Zombi 3 (1988) (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters 2)

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9 years is a long time in the movies. Kevin Smith went from “Clerks” to the thoroughly miserable “Jersey Girl”; David Gordon Green went from “All The Real Girls” to the unfunny “Your Highness”; Will Ferrell went from “Anchorman” to “Anchorman 2”; Michael Paul Girard went from “Oversexed Rugsuckers From Mars” to “Different Strokes: The Story Of Jack And Jill And Jill” (okay, I was reaching a bit by the last one). The point being, many a great / promising career has fallen off the rails, and so it would seem at least initially with Lucio Fulci. “Zombi 2” is a genuinely brilliant film, a horror classic, whereas this, well, isn’t.

 

There are several explanations. Up til 1983’s “Conquest” (his first big-budget movie) he was pretty much untouchable, with gem after gem, but going to make that caused him to break off relations with his regular scriptwriter – everything he made after then seemed corny. Or maybe it’s his health – at some point in the mid 80s he began to suffer with diabetes, and this  along with other medical issues caused the early end of his career and can be blamed for the lack of effort shown in his later movies. It’s the second one that’s probably the case here, as he was unable to finish filming due to ill health, and production was handed over to…Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso!

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Yes, Mattei and Fragasso are firm “favourites” here at the ISCFC, having given us “Shocking Dark”, “Strike Commando” and “Robowar”, and while reports vary on just how big their hand was in “Zombi 3” (Fulci said they did minor reshoots, Mattei said they directed anywhere between a third and half the finished product), by quality it’s certainly right down there in their wheelhouse. But enough of my baseless allegations against dead Italians! We’ve got a movie to discuss!

 

A group of scientist employed by the military are working on “Death-One”, a virus which brings the dead back to life – although the movie never bothers mentioning it, one can assume it’s so the army can send a bunch of undead soldiers onto the battlefield. Oh, authority figures, when will you ever learn? The first test subject we see ought to have been listed in the credits as “overacting zombie”, because he goes all out with the gurning and the moaning, but he’s sadly not in it very much, as the main thrust of the plot comes from a different direction.

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Firstly, a guy steals a sample of Death-One and manages to evade the army security; then, when he’s been shot at, dropped the sample, and become infected with it, he bites a few people. The army captures and kills him, but decides to burn his body, letting his ashes into the atmosphere. This isn’t the first similarity to “Return Of The Living Dead” you’ll notice, released a few years before this and a big enough hit that it was mined for scenes by Italian exploitation-movie folk. It’s the military’s fault, and their incompetence allowed it to escape, after all!

 

The bulk of the movie is idiots slowly getting killed and being completely unable to defend themselves. A group of your traditional horror movie “meat” (hot girls, boring guys) meets up with three army guys in a jeep and they get attacked by a bunch of birds which were poisoned with the ash-cloud. Holing up in a hotel, they get the most astonishing good luck in movie history and just find a crate of guns; the girl who was pecked by the birds slowly gets worse and worse before “dying”. A few of them try to find a doctor but get killed on the way and then white-overall-wearing guys from the Army attempt to kill everyone in the entire area, infected or not.

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The more I thought about “Zombi 2”, the more I enjoyed it – a masterpiece of grungy horror filmmaking. This, on the other hand, is a catalogue of how not to do it, with a few “classic” mistakes, and a whole heap of new ones. From the notes I made, I could go on for hours, but I’ll try and stick to the main ones. Firstly, if you’ve got black people in your movie and you need to dub them, please pick an accent that doesn’t sound like the maid from the Tom & Jerry cartoons; because black people like watching movies too, and might not be too thrilled by that. If you’ve got a virus-based zombie-ism outbreak, then it might be handy to have all your zombies behave in roughly the same way – instead, we have slow zombies, fast zombies, zombies that jump from tall buildings, zombies that wield weapons, a zombie which is just a flying head (?!), and eventually zombies that talk. Also, it might be handy if it takes roughly the same amount of time to turn you from human to undead – but we see a few people take days to turn, but one woman go from human to zombie in what must have been seconds (the woman who falls into the water, if you decide to watch this to fact-check my review).

