by rats) and a good helicopter explosion (this one isn't a model). Frequent Santiago collaborator Joe Mari Avellana's script is nothing special, but the acting by a cast of Santiago regulars makes it all bearable. The stinger at the end was also a nice touch and totally unexpected. My appreciation of Santiago as a director increases every time I watch another film of his. The majority of his films may be nothing more than rip-offs of other movies, but he is a professional and is capable of turning out compact (the majority of his films run 85 minutes or less), entertaining time-wasters. Also known as KILLER INSTINCT. The next film in Santiago's Nam actioners was THE EXPENDABLES (1988), followed by NAM ANGELS (1988). Also starring Anthony East, Henry Strzalkowski, David Light, Mel Davidson, Willy Williams and Jeff Griffith. Released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and not yet available on DVD. Rated R.
BLACK GUNN (1972) - Three guys with white burlap sacks over their heads rob a Mob-run bookie operation and steal all the money, as well as the "payoff books" belonging to mobster (and used car salesman) Mr. Capelli (Martin Landau). One of the guys is shot dead while escaping and one of the surviving trio is Scott Gunn (Herb Jefferson Jr.), the brother of the single-monikered Gunn (Jim Brown), who owns a popular nightclub called Gunn's Club. Scott belongs to a militant organization called the Black Action Group (BAG) and he plans to use the stolen money to buy guns for his group so they can kill more rich white crackers. Mr. Capelli is more interested in getting the books back, so he hires sadistic Mob muscle Ray Kriley (the always entertaining Bruce Glover) to find out who stole them and retrieve them by any means possible, including death. Scott give the books to his brother , who knows how important they really are. Kriley tears apart Watts looking for the guilty parties, raiding BAG headquarters and threatening the life of the young son of one of the members in exchange for the names of the people involved in the bookie caper. When Capelli catches wind that Gunn is involved, he sends crooked Senator Adams (Gary Conway) to try to appeal to Gunn's business sense, but Gunn sends the Senator packing to "the other side of the tracks". Sensing that he's using the wrong tactics, Capelli then sends Toni (Luciana Paluzzi) to try to appeal to Gunn's fondness for women (and we all know how much Jim Brown likes his white women). Surprisingly, Gunn is able to resist her charms since he already has a main squeeze, Judith (Brenda Sykes), but Kriley crashes the party and a shootout occurs. Gunn gets the drop on Kriley and sends him packing, too. Kriley, in turn, kills Scott and leaves his body in front of Gunn's nightclub. Bad move. Gunn is now on a mission to get all those responsible for his brother's death, including the person who supplied Scott's name to Capelli. Gunn reluctantly joins forces with BAG leader Seth (Bernie Casey) and begins a path of death and destruction, which includes a one-on-one with Kriley in his mother's home, a visit to a party hosted by Senator Adams (where Toni shows her true colors) and a finale where Gunn and BAG battle Capelli and his men in a warehouse. This early 70's blaxploitation film, directed by Englishman Robert Hartford-Davis (THE BLACK TORMENT - 1964; CORRUPTION - 1968; THE FIEND - 1972; THE TAKE - 1974), is a leisurely-paced actioner filled with a ton of great character actors, including Bruce Glover (NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW - 1995), Gary Conway (I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN - 1957), William Campbell (DEMENTIA 13 - 1963), Bernie Casey (DR. BLACK MR. HYDE - 1975), Timothy Brown (THE MURDER GANG - 1976), Brenda Sykes (HONKY - 1971) and, of course, Martin Landau, who had a second career appearing in B-films like this and Greydon Clark's WITHOUT WARNING (1979) before getting a career resurgence for his role in TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM (1988) and then winning an Academy Award for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's ED WOOD (1994). Jim Brown, who was one of the kings of blaxploitation cinema (SLAUGHTER - 1972; SLAUGHTER'S BIG RIP-OFF - 1973), THREE THE HARD WAY - 1974, and a few others), does here what he does best: Basically, just acts like himself and beats up all the white people he can get his hands on. His fight with Bruce Glover is one of this film's highlights, even if it's obvious Glover is being doubled in some of the more strenuous stunts. Some may find that this film is too slow, but there's a lot to enjoy here, from the black cop who can't stand Gunn's ass (his white partner is actually the nicer and more level-headed of the two!); the bullet squibs that gush blood in the gunfight scenes; to the blood-soaked shootout finale in the warehouse. This isn't by far the most action-packed blaxploitation film you'll ever see, but it is a well-plotted and interesting one. I remember watching BLACK GUNN on late-night TV in the mid-70's and hearing the word "fuck" sneak past the censor's scissors. Every time it was shown after that, I would watch it just to see if they caught their mistake. They did. Also starring Vida Blue, Stephen McNally, Keefe Brasselle, Chuck Daniel, Tony Young, a bit part by Jeannie Bell (TNT JACKSON - 1975) and a cameo by football player Deacon Jones as himself. Available on DVD in a nice widescreen print from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment. Rated R.
THE BLACK SIX (1974) - Lousy blaxploitation flick that is short on action and long on racist and hip 70's dialog. Six "peace-loving" Vietnam vet bikers (played by real life ex-football players, including Gene Washington, "Mean" Joe Greene and Mercury Morris) travel across the U.S. in search of themselves. When Washington receives a letter from his mother telling him that his brother has been killed, he decides to return home to "cracker country" with his buddies to "peacefully" find the killer (To show how peaceful they are, the Black Six totally destroy a racist bar enroute to Mama's house. They don't harm the people, just wreck the building!). At his mother's house, Washington runs into some friction with his sister, Cissy (Ruby Delaware). She calls him a "modern-day Uncle Tom" because of his pacifist ways. Washington discovers that his brother had a white girlfriend and that her brother (Mikel Angel, co-director of THE LOVE BUTCHER - 1975) belongs to an all white biker gang. Figuring that this gang is responsible for his brother's death, he takes the information to the police. The white police chief was already aware of the facts but refuses to arrest the white bikers. The Black Six decide to drop their peaceful ways and have a final confrontation with the racist gang, led by Thor (Ben Davidson). A final scrawl on the screen warns, "Watch Out Honkys. If You Don't Mend Your Ways, The Black Six Will Return!" Thankfully, they never did. As biker films go, THE BLACK SIX is one of the worst. The very brief action scenes are clumsily staged and shot and the ending is oh so confusing. There is one brief shot of nudity, when Washington catches his ex-girlfriend (Rosalind Miles) hooking with a white customer. On the plus side, the six leads are given very little dialogue, saving us from wincing in aural pain. This film makes WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971) look absolutely polished. Director Matt Cimber (real name: Matteo Ottaviano) has been making exploitation films for a long time, starting with Jayne Mansfield's last role in SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED (1968). He is also responsible for MAN AND WIFE (1969 - considered the first theatrical hardcore porn film), CANDY TANGERINE MAN (1975), LADY COCOA (a.k.a. POP GOES THE WEASEL - 1974), THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976 - his best film), A TIME TO DIE (1979/1982), HUNDRA (1983), YELLOW HAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD (1984), the Pia Zadora howlers BUTTERFLY and FAKE OUT (both 1982) as well as many others. A Unicorn Video Release. Rated R.
BLACK TERRORIST (1976) - O.K. South Africa-lensed actioner originally simply titled TERRORIST before the powers-that-be decided to add the word "Black" to the title for its VHS release in 1985. While the new title is not misleading, one still has to wonder why it was necessary to change it. Three black terrorists sneak onto the shores of South West Africa and end up at a remote farmhouse, where they take Anna (Vera Johns), her mother (Bess Finney), father (Willem Labuschagne) and younger brother Peter (Norman Knox) hostage. The terrorists shoot the father in the back when he tries to escape, killing him, and abuse the mother, turning her into their personal slave (they seem to get-off on humiliating white women) and rape their black maid, eventually killing her when they are done. The mother causes a diversion (which ends in her getting her throat cut with a butcher knife), allowing Anna to escape by foot into the desolate landscape. She is able to make it to the shack of drunkard Jock (screenwriter Howard Connell) and they both decide to head back to the farm to get some payback, but their truck breaks down and they are picked-up by American journalist Brad (Robert Aberdeen), who drives them to a gas station. Joe (Allan Granville), the owner of the gas station, joins the trio as they head towards the farm, unaware that two of the terrorists have stolen Anna's Jeep and have left the farm, taking Peter along with them as a hostage. When they get to the farm, the third terrorist riddles Jock with automatic gunfire before Joe kills him with his machine gun. Anna, Joe and Brad then set out to save Peter, who is now traversing the desert by foot with the other two terrorists after the Jeep breaks down. A series of events finds Peter and the last surviving terrorist holed-up in an abandoned building, while gung-ho Joe, pacifist Brad and worried Anna try to figure out how to save Peter. It all ends with Joe dead, Peter escaping and the last terrorist limping back to his boat and heading back to his homeland, laughing like a hyena and proud of all the death and destruction he and his dead comrades have caused. Bad sound recording aside (the dialogue was recorded live and sounds muzzled, making much of what is being said unintelligible, especially with the thick local accents), BLACK TERRORIST still manages to entertain thanks to some great on-location cinematography and sudden bursts of bloody violence. Director/producer Neil Hetherington (his only directorial effort) uses the desolate locations to good effect, although the script by co-star Howard Connell is full of so many lucky coincidences, the film becomes some sort of surreal actioner that defies logic. While the three terrorist seem to have been sent to this farm to "free" their homeland (How they planned on doing this is never explained), they are really nothing but rape-happy thugs who get-off on inflicting violence and degradation to their captives and soon they turn on each other, as the injured terrorist is left at the farm by the other two because he will slow them down and the surviving terrorist shoots the second terrorist when he tries to stop him from raping a female whose automobile they have just carjacked. The paper-thin plot is really only an excuse to show the terrorists killing their hostages, usually by shooting them (lots of bloody bullet squibs). I'm sure this film has some major political subtext in its home country, but it plays like a bloody torture session in most other countries. Clocking-in at a shade less than 72 minutes, BLACK TERRORIST doesn't overstay its welcome and would make a good companion piece with the similarly-themed ALBINO (1976). Also starring Sydney Chama, Joe Lopez and Victor Mashibini as the terrorists. Originally available on VHS from After Hours Entertainment (a sub-label of Monterey Home Video) and available on bootleg DVD from Televista in a severely edited 67-minute print. Not Rated.
BLASTFIGHTER (1984) - I have seen more than my fair share of Italian genre films, but I think this is the first time I am reviewing an Italian hillbilly action flick! And it is full of gory violence, to boot (pardon my humor [because the country of Italy is shaped like a boot!]).
The film opens with ex-cop Jake 'Tiger' Sharp (Michael Sopkiw; AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK - 1983; MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY - 1985) being released from federal prison after serving ten years for killing the man who murdered his wife. His former partner (Massimo Vanni; BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983; here billed as "Patrick O'Neil Jr.") picks him up and gives him a present: The titled weapon, a prototype shotgun that can shoot grenades, explosive shells, tear gas, shells filled with ball bearings and other goodies. After being tempted in using the weapon on a hotshot lawyer that sent him to prison, Tiger decides that he wants to live a quiet life at his hometown in Georgia (filmed in Clayton, Georgia). He drives to Georgia while what passes for Italian country music plays on the radio (a song titled "Evening Star" sung by "Tommie Boy"), stops at a country store where a guy is playing banjo (Billy Redden, the same person [inbred child] that Ronny Cox challenged to "Dueling Banjos" in DELIVERANCE !) and then goes to his home (after 10 years behind bars and the house is immaculate?!?). He decides to go hunting with the Blastfighter, but when he has a 10-point buck in his sights, he can't pull the trigger (a tribute to THE DEER HUNTER - 1978). As he is about to walk away a shot rings out and the buck falls to the ground, seriously wounded, but not dead. Three hillbillies appear and Tiger tells the hicks to finish off the buck (it triggers a flashback to when Tiger was a cop). They refuse, laughing while the buck twitches in pain, so Jake finishes it off with the Blastfighter. Tiger then adopts the buck's baby doe (!) and takes it home. He stops at the local store for some milk and a baby bottle and when he returns to his car, he discovers that the three hillbillies have cut the doe's throat. Tiger gets into a fight with the trio, throwing one through the store's window (He says to the hillbillies, "You wanna know who I am? I'm a son of a bitch! Who wants to be left alone."), only to discover one of the hillbillies, Wally (Stefano Mingardo; THE RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS - 1983; billed as "Mike Miller"), is the younger brother of his old childhood friend (and future enemy) Tom (Luigi Montefiori; 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS - 1982; here using his frequent pseudonym "George Eastman"). Tom is the bigshot in town, a logging company owner whose sideline is selling animal parts, like the gall bladders of bears and deer antlers, to the local "Chinaman", who uses them as ingrediants for expensive Chinese medical cures. When Wally and his two cohorts leave a gutted animal hanging from Tiger's front door, he gets pissed off, goes to the Chinaman's place of business, runs him out of town and gets into another fist fight with Wally. Tom breaks it up, telling Tiger (whom he calls "Ti") that if he had to choose sides betwenn Wally and him, he would always pick his brother's side.
