ACTION

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 KIDNAPPING OF MARY LOU.) 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 (Anita Strindberg) 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. A Prism Entertainment VHS Release. Available on DVD all around the world, including an English-friendly version from NoShame Films. 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.

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 [1991] 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 (1980) 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), YELLOW HAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD (1984), HUNDRA (1985), 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.

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.

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 $100,000 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) $75,000, 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 $30,000 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 (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 [1985] and the pretty decent PHANTOM OF DEATH [1987]). 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 you 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; 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 [1983] and STRIKE COMMANDO [1987]) 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 $2 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 $76 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; HOUSE OF CLOCKS - 1987) 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 [1986]) 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.

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 $300,000, 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 $300,000 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 (THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK - 1978; 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 [1976], 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 [1980] 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 RAIDERS (1984) - A provincial Governor and his two daughters are kidnapped by the evil Karamat and his trigger-happy men. After a treacherous trek through the jungle, Karamat and his prisoners finally arrive at his fortress, which is heavily fortified with men with guns and a series of maze-like caves. The government deems an air attack or a full-on ground assault too dangerous, so they reform the Death Raiders, a small group of Black Ops. soldiers headed by Captain Barone, to penetrate Karamat's fortress and rescue the Governor and his daughters. So begins this enjoyable (sometimes for the wrong reasons) action film from the Philippines, as Captain Barone rounds-up all the ex-members of his squad; from a disco (with the prerequisite bar fight), a police hostage situation (with the prerequisite attempted rape scene) and helping an alcoholic member free his girlfriend from a mafia whorehouse. Meanwhile, Karamat's son, who disagrees with his father's political views, unsuccessfully tries to lead the prisoners to freedom. When Karamat catches him, he ties him up in the middle of town and beats the stuffing oput of him with his bare hands in front of all the citizens. This does not sit too well with Karamat's wife, who secretly plans a revolution with a sympathetic rebel in town. After Captain Barone and his men train to get into shape, they set out on their mission to Karamat's stronghold. They make it to the cave where the Governor and his daughters are being held and they get an unexpected hand from Karamat's wife and son. From then on, the group try to make it through the jungle to safety, before the Army does a full air and ground attack on the compound. Members will be lost on the way as Captain Barone and his men must fight an inexhaustable supply of Karamat's soldiers, even as some of Barone's men return to Karamat's compound to rescue innocent women and children.  Directed and co-written with a lot of intentional humor (check out the disco and whorehouse scenes) by Segundo Ramos (SUICIDE FORCE - 1982), this film has a lot going for it (especially the early martial arts fights, including an inventive, almost comic book-like, use of a spinning bar stool), but stops dead in it's tracks every time it goes back to the Karamat father-son conflict. This film works best when it concentrates on the Death Raiders themselves and their comradarie, which seems natural and unforced (it's apparent these actors, including Johnny Wilson [DEVIL'S THREE - 1979] and George Estregan [CLASSIFIED OPERATION - 1985], here using the name "George Regan", have worked together many times before this film). As with most Filipino action films, this one contains more than a few scenes of attempted rape (but, surprisingly, no nudity), including a comical scene where a bunch of Karamat's soldiers fight each other in the middle of a lake as they try to rape one of the Governor's daughters. While most of the action in the latter-half of the film is basically gunfights and explosions, the film has a kinetic energy that's infectious and fun to watch. I was taken aback by the abrupt ending, but that's a small complaint to an otherwise highly watchable film and, at 80 minutes, it doesn't overstay it's welcome. Also starring George Pallance, Ramon Zamora, Rudolfo Boy Garcia, Renato Del Prado, Robert Lee, June Ariston, Raquel Montesa and Joel Alano. A Les Productions et Distributions Videodrome Inc. (PDV) Home Video Release. Not Rated.

THE DEVASTATOR (1985) - Deacon Porter (Rick Hill) has nightmares where he's transported back to Vietnam (in footage cribbed from FINAL MISSION - 1984) and he's fighting the Vietcong. One day, he gets a call from Elaine (Debbie Brooks), the wife of one of his soldier buddies, telling him that her husband, Marty, died in a car crash and she doesn't think it was an accident, so Deacon heads to the town of King's Ransom to investigate. Once in town, Deacon meets pretty gas station owner Audrey (future director Katt Shea) and immediately runs into Sheriff Clay Marsh (Kaz Garas), who warns Deacon that this town doesn't tolerate strangers. Elaine tells Deacon that the town has been taken over by a group of dastardly marijuana farmers and their leader, John Carey (Crofton Hardester), is not above murder to protect his crop. She believes Carey is responsible for Marty's death. Deacon begins asking questions around town, but finds everyone afraid to talk. While out on a date with Audrey, Carey and his men force Deacon's car off the road and beat the shit out of him (Casey also has the hots for Audrey). When Deacon doesn't take the hint to leave town, a couple of Carey's men firebomb Elaine's house, killing her (she burns to death in her bed), which results in Deacon chasing the two goons in his car. Deacon's car flips over and explodes, so Carey thinks Deacon is dead and his problems are over. In reality, Deacon escaped the explosion and he's about to make Carey's life miserable. Deacon contacts his old Nam buddies, electronics expert Spenser (Terrence O'Hara), explosives expert Bartlett (Bill McLaughlin) and insane muscleman Ox (Jack Daniels) and they head to King's Ransom for some good, old-fashioned payback. Audrey puts them up in a secret cabin in the woods, as Deacon and his squad systematically begin to kill Carey's men and destroy the pot crop. As more of his men end up missing, Carey's men capture Bartlett, hold him in a cell at the Sheriff's office and beat the crap out of him, but Deacon and his men pull a midnight rescue and save Bartlett. Carey kidnaps Audrey (and blows up her gas station) and uses her as bait. The finale finds Deacon, his men and Sheriff Marsh (who finally comes to his senses) battling Carey and his gang while trying save Audrey and blowing up a dam to flood the pot crop. Not everyone (both good and bad) will make it out alive.  This is another one of Filipino director/producer Cirio H. Santiago's long line of 80's actioners and it's a pretty good little B-film. Even though it recycles some of the same locations and footage used in Santiago's earlier FINAL MISSION (even the main character in both films is called "Deacon", so no new looping was necessary!), these are two totally different films which can still be enjoyed if watched back-to-back. There are some similarities, namely Kaz Garas as a small-town sheriff that's neither good or bad (he tries to do his job in both films, even though he knows there's corruption all around him) and both films contain scenes where bad guys get killed by boobytraps in the woods, but THE DEVASTATOR (also known as THE DESTROYERS and KING'S RANSOM) avoids being the FIRST BLOOD clone that MISSION was, thanks to the marijuana subplot and a finale that involves trying to blow up a dam. Katt Shea (who would later direct her share of genre films, including STRIPPED TO KILL [1987], the excellent DANCE OF THE DAMNED [1988], POISON IVY [1992] and THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 [1999]) has a topless scene, there's plenty of gunfights, explosions, bloody bullet squibs, car chases and, hell, there's even a helicopter chase/explosion and some decent miniature work, all packed into a tidy 78 minute running time, so it doesn't overstay it's welcome. Say what you want about Santiago (and I've said some pretty nasty things in the past, especially his films VAMPIRE HOOKERS [1979] and FUTURE HUNTERS [1986]), but when he was on his game (as he is here), he was capable of turning out some entertaining low-budget flicks. It's no wonder Roger Corman funded many of his films, because Santiago knew how to stretch a buck to the breaking point, yet he could still deliver interesting, if unoriginal, product. The script is by frequent Santiago collaborator Joseph Zucchero (who also has acted in Santiago films like STRYKER [1983], NAKED VENGEANCE [1985] and RAIDERS OF THE SUN [1991]), who uses the pseudonym "Joseph Sugarman" here. Another film (not directed by Santiago) made the same year as this, WARLORDS FROM HELL, has a strikingly similar plot, but is the antithesis of THE DEVASTATOR: It's a boring action film. Also starring Steve Rogers, Don Gordon Bell, Henry Strzalkowski and an uncredited appearance by Nick Nicholson as one of Carey's thugs. This film use to play quite often on TV during the late 80's and early 90's and the only U.S. home video release was a big box VHS tape put out by MGM/UA Home Video in the mid-80's. Not available on DVD. Now available on Blu-Ray from Code Red as an exclusive for Screen Archives. Rated R.

DIRTY HEROES (1976) - In this insane revenge actioner from Thailand (You can immediately tell that this film is from Thailand because the first frames of the film proudly announce "A Super Production From Thailand" in bold white letters on a bright red background!), a bunch of goons sent by the "Landlord" enter the home of Peter and demand $30,000 from him or else he and his family will have to leave. When Peter refuses, the goons beat him, tie him up, shoot and kill his young (and naked) son, gang-rape his wife and then shoot and kill both of them, too, before setting fire to their home. The entire atrocity was witnessed by a young girl, who leaves town and doesn't return until years later, the faces of all of Peter's murderers etched into her memory. Local hotheaded man Richard (Sombat Methanee; who starred in THE KILLER ELEPHANTS [1976] using the name "Sung Pa") can plainly see that nothing has changed in the twenty years he has been living in this town. Innocent farmers and their families are still being murdered and their land being purchased at rock-bottom prices by Mrs. Chaw, who Richard believes is the "Landlord" behind the killings, both past and present. Richard cannot get anyone in town to believe his story, because Mrs. Chaw is well-respected around town and the only law in the territory, Deputy Sheriff John, seems to be in Mrs. Chaw's pocket. Richard becomes romantically involved with pretty young schoolteacher Catherine (Alana Montri), while he secretly murders the goons under Mrs. Chaw's control. Richard also helps Kenneth (Clint Chit) run for election for parliament against Mrs. Chaw, which doesn't sit too well with Mrs. Chaw, who orders her men to kill Kenneth and Richard. As more of her men end up dead by Richard's hands, Mrs. Chaw becomes convinced that there is a spy amongst them. When the goons kill Richard's father in front of Richard, his sister Molly and Kenneth (Kenneth: "You're upset."  Richard: "Of course so, they've killed my father!") and later kill Molly in a drive-by shooting, Richard and Kenneth step-up their revenge-fueled rampage, especially after Catherine's step-sister is raped and her step-father is murdered. When it is revealed that the young girl that witnessed the death of Peter and his family is none other than Catherine (who is Peter's daughter), she joins Richard and Kenneth in ridding the town of Mrs. Chaw and her rape-hungry hoods.  Badly dubbed and bloody as hell, DIRTY HEROES (Don't look for this title on IMDB or any other review site) is enjoyable nonsense if you put your brain in neutral and let your thought processes coast downhill. Director Vichien Sakon  (who directed the film TIGER FIGHTING [1976] using the name "Vichien Sa-Nguanthai") and screenwriter Prasa Somchai toss in numerous gunfights and sleazy sequences to go along with the political intrigue and revenge-driven storyline. What is truly remarkable is how the sleazy scenes involving rape and sex manage to avoid any female nudity at all, yet there is no problem showing the penis of Peter's young son just before he is mercilessly blown away!  The violence on display is mainly of the bullet type, as people are shot in the head, torso, arms, legs and back. Mrs. Chaw also whips underling Suzy repeatedly across her naked back with a bamboo cane and then orders her goons to "rape her until she dies" when she believes Suzy is the spy, which she isn't (Mrs. Chaw, who is probably a lesbian [look at the way she dresses], believes that all women who don't see eye-to-eye with her should be raped until they are dead!). The finale, where Catherine chases Mrs. Chaw, who is throwing grenades back at her (!) in a lumberyard, is one of those "What The Fuck?!?" sequences in Asian films that ends with Mrs. Chaw getting shot in the stomach and falling on one of her live grenades, blowing herself to smithereens. Toss in some of the most awkward romantic dialogue I have ever heard (Clearly, the Australians who provide the cheesy English dubbing were making it up on the spot) and what you end up with is a frenetic, over-the-top sleazefest that should satisfy fans of Far East weirdness. Also starring Krung Seller, Prichela Lee, Boosith, Viboonlarp, and Ceceil Quinn. Never released on home video in the U.S.; the print I viewed was sourced from a British VHS tape. Notorious producer/director Joseph Lai and his IFD Films got his hands on this, did his regular hack job, added fake names to the cast and credited the director as "Bo Curtis" (the British VHS artwork "borrows" an iconic image from the poster of THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE - 1974!). Try to avoid that cut. Not Rated.

DOG TAGS (1985) - In this well-done Vietnam War actioner, real-life reporter Chris Hilton tries to find out the truth behind a story about a downed chopper that supposedly contained four cases of top-secret American military documents. The only problem is, it is now 1985 and Hilton has to head back to Southeast Asia to interview people who witnessed the events when they happened in the early 70's. He finds a Vietnamese villager who was there when it happened and, as Hilton starts recording his words, we are whisked back in time to a story that involves a Ranger Unit, American P.O.W.s and a German freelance photographer. The story begins with Ranger Cecil (Clive Wood) saving a bunch of American P.O.W.s, including Pete (Jim Gaines) and Eddy (Robery Marius), along with German photographer Willy (Robert Haufrect), from an enemy war camp and heading up-river in a canoe. Cecil's commanding officer, Captain Newport (Mike Monty), wants Cecil and his "zombies" to retrieve the missing documents from the downed chopper, even though most of the P.O.W.s are malnourished and weak (When one of Captain Newport's underlings questions the reasoning for sending a bunch of battered men on such a dangerous mission, the Captain replies, "Calm down. This is a war, no vacation!"). Cecil can't believe his ears when he hears his new orders, especially since he'll have to lead all the weak men (some seriously injured from the torture they endured at the hands of the enemy) through ten miles of booby trapped, enemy-infested jungle to get to the downed chopper. Almost immediately, P.O.W. "Ox" Oxford (Keith Craig) is killed by a spiked booby trap and P.O.W. Glass (Peter Ehlich; also the Dialogue Coach here) is killed by his own men when he falters in killing a female gook who is laying more booby traps (He does manage to cut into her shoulder blade with a machete, but another P.O.W. has to finish her off). Pete goes jungle crazy, starts yammering incoherently and runs off into the jungle, where he steps on a land mine and is blown to bits. By the time Cecil makes it to the downed chopper (which is lying in a shallow lake next to a waterfall), only two other are left alive, Eddy and a badly injured Ron (Baird Stafford), whose leg was impaled on bamboo spikes while swimming in a river. Clive and Eddy retrieve the four cases out of the chopper, but instead of finding top-secret documents, they find all the cases are filled with small gold bars instead. Smelling a rat in Captain Newport (and rightfully so) and fearing that they will be killed if they radio-in their location, Clive, Eddy and Ron devise a plan to escape to safety with the gold. They find a sympathetic Vietnamese family to take them in (where Ron has his leg amputated), but Captain Newport makes sure there is no way they will ever settle down (he has a transmitter in one of the cases). The finale finds Clive and Eddy removing their dog tags and never being seen or heard from again. The only proof of their existence are their dog tags, some photos and a single bar of gold kept in a box by the villager reporter Chris Hilton is now interviewing. Better acted and photographed than most Italian war actioners (this was filmed in the Philippines), thanks to sharp direction and an intelligent screenplay by Romano Scavolini (NIGHTMARE - 1981; also starring Baird Stafford), DOG TAGS delivers all the bloody goods we've come to expect from the genre (bullet-ridden bodies; fiery explosions; blood-gushing wounds; various booby trap impalements and a gory leg amputation that will have you squirming in your seat), but it also contains a lot of human pathos, which is highly unusual in these types of films. You actually care what happens to these people and there are some knockout set pieces on display, such as a young Vietnamese woman, Mina (Gigi Duenas), who makes love to a recently legless Ron (just to let him know he is no less of a man for losing a limb) or the revelation that the young woman's younger brother, Tanoy (Jericho Ondevilla), may actually be the enemy (He says to Cecil, "Me not Charley!" to which Cecil responds, "C'mon, boys like you aren't innocent anymore!"). That boy turns out to be the villager that reporter Chris Hilton is interviewing over ten years later. Filmed in three acts, with a prologue and an epilogue, DOG TAGS is a literate, if extremely bloody, example on how to make a war film with heart and a limited budget. Worth your time if you are a fan to this genre. Also starring Adolfo Arorong, David Light, Dave Anderson and a cameo by the late Nick Nicholson. Romano Kristoff (NINJA'S FORCE - 1984, and also Second Assistant Director here) plays a military hitman hired by Captain Newport to retrieve the gold and not leave any witnesses. Originally released on VHS by MTI Home Video in the same R-Rated edit used in the U.S. theatrical release, but the uncut Japanese-subtitled VHS can be found easily on eBay or transferred to DVD-R from many gray market sellers. Also available on German DVD, but avoid it as it is the edited version. Also known as PLATOON TO HELL. Not Rated.

ELIMINATOR WOMAN (1992) - Ree Marsales (Len Sparrowman) is the bookkeeper for South African crime kingpin Alex Gatelee (director Michel Qissi) and he has done something very, very wrong. He has stolen over $100 million of Gatelee's gold bars and hidden them in a secret location. Gatelee and two of his goons travel to Beverly Hills to kill Marsales and retrieve the gold, but Marsales escapes and Gatelee ends up getting slashed across his face by one of Marsales' co-workers (That's going to leave a scar!). Three months later, two Beverly Hills cops, Jay Handlin (Jerry Trimble) and Julie A. Parish (Karen Sheperd), are assigned to escort Marsales back to South Africa to testify against Gatelee. As soon as they step off the plane, Gatelee's men attack them, but the martial arts abilities of both Jay and Julie manage to defeat them. Jay and Julie have a friendly rivalry (He tells local cop Fetz Deverenter [Ted Le Plat]: "Her name is Julie A. Parish. The 'A' is for attitude!"), but when Julie is kidnapped by Gatelee, Jay gets serious and begins tearing-up South Africa looking for her. He gets help from Charlie (Siphiwe Mlangeni), a local boy who is wise beyond his years. They confront Gatelee at his home, which results in fisticuffs followed by a motorcycle chase. Jay and Fetz are unaware that Fetz's girlfriend, Myra (Ashley Hayden), is on Gatelee's payroll and she uses her inside knowledge to assist Gatelee in trying to locate his missing gold (She tries to seduce Jay to give up the location of the gold, but he rebuffs her naked advances by saying, "I don't sleep with snakes!"), Meanwhile, Julie has escaped from Gatelee's jungle compound and, together with fellow captive Lianna (Kimberleigh Stark), must run a gauntlet of Gatelee's fighters and assassins as they try to make it to safety. Charlie brings Jay to his sister's house to question her about Gatelee's business since she use to work for him until he manually removed one of her eyes when she spurned his advances. Her information proves invaluable to Jay, who is now able to definitely connect Myra with Gatelee. Myra is able to sneak into Marsales' jail cell and tricks him into revealing the location of the gold. Myra double-crosses Gatelee and steals the gold for herself, which sets up the finale where everyone gathers together on the island where the gold is hidden. Expect lots of bone-crunching as Jay faces-off with Gatelee in a cave and Julie chases down Myra in a speedboat/helicopter chase.  Although nothing special, ELIMINATOR WOMAN (also known as TERMINATOR WOMAN) is a mindless, fight-filled martial arts actioner that should please fans of the genre. Non-actor Jerry Trimble (FULL CONTACT - 1992; LIVE BY THE FIST - 1993; STRANGLEHOLD - 1994) is not asked to emote much (thank God!), as director Michel Qissi (EXTREME FORCE - 2001), a frequent co-star (and fight coordinator) in the early films of Jean-Claude Van Damme (KICKBOXER - 1989; LIONHEART - 1990), prefers to use Trimble and co-star Karen Sheperd (MISSION OF JUSTICE - 1992) in a series of increasingly complicated martial arts fights, gun battles and chases, which culminates in a battle royale in the finale where the good guy/girl takes-on the bad guy/girl. While not especially bloody, the fight scenes are well choreographed and exciting (thanks to Qissi) and Gatelee meets a memorable demise. While also lacking in the nudity department, Sheperd does look fetching in the tight black outfit she wears through the majority of the film and there's some humor, too, especially Gatelee's "Apology accepted!" remark and action accompanying it after one of his main goons expresses his sorrow for letting Julie get away. ELIMINATOR WOMAN is a lot better than the title suggests, as long as you don't set your sights too high. It's probably the best martial arts flick that Jerry Trimble has starred in. I know that's not saying much, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. Also starring Graham Clarke, Nikade Ribane and Justin Byleveld. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. Not available on DVD in the U.S., but there is a British DVD available from Hollywood DVD (PAL Region 0). Rated R.

ENEMY UNSEEN (1989) - After a sappy power ballad (It goes, "You want somebody, you need somebody...") the film opens with guide Mel (Jeff Weston) and nature photographer Roxanne Tangent (Angela O'Neill) camping out next to a crocodile-infested river in some unnamed African country, where they witness a tribal ritual where a young native woman is sacrificed to a huge crocodile in the river. Mel and Roxanne are caught spying on the ritual and the natives kill Mel (spear in the chest) and abduct Roxanne. When Mel's body is found floating down river, Roxanne's rich and influential father, Gordon Tangent (Michael McCabe), hires mercenaries Steiger (Vernon Wells) and Josh (Stack Pierce) to lead him on a search through "Crocodile Valley" for his daughter. Also on the trip are fellow mercenaries Stanley (Deon Stewardson), Pencil (scripter Greg Latter) and river guide Malanga (South African film vet Ken Gampu). After traveling down the river for a while, the group sets up camp, where we learn that Pencil is a racist (He calls Malanga a "nigger", which pisses off Josh until Malanga reminds him that in Africa "nigger is a nice word."!?!) and that Malanga lost a sister in the same area years earlier. That night, Stanley is attacked and killed by a huge crocodile when it drags him into one of their own perimeter boobytraps (Boom!). The next morning, the group travel further down the river and pick up Roxanne's trail. Pencil is shot with an arrow and falls into the river, where he is eaten by a crocodile. The natives destroy the camp (including the radio) and begin hunting the group, first hitting Steiger with a poison dart (When Malanga informs Steiger that the poison will make him fall asleep and die, Steiger says, "Die? I don't have time to die."). Josh and Steiger are captured by the natives and brought to their village after Gordon shoots and kills the tribe's best hunter (Gordon gets away and roams the jungle, nervously shooting at every sound he hears). John and Steiger are put in a cage next to Roxanne and try to figure out a way to escape. The tribe captures Gordon and feed him to a pit of hungry crocodiles while Roxanne watches and screams "Daddy!" When the natives try to do the same thing to Steiger, Malanga shows up and saves his ass. Now, Steiger and Malanga must return to the village and save Roxanne and Josh, since the tribe plans to sacrifice Roxanne to the crocodiles that night. Will they save her in time and will they make their way back to civilization?  This South African-lensed jungle action film, directed by Elmo De Witt, mixes standard jungle warfare (guns vs. primitive weapons, where the poison darts and arrows beat the guns nearly every time) with some of the worst crocodile attacks ever committed to film. While we are treated to some nice nature photography of real crocodiles in their natural habitat, it's quite obvious that when the attacks happen, some lousy looking fake rubber stunt crocodiles are used. Vernon Wells (THE ROAD WARRIOR - 1982) makes a pretty flat action hero here, showing none of the crazy charm like he did as Bennett, Arnold Schwarzenegger's homosexual nemesis in COMMANDO (1985). Thankfully, both Stack Pierce (KILLPOINT - 1984) and the late Ken Gampu (SOUL PATROL - 1978; a.k.a. DEATH OF A SNOWMAN) register in their roles. The chemistry between them is quite apparent and they both have the best lines. The only true emotion in this film comes when Malanga discovers that the little girl following him and Josh in the finale is his niece. The look on Gampu's face tells the whole story. ENEMY UNSEEN is not very bloody or action-packed. It just meanders along at it's own leisurely pace until it's inevitable happy ending. Nothing more, nothing less. Also starring Sam Ntsinyi, Joe Stewardson and Paddy Lyster. An Action International Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

FAST GUN (1987) - A series of armory thefts at various U.S. military bases throughout the world leaves the government baffled as to who is involved. We learn rather quickly that people in our own government are the ones involved, but don't try to think about it too hard, because you'll end up with a migraine. We watch Nelson (Robery Dryer; SAVAGE STREETS - 1984) and his men pull off the next armory heist, only this time Nelson begins killing military personnel when they recognize him. The heist turns into a massacre when both sides shoot it out. Nelson is now wanted by the U.S. Government after they find out he has turned rogue and is stealing arms for his own purposes, rather than for his own government (there goes that damn migraine again!). Corrupt Army Colonel Harper (Kaz Garas; FINAL MISSION - 1984) must find and kill Nelson before the press gets hold of the story that Harper hired him to rob our own armories (Where's my Tylenol?). Nelson ends up in the small, secluded California town of Granite Lake, where the entire police force consists of Sheriff Jack Steiger (Rick Hill; DUNE WARRIORS - 1990) and Deputy Cowboy Phelps (Morgan Strickland). The town's crooked wheeler-dealer, Rupert Jessup (Ken Metcalfe), is an old business partner of Nelson's and they plan on selling the stolen weapons to the highest bidders, as soon as they build a secret airstrip in the forest. Too bad Nelson picked this town, because Sheriff Jack is a crack shot, as we witness him shooting three violent drug runners right between the eyes and then blows-up their attacking helicopter with just three shots of his pistol. He's also pretty good with his hands, too, as we later watch him beat the crap out of a motorcycle gang who decide to destroy his girlfriend Julie's (Brenda Bakke; DEATH SPA - 1987) bar. It seems Jack use to be a big city cop, but he left the force when he saw his partner shot in the head (he still has nightmares about it) and moved to this small town to get away from the action and violence. Bad move. It's not long before Jack and Nelson are butting heads, but both Jessup and money-hungry (but clueless) Mayor Ankers (Anthony East) interfere with Jack's duty as sheriff. One night, a bunch of Nelson's men break Jack's gun hand with a two-by-four, pour booze down his throat (Jack is a recovering alcoholic) and then loot the town. Mayor Ankers fires Jack for being drunk on duty, but when Colonel Harper shows up in town and he spots Nelson's men kidnapping Cowboy, Jack and Harper join forces to free Cowboy and bring Nelson and Jessup down. When Cowboy dies in a manner similar to Jack's old partner, Jack goes on a one-man killing spree to get revenge. He's no longer a cop, so all the rules go out the window. Pray for the bad guys, especially in the unbelievable final scene where Jack blows up a huge cargo plane with just three shots of his sidearm!  This is another one of prolific Filipino director/producer Cirio H. Santiago's many 80's action films. While nothing spectacular, FAST GUN does move at a fast clip and, besides some gaping plot holes (How does Jack's hand manage to heal so fast?), it manages to keep you entertained through it's short 76 minute running time. Since this film doesn't try to break any new ground (it's strikingly similar to Santiago's THE DEVASTATOR [1985], which also starred Rick Hill and Kaz Garas), it depends more on action set-pieces rather than plot. Scripters (and long-time Santiago collaborators) Joe Mari Avellana and Frederick Bailey never even try to explain why our own government is stealing weapons from their own armories (I racked my brain for an explanation and all I got was a splitting headache). Instead, they just layer-on one gunfight or car chase after another until we get to the conclusion, where the entire town of Granite Lake is destroyed one building at a time, as Jack, Harper and Julie battle the never-ending supply of Nelson's goons (including Santiago regular Nick Nicholson), who are armed with automatic weapons and rocket launchers. If you have ever watched a Santiago film, you know he excels when it comes to action sequences. This is just like most of Santiago's 80's output: Take off your thinking caps and just enjoy the mindless violence. Ed Carlin, the producer of such films as BLOOD AND LACE (1970), THE NIGHT GOD SCREAMED (1971) and SUPERSTITION (1982), was Executive Producer on this film. Made in 1987 but not released on home video until 1993. Also starring Frank Diaz, David Light, Warren McLean, Bill Staub, Joanne Griffin, Paul Holmes, Jeff Griffith and Henry Strzalkowski. Released on VHS by Roger Corman's New Horizons Home Video. Corman bankrolled the majority of Santiago's output from the early 70's right up to 2005's BLOODFIST 2050. Say what you want about Santiago (and I have said both good and bad), but the man has had a long, successful career in B-films. Rated R.

FATAL VACATION (1989) - Here's a Hong Kong production (from Golden Harvest) that's sure to make anyone think twice about vacationing in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, it's bound to make any Filipino that watches it to pick up a gun and shoot the next Chinaman they see in the head just for spite. The story is simple: A tour group, consisting of a group of diverse Hong Kong residents, including grandparents and their grandson; a cop and his horny brother; identical twin brothers (complete with matching bushy moustaches!); a husband who leaves his pregnant wife at home (Her last words to him are, "Honey, don't go to the prostitutes. AIDS is fatal!"); a guy who likes to wear his Rolex on weird parts of his body (like his foot); and various other goofballs, take a bus trip through the Philippines with tour guy Bud (director/producer Eric Tsang), his dwarf sidekick Rainman (What's a Filipino flick without a midget?) and Candy (Irene Wan). Candy believes some of the tourists on board are Triad members, which worries her because there's a strong military presence everywhere on their route, but Bud tells her to supply the Triad members with "cannabis, strip shows and hookers" and everything will be alright. Yeah, right! After making a few stops to do the things that tourists do (take photos, buy souvenirs, etc.), circumstances take a considerable turn for the worse when cops raid a bar close to where the tourists are having dinner (and watching and participating a hula show!), where rebel leader Sam (Bernardo Bernardo)is buying an illegal shipment of automatic weapons. This leads to a massive stunt-filled shootout between the rebels and the cops that eventually leads to the rebels hijacking the bus and taking the tourists hostage (thankfully, Rainman stays behind) so they can make their getaway. After shooting one of the tourists in the head to prove they mean business, the rebels drive the bus to a village in the jungle, where they offer to trade the tourists to the Philippines government in exchange for the release of Sam's prisoner brother Eric (Spanky Manikan). Of course, nothing goes according to plan, so the tourists must come to depend on each other to plan and execute their escape, as some of the tourists are raped, tortured or killed by their captors. The finale illustrates that even unassuming common people are capable of acts of uncommon bravery and self-sacrifice if pushed too far. Expect lots of gun battles, explosions (including exploding bodies) and blood.  Director/producer/star Eric Tsang (MAD MISSION - 1981; VAMPIRE FAMILY - 1993), working with a screenplay by Nam Yin (PRISON ON FIRE - 1987), offers an uneasy mix of comedy and brutal violence, yet he seems to make it work. The comedy comes mainly in the beginning, such as when the tourists take advantage of two Filipino soldiers, buying everything they own except their underwear and rifles, only for the viewer to discover that the soldiers do this every time tourists stop there (and make a bundle of money each time). Once the hostage situation happens, the comedy abruptly ends and it becomes a tense and bloody standoff between the rebels and the Filipino government (all it's members speak English), with the tourists painfully in the middle. Graphic scenes of rape and death follow, including an incredibly nerve wracking scene where Bud is forced by rebel leader Sam to play a game of Russian Roulette with the rest of the tourists' lives that ends with the identical twin brothers sacrificing their lives for the good of the others (How they chose to die is truly memorable in a twisted, brotherly way). It's Bud and Candy who are the invisible glue that holds the group together. Bud (it reads "Bud" on the English subtitles, but it sounds like they are calling him "Bob" on the Cantonese soundtrack) makes it his duty to convince his charges that things are much better than they actually are once they are taken hostage (he eats a plate of rancid food with a smile on his face), while Candy offers herself as the next rape victim of a bald-headed rebel when he originally choses another woman from the group. They both go into full hero mode in the exciting and bloody finale, but, along the way, Tsang manages to get in some sharp barbs on subjects like TV news reporting, the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong in 1997, government cover-ups and self-sacrifice. While this will never be endorsed by the Philippines Tourism Board, FATAL VACATION offers a wealth of excitement for exploitation and action fans. American expatriate Ken Metcalfe (THE WOMAN HUNT - 1972) was Casting Director here. American audiences should recognize the late Victor Wong, who plays the grandfather, from John Carpenter's BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986) and the THREE NINJAS series of films. Also starring Tang Bik Wan, Kwong Leung Wong, Crispin Medina, Alex Mondragoxi, Jimmy Fabregas, Melinda Beltron, Mervyn Samson, Perry Berry and Joan Tong. Available on DVD from Tai Seng in a widescreen English-subtitled print. Not Rated.