 

There’s a scene where two female survivors meet a heavily pregnant woman, and the obvious conclusion to proceedings is going to be “baby is a zombie”. So you wait, and wait, and then they send the woman with a bad leg off to find help while the healthy woman stays with the pregnant lady, and you wait, til eventually…an adult-sized hand tears its way out of the woman and throttles the remaining helper. What the hell? I suppose surprising is good?

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Those are new and fresh mistakes, but they sprinkle in a few classics too. The ending, where three people go for the helicopter which handily appears out of nowhere, has two people getting in and a third holding the zombies off. When he’s done his thing, he runs for the helicopter, which for some reason has decided to hover 10 feet off the ground, making it almost impossible for the third guy to get in (he doesn’t, and dies). Why not just wait ten more seconds, you assholes? But my favourite, my all-time most annoying thing about zombie movies, is the person who gets infected and decides to keep it to themselves. Seriously, you dumb git, what do you think will happen? Go hand yourself in, someone might be able to help you! Arrghh! Thank you, dear reader, if felt good to get that off my chest.

 

The biggest problem, though, bigger than a movie full of idiots with no sense of self-preservation, is the troubled production. Whether Fulci left due to ill health or arguments with the producers, it left a very bad final product. Because Mattei and Fragasso didn’t have access to all the actors, the “main” plot ends up feeling weirdly isolated in the middle of the movie, and all the stuff with the guys in white is obviously added afterwards. And there’s a subplot with a radio DJ which I get the feeling was added to explain what the hell was going on, and to give us more of a plot (it’s all to do with the environment, you guys). Aside: the set dressing for Blue Heart (the DJ) leaves a little to be desired – when we get a very brief glimpse of what’s on his set-list for the day, the only thing written on it is “play Beatles song”. Lovely!

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We’re left with a mess. Fulci’s section is the work of a director devoid of inspiration, fighting a studio and probably illness. If you think Fulci’s stuff was the gold, then I would like to point out that the flying head, as dumb an effect as a zombie movie has ever had, was his favourite scene. Mattei and Fragasso’s section is…typical work from the two of them, only not as much fun as the stuff we’ve covered so far (more “Hell Of The Living Dead”, less “Shocking Dark”). The acting, such as we can see through the dubbing, is flat, and nothing works.

 

Up next, all the other movies that have been released somewhere in the world as “Zombi 3”, two of those movies are favourites of mine (“Virgin Among The Living Dead” and “Burial Ground”), so the next week of reviews ought to be fun. And we finally get the answer to why Italy seemed to mock copyright for so long!

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Shocking Dark (1989) (aka Terminator 2)

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This is the fifth unofficial sequel we’ve covered; as well as two truly miserable “Night Of The Living Dead” efforts, we’ve also reviewed “Alien 2: On Earth” and “Savage Vengeance”, which was originally going to be released as “I Spit On Your Grave 2” before Donald Farmer got sued. While this is aka “Terminator 2”, a name it was released under in many countries, it hews a great deal closer to another famous film of the 1980s; more on that later.

 

Post-apocalyptic Venice is the location for this…well, some tunnels under Venice, I should say. A poison cloud (I think that’s the excuse they gave) has caused people to go crazy and mutate, so the authorities send in Mega-Force to save the day and rescue the notes of a scientist who had his base right under the cloud. This, sadly, isn’t the same Mega-Force as was featured in the 1982 classic of the same name, but this group differentiate themselves by absolutely going crazy for ethnic slurs – memorably, when the hard-ass woman insults the Italian member of the team with “wop” and other such gems, despite them, y’know, being in Italy and all. The Tubular Corporation is your generic evil corporation in this, and they send a rep too.

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I’m wondering how long I can go without the big reveal. Just a little further. The spectacularly wooden group of actors wander through the tunnels for a bit, only to start getting picked off by a pretty ugly fish-monster-looking thing. “Hold on,” you might say at this point, “isn’t this also known as Terminator 2? Why is the monster a giant walking fish? And why does that webbing they’re storing the humans in look familiar?”