When Tiger returns home, he discovers a young woman named Connie (Valentina Forte; CUT AND RUN - 1985; billed as "Valerie Blake") has made herself comfortable in his house (even sleeping in his bed!). He has no idea on what she is up to so, the next morning, he drives her to town only to discover that Wally has messed with the brakes, forcing Tiger and Connie to jump out of the car before it skids off the road and explodes, flipping down the side of a mountain. After Tiger destroys Wally's new pickup truck in retaliation, Connie reveals that she is his daughter (He was only away for ten years. Why can't he recognize his own daughter? Don't ask too many questions because you will get no answers. Tiger also meets Connie's boyfriend Pete (Future director [and this film's assist director] Michele Soavi; THE CHURCH - 1989; here using the name "Michael Saroyan") and, that night while they are camping out, Wally and his friends send some flaming barrels rolling down the hill, destroying Pete's van. Tiger tells Connie that he has had enough and they are leaving town but, before they can, Wally and his band of inbred friends kill Pete and Tiger's ex-partner (who came for a visit) and try to rape Connie, chasing her through the forest. Tiger has no choice but to stay and rescue his daughter.
The hillbillies ambush Jake in his new car after he rescues Connie, causing it to explode (Tiger can't seem to catch a break with cars!). He and an always-complaining Connie (He screams to her, "Where are your balls, Connie?!") must traverse a waterfall, a raging river, a rickety old suspension bridge and other forest dangers in order to avoid a large posse of hicks who are now after them. Tiger and Connie make it home, but instead of grabbing the Blastfighter, Tiger makes some Molotov cocktails, thinning out the posse by setting them on fire. This is the point when it turns from a revenge action flick into a blood-soaked gore film.
Connie is shot in the leg by Wally, forcing Tiger to remove the bullet with his knife (he succeeds). He then has to pull her leg bone apart (which is jutting out of the wound) so he can apply a splint (all of this is shown in close-up). Tom is overhead in a helicopter trying to spot them. When he does, he tells Wally to remain where he is and then tries to talk some sense to Tiger, telling him if he forgets everything that has happened, he will let them go free. Wally doesn't like this deal, so when Tiger and Connie come out of hiding to talk to Tom, Wally shoots Connie dead and Tiger goes all Rambo on their asses. He picks off half the posse just with his knife and a rifle (he shoots Wally in the leg while he is in the helicopter), but the major carnage comes when Jake arrives home and pulls out the Blastfighter. He uses the weapon to destroy the hillbilly's vehicles, takes the arm off one hillbilly and then blows one hick apart until he is nothing but a bloody spray (a nice gory body explosion). He then shoots the arm off another hillbilly (portrayed by stunt coordinator Ottaviano Dell'Acqua; RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR - 1984; here using his frequent "Richard Raymond" nom de plume) and kills Wally, before purposely destroying the Blastfighter by slamming it against the tree. He should have waited because he still has to deal with Tom. They agree to face each other with only one bullet in each of their weapons of choice (a shotgun for Tom and a pistol for Tiger). Of course, Tom being the bad guy, he cheats, but instead of killing him, Tiger shoots him in the knee. The film ends with Tiger driving Tom back to town (with a load of dead hillbillies piled up in the pickup truck's bed) to meets their fates with the police.
While nothing special, this film is enjoyable due to the frequent violence director Lamberto Bava (A BLADE IN THE DARK - 1983; DEVIL FISH - 1984; DEMONS - 1985) displays. While the graphic violence doesn't come until the final 20 minutes of the film, it is a hoot to hear the dubbing artists use exaggerated Southern drawls for the characters they are dubbing (just like the dubbing in most Italian films, they have no idea how any American talks!). The on-location photography also adds a sense of realism to the proceedings. I was surprised to hear that it was filmed in the same locations as DELIVERANCE (1972). The screenplay, by Max & Luca von Ryt (BLOOD LINK - 1983), with story credit going to Bava, Morand McMorrand (MARK OF THE SCORPION - 1986) & Dardano Sacchetti (NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982), references other more popular films, including FIRST BLOOD (1981) and the ones I mentioned in the review. I was also surprised to read, during the closing credits, that no animals were harmed in the making of this film. All the shots of real-life animal deaths (including the buck and a pig) were taken from stock documentary footage. This has to be a first because the Italians were not ashamed to show real animals getting killed for "entertainment value", especially their cannibal films.
BLASTFIGHTER got a limited Unrated theatrical release in the United States by Almi Pictures in 1985, with a fullscreen Unrated VHS release courtesy of Vestron Video shortly thereafter. While it never got a legitimate DVD release in the States, the Blu-Ray, from Code Red, looks fabulous. Except for the embarsassing opening, where Code Red founder Bill Olsen introduces the film with Michael Sipkow (he still looks in great shape) while wearing his banana suit (he doesn't want anyone to know what he looks like!), the disc is a winner. Stuffed with extras including a new 2016 interview with Lamberto Bava, who reveals that Producer Luciano Martino sold the film to various countries on the title alone, before any footage was shot. He also said that he based the film's story on a true article he read where two Yellowstone Park rangers were caught selling animal parts to Asia. While that tidbit does get a mention in the film, it is quickly dropped. Bava also says that he spoke English when he made this film, but in the past years, forgot how! Also on the disc is an interview with George Eastman, who says he doesn't like Bava because "he tried to be like his father, but failed" (Eastman appeared in Mario Bava's RABID DOGS ). Listening to Eastman talk, he comes across as an ungrateful SOB, as he hates most of the films he appeared in and dislikes most of the people he worked with. Also on the disc are new interviews with Michael Sipkow (Who nows sells a protective type of glass called "miron". You can go to his website, www.miron-glass.com, to learn more) and director of photography Gianlorenzo Battaglia, who also shot WITCHERY (1988) and Bava's DEMONS 2 (1986). Sopkiw relates a funny story about meeting Quentin Tarantino at the video store he worked at before he became famous. Tarantino recognized Sopkiw right away and told him that this film was one of his favorites. Also starring Elizabeth Forbes, Carl Savage, Giancarlo Prati and George Williams. Not Rated.
BLOOD HANDS (1990) - Four drunk buddies, Walter (James Gaines; MOVIE IN ACTION - 1987), James (Ned Hourani; SUDDEN THUNDER - 1990), George (Jim Moss; FIST OF GLORY - 1991) and Frank (Jerry Beyer), enter a grocery store to buy some booze, but end up harassing the customers and causing all kinds of trouble. The store manager asks them to leave and a martial arts fight breaks out, which ends with the manager smacking his head against a counter and dying. The four drunk bastards take off in their car, only to have it overheat, so they begin knocking on doors looking for water for the car's radiator. They end up at the home of Diane (Doris Cooper) and her husband Edward (the late Nick Nicholson) and, wouldn't you know it, James and Diane use to be lovers way back when. While Edward is out picking up a birthday cake for their son Steve (Sean Donahue; PAROLE VIOLATORS - 1994), a kickboxing champion, James and his buddies decide to put a little rape on the menu and begin sexually assaulting Diane, but are interrupted when Edward returns home. Another martial arts fight breaks out and the four drunks prove to be too much for Edward (although he puts up a pretty good fight) and Diane. James snaps Diane's neck (While screaming, "You could have had it all!") and then kicks Edward through a glass door, killing him, but not before Edward rips off a gold medallion worn around George's neck. When Steve and girlfriend Tracy (Christine Landson; SFX RETALIATOR - 1987) discover his dead parents' bodies, Steve vows revenge, but when Tracy finds the gold medallion and (eventually) gives it to Steve, he recognizes it as a gold medal to a local kickboxing event (What are the chances?). Meanwhile, George notices that his medallion is missing, so he and Frank sneak into Diane & Edward's house looking for it, only to run into a police detective, whom they kill by bashing his head against the side of the pool after yet another martial arts fight. Tracy begs Steve to turn over the medallion to the police, but he refuses and vows to kill all those responsible for his parents' deaths. Things get complicated when Steve beats the snot out of George's son, Bruce, and when George goes to challenge Steve at his gym (where still yet another martial arts fight breaks out), he notices that Steve is wearing his medallion around his neck. Steve finally relents to Tracy's constant requests and gives the medallion to Tracy's father (who also happens to be Steve's trainer) to turn over to the police, but before he can do so he is attacked by James and the gang (who get the medallion back) and Tracy's father ends up in the hospital in critical condition, where he eventually dies. That turns out to be the straw that broke the camel's back, as Steve goes on a bloody revenge spree (he impersonates a sports writer to get James' address), first killing Frank (by blowtorch) and then nearly getting killed himself when the other three gang-up on him in a MetroRail train car. After the usual 80's style training montage, Steve is ready to send James, Walter and George's souls to Hell when they kidnap Tracy. This Philippines-lensed martial arts actioner, directed by the late Teddy Page (FIREBACK - 1983; HUNTER'S CROSSING - 1983; PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987 [his crowning achievement]; BLOOD RING - 1991), using his "Ted Johnson" pseudonym, and written by Rod Davis for producer K.Y. Lim's Silver Star Film Corporation production outfit, suffers from a case of "bad acting-itis", as well as having the music and sound effects cranked so loud, sometimes you can't hear the dialogue. That's just as well, though, because whatever words you can make out are idiotic and unbelievable (I have never heard anyone, even the drunkest of people, say some of the stuff you will hear in this film!). This is not one of Page's best films (it's apparent his budget was much lower than most of his 80's films), as it is a cheap collection of martial arts and action sequences with the thinnest of revenge plots to hold it together. While it is nice to see Ned (spelled "Nead" in the credits) Hourani, James Gaines, Jim Moss and Jerry Beyer get prominent roles for a change (they were basically secondary or background characters in most other films), it's a shame it has to be in a film that is this poor. While there are plentiful well-staged martial arts fights and stunts (One ends with Steve tying Walter to the railroad tracks and the MetroRail runs him over [offscreen]), they are ruined by the over-amped sound effects and music tracks, not to mention the laughable acting talents of Sean Donahue and Christine Landson, who both seem to be reading their dialogue off of cue cards. They are, quite frankly, simply awful and, depending on your outlook, makes BLOOD HANDS (also known as JUSTICE) either a dud of the highest order or an unintentional laugh riot. Only you can make that decision. Also starring Richard Olney, Sam Woods, Ron Cunning and James O'Neal. Video label not available, but the print I viewed was sourced from a British DVD. Not Rated.
BROTHERS IN BLOOD (1987) - This Italian actioner has some very weird visuals, more than enough to make this a recommended ride.
Vietnam 1974: A squad of American soldiers, led by Sgt. Steven Elliott Logan (Bo Svenson; MOVIE IN ACTION - 1987), a.k.a. "Steel", silently surround an enemy camp containing a strategic radio transmitter. On Steel's orders, they begin invading the base, firing their weapons at anyone who moves and blowing up the transmitter shack. They the retreat after killing everyone except for one enemy hostage, who is then shot and killed by his own men as Steel and his men board the rescue helicopter. Steel is wounded when he steps on the copter and watches as it leaves a wounded Danny Danneo (Carlo Mucari; BLACK ANGEL - 1989), Steel's best friend, behind. He watches as the enemy surrounds Danny, their guns drawn, until the helicopter is too far in the air to see what happens next.
