Ron Marchini! Back in the days when all you needed was a black belt, and a real tournament victory or two, to be given your own series of martial arts movies, Ron was…one of those guys! He stood out from the crowd by being a bad actor even by the standards of other acting martial artists – I’ve described him as an un-actor, a negative presence on screen – and is probably best known for two different series, one of which is “Omega Cop” / “Karate Cop”, a pair of post-apocalyptic gems. This is the other, and we’ve already covered the second one without realising it was a series (“Jungle Wolf”). Will going back in time, metaphorically, spoil your enjoyment?
Of course not, is the simple answer. What might spoil your enjoyment, though, is that the only way to get hold of this movie is via Dutch VHS (never released in the US or UK, as far as I can tell), and there’s Dutch subtitles throughout. This leads to the fun time of when the Filipinos are talking, the tape blacks out the English subtitles to put Dutch ones over the top, which means we English speakers will miss all the subtleties of the dialogue. Or maybe that choice made it better!
Ron is Steve Parrish, a POW in Vietnam in 1974. Luckily, this movie realises that no-one is going to see Ron Marchini for his dialogue, and the action starts immediately, as he and his fellow prisoner bust out of their bamboo cages and beat the crap out of a bunch of Vietcong, rescuing an American colonel who was about to get killed. Then, during the escape, the other prisoner kills the Colonel and tries to kill Steve too! Luckily, he’s just wounded, and manages to make it to a village, where he’s looked after, and he stays there for the next two years.
Perhaps Steve was tired of war, but thanks to the extreme lack of dialogue from our star, we never really find out. So, he falls in love, gets married to a beautiful local woman and has a kid, and as this all happens by the 30 minute mark you know some bad stuff is going to happen to them all. This first 30 is absolutely chock full of weird choices, though, like how this group of people living in huts in the mountains can find a beautiful traditional wedding outfit for Steve’s wife; or, also on a clothing tip, how Steve can rip his yellow shirt into strips to wrap round a wound, only to have it back on, completely stain and rip free, in the next scene. I wondered where the movie was set, too, but they absolutely don’t tell us that. It’s probably meant to be Vietnam, but it (along with so many other cheap 70s and 80s action movies) was filmed in the Philippines, so maybe that river he escaped on at the beginning just went a really long way?
Anyway, some local army group, or maybe just a bunch of terrorists, are about to raid Steve’s village, so he sneaks into their camp and murders a bunch of them. Steve breaks one guy’s neck, then punches him in the face a few more times! He’s not getting back up, mate! This escalates and the full army group raids the village and kills pretty much everyone. Oh, and news of POWs like “Yank Crazy” (Steve’s nickname) has gotten back to America – or a room full of white people that represents America – and the government decides to send the guy who nearly killed Steve (who I’m pretty sure is Major Thompson, played by a guy called Quincy Frazier) back to rescue them. Only Thompson wants Steve dead, due to him being the only witness to his other murder. Why he did that murder in the first place? No idea at all.
From that 30 minute mark, the entire last hour of the movie is one long fight. From defending the village to hunting down the remaining Vietcong to killing the American villains, it’s scene after scene of people shooting or kicking the crap out of each other, and honestly, it gets a little wearing. I never thought I’d say “this action film has too much action in it” but there’s no let-up, no space to figure out what these people are up to or why they’re there. And the action honestly isn’t all that good- one or two decent fight scenes, but there’s a lot of people just spraying bullets around and killing everyone in range.
There’s a rainbow in one scene, just after the hilariously wooden lovemaking, that looks painted onto the celluloid. They weren’t enough clouds in the sky to produce the rain to produce the rainbow, but whatever – the rainbows did give this movie its alternate German title, “Commander Rainbow”, though, which could be the greatest title ever. This and other effects are helped by the well-worn VHS tape I watched this on, though – some movie seem designed for that washed out look.
Ron Marchini is in the unusual position of having devolved as an actor. Here, right at the beginning of his career, he’s loose-ish, can smile, can do emotions, and I think it’s to do with him being a complete amateur and not being aware of his own limitations. When he started “trying” to act, it became an absolute disaster and he seemed to freeze in place. It’s weird watching this and then thinking of the charisma vacuum he’d become. I mean, he’s not great in this, I hasten to add.
I’d probably pass on this one, if I were you. Stick to “Omega Cop” and Ron’s ludicrous hat. Still, we’ve got part 3 of the “Steve Parrish” series to come with “Return Fire”, then a film confusingly titled as “Jungle Wolf 3” which is actually nothing to do with this series at all.
Rating: thumbs down