FIELD OF FIRE (1990) - Major Wilson (Jim Ross) is trapped behind enemy lines when his Phantom jet is shot down and he is forced to parachute into the Vietnam jungle. While VC soldiers are nipping at Major Wilson's heels, General Corman (David Carradine), assigns Sgt. Duncan (Eb Lottimer; LORDS OF THE DEEP - 1989) and his squad of misfit soldiers, Hawk (Henry Strzalkowski), Jimmy-T (Don Barnes), Senator (Scott Utley) and Jeff (Tonichi Fructoso) to rescue Major Wilson before he is captured and reveals government secrets. General Corman sends his aide, Lt. Reynolds (David Anthony Smith), a wise-ass fighter pilot, to assist Sgt. Duncan on the mission. The enemy sends a special force, led by Captain Phat (Joe Mari Avellana), who had a previous run-in with Sgt. Duncan and his men (Duncan killed a General that Phat was protecting), to capture Major Wilson before he is rescued. The enemy also seems to have knowledge of Sgt. Duncan's arrival in the jungle, like someone on our side is passing them information. This makes it very difficult for Sgt. Duncan's squad, who rescue an injured Major Wilson, but are dogged at every step by Captain Phat and his black-clad special forces. It also doesn't help that Lt. Reynolds is a major fuck-up, who at one point wears mirrored sunglasses while walking through the jungle. This alerts the enemy on their position when they see the rays of the sun reflected off the mirrored lenses. With bad weather on the way that make rescue by helicopter impossible, Sgt. Duncan and his men must traverse the jungle on foot until they get to the next pick-up point miles away. That's easier said than done, because Major Wilson is developing a case of "jungle rot" in his leg wound and it's obvious that someone is sabotaging their every move, as supplies in their backpacks end up missing and their radio is tampered with. With every battle that Duncan and his men engage in, they lose another member. General Corman becomes highly suspicious of Duncan's unlikely series of misfortunes and roots-out the traitor, who is not a member of the trapped squad, but a member of his own staff. The finale finds Duncan, Reynolds and Senator, the only squad members left alive, trying to protect Major Wilson while Captain Phat and his special forces lead one final all-out assault. Can General Corman save them in time?  This is director Cirio H. Santiago's first in a series of 90's Vietnam War action films, following a string of 80's war actioners, which included EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987), BEHIND ENEMY LINES (1987), THE EXPENDABLES (1988) and NAM ANGELS (1988). If you enjoyed any of those films, you'll probably like this one, too. The script, by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (Santiago's DUNE WARRIORS - 1990; also starring David Carradine), is basically nothing but a series of action set-pieces, where Duncan and his squad get in numerous firefights, objects and people blow up real good and so many enemy soldiers are stabbed, it's hard to keep count. That's not to say that the film is not without humor, though. There's a funny bit in the beginning where Duncan's squad gross-out a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears new recruits by eating a box-full of enemy "ears" (they're actually canned peaches), only to have Duncan stroll by and accidentally eat the real stunt ear (it's quite funny) and this touching bit of dialogue that Duncan delivers to his squad when member Hawk is killed: "You guys just remember one thing. Hawk bought it because he was showing off. Now I don't want any more of you guys dying on me, you understand? Because I take that shit personal......Now get over here and eat your lizard!" Even though David Carradine is top-billed, he appears for less than five minutes throughout the film, but then he shows up in the finale and plays a major role in saving Duncan, Reynolds and Wilson. You at first think that Carradibe is doing one of his patented B-movie walk-on roles, but he actually plays the action hero in the end, jumping out of helicopters and laying down ground fire so everyone can escape. His character, General Corman, is an in-joke to Roger Corman, who bankrolled the majority of Santiago's films, including this one. If you like war films with more braun than brains, FIELD OF FIRE should fit the bill nicely. Other Santiago 90's Nam films include BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY (1991), KILL ZONE (1992; which recycles a lot of footage from this film) and FIREHAWK (1992). Also starring Joseph Zucchero, Ken Metcalfe, Robert Ginnivan, James Paolelli, Ruben Ramos, Archie Ramirez, Steve Rogers and Aaron Wellborn. Released on VHS by HBO Home Video and not yet available on DVD. Rated R.

THE FIGHTER (1988) - Australian expatriate Ryan Travers (Richard Norton; RAIDERS OF THE SUN - 1991) is a common street criminal in Thailand who gets by by picking pockets and other low-level crimes. When he catches someone cheating him is a street game of craps, he beats the crap out of the cheater, is caught by the police and spends the next five years of his life in a Thai prison. Just a day before he is to be released, Ryan's mother and father are murdered when a bomb explodes in their antiques store, placed there by the minions of crime kingpin Mr. Pinai (Ramon D'Salva) when the father refuses to help him smuggle heroin out of the country. The bombing was witnessed by Ryan's sister, Katie (Erica Van Wagener), who meets her brother when he is released from prison. It turns out that Katie is very ill, so Ryan goes back to his old ways, picking pockets and stealing to pay for Katie's expensive medication. Ryan again gets into trouble with the police, but when Katie's guardian, Quan (Angel Confiado), is found murdered (and wrongfully blamed on Ryan's gambling debts), Ryan decides to go straight and takes a job as a welder with his new friend Chai Wat (Franco Guerrero; PAY OR DIE - 1979; ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER - 1980). While walking down an alley, Ryan and Chai Wat happen upon an illegal street fight and Ryan decides to take part in a fight when Mr. Pinai offers $10,000 to anyone who can beat his fighter. Ryan does just that and embarrasses Mr. Pinai in front of everyone. What Ryan doesn't realize is that Mr. Pinai is responsible for his parents' deaths and, to add insult to injury, he also gets Ryan fired from his job and makes sure that he cannot get another job anywhere in town. This couldn't have come at a worse time because Katie is no longer responding to her medication and now needs an expensive heart operation to stay alive (What the hell happened to the $10,000 Ryan just won???). Ryan teams up with fellow Australian Zach (Glen Ruehland; NAILED - 2007), an alcoholic fight promoter, and Ryan quickly moves up in the ranks as a fighter in the no-holds-barred realm of illegal street fighting. This all leads to the big final fight, where Mr. Pinai forces Ryan to throw the fight against undefeated Jet (Benny Urquidez, who also starred with Norton in FORCE: FIVE - 1981) or else he will kill Katie. Ryan gets some unexpected help from blind street beggar Wan (Nello Nayo), who is actually a martial arts master that teaches Ryan the finer points of fighting (as well as humility and patience), skills Ryan will need to defeat Jet and get even for his parents' deaths.  This Filipino martial arts actioner, directed/produced by Anthony Maharaj (CROSS FIRE - 1987; MISSION TERMINATE - 1987, both starring Norton and Guerrero) and written by Noah Blough, is a cheap, by-the-numbers "underdog meets undefeated fighter in the ring" potboiler that offers no surprises (C'mon now, fighting to pay for your sister's life-saving operation? How old is that chestnut?) and even makes the fighting scenes look boring. This scenario was done to death even back in 1988 and if it weren't for the presence of Richard Norton and Franco Guerrero (who is wasted here in a thankless role), this film (also known as KICK FIGHTER) would be nearly unwatchable. It's lazily filmed, has sound that seems to have been recorded through a tin can and has sets as threadbare as any porno film. It also has the prerequisite master/student training montage, a totally out-of-place sequence in a bowling alley (I'm going to have to do a list where bowling alleys are used for no reason in genre films. I can think of at least a dozen off the top of my head.) and an unbelievable disclaimer in the finale that states that although Benny Urquidez was defeated in this film, in real life he is an undefeated fighter and this film is dedicated to all those that fought Urquidez and lost, but wish they won! I can only imagine that this disclaimer was put there at Urquidez's request to stroke his ego. This entire film screams amateur hour and is one of the weaker examples of Filipino action cinema. You've seen it all done a hundred times before and better than this. American expatriate actor Bill Baldridge (POW DEATHCAMP - 1988) was assistant Director here. Also starring Steve Rackman (who, as "Bodo", has the best fight in the film with Norton), Tony Laxa and Karim Karam, with a special appearance by international boxing referee Carlos "Sunny" Padilla Jr. (Who?). An AIP Home Video VHS Release. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

FIGHTING MAD (1978) - Three Vietnam veterans, Russell (James Iglehart), McGee (Leon Isaac Kennedy) and Morelli (Carmen Argenziano), steal a shipment of gold bars from a U.S. military base and fence it to a man called "The Chinaman" (Vic Diaz) for a large sum of cash. Morelli and McGee betray Russell, stab him and toss his body overboard the boat they are in as they head back to the States. While Morelli and McGee establish themselves as heads of a criminal empire in Los Angeles, Russell washes-up on-shore on an uncharted island occupied by two Japanese soldiers (Joe Mari Avellana and Joonie Gamboa) that have been stranded there since World War II. They nurse Russell back to health and teach him the way of the samurai. Meanwhile, back in the States, McGee moves in on Russell's wife Jayne (Jayne Kennedy) and young son Jimmy (played by James Iglehart's real-life son). Jayne wants nothing to do with McGee, so he interferes in her life, getting her fired from her job as a lounge singer and making sure she can't get another job in any of the other nightclubs around town. Broke and penniless, Jayne is forced to move in with one of her girlfriends, while McGee and Morelli cut a bloody path throughout L.A. trying to wrestle control of all the organized crime activity. Russell is eventually rescued by some American soldiers and he returns to L.A. to look for his wife, but he finds his house empty and up for sale. After finding out about McGee's treachery with his wife, Russell begins murdering all of McGee and Morelli's men with a samurai sword while searching for his wife. Not knowing that it is Russell who is killing their men (they still think he is dead), Morelli and McGee hire some outside muscle to fix their problem. Russell finally finds his wife and when he sets eyes on his young son for the first time, he puts his revenge plans on hold just long enough to make sweet love to his wife and play with his son in the park. Russell then gets back to work, killing the outside muscle, cutting off Morelli's head and delivering it to McGee (who is missing an ear, thanks to an earlier run-in with Russell) in a box. McGee retaliates by kidnapping Jayne and Jimmy and bringing them to his heavily-guarded house in Mexico. Russell shows up, chops-off a few heads and slices into McGee's stomach with his samurai sword in the film's finale. Ah, good-old Nip know-how saves the day!  Originally released to theaters under the title DEATH FORCE, this 70's revenge actioner, directed by Cirio H. Santiago (FLY ME - 1973; T.N.T. JACKSON - 1975), went through a title change in the early 80's to capitalize on Jayne Kennedy's (Santiago's THE MUTHERS - 1976) Playboy cover (the first black woman to do so) and then-husband Leon Isaac Kennedy's recent popularity in Jamaa Fanaka's PENITENTIARY (1979). James Iglehart (Santiago's SAVAGE - 1973; BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN - 1974) is actually the top-lined star here. There is fun to be had, especially the interaction between the two Japanese soldiers, who have been living alone together for so long on the island, they act more like an old married couple rather than soldiers. When Russell suddenly appears on the beach, you can see the jealousy in the eyes of the less-dominate soldier (Gamboa). When he accidentally dies after falling out of a coconut tree, you can view the hurt in the face of his long-standing partner (Avellana). When Russell gets rescued, the lone Japanese soldier chooses to stay behind (he even manages to kill one of the American soldiers in rememberance of the good old days) rather than face the new world. This section of the film is my favorite, as the rest of the film is standard gangster and revenge stuff. The first section of the film details the exploits of Morelli and McGee, as they slaughter a mob hangout with machinegun fire and then kill a mob bigshot and his men in an auto junkyard. The final third of the film is Russell's revenge spree. He slices and kicks his way through a cast of stuntmen until he gets even with Morelli and McGee. This contains all the regular Santiago trademarks: Bloody bullet squibs, numerous martial arts fights and a touch of gore, including Morelli's head in a box and a few pretty good decapitations in the finale. Jayne Kennedy also has a brief nude scene and delivers the film's best line. When McGee offers to be Jimmy's new daddy, she looks at him and says, "He don't need a mother like you to be his father!" Both Carmine Argenziano (Santiago's NAKED VENGEANCE - 1985) and Leon Isaac Kennedy scream out their lines shamelessly, as if everyone were deaf. The script was written by Howard R. Cohen, who also wrote the screenplays to Santiago's COVER GIRL MODELS (1975), VAMPIRE HOOKERS (1979) and STRYKER (1983). FIGHTING MAD (not to be confused with the 1976 action film starring Peter Fonda with the same name) is an OK slice of 70's sleaze. Produced by Robert E. Waters, who co-produced and wrote the 1984 female revenge actioner ALLEY CAT. Also starring Tony Graziano, Leo Martinez, Ken Metcalfe, Armando Federico, Cathy Sabino, Roberto Gonzalez, Allen Arkus, Tony Carrion, Ramon D'Salva and Ernie Carvajal. Released on VHS from Continental Video and available on a double feature DVD (as DEATH FORCE, in its fully uncut 110 minute version) with Santiago's VAMPIRE HOOKERS from Vinegar Syndrome. Rated R.

FINAL CUT (1985) - Stuntman turned actor Kelly Roberts (Jim Raines) travels down to Caddo County, Texas to film some stunt scenes for his newest picture and runs smack-dab into a child kidnapping ring. Kelly's stuntmen friends Smilie (scripter Jordan Williams) and Mark (Brett Rice) join Kelly for a night on the town and meet local girls Annie (Deborah Morehart) and Lou Ann (Carla DeLane) and also meet Sheriff Thompson (J. Don Ferguson), who seems to recognize Mark from an event that happened ten years earlier. Mark warns stunt co-ordinator Wes (T.J. Kennedy) not to trust the sheriff but will not explain why. A little boy goes missing from the hotel the film crew is staying at, which upsets Mark. Kelly starts up a romantic relationship with Lou Ann (who is the sheriff's stepdaughter) and Smilie does the same with Annie. The sheriff has his two hot-headed deputies, Deacon (Wes Foreshaw) and Carter (S.W. Miller), keep a close eye on the foursome. The sheriff corners Mark behind the bar, where we learn that Mark sold his girlfriend's son to the sheriff ten years ago. The sheriff has a lucrative side business where he and his men kidnap children and sell them to the highest bidder. Deacon and Carter knock out Smilie and Deacon rapes Annie. The sheriff then holds them captive in a cabin in the woods until he can figure out what to do with them. Kelly and Lou Ann arrive at Annie's house and find the door busted and a piece of Smilie's front tooth in a puddle of blood on the floor (which Carter broke off with pliers so he couldn't be called "Smilie" any more). When Wes is shot in the back and killed when he gets too close to the children's hideout, Kelly says enough is enough and tries to rescue Smilie and Annie. Marks ends up getting killed trying to save Kelly and Smilie. Kelly and his fellow stuntmen band together to rescue the group of stolen children the sheriff is holding hostage in a shack the deep woods. With a rocket boat and a machine gun at his disposal, Kelly makes mincemeat of the sheriff's men. One of the sheriff's "children" ends Thompson's wretched life with a bullet in his back. This is mainly a showcase for some pretty good stunts (an airplane lands on a moving tractor trailer, the opening motorcycle/car chase and the rocket boat jump) with a dash of mystery and social commentary thrown in for good measure. Director/producer Larry G. Brown (THE PINK ANGELS - 1971) uses the rural locations to good effect as cars race through dirt roads and crash through shacks and the river scenes where the rocket boat roars through the water are filmed with maximum impact. Things start relatively tame but, from the moment when Annie gets raped and Smilie has amateur dentistry performed on his front teeth, things get somewhat nasty. Brown treaded similar ground with his earlier PSYCHOPATH (1973), where children are the focal point in an otherwise unrelated plot. FINAL CUT is a decently acted action film that manages to hold your attention thanks to the natural interaction between the cast (you believe that Smilie, Kelly and Mark have known each other for years). One funny running gag concerns a double-jointed Smilie copping pain pills from an apprehensive film doctor, each time telling him, "This is the last time, I promise." Actress Deborah Morehart would later change her name to Hunter Tylo and appear in soap operas. A Vidmark Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on fullscreen budget DVD from Legacy Entertainment. Rated R.

FINAL SCORE (1986) - Absolutely crazy Indonesian action film that's wrong on so many levels, it makes it a must-viewing experience for anyone who loves mindless bloodshed. The mysterious and brutal Mr. Hawk (Mike Abbott), who shoots his own men for looking at him funny, sends his four best goons to kill Richard Brown (the always staid Chris Mitchum) before he can interfere with Hawk's criminal plans. The goons invade the birthday party of Brown's son Johnny (Dad is away at the store buying his son a toy gun at the time!), where they kill the help, shoot little Johnny in the back and gang-rape Brown's wife (One of the thugs says, "Wanna see what I got in my pocket? as he rapes her!), before shooting and killing her too. When Brown comes home and sees the carnage, he vows revenge and, boy, does he get it! After cornering one of Hawk's thugs and getting the names of the four goons who killed his son and raped his wife, Brown goes off with list in hand looking to do some major damage. Each of the four goons has their own gang, so it's a non-stop barrage of fighting, gunfights and explosions as Brown snaps necks, stabs, shoots and blows-up anyone and anything that gets in his way. He saves the best kills for the four thugs. One gets an axe planted in his back. Another gets shot in the balls and, as he is pleading for his life, Brown puts a bullet between his eyes. The third is blown-up by a grenade while trapped in his overturned car. The fourth one is tied to a chair, has both of his kneecaps shot-off as Brown places a timebomb on his crotch (BOOM!). Finally, Brown invades Hawk's compound with his trusty rocket and machine gun-equipped motorcycle and dispatches Hawk with a maneuver best seen to be believed. Let's just say gravity has nothing on Mr. Brown.  This is grand entertainment for those who like their action and bloodletting devoid of any logic at all. The carnage comes fast and furious, some of it so unbelievable you'll be shaking your head in amazement. In one scene, Brown is captured and being tortured by having his back branded with a red-hot poker. He then breaks free and shoves the same poker up the torturer's ass! There's also a perilous car chase/shootout through the streets of Jakarta that can best be described as delirious (especially the "tree through the windshield" and the "slippery tomatoes" gags). There are too many quotable lines of dialogue (supplied by screenwriter Deddy Armand) to mention, but my favorite one comes early in the film when a crook says to Brown: "Who are you?" Brown replies simply: "Death." No one ever accused Chris Mitchum of being a good actor (watch him trying to emote when he's being tortured to see him at his "best"), but he excels in roles like this where emotion is secondary to running around blowing up shit. Single-monikered director Arizal (SPECIAL SILENCERS - 1979; THE STABILIZER - 1984) delivers the goods in the action department as FINAL SCORE is non-stop from the get-go (so many buildings explode in this that you wonder if producer Gope T. Samtani was also in the housing renewal business) and he also sprinkles a healthy dose of black humor in some scenes. In one scene, where Brown is laying waste to one of Hawk's warehouses, one thug says to another, "You're not afraid to die, are you soldier?" The other one salutes, says "No sir!" and then is promptly gunned down by Brown. Priceless! The dialogue between the goons will make you laugh out loud as they spout line like, "Who are you calling an asshole, you asshole?!" and "Fuck you AND your mother!" So, leave your brain at the door, sit down, press PLAY and enjoy the show. Also starring Ida Iasha, Dicky Zulkarnaen and Zainal Abidin. Available from Vomitbag Video in a nice sharp transfer taken from Japan's Columbia Video label. What are you waiting for? Not Rated.

FIST OF GLORY (1991) - Here's a Filipino-made war actioner with a twist. A group of Army Special Forces commandos, led by Johnny Reynolds (Dale "Apollo" Cook; AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2 - 1993), are sent out on a top-secret mission in the jungles of Cambodia during the final months of the Vietnam War. During an intense battle with the enemy, where they are vastly outnumbered (there are more grenade and rocket explosions than you can shake a stick at), Johnny is seriously injured but is saved by his buddy and fellow team member James Lee (Maurice Smith: BLOODFIST II - 1990). Three months later, when Johnny is released from the hospital in Saigon, he goes to look up James to thank him for saving his life, only to discover that James has gone AWOL. Johnny finds out that James has become a hopeless heroin addict and is working for a Saigon drug lord named Mad Dog Dugan (Bob Larson; ANGELFIST - 1992), who enters James in a martial arts tournament called the Muay Thai Death Duel, where two people enter the Arena of Blood and only one comes out alive. Mad Dog keeps James so pumped-up with heroin that he hardly recognizes Johnny, so Johnny decides to enter the tournament to get close to James and, hopefully, save his life. Johnny teams up with trainer Max Gunther (Robert Marius; WARRIORS OF THE APOCALYPSE - 1985) to get in shape for a series of matches in the Arena of Blood, where Mad Dog promises him that if he wins, he can have a one-on-one match with James. If Johnny wins, he can permanently retire James from the ring and clean him up. Johnny wins all his matches and faces-off with James, who snaps out of his heroin haze long enough the recognize Johnny and they both escape the ring. This doesn't please Mad Dog, who now wants James back. While Johnny detoxes James (it only takes 24 hours!), Mad Dog kills Max, so Johnny and James use their military training to get some good-old American payback. Armed with automatic weapons and explosives, the duo lay waste to Mad Dog and his operation.  Since I try not to read the synopsis on the back of the VHS boxes before I watch a film (most of them give away too much information), I thought this film was going to be a straight war actioner (look at the front of the VHS box and you'll get the same impression). For the first twenty minutes it is, but then it takes a 180-degree turn and becomes a standard BLOODFIST-style martial arts flick and not a very good one at that. Director/screenwriter Jo(e) Mari Avellana (SPYDER - 1988; BLACKBELT II: FATAL FORCE - 1993), a frequent collaborator with prolific Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago (he wrote, or co-wrote, the screenplays to Santiago's FINAL MISSION [1984], FAST GUN [1987] and BEHIND ENEMY LINES [1987], as well as co-starring in his CAGED FURY [1983], SILK [1986], DEMON OF PARADISE [1987], among many others), can't seem to make up his mind what type of film he wanted to make here. It sure didn't help casting non-actor Dale "Apollo" Cook in the lead role, because he is one of the worst real-life martial artists-turned-B-movie action heroes to come out of the late-80's/early-90's. If his line readings were any stiffer, he would be laying on a morgue table waiting for the rib-spreader. Director Avellana, who seems to have a fetish for explosions, does infuse the war portion of the film with a sense of verve (something he picked up, no doubt, from Santiago) and the final ten minutes are also action-packed, but the majority of this flick is just a tired rehash of countless other martial arts tournament films. Since Avellana also wrote the screenplay to the wacky-beyond-words THE KILLING OF SATAN (1983), I'll give him a pass on FIST OF GLORY. Besides, he does manage to include the appearance of a midget during one of the fight sequences. Is there anything more adorable than watching a tiny person running around in nothing but a pair of shorts? No, there isn't! Just what is the Philippines' fascination with dwarves anyway? Is there something in the water supply? The country seems to be overrun with the little suckers. Also starring Eric Hahn, Jim Moss, Tonichi Fructuoso, Geno Bolda, Tony Cooper, Ernie Santana, Jim Gaines and Joe Fischer. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

FIVE DEADLY ANGELS (1980) - The success of TV's CHARLIE'S ANGELS (1976 - 1981) spawned many imitators, including this Indonesian action flick. A scientist named Hardy invents a new type of explosive ("With this type of formula, people can blow up mountains without any danger!" What? How is that fucking possible?), but he worries about it falling into the wrong hands ("If crooks get a hold of it, imagine the bloody big bang it would cause!" What a minute, I thought it was safe!). Immediately after making those statements, Hardy and his girlfriend Yanti (Yati Octavia) are kidnapped, blindfolded and taken to the home of the big boss, Mr. Brutho, who tells Hardy that he either hands over the formula or he will kill Yanti. Fortunately, Yanti (who is an expert marksman) escapes and is saved on the side of a road by Anita (Debby Cynthia Dewi; MYSTICS IN BALI - 1981), a chick in a black leather outfit (complete with black cowboy hat) who beats the crap out of one of Mr. Brutho's goons in super slow-motion, destroying his car in the process. Anita agrees to help Yanti in her quest to rescue her boyfriend (It seems Anita is tired of being mistreated by the "greasers" in town), but first they have to save Yanti's mother and young sister from the clutches of some kidnappers, leading to a comedic car chase that ends with the kidnappers dying in a fiery crash (Not so funny now, is it?). Yanti and Anita stop at a disco for some drinks (Killing bad guys makes you thirsty. It's a known fact. Look it up.), where they watch Dana (Dana Christina; THE STABILIZER - 1984) sing a disco tune in Indonesian and she agrees to help in Yanti's plight (Dana is an expert knife thrower as well as a singer). The trio turns into a quartet when crossbow expert Lydia (Lydia Kandou) joins the team and then turns into a quintet when kung-fu expert Lulu, The Lightning Lady (Eva Arnaz; THE WARRIOR - 1981) takes up arms to join the fight. Lulu beats the snot out of a male motorcycle gang in a restaurant (complete with transvestite waitress!), where in one hilarious scene, a restaurant patron swallows a raw egg and coughs-up a live baby chick! When two of Brutho's goons kidnap Anita, the other four girls rescue her and tie-up the two goons, leaving each one of them a "gift": a live crab shoved down their pants! When Mr. Brutho is finally successful in kidnapping Yanti's mother and baby sister, Yanti and the four superhero chicks perform a daring raid on Brutho's compounds, resulting in death, destruction (including one hellacious explosion) and a helicopter rescue, where each of the women use their individual talents to good effect. Hooray for female power!  This is a hilariously bad action flick, complete with awful dubbing (where everyone speaks with an Australian accent), badly-staged action scenes (which are either cranked-up in the camera way too fast or way too slow, giving some sequences, such as the car chases, a Keystone Kops feel, and other sequences, such as the women running or fighting in super slow-motion, a SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN look, complete with the patented Steve Austin sound effects!) and comedy mixed with sudden tragedy. That's what makes these Indonesian action films so wonderful to watch. No matter how hard you try, you can't possibly anticipate what's to come next. Director/screenwriter Danu Umbara (JUNGLE VIRGIN FORCE - 1982) consistantly surprises the viewer here, such as when Lydia's obese female assistant Fatsy pisses in her pants when Lydia shoots an apple off her head with a crossbow or the head-scratching sequence where Dana breaks out into song to cheer-up Yanti and we're then treated to a pre-MTV music video montage of Dana singing on a beach while wearing a variety of bikinis. Particularly funny is the dastardly Mr. Brutho, who precedes all his dialogue by saying "I'm a good man!" and then doing simply awful things, like shooting his own men for fucking-up, siccing his dogs on his girlfriend for trying to help Hardy escape or hanging Yanti's young sister over a pit of poisonous snakes to force Hardy to turn over the formula. The film is also full of oddball characters (one of Brutho's best goons has a scar on the side of his face that looks like a giant leech), explosions and a smattering of gore, so why not sit back, put your brain in neutral and just get lost in the craziness that is known as FIVE DEADLY ANGELS? It's worth the dead brain cells. Danu Umbara directed a sequel the following year, CEWEK JAGOAN BERASKI KEMBALI (which roughly translated means "The Deadly Angels Strike Back"), starring Dewi, Christina and Arnaz, but it doesn't seem to have received an English-friendly home video release. Also starring Rakhmat Hidayat, Cok Simbara, Dorman Borisman, Agust Melasz, Ade Irawan, Suzy Bolle, Malino Djunaedy, Ramli Ivar, Evie Susanto and Eddy Yonathan. This did get a very limited VHS release in the U.S. on the obscure Video Link label (I never heard of them before!); the print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Those fucking Dutch were some very lucky bastards. Not Rated.

FORCE: FIVE (1981) - An assassin fails to kill Reverend Rhee (Master Bong Soo Han; THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK - 1974), the leader of The World Wide Church, a Jim Jones-like religious cult, when the Reverend's head goon, Carl (Bob Schott), catches him before he can pull the trigger, forcing the Reverend to torture the assassin with acupuncture needles until he gives up his employer. After finding out that the employer is William Stark (Michael Prince), an old nemesis of the Reverend who lost the use of both of his legs the last time they met, the Reverend apparently lets the assassin go free, only to be killed by something that roams the underground corridors of the Reverend's cavernous mansion cellar. Stark hires black belt Jim Martin (Joe Lewis; JAGUAR LIVES - 1979) to put together a team of specialists to enter the Reverend's Palace of Celestial Tranquility (basically a secret place where the Reverend brainwashes his members) and rescue Cindy Lester (Amanda Wyss), the daughter of a rich businessman who has fallen for the Reverend's religious mumbo-jumbo. Jim picks five people he has worked with in the past to make up his team and we are introduced to them in a series of brief vignettes to show us their fighting skills: Billy (Benny Urquidez), Lockjaw (Sonny Barnes), Ezekial (Richard Norton; RAIDERS OF THE SUN - 1991), Laurie (Pam Huntington) and Willard (Ron Hayden), whom the rest break-out of an Ecuadorian prison. Carl kills Stark by attaching his useless legs to cables connected to cars going in the opposite direction (drawn and half-quartered, if you will), but the Force: Five team (shouldn't they be called Force: Six?) continue with their mission to rescue Cindy. The team goes undercover as the aides to Senator Forrester (Peter MacLean), who has come to the Reverend's fortress on a goodwill tour, mainly to make sure that there are no people there being kept against their will. The detection of an undercover newspaper reporter who has infiltrated the Church nearly blows the team's identity, but the Reverend deals him with in the same manner as the assassin earlier in the film. It all comes to a boil when the Reverend plans to kill the Senator and all the other interlopers in a helicopter crash. Expect a lot of flying feet and fists before this film wraps up.  This martial arts actioner, directed and written by Robert Clouse, who gave us such 70's & 80's drive-in classics like ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), BLACK BELT JONES (1974), GOLDEN NEEDLES (1974), THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (1975), THE PACK (1977), GAME OF DEATH (1979), DEADLY EYES (1982) and the unforgettable GYMKATA (1985), may not represent Clouse at his prime, but there are glimpses of brilliance here. Particularly interesting are when Jim and his team break Willard out of prison, causing death and destruction, only to discover that Willard is living the high life behind bars (his cell is enormous and contains a huge projection TV, a sectional sofa and a separate bedroom!) and is bedding the warden's beautiful daughter. The only reason Willard agrees to go with them is because they ruined the good thing he had going there (especially when the warden finds out about his daughter!). There's also the mystery as to what roams the basement corridors of the Reverend's Palace of Celestial Tranquility (which is given away if you look at the patch worn by the Reverend's followers); the Reverend's punishment of a quartet of his men who fail to properly guard the huge stash of drugs and guns he has in his warehouse (think very sharp spurs and exposed necks); and lots of martial arts fights with plenty of over-amped sound effects. It's apparent that Clouse based his screenplay on the Jim Jones tragedy in Guyana (this is also an unofficial remake of director Oscar Williams' HOT POTATO [1976], minus most of the humor), but Jim's team makes sure that the outcome is not the same (no mass suicide here), just lots of fights, a smidgen of gore (when Richard Norton kills a man by tossing a rotary saw blade into his stomach, he says, "Thank God for Black and Decker!") and the Reverend's ability to turn himself invisible (a talent I don't believe Jim Jones had). FORCE: FIVE is entertaining in a mindless sort of way and head-and-shoulders above Clouse's (who died in 1997) later films, including CHINA O'BRIEN (1990), CHINA O'BRIEN 2 (1991) and IRONHEART (1992; his last film). Not to be confused with the 1975 TV movie FORCE FIVE, which has an eerily similar plot. Hmmmm... Also starring Tom Villard (POPCORN - 1991) as a fervent Church disciple, Dennis Mancini as the unfortunate reporter and Mel Novak (SWORD OF HEAVEN - 1984) as the assassin. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and, according to Amazon.com, it was once available on DVD in the States through a company called Rising Sun Productions (I've never seen a scan of it anywhere), although there are Australian and German DVDs readily available for people with multi-region DVD players. Now Available on a beautiful anamorphic widescreen DVD from Scorpion Releasing. Rated R.