We are then transported to New York City in 1986. Steel suffers from PTSD and is now a drunk and his wife (actress unknown) bails him out of jail for destroying a bar. She tells him she is taking him to see a psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration Hospital, because he can no longer live like this, he needs professional help. She tells Steel that it has been over ten years and everyone has forgotten about Vietnam. "I haven't," says Steel, but his wife tells him he has to fight a different war now, "for your family, money, for your job. If you don't look out, you'll lose this war, too." She reminds him that he has a young son that he needs to set an example for, asking Steel if he remembers him. "Do you?" shoots back Steel, as he gets out of the taxi his wife drives to support her family and then walks to the Veterans Administration Hospital. Later, his wife watches a televised news report, as the newscaster describes a hijacking and a hostage situation in some unnamed Third World nation. The newscaster reads the names of the military personnel that are being held hostage and one of the names is "Daniel Danneo", which she instantly recognizes as Steel's friend Danny, the one who is causing her husband's mental breakdown. Steel believed he was dead, which caused him to become a drunk. His wife knows that if Steel hears this name, he will try to rescue Danny and the rest of the hostages from the hijackers. A man named Hoskins (actor unknown) rings the doorbell and tells Steel's wife that he is from the "Acme Agency" and is there to evaluate the house for a mortgage. She tells him to leave, realizing her husband has taken a second mortgage on the house to finance his trip to rescue Danny. When Hoskins leaves, she calls Major Briggs (Martin Balsam; BLOOD AND DIAMONDS - 1977), telling him that Steel took a loan out on the house to finance a rescue mission, because he felt so guilty all these years. She begs Major Briggs to tell Steel where the hostages are being held, this is just what he needs to break out of his funk. Briggs says he will do what he can, but she tells him to hurry up, Steel has disappeared and she has no idea where he is.
Steel turns up at the house of Richard Benson (Peter Hooten; 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS - 1982), an old Army buddy of his who was there when Danny was taken prisoner by the Cong in 1974. Richard knows why Steel is there, he wants him to help rescue Danny, even though Richard's wife (actress unknown) tells him not to. Richard tells her he is not going to abandon Danny again, because he, too, like Steel, has nightmares nearly every night and she knows how bad they are. "I don't want you to abandon us. Isn't it bad enough our son has leukemia? I want you here!" says Richard's wife. Steel overhears the conversation, talks to the young son and then goes to leave Richard's house when Richard appears and says, "Okay, let's go get Danny!"
Steel and Richard have a few stops to make before rescuing Danny, namely to put their old squad back together. Their first stop is Miami, where they try to convince squad member Mark Bright (Nat Kelly Cole) to get some weapons together and join them on the hostage rescue. It takes some convincing because Mark is a casino owner who owes a ton of money to the Mob, so Steel and Richard rough up some mob members out to kill Mark and he joins his old pals in their mission. The next stop is some unnamed African nation, where former squad member Travis Mills (Werner Pochath; TERROR EXPRESS - 1979) works at the Safari Disco as a female impersonator (!), talk/singing a love ballad to an appreciative audience (Pochath looks ridiculous in his female getup, his hairy chest a dead giveaway that he is not a woman!). Travis is not happy to see them (and by the look on their faces, he can see that they don't approve of what he is doing!) and tells them that he is a prisoner in this country, thanks to its ruler, General Ortega (Franklin Dominguez; RAIDERS OF THE MAGIC IVORY - 1988), who took Travis' passport, stole his monthly military pension and makes him have gay sex with him! The trio helps Travis get even with the General and at the same time steal his cache of automatic weapons and his helicopter (Steel shoots and kills the General point-blank as he is boarding the helicopter).
Major Briggs takes a trip to the unnamed Third World country (filmed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) where Danny and four other military POWs are being held hostage, warning members of the government that four Americans are heading here to rescue the hostages. He tells them if this renegade squadron of former soldiers is not successful in their task, they can kill them with no reprisals from the United States. Major Briggs then tells them if Steel and his men are successful in rescuing the hostages, he will kill them himself as they leave the country. Major Briggs keeps a close eye on Steel and his squad's progress, but is he really willing to kill them or is he paying lip service to this country's government? The squad of four discovers that the hostages are being held in an abandoned sugar factory, so they stake it out and come up with a plan of action. Will they rescue the hostages and, more importantly, will any of them survive if they do?
The real action doesn't kick in until the final twenty minutes of this 77-minute film, but director Tonino Valerii (THE PRICE OF POWER - 1969; MY NAME IS NOBODY - 1973; GO GORILLA GO - 1975; SAHARA CROSS - 1977), working with a screenplay by Roberto Leoni (STREET PEOPLE - 1976; HELL'S HEROES - 1987; and Valerii's MY DEAR KILLER - 1972), layers the film with enough weird sights to keep your brain and eyes occupied before the final firefight begins. I have to say that I have seen Werner Pochath play more than his share of crazy characters, enough of them for him to become one of my favorite Italian genre film actors (I first noticed him in the horrid IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE - 1971), but seeing him in women's clothes and talk/singing a love ballad really sent me for a loop! He is the best thing about this film, as he always makes any film he appears in seem better than it actually is. Pochath died at the relatively young age of 53 in 1993 after getting cirrhosis of the liver while receiving treatment for AIDS. Speaking of AIDS, this was Nat Kelly Cole's only film role. He was the adopted son of singers Nat King Cole and Maria Cole. His sister was popular singer Natalie Cole and he died from complication of AIDS in 1995 (Is there a connection? I'll let you debate that.). This film also has its fair share of surprises and there's one about Danny that I didn't see coming. If I told you what it was, I would ruin the film for you. It should also be noted that everyone in this film is dubbed (even though it is plain to see everyone is speaking English), so it's weird hearing different voices coming out of Bo Svenson and Martin Balsam's mouths since they both have distinctive speech patterns. Still, this film delivers what it promises, so you should have a good time with it. The film ends with an off-screen narrator telling us the future of the surviving characters. You won't believe your ears when he tells us what happened to Travis. I guess being gay has tragic consequences, especially in Italian genre films! Richard's future also isn't too rosy (His son died of leukemia while he was rescuing Danny, so he adopted a female Vietnamese child! What?!?).
Shot as LA SPORCA INSEGNA DEL CORAGGIO ("The Dirty Sign Of Courage") and also known as BLOOD COMMANDO, this film never had a U.S. theatrical release, but was released to U.S. VHS heavily edited as SAVAGE ATTACK (from label III Star). No disc releases of the title in the States as far as I could determine, but it is available streaming on Amazon Prime (under the review title). The print is an open-matte fullscreen print, uncut and dubbed in English (which is how I viewed it). Also featuring Juan Jose Ceballes, Pietro Torrisi (better known as "Peter McCoy"; GUNAN, KING OF THE BARBARIANS - 1982), Rocco Lerro (1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS - 1982) and Sergio Testori (SYNDICATE SADISTS - 1975). Bo Svenson was this film's uncredited Producer. It is also weird that none of the female cast are listed in the credits, so if anyone knows who they are, drop me an email. Not Rated.
CAGE (1989) - Must-see viewing for all fans of action cinema, but not for the reasons you might expect. During a nasty enemy attack in Vietnam in 1969, soldier Bill Thomas (Lou Ferrigno; DESERT WARRIOR - 1988) is shot in the head while saving Captain Scott Monroe (Reb Brown; ROBOWAR - 1988), turning him into a retarded, child-like muscle-bound idiot who likes to be called Billy. Twenty years pass and Scott is still looking out for Billy, acting as his older brother, father, mother and, most of all, best friend, but times are tough and Scott has to figure out a way they can both make some money to survive. With the bank note coming due on Scott's bar (which caters to disabled veterans) and no way to pay it, Scott has to figure out something and do it quick. When a bar fight breaks out between Scott and Diablo (Branscombe Richmond) and his Latino gang, it catches the eye of gambler Tony Baccola (Michael Dante; BEYOND EVIL - 1980), who is looking for someone to challenge Chang (Tiger Chung Lee), a champion fighter in the brutal (and illegal) sport of cage fighting, run by the dastardly Tin Lum Yin (James Shigata), who Tony owes 0,000 for losing a bet on a previous fight. After Scott and hulking simpleton Billy defeat Diablo and his gang, Tony and his right hand man Mario (Mike Moroff; RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 - 1993), who is almost as much as a mental defective as Billy, offer Scott and Billy a chance to make some money, but Scott turns them down. Since Tony also owes crime kingpin Mr. Costello (Al Ruscio) ,000, he hires Diablo and his gang to burn down Scott's bar (with orders not to harm anyone), in hopes that Scott will have no choice but to take Tony up on his offer and let Billy fight in the cage matches. Diablo's second-in-command, Mono (Daniel Martine), botches the torch job and kills Meme (Maggie Mae Miller), the bar's beloved waitress, in the blaze (When Scott and Billy hear the news of Meme's death, they both go on a crying jag that must be seen to be believed!). When a steadfast Scott still refuses to let Billy fight (he really is about the best friend anyone could ever hope to have), Tony and Mario kidnap Billy and begin training him to fight, under the ruse that he is helping Scott raise money to rebuild the bar. When the police refuse to help Scott find Billy, he sets out on his own, first by killing Diablo and Mono (who suffers a fitting death by fire while begging Scott to kill him, which he refuses to do!) and then heading to the cage match, where Billy is about to fight in a series of punishing matches, the last one against Chang. Scott gets captured and joins forces with female reporter Morgan Garrett (Marilyn Tokuda) and undercover cop Tiger Joe (erstwhile stuntman and bit actor supreme Al Leong) to save Billy and get even with Tony, Tin Lum Yin and Mr. Costello. Scott must take Billy's place in the ring and fight Tin Lum Yin's East Coast champion, which leads to a shoot-out, many deaths and an unexpected windfall for Scott and Billy. First off, how Lou Ferrigno didn't win an Academy Award for his performance here is beyond my comprehension (Oscar rule of thumb: Play a retard, dress in drag or die of a terminal disease and you are guaranteed to get a nomination). Yes, I am half-kidding, but the other half of me enjoyed Ferrigno's performance immensely, as he is affecting and totally believable as the retarded musclehead. It's probably the best role of his career, acting-wise. Reb Brown also registers as Scott. His protective friendship with Billy is quite touching. Secondly, there's a lot more going on here than a simple action film. Director/producer Lang Elliott (THE PRIVATE EYES - 1981) packs a lot of emotion on-screen, thanks to Hugh Kelly's screenplay, especially the contrasting relationships between Scott and Billy and Tony and Mario. Both Billy and Mario lack the intelligence or will to survive on their own, but the way they are treated by their prospective guardians is like apples and oranges. The scene where Mario sympathizes with Billy while he is being beaten to a pulp by one fighter (played by Matthias Hues) is heartfelt and tugs at your emotions, as is their scene in the locker room where Mario pleads with Billy to fight one more time to save both of their lives. Call me an old softy, but CAGE is that rare action film that pulls at your heartstrings while beating your body to a bloody pulp. Lang made a sequel, CAGE II in 1994 (once again using Hugh Kelley as the screenwriter and Lou Ferrigno and Reb Brown as the stars), and it's about as lousy a sequel as you will ever see. Look closely and you'll spot Danny Trejo as Mr. Costello's bodyguard, Jimmy F. Skaggs as the "Ugly Guy" and roller derby and wrestling veteran Queen Kong (nee Dee Booher) as a member of Diablo's gang who gets punched in the face by Scott. Also starring Dana Lee and Rion Hunter as Chinese albino Cheo Tung. Originally released on VHS by Orion Home Video and available on a budget fullscreen DVD from Trinity Entertainment. Rated R.