 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this could be the most copyright-flouting movie ever. I’ll recap the story (it’s on Youtube, definitely watch it if you don’t want it “spoiling”) and see how quickly you spot it. A group of marines is forced to take a non-soldier along on a mission – a woman with curly auburn hair. They encounter a creature which doesn’t kill them immediately, but takes them away and stores them in a gooey webbing, where they beg to be killed. They rescue a small girl who’s survived in the hostile environment for some time. The soldiers have radar trackers, and at one point they’re detecting signals from monsters who should be in the room with them, they’re so close. The corporation representative tries to trap the female and the kid in a room with the monster, and turns the camera off so no-one knows what he’s doing. While setting off the base’s self-destruct mechanism, the woman gives the girl a wristband that will allow her to be tracked, seconds before she falls down a long slide and out of sight.

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Okay, the ending is way, way out of left field, but an absolutely enormous amount of “Shocking Dark” is a very close ripoff of “Aliens”. The paragraph above even misses some stuff out – my notes feature the line “OKAY, WE GET IT, YOU’RE RIPPING OFF ALIENS”, underlined several times as yet more direct lifts were wheeled out onto the screen. There’s a ton of very similar dialogue too, almost word-for-word in some segments, and I’m quite surprised they never got sued.

 

Because it’s set on Earth, the plot isn’t about trapping an alien, it’s about rescuing an experiment, which is some DNA-like substance which can mutate people or turn them into “androids” or something. Who cares? The scientists are the people who turned into the monsters, I guess. There’s a great scene near the end where a video from Tubular plays, with their CEO laying out their entire evil plan, with a quick “if you’re watching this, please don’t tell anyone” at the end.

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Because this is Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso at work, it’s not just a normal movie, though. The “Newt” character (I nearly just wrote “Newt”, which is an indication of how similar they are) is about 15 years old, which is why it stretches credulity when she’s seemingly unable to move to protect herself. After rushing around like mad, they suddenly grind to a halt and just walk round really slowly, despite the base being minutes from detonating. The same two chuffing corridors are used over and over again. The weird thing is, your brain sort of fills in the blanks from the more famous movie, so this was rather entertaining, despite its high amount of lunacy. The only really terrible technical flaw was sound, but we can let them off with that.

 

It’s the ending which really delights, though. 100% spoilers from this point on, but it’s a Youtube Film Club review, so you have no excuse. It turns out the Burke character is a Terminator! He chases them round a bit, and the weird thing is he never fights any of the monsters, which would have been fun to see. And then…I can’t quite believe I’m writing this…they find a Tubular Corporation time machine and go back to present day Venice. No-one seems all that surprised that this technology exists, which is cool, and in a “we almost predicted the plot of the actual Terminator 2”, they get followed back by the Terminator. Rather than hanging around to give the corporation his technology, thus giving them a head-start on destroying the world, they just throw the time machine remote control at him, sending him back to the future. Those two ladies have a world to save!shockingdark27

 

The main lady, Dr Sarah Drumbull, is played by a Haven Tyler, for whom this was her only film role. The rest of the cast have sterling resumes full of “bodyguard” and “goon no.2” roles, which is a shame as Mattei’s films usually have at least one or two half-decent actors in. Talking of Mattei, this movie represents the end of his and Fragasso’s working relationship. Noooo! Don’t worry, though, we still have a few films of theirs left to review – I hope you’re watching along too, because this stuff is gold.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Strike Commando 2 (1988)

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No-one told them the guy they hired for the sequel had short dark hair

Immediately establishing himself as a firm ISCFC favourite, this is the latest in our series of Bruno Mattei / Claudio Fragasso reviews. Mattei directed, Fragasso wrote, and together they were responsible for a range of the most delightful action movies of the 1980s. One might also say they weren’t the most original team, ripping off the most famous Hollywood releases of the time – even though I’m sure they were both just working to order, with some money man saying “give me a cross between Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Rambo, right now!” – but what they lacked in originality, they made up for in incompetence and crazy choices.