GOLD RAIDERS (1983) - A plane containing $200 million in gold bars is shot down while flying over Laos. The CIA, working with the Thai government, sends a team, led by ex-lovers Mark Banner (a badly-dubbed Robert Ginty) and Cordelia Dubois (Sarah Lagenfeld), to retrieve the gold in the crashed plane in the Laos jungle before the enemy gets their hands on it to purchase weapons for their revolution. Before they take off, one of the team members is captured by an opium warlord (simply called "Chief") and he agrees to lead the warlord's men to the gold in exchange for his life and a share of the gold. Mark, Cordelia and the team (with a new member to replace the captured one) paddle down the Mekong River disguised as gooks and are almost captured by enemy soldiers, but the appearance of a shark (!) enables them to get away. While Cordelia is scuba diving looking for a missing weapons cache, some enemy scuba divers appear and, before you know it, there's a major underwater speargun/knife-fight underway. Mark, Cordelia and the team (now known simply as the Gold Raiders) get away, thanks to some well-placed underwater mines and submergable water scooters. They make it to an enemy outpost, where we witness a bald-headed Thai General (Pichai Vasnasong) with a wooden leg rape a woman and then kill two of his own men when they don't repair a broken American helicopter fast enough (he grabs an automatic rifle and shoots the helicopter, blowing it to smithereens, along with the two mechanics). After the General leaves, the Gold Raiders kill all the enemy soldiers at the outpost and meet their secret connection, who supplies Mark with a prototype flying "missile motorcycle" that runs on magic "crystals" rather than gasoline. The evil General is assigned by his superiors to find the missing gold, so he goes to a jungle village (where the local dogs surround him and try to bite his wooden leg!) and tries to locate one of the downed plane's pilots, who parachuted out of the plane before it crashed and is now hopelessly in love with a local blind girl. The pilot and the blind girl find the Gold Raiders instead and now it's a race between three parties to find the crashed plane and the missing gold. Who will come out on top?  I seriously wanted to dislike this film from the moment I heard Robert Ginty's (THE EXTERMINATOR - 1980; WHITE FIRE - 1982) poorly-dubbed voice (I guess they couldn't pay him enough to stick around and dub his own voice), but the fact of the matter is that this Thailand-lensed flick, directed/produced by P. (Philip) Chalong (real name: Chalong Pakdivijit; H-BOMB - 1973; KUNG FU BROTHERS - 1973; THE LOST IDOL - 1990; IN GOLD WE TRUST - 1990), is so goofy and full of "What The Fuck?" moments, it won me over almost immediately (In the beginning of the film, the downed plane's pilot deploys his parachute and crashes through the roof of a hut. The blind girl asks, "What's that noise?" A little boy answers, "Someone's dropped in!"). There's also a half-hearted attempt at social relevance about taking sides in a political war where there can be no winners, but it's hard to take it seriously when the film is full of scenes like the one where the drunk General picks the tribal leader's daughter ("Hey, I want that young one there!") and removes his wooden leg before he rapes her, only to have his leg stolen by the tribal leader's dog! There's also the scene where the missile motorcycle (it's nothing but a motor scooter mounted on a hang glider) takes flight in the air, but not before magically sprouting two huge training wheels on the back wheel (Where the hell did they come from?). Toss in two attacks by the biggest red-eyed vampire bats I've ever seen, lots of bloody violence (stabbings, bullet hits, knives tossed into the foreheads of enemy soldiers, exploding bodies and a hatchet to the neck) and an American villian called "Dr. Pinkeye", and what you end up with is a nonsensical, thoroughlly entertaining action flick with a few surprises along the way. My favorite line comes towards the end of the film when Cordelia is shot dead by an enemy soldier and Mark looks at her lifeless body and says, "Is she dead?" Simply priceless. At 109 minutes, GOLD RAIDERS little overlong, but it still manages to hold your interest throughout. Leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride. Also starring William Stevens, Dusty Rhodes (not the wrestler with the same name), Sombat Krung Ron, Manop Noppol Reed, Nawarat Lalana Vasana and Somchai Poom Rong. A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on widescreen Japanese DVD. Not Rated.

THE GREAT SKYCOPTER RESCUE (1980) - What a total piece of crap! This is the type of film where everyone exists in some type of screwed-up alternate universe, where a radio disc jockey wears a space suit (complete with helmet) while doing a solo show in his cramped booth and everyone owns their own portable flight machine (be it airplane, glider, hot air balloon or skycopter). When a motorcycle gang blows up the van of radio disc jockey Jimmy Jet (Terry Michos), amateur pilot Will Powerski (Paul Tanashian) drops out of the sky in one of his hand-built portable airplanes and offers Jimmy a ride home. After explaining his last name to Jimmy by simply stating, "I'm Polish!", Will flies Jimmy to his home and shows Jimmy his newest invention, the "skycopter", a combination helicopter/airplane. The main plot deals with oil being found underneath the town of Libertyville and a crooked real estate developer, by the name of Mr. L.B. Jason (William 'BLACULA' Marshall, in an embarassing low point in his career), who tries to keep the oil discovery secret and attempts to buy all of Libertyville's land. He hires the same motorcycle gang that blew up Jimmy's van to terrorize the town and, with the help of corrupt Sheriff Burgess (Aldo Ray, who else?), Mr. Jason plans on scaring all the townspeople out of their homes, thereby buying their properties at rock-bottom prices. Will and Jimmy become fast friends and then business partners. They soon catch on to Mr. Jason's plan and battle the motorcycle gang from the air. That's about the whole plot in a nutshell. The rest of the unrelenting 96 minute running time is filled with endless scenes of skycopters in flight (a late 70's fad that, thankfully, never caught on because they are noisy as hell), a motorcycle gang that is about as scary as a toothless old woman gumming corn on the cob and some of the worst action scenes in late 70's cinema. The finale finds Will calling on all his friends, who all own one type of flying machine or another, to lead an aerial assault on the town of Libertyville, as they drop explosives on the bikers while Wagner's "Flight Of The Valkryies" plays on the soundtrack. The town then celebrates at a disco. You've been hustled!  When you find out that this film was directed/produced and co-written by Lawrence D. Foldes, who also made the notoriously-bad films NIGHTSTALKER (1979), YOUNG WARRIORS (1983) and NIGHTFORCE (1986), you basically know what to expect here: Bad acting, awkwardly-staged action sequences and some washed-up stars earning some extra booze money (Aldo Ray stayed smashed thanks to roles in films like this). Most of the film plays like some G-rated kiddie fare but, every once in a while, Foldes throws in a swear word or some nudity (including some bare-assed shots of male stars Michos and Tanashian) to try to fool you into believing that you're watching something adult. William Marshall seems to have filmed all his scenes on one set in a single day. He looks extremely embarassed spouting such cringe-worthy dialogue like, "That lard-ass sheriff can be bought with a keg of beer!" or "Oh God, how I love to take advantage of the underdogs!" in his distinctive baritone voice. It's like watching Sir Laurence Olivier perform in a Three Stooges short. The motorcycle gang seen here is about as frightening as a bunch of 3 year-olds on tricycles. Their idea of scaring the town into submission consists of setting cars on fire, disrupting some drive-in restaurant customers' meals and one gang member steals a girl's ice cream cone! GILLIGAN'S ISLAND's Professor, Russell Johnson, puts in a quick cameo as Will's friend, Professor Benson (typecasting 101), who supplies Will with all the explosives he'll need to take back the town from those nasty bikers. This awful action film was filmed in 1980, but wasn't released until 1982. Doesn't that tell you all you need to know? Believe it or not, this film was "Produced in association with the Academy of Science Fiction and Horror Films Internship Program". That could explain why that academy's president, Dr. Donald A. Reed, was Casting Director here. Also starring Alex Mann, Terri Taylor, Maria Rebman, Kim Johnson and Richard Adams. This Cannon Films Release escaped on home video courtesy of MGM/UA Home Video in one of their patented big box flipper cases. Not Rated.

H-BOMB (1973/1976) - Someone is killing the world's best CIA agents in this Thailand-lensed actioner from the always-dependable P. Chalong (KUNG FU BROTHERS - 1973; S.T.A.B. - 1976; GOLD RAIDERS - 1983; THE LOST IDOL - 1990; IN GOLD WE TRUST - 1990). The first CIA agent is blown-up in mid-air while parasailing. The second agent is shot point-blank in a train car by a shady character with a silencer-equipped pistol. The dunderheads back in Washington D.C. are extremely worried, because those dead agents were sent to Thailand to retrieve a stolen experimental missile, codenamed "Project Alpha", with a 20 megaton warhead. The D.C. dickheads believe one of four people or groups can be responsible for the theft of the missile and the deaths of the agents: Power-mad General Yang; brutal businessman Jake Koo; a group of ninja-clad nutjobs called the Fuji Terrorists; or that old Cold War standby, the KGB. Washington decides to send another CIA agent to Thailand to uncover the truth, the hugely successful and unorthodox Eddie Fulmer (a badly-dubbed Christopher Mitchum; FINAL SCORE - 1986), who fakes-out Koo's waiting henchmen by dressing as a priest as he steps off the plane (the henchmen end up following the wrong guy!). Eddie is informed by his CIA contact that he must cozy-up to Erica (Olivia Hussey, Mitchum's co-star in THE SUMMERTIME KILLER [1972]), who happens to be Eddie's ex-girlfriend AND the daughter of Jake Koo (boy, that's some coincidence). Koo is working in cahoots with General Yang to gain possession of Project Alpha (who really has possession of it is not made clear). Eddie joins forces with Thai Secret Service Agent Winlock and Officer Lila when they save Eddie from an attack by the Fuji Terrorists. Luckily, today is Erica's birthday, so Eddie attends her huge party and meets daddy Koo and his head henchman Zeke (Krung Sivilat), who is instantly wary of Eddie after this hilarious exchange: Zeke (after shaking hands with Eddie): "You've got a smooth touch." Eddie: "Yeah, well I cream twice a day with Bonds." (I nearly shit my pants!). Koo orders Zeke to keep an eye on Eddie, who ends up falling back in love with Erica, but her father has promised her hand in marriage to Zeke. Someone tries to kill Eddie at the party, which leads to a car chase that ends with the bad guy decapitating himself when he rams his car into the blades of a crane at a junkyard. Things get complicated when the KGB tries to kidnap Erica, but Zeke saves her (another car chase with a couple of good stunts); the Fuji Terrorists make another attempt on Eddie's life (Won't they ever learn?); and Eddie and Zeke duke it out for Erica's hand (Eddie loses and ends up chained to a dungeon wall, pumped full of truth serum). More complications arise when Eddie is brought on a raid of the Fuji Terrorists' camp by Koo and Zeke to test his loyalty, only to have the raid be a trap set up by Koo's girlfriend, who is actually a Fuji Terrorist (even the bad guys can't trust each other!). The trio manage to escape by stealing a helicopter, which leads to a finale involving a runaway train and a ship containing the now-activated Project Alpha, ready to release its 20 megaton glory. Who will survive?  First of all, you must abandon all logic and believable dialogue (the Australian dubbers hilariously mispronounce "Asia" as "Aser", "Alpha" as "Alpher" and tend to add a hard "r" sound to any word ending in a vowel) if you wish to experience the full joy that is H-BOMB (made in 1973, but not released to English-speaking countries until 1976). Director P. Chalong (real name: Chalong Pakdivijit) and screenwriter Pracha Poonitwat (!) toss-in numerous gunfights, car chases, explosions and good old hand-to-hand combat to go along with the ridiculous romantic rivalry subplot. Throughout the film, Chalong manages to create some oddball sights, such as topless bodypainted go-go dancers; Koo's control room, where he not only keeps tabs on every room in his palatial mansion, he also plays chess against a super computer (and wins!); a helicopter explosion; a plane explosion; a head-on collision between two trains (no models here, this is the real deal); and other sequences best seen by the viewers, including a James Bond-inspired opening and closing tune, where an unidentified male singer, trying to sound like Tom Jones, informs us over and over, "Oh, the end is near!". There are enough double and triple crosses here to fill a puzzle book, so be prepared to keep your eyes and ears on the screen. H-BOMB is another winner in the pantheon of Far East action weirdness. This Golden Harvest theatrical release, presented by Raymond Chow, was originally released on VHS in the U.S. by Cinema Group Home Video and can now be purchased on VCD (widescreen, English-dubbed with non-removable Chinese subtitles) from Hong Kong outfit Fortune Star/Joy Sales Film and Video Distributors as part of their Legendary Collection series. Not Rated.

HILL 171 (1987) - In this Filipino actioner, a retired Army sergeant (George Camero) puts his old squad together to find a hidden drug factory located somewhere near the border. The squad, which consists of champion boxer Johnny (Yusif Salim; WILD FORCE - 1986; KRIS COMMANDO - 1987); expert swimmer Ronald (Ronald Miller; CLASSIFIED OPERATION - 1985); sharpshooter Frankie (Alfred Talby), who can only shoot straight when he's drunk; expert climber Tarzan (Ben Aladin); movie stuntman Bruce (Philip Castel); and expert knife-thrower Slater (Robert Buharis); split-up into groups of two and search different locations near the border for the drug factory (but not before we get little peeks into their individual talents, which culminates in a big fight on a lumberyard movie set). Johnny and the Sergeant go digging in the woods looking for clues of marijuana planting and Johnny asks a young girl named Michelle (Jenny Ferris), who lives in a hut nearby, if he can borrow a pickaxe (he lies to Michelle, telling her he's a geologist working for the UN). Tarzan, Slater and Frankie hang out in a bar to see if they can get some intel on who is running the drug factory and end up getting into a bar fight (What would a Filipino actioner be without a bar fight?), when the Big Boss' girl Emma won't quit dancing with Tarzan (who wears a loincloth instead of pants!). Ronald and Bruce take jobs at the local quarry, where Ronald meets the foreman's sister Vicky and two local workers take an instant dislike to the new pair. Later that night, Johnny and the Sergeant have dinner with Michelle and her widowed mother and a romance develops between Johnny and Michelle. Her Mom gives the Sergeant a suspicious look when he asks if she has noticed anyone planting a large amount of crops in the area. The next morning, Ronald and Bruce end up fighting the entire quarry when a $200 bet on a boxing match goes terribly wrong. All of this activity naturally raises the suspicions of the big drug boss, known as the Commander (a common name given to both bad and good guys in Filipino cinema), so he orders his henchmen, Weasel and Eddie, to kidnap Michelle. The Sergeant and his team formulate a plan to bring the drug operation down and save Michelle, so they follow quarry foreman Bobby as he makes a drug drop. After a small fight where some of Bobby's contacts are killed or captured, Bobby spills his guts to the team as long as they protect his sister, Vicky. It seems the Commander's drug factory is located on a heavily guarded parcel of land called Hill 171. The team devises a plan to sneak up Hill 171, unaware that the Commander and his men are waiting for them (The Commander says, "This is going to be just like a turkey shoot!" as his men laugh hysterically). The bloody finale finds everyone dead, except for two. Can you guess who they are? I bet you can.  Though way too comical for its own good (There are many jokes made about Tarzan's smelly penis, which one member of the team calls his "stinky monkey") and an uncredited screenplay that goes off on way too many tangents (mainly used as excuses to introduce some badly choreographed martial arts fights), director Romeo Montoya (as far as I can tell, his only directorial credit) redeems himself in the final third of the film when members of the team get to use their unique talents to assault the drug factory on Hill 171. Up until this point, a gun is only fired on two occasions (once to kill a drug smuggler in the film's opening shot and another to shoot one of Bobby's contacts) and there are no explosions at all, but once the team make it up the hill and enter the drug factory, the bullets start to fly and things begin blowing-up in fiery glory. Still, HILL 171 lacks the non-stop insanity we've come to expect from 80's Filipino action cinema and points are deducted when the final assault is filmed in the dead of night and is woefully underlit, making it impossible to make out who is getting shot or dying. Thankfully, the battle rages until the sun rises, so we do get to see some of the good guys use their talents and the bad guys receiving their just desserts, before most of the good guys also end up dead (usually by being shot in the back). In the end, though, HILL 171 merely registers as a minor example of what the Philippines was capable of turning out in the action genre. It's not necessarily a smelly monkey, but it's no breath of fresh air, either. This Sunny Film Production (produced by Ann Hung and Sunny Lim), presented by Davian International Ltd., never had a legitimate U.S. home video release. The version I viewed was sourced from the British VHS tape on the Solid Gold Video label. Not Rated.

HOLLOW POINT (1995) - All action films should be this entertaining. A deft blend of comedy and action, this film is sure to please even the most jaded filmgoer. An ex-DEA agent (Thomas Ian Griffith, the vampire master in John Carpenter’s VAMPIRES - 1998) and an FBI agent (Tia Carrere) join forces with a loony hitman (an unbelievably funny Donald Sutherland) to bring down a nasty financier (John Lithgow) who is instrumental in bringing together the three largest criminal organizations of the world. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake and everyone has their reasons for getting their hands on it. Laugh out loud funny (how many action films can make that statement?), this film could have failed miserably but, thanks to the four leads, it hits nearly every one of its’ marks. Griffith impresses as the pill-popping DEA agent who shows some real comedic talent, both verbal and physical. He and Carrere (who was also in the excellent THE IMMORTALS - 1995) have great chemistry together. Witness the scene where they display their love by shooting each other in their bulletproof vests! It’s hilarious. The real standout, though, is Sutherland as the lovable, but dangerous hitman. His performance is great fun. John Lithgow is no slouch either. We all know his comedic talent is immense. But an action film is nothing without the action. Director Sidney J. Furie (DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN -1962, THE ENTITY - 1983) brings it on fast and furious, with car crashes, gun battles and hand-to-foot combat on ample view. This movie is fun to watch, unlike Furie’s SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987) and LADYBUGS (1992). After viewing HOLLOW POINT, I forgive him for his past sins. Don’t take my word for it, rent it. A Trimark Home Video Release. Rated R.

HOLLYWOOD COP (1986) - You know you're in for something very "special" when, in the opening credits, the actors' names are shown as stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The ineptitude that follows is truly staggering. The film opens with Mob boss Mr. Feliciano (the stoic Jim Mitchum) ordering his goons to kidnap a little boy from mother Rebecca (Julie Schoen), whose husband stole six million dollars from Mr. Feliciano three years earlier (why he's ordering the kidnap now, rather than three years ago, is never explained). Unable to locate her husband or come up with six million dollars for the ransom, Rebecca turns to Hollywood cop Turquoise (David Goss; SHE - 1983), or "Turquey" for short. We first spot Turquey breaking up a rape in a motel room, where everyone involved is shot multiple times and the rapist has his hand, then head, cut off by the raped woman's husband (you have to see it to believe it). After being chewed-out by boss Cameron Mitchell, Turquey and partner Jaguar (late exploitation vet Lincoln Kilpatrick; THE OMEGA MAN - 1971) help Rebecca find her son. This leads to an all-woman oil wrestling match, where Jaguar wrestles two women for $20 and afterwards they get an address for Rebecca's husband. They find him but he needs three days to get the money together.  He finally gets the money (I guess nothing happened for three days) and they devise a plan to rescue the boy (it's not much of a plan, really). Meanwhile, the little boy, who is always being threatened with physical harm by a goon named Animal ("Eat your sandwich, you little chicken-shit!"), befriends a dog he talks to through his barred window. The dog helps the kid escape (!), which leads to a chase where the dog is killed and the kid being smacked around by Animal.  When Rebecca's husband tries to pay the ransom with counterfeit money (he's not the sharpest tool in the shed), he is killed and the kid is not rescued. Turquey is booted off the force after the failed rescue attempt and then goes on a one man vendetta to bring those responsible to justice or to just meet their maker.  I can't begin to explain the wonderful awfulness of the Iranian-funded film. Director Amir Shervan, who would later make KILLING AMERICAN STYLE (1988) and the even more loopy SAMURAI COP (1989), hasn't the foggiest idea how to make a remotely coherent film. The camera setups are all over the place (no two edits in the same scene ever match), the action laughable (There's one scene where Jim Mitchum is running with the kid in his arms and he trips and falls right on the kid! I doubt that it was scripted.), the acting piss-poor (It's apparent the director used a lot of non-actor friends in the roles of Feliciano's goons, probably because they contributed to the budget.) and the dialogue risable ("You're no Clint Westwood." and "My stomach is a TUMS festival!" are two lines Cameron Mitchell has to deliver with a straight face.). The film is also a racist's dream come true, as there are jokes about Orientals not being able to say the word "Chevrolet" correctly, jokes about Blacks being on welfare (not to mention Jaguar being portrayed as someone more interested in chasing women than dispensing justice) and the film is strewn with Italians with names like "Spaghetti". Toss in copious amounts of nudity, bad dubbing, over-the-top violence, gore and Aldo Ray as an Oriental Triad boss named Mr. Fong (!) and what you get is the PLAN 9 of action films. Many of the scenes in HOLLYWOOD COP look like they were shot in one take (some people can be seen waiting for the director to yell "Action!" before they move) and it's plain to see that Jim Mitchum (CODE NAME: ZEBRA - 1986) looks like he want out as soon as possible. Still, it's entertaining, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. Know this before you go in and you may have a great time. Also starring Troy Donahue, Larry Lawrence and Brandon Angle. Originally released on VHS by Celebrity Home Entertainment. A Digital Works DVD Release. Not Rated.

HUMAN PREY (1994)  -  Shot on video crapola about a psychiatrist (Cliff Drew) who goes over the edge and begins murdering people, including his own patients. This extremely low rent version of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) has absolutely nothing to offer the viewer as it is wretchedly acted, poorly scripted, badly photographed and sound recorded with two tin cans and a string. I hate shot on video movies and I can usually spot them from a mile away. The video distributors must be getting wise to my technique as they are releasing shit like this with flashy, professionally-done video boxes to disguise the fact that there’s crap inside. I really believe that if it is shot on video it should say so on the box. This piece of dreck also stars Gloria Lusiak, Mickey Levy and Lena Pointer. They, along with director/writer James Tucker, should be forced to watch this turd over and over for all eternity. From Vista Street Entertainment Home Video (who turned out those wretched WITCHCRAFT films), a company that will get no more of my business. Not Rated.

INFERNO THUNDERBOLT (1985) - Another cut-and-paste actioner from director/screenwriter Godfrey Ho and producers Joseph Lai & Betty Chan (for their IFD Films And Arts Limited production outfit) that contains the word "Thunderbolt" in the title (see my reviews of MAJESTIC THUNDERBOLT [1984], MAGNUM THUNDERBOLT [1985] and SCORPION THUNDERBOLT [1985]). Since the word Thunderbolt has no meaning in any of these films, let's just say that Ho & Lai like to use the word and move on. As usual for these pastiche films, INFERNO is actually two films in one: The most lengthy section being an unreleased Taiwanese revenge thriller (originally titled THE ANGER [1983], directed by Luk Siu-Fan) and the new footage being inserts of Richard Harrison (who else?) battling some bad guys every 15 to 20 minutes. The old footage concerns itself with a woman named Allison (Fonda Lynn; DEADLY DARLING - 1985) trying to avenge the murder of her younger sister at the hands of the Rockford Family, one of Kowloon's most notorious crime syndicates who have their hands in every dirty business in town, including female mud wrestling (I don't know if it's illegal, but it sure is dirty!). Allison goes undercover and takes a job as a waitress at one of Rockford's mud wrestling joints and when she gets pulled into the mud and defeats the champion, she immediately catches the eye of Johnny Rockford (Wang Tao), who summons her to his home the next day (He's sitting in a hot tub and says to Allison in dubbed halted English, "The burden...of earning a living...rest heavily...on pretty girls. I want to help you!"). Allison turns down his offer (and sexual advances), which doesn't sit too well with Johnny. He orders a hit on reporter Claire (Claire Angela), who is doing an in-depth article on the Rockford Family's illegal dealings. This is where the newly-shot footage comes into play. Claire is the wife of cop Richard (Harrison) and at first Johnny intimidates Claire by leaving the decapitated head of her pet dog in her kitchen drawer. Instead of giving up, Claire continues writing her story, much to Richard's despair (She manages to keep his mind off the situation by having a long, sweaty and nude lovemaking session with him!). Claire is eventually killed by a paid assassin (Pierre Tremblay) hired by Johnny (She is bloodily beaten across her back with a chain) and dies in Richard's arms. Richard turns vigilante and uses photos in Claire's camera to identify the assassin and begins hunting him down. Meanwhile, with the help of ex-boyfriend Michael, Allison pretends to be Johnny's girlfriend and he brings her home to meet Mama Rockford (Mona Liu), the wheelchair-bound matriarch of the Rockford Family. Mama takes an instant dislike to Allison (She says to Johnny, "Play around with loose women if you want, but as for bringing them home, forget it!") and kicks Allison out of the house (By saying, "We're not a free charity...for freeloaders!"). Of course, Johnny doesn't listen to Mama's advice and begins courting Allison (Johnny even goes so far as to commit his current girlfriend Lily [Rose Kuei] to a mental institution, where she is forced to get daily doses of electroshock treatment!). Allison begins to slowly dismantle the Rockford Family, first by having Michael pretend to be a rooftop sniper; purposely shooting Johnny in the shoulder and making it look like Allison saved him. Johnny then brings Allison home again, only this time he disobeys Mama's orders when she demands Allison leaves the house (Johnny says, "She saved my life and could one day be the mother of your grandchildren!"). As Allison begins pitting son against mother, Richard (who, for some unknown reason, now has an Asian sidekick) buys a big-assed handgun from the black market and begins shaking down and beating the crap out of street scum while looking for his wife's assassin. I have the feeling things aren't going to turn out well for the Rockford Family and their associates.  Even though this has all the earmarks of Ho's cut-and-paste actioners (badly-matched editing of old and new scenes; a music soundtrack full of stolen cues; terrible English dubbing; etc.), the fact is that it is still an entertaining mishmash of good ideas. The older footage is especially interesting, as there is a strange Oedipal relationship between Mama and Johnny ("Don't call me Mother! It's Mama!" she screams at Johnny at one point in the film) and things get really interesting once we discover that Mama's wheelchair is tricked-out with matching spearguns! Allison's taking advantage of that incestuous relationship is also pretty ingenious until she takes it a step too far and it backfires on her (you can't really separate a son from his mother no matter how hard you try), as she, too, is sent to the mental institution for some unwelcome electroshock treatments. In the long run, the Richard Harrison footage is superfluous and destroys the flow of the film proper. You should also be made aware that there is precious little martial arts action or gunplay on view (until the finale), as INFERNO THUNDERBOLT is more interested in the mechanics of revenge than the actual act of revenge itself. That is not to say that there's not plenty of death and destruction (Including a hilarious shot of Claire dropping a melon in slow-motion when she discovers the head of her precious dog. It smashes into a million juicy pieces on the floor in a lame attempt by Ho to symbolize Claire's distress of losing her pet. It's supposed to be sad, but it comes off as quite the opposite.), it's just that most of it comes in the final minutes. I especially loved the scene of Mama shooting a couple of spears into the ass of her other, porn magazine-addicted, son just before she is arrested (Now there's symbolism at it's best!). It's distressing that these Ho/Lai pastiche films get panned as a whole, when there are actually some very good ones in the bunch. INFERNO THUNDERBOLT is one of the good ones. It's not perfect, but it sure is a blast to watch. Also starring Jackie Lim, Donald Kong, Lewis Chan, Kirk Chow and Raymond Wong. Never released on home video in the U.S.; the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape on the Olympic Video label. Not Rated.

THE INTRUDER (1986) - This amazing piece of Indonesian action trash, produced (by the Punjabi Brothers), written (by Deddy Armand) and starring (Peter O'Brian and several others) the same people responsible for the must-see action flick THE STABILIZER (1984), is another beyond-belief experience. In the opening minutes, we are introduced to Rambu (O'Brian), an out-of-work ex-cop who saves a woman from two thugs who have hit her with their car (One thug says to the woman, "Hey lady, look where you're walking!" She replies, "I was!"). Rambu breaks the car's windows with a pipe, beats up the thugs and, to teach them a lesson, repeatedly hits them in the head with his gravity-defying multi-colored rubber ball, which returns to his hand after every throw. Unfortunately, the thugs work for drug kingpin John White (Craig Gavin), who orders his men to kill Rambu. They trap him in a phone booth, put a black cloth sack over his head and beat him with pipes, but he breaks free and beats the bejesus out of them. Mr. White gets mad (He says, "Rambu, Rambu, Rambu! I'm sick and tired of hearing that name!") and orders his right-hand man Bram (Kandar Sinyo) to do whatever it takes to get rid of Rambu. Three of White's men rape and kill Rambu's friend Jenny (Jenny Farida) after stripping her naked in a lake (One thug says, "I'm your lover now!"). When Rambu finds out, he goes to a pool hall where he's about to kill the thugs responsible for Jenny's death, when the police arrest him. He agrees to work for government men Mr. Andre (Kaharuddin Syah) and Steve (Harry Capri) to bring Mr. White to justice. White has his men kidnap Rambu's girlfriend Ella (Lia Warokka) and tie her up spread-eagle in the middle of a field as bait (This is after Mr. White tries to rape her, but is interrupted by his girlfriend). Rambu, his friend Bobby (Adrian Nugraha) and a dozen men come to her rescue riding in three-wheeled electric carts in a scene that must be seen to be believed. Rambu gets Mr. White's safe combination after he beats up Bram then, dressed as a black ninja, goes to White's office and steals incriminating documents out of the safe and hands them over to Mr. Andre. We then find out that Mr. Andre is as crooked as Mr. White, as he uses the documents to bribe Mr. White out of a million dollars. When Rambu finds out, the shit (not to mention lots of food) hits the fan. Rambu goes Rambo in the explosive finale.  This crazy action flick, directed by Jopi Burnama (FEROCIOUS FEMALE FREEDOM FIGHTERS - 1982; WAR VICTIMS - 1985), is full of so many wild action sequences (I still laugh out loud every time I picture Rambu and his rubber ball of doom) and quotable dialogue, your head will swim. My favorite sequence comes at a banquet, when Rambu finds out that Mr. Andre is on the take. He enters the banquet with an aluminum bat and proclaims, "Fuck you! You dirty, lying, swindling bastards. You're two of a kind. Fuck you!" and then proceeds to smash all the food on the tables! In slow motion! Other choice bits of dialogue are: "Just hold it right there, Rambu. We've got you covered like a blanket!" and "Give him the blood red carpet treatment!" Priceless stuff. I also love how Mr. White manages to kill more of his own people than the opposition. He kills his best female drug mule (for ratting to the police), his right-hand man Bram (for giving up the safe combination) and girlfriend Clara (for turning on him). He's one tough man to work for! The final sequence, where Rambu ties a red bandana around his forehead and seeks revenge cements this film from ever getting a legal release on home video in the United States. Forget for the moment that his name is "Rambu", Peter O'Brian bears such a striking resemblance to Sylvester Stallone (not to mention his brother Frank) in the finale, the makers of the RAMBO series of films would surely sue for copyright infringement if this were ever released in America. If you like your action at a fast-pace clip (who doesn't?) and making about as much sense as our present goverment's war policies (If I got hit that many times on the head with a pipe, as Rambu did in the telephone booth sequence, I would either be dead or a drooling vegetable), then THE INTRUDER is the film for you. I love those crazy Indonesians! Also starring Dana Christina, Adang Mansyur and Welan Gerung. The version I viewed was a dub from a Greek-subtitled letterboxed VHS on the Master Home Video label. Not Rated. NOTE: The end credits list Craig Gavin's character as "John Smith" and Lia Warokka's character as "Angela" even though it's plain to hear many times as them being referred to as "John White" and "Ella".