CAGE II (1994) - Awful sequel to the surprisingly affecting CAGE (1989) that, while it reunites the main cast, director and screenwriter, misses the mark completely on what made the original film so successful: Its emotional core. Lou Ferrigno returns as hulking simpleton Billy, who was rendered retarded during the Vietnam War by getting shot in the head while saving Scott (Reb Brown) from an enemy ambush. Since that day, Scott has become Billy's caregiver and best friend. As Part II opens, Scott and Billy are attacked in a grocery store by Chin (James Lew) and his gang, who leave Scott for dead and kidnap Billy after shooting a tranquilizer dart into his stomach. Billy becomes the star attraction of the Cage Cable Network, a brutal fighting corporation (which now, unlike the first film, seems perfectly legal) owned by Tin Lum Yin (James Shigata), the chief bad guy in Part 1, who was supposedly crushed to death by Billy in the finale, but survived and now must wear a full body brace and walk with a cane. Tin Lum Yin keeps Billy in line by giving him daily "vitamin injections", which are actually genetically enhanced steroids that turn Billy into a violent, no-mercy cage fighter, a 180 degree turn from his normal, docile retarded self. Scott joins forces with Interpol agent Tanaka (Leo Fong; LOW BLOW - 1986) and mute Japanese sensei Ogami (Masaharu Sakimurai) to find Billy and infiltrate Tin Lum Yin's organization, but they have to fight wave-after-wave of Yin's men, as well as a Japanese Triad enforcer named Wang (Tadashi Yamashita). Billy, who believes Scott is dead, begins to refuse the injections with the help of pretty servant Mi Lo (Shannon Lee, in a degrading role), which upsets Yin when Billy begins to get less aggressive and starts showing mercy on his opponents in the cage matches (by "mercy", I mean he doesn't kill them). Billy begins to go through withdrawal symptoms from the lack of injections, which Mi Lo helps him get through with the use of acupuncture. Yin and Dr. Wo (Gerald Okamura) want Billy to go back to taking the injections and when Billy refuses (after finding out that Yin "purchased" Mi Lo in Hong Kong when she was twelve years-old and used her as a whore), Yin stages one final tournament before he leaves the city with millions of dollars in gambling bets. Meanwhile, Scott (who has been honing his fighting skills with Tanaka and Ogami's help) enters the tournament under the alias "Robert Parker" (in one of the most ridiculous disguises I have ever seen) and works his way up the ranks. Yin, who is not fooled by Scott's disguise (believe me, a blind man could spot it), comes up with a surefire way to kill two birds with one stone: pit Scott and Billy against each other in the final match while he burns down the building and absconds with the millions. Of course, this all blows-up in Yin's face, as Billy and Scott join forces with Tanaka and Ogami to stop the madness. When Yin shoots Mi Lo in the back, Billy goes after him, but the severely disappointing finale finds Billy shot three times and Yin escaping. What The Fuck?!? While the original CAGE had a decent budget and a star turn by Lou Ferrigno, this sequel is much too cheap looking (check out the sparse audience members during the cage matches) and is more concerned with fighting than characterization, which was the original's strength. Ferrigno seems to forget that he's supposed to be retarded in this film and acts more like Ferrigno than a simpleton, which is a damned shame. The acting, by a series of genre pros, is strictly generic (Leo Fong is absolutely terrible here, but any Fong fan already knows that his thespian ability has always been lacking) and returning director Lang Elliott (THE PRIVATE EYES - 1981) and screenwriter Hugh Kelley seem more interested in showing people beating the stuffing out of each other (rather unconvincingly) and less about Scott and Billy's relationship. Even Billy's relationship with Mi Lo rings hollow here, making CAGE II a bitter disappointment. It's no better or worse than the multitude of faceless DTV actioners that crammed the video shelves in the 90's. What could have (and should have) been an interesting continuation of the Scott/Billy dynamic is turned into a generic and disappointing action flick with one of the worst cop-out finales (setting it up for another sequel which, fortunately, never materialized) in action film history. Also starring John Marino (simply horrible as the CCN ring commentator), Thor Edgell, Steven Ito and Jon Turtle. Originally released on VHS by ABC Video and not available on DVD. Rated R.
CHALLENGE (1973) - You have to love a film that puts a disclaimer at the beginning of the film saying that they purposely made a film with no nudity, sexuality or bad language so that it is family-friendly. Don't you believe it! While that statement is basically true, there's enough violence (which they thankfully left out of the disclaimer) on view here to make action fans happy. Senate candidate John Frank Challenge (producer Earl Owensby) is about to hand over incriminating documents to the State Crime Commission, which doesn't sit too well with local crime boss and businessman Mr. Guthrie (screenwriter William T. Hicks). He hires three assassins (including one who's a martial arts instructor) to kill Challenge, get the documents and also get a second set which he has hidden at home. The assassins beat the snot out of Challenge, steal the first set of documents and leave Challenge bleeding (but not dead) and unconscious in a motel parking lot. They then go to Challenge's house and accidentally knock out Challenge's wife (Katheryn Thompson). Unable to find the second set of documents, they burn down the house, killing Challenge's wife and young daughter. Challenge is rushed to the hospital and, after learning of his family's death, vows revenge on those responsible. From here on, it's WALKING TALL (1973) time, as Challenge takes on everyone by himself. One-by-one, Challenge kills those responsible (one involves a sharpened belt buckle!), until he meets Mr. Guthrie for a final showdown. I think what makes this different from most revenge flicks is that Challenge gets revenge without actually killing anyone. They basically kill themselves, but not without a little push from Challenge. One crashes his car and it explodes (trying to get away from Challenge). Another flies his plane into a forest (after running out of fuel). Still another crashes through a window and falls to his death (after missing a flying kick aimed at Challenge). Finally, Mr. Guthrie drops dead of a heart attack running away from Challenge (who fires his shotgun into the air, basically scaring Guthrie to death). Earl Owensby (this is his first film, both as actor and producer), who was never accused of being a good actor, made a career of churning out these little regional actioners from his Shelby, North Carolina production facility and they were very popular in the South. He apparently knew his limitations as an actor, as his roles gave him minimal dialogue (in one film, 1976's DARK SUNDAY, he plays a mute preacher out for revenge!), giving the other actors the lion's share of the lines. After the films opening disclaimer, it was unnerving to view Owensby's plentiful back hair (apparently, that's family-friendly). Truth be told, I would rather see nudity. Director Martin Beck handles the action rather proficiently, offering us a long car chase through the back streets of Shelby, a prop plane chase and some other nice set pieces. The only thing that drags is the cheesy country ballad/flashback that comes two-thirds into the film. CHALLENGE spawned a sequel the next year, MANHUNTER (a.k.a. THE BRASS RING), which further tells the exploits of Frank Challenge and his vendetta against organized crime. Ignore the info on IMDB that says that they are both the same film (they even mix and match the credits) as it is just plain wrong. Other Owensby films include: DEATH DRIVER (1977), SEABO - BUCKSTONE COUNTY PRISON (1978), WOLFMAN (1979) A DAY OF JUDGMENT (1981) and DOGS OF HELL (1982). Also starring Johnny Popwell, Garland Atkins, Laurens Moore and Dave Adams. A VCL Home Video Release. Rated PG.
CHANCE (1990) - Detective Jon Chance (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) is suspended from the force after an unfortunate incident where he kills three crooks and blows up their car, causing ,000 in damages. Zach (Dan Haggerty), an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic (not really, as he is still secretly drinking) and now a repo man (he played basically the same character in REPO JAKE - 1990), repossesses a car with stolen diamonds in the trunk. The diamond thieves want their booty back, as does the mob boss they stole them from. Zach and Chance join forces when one of the thieves tries to kill Zach and they try to discover who actually has possession of the diamonds. That's the whole plot, folks. Toss in numerous gun fights, car chases and dialogue like. "I'm just trippin' without my luggage" or "Are you a cop?" "Not this week.", and you've got your typical early PM (Richard Pepin/Joseph Merhi) Entertainment action film, made before they learned how to film an exciting action flick. The fact that it took two people to direct this, Charles T. Kanganis (who also acts in this using the name "Charlie Ganis") and Addison Randall (who also co-wrote the script and has a role as a jerkoff cop who gets a bullet in his brainpan), is an early indicator that this film is in trouble. The action scenes are lame, the fight scenes badly staged and the acting is pretty poor. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who gained semi fame as Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington on TV's WELCOME BACK KOTTER (1975 - 1979), was a popular PM player during the late 80's to the early 90's.This is Hilton-Jacob's fourth appearance as Detective Jon Chance. He previously played the same character in L.A. HEAT (1988), L.A. VICE (1989) and ANGELS OF THE CITY (1989, which he also directed) as well as starring as other characters in EAST L.A. WARRIORS (1989) and QUIET FIRE (1991, which he also directed). After appearing as the cruel father Joe Jackson in a TV docudrama about the Jackson Five, Hilton-Jacobs guest-starred in a lot of episodic TV and recently appeared in the horror film SUBLIME (2006) as "Mandingo". What can I say about Dan Haggerty (who also was an Associate Producer on this) that I haven't already complained about in other reviews? If you've seen him in one film, you've seen him in all his films. He wears the same expression on his face in all his roles. It looks as if he's squeezing a twelve foot turd out his ass and he has the emotional range of a hard boiled egg (and I get the distinct impression that the booze he drinks in all his roles is real). How he keeps getting work is beyond me. CHANCE has a lot of bullet squibs (a PM trademark), some fine female nudity and a couple of good stunts (but, surprisingly, no scene of a car flipping through the air in slow-motion, another PM trademark), but unless you need a really bad action fix and you can't find anything better to watch, this film can be skipped. For PM Entertainment completists only. My friend William Wilson keeps sending me these Dan Haggerty disasters because he knows that I have no choice but to review them. He knows that I am still looking for a good Dan Haggerty film when we all know that there's no such thing. William Wilson is a bastard who should have other people start his car from now on. Payback is a bitch. Also starring Roger Rodd, Richard Allen, Robert Axelrod, Gold and Michael McNabe. A PM Entertainment Release. Rated R.
COBRA MISSION 2 (1988) - In this sequel to COBRA MISSION (1985; known in the United States as OPERATION NAM), the U.S. government sends ex-soldier Roger Parker (Brett Clark; ALIEN WARRIOR - 1985; EYE OF THE EAGLE - 1987) to some unnamed Central American country to assassinate evil dictator Garcia (Jose Guerra). Roger doesn't trust the government very much because, years before, he and some other soldiers went to Vietnam on their own to rescue some American POWs and when they returned to the States, the government killed nearly everyone involved in the mission (This is the only connection to the first film). With the help of his old Commanding Officer, Roger was able to avoid being killed by changing his identity and living in anonymity. Nothing lasts forever, though, as Roger now finds himself paying back his old C.O.'s favor by going to Central America, where he joins forces with freedom fighters Gabriel (Jeff Moldovan; MASTERBLASTER - 1986; HAMMERHEAD - 1987) and Marisol (Julie M. Carlo). When they sneak into Garcia's compound and find he is not there, it's obvious that there's a traitor within their ranks. Gabriel thinks it's Marisol and shoots her point-blank in the stomach after ripping open blouse and discovering that her breasts aren't disfigured (She previously had stated that Garcia's men scarred her breasts in a torture session years before, which is a reverse take-off on a truly disturbing scene in the first film). When Rafael (Cesar Olmo), the leader of the freedom fighters, is captured and tortured by Garcia and his minions, Roger, Gabriel and a select few freedom fighters attempt to rescue him, even though the American government has called off the assassination and wants Roger to return to the States. Even though they manage to rescue Rafael, the rescue attempt turns out to be a trap and only Roger, Gabriel and Rafael escape with their lives. When the real traitor tips his hand, Roger kills him, but soon finds out that his entire mission was a setup conducted by Garcia to flush out the freedom fighters and kill them. Roger still has a trick or two up his sleeve and Garcia pays for his treachery with his life. This is nowhere near as good or nihilistic as the first film. Gone is the majority of the anti-American bias that made the first film so memorable and in it's place is a lukewarm "guess who the traitor is" plot that is so easy to solve, it's ridiculous. There's not much to recommend here, as director Camillo Teti (THE KILLER IS STILL AMONG US - 1986; NAVIGATORS OF THE SPACE - 1993), using the pseudonym "Mark Davis", offers nothing meaty for the viewer to bite into. The action scenes are statically filmed and are infrequent (When they do come, it's just the standard firing of guns and a few bloody bullet squibs and explosions. There's nothing here remotely extraordinary or awe-inspiring.). Equally annoying are the dubbed voices used for both Brett Clark and Jeff Moldovan, who both have real voices that are distinct and identifiable. Worst of all, COBRA MISSION 2 is simply boring, with it's generic plot and much-too talky script (screenplay by Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannino, who both wrote the screenplays for the equally bad MIAMI HORROR  and the pretty decent PHANTOM OF DEATH ). The finale is especially frustrating, as we expect Roger to get even with his Commanding Officer when he returns to the States. Instead, he returns to Miami (where the entire film was lensed), gets into a limousine with his C.O. and agrees to move to Nevada using a new alias! What a crock of shit. Don't waste your time with this one, folks. Fabrizio DeAngelis, the director of the first film, was the Producer here. Also starring Franklin Dominguez (RAIDERS OF THE MAGIC IVORY - 1988), Aida M. Selman, Willy Nunez, Charles Rack and Thomas Irving. This film never had a legitimate U.S. home video release, although an Italian DVD is available. The print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.