 

Perhaps it’s just watching a lot of B-movies from the last few years, with their miniscule budgets, threadbare plots and unbearable amateur acting, that makes me appreciate the golden age of VHS. Or perhaps I’m losing my mind. But there’s something about this partnership and this era that just keeps producing so-bad-it’s-good gold. Gold, I tell ya! Or maybe it’s the use of Richard Harris.

 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, glorious actor of stage and screen, Golden Globe and Grammy winner, Oscar nominee, who’d go on after this to a couple of “Harry Potter” movies, must have owed someone a favour, or was in the Philippines on a drinking binge and decided to make a few quid, is in this as hero Michael Ransom’s old commanding officer, Major Vic Jenkins. If you’re wondering why an Irishman would be an American’s commanding officer in any army, then…you’re thinking too much. Lower those expectations!

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Sadly, Reb Brown does not return, and in his place we have Brent Huff. I don’t mean to brag, but I correctly guessed he was a model-turned-actor, being sort of blandly good looking while having a low level of charisma; this is near the beginning of his career, although we’ve met him before, in the gloriously awful “9 Deaths Of The Ninja”. If you ever wonder what actors who aren’t in blockbusters or art-house films do, check out his credits list for the last 15 years, and marvel at the number of movies you’ve never heard of. But enough of his recent stuff – here he’s in a hotel room somewhere in the Far East, “Apocalypse Now” style, and is visited by a friend to discuss the disappearance of their old CO, Jenkins.

 

What’s important to point out is that no-one seems to have any idea what side anyone else is on. Jenkins is CIA, and is being moved round like he’s in witness protection, although why this is happening is never brought up. Ransom beats up Jenkins’ “handler”, and when he goes to rescue him discovers that the people there are his friends…only, apparently coincidentally, a group of actual kidnappers chooses that moment to capture Jenkins, and does so. So he goes back to the guy whose ass he kicked, who then agrees to send him on a mission to rescue or buy Jenkins’ freedom, and gives him $20 million worth of diamonds to do it. I sort of thought this was the point he was actually going to get a new Strike Commando team, as the fact they have more than one member is brought up in passing a few times, but once again the title just refers to him.

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Ransom’s journey is a fun one, starting with a boat journey where he appears to be alone, only for bad guys to emerge from literally every nook and cranny on the (pretty small) boat and try to kill him. How long were they there? If they wanted him dead that much, why not just blow the boat up? Or shoot him while he was still on the dock? Sorry, can’t get bogged down in the details. When he arrives in…wherever the hell it’s supposed to be, he quickly meets up with Rosanna Boom (!), the gorgeous and tough woman who runs the Moulin Rouge, a local filthy “bar”. You can tell she’s not your average lady (and certainly not your average Mattei lady, who are basically used as wallpaper) by the way when we meet her, she’s beating a burly local in a drinking contest. Although I don’t think she’s involved at the beginning, she knows exactly where all the villains are – in fact, no-one has the slightest trouble finding anyone else at any point in “Strike Commando 2”.

 

I haven’t mentioned the main kidnapper / torturer, Captain Kraminsky, a clone of the guy from “Raiders” (only Russian rather than a Nazi) who we’re introduced to killing someone on a train, with a garrotte, in full view of dozens of people! When he tortures Ransom later, it’s a straight lift from “Lethal Weapon”, released the year before this, so given he’s torturing Rambo it makes it a rare example of a single scene which rips off three different movies.

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You will be shouting abuse at the screen on a number of occasions, and that’s the primary thing to take away. I’ll give you an example, but it’s one of dozens: near the end, Ransom is escaping from the compound driving a truck – Rosanna’s tied up in the back, and there’s a ton of bad guys too, who I guess were waiting in the truck on the off chance he’d use it to escape in. He can see what’s going on, so we know there’s a window, and we also know that guns fire through windows. So what do the villains do? Why, they climb out the back and over the top of the moving van to try and climb in through the passenger door and kill him! It’s a fun scene, but completely pointless. It’s also gunfire-drenched, not as much as “Robowar” (which might be the most bullet-heavy movie of all time), but everyone absolutely loves firing guns and does it as often as possible. The slow-mo M60-led destruction of the drug factory is hilariously OTT, and I’d like to think was done deliberately by Mattei, who’s shown the occasional stirrings of a sense of humour.