I WANT TO GET EVEN (1987) - Indonesia: Where everyone knows how to fight, women are cheap and bad guys are bald. At least in their movies, that is. This Indonesian rape/revenge action flick (from Rapi Films, Indonesia's main purveyor of sleazy entertainment) opens with a bald, sweaty guy trying to rape a woman in his bed. When she fights back, he gives up and has his men toss her out of the house (his men blindfold and tie her hands behind her back with strips of cloth torn from her dress and then roll her down a hill!). The bald guy (everyone calls him "Boss", a fairly common name in Indonesian genre films) then smokes a joint while scantily-clad women practice martial arts around him. We then cut to him drinking in a disco, where we learn that his real name is Cobra (Rengga Takengon). He hits on cashier Irma (Eva Arnaz), but she turns him down, which doesn't make Cobra happy at all. The film then switches to Rudy (Clift Sangra), who is the husband of Irma, who is pregnant. Rudy has major anger issues, especially when he gets sexually excited. Whenever he gets aroused, he turns violent, which is not good news for Irma and the baby in her belly, especially since her doctor warns Irma that she's going to have a rough pregnancy and any violent jerks or pulls could endanger her baby. Meanwhile, Cobra has his men return to the disco and kidnap Irma (What???). They shoot her up with heroin and place her on Cobra's bed (One of Cobra's men says to him, "Enjoy yourself!"). When Irma fights back, Cobra gives her to his men and they gang-rape her (When one guy is done, another one says to him, "That was quick!"). She escapes before they can kill her and she is picked-up by a friendly pedicab driver and taken home. We then switch to Rudy, who dumps Irma out of his speeding car when he finds out that her baby is the product of the gang-rape by Cobra's men (He says to Irma, just before she flys out the door, "You and your baby are going straight to Hell!"). After slapping around a prostitute, Rudy questions the pedicab driver that drove Irma home and he then goes to beat-up Cobra's men (in an awful display of martial arts), but he is badly punched-around instead. Luckily, the police show up and save his ass, but the bad guys get away. Rudy then throws Irma out of their home when she refuses to get an abortion ("Leave now! I never want to see your face again!"). Things take a turn into the Twilight Zone when Rudy rapes Mia (Nenna Rosier), the sister of Cobra's top henchman Ronnie (Hendro Tangkilisan), in retribution for Irma's rape. Ronnie and his men then ride their motorcycles through Rudy's home, tie him up, drag him behind a motorcycle until they get to Ronnie's hideout and then beat him to a bloody pulp ("I'll teach you for messin' with my sister!"). Irma gets the abortion (We get to see the bloody, aborted fetus!) and Rudy takes her back. Rudy then goes to Ronnie's hideout and kills a couple of Ronnie's men with gunfire. He then heads to Cobra's house, where Ronnie, Mia, Cobra, Rudy and the police duke it out. Irma then shows up dressed like Rambo (!) and kills Cobra with a nifty rocket launcher. What the hell?!?  It's really hard to keep on track with this film because it's told in a confusing, non-linear manner. The dubbing, as always, is atrociously hilarious (You never know what's going to come out of people's mouths, such as when Cobra rapes Mia. He says to her, "Your brother said you'd love it!" while his female goon, who is listening downstairs, performs fellatio on her own thumb!). Let's talk about Cobra for a moment. Besides looking like Sid Haig's retarded brother, it seems that he spends 90% of his screen time raping women while dressed in nothing but white briefs. He's a rather ineffectual rapist, too, as the only woman he really rapes is Mia. When the other women fight back, he loses interest quickly and tosses them to his men. For a film that deals with so much rape, there's very little nudity. The women usually keep their bras and panties on or are filmed at angles where objects in the forefront cover their naughty bits. There is some nudity, but it is only a couple of quick frames and you'll have to hit the Pause button if you want to get a good look. Director Maman Firmansjah (ESCAPE FROM HELL HOLE - 1983) hasn't got the slightest clue how to establish continuity or film an action scene. The timeline is non-existant (I was scratching my head on several occasions, especially with Irma's scenes) and the finale contains the slowest car chase and badly-choreographed fight scenes I've ever seen in an Indonesian actioner (and that's saying a lot). It does contain a nifty body explosion, though, followed by a quote from the Bible! It's still hard to fault a film when the most sympathetic character is Ronnie, a drug dealer and arms smuggler, since he's the only male member of the cast who doesn't rape anyone! He also gives an impassioned speech in the finale, begging his men to give up to the police and accept their punishment. They refuse and Ronnie is shot dead a few seconds later. Ah, Indonesia, how I love thee! Also known as COMMANDO WILDCAT, LADY EXTERMINATOR and VIOLENT KILLER. Also starring Indonesian staples Dicky Zulkarnaen, I.M. Damsyik, Godfried Sancho, Alfian, Tuty Kusnendar and Yona S. Kamarullah. Originally available on VHS in the U.S. from All Seasons Entertainment. Not Rated.

JUNGLE HEAT (1984) - During the final months of the Vietnam War, the U.S. hires a bunch of Vietnam locals to drive supply trucks behind enemy lines. Gordon (a horrendously dubbed Sam J. Jones of FLASH GORDON [1980]) is given three weeks to train them for combat and weapons use and, since they are volunteers and not enlisted men, he wants to tell them how dangerous their assignment is, but his Captain (Christopher Doyle) refuses to let him (The Captain has no problems with the locals losing their lives on this mission and goes off on a rant on how he's tired of this war and would rather be at home with his wife. Duh!). After a long and boring segment where we watch Gordon and Nguyen (Bobby Ming) train the volunteer squad and pit them against each other on a mock driving obstacle course, the film kicks into gear. The squad goes on their first real assignment, driving a convoy of trucks on a dangerous road behind enemy lines. It goes off relatively smooth (except for some spikes in the road), so they all go to a strip club to celebrate and get into a bar fight with some drunk American soldiers (a common theme in films of this type). The film begins to get weird when we see some Vietcong gooks soak local men with gasoline while they are tied to the ground. They then set a (real) rat on fire and set it loose. The gooks then place bets on which of the gasoline-soaked locals the rat will run across, setting them on fire and slowly burning them in an agonizing death (The one local who comes out unscathed is also set on fire once the contest is over!). The volunteer squad's second assignment doesn't go well at all. One of the trucks loses it's brakes, goes over an embankment and explodes. The entire squad is then taken prisoner by the Vietcong (the same gooks involved in the flaming rat episode) and brought to a jungle camp, where they are tortured. One guy is buried up to his neck out in the hot sun, has the hair on his head shaved off and the top of his head slit in two with a razor, exposing his brain. It doesn't end there. The camp's long-haired torturer pours a bottle of poison into the open wound (we know it's poison because the bottle has a picture of a skull and crossbones on it!) and the poor buried sap screams out in pain (we hear a bubbling sound as he screams). The man is in so much pain, he manages to jump out of his dirt-filled hole before he dies! The rest of the film is a series of tortures, escapes and retribution, as members of the squad are beaten, hung upside-down, and bloodily abused. Nguyen (who has his hands impaled together) manages to escape , by painfully pulling his hands down and removing the spike the hard way, and frees his comrades. Nguyen recuperates from his wounds and then leads his men on another convoy mission. On their way back, they hear on the radio that the war is over, but they are ambushed by the enemy (I guess they didn't hear). Some of the men are recaptured by the long-haired torturer, while Nguyen and the rest of his squad must traverse a boobytrap-filled jungle. Nguyen makes it back to safety and hires some soldiers of fortune to free his friends when the Americans refuse to help (The war is over after all). They manage to save one comrade and kill the long-haired torturer. Be prepared for an ironic and pathos-filled ending. I laughed so hard, I nearly split my pants!  This Hong Kong action film doesn't have much to offer the viewer besides tons of hilariously-bad dialogue and a few good deaths, but you'll have to slog through some boring spots to get there. The worst (and most confusing) parts of the film concerns a strip club bar girl who is constantly berating customers about loyalty and how her "dreams have been shattered". It makes no sense. The whole film in general makes no sense, as director/co-scripter Jobic Wong (who seems to have no other directorial credits, but plenty of acting roles) tells the story in such a fragmented manner, it's hard to keep up. One minute Nguyen and his men are being tortured and the next minute we're watching a bunch of men on motorcycles trying to ride underneath a moving logging truck to win a $40,000 cash prize (one guy gets crushed under the wheels of the truck). It's confusing as hell, as if we're watching a film through the eyes of a retard. There are some pretty decent death and torture scenes, including the aforementioned poison scene, a guy getting cut in half with a manual tree saw, a pickaxe impalement, a beheading and a guy (whose mouth is forced open) being made to drink water until he looks like he's pregnant (it's a riff of a scene from CALIGULA - 1979). The problem is, most of these scenes come in the film's final twenty minutes. I could have done without the live rat on fire scene, though (It's plain to see that Hong Kong never heard of the ASPCA). Sam J. Jones is wasted in his role and disappears through most of the film. He doesn't take part in any of the action until the conclusion. Speaking of the conclusion, the final three minutes are so heavy-handed and unexpected, you'll probably vacate your bowels due to the ridiculousness of it all. As far as this film goes, this will probably best sum it up: Watch it for the deaths, stay for the brain damage. Not to be confused with the Peter Fonda-starrer JUNGLE HEAT (1983; a.k.a. DANCE OF THE DWARVES), directed by Gus Trikonis (THE SWINGING BARMAIDS - 1975). Also starring Craig Scott Galper, Chin Horn (I think I knew a girl who played the chin horn!), Lenny Bryce, Robert M. Delahunt, Chen Sing, Lily Ngugen and Lawrence Fang. The print I viewed came from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape, but it is available on DVD from British company Moonstone Entertainment and on German DVD from New Entertainment (English-dubbed version included). Since I have seen neither of these DVDs, I can't verify if they are unedited. Not Rated.

JUNGLE RATS (1987) - When a convoy, that includes General Douglas Conrad (Mike Monty) as a passenger, is ambushed by the VC in South Vietnam in 1968, the General and some of his men are taken prisoner and kept in cages in a secret underground tunnel. The U.S. Government sends five elite "Tunnel Rats" to rescue the General, which consists of team leader John "Blackstar" Smith (Rom Kristoff), communication specialist Jim "Batman" Benson (Michael Welborne), demolitions expert Randy "Boom Boom" Ellis (Jerry Bailey), hothead Pete "Killer" Rayo (Jim Gaines) and tracker Kit Scout (Richard King), a former enemy soldier. The mission is code named "Jungle Rats" and, right off the bat, Smith and Rayo don't see eye-to-eye (When Rayo wants to attack an enemy village, Smith tells him, "Shut your filthy mouth and get back to your place!"). While they are searching the jungle for the entrance to the tunnel, they are attacked by a platoon of enemy soldiers and forced to retreat (Rayo says, "There are a lot of gooks out there!"). When Scout is leading them on a new course, he steps on a land mine, but Smith saves him by using a boulder to replace Scout's weight (If Rayo had his way, he would rather see Scout blow up in a million pieces.). The group meet their inside contact, Mai (Marilyn Lang), in a deserted shack in the jungle (She says to Rayo, "Don't call me bitch!", when he wants to kill her) and she takes them down river to the entrance of the tunnel. Meanwhile, General Conrad  and his men are being tortured (They deliver a human heart to the General's cell and tell him it belongs to one of his men!) and the exasperated General makes a tape recording renouncing the United States' role in the war to make the killing of his men stop. (Turns out the the gooks tricked him, as the heart delivered to his cell wasn't a human one after all.). After Smith and his squad split up to check out some "spider holes" (small tunnels manned by Vietcong snipers), they capture female enemy soldier Votimo (Nancy Hung), who is about to give them the General's location when Rayo rapes and kills her. The squad finally rescue the General, but not before Mai, Ellis, Benson and Rayo (who comes down with a case of tunnel fever) are all killed, either by the enemy or at their own squad's hands.  This Filipino war action film, directed by Teddy Page (BLOOD DEBTS - 1983), using the pseudonym "Irvin Johnson", is a pretty good action flick that has lots of firefights, explosions and even a few surprisingly graphic bits of male and female nudity. Filled with plenty of familiar faces in Philippines-lensed action films, it's nice to see Jim Gaines (RESCUE TEAM - 1983; COMMANDO INVASION - 1986) get a big role for a change, probably because he wrote the uncredited screenplay. Since he's the protangonist of the group (he doesn't trust anyone and wants to kill everyone and everything that gets in his way), he gets the best lines and does the most outrageous things (including the rape of Votimo, whom he brazenly kills before she can tell them the General's location and the cold-blooded murder of fellow squad member Ellis, whom he shoots just for being injured by enemy fire!). When he finally goes full-tilt crazy in a spider hole and tries to kill Smith, his death becomes one of the film's strangest moments. His story is the film's most engaging and director Page wisely devotes the lion's share of screen time on him. You're really not to sure what to make of him until the rape/murder of Votimo, when he reveals that he's nothing but a psychopath in a military uniform. If you like fast-paced war films, with plenty of bullet squibs and explosions (the slow-motion shot of Smith outrunning shacks blowing up behind him in the finale is quite impressive, as is Benson's self-sacrifice, where he takes out a slew of gooks while holding an active grenade), you could do a lot worse than JUNGLE RATS. The plot to this film was rejiggered a bit and remade as BATTLE RATS the following year. Also starring Ronnie Patterson, David Anderson, Eric King and John Miles. Never legally available on home video in the United States, the dub I viewed was ripped from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

JUNGLE WARRIORS (1984) - Six models, their photographer Joanna (Nina Van Pallandt) and manager Larry (Marjoe Gortner, who snorts coke and even says, "Praise God!") travel to some unnamed South American country for a photo shoot and get into the middle of a huge drug deal between Mafia guys Vito (John Vernon) and Nick (Alex Cord) and local drug warlord Santiago (Paul L. Smith) and his assassin sister Angel (Sybil Danning). When the models' plane, piloted by Ben (Kai Wulff), is shot down when it flys too close to Santiago's operation, everyone on board is stranded in the jungle. Ben leads the group through crocodile-infested waters until they come upon a deserted village next to a waterfall. The next day, they are hunted down and captured (Larry is killed by a nasty spiked boobytrap) by Luther (a mute, bow-carrying Woody Strode) and ihis band of Spanish-speaking mercenaries. They are all piled into an armor-plated RV (!) and are driven to Santiago's compound. Ben, Joanna and the models meet Santiago and Ben is decapitated by one of Santiago's men with a machete. The women are all tied up in a dungeon, where Angel slaps and punches the women (she burns one model on the face with a cigarette and cuts another on the face with a machete) and then lets the drooling men rape them all (a hard scene to watch). When Vito and Nick arrive at Santiago's compound to take part in a $20 million cocaine deal, we find out that one of the models, Marci (Mindi Iden), is actually an Interpol agent sent there to get the goods on Santiago's business. The girls get free with the help of an old village woman and they band together to get even for being raped, as well as helping Interpol shut down Santiago, Vito and Nicky. When Marci is killed radioing in their location, Joanna and the remaining girls grab machine guns and fight their way out, while Vito, Nick and their men battle Santiago, Angel, Luther and their gang in the bullet-riddled, explosive finale.  This nasty jungle action flick, directed/produced/co-scripted by Ernst R. von Theumer (HELL HUNTERS - 1986) and co-scripted by Robert Collector (who directed the Linda Blair WIP flick RED HEAT - 1985 and the sci-fi/horror film NIGHTFLYERS - 1987, using the name "T.C. Blake"), is remarkable for one aspect: Killing off the only two male characters (Gortner and Wulff) that could be considered "heroes". While they both do heroic deeds (Gortner grabs a gun off a merc; Wulff comes to Van Pallandt's defense), they both suffer horrible graphic deaths for their acts of bravery. This German-financed, Mexico-lensed action film is short on logic (there's nothing like rape to turn mousey, high-maintenance women into non-stop killing machines) and has underdeveloped characters (Woody Strode's mute character is a waste and all the models are interchangable), but there's enough nudity, mindless carnage (John Vernon's death is a highlight) and goofy dialogue (One guy says to Santiago, "Fatman! Pig! You sleep with your sister!" to which he replies, "She's only my half-sister, you know!") to keep you entertained. I was taken aback by the level of violence here, although it is apparent that some scenes (the mass rape and Vernon's death in particular) were trimmed to achieve an R rating. Look very closely after big Paul L. Smith (DEATH CHASE - 1987) rips the door off the helicopter and lifts John Vernon (door and all!) into the spinning blades. Although we don't see the actual act, there is a shot very shortly thereafter of Vernon's headless, bloody body lying on the ground as Smith takes off in the helicopter. Smith's fight with one of Vernon's goons, where Smith is shot, stabbed and has a bottle broken over his head and he still comes back for more, is also a highlight. One thing that is not a highlight is the theme song, sung by Marina Arcangeli, that plays over the opening and closing credits. Arcangeli sings like someone is tightening thumbscrews to her. It's a screeching, ear-splitting mess. Also starring Dana Elcar, Suzi Horne, Kari Lloyd and Ava Cadell. Released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment. While not available on DVD in the U.S., JUNGLE WARRIORS is available on DVD in many versions in Europe. Rated R. TRIVIA: Dennis Hopper was originally hired to play the role of Larry. He showed up in Mexico high as a kite and was arrested by police in the village they were filming. He was subsequently fired and Marjoe Gortner hired to take his place. Two years later, Hopper would make a comeback in David Lynch's BLUE VELVET, playing a drug-addled gangster!

JUST A DAMNED SOLDIER (1988) - In this modern-day (well, modern-day if you live in 1988) Italian actioner, four mercenaries perform a daring daylight raid on a Cambodian processing plant owned by dastardly millionaire industrialist Mr. Titleman (Steve Eliot; a.k.a. Stelio Candelli of HOTEL PARADISE - 1980) and steal a fortune in unrefined gold, which, after a helicopter chase, a decoy truck and too many explosions and gunfights to count, is loaded on a ship headed for Afghanistan. Ernst (Peter Hooten; 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS - 1982), the leader of the mercenaries, was once friends with Titleman (they served in the Vietnam War together) until he turned-in Ernst's father (something about him being a Nazi Party chief) for a large sum of money. Now, Ernst holds a grudge against Titleman and will do anything to hurt him both professionally and financially. Of course, Titleman doesn't take this latest theft too well and orders his men to hunt down Ernst and his team, Mark (Mark Gregory; BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983), Cisco (Romano Kristoff; NINJA'S FORCE - 1984) and David (David Giberson; BATTLE RATS - 1988), and retrieve the gold. Titleman tortures the pilot of the helicopter that delivered the gold to the ship and extracts the information he needs to track down and kill Ernst and his squad. The first one to die is David, who is lured out of a bar by a paid-off hooker and taken to a secluded section of town, where he is murdered by Titleman with multiple throwing darts to his body (Titleman is an excellent darts player), the final dart puncturing his eye when he refuses to tell Titleman where the gold is. Titleman next sends some well-paid Vietnamese troops to Ernst's home, where they kill his wife (they shoot her in the back), but Cisco and Mark arrive in time to save Ernst's ass. All bets are off, as both sides hunt each other down, using torture (Mark shoves a switchblade in the hooker's mouth and threatens to slit her mouth at the sides if she doesn't tell him who ordered David's death), gunplay and explosives to achieve their goals. Ernst kidnaps Titleman's girlfriend Helen (Cristine Leigh) and threatens to kill her if Titleman doesn't fork over guns and ammunition for Afghan rebels fighting for the freedom of their country (Ernst is a big supporter of a free Afghanistan). When Titleman calls his bluff and tells Ernst to kill her, Helen helps Ernst and his squad raid Titleman's compound, which is full of high-tech weapons and ammunition. Something tells me that there's going to be an explosive finale.  Lensed in the Philippines and directed/scripted by Fernando Baldi (COMIN' AT YA! - 1981; WAR BUS - 1985) using his "Ted Kaplan" pseudonym, JUST A DAMNED SOLDIER (a line actually spoken by Titleman to describe Ernst) is sure to please fans of war action films. It contains more bloody deaths than you can shake a stick at and numerous action set-pieces, including sequences set in such locales as a deserted amusement park, a Vietnam nightclub (where Titleman expects to be entertained by a comedian, but views two of his men hanging dead by their necks on stage instead) and Titleman's compound in the finale. What I found particularly strange about this film is the undercurrent of German bias on display here, from Ernst's family history (Was his father a Nazi or not? I'm afraid we never find out.), to Titleman constantly referring to Ernst as "The Kraut". There are allusions to Ernst and his family changing their names when they moved to America, but it is never expounded upon. Also unusual is that even though Titleman is the villain here, he shows a huge amount of respect for Ernst, even dressing in his old military uniform for the climatic showdown. Even then, when Titleman has the drop on Ernst, he refuses to fire his weapon. When Cisco fatally wounds Titleman, he tells Ernst that he wouldn't have pulled the trigger, but all Ernst does is give him a look of disgust and turns his back on him, which makes me wonder who is actually the villain of this piece. Food for thought, especially if Ernst is a card-carrying Nazi. Still, if you enjoy seeing people getting riddled with bullets and watching things blowing up real nice, mixed with some thought-provoking plot devices, JUST A DAMNED SOLDIER should satisfy your action jones for 92 minutes. Also known as DAMNED GOLD and VIOLENCE HUNTER. Also starring Roger Vivero, Elvie Hoagland, Ilonah Jean, Ernie Zarate, Johan Dolaney and Mike Monty as Schaffner, Titleman's right-hand man. Never available on U.S. home video, the print I watched was sourced from a Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

THE KEEPER (2009) - Well, cut off my balls and call me Shirley! After making such execrable action crap like BELLY OF THE BEAST (2003), SUBMERGED (2005), MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE (2006), FLIGHT OF FURY (2007) and, especially, AGAINST THE DARK (2009), it's good to see that Steven Seagal is finally taking notice and starting to appear as flawed characters, something that Jean-Claude Van Damme has been doing for several years in such notable DTV action films as IN HELL (2003), WAKE OF DEATH (2004) and UNTIL DEATH (2007). Beginning with the better-than-average PISTOL WHIPPED (2008), Seagal began taking roles as people with defects that are far from perfect and I'm glad to report that THE KEEPER is Seagal's best film in years, thanks, in part, to hiring a director known for making offbeat films and a screenplay that's not afraid to go places that may make the viewer feel a bit queasy. Don't get me wrong, this is an action film first and foremost, but it has a human heart that has been missing from the Seagal canon for years. In this film, Seagal portrays Roland Sallinger, an L.A. cop who is shot by his crooked partner, Trevor (Brian Keith Gamble), when the temptation of two million dollars sitting on a table of a drug bust gone bad is too much for him to pass-up. When Roland still has a pulse after back-up arrives and he is taken to the hospital, Trevor heads to the hospital to make sure that Roland doesn't spill the beans. Roland fakes a coma and uses his backup weapon to shoot Trevor dead when he tries to smother him with a pillow. Roland works hard to rehabilitate from his injuries (even if he has grown dependent on painkillers) so he can get back to work, but when a year passes and the police force him to retire for medical reasons, Roland finds himself out of a job. That doesn't last for long, though, as Roland's good friend, former Texas cop and rich businessman Conner Wells (Stephan Duvall), asks for his help in protecting his socialite daughter Nikita (Liezl Carstens), who was just a victim of an unsuccessful kidnap attempt. Nikita is also the girlfriend of up-and-coming boxer Mason Silver (Arron Shiver), who proved himself a coward when Nikita was being kidnapped (he ran away as fast as he could). Roland accepts the job and on the limo ride to Conner's mansion, limo driver Manuelo (Johnny Hector) sees his cousin Allegra (Kisha Sierra) being roughed-up by two goons, so Roland takes care of the two thugs (in the usual Seagal arm-and-wrist-bending manner), earning the respect and gratitude of Manuelo and Allegra (he'll need it later on). Roland dons a cowboy hat and becomes Nikita's personal bodyguard and, at first, Nikita objects to having a babysitter, but once she sees with her own eyes how he can take care of himself (a dustup with a few goons at a disco), she soon comes to respect and depend on Roland, even developing a crush on him (that's the queasy part). Conner feels someone within his organization is a traitor, so Roland updates the mansion's security system and makes Nikita wear a necklace that's also a transponder. Roland doesn't care to much for Mason, who mistreats Nikita, snorts cocaine off of other sluts' breasts and is on the payroll of Conner's rival, Jason Cross (Luce Rains), even though Conner is financing his boxing career. Cross is also a violent separatist, who believes that Whites and Mexicans shouldn't mix (he apparently has no problem with a naked, big-breasted Latino girl giving him a back rub, though). Roland, on the other hand, gets along with everyone and grows fond of Manuelo and his extended family. When Nikita is eventually successfully kidnapped (Was there any doubt?) with Mason's help, Roland must figure out what Conner's relationship to Cross really is (it has something to do with uranium rights) while trying to get Nikita safely back with Manuelo and Allegra's brothers' help. Step One: Teach Mason a lesson he will not soon forget. Step Two: Make everyone else feel the pain they deserve.  This is a good, old-fashioned action film with a lot of human moments, especially between Roland and Nikita. While the idea of a romance developing between the two may seem a little creepy due to the age difference (thankfully, it never happens), director Keoni Waxman (SERIAL BOMBER - 1996; SWEEPERS - 1998 [using the pseudonym "Darby Black']; A DANGEROUS MAN - 2009, also starring Seagal) and screenwriter Paul A. Birkett toss-in a lot of personal, emotional drama into the action mix, something missing from Seagal's films for a long time. This is probably Seagal's best film in the last ten years for that fact alone, as he sheds his trademark ponytail and actually tries to act (I'm not saying that he's successful, but at least he is trying!). Although the plot device of his dependence on painkillers is dropped as soon as he agrees to become Nikita's bodyguard, there are plenty of other unusual personal touches on view, such as Roland and Manuelo watching Nikita puking her guts out by the side of the limosine in what Manuelo describes as her "typical Friday night out" or the conversation between Nikita and Roland as she eats half his sandwich. That's not to say that the action is sacrificed, though, as there are plenty of gunfights (lots of bloody bullet squibs), car chases, stabbings and Seagal's brand of martial arts fighting (which he does on his own here, without the use of obvious stunt doubles seen in his other recent outings). Here's hoping that Mr. Seagal sticks with this type of action flick (something with a little heart) and doesn't fall back to his usual lazy ways. If you want a laugh, read the synopsis on the back of the British DVD release. It's obviously based on an early draft of the screenplay, before the settings and occupations were moved to Texas. Also starring Kevin Wiggins, Trine Christensen, Michael-David Aragon and Eb Lottimer (STREETS - 1990), who receives a brutal beating and bloody death as Troy, Cross' head henchman, in the finale. A Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE KILLER ELEPHANTS (1976) - In the opening minutes of this crazy action film from Thailand, a cop named Ching Ming is chasing a bunch of crooks, who dump barrels of gasoline from their truck into the middle of the road and blow them up with their guns, forcing Ching to crash his car. After getting a tip that the crooks are hiding out in a lumber yard, Ching goes there and defeats the crooks with his superior kung-fu skills (he kills one guy by throwing a pitchfork into his stomach) and with the assist of Cal Fei, an ex-friend of Ching's who was framed for murder and is now on Ching's most wanted list. Cal Fei is in charge of a gang of rebels who hide out in the jungle and use elephants to do their dirty work (Early on, we watch as one elephant uses his tusks to toss around the Police Captain's car like it was made of balsa wood). The man who framed Cal Fei for murder is known simply as "The Boss" (a name used for most crooked bigshots in films from this region), a crime kingpin who has his horse-riding bandits burn down villages so he can buy the land cheap. The Boss is also public enemy #1 on Ching's most wanted list and he tries to kill Ching and Cal Fei every opportunity he gets. On one such occasion, The Boss sends a bunch of men to kill Cal Fei in his jungle hideout, only to have all but one of his men killed by Cal Fei's rebels, by gunshot, a knife through the neck and an axe to the head (The lone surviving bandit runs into the elephants and one rebel says to him, "Do you wanna give up or would you rather fight the elephants?" to which the bandit replies, "Yes, I think I'll give up!"). To complicate matters, Cal Fei kidnaps The Boss's wife Jo and holds her in his jungle hideout, but since Jo and Cal Fei use to be lovers, they reignite their passion for each other and she becomes pregnant. Ching and Cal Fei also have a rivalry because, even though Ching knows Cal Fei was framed, Ching considers it his duty to bring Cal Fei in, which leads to a series of fights between the two (which Cal Fei always seems to win). It becomes apparent after not too long that if The Boss is to be brought to justice, Ching and Cal Fei will have to learn to work with each other. When Jo goes into labor, Ching rushes her to the hospital, where she has a baby girl. In a confusing turn of events, The Boss ends up dead and his replacement kidnaps Jo, the baby and Ching's wife, which necessitates that Ching and Cal Fei use the elephants to perform a rescue. It all ends with the bad guys being defeated by a stampede of elephants and Ching jumping out of a helicopter to save his wife.  This Thailand-lensed film, directed by Som Kit (who doesn't seem to have any other film credits, but since this is a Thai film, I'm sure he has plenty we in the West have never heard of), doesn't make an ounce of sense, but it is so weird and out-there, you can't help but fall for it's charms. It is filled with outrageous scenes, such as a naked girl in body paint who dances in a nightclub for no other reason than to show us a naked girl in body paint dancing in a nightclub; the Elephant Carnival, where we watch pachyderms playing soccer with a giant ball or competing in a game of Tug-Of-War with a bunch of men; and the confusing death of The Boss in the middle of the film, where a character not seen before named Mau Chien shoots The Boss and takes his place (Did the actor who plays The Boss quit halfway through the film?). The English dubbing is a hoot, my favorite exchange being between the Chief of Police and one of his cops. When Jo escapes from the hospital, thanks to an elephant crashing through the wall of her room, the Chief asks the cop, "Where'd she go?" The cop looks at him and says, "How the hell do I know?" Simply priceless. There's really not much elephant destruction until the finale, where they destroy an entire village, but there's plenty of other blood and weirdness to keep the viewer highly entertained for 82 minutes. You haven't truly lived until you witness a man throwing grenades while riding on an elephant's back. Also known as RUMBLING THE ELEPHANT. Starring Sung Pa, Alen Yen, Nai Yen Ne and Yu Chien. Originally available on VHS from Unicorn Video and also available on DVD from Ground Zero as part of a double feature with DRAGON SNAKE FIST (1974) for their "Brooklyn Zu" line of martial arts flicks, but THE KILLER ELEPHANTS is more an action film than martial arts. Available on foreign DVD from Attackafant Entertainment. Not Rated.