CODE NAME: ZEBRA (1986) - Pretty good in-name-only sequel to 1976's ZEBRA FORCE, both directed by Joe Tornatore. When Carmine Longo (Mike Lane, returning from the first film) is released from prison after a lengthy stay, he goes after the people who put him there. After their friend Jim is killed by Longo, Frank Barnes (Jim Mitchum) and Remy Larson (Dennis Rucker) are questioned by the police (George "Buck" Flower plays one of the detectives and has a fairly good-sized role) and released. Larson reforms his old Vietnam War group, The Zebra Force, which consists of people that Longo is killing. Barnes joins the force to avenge Jim's death and meets member Jim Bob Cougar (Timothy Brown), the only other member of The Zebra Force still left alive. Barnes, Larson and Cougar are ambushed by Longo at their friend's funeral and Larson is killed. Longo becomes a loose cannon, much to the dismay of local crime lord Voce (Joe Donte), who is losing too many of his men who are assisting Longo in fulfilling his revenge. Barnes and Cougar kidnap Crazy Danny (Charles Dierkop), a Voce associate, and pump him for info on Longo's plans. Barnes and Cougar then go on a systematic tour of destruction, killing two goons by oversweating them in a sauna and hiring some merceneries (which includes Robert Z'Dar) to help them. They then rob Voce's personal armoury to get the weapons they need to get their revenge. Longo puts pressure on mob lawyer Kozlo (Frank Sinatra Jr., who's surprisingly good) to locate Crazy Danny and find out what he told Barnes and Cougar. It's not long before all hell breaks loose as bullets fly, people die and Barnes faces a personal problem which involves his girlfriend Julie (Deana Jurgens). This film contains a cast that is full of B-movie staples. Besides the people already mentioned, there's Lindsay Crosby, Robert Dryer (SAVAGE STREETS - 1984), Chuck Morrell and Tornatore associate Mike Angel (THE LOVE BUTCHER - 1975). Director Tornatore fills the film with plenty of explosions, car chases, stunts and other bloodshed, some of it filmed with Tornatore's patented Peckinpah-like slow-motion photography. Jim Mitchum (HOLLYWOOD COP - 1986) is just as good and actor as brother Chris Mitchum (FINAL SCORE - 1986), but that's not saying much. He spends most of his time running around firing weapons, so acting takes a back seat here. This film doesn't have the demented charm of ZEBRA FORCE, but Tornatore infuses enough B-level action to make this worth a night's rental. WARNING: If you pick up the Platinum Productions DVD of this film, you will actually get a poorly-mastered version of ZEBRA FORCE. Those wily bastards have the cast credits and plot correct on the DVD sleeve, they just put the wrong film on the DVD. The only way you are going to see this film in any form in the U.S. (at least at the time of this writing), is to find the Trans World Entertainment VHS Release. Rated R.
COMMANDO INVASION (1986) - Action-packed, but brainless, Filipino actioner set during the Vietnam War. The prologue shows a French army convoy being ambushed by the Vietcong in 1950. They kill all the French soldiers and steal millions of dollars in art, important documents and diamonds that the convoy was transporting. Flash-forward fifteen years and a group of American commandos are raiding a secret underground tunnel that is the headquarters for VC General Diap (Ken Watanabe). After killing all the VC in the tunnel and capturing General Diap, the leader of the commandos, Captain Brady (Michael James), calls for a pick-up but, for reasons unknown until much later, some of the squad members point their weapons at Captain Brady. When back-up finally arrives, they find all of Brady's men shot dead and Brady lying unconscious with a fistful of diamonds in his hands. Brady is brought to court martial, but is given five days to bring General Diap back to prove his innocence. Brady joins a group of VC freedom fighters in his search for Diap and even recruits a VC nurse, Akina (Carol Roberts), to help get into Diap's compound (she's Diap's mistress). She manages to walk through the compound unnoticed and leads Brady right to Diap, where he takes him prisoner for a second time. As they are leaving the compound, a welcoming committee is waiting and they must fight their way out. When Brady asks Diap why he killed his men, Diap says, "Do I know you?", which makes Brady look like a liar in the eyes of Captain Terryl (Pat Vance), who was sent with Brady on his quest (and whose brother was killed in the first raid). Brady and his men are ambushed as they turn every corner, as if someone doesn't want him to make it back. Could it be the mysterious General McMoreland (Gordon Mitchell), who may know more than he is letting on? A squad of French soldiers also want Diap because they think he knows the location of the treasure stolen fifteen years earlier. After saving each other's hides a couple of times, the French forge an uneasy alliance with Brady and agree to take possession of Diap only after he testifies at Brady's court martial. That's easier said than done, as making it to the trial will be no easy task. Diap keeps bribing the soldiers with diamonds to let him escape and Brady must then decide whether to kill Diap or bring him back for the trial. If you ask me, the only good gook is a dead gook. Though not as wild and insane as a lot of these Philippines-lensed actioners, director Jun Gallardo (RESCUE TEAM - 1983; SFX RETALIATOR - 1987), using his "John Gale" pseudonym, injects enough action and crazy dialogue to make it worth at least one viewing. There's enough double and triple crosses here for ten films and the violence, while not particularly bloody, comes fast and frequently. The dialogue consists of macho lines, like this exchange between Brady and Terryl: Brady: "You asshole!" Terryl: "Watch your mouth Brady!" Brady: "O.K. You stupid asshole!" It's not Shakespeare, that's for sure. But, if you like your war action down and dirty with plenty of firefights and explosions, you can do a whole lot worse than COMMANDO INVASION. Also starring Jim Gaines, Billy Kipp, Gerald Todd, John Collins, Tony Lee and Jan Jeffrey. A Questar Productions Home Video Release. Not Rated.
COP GAME (1988) - Italian war actioner filmed in the Philippines. When three soldiers in gas masks (to hide their identities) brutally gun down an American officer and his lady friend (i.e. hooker) in front of many witnesses, General Morris (Brett Halsey, in an uncredited appearance) puts Captain Skipper Kirk (Romano Puppo; AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK - 1983) in charge of finding out who were involved on the killings. Since the three killer soldiers were wearing Cobra Force uniforms at the time of the killings and it is no secret that Major Shooman (Robert Marius; ALIEN FROM THE DEEP - 1989), the leader of Cobra Force, is out to get Colonel Kasler (Werner Pochath; THE RAT MAN - 1987), who is in charge of the territory where the murders occurred, Captain Kirk (and, yes, there is a STAR TREK joke made about his name) assigns two of his best men, Morgan (Brent Huff; FINAL EXAMINATION - 2002) and Hawk (Max Laurel; SGT. CLARIN: BULLET FOR YOUR HEAD - 1990), to discreetly investigate why American soldiers are killing each other in Saigon during the final days of the Vietnam War. As we soon find out, Morgan and Hawk are anything but discreet (Hawk says to one MP, "If I want any shit from you, I'll squeeze your head!"). When they question Col. Kasler, he tells the duo that Major Shooman wants him and another officer dead, but refuses to tell them the reason why or the other officer's name, citing reasons of "national security". When an assassin unsuccessfully tries to kill Col. Kasler, Morgan and Hawk chase the assassin through the streets of Saigon, where they capture and then "interrogate" him (Morgan says of Hawk while he's breaking the assassin's fingers one-by-one, "Don't piss him off. He makes Bruce Lee look like a pussy!"), but before they can obtain any information, the three gasmask-wearing soldiers suddenly appear and gun-down the assassin (Morgan: "Cocksucking, motherfucking son-of-a-bitch!" Hawk: "You took the words right out of my mouth!"). When Hawk is called away to visit one of his sick children (What?), Morgan meets a hooker named Annie (Candice Daly; HELL HUNTERS - 1986), who gives him the location of one of the killer soldiers. Morgan is forced to kill the assassin before he can interrogate him, so he and Hawk (who suddenly reappears) confront Col. Kasler, who finally spills the beans. It seems Kasler, the dead officer from the beginning of the film and another officer witnessed Major Shooman and the Cobra Force slaughter an entire village of innocent Vietnamese men, women and children, but the U.S. government would rather cover it up (shades of the true-life Mei Lai Massacre) and not make the rest of the world aware that American soldiers are capable of such heinous acts during wartime. As Morgan and Hawk race to protect the third officer, they will soon discover that the difference between the good guys and the bad guys is just the width of a hair. Someone is lying to them in a big way and it could cost them their lives. This hokey war actioner (nothing but a low-budget scene-for-scene rip-off of OFF LIMITS, which was released earlier the same year), directed by Bruno Mattei (THE OTHER HELL - 1980; ROBOWAR - 1988; BORN TO FIGHT - 1989; THE TOMB - 2004), using the pseudonym "Bob Hunter", and written by Rossella Drudi (BEYOND DARKNESS - 1990), is full of unbelievably bad dialogue ("You promise me the moon and then you give me a flashlight!") and numerous action set-pieces, but, unfortunately, most of these set-pieces and other footage are lifted from other films (including ARK OF THE SUN GOD  and STRIKE COMMANDO ) in what seems to be a cost-cutting measure (There's even a large amount of stock Vietnam war footage to round out the package). Brent Huff (who sports a distracting dangly earring in his left ear) is simply awful here. His idea of "acting" is to scream out all his lines (it becomes unintentionally funny after a while) and Max Laurel, who was so memorable as ZUMA (1985), is dubbed by someone with a very high-pitched voice, making his character seem more like a parody than a real person. Laurel also disappears mysteriously several times throughout the film. It's as if he wasn't available to film some of his scenes and is so noticeable, it becomes distracting. And, call me crazy, but did I spot mid-80's style bathing suits on view during the opening scene?There are also plenty of other examples of objects (cars and weapons) that shouldn't be seen in a film set in the mid-70's. That's just lazy filmmaking. There's not much here to please action fans besides the risible dialogue and some slow-motion gunplay, making COP GAME (also known as GI KILLER) a waste of time unless you get-off on constant badness. Also starring Don Wilson, Alex McBride, Alan Collins, Clyde Anderson (actually Italian director/writer Claudio Fragasso) and a cameo by Jim Gaines. This Flora Films Production was released on VHS in the States by III Star Releasing and can be easily obtained on DVD-R from various online gray market sellers. Not Rated.