 

There’s even more fun to be had by trying to figure out why the twist happens. It’s screamingly obvious, but try and work backwards through all the stages it goes through and see if it makes any sense. The ransom diamonds are sort of central to what’s going on, but why would a gang of heroin producers go through all that to get them? Do they not make enough money from the drugs?

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In terms of those little things I like to spot, which put a smile on your face during even a terrible film, there’s a wooden tower, beloved of the jungle military base, which first gets someone shot out of it, then blows up (the only two things that can happen to a wooden tower in a movie like this). I’ll settle for one or the other, but we get both!

 

And in terms of things I like to avoid, the two main ones are the sped up fight footage, which lends everything a vaguely Benny Hill-like quality; and the music, which genuinely sounds like it was recorded for a circus, or a kid’s comedy movie. I was hoping for some of that light music to play over a scene of drug use, or violent murder, but sadly they chose not to go for something actually funny and interesting. I really can’t say enough bad things about that music, though, and I’d love to know why they picked it. Like, did they hire a guy, and this is what he came up with, but they didn’t have the money to send him packing and hire someone decent? Or did they pick up the wrong public-domain music LP from the shop?

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But we can’t end this review on a bad note! Richard Harris lends a weird gravitas to his scenes, although he’s clearly not trying all that hard; but the biggest surprise was Mary Stavin as Rosanna Boom. She’s a former Miss World (1977) and is far far better than fellow model-turned actor Brent Huff. Plenty of glorious overacting from the rest of the cast, too, and that’s a recipe for fun.

 

So it’s another enthusiastic recommendation from me. Mattei and Fragasso rule, in my book, and we’ll be covering more of their stuff soon.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Youtube Film Club: Robowar (1989)

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A low rent “Predator”. That’s really all you need to make a judgement on whether you should watch this movie or not, but if you’d like to hang around for a thousand words or so, I’ll make some jokes about the director, writer and star, talk robots and their annoying sounds, and perhaps inform you, from my many hours of experience, which is the nicest 80s jungle to visit.

Because I enjoyed “Strike Commando” so much, I decided to plunge right back in with another Mattei / Fragasso / Brown epic. Mattei has given us “Hell Of The Living Dead”, “Zombi 3” and “Rats: Nights Of Terror” (among many, many more); Fragasso wrote “Troll 2”, as well as a lot of Mattei’s other movies; and Reb Brown has screamed his way through many a low-budget gem, like “Yor: The Hunter From The Future”, the 1979 “Captain America” and “Space Mutiny”. Fun fact: Brown appeared to quit acting in the late 90s, but returned in 2012 with “Night Claws”, directed by the same guy who made the classic “Deadly Prey”, and also starring Sherrie Rose from “Summer Job”. That sounds amazing!

 

Rather than an alien, because they’re expensive to do special effects for, our creature is an escaped military robot. And by robot, I mean in the “R.O.T.O.R.” sense, of being a bloke in a mostly leather suit, with a dark-visored helmet on. We see the military guys trying to control him, with some of the finest technobabble known to humanity – and the way those tech guys deliver the lines, you can tell they’ve got absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. So the army needs a group of bad hombres, and they call on BAM.

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Oh man, this is a fun bit. BAM stands for, wonderfully, “Big Ass Motherfuckers”, not “Bad-Ass Motherfuckers”, for some reason. And you know the team all have nicknames! I won’t bother you with the names of the cannon fodder, but the team’s medic goes by the name “Papa Doc”. Now, I don’t want to tell people how to do their business, but you need to be certain before you name a character after one of the 20th century’s more famous and violent despots – for our younger readers, that’s Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who ruled Haiti from 1957 to 1971 and was responsible for the deaths of around 50,000 of his own people. Telling you Reb Brown’s is almost a let-down after that, but he’s great as well, going by the nickname “Killzone”. Yes!