THE KILLING GROUNDS (1997) - Four hikers stumble upon a downed plane in the mountains that contains four million dollars worth of stolen gold in this poor man’s version of A SIMPLE PLAN (1998). The four: an untrusting wife (Pricilla Barnes) and her unfaithful husband (Charles Rocket); a crooked cop (Cynthia Geary) and Indian guide (Rodney A. Grant) do not trust one another, so they bury the gold in the forest until they can come back with the proper equipment to carry it out. On their way down the mountain, they run into the two psychos (former teen nerds Anthony Michael Hall and Courtney Gains!) who are looking for their lost gold. The cat-and-mouse chase is on. The main problem with this film is that there is not one character that you can feel sympathy for. Director Kurt Anderson (BOUNTY TRACKER - 1993) realizes that, so he makes Courtney Gains’ character Vincent such an extreme trigger-happy psychopath that everyone else seems normal by comparison. Vincent’s noodle is so loose that he beats a man to death with his own prosthetic arm, shoots his horse for giving him a sore ass (!), rapes Charles Rocket (thankfully offscreen) to make him disclose the gold’s burial site and makes a rookie cop piss in his pants. Everyone dies by the conclusion, which is the way it should be. Rodney Grant’s Indian guide character starts out as an honest person, but soon moves to the dark side with a little persuasion from the other greedy bastards. All in all, this is a nice little diversion and not a bad way to waste 95 minutes. An A-PIX Home Video Release. Rated R.

KILLING MACHINE (1984) - After leaving a life of crime behind him (he was a member of a huge crime syndicate known as the Organization), big lug Chema (George Rivero; FIST FIGHTER - 1988) becomes a legitimate big rig driver hauling perishables between Spain and Germany (in the middle of a violent truckers union strike) with his brother-in-law Tony (Willie Aames). When Organization leader Maitre Julot (Lee van Cleef; ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK - 1981) tries to kill Chema (no one ever leaves the Organization and lives), he grabs his newly-pregnant wife, Eliza (Ana Obregon; TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS - 1982), and heads to Germany to make one final delivery, but when Chema crosses the border into France, his truck is stopped and burned by a mob of corrupt union members, led by Martin (Richard Jaeckel; GRIZZLY - 1976), resulting in Eliza being burned alive while Chema is being pummeled by the mob. After unsuccessfully trying to get justice through the corrupt French judicial system and failing miserably (Julot and Martin make it look like Chema was the one responsible for his wife's death), Chema and Tony decide to get justice on their own, especially when Julot has his head goon, Picot (Aldo Sambrell; VENGEANCE - 1976), beat the shit out of Chema immediately after he leaves the courthouse while Tony watches helplessly, just to show the both of them the power he wields. Chema enlists the help of old crime partner Koldo (Hugo Stiglitz; NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS - 1972) to supply him with plastic explosives, but when Koldo proves to be loyal to Julot, Chema is forced to shoot him point-blank in the face. Chema and Tony then begin the systematic elimination of Julot's Organization from the bottom-up. Chema hooks-up with another former crime partner, Jacqueline (a haggard-looking Margaux Hemingway; LIPSTICK - 1976) and the trio strike first at Picot's garage, blowing-up him and the garage with plastic explosives. Chema kills Martin next, by dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire ("You'll burn just like my wife!") and then blowing him up in his car when he tries to get away. When Julot's men kidnap and torture Tony, eventually shooting him in the back when he tries to escape, Chema not only kills Julot with a car bomb, he also kills all of Julot's underlings with another bomb, putting an end to the Organization once and for all. After driving to a snowy region of Germany, Chema drops off Jacqueline and an on-screen scrawl informs us that Chema turned himself into the police and is awaiting extradition. Give me a break!  This slow-moving Spanish/Italian revenge thriller, directed and written by Jose Antonio de la Loma (STREET WARRIORS - 1977; STREET WARRIORS PART II - 1979; COUNTERFORCE - 1988) under the pseudonym "J. Anthony Loma", is a weird mixture of the Charles Bronson features MR. MAJESTYK and DEATH WISH (both 1974). Unfortunately, the film falls flat on it's face, helped in no small way by the terrible acting abilities of Willie Aames (ZAPPED - 1982; CUT AND RUN - 1985), who thinks all it takes to act tough is to walk around with a cigarette in his mouth (he can't even do that convincingly) and the strange mixture of American and Spanish actors in French locations. It is particularly distressing to see the late Margaux Hemingway in this, as her face is ravaged by her real-life alcohol abuse and she looks obliterated in every scene she's in. She committed suicide in 1996 by an overdose of Klonopin, further cementing the "Hemingway Curse" (she was the fifth member of the Hemingway clan to commit suicide). The violence is much too restrained for a revenge thriller, as the camera pulls back on the violence when it should be moving in closer. George (Jorge) Rivero is a pretty weak action hero here, because we never feel his pain of losing his wife. I was more drawn to his thick, porn-style moustache, which seemed to out-act the rest of his body. KILLING MACHINE is a pretty tepid affair, offering only a few fiery explosions, a smattering of blood, a brief glimpse of nudity and lots of bad acting. The film is also technically sloppy, as the leg of a crew member can be spotted during the fight between Rivero and Stiglitz and camera and microphone shadows can be viewed in several scenes. It's also kind of hard to believe Lee Van Cleef is a Frenchman named Julot when he doesn't even attempt to adopt a French accent! Oui, it's that bad. Also starring Frank Brana. Originally available on VHS as part of "Sybil Danning's Adventure Video" (The series' theme music is lifted from this film) from USA Home Video in one of those big cardboard boxes. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

LADY COCOA (1974) - Cocoa (Lola Falana) has just spent a year and a half in a Utah federal penitentiary on contempt of court charges for refusing to testify against her gangster boyfriend Eddie (James A. Watson Jr.). Cocoa, who is somewhat of an overbearing brat that is full of herself, finally agrees to testify and is escorted to Nevada by stern white cop Ramsey (Alex Dreier) and black cop Doug (Gene Washington). They stop for the night at a casino hotel unaware that they are being followed by two silent hitmen ("Mean" Joe Greene and Gary Harper). Cocoa's unreasonable demands begin to grate on Ramsey and Doug's nerves, as she screams demands for "girly products", keeps changing her mind on her room service order and spouts her racist views on "pigs" (this girl needs a good slapping around). To shut her up, Doug takes her downstairs to gamble and have some dinner. She turns $20 into a small fortune at the blackjack table, buys some funky clothes at the casino store and has dinner with a newlywed couple that they meet in the store (they are not what they seem to be). It's not long before Cocoa and Doug fall in love (I would have slugged her a good one instead). She betrays Doug when she ducks out on dinner to meet gangster boyfriend Eddie in a hotel room upstairs. Eddie basically betrays her and sets her up for a sniper's bullet. Can Doug and Ramsey save her in time and get her to the Grand Jury in one piece? There's a major deception at the end that could spell doom for our too-spoiled-for-words heroine, but good money says that you would have turned it off or fallen asleep long before you even get to that point. Originally known as POP GOES THE WEASEL (also the title of the film's theme song, sung by Falana), this film, directed by Matt Cimber (THE BLACK SIX - 1974), is a real yawner. Much too slow to be an action film (no one dies or gets shot at until way past the one hour mark), LADY COCOA plays more like a clash-of-personalities tale, and a pretty bad one at that. Las Vegas lounge star Lola Falana starts to get on your nerves as spoiled bitch Cocoa, who always says something hurtful and makes it difficult for the two cops to look after her. Disobeying their every order, you'll be wishing that the hitmen would finish their job as quickly as possible, especially when she yells lines of dialogue like, "I'm going to shit, shower and shampoo!" (add "shut up" to that and I would have been a happy man). She is the ideal description of the word "cunt" (which some sharp guy calls her in this). There's an unintentionally funny scene where Doug chases the newlywed couple (who turn out to be a hit team) on foot while they are in a car. The car flips over, drives into a casino, exits out the back door and lands in a swimming pool. The guy behind the wheel drowns, but the girl (played by Millie Perkins) gets out and Doug chases her into a bathroom, where they fire at each other through a stall door. Doug kills her and discovers that she's actually a he, a man in drag! George "Buck" Flower has a cameo as a drunken cowboy gambler and his pal John Goff plays a gay bar patron. There's also risable dialogue like, "I don't care if you're black, green, orange or banana!" and plenty of Falana nudity, but her offensive character, lack of action and extremely slow story (screenplay by genre vet Mikel Angel [PSYCHIC KILLER - 1974] using the pseudonym "George Theakos". Smart move.) sinks any chance this film has of entertaining you. Also starring Richard Kennedy as a French room service waiter and James R. Sweeney. My copy came from Brentwood Communications' 4 Movie DVD compilation titled BAD BROTHAS - MEAN MUTHAS. The widescreen print is pretty beat up, with washed-out colors and plenty of distortion on the soundtrack. Cimber remade this film as FAKE OUT in 1982, with Pia Zadora taking over the Lola Falana role. Originally released on VHS by Unicorn Video. Rated R.

LAST MAN STANDING (1987) - Not to be confused with the 1996 PM Entertainment production directed by Joseph Merhi or the 1996 Walter Hill period actioner starring Bruce Willis, both who share the same title as this film. This one is actually a Canadian tax shelter film (also known as CIRCLE MAN) starring Vernon Wells (ENEMY UNSEEN - 1987) as Roo Marcus, a cage match fighter who is reaching the end of his career. Crooked cop Tunny (Frank Moore) wants a larger cut of the cage match proceeds or he will stop the illegal "Circle Fights", named because the caged fighting ring is in the shape of a circle, so he squeezes owner Napoleon (Michael Copeman; SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER - 1992) to come up with new ways to increase revenue. Roo has a heart of gold (he gives his winnings in one of his fights to his opponent because he has kids to feed) and his trainer/ringman Casper (William Sanderson; FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE - 1977) wants him to quit fighting before he turns into another Batty (Franco Columbo; BERETTA'S ISLAND - 1994), a circle fighter who suffered brain damage in the ring and spends his days babbling incoherently (something Mr. Columbo was born to do). Roo agrees to stop fighting and becomes partners in Casper's gymnasium business. You just know that isn't going to last very long. Napoleon imports a fighter called Cannon (Peter Dempster) to replace Roo in the illegal circle fights, while his legitimate prize fighter Razor (Real Andrews) rises in the ranks as a champion boxer (There's a lot of bad blood between Roo and Razor). Roo begins falling in love with tomboyish mechanic Charlie (Sonja Belliveau), who works at her father Gus' (Danny Burnes) garage next door (and she's a pretty good boxer, to boot), but a violent episode in Roo's past (we see fragments of it in flashback footage) prevents him from consummating the relationship. A series of events, including Gus owing Napoleon a fortune in gambling debts and Tunny putting the pressure on Napoleon, forces Roo to fight Razor in a circle match. Casper is disappointed, but agrees once again to be his trainer/ringman, as Roo begins to fight a series of punishing circle matches (he actually loses his first fight to Cannon). When Cannon cripples Casper outside the ring and Razor leaves Napoleon for a better manager, Napoleon and Tunny force Roo to fight a rematch with Cannon or else they will throw him back in the loony bin (those flashbacks Roo has been having are when he spent eight years in a padded cell for killing a guy in a bar fight). With Charlie as his corner(wo)man, Roo begins his road to retribution, first with his rematch with Cannon and then with boxer Razor.  This is a thoroughly predictable 80's fight actioner, directed by Damien Lee (FOOD OF THE GODS PART 2 - 1989; ABRAXIS, GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE - 1990) and written by Lee and producer David Mitchell. The fight scenes are brutal, but not very well choreographed and Vernon Wells sleepwalks through his role. The scenes that should resonate with viewers, such as when Roo is forced to fight his friend Batty (which ends with Batty committing suicide!), falls flatter than a yeast-free pancake. As a matter of fact, the only people who show any real emotion are Michael Copeman as Napoleon and Franco Columbo as Batty (and, really, when have you ever heard that before? Here's a question to ponder: Was he called "Batty" before or after he lost his marbles? I'm only asking because if he was called Batty before he had his brain rattled, he must have had real asshole parents. Mother: "What should we name our little bundle of joy?" Father: "Might as well call him Batty because he doesn't look like he'll amount to much. Besides, it will toughen him up!"). Everyone else walks around in a somnambulistic state and William Sanderson's role is so underwritten, a chimp could have played it. This is not one of the better low-budget 80's actioners, so my advice would be to avoid it unless you are a Vernon Wells fan. Even then, it's one of his minor 80's flicks. Also starring Kim Coates (basically a cameo), George Chuvalo, Zach Neals (who sports a ridiculous faux Mohawk) and Dave Schaler. Originally released on VHS by Academy Entertainment and not available on DVD. Rated R.

LEATHERNECKS (1988) - Another action and explosion-filled Italian war actioner filmed in the Philippines. The film opens with "Lieutenant" (Richard Hatch; HEATED VENGEANCE - 1984) and his small band of commandos ambushing a VC convoy that is carrying crates of weapons and ammunition on bicycles through the jungle. After killing nearly every gook and blowing up the crates, Lieutenant (that's all he's called throughout the film) has his men "interrogate" the lone VC survivor, who tells them that another shipment of weapons is due shortly by boat nearby (the VC prisoner then gets a bullet in his brainpan for his trouble). The commandos lay in wait and ambush the boat, killing all it's occupants and nearly getting killed themselves when a mortally wounded gook sets the boat on fire and it explodes. Meanwhile, Sgt. Martin Cooper (James Mitchum; MERCENARY FIGHTERS - 1988) is training a group of Vietnamese friendlies the finer points of warfare so they can protect their village rice fields from VC attacks. He reluctantly allows some of the villagers to work in the rice patties unaccompanied, only to have some VC soldiers disguise themselves as villagers and lead an attack on the camp. Just when the prospects look bad for Sgt. Martin and his men, Lieutenant and his commandos show up in the nick of time and save the day. A short time later, a helicopter arrives carrying Captain Barrett, who has a top-secret meeting with Lieutenant. The Captain reveals that a French traitor named Bernard is supplying the enemy with weapons, so the Captain and Lieutenant head alone into the jungle to find Bernard, not to kill him, but to make him an offer he cannot refuse (Lieutenant smells a rat and doesn't trust the Captain). Lieutenant was right not to trust the Captain, because when the Captain goes to meet Bernard alone, a squad of doped-up American AWOL soldiers tries to ambush Lieutenant, but he manages to kill them with some well-placed explosives. Sgt. Martin, Bob (Robert Marius; COP GAME - 1988), Tony (Tony Marsina) and Mike (Anthony Sawyer) go on a recon mission and discover a series of VC tunnels in the jungle and Sgt. Martin is killed protecting a wet-behind-the-ears recruit when they flush the VCs out of the tunnels. Lieutenant discovers that Capt. Barrett is actually a traitor, too, partners with Bernard (who the Captain kills to keep quiet), so he gathers up his commandos to kill the Captain and his VC allies before the Captain has them all killed to cover-up his treachery. The finale finds Lieutenant, his commandos and Sgt. Martin's freshly-trained Vietnamese recruits defending the camp and village from a major enemy assault.  The story may be all over the place (screenplay by Tito Carpi; HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA - 1982; LAST PLATOON - 1988), but director Ignacio Dolce (COMMANDER - 1987; LAST FLIGHT TO HELL - 1990), using his pseudonym "Paul D. Robinson", infuses this war actioner with plenty of gunfights, explosions and even some heartwarming moments (including Sgt. Martin letting the new recruit listen to his wife's pornographic audio cassette) to keep the viewer entertained. I was impressed that some of Lieutenant's commandos are painted as rather heartless and inhumane. Tony likes to rape Vietnamese women and disregards Lieutenant's orders to leave the women alone. Tony rapes one village woman (Tania Gomez; MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE - 1987) several times right in from of her injured husband, so it should come as no surprise that during the final battle, Tony is killed when the husband plants a knife in his back. In fact, the only likable Americans here are Lieutenant, Sgt. Martin and Bob, as the rest are either corrupt (Captain Barrett), drug addicts, AWOL soldiers or mercenaries (Bernard's men) or a pimp (Mike). The nihilistic finale leaves no doubt as to everyone's fates (Bob gets the most heroic death, being gunned-down while holding a small boy's bullet-ridden body after failing to protect him), but what comes before it is also very violent, as people are blown apart, shot or stabbed and everything explodes in nice, big fireballs. LEATHERNECKS is a worthy addition to the already burgeoning list of 80's Italian war films. Also starring Vassili Karis, Jack Alba, George Rosek, Hans Leibder and Martin Wannack. Never legitimately available on U.S. home video, the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

LIGHT BLAST (1985) - A maniacal scientist is terrorizing San Francisco in this crazy Italian actioner from director Enzo G. Castellari. The scientist has developed a new contraption called Light Blast, a portable weapon (using microwave-like rays) that is capable of frying and melting any object it comes in contact with. He first tests it out in a railroad yard, dissolving a few railway cars as well as a necking couple carrying on in one of the boxcars. Assigned to the case is Detective Ronn (Erik Estrada), who we first meet delivering a turkey dinner in his underwear to a couple of bank robbers who have taken hostages (he has a gun hidden in the turkey and ends the seige with a well-placed bullet to the head of one of the robbers). The scientist uses his weapon next at a stock car race, melting everyone in the pressbox and getting away after pumping a couple of slugs into Ronn's driver after a small car chase. The scientist calls the police and demands ten million dollars or he will unleash Light Blast in a more populated area. As Ronn's investigation gets him closer to the scientist (including a surreal shootout in a morgue), the Mayor pays the ten million dollar ransom, only to have the police mess it up, leading to an explosion killing all the cops following the money. The next day, the Mayor receives a tape where the scientist now demands twenty million dollars. When the scientist's goons spray Ronn's house with machine gun fire and kill his wife (Peggy Rowe) and wound his partner, it becomes personal and Ronn becomes a one-man killing machine. After a shootout at a warehouse where Ronn nearly gets crushed by a bulldozer, Ronn steals a (conveniently-placed) dune buggy and chases the scientist through the streets of San Francisco. Ronn causes the Light Blast to malfunction, causing it to turn on it's inventor, dissolving his body away. Hooray for Ronn!  Director Castellari (DAY OF THE COBRA - 1980; THE NEW BARBARIANS - 1983) throws just about everything, including the kitchen sink, into the script (co-written with Tito Carpi), including multiple gunfights (lots of gory shots of people being plugged in the head and other extremities), numerous car chases and crashes, shots of people's faces melting (ala, the finale of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - 1981) and other gory goings-on. While there is violence aplenty, all logic is basically thrown out the window, as Estrada (who has the emotional range of a grapefruit) gets in one head-scratching exploit after another. In one scene where Estrada is following one of the scientist's flunkies, he jumps on the back of a moving pickup truck and tells the driver, "I'm a cop. Follow that car!" The driver just shakes his head yes as if it happens to him all the time! There's also another scene where he gets kicked in the nuts at least three times by a nurse in a morgue and he shakes it off as if he never felt it. Truly, he has balls of steel.  Still, as an action film, LIGHT BLAST (also known as NEON KILLER) delivers the goods, with lots of bloody bullet squibs, people being burned alive, car chases galore and plenty of things that blow up real good. Besides, where else can you see a dune buggy racing around the steep, hilly streets of San Francisco? Here's some nostalgia for you: A sign at one of the gas stations lists regular unleaded gas at $1.10 a gallon. Ah, the good old days! Also starring Thomas Moore, Mike Pritchard and Bob Taylor. A Lightning Video Release. Also available on DVD (which is now OOP) from those fine folks at Code Red, who falsely advertised it as a post-apocalypse film. Not Rated.

LIVE BY THE FIST (1992) - Former Navy SEAL John Merill (Jerry Trimble) is about to ship out on a tramp steamer when he runs into four thugs raping a woman. He tries to break it up, but ends up knocked out after he kills one of the rapists. When he wakes up, he has a bloody knife in his hand and the woman is lying dead nearby, her throat cut. Merill is convicted of murder and is sentenced to spend the rest of his life on a remote island prison. Once on the island, Acosta (Vic Diaz), the prison warden, tells Merill and the other new prisoners that escape is useless and to prove his point, he shows them the half-eaten corpse of a prisoner that tried to escape, only to end up as shark bait. Almost immediately, Merill is attacked in the shower, but he manages to fight them off. Merill is put in a cell with wise, old Uncle Coronado (George Takei), a long-timer who takes Merill under his wing. He'll need the help, because a lot of people in the joint want him dead, including Alvarez (Romy Diaz), who was friends with the rapist Merill killed. Alvarez has his Asian inmates attack Merill constantly, so Warden Acosta assigns Merill to the all-white motorpool, run by white supremacist Sacker (Ted Markland). When Merill saves a gook prisoner from the wrath of Sacker and fellow missing-tooth mate Greasemonkey (Nick Nicholson), he also becomes enemies with the white population. Uncle Coronado tells Merill that Warden Acosta and his right-hand man Vargas (Roland Dantes) are under investigation by a group called Human Rights International, headed by Helen Ferris (Laura Albert). It seems there have been 29 deaths in the prison in the last two years and one of Uncle Coronado's friends stole a ledger that proves that the Warden is stealing funds from the prison, but his friend was killed before he told Coronado where he hid it. If Merill can find the ledger and turn it over to Ms. Ferris when she arrives in one week's time, he stands a good chance of being freed. Merill eventually finds the ledger, but the Warden tries his best to kill him before he has the chance of putting the ledger in Ms. Ferris' hands. Good thing Merill is a champion martial artist, because both the white and Asian prisoners assault him on a daily basis. Can Uncle Coronado unite all the prisoners before a full-blown race riot breaks out? It looks pretty grim when the Warden gets Sacker and Alvarez to start a riot just as Ms. Ferris arrives at the prison, but Merill steps in and dishes-out some much-deserved justice to all the guilty parties just in the nick of time.  This is the first of Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's trio of actioners he made with non-actor Jerry "Golden Boy" Trimble in the early 90's , the others being ONE MAN ARMY (1993) and STRANGLEHOLD (1994). Trimble is a terrible actor, but he is a decent martial artist. He still gets hit more than any martial artist I have ever seen in films (see if Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme would ever be allowed to take so many punches to the face and body as Trimble does here), which at least makes his character much more vunerable than you would normally see in these B-films. STAR TREK's Mr. Sulu, George Takei, is the "name" actor here and his character is the same type of person that was patented so well by the late Mako in many films; namely, a wise, sage old man who is the voice of reason. Takei is fine here, but I especially liked the performance of Filipino staple Vic Diaz as Warden Acosta. This is one of his biggest roles in the latter part of his career and he's appropriately slimey as a man with no morals. LIVE BY THE FIST may remind you of countless other prison films (especially LOCK UP [1989], starring Sylvester Stallone and Van Damme's DEATH WARRANT [1990]), but it's a fast-paced low-budget actioner with plenty of fights and some bloody carnage. Also, at 78 minutes long, it doesn't overstay it's welcome. Also starring Steve Rogers, Jim Moss, Berting Labra, Ramon D'Salva, Archie Adamos, Joseph Zucchero, John Crank and an uncredited appearance by Santiago staple Henry Strzalkowski as the cop who arrests Merill in the beginning of the film. Available on VHS & DVD from New Horizons Home Video. Rated R.

LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN (1976) - This violent Poliziottesco begins with two guys on a motorcycle trying to steal a woman's purse. She stubbornly refuses to let go of it and is dragged across the sidewalk until her head is split open when it hits the base of a street light. Unconscious (and still not letting go of the purse!), one of the thieves gets off the bike and repeatedly kicks her in the face (she still doesn't let go of it!). Two undercover cops, Tony (Ray Lovelock) and Fred (Marc Porel), witness the crime and give chase on their motorcycles (Tony and Fred are initially seen riding together on the same motorcycle until Tony steals one off the street to join in the chase). This leads to a long motorcycle chase through the city of Rome, as Tony and Fred chase the thieves up and down stone steps, on the sidewalk and through a busy market (The thieves even run over and kill a blind man's seeing eye dog as they are crossing the street. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!) until the thieves crash into the back of a truck. One of the thieves is killed instantly when he is impaled on the cycle's shifter (!) and Fred snaps the other's neck after making sure he is "comfortable"! As you can probably tell, Fred and Tony are unconventional cops and are part of a "Special Squad" of undercover lawmen, led by "The Boss" (Adolf Celi), that deal with high profile robbery cases. Fred and Tony witness their fellow cop, Rick (Marino Mase), being shotgunned to death in front of their office, so they shoot one guy on a motorcycle in the back (he hits a car, flips over the roof and is crushed when another car hits him) and go after the man responsible, drug dealer Pasquini (Renato Salvatore). They start off by burning down one of Pasquini's ritzy gambling houses, which greatly pisses off Pasquini and he has one of his crooked cops dig up all the information he can on Fred and Tony. After Tony and Fred resolve a hostage situation at a private residence (they kill all three hostage takers), they go after Pasquini using any means necessary (even abusing Pasquini's innocent, yet sex-starved, sister to get information on her brother). Meanwhile, Pasquini is not sitting still. He uses a drug addict who stole drugs from him (he has one of his goons manually remove one of the addict's eyes!) to set-up Fred and Tony. The finale finds Fred and Tony waiting for Pasquini on a docked boat wired with dynamite and Pasquini has his hands on the plunger. Thankfully, Frank and Tony have a guardian angel and he steps in to save the day.  Director Ruggero Deodato (JUNGLE HOLOCAUST - 1977;  HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK - 1979; CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - 1980; RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS - 1983) fills this Italian actioner with plenty of blood and gore (including eye removal, impalements and plenty of bloody bullet squibs), but the most distinctive feature of this film is the implied homosexual relationship between Fred and Tony, even if the producers made Fernando Di Leo (director of the excellent crime film MANHUNT - 1972) tone down that aspect in his script. They crack wise and make sexual remarks to The Boss' sassy secretary Norma (Silvia Dionisio), but through all their sexual innuendo and outright graphic talk (They banter about deflowering their maid's underage daughter in front of the maid!), we not once see them get cozy individually with a woman throughout the entire film. One scene finds Fred slapping-around and feeling-up Pasquini's sister and he eventually has sex with her, but then Tony takes his turn when Fred is done. It seems they share everything, including an apartment and a single motorcycle, which we see them riding together at various times throughout the film. It's made very clear how much they trust each other when they take target practice in a quarry. They are on opposite ends shooting at cans inches away from their bodies, sometimes firing their guns at each other while rolling on the ground! It's also plain to see that if Fred and Tony weren't policemen, they would make perfect hitmen. They have no problem killing or torturing people to reach their objectives (One scene shows Fred applying titty-twisters to two strung-up goons and then using their bodies as punching bags when they won't give up Pasquini's whereabouts). Ray Lovelock (LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE - 1974; LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH - 1978) and Marc Porel (NO WAY OUT - 1973; LOADED GUN - 1974; He died at age 34 in 1983 of meningitis) are believable as cops and best friends and Adolfo Celi (MANHUNT - 1972) is also good as their boss, who doesn't approve of their methods (he believes, and rightfully so, that they are too quick on the trigger and don't spend enough time thinking about future consequences of their actions), yet he plays an important role in saving their asses in the explosive (and quick) finale. Some of the English dubbing is risable ("We are just sardines. What do we know about sharks?"), but there are some good action set-pieces (the opening motorcycle chase is a standout), extreme violence and some welcome female nudity. Also starring Franco Citti, Sergio Ammirata and Bruno Corazzari. A Raro Video DVD Release. Not Rated.

THE LOSERS (1970) - The Army hires "scooter trash" (actually a motorcycle gang called the "Devil's Advocates") to rescue an American ambassador being kept prisoner in a camp deep in the Cambodian jungle in this low-rent, but very enjoyable, rip-off of THE DIRTY DOZEN (1965). This could be called THE DIRTY HALF-DOZEN MINUS ONE. It starts out like most films in this genre: Link (William Smith), the leader of the Devil's Advocates, and his men, which includes Duke (Adam Roarke), Limpy (Paul Koslo), Speed (Gene Cornelius) and Dirty Denny (Houston Savage), at first act like the misfits they are, disobeying orders and getting into fights with the local "slopeheads". But, before long, they begin acting like a well-oiled machine, even earning the respect of their commanding officer, Captain Jackson (Bernie Hamilton), who Dirty Denny at first calls "Super Spook". As they train for their mission and trick out their Yamahas with machine guns and rocket launchers (Harleys can't handle the terrain, in case you were wondering), it becomes apparent that all the bikers were disgraced soldiers returning to duty to settle old scores and find lost loves as well as to serve their country for what they all know is a suicide mission. Link also has a bad past with the American ambassador he is hired to rescue, but he puts old gripes aside to do his duty. As a matter of fact, all five bikers have good reasons to live, yet they go on the mission anyway in what turns out to be a rousing, action-packed rescue attempt. When one of the bikers deserts the group and is ambushed and killed just hours before the assault is to take place, it throws a monkey wrench into the intricate planning. The remaining four bikers will have to improvise to achieve their goal. An act of betrayal during the rescue attempt threatens the survival of all.  Directed by genre vet Jack Starrett (RACE WITH THE DEVIL - 1975), THE LOSERS (also known as NAM'S ANGELS and MEAN COMBAT) is great action entertainment. Starrett definitely patterned the action scenes after Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH, made the year before. People are riddled with bullets or fly through the air, all in slow motion. Director Starrett also plays the treacherous American ambassador that the bikers try to rescue, only to have him betray all who try to save him. He is truly as pathetic a human being you're ever likely to see. The fact that he survives the blood-drenched finale will make your blood boil. Although it takes a while for the film to get moving, the time is well-spent as it fleshes the bikers' characters out so they become people you actually care about. The script (by Alan Caillou; KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS - 1977) makes some sharp political statements, like the plight of abandoned American soldiers' love children, something unusual for a film of this type and vintage. It adds extra depth and meaning to the assault by the bikers, which is well-staged and about as exciting a sequence you'll ever see in a low-budget action flick. The cast of genre vets do a nice job here and our old friend, Vic Diaz (who seems to appear in nearly every film made in the Philippines), also puts in a turn as a mechanic who doesn't understand English too well. This Joe Solomon-produced flick is a good bet for action fans that like a little politics thrown in for good measure. Filippino director Cirio H. Santiago remade this film in 1988 and called it NAM ANGELS. It's a pale imitation. Also starring John Garwood, Ana Korita and Paul Nuckles. Originally released on VHS by Academy Entertainment and now available on DVD in a beautiful widescreen print from Dark Sky Films. Rated R. "Lost are the children of the Lord."