COURIER OF DEATH (1984) - This inept, though thoroughly entertaining, regional actioner (lensed in Portland, Oregon) opens with professional courier J.D. (Joey Johnson) and his partner Frank (Bill Hupfer) trying to outrun a bunch of goons who want a briefcase containing million that is handcuffed to Frank's wrist, Unable to outrun the goons' Trans Am with their van, J.D. and Frank pull into a park and get into a gunfight. Frank is killed (He is shot in the leg and then point-blank in the head. When one of the goons is unable to free the briefcase from Frank's wrist, he blows off Frank's hand with a few well-placed shots from his pistol!), but J.D. is able to kill all the goons and deliver the briefcase. J.D.'s next assignment doesn't go well at all. His wife Julie (Joan Becherich) is kidnapped and murdered before his eyes after he turns over a briefcase he picked up in San Francisco. The murderers behind Julie's death are the same people who hired the goons to steal the briefcase from Frank, so J.D., who gets help from his old Army commanding officer known only as "The Colonel" (James Jameson), sets out to kill all those responsible for his wife's death. The Colonel tells J.D. that those involved belong to a fascist organization that supply money and weapons to terrorists, so J.D. begins leaving a bunch of dead bodies in his wake as he inches closer and closer to his goal. He kills three guys in a strip bar when they refuse to answer his questions ("Wrong answer, dude!"), saves his friend Nancy (Diana Bauer) from two rapists (they torture her with knives and a lit cigarette) and then shoots Nancy's pimp boyfriend at a bar (he shoots him in the balls after slicing his face with a broken bottle). He then shotguns five guys who try to attack him and his wife's best friend Katie (Barbara Garrison) and then forces another guy to commit suicide after he gives J.D. an important clue. The fascists send a female assassin named Angel (Amy Sachel) to dispose of J.D. and she almost succeeds (she kicks him between the legs several times with her stiletto heels), but J.D. tricks her into drinking a poisoned glass of champagne (the old "switch the poison glass" trick). J.D. manages to kill nearly everyone in the fascist organization, including ringleader Bigelow (John H. Schmeer, who was also this film's Cinematographer), but soon finds out that the Colonel used him to get the million in bonds that Bigelow kept in a briefcase (Doesn't anyone keep money in safes anymore?). To say anymore would spoil the final surprise. I can't begin to describe how impossibly infectious this film is. It should fail on all levels (and, really, it does), but it is so logic-defying and non-stop violent, you can't help but keep your eyes on the screen. It's like watching a huge pile-up on the freeway where no one survives, only all the dead bodies are the most ugly people this side of a trailer park crackhouse (Just what is in Portland's water anyway? Why is everyone in this film so butt-ugly?). Perm-headed Joey Johnson is simply indescribable as J.D., who is supposed to abhor violence, but quickly (and I do mean quickly) begins beating up (usually with his handy collapsible baton) or killing as many people as humanly possible. He's like Dirty Harry without the badge (or talent), as he blows away people left and right, usually for just looking at him funny. Director/producer Tom Shaw, who sadly never directed anything else, fills the screen with so much bloody Grade Z action, including shootings, stabbings, slashings and explosions, it's almost possible to overlook Ron Schmidt's plothole-laden script (he was also this film's Production Manager). Almost. People appear and disappear for no rhyme or reason other than to be victims of J.D.'s revenge and the finale left me shaking my head in disbelief. It really is one of the looniest and out-of-left-field conclusions that I have witnessed in quite a while. When director Shaw doesn't know how to end a scene, he simply puts J.D. in the cockpit of a Piper Cub with his overweight pilot friend, where they discuss what just happened! COURIER OF DEATH could quite possibly be one of the finest examples where everything goes wrong, yet it all gels as a whole, making this film one of the most enjoyably bad U.S.-made action films of the 80's. I haven't even touched the surface of what this film has to offer, including terrible acting (watch Angel's scene), lousy sound editing (when J.D. hears the guy's suicide, it sounds like a cap pistol muffled by a pillow!) and unbelievable situations (including J.D. turning down Katie's offer to take a shower with him because he's "not ready"!). Oh, what fun you are going to have if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a copy of this! The city of Portland should use this film as a tourist attraction ("Come to Portland. Chances are you are better-looking than us!" or "Hey, would you like to have your child's life threatened at gunpoint? Then come visit one of our many fine parks!"). Simply remarkable. Also starring Mel Fletcher, Leo Gossen, Rebecca Steele and John Benneth. Available on VHS from Lightning Video. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.
THE CRIME KILLER (1985) - Is it possible for a film to be completely inept and still be entertaining at the same time? After viewing this action abomination, I'm happy to report that, yes, it is. In the opening, police detective Zeus (director George Pan-Andreas) and his partner get into a shootout with a drug gang (the guns sound like cap pistols and you can see the wadding come out of the barrels) and, when some of the gang come popping out of garbage cans (!), Zeus is stabbed (you can see the rubber blade bend) and his partner is shot and killed (He says to Zeus with his last dying breath, "Don't get soft!"). Zeus is then forced to kill two crooked uniformed cops who were going to kill him and take the gang's drug money. Zeus is kicked off the force and is set to go on trial for killing the two cops (He complains to his Police Chief, defending his reputation as a crime fighter: "I was even buried alive for two whole days!"). When the President of the United States (Jack Bliesener) goes on TV and announces his war on drugs and crime, the Police Chief (Leo G. Morrell) begs Zeus to come back (Zeus says, "How can I come back now? You broke my heart!") when the President's ex-wife and adoptive daughter are brutally murdered. Zeus finally relents and rescues a young girl and she is able to pick out one of the killers by his mug shot. When the little girl is killed by the crime organization, Zeus gathers his Vietnam buddies together (both of them) to exact some vengeance, but first they need some strict military training to get into shape (this sequence is a real howler, as Zeus and his comrades go through their training with a no-nonsense drill sargeant while having flashbacks of their time as P.O.W.s back in Nam). Once their training is done, Zeus and his two buddies go on an all-out assault on the crime organization's compound, armed with silencers, AK-47s and their own deadly hands. Zeus begins to kill all the bad guys one-by-one (including one memorable death with a switchblade hidden in his sleeve) until he meets the female head of the organization, who tries to seduce Zeus, but ends up dead by one of her own devices. Director George Pan-Andreas, who speaks with such a thick Greek accent that he's hard to understand on several occasions, has surely made a lousy film, but it is so damned watchable and full of hilarious set pieces and quotable dialogue, you'll be glad you watched it. My favorite scene is when he gets into a martial arts/knife fight with one thug, disarms him, cuts the thug's face and then proudly proclaims, "They call me Zeus... The Crime Killer!" (The film's alternate title is ZEUS: THE CRIME KILLER) Another side-splitting scene finds Zeus infiltrating the crime organization disguised as Pedro the Mexican gardener, only he ends up getting beaten to a pulp, his throat slashed and a cigarette extinguished on his leg! I could go on-and-on about all the visual and auditory nuggets this film has to offer, like when Zeus' wife says to him, "Is that all you care about, justice and uzo?", but I would rather you experience them first-hand as to get the full effect. Though basically a vanity project for Pan-Andreas (he's the only actor listed in the crazy opening credits), there's plenty of other stuff to laugh at, from the badly-staged martial arts fights (Zeus screams like a little girl every time he gets hit), to the unbelievable action sequences (check out the motorcycle stunt which results in one of the main bad guys getting a nasty tire burn on his face!). The film is very bloody in spots, including a nasty throat slashing (the effects are surprisingly well done) and wait until you get to the surreal ending involving Zeus and the President. I was laughing so hard I nearly pissed myself! This is cheese of the highest order and essential to every badfilm fan. Pan-Andreas shot a sequel to this in 2003, titled GOLDEN TARGET, but it has yet to surface legally in the U.S.. Also starring Athan Karras, Mark Todd, John Stevens, Dean Murray, John Womack and June Wallace Kean. A New World Video Release. Not Rated.
CROSS MISSION (1987) - In some fictional Latin American country, ruler General Romero (Maurice Poli; URBAN WARRIORS - 1987) declares war in the marijuana and cocaine growers and, with the help of U.N. forces, begins burning down all of the illegal drug farms. The General is not too cooperative with the international press, though (and with good reason), so when nosy reporter Helen (Brigitte Porsh) notices that American William Corbett (Richard Randall) has arrived in-country secretly at the General's request, she cozies-up to him and becomes his lover, looking for the "big" story. William agrees to take her to visit the General at his country home (after she and William are attacked leaving a casino, where Helen proves quite adept in the martial arts) and we learn that the General has strange Macumba supernatural powers, like the ability to shoot electricity from his fingertips. William and the General are business partners in an illegal drug cartel (the General burned down all the drug farms not only to get the U.N. off his back, but also to start his own drug business) and the General has picked three parcels of land to start growing marijuana and cocoa plants, telling William that those parcels of land contain rare supernatural powers (Don't try making sense of it all, just go with it because it gets stranger). The General agrees to grant Helen an interview as a favor to William, where he shows the extant of his powers by making a dwarf called Astaroth (the late Nelson de la Rosa; THE RAT MAN - 1987) appear and disappear at will and applies some of his fingertip electrical skills on Helen's cranium (I told you it gets stranger!). When William and Helen leave the General's home, their Jeep breaks down and they hop on a passing bus, only to have the bus attacked by some of the General's men. When a child on the bus is shot dead, Helen goes bonkers, grabs a machine gun and begins shooting back, killing several of the General's men. William and Helen are then taken prisoner along with some Contra rebels and the General makes them all work in the mines as slaves at the dreaded "Gates of Paradise", a secret underground location where something unknown and evil is going on. Willian and Helen are saved by Contra leader David (Peter Hintz; APOCALYPSE MERCENARIES - 1987, also starring Poli) and his main squeeze Myra (Ana Silvia Grullon; BROTHERS IN WAR - 1988) and they agree to help the Contras in locating and freeing all the slaves that work at the Gates of Paradise. This involves Contra women, including Myra, infiltrating the camp as prostitutes and, while the guards are getting their rocks off, David, William and the Contra fighters sneak in. It doesn't go as planned. When Helen is taken prisoner and tortured by the General and Astaroth, William reveals that he is actually a U.S. Marine working undercover to bring down the General and leads the Contras on a raid of the General's compound to rescue Helen (he fails miserably) and stop the General's tyranny (at least he's successful there). This Italian-made mixture of war action and supernatural shenanigans may be strange, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is good. Unfortunately, it's a boring, confusing mess, so it should come as no surprise that it was directed by Alfonso Brescia (using his frequent "Al Bradley" pseudonym), the hack responsible for such abominations as BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS (1973), SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN (1974), IRON WARRIOR (1987) and the handful of late-70's STAR WARS imitations, which includes the atrocious STAR ODYSSEY (1978). Most of the war action footage here is cribbed from other Italian war films (especially Umberto Lenzi's BRIDGE TO HELL ) and the supernatural elements are woefully underplayed, like they were an afterthought in Donald Russo's screenplay when the production ran short and they needed to put in something to increase the running time. The appearance of diminutive Nelson de la Rosa as the general's magical sidekick is a treat but, he, too, is underutilized and and only appears in a couple of scenes. I really wanted to like CROSS MISSION (also known as COMBAT ATTACK), but it is nothing but one incomprehensible sequence after another (including a Contra rebel named Miquel who breaks-out into a song when asked if he will join William on the raid of the General's compound!) and moves at a snail's pace. It's definitely not one of the Big Boot's shining moments. Filmed in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, not in the Philippines as it is erroneously listed on IMDB. Also starring Jacobo Vasquez, Carlos Santos, Victor Checo and John L. Rock. Never legitimately released on home video in the U.S.; the version I viewed was sourced from a slightly letterboxed Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated, but there's not much in the way of blood or gore.
DAREDEVIL COMMANDOS (1985) - A rare Indonesian action misfire, this one taking place in the early 1940's, as Indonesian freedom fighters try to wrestle their country away from the Dutch occupational forces. The film opens with the freedom fighters attacking a Dutch military base (lots of explosion and people on both sides getting riddled with bullets), only to have the Dutch capture the leader of the freedom fighters, who bites his own tongue off when he is questioned and gets shot for not cooperating. The Captain of the Dutch military base wants to question the villagers as to where the freedom fighters, known as the Daredevil Commandos, are hiding and kill all those who won't assist them, but the Captain's second-in-command temporarily talks the Captain out of it, because the eyes of the world are on Indonesia and a mass slaughter of innocent people would not be in the best interest for the Dutch. Sergeant Major Hassim (Barry Prima; THE WARRIOR - 1981; THE TERRORISTS - 1986), the new leader of the Daredevil Commandos, begs his superiors for automatic weapons and ammunition because they cannot protect all the villages and win the war without them. Morale is also at an all-time low (Sgt. Hassim kicks the shit out of one of his comrades when the man threatens to report another soldier getting cozy with a female nurse), so when Sgt. Hassim is offered a mission to investigate a burned-out village, he grabs the rest of his team to investigate. It turns out to be a trap set-up by the Dutch and that crazy Dutch Captain. Low on ammunition, the Daredevil Commandos nevertheless win the battle using sheer brute strength (One of the Daredevils is killed, though), which severely pisses-off the Dutch Captain, who steps-up the brutality (World view be damned!) by raping women and shooting innocent villagers (Abib [Advent Bangun; THE BLIND WARRIOR - 1985], one of Sgt. Hassim's Daredevils, witnessed his sister and mother being raped by the Dutch when he was younger and these newer instances are waking-up long-suppressed memories). The Dutch are aware that the freedom fighters are running low on weapons, ammunition and food, so they plan on one final big-scale attack to wipe them off the face of the Earth. What the Dutch didn't count on is the resiliency of the Indonesian people, as the Daredevil Commandos plan to strike the Dutch where it will hurt them the worst: At their huge compound where the Dutch store a large cache of weapons, ammunition and food. It seems the only way to truly surprise the Dutch at the compound is to climb down a huge vertical cliff, so Sgt. Hassim and his men train hard for the mission. Will this be the mission that will finally make the Dutch exit Indonesia for good? Compared to most Indonesian actioners, DAREDEVIL COMMANDOS seems more subdued in the violence department than most, which is weird since it was written by Iman Tantowi, who wrote the screenplays for such ultra-violent Indonesian films such as PRIMITIVES (1978), SATAN'S SLAVE (1982) and THE DEVIL'S SWORD (1984). The direction, by E.G. Bakker (who has no other film credits that I can find and may be a pseudonym), is rather flat and uninvolving, and he seems more interested in patriotic speeches rather than action through the first two-thirds of the film (at one point, just before a battle, the Daredevil Commandos break out into a patriotic song that begins with "Indonesia, you are my country..."). When the final battle does come at the Dutch compound (but not before more singing and prayers), it turns into a pretty bloody and stunt-filled extravaganza, with plenty of explosions, gunfights and bullet squibs, but it still pales in comparison to most Indonesian actioners because it doesn't contain a single "What The Fuck?!?" moment, something we've come to expect from these flicks. In all good faith, I can't honestly recommend DAREDEVIL COMMANDOS. Even the climatic rock avalanche is filmed for minimal impact. A rare loser from Producer Gope T. Samtani and Rapi Films. Also starring Dicky Zulkarnaen, Kaharuddin Sjah, Harry Capri, Johan Saimima, Yenny Farida, Wieke Widowati, Didier Hamel, Herve F. Dusart, V.S. Alexander and Gino Makasutji. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S.; the print I viewed was sourced from the English-dubbed British VHS tape on the AVR Home Entertainment label. Not Rated.