 

The thing is, we’re never quite sure what the team’s mission is in the jungle. They’re clearly completely unaware that they’re supposed to be tracking a robot soldier, and while there’s a war of some sort raging where they are, they’re not supposed to get involved in that either – although they do, slaughtering bad guys right, left and centre. It’s a bit like a hike that just gets interrupted, maybe? Credence is given to this theory, as when they arrive via boat, they’re all in street clothes, which for Killzone means a bright pink cropped shirt which exposes some sweet toned abs.

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Mattei had clearly watched “Predator”, but he’d taken some very odd lessons from it. The biggest was that, about every ten minutes, all the BAM should shoot fairly randomly into dense undergrowth, based on one of them seeing some movement – movement of what, we’re never informed. There’s a scene later on where they liberate a village from the bad guy soldiers, and they’re throwing grenades, firing millions of bullets and rocket launchers…and find a flimsy building full of dead children. They’re obviously blaming the bad guys for this, although why they wanted to kill a load of kids is never mentioned, but the film never considers for a second that the heavily armed guys who fire indiscriminately might be responsible for one or two of those.

 

The cannon fodder is cannon-foddered, dying like a bunch of idiots (although there’s a really cool visual when one of them gets punched by the robot and spits like a gallon of blood over the camera). Oh, and there’s the merest whisper of a romantic subplot, but that’s really because “Predator” had a feisty local woman in it, so “Robowar” has to have one too. And there’s the member of the BAM who’s got secret knowledge of the robot and how to beat it, but of course wants to save it and take it in.

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I haven’t even discussed the robot yet! Omega-One is its name, and using the wrong weaponry for the situation is its game. You will leave the movie, much as my wife did, trying to replicate its “computer” speech – a mix of flat-out gibberish and garbled military commands, with a word that sounded like “re-heat” or “repeat” spoken maybe a thousand times. In other words, it’s an amazing amalgam of low-budget tricks – there’s even a “Robocop” style twist at the end.

 

If you watched “Predator” and wished there were more dead children, or that the Predator spoke more, then this could be the movie for you. Much like yesterday’s “Strike Commando”, it rips along, there’s lots to enjoy about it, and it’s another fine entry on anyone’s bad movie night rotation.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Strike Commando (1987)

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Plucked at random from a huge pile of old VHS tapes, I feel I may have re-discovered a classic, of sorts. If you have any room in your heart for movies with covers like this – where an angry man, often with a headband, fires a large gun, while there’s baddies, a large vehicle and jungle in the background – then you will 100% love this. Made in the Philippines during that country’s domination of the B-movie filming industry (memorably chronicled in the documentary “Machete Maidens Unleashed”), it stars a couple of ISCFC favourites and manages to pack in more stuff into its 106 minutes than most trilogies.

 

The Strike Commandos are a special unit of the US Army, doing all the super-dangerous missions during the Vietnam war. Well, we’re told this more than shown it, because during a particularly tricky mission to…blow up a Vietcong military base, probably?…they’re all captured or killed, with the exception of one man, Mike Ransom (Reb Brown, “Space Mutiny”, “Yor – The Hunter From The Future”), who jumps into the river and manages to escape. I cheered as soon as I saw one of those giant wooden towers so beloved of rural military bases – has there ever been one of those in a movie that didn’t have either get blown up, have someone take a dive off it after getting shot, or both? I was rather surprised they set the unit up as these badasses only to have almost all of them not survive the first five minutes, but there you go. They even mention forming a new Strike Commando unit about halfway through, but that idea’s dropped like a hot potato.

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Anyway, all this nonsense is obviously a trap organised by the US’s own Colonel Radek, as obvious a villain as I’ve ever seen, but the movie tries to sort of pretend it’s not him for a bit. Although, seriously, “Strike Commando” moves at such an insane pace that you’ve barely got time to ponder anyone’s allegiances before you’re already in another location, with a bunch more jungle-gunfire. There were legitimately three points in this movie where my friends and I checked the time, expecting it to be almost over, and the first time was before the halfway point! Ransom has some serious adventures, let me tell you. Actually, let me not tell you, because I kinda want you to track this down and watch it.