MADE MEN (1999) – Every once in a while, I find myself viewing a film making its’ premiere on pay cable or video and I think to myself, “Why didn’t this film play in theaters?” This is one of those films. This is a great action flick that mixes the right amounts of gunfights, stunts, explosions, humor and most important of all, a good story. James Belushi portrays an ex-con in the Witness Protection Program who stole 12 million dollars from a gangster in Chicago. He is a perennial liar, incapable of uttering even an iota of truth. Somehow his cover is blown and he must avoid four hitmen sent after him to retrieve the stolen loot. One of the hitmen (Michael Beach) may be an undercover federal agent. Aside from the hitmen, Belushi must also contend with a corrupt, sadistic sheriff (Timothy Dalton, who really chews up the scenery), a backwoods hick (Steve Railsback) and his sons who run a crystal meth factory and, finally, his own wife (Vanessa Angel), who is more interested in finding the money than caring about the life of her husband. Belushi (RED HEAT – 1988, GANG RELATED – 1996) is great in his role, tossing funny asides while being chased, tortured and shot at. Railsback (LIFEFORCE – 1985, BARB WIRE – 1996) is a hoot (“Hillbillies with cell phones” is Belushi’s description) and nearly unrecognizable. There is much violence on view here, including gunshots to the head, multiple bullet hits, torture with a power drill, car wrecks and explosions. The scene where Railsback rams his truck into Belushi’s house rivals anything you’ll see on the big screen. Maybe it’s because the producers are Joel Silver and Richard Donner, makers of the 48 HRS. and LETHAL WEAPON franchises. Director Louis Morneau also made the excellent time travel/action flick RETROACTIVE (1997; also starring Belushi) and the quirky QUAKE (1992; starring Railsback). He is also responsible for the lousy SOLDIER BOYZ (1995), the so-so CARNOSAUR 2 (1994) and then went on to direct a few middling horror flicks, including BATS (1999); THE HITCHER II: I'VE BEEN WAITING (2003) and JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEAD (2008). Morneau handles MADE MEN with a sure and steady hand, getting James Belushi to turn in his best performance in years (It's too bad that Belushi basically gave up his film career to star in the god-awful TV series ACCORDING TO JIM [2001 - 2009]. How it lasted for eight years is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the world.). The finale gives the viewers a satisfied feeling as Belushi never gives up the goods and stays true to his character. MADE MEN is grand entertainment for the small screen, even though it deserved to be seen on the big screen. Premiered on HBO with a VHS and DVD release on the Columbia Tristar Home Video label. Rated R.

MAD MISSION (1981) - Wild Hong Kong heist caper comedy that spoofs everything from THE PINK PANTHER to THE GODFATHER while tossing in huge dollops of action set-pieces. A fortune in diamonds is stolen in a daring heist in a highrise building, where Sam (Samuel Hui) crashes through an office window while sliding down a wire, grabs the suitcase containing the diamonds during an exchange between Chinese gangsters and the Italian Mafia, rides a motorcycle through various floors of the building and eventually escapes to safety by motorized glider. Sam leaves a white glove at the scene of the crime to make it look like the notorious English jewel thief called "White Glove" committed the robbery. The Godfather (a ridiculous-looking young white guy made-up to look fat and old, not to mention sounding exactly like Marlon Brando) puts the squeeze on White Glove to find the real thief and bring back the diamonds, otherwise he will be sleeping with the fishes. Meanwhile, the British government assign bald Chinese-American cop, Lt. Kodyjack (Karl Mak) and female Chinese cop Supt. Hot Tongue (Sylvia Chang), to find the diamonds. They eventually team-up with Sam when Sam's partner hides the diamonds and dies before he can tell him where they are. He does tell Sam that he hid clues to the location on tattoos he placed on the asses of two women (Don't try to make sense of this. Your head will hurt.). Along the way, Kodyjack and Hot Tongue fall in love, Sam falls in love with Hot Tongue's sister Marge (Carroll Gordon) and everyone's lives are threatened, first by a Chinese mobster named Al Capone (he flips out when he spots Sam and Kodyjack taking a picture of his sister's naked ass) and then by White Glove and his minions. The rest of the film is nothing but a series of slapstick adventures, as the trio tries to find the tattooed women and then locate the diamonds. That's basically the entire plot. The film is nothing but one comical gag after another, where Sam and Kodyjack have their lives endangered every ten minutes or so, be it by hanging (a comic highlight where they both have nooses slipped around their necks while tied to opposite ends of a suspended pipe and they take turns in the air hanging by their necks by jumping up and down), by explosives or numerous car chases, while Hot Tongue sits on the sideline, first hating Kodyjack and later swooning whenever he is near (it's quite chauvinistic, actually). Ah, those darn Chinese and their crazy customs!  Lightweight in violence, but action-packed from beginning to end, this Hong Kong comedy film (originally known as ACES GO PLACES) was so popular that it spawned four official sequels and numerous imitations. Director Eric Tsang (who also directed the first sequel, MAD MISSION II [1983], as well as other films like THE TIGERS [1991]) keeps things extremely comical, even if people do die before your eyes (Al Capone and his gang are blown-up in his car by his own bomb in a comical mix-up). It's hard to take any of this seriously, especially when Karl Mak (a co-producer here) dresses like Ming The Merciless from the 1980 version of FLASH GORDON and dances on stage during a ballet (famed director Tsui Hark portrays the ballet theater director). While the action scenes don't have the "pop" of later Hong Kong films, it's easy to see that this was one of the blueprints for later 80's Hong Kong action cinema (especially Jackie Chan's PROJECT A [1983]). Even though this film borrows liberally from many films (the whole "tattoo on the ass" subplot was lifted directly from Antonio Margheriti's THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER [1973]), it also influenced later films, including the Dirty Harry film, THE DEAD POOL (1988). Watch it and you'll know what I mean. If I do have a problem with this film, it's the English dub track, which tries to be too cutsey-poo with the characters' names and most of the dialogue, especially Karl Mak's conversations with Sylvia Chang. It makes him look and sound like a real chauvinistic pig and hurts his likability factor, especially for female viewers. I'm sure something was lost in the translation, because Hong Kong humor sometimes fails to register with Western audiences. While Samuel Hui was called "King Kong" in the Hong Kong edit, he's inexplicably called "Sam" here and the name "King Kong" is given to a bumbling bearded cop. Mak's character Kodyjack is a play on TV's KOJAK (he's called Detective Albert Au, or "Baldy" in the Hong Kong version) and Chang's Supt. Hot Tongue was changed from "Supt. Ah Tung". Unfortunately, although the film looks great in the widescreen version offered on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment, only the English-dubbed version is available. This version is also missing about 13 minutes of footage (a few sequences are edited down and whole scenes are missing) that is available on other editions that are subtitled in English. It's still an enjoyable romp, but whoever wrote the English dub track should really suffer from some painful affliction for needlessly subjecting us to some cringe-worthy dialogue. An Anchor Bay Entertainment Release. Not Rated, but no worse than a PG-13.

MAGNUM THUNDERBOLT (1985) - Another cut-and-paste actioner from director/screenwriter Godfrey Ho (here using the pseudonyms "Kenneth Kong" and "Benny Ho" respectively) and producer Joseph Lai (who, for some strange reason, only takes an Executive Producer credit here) for Lai's IFD Films And Arts Limited production outfit. A hitman named Philip (Philip Ko; NINJA TERMINATOR - 1986; ANGEL'S BLOOD MISSION - 1988) arrives in Hong Kong and checks into a hotel, where he tells the bellboy, "You can bring me a woman." After some extremely sweaty sex (where he throws a glass of wine on the prostitute's naked breasts and then fucks her doggy style), he gets down to business and inserts an audio tape into a cassette player, where his employer informs him (in his best MISSION IMPOSSIBLE voice) that he is to "dispose of" three men: Two American brothers, John (John Culkin) and Tom (John Ladalski), front men for the Chicago Mafia in Southeast Asia; and Shikamura (Shikamura Yafli Yoshi), a Japanese member of the Red Army who was sent to Hong Kong to destroy Philip's employer's organization. After destroying the audio tape, Philip sets out on his mission; first going to Shikamura's apartment, only to find Shikamura waiting for him, Samurai sword in hand. After defeating Shikamura (by shoving two metal pins into his forehead!), Philip pays a visit to his brother Jackie (Chan Wai Man), a Hong Kong police inspector who has no idea Philip is an assassin (he thinks Philip owns a slaughterhouse on Mainland China). Later that night, a cackling psychopath takes a cop and his girlfriend hostage (where he not only threatens to rape the girlfriend, he pulls down the cop's pants and threatens to buttfuck him!) and Jackie intervenes, shooting the psychopath dead. Jackie's boss is tired of his "shoot first and ask questions later" behavior and warns Jackie that if there are any more deaths on his behalf, he will get kicked off the force (It seems Jackie and Philip are not that different). The film then goes off on a tangent, where two rival crime organizations, one headed by Mr. Chao (some badly-matched new footage is inserted to show that John and Tom are partners with Mr. Chao, who wears a series of ridiculous golf caps whenever he is on-screen, making him look about as threatening as Ralph Malph on HAPPY DAYS [1974 - 1984]) and the other headed by Simon Chan (Simon Liu), battle each other over drug trade dominance. It turns out that Philip is friends with Simon, making his job of killing John and Tom that much easier. Philip first kills Tom on the beach (in a sequence that must be seen to be believed) and then turns his attention to John (another sequence that will blow your mind), but when brother Jackie is assigned to investigate the string of murders, it becomes obvious that sooner or later they will face-off against each other. Or so you would think. That never happens, though (this is a Godfrey Ho film, after all), as Jackie is killed and Philip vows revenge. When he discovers that Simon and Mr. Chao are actually working together (What?!?), Philip uses all his assassin skills to get even, shooting Mr. Chao in the back with a sniper rifle and finally facing down ex-friend Simon in a haunted house (!), where no one is left standing.  This Hong Kong actioner has some truly "What The Fuck?!?" moments, such as when Tom is taking photos of a nude woman on the beach, which then turns absolutely insane. He ends up tying her up spread-eagle on her back using four posts in the sand, begins painting her body and then releases a horde of baby turtles on her naked body, followed by placing a live eel between her spread legs (her vagina tastefully hidden behind a bunch of grapes). Philip comes by in the nick of time and kills Tom (it turns into a hatchet/spade fight and ends when Philip manually impales an arrow in Tom's chest), but instead of freeing the poor girl, Philip just walks over her like she's not there! Another truly WTF moment comes when John, disguised as a woman, tries to kill Philip with an exploding baby stroller (!), only to have Philip pull a boomerang (!!) out of his jacket and slits John's throat with it. There are many more memorable moments, such as when Jackie goes to a gym with a drug-sniffing dog and he makes all the female patrons line-up in a single file while the dog sniffs their crotches. When the dog hits on something, Jackie makes all the women take off their panties and jump up and down, which results in bag-after-bag of heroin to fall out of their snatches! The film's finale also totally rips-off the conclusion of the Charles Bronson film THE MECHANIC (1972). The newly-shot footage with John Culkin and John Ladalski is a little less obvious this time, mainly because Philip Ko, who stars in the old footage, appears in the new footage, too (the difference in film stock between the old and new footage is rather apparent, though). As with all Godfrey Ho/Joseph Lai pastiche films, this one is full of stolen music cues and hilarious English dubbing. When Mr. Chao says to one of his contacts, "What kind of schmuck do you think I am?", I nearly shit my pants (apparently the Chinese are just Jews at heart) and during a nightclub sequence, one of the female dubbers confuses Chao and Chan's names. Another winner in the Ho/Lai canon of "Thunderbolt" films, which includes MAJESTIC THUNDERBOLT (1984), INFERNO THUNDERBOLT (1985) and SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1985), none of them related. Also starring Martin Ting, Keith Cheng, Homer Cheung, Maggie Wu and Herman Kwan. Never available on home video in the U.S.; the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Be aware that the German VHS tape of this title is actually MAJESTIC THUNDERBOLT. At no time does Richard Harrison make an appearance here. Not Rated.

THE MAN FROM HONG KONG (1975) - This sweeping Hong Kong/Australian co-production is a treat for both the eyes and ears. After federal drug enforcement agent Bob Taylor (Roger Ward) captures drug trafficker Win Chan (a young Sammo Hung) in Australia while he is delivering a shipment of heroin (He says to one of his agents when he asks Taylor if it's heroin: "Well, it's not sherbert!"), Hong Kong supercop/playboy Inspector Fang Sing Leng (Jimmy Wang Yu) is flown in to interrogate the suspect since Win Chan can't speak English. Inspector Leng's interrogation techniques consist of beating the crap out of Win Chan in his cell and then sticking his head in the toilet. Chan tells Leng that the kingpin behind the drug cartel is Jack Wilton (George Lazenby), but when Leng, Taylor and his partner Morrie Grosse (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Toecutter in MAD MAX - 1979) are escorting Chan to the airport, he is shot dead by an assassin (Grant Page). Leng chases the assassin, which leads to a long (and exciting) martial arts fight in a crowded Chinese restaurant (where the assassin splits his pants), resulting in the assassin getting killed. It's apparent that Leng is a cop that doesn't like to play by the rules, which is a good thing, because rich and influential businessman Jack Wilton (who is also a black belt) will stop at nothing to make sure that Leng ends up dead. After unsuccessfully sending two men to kill Leng in his hotel room (Leng fights them in his pajamas!), Leng calls on Australian reporter Caroline Thorne (Ros Spiers), who he met (and bedded) in Hong Kong when she landed her hang glider on his training grounds (after screwing him, she says to Leng, "You're my first Chinese!), to introduce him to Wilton. She does, at an outdoor party, where Wilton insults Leng ("I never met a Chinese yet that didn't have a yellow streak") and then challenges him to a martial arts fight in front of all the party guests. After getting a few licks in on Wilton and beating up a bunch of his men, Caroline steps in the middle to break it up, just as Wilton was about to kill Leng with a crossbow. When Leng later takes on Wilton's kung-fu school's entire student body by himself, he is seriously hurt and is rescued by Angelica (Rebecca Gilling), who nurses him back to health and they fall in love. When Angelica is killed when the van they are driving in is blown up by Wilton's men, Leng goes on a killing spree. The finale finds Leng using a hang glider to invade Wilton's penthouse apartment. After a well-staged fight between Leng and Wilton, Leng tapes a grenade in Wilton's mouth, makes him sign a confession and then pulls the pin. As Wilton and his penthouse explode in a fireball, Leng, Taylor and Grosse have a good laugh about how it takes a foreigner to achieve justice on Australian soil.  This is an excellent martial arts actioner from Australian director Brian Trenchard-Smith (STUNT ROCK - 1978; ESCAPE 2000 - 1982; DEAD END DRIVE-IN - 1986; DAY OF THE PANTHER - 1987) and co-produced by Raymond Chow for his Golden Harvest Films. Non-stop action from beginning to end, with short intervals of Leng screwing women (and some topless nudity), THE MAN FROM HONG KONG tried to make Jimmy Wang Yu, director and star of the cult classic MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (made the same year as this), an international star, but failed. Not for lack of trying, though. Yu is an entertaining screen hero and his fighting skills are impressive, but his (obviously) dubbed voice and deadly serious tone may have been a turn-off for American viewers, who originally saw this in theaters in a slightly-edited version titled THE DRAGON FLIES. Still, there's a lot to like about this film, from the frequent fights, excellent stunts (including a damn-good car chase in the latter part of the film, where Leng kills everyone involved with Angelica's death) and the beautiful Australian scenery. Ex-James Bond George Lazenby (who a year earlier starred as the title character in the excellent Hong Kong actioner STONER), is quite good as the villain, spouting racist dialogue ("I find Chinese make the best servants.") and doing most of his fight scenes without the benefit of a stuntman (even doing a fire stunt, which resulted in Lazenby being hospitalized for severe burns to his hands). I always like Lazenby as an actor, (his style is loose and natural) and thought he never got the recognition he deserved. This film is a must for all martial arts and action junkies and the Hong Kong DVD, by Fortune Star, is a thing of beauty.  Not only do you get a near-flawless uncut widescreen print, but the reworked 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is very lively and will have you jumping out of your seat during several scenes, particularly during the car explosion in the beginning of the film and the theme song, "Sky High" by Jigsaw, is an excellent choice considering the subject matter and sounds great here. A required purchase. Trenchard-Smith's next film would be DEATH CHEATERS (1976). Also starring Frank Thring, Bill Hunter and John Orcsik. A Fortune Star DVD Release.  Not Rated, but originally Rated R when shown in U.S. theaters.

MANHUNT (1972) - The New York Mob sends two American hitmen, Dave Cantania (Henry Silva) and Frank Webster (Woody Strode), to Italy to kill Luca Canali (Mario Adorf), who they believe took part in a theft of a six million dollar shipment of their heroin. The Mob wants Luca's death to be flashy as possible, a warning to all those who would even think about ripping them off in the future. The only problem is, Luca (who is a beefy, but goodhearted, pimp) is innocent. Dave and Frank make their way to Milan, where they are met by the beautiful Eva Lalli (Luciana Paluzzi), who is assigned to show them a good time and get their faces shown around town. Dave and Frank's first stop is local Mafia kingpin Don Vito Tressoldi (Adolfo Celi), who agrees to deliver Luca to them alive, but privately is very suspicious of the two American's sudden presence. It's also apparent that the two hitmen have distinct (and opposite) personalities. Frank is all business and would rather just get the job done, while Dave is a womanizer (he likes his hookers!) and a partier, which soons gets him in trouble with some prostitutes and scooter-riding toughs in a park one night (Frank reluctantly steps in and saves his ass). Two of Don Vito's men pick up Luca and try to rough him up in a sawmill (Luca says, "Smells good. What's it's for, making coffins?"), but Luca beats the snot out of them before Don Vito arrives. Luca then calls Dave and Frank and tells them to come to the sawmill, to embarass Do Vito (Dave shoots Don Vito's two men in the kneecaps to prove he means business. Don Vito then kills them to prove he means business, too!). Luca is now one of the most wanted men in Milan (even his live-in whore leaves him when one of Don Vito's men gives her a titty-twister!), so he goes to friend Enrico (Franco Fabrizi) for a gun and is forced to kill two of Don Vito's men when they try to bring him in. Don Vito threatens the life of Luca's ex-wife Lucia (Sylvia Koscina) and young daughter Rita and when Luca goes to take them to safety, he helpless watches as a van driven by one of Don Vito's men runs them over and kills them (in the film's most shocking scene). The hunted becomes the hunter and, after he kills the van driver, Luca sets his sights on Don Vito. After getting well-deserved justice, Luca must still contend with Dave and Frank. He decides to do so on his terms in an auto junkyard, where a giant claw on a crane comes into play.  This early 70's Italian/German co-production, directed and co-scripted by Fernando Di Leo (SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971; MILANO CALIBRO 9 - 1972; KIDNAP SYNDICATE - 1975), is an excellent way to spend 92 minutes, thanks to Mario Adorf's (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS - 1971; THE COED MURDERS - 1974) nuanced performance as Luca, some excellent action set-pieces and a brassy music score. My favorite sequence comes when Luca witnesses his ex-wife and daughter's deaths. He chases down the van driver, first by stealing a car and then in a foot chase in his quest to get retribution. When he jumps on the speeding van and headbutts the windshield until he breaks through the glass to get his hands on the driver (where he eventually stabs the driver in the throat), you know he really means business. What's truly remarkable about Adorf's performance, though, is that he goes through nearly the entire film not knowing why he is a wanted man. When he finally finds out as he corners Don Vito (after killing all his men), you can see in his eyes that he has passed the point of no return. Knowing that the American hitmen will not give up until their contract is completed, Luca kills Don Vito (another very good scene) and sets up a meeting with Dave and Frank in a junkyard, in the film's uncompromising finale (there's a scene with a kitten that will break your heart). Both Henry Silva (ALMOST HUMAN - 1974; CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974) and Woody Strode (THE FINAL EXECUTIONER - 1983; JUNGLE WARRIORS - 1983) are given secondary roles (although Silva does manage to stand-out in his scenes and his death is memorable) and it's plain to see that this is Mario Adorf's film all the way. This film was released theatrically by American International Pictures under the title THE ITALIAN CONNECTION in slightly edited form and was marketed as a blaxploitation film (!) under the title BLACK KINGPIN, prominently displaying Woody Strode's mug on the posters. Under any title (which also includes HITMEN, HIRED TO KILL and MAFIA BOSS), this is a worthwhile film to add to your collection. Also starring Femi Benussi, Gianni Macchia, Peter Berling, Francesca Romana Coluzzi and Cyril Cusack as Corso, the bowtie-wearing N.Y. mobster who hires the hitmen. Italian distributor Raro Video offers a beautiful widescreen print on DVD in both original Italian and English-dubbed versions under the original title LA MALA ORDINA. Originally released on VHS in the U.S. by Media Home Entertainment. Not Rated.

THE MEAN MACHINE (1973) - Back in 1979, I (and countless others) was duped into seeing what I thought was a new horror film called THE CAULDRON OF DEATH. What I actually saw was a retitled Spanish-Italian crime thriller called THE MEAN MACHINE. I was so upset that I never gave this film (nor Film Ventures International, the distributor) the chance to stand on its’ own merits. I still haven’t forgiven Film Ventures, but I decided to view this film again on its’ own merits. I am now a much smarter consumer and should have no one to blame but myself. This is an extremely violent actioner that is severely compromised by the presence of Chris Mitchum. His non-acting style (trying to emulate his father with no success) brings this film down several notches, marring an otherwise bloody good time. Mitchum stars as Rico Aversi, a recently paroled con who returns to his hometown to seek revenge for the brutal murder of his mobster father (seen getting his brains blown out in gory close-up at the beginning of the film). The object of Rico’s revenge is Don Vito (an excellent Arthur Kennedy, who never achieved the recognition he deserved), a local mobster who took over Rico’s family business. Don Vito has a very nasty way of disposing of his enemies: He has them thrown into a vat of caustic acid that he has in his soap factory. He then turns them into bars of soap that he uses for his drug running operation (heroin hidden inside the bars). Rico begins to make life miserable for Don Vito. He breaks into Vito’s house and makes contact with his old girlfriend Rosa (the terminally naked Melisa Longo), who is now Don Vito’s mistress. She agrees to help Rico bring Vito down. Rico then steals a shipment of Vito’s diamonds and disrupts his drug running business. A very pissed-off Don Vito begins to clean house. When he catches Rosa making love with one of his thugs, he castrates the thug and throws him and Rosa into the vat. He also sends his henchmen out to brutally gun down Rico’s sister and brother-in-law (in bed making love) as well as his wheelchair-ridden mother. It all ends in a bloody shoot-out in an abandoned junkyard where there are no happy endings. Chris Mitchum leaves a lot to be desired as an actor (He really didn't hit his stride until the string of films he did in the Philippines and Indonesia, such as AMERICAN COMMANDOS [1984] and FINAL SCORE [1986]). The script calls for an anti-hero that can show emotion and he does not fit the bill. When his family is brutally murdered at the end of the film, he merely acts morose as if he does not care. It ruins the effect of the revenge plot. Mitchum’s presence aside, this film still has a lot to offer exploitation fans. It has wall-to-wall nudity (supplied by the aforementioned Longo and Barbara Bouchet as Rico’s new girlfriend), plenty of gunplay and some nasty bits of gore. One such scene is the castration I mentioned earlier. While you do not see the actual castration (a Venezuelan bootleg edition purportedly shows the entire act!), if you freeze frame just before he is thrown into the vat you can see the gory aftermath. It is not a pretty sight. Film Ventures decided to play up these sequences involving the vat, giving it the moniker THE CAULDRON OF DEATH (see ad mat right) and advertising it as an out-and-out horror film (those deceiving bastards!). They used the same type of campaign in advertising Umberto Lenzi’s crime thriller ALMOST HUMAN (1974 - a.k.a. THE KIDNAPPING OF MARY LOU, see review above) the same year! Director Tulio Demicheli shows a deft hand at handling the action sequences where he piles on the exploding squibs and other bloody goings-on. He should have thought about another leading actor though (How about Tomas Milian? He would have been great in this role.). Demicheli also directed the weird and wonderful ASSIGNMENT: TERROR (1969 - a.k.a. DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN), SON OF CAPTAIN BLOOD (1962) and many others. The real star of THE MEAN MACHINE is Arthur Kennedy, a top notch actor who revels in his role as Don Vito. With his greased-back hair and thin moustache, he is thoroughly enjoying his role as the head sleazebag. During the 60’s & 70’s Kennedy appeared in many Italian films, including  A MINUTE TO PRAY, A SECOND TO DIE (1967), BREAKFAST AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974), THE TEMPTER (1974), THE HUMANOID (1979) and countless others. Although he was nominated for the Academy Award no less than four times during the 50’s, he was mainly underutilized during the latter part of his career in the US. That’s a crying shame. THE MEAN MACHINE is strictly Kennedy’s show and we can thank the Italians for using him to his best advantage. This film is also available on cassette under the title RICO. Beware of this version as it is severely edited, deleting all the gore scenes and most of the nudity. Monterey’s edition is now out of print, so search for it! Available from Alpha Video on VHS under the title GANGLAND. I have no idea what condition this version is in. Rated R. UPDATE: Now available on DVD from Dark Sky Films in a beautiful Unrated widescreen print under the title RICCO THE MEAN MACHINE. Wait until you see the castration scene in all of it's unedited glory!

MERCHANT OF EVIL (1991) - Low budget crap starring William Smith (GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE - 1972) as Victor Fortunetti (any similarity between this and Smith's character "Falconetti" in the 1976 TV miniseries RICH MAN, POOR MAN is purely on purpose), an eyepatch-wearing white slaver who kidnaps young women and turns them into unwilling prostitutes  (He tells a bunch of new female kidnapees, "From now on, when I come into this room, you will stand up unless you are on your knees servicing a customer!"). Victor's partner-in-crime, Doug Masters (James Pfeiffer), kidnaps girls from around the world while pretending to be a fashion buyer for an Asian company and brings his girls to Victor's strip club in Hong Kong, where Victor rapes and abuses them before turning them into strippers and whores. Doug's latest kidnap victim is the naïve Vanessa Henning (Dawn Denoon), a Vancouver tourist vacationing in San Francisco. Doug hits on Vanessa at a restaurant and after making a phone call to her concerned sister Erica (Tracey Hughes) back in Vancouver, Vanessa is touring Doug's clothing warehouse and drinking drugged champagne, eventually ending up a prisoner in a locked room with a bunch of other female captives. When Erica doesn't hear from her sister for three days, she flies to San Francisco and hires private investigator Mike Penny (Steve Viall) to find Vanessa when the police refuse to help. After some pretty quick (and utterly convenient) detective work, Mike and Erica end up at Doug's warehouse, where Erica finds one of Vanessa's earrings before her and Mike's cover are blown and they are forced to flee. Doug, his equally evil wife Sue (Susan Mannion) and even more evil assistant Frank (George A. Bryant) know it's only a matter of time before the police raid the warehouse, so they drug Vanessa and the other captive girls, place them in wooden crates and drive them to the airport, where Victor is arriving to pick them up in his personal jet. Mike and Erica follow them to the airport, where Vanessa escapes from her crate, but is shot in the neck by Sue when she tries to escape with sister Erica and Mike. Victor escapes in his jet (without his new supply of girls), while Doug, Sue and Frank are chased by the cops. Frank is killed in a shootout and Sue is captured, but Doug escapes by stealing a plane and having Victor pick him up at the next airport. Vanessa is rushed to the hospital and survives her wounds, while Victor and Frank fly back to Hong Kong, only to learn that rival Chan (Steve Sasaki) has taken over Victor's strip club. While Victor plots his revenge against Chan, Doug travels back to San Francisco, puts on a disguise and rescues Sue during her trial (He kills the judge and all of the court officers in a hail of gunfire), with Mike and Erica in attendance. Erica ends up shooting Sue in the back in the court's parking lot, killing her, with Doug vowing revenge. The finale finds Doug trying to exact that revenge (and failing miserably), while the explosives-loving Victor (who, throughout the film, shows his proclivity for blowing up things buy remote control) gets his comeuppance at the hands of Chan.  This mediocre actioner, directed/produced by Scott Pfeiffer (FIRE FIGHT - 1988) and written by Pfeiffer and Marie Ann Whitaker, isn't helped by the fact that the usually dependable Big Bill Smith looks bored throughout (At one point he's sound asleep while the sound of gunfire is heard on the soundtrack!) and mumbles most of his lines until much of his dialogue is unintelligible (The live sound recording doesn't help, either, as the further the actors are away from the microphones, the harder it is to hear what they are saying, thanks to background noise and no post-production looping). The violence is also tame considering the subject matter (the bloodiest it gets is when Erica shoots Sue in the back in the film's slow-motion Peckinpah rip-off) and there's not much nudity as you would expect (there is some naked flesh on view, but even Victor's strippers are fully clothed!). Factor in that most of the acting is below average (only James Pfeiffer, director Scott's brother, makes an impression as the relentless Doug) and the characters merely cardboard cut-outs (not to mention that Mike is one of the most inept and luckiest private dicks I have ever seen), which makes MERCHANT OF EVIL a less-than B-grade action film (even the car chases seem like they were filmed in slow motion) that can only be recommended for those rabid William Smith fans that must see every film he has appeared in. You know who you are (Yeah, I'm one of them!). Also starring Jerry Neale, Deborah Furlan and Jude Gerard. Distributed on VHS by San Rafael Home Video, which was a short-lived offshoot of Unicorn Video. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

MISSION: KILLFAST (1982/1991) - Here's a little-seen actioner from director/producer/co-scripter Ted V. Mikels that was started in 1982, but wasn't completed until 1991 due to financial problems (and it shows). Someone steals two nuclear detonators from a U.S. military base, so the government pulls ex-CIA operative Tiger Yang (played appropriately by...Tiger Yang) out of mothballs to retrieve them (he now runs a chain of successful martial arts schools). The bad guys catch wind that Tiger is on their trail, so they decide to strike first and assassinate him like President Kennedy as he rides in a convertible while acting as Grand Marshall of one of the most anemic parades in film history (a mixture of stock parade footage combined with new footage of Tiger sitting in a car with a cheap-ass handwritten "Tiger Yang Grand Marshall" sign attached to the door). Before you can say "second shooter in the grassy knoll", Tiger's CIA associates stop the assassination attempt, but pay for it with their lives. Meanwhile, a ruthless businessman named Murak (Sonny King) plans on using the stolen detonators to create his own nuclear bombs, so Tiger and several of his black belt students intercept the shipment and a fight breaks out (using some of the most exaggerated sound effects you will ever hear this side of a dubbed 70's Hong Kong kung fu flick). Murak feels that there is a snitch in his midst (and rightfully so) and, thinking that model Chantelle (played by Shanti, a.k.a. Wendy O. Altamura) is the perpetrator, has her shot in the head while she's modeling a bikini in a desert photo shoot. Tiger's next assignment is to destroy the base of a paramilitary terrorist group that is building up a supply of powerful weapons (What does this have to do with the rest of the film? I don't know, but I'm sure it has something to do with the troubled production history.). Tiger joins forces with Catt (Sharon Hughes), whose father was murdered by the bad guys, to stop the terrorist group. This somehow involves Catt going undercover as a model at an agency run by Shannon (Kyle E. Cranston). Catt is raped by a crooked cop (who has more hair on his body than an ape), but comes up with valuable information which could break the case (Which case is it now? I'm confused!). When someone stabs Catt to death with a hunting knife, Tiger shifts into shogun mode to get revenge on all the bad guys.  The first thing you'll notice about this flick is the piecemeal feel and look of the entire production. It jumps from one scene to the next without any connective tissue, like it's coming directly from the fragmented mind of an institutionalized schizophrenic. This only adds to the film's charms, because it eventually becomes a game for viewers, as you try to spot the footage shot in 1982 and the footage shot nearly a decade later. It's not that hard to do because the film stock is noticeably different between the two time frames, as are the fashions on view. It's obvious that Mikels was trying to make Tiger Yang (who sports a Charles Bronson-like moustache that changes in thickness from scene-to-scene) his own personal Bruce Lee, but Tiger has the charisma and English language skills of a tree branch and Mikels has no idea how to frame a martial arts fight. This film also contains a lot of Mikels' signature traits, including overuse of stock footage; stock sound effects (whenever a moving car is shown, we hear the sound of squealing tires, even if they are traveling in a straight line or on a dirt road); threadbare sets; MOS sound (one scene shows two guys talking by a lake filled with quacking ducks and it becomes a chore making out what the guys are saying over the din of the ducks!); amateur acting; a smattering of blood; and a couple of scenes of female nudity, including a girl with the skinniest (not small, just skinny), perkiest breasts I have ever had the pleasure to view. Mikels (the director of such fare as THE ASTRO ZOMBIES [1968] and THE CORPSE GRINDERS [1971]) appears briefly as a terrorist in footage shot in 1982. No bones about it, this is a terrible film that makes no sense at all (people appear and then disappear, never to be heard from again, as their story lines are simply dropped in hopes we don't notice), but it's the film's innate terribleness that makes it so watchable. Be prepared, though, because this is a loooong 97 minutes. Originally titled OMEGA ASSASSINS and filmed in Reno and Las Vegas. Also starring Myron Natwick, Ronald Gregg, Rex Ravelle, Chuck Alford, Harry Pugh, Ron Ewart, Robert Legionaire, Behrouz, Perry Genovese and Jewel Shepard as Miss August. This can be purchased directly from Mr. Mikel's web site: www.tedvmikels.com. Not Rated.