DAY OF THE COBRA (1980) - Pretty poor example of a "Poliziotteschi" (Italian Crime) film, which is disappointing considering the talent in front and behind the camera. The film opens with a man in a big black hat, black gloves (a staple of giallo films) and carrying a cane with a spring-loaded blade killing a man in Genoa, Italy, one of his thugs finding a key taped to his torso. We then meet ex-San Francisco cop Larry Stanziani (Franco Nero; HITCH HIKE - 1978), now a private dick, as he follows a cheating wife. Larry, who is nicknamed "Cobra" (because he strikes fast) is contacted by his ex-boss Jack Goldsmith (William Berger; THE BIG BUST-OUT - 1972), who offers Cobra his job back if he goes to Genoa to capture his arch-enemy Serge Kadinsky. Cobra jumps at the chance since Kadinsky was the person who got him fired. Also, his young son, Tim (Carlo Gabriel Sparanero), is at a Catholic boarding school in Genoa. Cobra hasn't seen his son in quite a while, ever since his wife was murdered.
Cobra flies to Genoa, where he visits his son and gets in touch with old friend Davide (Mario Maranzana; THE DEAD ARE ALIVE - 1972), who acts like Cobra's source of vital information. Davide tells Cobra if he wants to find Kadinsky he will have to talk to Raul Papasian (Mickey Knox; CEMETERY MAN - 1994), who runs a successful import/export buisness that may be running drugs for Kadinsky. This leads Cobra to a disco, where junkie prostitute Lola (Licinia Lentini; WAR OF THE ROBOTS - 1978) and the beautiful Brenda (Sybil Danning; EYE IN THE LABYRINTH - 1972) give cobra some vital information (When Brenda pulls a gun on Cobra, he slaps the shit out of her.). Brenda and Cobra start a love affair, but can she be trusted?
We soon find out that Kadinsky is the man in the black hat and gloves and he knows Cobra's every move, killing anyone who could give information to Cobra and attempting several times to take Cobra's life, all unsuccessful. The biggest problem Cobra runs up against is that everyone he talks to is deathly afraid to talk about Kadinsky. When Papasian tells Cobra that Kadinsky is dead, we must figure out if he really is.
Let me talk about this film's bad points: The action is lazily staged, the violence too restrained for its own good (in the film's defense, the print I viewed may have been edited) and the dialogue laughable, but not in a funny way. The usually dependable Franco Nero looks to be sleepwalking through his role as Cobra. His "trademark" in this film is spitting out his gum or sticking it in unusual places, like a thug's forehead. It is supposed to be funny, but it comes off as forced (Nero's mouth is always moving, even when he doesn't talk!). It's also obvious that Nero used a stuntman for some of his more strenuous scenes, including jumping and climbing from building-to-building (another "trademark") and a long fight scene in an alleyway. Even when Cobra's son Tim is killed, run over on orders by Goldsmith, the film rings hollow. We see Cobra crying, as he has memories of the good times he and Tim had (including an uncomfortable game of two-man baseball where it is apparent Nero didn't know how to swing a bat at a ball). In the very next scene, it looks as if he has gotten over it. Director Enzo G. Castellari has certainly done much better, including the post-apocalypse films 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS - 1982; its sequel BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983 and even the Poliziotteschi films THE HEROIN BUSTERS (1977) and STREET LAW (1974; also starring Nero) are superior to this film. The screenplay, by Fabio & Tito Carpi (SEVEN MURDERS FOR SCOTLAND YARD - 1971), from a story idea from Aldo Lado (director of the great giallo WHO SAW HER DIE? - 1972), is uninvolving and basic, offering no surprises. For crying out loud, even the stunningly gorgeous Sybil Danning doesn't bother to offer up any naked flesh!
Here are some of the few positive points: When Lola gets into a fight with Cobra in an empty disco (she uses martial arts moves to kick the crap out of him!), it is revealed Lola is actually a man. Their fight is made to look like they are dancing on the disco floor, making it the film's most inventive scene. Still, it's a cheat on the audience since Licinia Lentini is actually a woman and an obvious double was used when unmasking her false femininity. There are also a couple of deaths that are memorable. When a blonde assassin (Sasha D'Arc; THE SHERIFF AND THE SATELLITE KID - 1979) fails to kill Cobra, it leads to a chase that ends in a gunfight. Cobra shoots a drum of gasoline, sending the assassin high into the air. There is also a scene where Cobra is trapped in a warehouse and he gets away by planting a pickaxe into Martino's (the late Ennio Girolami, Castellari's brother, who acted using the name "Thomas Moore"; THE FEAST OF SATAN - 1971) stomach. Unfortunately, both deaths are bloodless.
The only release this film received in the United States was a fullscreen VHS release from Media Home Entertainment. It looks to be edited in some scenes, the most notable edits come during Tim's death (Italian crime films have no problem showing children getting killed) and the finale, when Cobra enters Goldsmith's office and point his gun at him, accusing Jack of ordering his son's death (we even get a peek at the boy's killing in Cobra's mind, images that were missing from the film at the time of the Tim's death). We hear the gun go off and then there is a jump edit where Cobra enters an elevator. Although Kadinsky's face is purposely kept off-screen, the one time we do get an obscured look at his face, it is that of Michele Soavi, future director of THE CHURCH (1989) and THE SECT (1991), two films I consider to be the last good Italian horror films to be made before the Italian genre film market collapsed (and still hasn't recovered from). Also look for Castellari's daughter, Stefania Girolami Goodwin, as Papasian's secretary and Castellari himself as one of the thugs in the warehouse shootout. All in all, this is a very minor film in a genre of Italian movies that are usually violent and exciting. Also starring Massimo Vanni (a.k.a. "Alex McBride"; RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR - 1983), Romano Puppo (THE GREAT ALLIGATOR - 1979), Angelo Ragusa and Rocco Lerro. Shot under the title IL GIORNO DEL COBRA which, for once, is actually the literal translation of the review title. The lyrics to the film's title tune (which sounds like it was sung by a drunk Italian!) goes: "I dont give a damn, I am the Cobra. Nobody tells me what to do!" Well, I'm telling you to look elsewhere. There are far more entertaining Italian crime films out there. Try ALMOST HUMAN (1974) if you want to see one done right. A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release. No DVD or Blu-Ray release at the time of this review. Not Rated, but no nudity and very little blood.
DEADLY IMPACT (1984) - Two lovers, Harry and Kathy, have figured out how to beat the slot machines in Las Vegas using computerized gizmos and for the last ten weeks have taken the casinos for over 0,000, which they plan on using to buy a horse farm. The only problem is, sadistic crooks Al (John Morghen) and Kurt (Vincent Conte) have caught on to their scam and they kill Harry (by drowning him in a bathtub) before he is able to tell them where he has hidden the money. Phoenix cop George Ryan (Bo Svenson) is called to the scene of the crime and catches Al and Kurt ransacking the place, which leads to a pretty good car chase (lots of crashes and stunts) and a shootout on the rooftop of a building, where George gets shot several times in the chest. Luckily, he was weraring a bulletproof vest. George's Nam buddy, helicopter pilot and con man Lou (Fred Williamson), who was with George during the car chase, finds a clue in the bad guys' car and soon George and Lou are just one step behind Al and Kurt, who are hunting down Kathy (Marcia Clingan) and a 0,000 payday. George and Lou's investigation leads them to Las Vegas, where they learn of Kathy's involvement in the casino scam. When George gets too close to the truth, Al and Kurt ambush him on a lonely desert road, causing him to crash his car, but Lou rescues him with his helicopter and chase the bad guys again. Al and Kurt manage to give them the slip (again) and kill George's girlfriend Nancy (Karen De Witt) after they make her give George false information (she sends him to a gay bar!). The bad guys then kidnap Kathy and take her away in a helicopter, where she takes them to an abandoned ranch where the money is hidden. George and Lou are in hot pursuit and the finale finds the bad guys getting killed, then George and Lou head to Vegas and get rich on the slot machines using the deceased Harry's computer gizmos. Sometimes crime does pay. This Italian production, filmed on location in Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona is a pretty good comedy action film and Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson look like they are having a ball, even if some of the dialogue is clunky. Director/producer/co-scripter Fabrizio DeAngelis (the THUNDER WARRIOR and KARATE WARRIOR series), using his frequent pseudonym "Larry Ludman", tosses in many car chases (lots of crashes, jumps and flips in slow-motion), gun fights and a helicopter chase to please action fans. The gay bar scene doesn't make an ounce of sense, but it sure is funny. It's as if DeAngelis and co-scripter Dardano Sacchetti (using his "David Parker Jr." pseudonym) threw that scene in for no reason other than to see how many men could act "gay" at one time (like some crazy bar wager). Italian exploitation vet John Morghen (HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK - 1979; CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - 1980) plays his typical sleazy, greasy bad guy role with elan. He kills people showing no emotion, killing George's girlfriend by putting two bullets point-blank into her head and shooting Kathy in the back in the film's finale, never breaking his blank stare. DEADLY IMPACT is an enjoyable time waster that is good for a few laughs, a few thrills and some good on-location photography (this was back when Vegas was still somewhat fun, before the corporations took over ownership from the Mob). The only aspect of this film that seems dated is the early 80's computer imagery and a serious faux paus that happens over the opening credits (when Harry sticks an RJ11 plug into an RJ45 jack), not to mention some ridiculous, totally made-up computer jargon that Svenson has to try to say convincingly with a straight face (he doesn't succeed). The chemistry between Williamson and Svenson seems real and they would later appear together in THE KILL REFLEX (1989), STEELE'S LAW (1991) and THREE DAYS TO A KILL (1991), all for director Williamson (and his Po' Boy Productions). They first appeared together in director Enzo. G. Castellari's INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978; aka: COUNTERFEIT COMMANDOS, DEADLY MISSION and G.I. BRO) and also appeared together in DELTA FORCE COMMANDO (1987). Also starring Alain Blondeau, Norma Thyssen, Rik Wallace, Bill Dunun, Genie Thompson and Wanita Brown. Originally released on VHS by Vestron Video and available on DVD from various budget labels, including Westlake Entertainment. Not Rated.