 

Okay, I’ll tell you about the first bit, because it’s loads of fun, and because it illustrates something of the oddity of this movie – made in the Far East by an Italian director with an American star. Ransom survives the first mission, and finds himself in a jungle village, which is full of local people who are also opposed to the Vietcong. They ask him to kill a soldier in cold blood, and he straight-up refuses, so they just do it – a smarter movie would have Ransom realise how war makes monsters of us all. But two minutes later he’s friends with everyone and agrees to lead them all to the American lines so they can be rescued! Luckily Ransom’s issue with killing in that particular instance isn’t encountered again in the rest of the movie, as he is a slaughtering machine! Oh, and the village also has one of my favourite “That Guy” actors, Luciano Pigozzi (billed in many movies as Alan Collins), as a friendly French fella. There’s a kid who wants to know about Disneyland, there’s a woman who falls in love with him, every single cliché is trotted out.

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So Ransom escapes the battlefield and goes back to the base a few times, but is sent back out by Radek, who conspires to have him killed out there. There’s some amazing set pieces (including a scene where Ransom is running across a paddy field to get to his helicopter, and the Vietcong keep firing rocket launchers and heavy artillery at him, but always 20 feet behind wherever he is, handily) and an absolute ton of cannon fodder. There’s also a plot of sorts, where Ransom is trying to prove Russian involvement in Vietnam, and Radek is…well, obviously a KGB agent and trying to hide that fact. The Russians are represented by two people – the gigantic Jakoda and the female Olga. I was trying to give Olga a personality, but she sadly doesn’t have one – Ransom kidnaps her to take her back to the US, and basically instantly she reverts from the presumably well-trained soldier to a pathetic simpering damsel in distress, unable to defend herself or hold a gun.

 

As “Strike Commando” rips through its plot, you might – if you were particularly uncharitable – notice one or two “homages” to more popular or well-known jungle-based action movies. It wanders through “Missing In Action”, “Rambo”, “Apocalypse Now” and no doubt dozens of others I’ve not been lucky enough to catch. Okay, it rips them off mercilessly, just in a weird and wonderful way.

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What none of those movies have, though, is a lunatic leading man who spends more time screaming in incoherent rage than he does talking. Reb Brown, memorably mocked by “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, is firing with both barrels here, giving a performance which is crazy even by his standards. Anything remotely bad happens? He screams. Mild disappointment? He screams. Luckily, he appears to be the only person in the entire sub-continent who can shoot straight, as he takes on absolute legions of baddies and mows them down without so much as a second thought; while there are numerous people who not only don’t respond when he starts firing at them, but even those who do, and have a gun, and are extremely close when they start firing (there are lots of these people throughout) are still unable to hit our brave hero.

 

There’s a real cockfight caught on camera, a whole bunch of possibly innocent people getting blown up because they happen to be in the same building as the villain, a Russian calling someone “Americanski!” on multiple occasions, telling a dying child that ice cream grows on trees at Disneyland, grenades being used for every problem, one of the weirdest, worst-shot, dumbest-looking final fights ever, and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of the magnificence that is “Strike Commando”. We have director Bruno Mattei to partially thank for this, previously seen by the ISCFC as director of the abysmal “Hell Of The Living Dead”; but we’ve got genuine bad movie royalty here, with writer Claudio Fragasso (who also wrote “Hell…”). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, “Strike Commando” was written by the same man who gave the world “Troll 2”.

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Now, as I hope you’ve picked up, under no circumstances do I want you to think this is a good film. What it is, though, is a very entertaining one, much like the wonderful “Troll 2”. It has enough plot for three movies, but there’s still filler, weird little segments where it’s just a dull conversation in a room, as if they needed to save money that day. It has a range of bonkers central performances. It never met a cliché it didn’t like.  I can’t praise it highly enough, but, full disclosure: the other two members of this week’s Awesome Movie Monday, both sensible fellows with a fine taste in movies, thought it was terrible.

 

Rating: thumbs up