MOVIE IN ACTION (1987) - When it came to Filipino action films, it was hard to beat the teaming of late director Teddy Page (here using the name "Ted Johnson") and (usually) uncredited producer K.Y. Lim and his Silver Star Film Company production outfit. MOVIE IN ACTION opens with a heated battle between guys in military gear and Asian bad guys in Thailand, only to be revealed to be nothing but a low-budget film shoot a few minutes later. As they set up their next camera shot, we get to meet the film crew, which includes Frank (Bo Svenson; DEADLY IMPACT - 1984), the director; Billy (Mike Monty; JUST A DAMNED SOLDIER - 1988), the producer; Brian (Jim Gaines; JUNGLE RATS - 1987), the soundman; Keith (David Brass; THE TOMB - 2004), the cameraman; Lee (Liza Hutton), the make-up girl; Robert (Robert Mason; WAR WITHOUT END - 1986), the special effects technician; Mike (Don Holden), the lead actor; and Susan (Chantal Mansfield), the prima-donna lead actress. As they roll for their next scene, things take a turn for the worse when a group of real-life rebels kidnap Susan and shoot-up the film set with real bullets, hitting Frank in the leg. The movie is immediately shut down and Frank and Billy go to the American Embassy for help. When the Embassy and the Thai government offer little help in rescuing Susan, Frank and his team of filmmakers spring into action to rescue Susan on their own. Since Susan was wearing a wireless body microphone when she was kidnapped, the crew is able to track her location after stealing a signal-enhancing device from a military outpost (using one of Robert's remote control cars as a decoy to distract the guards). While Frank is unable to go with them because of his injured leg and Billy mysteriously giving them only 72 hours before he pulls the plug, the rest of the ragtag gang (they call themselves "Movie Warriors") illegally enter Cambodia and each uses their separate talents to get closer to their goal of rescuing Susan. Attention-whore Billy (ever know a producer who isn't one?) may blow the whole enterprise when he holds daily press conferences to report on the Movie Warriors' progress. After many close calls, the Movie Warriors reach their objective and save Susan, only to discover Billy is the brains behind the kidnapping as a way to collect insurance money on a film he didn't want completed. Just when things look dire for the Movie Warriors, Franks shows up and saves the day. Luckily, Keith recorded everything on-camera and the film turns into a giant hit. Next up: Maybe a film in Afghanistan as a favor to President Reagan!  Though light as a feather when it comes to common sense (You mean to tell me that not one of the bad guys bothered to frisk Susan? And how long does the battery on a body mike last anyway?), MOVIE IN ACTION (also known as WARTIME) delivers the goods when it comes to violence and pyrotechnics. Lots of objects explode (including a booby-trapped dummy Robert rigs to explode when a bad guy kicks it) and gunfights ensue as the film progresses, as each member of the team puts their film knowledge to real-life use (Combat trained Mike and special effects tech Robert get the biggest workouts here). It's hilarious watching the usually tough Jim Gaines play such a timid, gay character here, as Brian is such a scaredy cat, he is literally ordered by Mike (who channels his film's macho character) to join the team (Brian does have a redeeming moment in the finale, though). There are some inventive gags (Lee covering everyone in stage blood to make them look dead to the enemy; turning a Jeep into an ox-driven hay cart; the team sporting rubber horror masks to scare a local villager so they can steal his buffalo cart), but this is mostly a humorous (if violent) tale about people banding together for the common good. Nobody really likes Susan, but as Frank says in the beginning of the film, "We all came here together and we'll all leave together!" Not such a bad philosophy to have, is it? Director Teddy Page (BLOOD DEBTS - 1983; NINJA'S FORCE - 1984; PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987; and many others), working with a script by actor Robert Marius (COP GAME - 1988; ALIEN FROM THE DEEP - 1989), keeps the tone light, as all the major characters survive (even Billy, who gets a proper comeuppance in the finale) and the deaths only come at the expense of the faceless hordes of bad guys and one jerk (played by Anthony Young) who clearly has the hots for Susan. Not as frantic as Page's full-on action flicks, but a pleasant diversion nonetheless. Also starring Peter King, Michael Walter, Frank Nicholson and Anne Joseph. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S. in any format; the print I viewed was sourced from a fullscreen Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

THE MURDER GANG (1976) - Every once in a while a film comes along that shows a style and craftmanship that completely changes the viewer's expectations of that particular genre. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and THE EXORCIST (1973) forever changed the way we looked at horror films and BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) and THE GODFATHER (1972) did the same thing for gangster epics. Unfortunately, THE MURDER GANG is not one of those films. It's a bottom of the barrel crime meller from the late Al Adamson, the low budget auteur responsible for such action exploitation trash as MEAN MOTHER (1973), DYNAMITE BROTHERS (1974) and BLACK SAMURAI (1977) that littered the video store shelves. THE MURDER GANG is filled with shootings, stabbings, car crashes, impalements, dismemberment, nudity, lesbianism and even a fairly graphic gang rape, yet it still puts the viewer into a deep coma as it is filmed in such a lazy, lackadaisical manner that the entire proceedings seem boring. The film's thin storyline is about a gang of crooks (led by a coked-out looking Russ Tamblyn and black actor J.C. Wells, who portrays a character named "Guido"!) whom blackmail a gambling-addicted girl (Jana Bellan) into giving them the route of a money-carrying messenger who works at her stock brokerage firm. They plan to rob the messenger, use the money to buy automatic weapons and trade those weapons for drugs from some unnamed Latin American country. Got it? What the gang didn't count on is being dogged by a cop (Timothy Brown) who is out for revenge for the killing of his partner by Tamblyn's hands.  The film has many gaffes: The sound of tires screeching and squealing on a dirt road, flubbed lines, visible boom mikes and Regina Carrol's hilarious portrayal of a lounge singer whose lips rarely match the lyrics she is crooning. There is also some wild 70's fashions on view as the men walk around in bell bottom pants and the women are either in bikinis, evening gowns or pantsuits that were all the rage in that time period. A subplot involving Brown and a lady TV reporter goes nowhere and is just an excuse to show them in bed making love. The entire film is shot in a series of long takes (some of them seeming to go on forever) that will tax even the most patient viewers. They don't get much worse than this and the only reason you can have for watching it (besides being under the influence of a controlled substance) is for the unintentional humor. Like most of Adamson's films it is known under a myriad of titles, including BLACK HEAT, GIRLS' HOTEL and U.S. VICE. This is not quality entertainment under any title. A Super Video Release. Rated R.

MY BOYS ARE GOOD BOYS (1977) - Repeat juvenile offender Tommy Morton (Sean T. Roche) is upset at his father Bert (executive producer Ralph Meeker; THE ALPHA INCIDENT - 1978) and uber-religious mother (Ida Lupino; FOOD OF THE GODS - 1976; also starring Meeker) for letting him get sentenced to a youth detention work camp after being caught robbing a store and stealing a car. Tommy enacts his revenge by breaking out of juvie with two other escapees, Pokey (Ron Anthony) and bumbling fatso Chunkie (Robert Cokjlat), as well as girlfriend on the outside, Priscilla (Kerry Lynn), and robbing the armored car driven by Bert (An overly complicated and convenient caper involving canisters of knockout gas. Where in the hell do kids get canisters of knockout gas?). Things immediately go sideways when Tommy discovers that they robbed the armor car a little too soon, as they haven't picked up money from any of the businesses yet, so Tommy comes up with a new plan: He takes Bert and the other two guards hostage and makes them complete their pick-ups (Tommy and the rest of his gang wear ski masks so no one can see their faces). Trouble ensues when Bert falls behind schedule of his pick-ups and incurs the wrath of his uptight boss, Mr. Mountgomery (Lloyd Nolan), who dislikes Bert and follows behind the armored car with his beefy bodyguard. This leads to a laughable car chase (Old lady with shopping cart crossing the street? Check. Parked car opening door just as car is whizzing by? Check. Driving the wrong way on a one-way street? Check.), where Mountgomery's car crashes through a florist shop (Well, at least it wasn't a fruits and vegetable stand!), allowing the armored car to escape. Tommy and the gang knock-out Bert and the guards with the gas again and return to the youth detention center undetected, leaving the money with Priscilla. Back at the police station, Bert is unable to identify the robbers and slugs a detective when he insinuates that he was in on the robbery. Mountgomery fires Bert from his job and tails him, but he eventually helps Bert in investigating who the robbers really are (All Bert can recall is that the leader of the gang's voice sounded familiar. Hmmmmmm......). When Bert visits Tommy at the center, he finally puts two-and-two together and reports his son's involvement to Mountgomery, who goes to the facility and begins breaking down the alibi's of Tommy and his friends (It's the film's best-written section). The finale reveals that you should trust no one when it comes to large sums of money.  This tame thriller, directed by Bethel Buckalew, who is best remembered for his string of "hicksploitation" flicks, including COUNTRY CUZZINS (1970), TOBACCO ROODY (1970), MIDNIGHT PLOWBOY (1973) and SOUTHERN COMFORTS (1971), amongst others, and co-written by Buckalew and Colleen Meeker (Ralph's young wife), has a few action sequences, but is mostly a dull drama about parent/child relationships. To say that this drama is heavy-handed and unrealistic is a total understatement. Not only is Tommy's relationship with Bert one of the bitterest father/son dynamics on record, the husband/wife rapport between Meeker (a long way from KISS ME DEADLY - 1955) and Lupino (who retired from filmmaking after appearing in this) is one of the most hateful and acerbic marriages I have ever seen. As a matter of fact, the only character in this film that remotely has anything close to a human soul is kindly reformatory guard Harry (David Doyle, "Bosley" from TV's CHARLIE'S ANGELS [1976 - 1981]), but he is also unmasked as a murderer when he is interrogated by Mountgomery (In all fairness to Harry, he murdered his abusive father when he was a teen, which now makes him protective of "my boys" in the reformatory). You would think that all this unpleasantness would make for good drama, but Buckalew plays everything here squeaky clean. There is nary a profane word spoken or a drop of blood spilled, which made this perfect TV fodder, where it played in heavy rotation during the late 70's and early 80's. To Buckalew's credit, he does try to throw in a surprise ending (where character actor John Goff [PISTOL-PACKIN' LEROY - 1973; who is also the Assistant Director here] plays an important role), but it's a case of too little way too late. This has to be the most sanitary film about a cast of unsavory and back-stabbing people in celluloid history. Even Mr. Rogers would find this hard to swallow. It also contains one of the worst music soundtracks (including a horrendous Country-tinged title song) that my ears ever had the displeasure of hearing. This was originally released on VHS by Magnum Entertainment and has now fallen into the public domain. It is available on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment as part of their ACTION CLASSICS 50 MOVIE PACK. Rated PG.

NO CONTEST (1994)  - Excellent actioner that is short on logic but long on thrills. Andrew Dice Clay (!) and his well-armed gang (including Roddy Piper in a rare bad-guy role) invade the Ms. Galaxy beauty pageant and take the finalists hostage (Clay shoots the winner, Ms. France, in the head to prove he means business). Clay demands ten million dollars from the father of Ms. USA for the release of the hostages. What Clay doesn’t count on is the constant interference of a fading martial arts film actress (Shannon Tweed, the eternal companion [and eventual wife] of KISS bandmate Gene Simmons), the MC of the pageant, and the bodyguard (the always entertaining Robert Davi) hired to protect Ms. USA. Clay (billed here as “Andrew Clay”) shows a deft hand in his role of a killer without a conscience, willing to sacrifice the hostages and his own men to get the ten million. I never liked Clay as an actor, but I must admit that he is quite good here in a role that should have bolstered his flagging career. Roddy Piper, in a supporting role, is very menacing as the nearly indestructable Ice, who takes licking after licking but keeps coming back for more. Filled with excellent action and fighting scenes, including exploding bracelets and countless gunfights that are well staged, this film also has relentless tension that never lets up. This is a sure winner in a field full of losers, due in a large part to the atypical casting and the feeling that everyone in front and behind the cameras wanted to turn out something good. They did. Co-starring Nicholas Campbell (NAKED LUNCH - 1991). Directed with a firm hand by Paul Lynch (PROM NIGHT - 1980; BULLIES - 1986). It premiered on HBO and is available on Columbia Tristar Home Video. Films like this are the main reason why I pay my cable bill. Also known as RUNNING OUT: COUNTDOWN TO DEATH. A sequel was made, NO CONTEST II: ACCESS DENIED - 1996), with Shannon Tweed playing the same character as in the first film and Paul Lynch returning as the director, but the film title was changed to FACE THE EVIL. It's a pale imitation of the first film. Rated R.

NO SAFE HAVEN (1987) - This is a badly cobbled-together action film with a few redeeming sequences, but since it was directed by a stuntman, it is very light on the stunts. The movie opens with a sequence that really has nothing to do with the rest of the film (except to show the meanness of Manuel, played by Branscombe Richmond; CAGE - 1989), as we watch Manuel sitting in a car waiting for some unknown man to leave a restaurant with his girlfriend. Manuel starts shooting a machine gun, where the unknown man uses his girlfriend as a shield (she gets riddled with bullets) and after he jumps on the hood of a car and then is thrown through the windshield of another car, he steals that car (!), with Manuel still firing his gun and mowing down innocent bystanders. The unknown man then steals a cement mixer truck (!!) and drives it on the street with Manuel and his driver following close by, still firing his machine gun (the film is sped up to make it look like it is a high-speed chase, but if you look closely, you can see people on the street walking in fast-motion!). The chase ends when the cement mixer hits a city bus full of innocent people and the bus and truck both blow up, killing everyone. (This is the only stunt-filled scene until the last 30 minutes of the film and it is so sloppily filmed, it loses any excitement it should have had). In the next scene we see professional football quaterback Buddy Harris (Tom Campitelli) meeting Manuel and discussing Buddy moving a brick of cocaine to the next town he is playing in. Manuel also wants Buddy to throw the game and lose by at least ten points. After delivering to cocaine to a female child who comes to his hotel door, Buddy grows a conscience and decides he is not going to throw the game. He purposely breaks his arm in his hotel's bathroom so he is not able to play. When his team wins in double overtime, it pisses off Manuel's drug cartel boss, Carlos (Robert Ahola), who sends Manuel and some goons to Buddy's house, where they shoot Buddy's mother dead (the scene has some effect since, when the mother slides down the bloodstained refrigerator, we actually see a bullet hole in the refrigerator door, something most low-budget films like this tend to leave out) and eventually shoot and kill Buddy and his younger brother. Cut to the Honduras, where Clete Harris (Wings Hauser; VICE SQUAD - 1982; DEAD MAN WALKING - 1987; THE ART OF DYING - 1991), the older brother of Buddy, is working for The Peace Corps (he's actually an undercover American agent passing info he hears to our government). After making fun of his female counterpart Roberta's (Nancy Locke, who was the real-life wife of Hauser at the time and they both co-wrote the screenplay together) hairy armpits by showing her a disposable razor and then mentioning deodorant, Clete learns of his entire family's slaughter and heads back to the U.S. Yes, he is now on a mission of revenge. Eventually (and I mean eventually, as it seems to take forever), he hooks-up with Randy (Robert Tessier; NIGHTWISH - 1988; in a larger than usual role), a mercenary who lives in a plane graveyard with a young boy (who can strip and clean the most complex of weapons!) and loves to blow things up, as he happily shows Clete on several occasions. Clete doesn't want such powerful weapons and decides to use a regular sidearm and a speedboat to get his revenge on Manuel and his goons. He gets Manuel to follow him in their speedboat and they do not see the explosives that Clete has put in the water (I guess he really did want some powerful weapons after all, one of the many unexplainable events in this film), blowing up Manuel's boat, but when Manuel escapes the explosion, Clete runs him over with his boat and watches Manuel sink to the bottom. He then decides to go to South America to get revenge on Carlos, but he needs help, something that Randy is glad to help with. After some comical banter between the two about whether Randy knows how to fly a helicopter (he does), Clete parachutes next to Carlos' compound and sets timed explosives around the compound before beginning to weed-out Carlos' goons. It ends with Carlos (who is duped into letting Clete into the house when he displays the garrotted decapitated head of Carlos' goon through the front door's peephole!) being pulled up to the helicopter by Randy by way of a harness and a well-placed hook (Randy begins to blow the hell out of the compound with more rockets and machine gun fire than one helicopter could possibly hold!), along with Clete on the ground shooting his way through Carlos's massive goon squad while the timed explosives go off. Randy picks up Clete (he jumps from a roof onto one of the copter's landing gear) and they take off into the wild blue yonder and drop Carlos off the helicopter without a parachute. THE END. It's no wonder that this was Ronnie Rondell Jr.'s only directorial effort because it is a disjointed film that contains scenes that make no sense (like Clete screwing a girl in the back of a car as soon as he gets home). Rondell is a supreme stuntman, but as a director, he makes a good stuntman. The fault can't lie directly on his shoulders, though, as Hauser and Locke's screenplay (they divorced in 1999) doesn't make very much sense and a lot of the film is full of nonsense dialogue that would even make a baby cringe (They also try to throw in some social relevance into the film, like why Randy's young boy doesn't go to school, but it falls flatter than a piece of drywall). I am a big fan of Hauser (even though it seems his son Cole Hauser has taken over the acting mantle, appearing in such films as 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS - 2003; THE CAVE - 2005; THE HIT LIST - 2011; and many more) and I still see him in an occasional acting role today (the cult item RUBBER - 2010 and plenty of TV series appearances like CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION - 2013), but NO SAFE HAVEN can be considered one of the minor films on his resumé. It's too slow to be an action film, takes too long to be a revenge film and lacks suspense to be a thriller. It just is, and that's about the best thing I can say about it. Also starring Marina Rice, Harvey Martin, Evelyn Moore, Chris Douridas and Gil Glasgow. A Forum Home Video VHS Release. Rated R.

NO TIME TO DIE (1985) - The same year they appeared in Bobby A. Suarez's AMERICAN COMMANDOS, John Phillip Law and Christopher Mitchum co-starred in this West German/Indonesian co-production, originally made for German TV. Law stars as ladies man (and former diamond smuggler) Ted Barner, who shows an interest in World News Agency reporter Judy Staufer (Grazyna Dylong), who is in Jakarta to investigate rumors of a new laser cannon being developed by huge conglomerate Multi Industrial Corporation. Also in town is Mr. Gull (Mitchum), the head of MIC's rival corporation. He hires Handoko (Advent Bangun of THE BLIND WARRIOR - 1985) and Jan Van Cleef (Francis Glutton) to steal the laser cannon. Ted cons Judy into believing that he works for MIC, but little does he know that his lies and bullshit will get him involved with the rivalry between Mr. Gull and MIC, especially since Van Cleef is Ted's old diamond smuggling partner who Ted left holding the bag in South Africa. Somehow, Ted gets a job with MIC driving the truck on the long journey to it's testing ground: a mine in the Indonesian mountains. Judy finds out about Ted's new job and plays Van Cleef against Ted to get her story. As Ted, MIC security chief Ratno "Pat" Lesmana (Barry Prima of THE WARRIOR - 1981) and MIC scientist Martin Forster (Horst Janson of CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER - 1974) drive the truck with the laser cannon to it's destination (They smoke a joint and drink booze in the truck's cabin, where Pat says, "A joint in the morning and the day is your friend!"), Handoko, Van Cleef and a bunch of paid muscle try their their best to hijack the truck, but a combination of Ted's driving skill, Martin's quick-thinking and Pat's derring-do foil several attempts. When Judy joins them (She has a helicopter drop her in the middle of the road while she rides a rope ladder!), things take a turn for the worse. Pat is shot dead and Ted gets a radio message that he's got to pick up the pace because the mine has just had a cave-in and they need the laser cannon to save the miners trapped below. And, oh yeah, one of the trapped miners is Martin's brother (c'mon now!). As air for for the miners runs low, Ted, Martin and Judy must traverse a section of road full of land mines and a final assault by Van Cleef and his men. They arrive at the mine in the nick of time and everyone (besides Van Cleef and his men) live happily ever after.  Compared to most Indonesian action flicks, NO TIME TO DIE is rather routine and slow-moving. This is probably due to the fact that this was directed by a German (Helmuth Ashley, who also directed PUZZLE [SECRET] OF THE RED ORCHID - 1961) rather than local talent and it suffers because of it. There are plenty of action scenes (including a homage to WAGES OF FEAR [1953], where Ted has to drive the truck over a rickety bamboo bridge), but they lack the verve and the craziness we've come to expect from this section of the Far East. The closest this film comes to that craziness is the opening scene where Ted spots the beautiful Judy in her Jeep, he gets instantly horny and he chases her on his motorcycle, driving up on sidewalks, through an outdoor cafe and generally ignoring anyone's safety until, finally, he forces Judy to crash her Jeep into the front of a business, all because he wanted to get laid! John Phillip Law looks like he is having fun here (he's usually stiff as a hard-on in a whorehouse), which is one of the film's saving graces. The other saving grace is the scene where Van Cleef accidentally runs over one of his own men in his Jeep and when Ted, Martin and Judy witness it, they all have a good laugh after Martin says, "He should have taken the train!" That's just what this film needed more of but, unfortunately, it doesn't, so it's somewhat of a disappointment. It's not awful, it's just that I expected more than what the final product delivered. Christopher Mitchum, who would reach dizzying new heights (literally) in director Arizal's crazy action flick FINAL SCORE the next year, has nothing but an extended cameo here (he gets a "Special Guest Star" billing). Also starring Eric Moss, Eddy Wardy, I.M. Damsyik and Dicky Zulkarnaen. A Trans World Entertainment Home Video Release (I love the way they pump-up Mitchum's muscles on the VHS box's cover. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the film.). Not Rated.

OFFICIAL EXTERMINATOR 4: GODDESS MISSION (1988) - Welcome to the cut-and-paste world of director Godfrey Ho (here credited as "Joel Law") and producer Joseph Lai (for his IFD Films & Arts Ltd. production company), where nothing makes a lick of sense, but, holy cow, it sure is entertaining. The film opens (this is the fourth of five OFFICIAL EXTERMINATOR films, none of them related in any way), as most of these pastiche films do, with a bit of newly-shot footage, where crime kingpin Curtis (Mike Abbott; LETHAL HUNTER - 1988) and his men beat the shit out of and kill Albert, an undercover cop who (not so successfully) infiltrated their ranks. It then segues into the film proper, an unreleased Hong Kong action flick where we watch kidnapped girl Cindy (Fonda Lynn; DEADLY DARLING - 1985) being raped by one of her kidnappers. Cindy and her three male kidnapped friends escape a short time later (Cindy stabs one of her captors in the stomach), steal a pink station wagon (!) and end up ditching it when they are chased by the cops (they run away from the cops because they are in the country illegally and don't have drivers licenses!). We then switch back to the new footage, where cop Ken Logan (Mark Watson, who appeared with Abbott in PLATOON THE WARRIORS and ANGEL'S BLOOD MISSION the same year as this) agrees to go undercover in Curtis' crime syndicate and get even for friend Albert's murder. Cut back to the old footage, where we watch Cindy shining shoes in a cleavage-baring outfit, with a bunch of dirty old men waiting in line for their turn (one horny man watches her through a hole he poked through a newspaper, right next to a Hagar The Horrible comic strip!). She is strong-armed by a street gang, who want her to put-out sexually or pay protection money, but she beats them all to a pulp with her kung-fu skills. Cindy and her three male friends are just trying to find a way to survive on the mean streets of Hong Kong without being caught by the cops and sent back to Mainland China. They resort to petty theft and pick pocketing, but things take a turn for the worse when Cindy picks the pockets of the Chief of Detectives. Feeling guilty about stealing the Chief's wallet, Cindy sneaks into his home and returns it, but instead of being happy about getting his wallet back, the Chief orders his men to find Cindy and her three male friends, no matter what it takes. Meanwhile, Ken has infiltrated Curtis' organization, has gained Curtis' confidence and is hired to be a member of his gang. Ken gets into several close calls where his cover is nearly blown, but he manages to fight or shoot his way out of them. The Chief and his squad relentlessly pursue Cindy and her friends, but, time and time again, Cindy escapes, leaving the Chief red-faced. When Frankie, one of Cindy's friends, is caught, Cindy and her other two friends, Charles and Paul, try to rescue him but are double-crossed by hobo Uncle Lee and are also captured by the Chief. The Chief works out a deal with Cindy: If she and her friends agree to go undercover and bring down a crime syndicate in league with Curtis, he will let them live in Hong Kong as legal citizens. When Cindy discovers that her rapist is part of the syndicate, she's more than glad to take part. The finale finds Cindy and her friends achieving their goals and Ken battling to the death with Curtis in a Hong Kong water canal.  This contains all the normal Ho/Lai trademarks: Hilarious dialogue (script by Ho as "Benny Ho"); obvious intercutting of old and new footage (Whenever a phone rings in the old footage, you can bet that someone in the new footage is on the other end); scenes of rape (Late in the film, syndicate leader Eagle tries to rape Cindy and when she fights back, he says, "What's all the fuss? It's not as if you're a virgin! What's wrong with a little cuddle?"); stolen music cues (Richard Band's theme from RE-ANIMATOR [1985] plays predominately in the background during one scene!); and there's even an appearance by a brightly colored ninja (with one of those "Ninja" headbands) during one of Ken's fights. GODDESS MISSION is an entertaining mishmash that also contains a catfight in a hot tub; a sub-plot about illegal aliens being purposely abused and shafted by their employers; a couple of good fight scenes (both in the old and new footage); and Mike Abbott's steely glare. His eyes are so wide-open in some scenes (especially in the opening and closing minutes), he looks like he's been on a week-long coke-fueled binge. I'm a big fan of Mike's, since he's the only actor I have ever seen that has a gap between both his upper and lower teeth and still comes off as menacing. Also starring Gary Carter, Eric Hopper, Angus Grooer, Bernard Tsui, Paul Lam, Dick Chan, George Ma and William Wang. Never available on home video in the U.S. (hell, it's not even listed on IMDB), the version I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

OPERATION NAM (1985) - Pretty good Italian war actioner that will disturb some viewers with it's anti-American dialogue and situations. Four Vietnam vets, Richard (Oliver Tobias; BREEDERS - 1997), Roger (Christopher Connelly; RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS - 1983), Mark (Manfred Lehmann; CODENAME: WILDGEESE - 1984) and James (John Steiner; ARK OF THE SUN GOD - 1983), decide to go back to Vietnam and rescue American POWs that are still being held ten years after the war has ended. Since the American government would rather the public not be aware that there are Americans still being held in captivity in Vietnam, the foursome enter Vietnam in secrecy and begin their mission, aided by information supplied to them by their former commanding officer, Major Morris (Italian genre director Enzo G. Castellari; HAMMERHEAD - 1987), who was forced to retire because he wanted the government to rescue the POWs. Once in Vietnam, our four heroes get help from Father Lenoir (an extended cameo by Donald Pleasence), a French priest who has been in Vietnam since the 1950's. He supplies the vets with automatic weapons and explosives and then leads them on their first leg of the journey. After helplessly watching a group of Vietcong soldiers torturing an American POW in a river, the vets follow the enemy back to their camp, where Richard's Nam flashback nearly costs everyone their lives. Luckily, they are able to kill all the guards and rescue a handful of POWs, including Mike (Ethan Wayne), who tells them that the American government has been fully aware of their captivity and location for the past ten years, even sending government officials every year to check up on them, but have done absolutely nothing in regards to their freedom. Now, our motley group must make it out of Vietnam in one piece, which won't be easy because both the Vietnamese and American governments don't want the POWs to make it back to the States alive. After nearly making it to safety, the three remaining vets are forced to make a decision that will save their lives but certainly doom the POWs. In a scene that will surely surprise most viewers, the trio agrees to the arrangement, but as the final denouement reveals, the American government can't be trusted to keep their word. It's one of the bleakest endings of a war actioner that I have witnessed in quite some time.  Originally filmed as COBRA MISSION, but changed to OPERATION NAM for it's U.S. VHS release, this is a pretty heady mix of bloody war action and political intrigue (especially it's anti-American slant), which I'm sure would not please Ethan Wayne's father, John 'Duke' Wayne, if he were still alive at the time of this film's production. This film has a striking hatred of American policies and politics and there are some amazing scenes to illustrate this bias, including a young Vietnamese woman who removes her blouse, revealing her horribly burned breasts. She says just two words, "American napalm", before shooting Mark several times in the stomach with a pistol, killing him. Up until that shocking moment, the sequence is played as a love scene, where we are led to believe that Mark and the woman were about to have sex. The four vets are also the most unlikely heroes in a war film. Roger is a slacker who lives off his wife's fortune and has to be pulled away from playing video games on his TV on the day of his daughter's wedding. Richard has spent the last ten years in voluntary committal in a mental institution because he doesn't want to live in society. Mark is a hothead who only finds satisfaction when he beats up people who ridicule or put down Vietnam veterans (There's one scene at a bar where the dialogue is so vitriolic, I wanted to beat the shit out of the two bar patrons!). James is a loner who takes odd jobs as he travels from town-to-town, because he just doesn't know how to relate to people. Director Fabrizio DeAngelis (DEADLY IMPACT - 1984; KARATE WARRIOR - 1987), working with a script supplied by him (under his frequent pseudonym "Larry Ludman"), A.J. Bleman and European exploitation staple Erwin C. Dietrich, seems to be implying that the Vietnam war has permanently damaged not only the soldiers that fought in it, but also the governments responsible for it. It's a nihilistic view that is best summed-up by the film's remarkably downbeat finale, where American Colonel Mortimer (Gordon Mitchell; BLOOD DELIRIUM - 1988) rescues the three remaining vets, but makes them leave Mike, the sole surviving POW, behind to be recaptured by the Vietcong. It's an image you won't soon forget. The nihilism doesn't end there, though. We're informed that Roger was killed in an auto "accident" two weeks after he returned to the States; James died while piloting a helicopter in Thailand; and the final image is of Richard back in the mental hospital, only this time it's not of his own choice. He sits in a wheelchair, obviously in a drugged-out haze, his eyes showing no signs of humanity. As far as Vietnam war films go, OPERATION NAM is one of the most grimmest and hopeless action films you're ever likely to view. Search it out. Just don't expect to feel good after watching it. An unrelated sequel, COBRA MISSION 2 (1988), was produced by DeAngelis and directed by Camillo Teti (as "Mark Davis"). Also starring Thomas Moore and David Light. Released on VHS by Imperial Entertainment Corp. and not available on DVD in the U.S. (there is an Italian DVD available, though). Not Rated due to some extreme violence, including Richard graphically gunning down the napalm-scarred woman after she kills Mark.