DEAD PRESIDENTS (1995) - The Hughes Brothers (Allen & Albert) make their sophomore effort a truly absorbing experience thanks to wonderful acting, a keen sense of pacing and extreme bursts of graphic violence. Set during the Vietnam era, the story revolves around a young black man (an excellent Larenz Tate) and his struggles to find a way to support his pregnant girlfriend after graduating high school. He joins the Marines because he wants to fight for his country, but he soon learns that the war is not the place to escape reality. After completing his tour of duty, he returns home to the Bronx. Unable to find a good job, he and his buddies plan an armored car robbery, hoping to collect a few hundred thousand dollars of old untraceable money that the government plans to burn. But things go terribly wrong. This may sound like a generic plot, but the Hughes Brothers pull it off with a sense of flair and urgency. As with their first film, MENACE II SOCIETY (1993), violence plays a major role. In this film it is downright brutal. During the war scenes, heads are chopped off, a soldier has his stomach slit open and his dismembered penis shoved in his mouth and, in one unbelievable scene, a soldier steps on a land mine and is blown to bits. Even after doing a frame-by-frame search of this scene, I still couldn’t spot the cut from human to dummy. It is masterful. The violence at home is no less gruesome. People are shot in the head, crushed by moving cars and riddled with bullets. Even though it is gory, the violence is not the driving force behind this film. The story is filled with interesting characters and, for once, white people are not portrayed as raving bigots. This took guts from a black filmmaking team. DEAD PRESIDENTS (a street term for U.S. paper currency) is a rare chance to watch an action film filled with people you care about and, as in real life, not every story has a happy ending. The Hughes Brothers (FROM HELL - 2001; THE BOOK OF ELI - 2010) are to be congratulated on turning out a film that rates high on the emotional scale and still delivers the adrenaline rush that action fans like me crave. Also starring Keith David (THEY LIVE - 1988), Bokeem Woodbine (THE ROCK - 1996), Chris Tucker (RUSH HOUR - 1998), N’Bushe Wright, Freddy Rodriguez (SIX FEET UNDER [2001 - 2005]) and cameo appearances by Seymour Cassel and Martin Sheen (who is fast becoming a cameo expert). A Hollywood Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.
DEATH BLOW (1979) - Here's your chance to see champion heavyweight boxer Duane Bobick in his only starring role and after watching his performance, you will know why his acting career was much shorter than his boxing career (as a professional boxer from 1973 to 1979, Bobick had a record of 48 wins and 4 losses; 42 of those wins by knockout). This South Africa-lensed boxing actioner stars Bobick as Billyboy Lamont, a burly dock worker and university student who wants to be a professional boxer like his father, Don (screenwriter Willie Von Rensburg), but dear old Pop discourages him from doing so, telling him, "This, my boy, is what fifteen years of fighting and being champ has got me: Ten acres of lousy, bloody ground, an old house, a few animals, that's all. There's a new champ, Billy, and he belongs to another family." The new champ is Terry Bendell (Tullio Moneta), whose mother, Josephine (Molly Softel), reaches sexual ecstasy while watching her son box in the ring (incest is implied). Terry has a diminutive brother named Mike (Dawie Malan), who is estranged from mother Josephine, probably due to her hands-on approach to managing Terry's career (even though Mike is officially Terry's manager) and her indifferent treatment of him. Billyboy secretly practices boxing in a gym away from his father's prying eyes (Pop would rather Billyboy "hit the books" and make something out of his life) and has become quite good at it (Bobick looks at least 15 years too old to be portraying a guy supposedly college age). When Pop catches Billyboy at the gym instead of studying at the university, he decides to teach him a lesson and challenges Billyboy to a boxing match in the ring. Billyboy doesn't want to do it, but when his father hits him in the face and body with a few good shots, he retaliates with one hard punch, sending Pop flying across the ring and paralyzing him for life. When Josephine reads the story in the paper (she holds some as-yet unknown grudge against Billyboy's father), she tells Terry that maybe someday he will do the same thing to Billyboy in the ring. Meanwhile, the short-statured Mike catches the eye of barmaid Janet (Barbara Salberg) at a disco and accidentally gets her fired from her job. He feels so bad about it that he promises to get her a better job, but she doesn't believe him. Mike gets Janet a job as a maid at the Bendell household, but Josephine tells him to keep his hands off of her now that she is the hired help. We also learn that Terry is actually the son of Billyboy's father, but he left Josephine alone and pregnant to marry Martha (Trix Pienaar), who gave birth to Billyboy nine month later. Josephine has been holding that grudge for many, many years and after marrying a millionaire and giving birth to the dwarf-like Mike (did I mention she despises him and treats him like shit?), she has groomed Terry to be her means of retribution. Terry has grown up to be a first class lout and ends up screwing Janet even though he knows that Mike has feelings for her (When Josephine tells Terry that Janet is "beneath him", he replies coldly, "I know. But she's handy."). Billyboy decides to become a professional boxer, even though his father may have permanently damaged Billyboy's kidneys during their fight (Billyboy can't take a leak without pissing blood.). He fights a series of boxers and works his way up the ranks until, yes, you guessed it, he becomes the number one contender against Terry. Which one of these "brothers from different mothers" will turn out to be champ? This totally boring boxing drama, directed by Tim Spring (REASON TO DIE - 1989; DOUBLE BLAST - 1994; RAW TARGET - 1995), shows why most boxers shouldn't become actors. Boxing may be an art form, but so is acting. Duane Bobick couldn't be more wooden if you stuffed him full of cedar chips and his stabs at emoting is pitiful and not in a "so bad, it's hilarious" way. When his girlfriend, Velma (Kim Braden), is raped by Terry (she is sexually assaulted fully clothed by Terry in a gym ring while intercut with one of Billyboy's bouts), his reaction is worse than no reaction at all. It is like he just picked up a carton of eggs at the store and found one of them broken! The fault is not all Bobick's, as the acting is generally poor across the board (Tullio Moneta as Terry is really, really bad) and the only person here who generates any sympathy is Dawie Malan as Mike, but that's mainly because he is small and abused by everyone (When Janet commits suicide, Terry laughs in Mike's face, not exactly the reaction Mike was expecting!). There is some bloody violence on view, but most of it is outside the ring (nearly all the boxing matches are economically filmed and lack the "oomph" we've come to expect after the commercial success of ROCKY , which this film so clearly tries to emulate). There's a gunshot to the head, Velma's rape, a dockside fight and a couple of other incidents, but nothing to make you stand up and take notice. DEATH BLOW is an instantly forgettable boxing actioner that offers nothing new or interesting to the viewer besides the funky South African accents. Also starring Norman Coombs, Charles McHunu, Ed Kannemeyer, Paddy Norval and Zack Du Plessis. Originally released on VHS in the United States by Best Film & Video Corporation under the title BILLYBOY. The version I viewed was sourced from a British VHS release using the alternate title. Not available on DVD. Rated R.
DEATH FEUD (1987) - Let me start off by saying that this is not a good film. It's poorly acted, written and suffers from some bad continuity problems. It has plenty of flesh but very little nudity. The few action scenes are haphazardly staged and shot. Yet, for some reason (I still haven't put my finger on it), it is highly compelling. Frank Stallone (Sylvester's more talented actor/musician brother) portrays a merchant seaman, home on shore leave, who falls in love with drug-addicted hooker Anna (Karen Mayo-Chandler). Anna belongs to the evil Mr. Caine (Anthony Caruso), a white slave trader. Frank cleans her up and promises to marry her after his next (and last) six month stint at sea. He plans on buying an avacado farm (!), where they both plan to live happily ever after. While Frank is out at sea, Mr. Caine kidnaps Anna, rehooks her on drugs and makes her re-establish herself as a whore. When Frank returns to land and cannot locate Anna, he enlists the aide of his seaman buddy (Chris Mitchum) and a prostitute (Lisa Loring) to help him track her down. When they finally locate Anna, she is walking the streets, strung-out and looking for Johns (she offers to take Frank and Chris on for fifty bucks!). She finally recognizes Frank and runs away, only to be purposely be hit by a truck by one of Caine's goons. Frank goes on a rampage, systematically wiping out Caine's henchmen (including Nicholas Worth of DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE  in a thankless role), leaving Frank pointing his revolver at Caine's crotch (he does pull the trigger). In a cop-out ending, all the good guys have a happy ending. This crazy, disjointed film was directed by Carl Monson (he also made films using his real name, "Carlos Monsoya"), who also directed PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER (1973; a.k.a. GLUMP, HUNGRY PETS and SEX POT SWINGERS), a personal favorite of Psychotronic editor Michael Weldon. Monson also turns in this flick's best performance as Harold, the openly gay desk clerk of one of Caine's whore motels. He is constantly getting roughed up by Frank and the goons. Monson even dresses in women's clothing and has a crying jag in one of the film's key scenes. Co-star Anthony Caruso has done his share of exploitation films, appearing in such diverse fare as ZEBRA FORCE (1976) and CLAWS (1977). The majority of Chris Mitchum's scenes consist of him sitting at a bar drinking beer and watching dancer Greta Blackburn (PARTY LINE - 1988) shake her mammary glands. It's still a step up from his role in the abominable EXECUTIONER PART 2 (1983). Frank Stallone has made a career for himself in B films, starring in such films as THE PINK CHIQUITAS (1986), OUTLAW FORCE (1987) and FEAR (1988). In all, DEATH FEUD is unusual enough to merit your attention. A Southgate Entertainment Home Video Release. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.
DEATH IS NIMBLE, DEATH IS QUICK (1966) - This Germany/Italy/France co-production is the second entry in the Kommissar X series (1966 - 1971). Filmed in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), this Eurospy flick has some excellent travelogue footage (it's not stock footage, as the actors are put in the middle of the action, giving it an air of realism) and it is also an early example of showing karate in use (and not as a gimmick).
The bad guys in this film are a criminal organization known as "The Golden Cats". They send King (Dan Vadis; HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER - 1973), a champion karate expert, to kidnap Babs Lincoln (Ann Smyrner; REPTILICUS - 1961), the daughter of an American ambassador in Ceylon. While Babs uses her Super 8MM camera to film an ancient ritual/parade praising Buddha on the streets of Ceylon, King knocks out Babs with chloroform (in front of hundreds of people!) and kidnaps her, throwing Babs into the back of his car. Babs' friend/chaperone, Mr. Rogers (Paul Eeckmann), witnesses the kidnapping and gives chase in his sporty convertible. Apparently, King's vehicle is capable of spitting out grenades (it's confusing), as an explosion goes off in front of Mr. Rogers convertible and it overturns. He soon finds out that it's a not-so-nice day in the neighborhood, as Mr. Rogers grabs a sword he keeps in the back of his car (!) and battles King. King wins, dealing Mr. Rogers a karate death blow to his temple, while Babs escapes out of the car by pinning a local goon's arm in the window of the car's door. King and his thugs leave empty-handed when the police show up, Babs telling them what has just happened.
Luckily, there's a law-abiding karate expert in Ceylon to combat the bad guys. Yes, it's Capt. Tom Rowland (Brad Harris; THE MAD BUTCHER - 1972), who is in Ceylon for a police conference (He sure does go to a lot of them, a running joke in the series). Tom gives a skeptical audience a demonstration of the power of karate, by hitting a solid cube of metal and leaving his fistprint in it (!), but he still calls old frenemy Agent Jo Walker (Tony Kendall; YETI: GIANT OF THE 20TH CENTURY - 1977), code name "Kommissar X", to come to Ceylon to help him battle the bad guys.
As soon as Jo steps off the plane (with two stewardesses on his arms, another running joke in the series) he notices that he is being watched, mainly by a mysterious exotic beauty named Michele (Michèle Mahaut). The ambassador's nephew, Philip Dawson (Philippe Lemaire; SPIRITS OF THE DEAD - 1968), greets Jo at the airport and mentions the exotic beauty watching him, but Jo tells him he noticed every woman in the crowd, even Babs, who walked away disgusted when she saw him with the two stewardesses (Another running joke is that every woman finds Jo irresitible, even to the point of jealousy on the first sight of him, which seems to be Babs' problem!). Jo sneaks up on Tom in his hotel room and with one punch, Tom sends him flying across the room and through the door of the adjoining hotel room, which is occupied by Babs, who is in the middle of changing her clothes. While Jo is on the floor admiring Babs' form, he notices a small tape recorder hidden under one of her tables (she's being bugged). Jo removes the tape recorder and Tom tells Babs that he needs to talk to her about Mr. Rogers' death. When Jo goes to his hotel room, he finds Michele waiting for him. It turns out she's the assistant manager of the hotel and she asks Jo whether he takes a bath or a shower (it's a shower). Knowing that is a strange question to ask a stranger, Jo immediately knows something is up and he's right. His bathtub is full of flesh-dissolving acid and when he goes to the bathroom, he hears someone sneaking into his room. Jo moans out loud, as if the acid is dissolving his body. The thug enters the bathroom to see the results and a short scuffle ensues, resulting in Jo throwing the thug in the bathtub. Inspecto