OPIUM STRIKE FORCE (1985) - The Thai government sends a man in undercover to a guerilla compound to bring down Thailand's biggest drug lord, who supplies opium to most of the world and buy guns and men with his profits. He joins a group of thugs that the compound is training to become soldiers for the drug lord's army. A local warlord stops by the camp to complain to the drug lord ("You do not respect me!"), only to be ambushed by Burmese troops as he leaves the camp. He is saved by a mysterious stranger (actually another government spy) who guns down all the troops. The warlord brings him back to his camp. The first undercover guy meets two other men that the government sent to help him. They watch the camp carefully, looking for any weaknesses that they can exploit later on. When the warlord finds out that the troops that attacked him were not Burmese but, rather, the drug lord's men in disguise, he goes back to the drug lord's compound , only to be beat up and injected with drugs. After disciplining his men for being insubordinate (he shoots three of them point blank), the drug lord send his new recruits on their first drug run but, for some reason, the undercover guy is chained-up and stays behind. He becomes friends with the compound's only female soldier, Tulip (!), after fixing her Jeep. (When he tells her that he was in prison, she asks him, "Were you in for robbery?" He replies matter-of-factly, "No, I killed my wife and her mother in bed.") He sets up a series of events that will pit the drug lord's men against the warlord's men (turns out the warlord was Tulip's uncle). Many gunfights and explosions follow once the drug lord shoots the warlord in front of Tulip. I dare anyone to make sense of the incomprehensible Indonesian piece of crap. I love Indonesian action films, but this one sorely lacks the rapid-fire pace, violence and kinetic energy associated with with many films from this region (i.e. FINAL SCORE - 1986). This film just drags from beginning to end and very little of it is interesting. The dubbing is especially dicey (everyone talks like William Shatner, as there are long pauses in mid-sentence) as is the photography (it's either extreme close-ups or long shots). Even the most exploitable elements are handled poorly. There's an auction for prostitutes at the compound (there aren't enough women to go around) and the resulting nudity and gang rape of one girl is so confusingly shot, it ruins the effectiveness. Even the violence is tame by Indonesian standards. Just a few bullets to the head and body and a couple of beatdowns. Of course, there's plenty of gunfire, explosions and things on fire, but none of it interesting or exciting. I must say I was highly disappointed. I expected craziness and got laziness instead. You can't win them all. Also known as RAIDERS OF THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE. Directed by Sumat Saichur (RAIDERS OF THE DOOMED KINGDOM - 1985). Starring Sarapong Chatri, Manny Aswater, Peter Ramwa, Sam Tham, Joe Patan, Jane Turks, Panda McClure, Nicor Lugar and Strom Baker. A Link Video Release. Not Rated.

THE ORDER OF THE BLACK EAGLE (1986) - In this sequel to UNMASKING THE IDOL (1986; which utilizes most of the same people, both in front and behind the camera), a group of ski mask-wearing terrorists kidnap laser specialist Dr. George Brinkmann Jr. (Stephan Krayn) in a daring raid at an awards ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland and take him by helicopter to an unknown destination. In Washington, D.C., we watch international super spy and expert thief Duncan Jax (Ian Hunter, who resembles a balding Michael Bolton!) stealing a box of big-ass diamonds from a secure facility run by a bunch of towelheaded Arabs and escaping into the night in a small plane piloted by his baboon sidekick, Boon (yeah, you read that right). After delivering the diamonds to his boos, Star (C.K. Bibby), by landing the plane in his boss's front yard while a cocktail party is in progress, Duncan is informed that Dr. Brinkmann was kidnapped by neo-Nazi group The Order Of The Black Eagle, which is headed by Baron Von Tepish (William T. Hicks; HOUSE OF DEATH - 1982), a former leader of Hitler's Youth Movement. Duncan is informed that he and Boon must rescue Dr. Brinkmann from the Baron's secret headquarters, an ancient temple in South America. Star isn't sure why the Baron has kidnapped Dr. Brinkmann, but he is sure of two things: 1) The Baron is having a lot of expensive laser equipment shipped to his headquarters and 2) whatever is going to happen is probably going to take place on Hitler's birthday, which is rapidly approaching. By a stroke of extremely good luck (some would say it is too good to be true), Duncan bears a striking resemblance to an enemy agent recently captured who was supposed to deliver a bunch of laser equipment to the Baron's headquarters, so Duncan takes his place. He, along with Boon (how in the world will he explain the baboon to the Baron?) and undercover Interpol agent Tiffany Youngblood (Jill Donnellan), head to South America, but not before they are equipped with some gadgets by their Q-like contraption maker, Sato (Shangtai Tuan). The Baron has a new laser weapon called the Proton Beam, which he demonstrates by blowing a satellite out of the sky (He says, "Tonight, many Americans will not get their HBO!"). He plans on using the Proton Beam to destroy America and he also has the cryogenically frozen body of Hitler, which he plans on reviving on his birthday and try once again to become ruler of the world (Won't the Nazis ever learn?). Duncan and Tiffany's true identities are soon discovered and Duncan escapes into the jungle, where he joins Star and a squad of mercenaries, including females Maxie (Anna Rapagna) and Spike (Flo Hyman; who died during filming, which explains her absence in the finale), on a raid of the Baron's headquarters to rescue Tiffany and Dr. Brinkmann, destroy the Proton Beam and kill the Baron and Hitler. The finale is a mixture of gory violence, heroic derring-do and explosive action, as the Baron's headquarters is reduced to nothing but a pile of rubble and mangled bodies.  This ridiculously cheap sub-James Bond adventure, directed by former Earl Owensby protégé Worth Keeter (DOGS OF HELL - 1982; TRAPPER COUNTY WAR - 1989; MEMORIAL DAY - 1998; HIJACK - 1999) and written by Phil Behrens (who also wrote UNMASKING THE IDOL), is so bad that it becomes fun in spite of itself. Unlike the Bond adventures, the action here is R-rated, as Duncan Jax has no trouble decapitating, blowing-up or riddling his enemies with bullets. Keeter throws-in every cheap trick in the book, including Nazis who like to say the word "Jew" a lot; a hilarious Spaghetti Western take-off where Duncan pretends to be gay (!) to distract the banditos while Star and the mercenaries board a bus; Boon the baboon, whose only talents seem to be flipping the bird to anyone he dislikes, throwing grenades or driving vehicles; a couple of high speed chases, one of the motorcycle variety (which ends in a decapitation) and the other a speedboat chase (which results in a couple of nifty boat explosions, complete with shredded bodies); and the action-packed finale, where Duncan and the mercenaries use their individual talents to slaughter their opponents. If you don't mind awful acting (William T. Hicks' German accent is horrendous); a plot that can best be described as outlandish; and some less-than-stellar makeup effects (especially Hitler's demise in the finale), you may find yourself enjoying this violent and stunt-filled James Bond rip-off. Also starring Bill Gribble, Gene Sherer, Wolfgang Linkman, Joe Coltrane, James Eric, Terry Loughlin and Dean Whitworth. Originally released on VHS by Celebrity Home Entertainment and not available on DVD. Rated R.

THE PACIFIC CONNECTION (1974) - Just when I thought I had seen every kind of genre film from the Philippines, this one comes across my desk. Allan (Gilbert Roland; THE BLACK PEARL - 1977) has given half a necklace to his son, Arnis (stickfighting) champ Ben (Roland Dantes; LIVE BY THE FIST - 1993), and is told that the other half of the necklace belongs to the Old Master, who is somewhere out in the world waiting to impart his wisdom. Ben is told to go out and find the Old Master and relieve him of his duties, thereby becoming the New Master (I know it makes no sense, but just go with it). This film is about Ben's exploits in achieving that goal. Unfortunately, Ben's country has been invaded and taken over by an army of feathery hat-wearing Spanish marauders (this film looks to take place in the late 15th Century), led by brothers Miguel (Dean Stockwell, who looks like he's trying out for a dry run of DUNE [1984] and has a Spanish accent so bad, he drops it midway through the film!) and Antonio (Cole Mallard; FLY ME - 1973), the sons of the new Governor (Alejandro Rey; TERRORVISION - 1986). When Miguel and his sword-carrying sidekicks demand money from Allan (which he pays) and Antonio tries to rape Allan's wife, Maria (Gloria Seville), Allan and Ben break out the Arnis sticks to defend her honor. They beat the crap out of Miguel and Antonio and Ben makes them both get on their knees and apologize to his parents. Since no good deed goes unpunished, the Governor and an army of Spaniards pay a late night visit to Allan's house, where the Governor kills Allan by running him through with a sword (but not before Allan burns him on the face with a torch) and then rapes and viciously stabs Maria, killing her, but not before Maria castrates him with a knife (we see his castrated penis fall to the floor!). Ben is forced to watch his parents being killed and is later convicted of "acts of treason, murder, rape and talk of revolution", put on a slave ship in shackles and abused and jumps overboard during a violent storm (but not before killing the ship's captain by throwing a sword into his neck!). An unconscious Ben washes ashore on a tropical island, where he is rescued by a bunch of beautiful native girls wearing colorful sarongs. Leni (Nancy Kwan; WONDER WOMEN - 1973), one of the beautiful native girls, takes Ben back to her hut and nurses him back to health with the help of an old white blind medicine man (Guy Madison; SUPERARGO AND THE FACELESS GIANTS - 1968). Meanwhile, the facially-scarred and dickless Governor (Who tells Miguel when he offers him a mirror: "Why be so concerned about looks when you're only half a man?") hires Japanese samurai Mori (Hiroshi Tanaka; NINJA WARS - 1982) to teach him and his sons how to fight with samurai swords (A disbelieving Antonio gets taught a lesson by Mori when he gets all his clothes sliced off by Mori's swift sword). The Governor sends his sons and a battalion of soldiers to the tropical island to look for all the slaves lost during the shipwreck, not knowing that Ben is also there. The old white blind medicine man takes Ben under his wing and hides him out. Leni and other native women are taken aboard the ship and forced to hula dance, but it turns out to be a distraction so Ben and other native men can steal some cannons off the ship to force Miguel and Antonio off the island and promise never to return (I'm having a hard time swallowing this. Why not just kill them instead?). When the penis-less Governor finds this out, he blows a gasket and sends another ship to the island with more powerful cannons (this time the Governor accompanies them), but when the old white blind medicine man actually turns out to be none other than the Old Master, he teaches Ben some new tricks, but will it be enough to defeat the Governor, his sons and new their ally Mori?  This ridiculously disjointed action film, directed/produced Luis Nepomuceno (IGOROTA - 1968; he also produced MAHARLIKA - 1970 and many people, including whoever wrote the copy on the German VHS cassette, believe Luis Nepomuceno is a pseudonym for Cirio H. Santiago, but they are wrong) and written by Nepomuceno, Jacques Ehlen, Cesar Amico and Robert Irsol, looks like it was edited by someone high on PCP (lots of quick, flashy edits that serve no purpose that I could make sense of), but it is so bloody and quirky, you can't help but be entertained by it. There's two on-screen castrations (although the second one is a cheat, but shocking nonetheless); plenty of other slicing and dicing by sword and by knife; lots of Arnis (this film is also known as STICKFIGHTER) and samurai sword fighting; topless native girls; a goat being killed and a piece of it's still-wet hide applied as a blindfold to Ben, which he must wear until he conquers darkness and gains a "sixth sense"; an over-the-top performance by Alejandro Rey as a man who really misses his wang; and way too much to go into here (including Ben's search for the "iron reed", the only substance strong enough to create a pair of Arnis sticks that can withstand blows from a samurai sword). THE PACIFIC CONNECTION is non-stop weirdness from beginning to end and deserves more attention than it is getting. The end credits announce a sequel, SULTAN BEN, which was, sadly, never made, but star Roland Dantes (who died on March 16, 2009, of heart failure) did star in 1979's STICKS OF DEATH, where he got to show off more of his Arnis artistry. Filipino film staple Vic Diaz puts in a cameo as Tsang, an emissary to Queen Isabella. Also starring Elizabeth Oropesa and Fred Galang. Although never released on home video in the U.S., VHS tapes still can be found on Canadian label Trend Video. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

PANTHER SQUAD (1984) - This is an abysmal so-called action film, starring and co-produced by Sybil Danning (CAT IN THE CAGE - 1978), that looks like it was spliced together with a chainsaw. This has the look and feel of a Jess Franco film, and if you will bear with me, I'll explain why. It's full of stock shots, quick editing, vaseline covered lenses and zoom shots. The film contains footage of other European films. Co-stars Karin Shubert and Jack Taylor have appeared in many of Franco's films. Producer Daniel Lesoeur has also been involved in more than his share of Franco's work. It was executive produced by A.L. Mariaux, and while Mr. Mariaux is a real person, Franco has been known to use his name on occasion. Director Peter Knight is a pseudonym for Pierre Chevalier (CONVOY OF WOMEN - 1974), a frequent producer for Franco. And finally, the film stinks to high heaven. Silly plot involves Ms. Danning and her team of female commandos on a mission to rescue a woman astronaut taken hostage by an anti-pollution terrorist group! Jack Taylor is Danning's alcohol-sodden partner. Donald O'Brien (DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. - 1980) also appears. This film is so lame that Ms. Danning does not disrobe once and neither do her commandos. So what's the point? The film is Rated R but could have easily gotten a PG. There is no nudity and no blood, just extremely mild violence. It is disjointed and suffers a severe lack of continuity. What a mess (Hey! It sounds like I'm describing a Franco film, doesn't it?). Mercifully, it runs a scant 77 minutes. Thank God for small blessings. Also known as FEMALE MERCENARIES II. A Lightning Video Release. Rated R.

PAY OR DIE (1979) - You know you are in for something special when the first line spoken in this film comes from mobster Lucifer "The Devil" Devlin (Johnny Wilson) as he is yelling at all his underbosses: "How in the hell are we going to push drugs when we don't have any pushers?" Yes, this is Filipino director/producer Bobby A. Suarez's third film in the Cleopatra Wong series, which previously included THEY CALL HER...CLEOPATRA WONG (1978) and DYNAMITE JOHNSON (1978), all starring Marrie Lee as Cleopatra Wong. This latest chapter is much more ribald and sexual than the first two and contains a lot of gay stereotypes, homosexual humor and fat jokes. The underbosses, led by hook-handed Manny (Dick Adair, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Joseph Zucchero), grow tired of Devlin's mistreatment, so they kidnap his daughter, Debbie (Cynthia Rodrigo) and give Devlin 72 hours to deliver one million dollars and turn over all his business documents or they will kill Debbie. Devlin calls Interpol agent Cleopatra Wong in Singapore to help him rescue his daughter. Cleo agrees to help Devlin in exchange that when his daughter is safe, he turns over to Cleo all the names and details of his drug business. Devlin agrees and Cleo goes about putting together a team, which includes flamboyantly gay corrupt ex-cop Terry (an over-the-top Franco Guerrero, here billed as "Chito Guerrero") and an extremely overweight female psychic with the descriptive name of Rotunda (Florence Carvajal). This extremely unlikely trio then goes about finding the three underbosses, Manny, Moe and Jack (!), with each one going after a different underboss. Terry goes undercover (dressed as a female hooker!) to meet Manny at his bar (Terry introduces him/herself to Manny by saying, "I'm a virgin...with lots of references!" to which Manny replies, "Guess which hand has the peanut? [After placing Terry's hand on his crotch] This one!"). Rotunda goes to Moe's (Danny Rojo) gambling parlor, where she uses her psychic powers to win at blackjack. Cleo pretends to be a junkie to get close to Jack (Ted Deelman). Unfortunately, all three strike out in their pursuits of their prey, so they rethink their strategy and decide to work as a team to rescue Debbie, which leads to many martial arts fights and the unlikeliest motorcycle/car chase in film history. The finale takes place on the beach, where the trio must not only save Debbie (who is buried up to her neck in the sand with high tide approaching), but also Devlin, who has decided to pay the ransom (after witnessing how inept Cleo and her two friends really are), but Manny, Moe and Jack double cross him anyway.  Bobby A. Suarez is my favorite Filipino action director (his output is nowhere as prolific as Cirio H. Santiago, but he is much more consistent) and this film is a good indicator why. Suarez never takes the material seriously (in lesser hands, the gay humor and fat jokes would probably be considered offensive, but here they are just goofy), yet he manages to give all the heroes and villains distinct personalities and dishes out tons of intentionally funny one-liners, including "How would you like to get fingered by Captain Hook?" and "I want Manny's ass, not his pants!" (I also like how Debbie teases Manny by calling him "Hooky" and watching him doing a slow burn while saying, "I'll show you hooky!" as he waves his metal appendage in the air.). The action scenes are purposely staged to be humorous, especially Terry's martial arts fights (he gets a precarious thrill every time he touches a bad guy's ass) and the obese Rotunda (who is never without some type of food in her purse, including sandwiches and bananas) walking up a rickety wooden ladder and then trying to shimmy across a trapeze wire, only to have the wire snap, causing her to crash through a cement wall. The sight of Cleo, Terry and Rotunda riding down the highway in a combination motorcycle/sidecar is an image that will not soon leave your memory. Director Suarez, who made more serious films like ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER (1980; also starring Guerrero), AMERICAN COMMANDOS (1985) and WARRIORS OF THE APOCALYPSE (1985), keeps things nice and loose here, yet he imbues his stereotyped heroes with a sense of bravura missing from other films in the same mold. This was originally released to theaters under the title DEVIL'S THREE: THE KARATE KILLERS with a totally misleading ad campaign that made it look like a serious action film like ENTER THE DRAGON (1973). I would have loved to see the faces of audience members once they were introduced to the likes of Terry and Rotunda. That would have been worth the price of admission alone. It was then retitled PAY OR DIE and released by Terry Levine's Aquarius Films in the early 80's with an equally serious ad campaign. Also known as DEVIL'S ANGELS and MEAN BUSINESS. Mel Welles (the director of LADY FRANKENSTEIN - 1971) was the Dialogue Director. Also starring Lauro Flores, Jennie Perez, Joe Cunahan, Nestie Mercado, Jim Babb, Ken Metcalfe and the P.I.S. Stuntmen (P.I.S.S.!). Released on VHS as part of Sybil Danning's Adventure Video series from U.S.A. Home Video in a very scratchy and jumpy print. Available on DVD from Code Red. Rated R.

PHANTOM SOLDIERS (1987) - War action as only the Filipinos can do it. The film opens with a squad of faceless (thanks to the gasmasks they are wearing) Phantom Soldiers, all dressed in black bio-suits and impervious to bullets and pain, as they raid a North Vietnamese village. They enter the village with guns and grenade launchers blazing, slaughtering innocent men, women and children until they corner the surviving villagers at a beachhead, where they release canisters of poison nerve gas and watch callously as the exposed villagers gasp their last breaths. As they exit the destroyed village, one of the soldiers leaves their calling card: a human skull on a pole with two crossed swords tattooed across the forehead. At the Texas/Mexico border halfway across the world, Texas Ranger Daniel Custer (Max Thayer; THE RETRIEVERS - 1982) leads some DEA agents on a raid of a Mexican drug lord's compound, which leads to a massive gun battle with multiple explosions, resulting in Daniel capturing his prey. Back in Vietnam, Daniel's brother, Lt. Michael Custer (Corwyn Sperry; BATTLE RATS - 1988), leads a platoon of soldiers on a recon mission and stumble upon the slaughtered village. This isn't the first time that Lt. Custer has witnessed the after-effects of the Phantom Soldiers (his commanding officer has a collection of tattooed skulls back at base camp), so he disobeys direct orders and hunts down the phantom platoon with his own squad of soldiers, which includes tracker Red Legs (co-scripter Jim Gaines). Lt. Custer and his men are led into a trap after meeting CIA operative Colonel Hammer (Jack Yates), who offers to take them to the CIA's secret camp. Lt. Custer ends up missing in action, so Korean War veteran brother Daniel heads to Vietnam to search for him. Daniel proves his worthiness as a soldier when he single-handedly saves a squad of American soldiers from a VC surprise assault. When The U.S. refuses to help him find his brother, Daniel gets help from a captured VC soldier, who leads him to the secret CIA base, where Daniel is knocked-out and captured by Colonel Hammer. As Daniel will soon find out, his own government and Russia are behind the creation of the Phantom Soldiers, but will he or his brother survive to tell the world the truth?  Action-packed and bloody as hell, this Philippines-lensed flick, directed by action specialist Teddy Page (BLOOD DEBTS - 1983; JUNGLE RATS - 1987), here billed as "Irvin Johnson", contains many well-staged action set-pieces and a good amount of weird visuals, especially when the jackbooted, gasmasked Phantom Soldiers attack. The opening slaughter of the North Vietnamese village has an otherworldly feel to it, as the Phantom unit looks more like aliens than they do soldiers, indiscriminately killing everyone in their path, be it men, women or children, without the slightest sign of hesitation or remorse. The script, by co-star Jim Gaines (BLACK FIRE - 1985; ROBOWAR - 1988) and Rod Davies, is full of the prerequisite action scenes we've come to depend on from these Filipino actioners (plenty of bloody bullet squibs, including graphic gunshots to the head and lots of things blowing up in huge fireballs) and some good slow-motion scenes of death and destruction, but there's also some very unique and unusual touches on view. For one, Daniel and Michael wear each other's badges of honor as a sign of brotherly love. Michael wears Daniel's Texas Ranger badge in Vietnam and Daniel wears Michael's Bronze Star back in Texas. It's a simple and effective way to express their commitment to each other without getting maudlin. There are also a few bits of dialogue that reveals that Daniel is against the war in Vietnam, even though his brother is fighting in it, especially the scene where he sets his VC prisoner free, even tossing him a nudie magazine as a souvenir. Unusual for a film of this type. Still, this is a good, old-fashioned war actioner at heart and PHANTOM SOLDIERS (also known as COMMANDO PHANTOM) certainly doesn't disappoint, even if the added extra "oomph" raises it a notch or two above the norm. Also starring Richard King, Mike Monty, David Anderson, John Fulch and Edward Burnett. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was taken from a highly watchable Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

PLATOON THE WARRIORS (1988) - When producer Joseph Lai wasn't churning-out countless cut-and-paste martial arts flicks (most with the word "Ninja" in the title), he was cranking-out straight-ahead cut-and-paste actioners such as this one, directed by Philip Ko (AMERICAN FORCE 3: HIGH SKY MISSION - 1989). This one opens with villain Rex (Mike Abbott; HANDS OF DEATH - 1987) double-crossing Bill (Mark Watson) in a drug deal. Bill runs for his life after Rex and his men gun down all of Bill's crew and he runs smack-dab into two ninjas dressed in yellow (Wait! Is this a ninja film after all? Nah, this is the last we see them.), who steal Bill's briefcase full of money and deliver it to Rex. Bill escapes with his life and vows revenge. We then cut to the film proper (which looks to be some unreleased Filipino crime film), where we watch a gang of crooks, headed by Ray, rob a liquor store and then kill an eyewitness named Michael as they hop in their car to make their getaway. In an awful example of intercutting old and new footage, Rex calls the leader of another Filipino gang on the phone to remind him that he has a lot of money riding on the big prize fight and to make sure nothing goes wrong (After Rex tells the gang leader to murder anyone who gets in the way, he hangs up the phone. The leader turns to his gang and says, "That was Rex. Nothing, really." What?!?). Meanwhile, Michael's older brother Jack begins looking for Ray and his gang, based on a partial license plate number Michael wrote down in his own blood while he was dying. Jack starts tearing up the town looking for Ray and his three cohorts, getting into a series of fights with various lowlifes and stopping long enough to frolic in the ocean and screw his girlfriend Amy. Jack turns down Bill's offer to join forces (more bad intercutting), so Bill dresses in Army fatigues and, every twenty minutes or so, interrupts the main film to begin killing members of Rex's gang. When Jack's father is gunned-down at the big prize fight, Jack steps-up his beat-downs, which pisses-off Ray, who shoots-up Jack's house, killing his mother and sister and kidnapping another sister named Jenny (Jack is not having a good week, is he?). To add insult to injury, Ray rapes Jenny repeatedly and then offers her to the rest of his gang, before releasing her (Well, at least he didn't kill her!). Jack puts down his fists and picks up automatic weapons (including a strange looking tommy gun) and begins killing everyone associated with Ray, including the gang Rex is involved with (well, at least in this bastardized version). The rest of the film is nothing but a series of shootouts and fisticuffs and, in the finale, Jack faces-off with Ray, while Rex and Bill (who are now dressed in green army fatigues) shoot it out and then duke it out until Rex blows himself up with a hand grenade. My brain hurts!  It should come as no surprise that the "screenplay" to this IFD Films And Arts Ltd. production was written by Godfrey Ho (as "Benny Ho"), because it contains all the priceless hilariously-bad dubbed dialogue we've come to expect from him, such as one bad guy saying to another, "Did you meet a nice girl? With big ones?" or, on discovering that Jack is still alive, Ray retorts, "So, Jack's alive. We'll have to remedy that!" The pinnacle of hilarity comes when Rex, upon hearing that Bill is supplying weapons to Jack, turns to one of his underlings and says, "Damn that bastard! Hold on, I gotta take a piss!" He pulls out his dick and begins pissing in the woods, just as Bill arrives on the scene and begins shooting-up the woods. The shot of Rex running away while trying to zip-up his fly will have you rolling on the floor. The old footage is much more entertaining than the new footage (sometimes it's the other way around on other pastiche films from Lai, but not this time) and contains a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK-inspired moment when Jack comes face-to-face with an expert knife handler, but after he's done putting on a show of his knife-twirling abilities, Jack shoots him dead and moves on. PLATOON THE WARRIORS is nothing but a Filipino rip-off of DEATH WISH (1974), as Jack loses everyone in his family except his sister and then gets revenge through the barrel of a gun. The newly shot footage adds nothing here and, besides the Rex pissing scene, is pretty disposable. Director Philip Ko is certainly no Godfrey Ho. I guess there are advantages and disadvantages in that statement. Also known as PLATOON WARRIORS. Also starring James Miller, Dick Crown, Alex Sylvian, Don Richard, David Coley, William Dasco, Jackson Leon, Dick Romano, Paul Gloria and Nicholas James. Does anyone but me find it disturbing that none of these names sound Filipino? Never released on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a fullscreen Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

POW DEATHCAMP (1988) - This Filipino war action film opens up with an on-screen crawl informing us that, in 1966, the U.S. Government planned on ending the Vietnam War by dropping an atom bomb on Hanoi. When the person in charge of that mission, Captain James Brooks, is captured by the enemy, a band of mercenaries, led by Aviles (Rey Malonzo of CLASSIFIED OPERATION - 1985), are hired to rescue Capt. Brooks. They fight the enemy in the jungle while trying to avoid spiked booby traps (one of Aviles' men steps on a tripwire and gets spiked through his leg) and being massively outnumbered. They save a village girl after she is bitten by a cobra, only they end up being captured by the enemy and sent to a P.O.W. camp. Aviles and his men are tied-up and forced to watch as the sadistic camp warden forces two prisoners to arm wrestle each other, the loser getting shot in the stomach when his opponent's hand touches a lever that pulls the gun's trigger. As the deaths pile up, thanks to the arm wrestling contest and an unsuccessful escape attempt by four American soldiers (who are all shot and killed), Aviles and his men must come up with an escape plan before they are killed. Aviles' second-in-command, Jun (Charles Black), narrowly misses being killed in the arm wrestling contest when he beats the ten-time champion, which leads to Aviles and Jun escaping. They begin to systematically kill the camp guards, eventually freeing all the prisoners. The sadistic camp warden gathers his remaining men and hunts down Aviles and the P.O.Ws. Easier said than done, as Aviles and his men are experts in jungle warfare. The rest of the film is nothing but a series of gun battles and fistfights, ending with a massacre on the banks of a river, where everyone, including the snake-bitten girl from the beginning of the film, loses their lives in a hail of bullets. Isn't war wonderful?  This film proves that not all Filipino action films can be winners. Director Jett C. Espirito (VENGEANCE SQUAD - 1987), working with a minimal script supplied by Jeffrey Woods or Bonnie Paradez (since the opening credits lists Woods and the closing credits list Paradez as the screenwriter), doesn't have much to work with here, just a basic premise (that's immediately dropped) followed by lots of shooting and hand-to-hand combat. Ignore the synopsis on the back of the video box, as whoever wrote it obviously didn't watch the film. The only part of the synopsis that's even partly true is that Capt. James Brooks (called "Captain Steiner" on the box) is at the P.O.W. camp that Aviles (called "Lt. Comez" on the box) and his men are sent to. Problem is, he's not alive, as the camp warden reveals Brooks body to his new captives. It's a skeleton wearing Brooks' uniform! All the other character names listed on the back of the box are also false.  The middle section of the film, when everyone is at the P.O.W. camp, is filmed at night and most of the time it is too dark to make out what is going on. For a war film, it's not very bloody, just a few bloody bullet squibs and a couple of booby trap impalements (and they both look to have been edited to delete the gore, even though this tape doesn't carry a rating). I was kind of excited to watch this when I found a copy on eBay since I never heard of it before, but once I got about twenty minutes into it, I knew that I wasn't in for anything special. It lacked craziness that makes a lot of other Filipino actioners so memorable. Oh, well. They can't all be winners. Also starring George Estregan, Urs Hardegger, Vilma Vitug, Ronnie Valle, Merilyn Bautista, Jimmy Santos and Bill Baldridge. Originally filmed as WARCAMP. An Atlas Entertainment Corporation Release. Not Rated.

PROVOKED (1989) - Ah, Raedon Home Video. I doubt that they ever turned down a film that ever crossed their desk. PROVOKED, on the other hand, was an in-house production, so they have no one to blame but themselves. After witnessing the worst prisoner escape in recent memory, where Mad Dog and Big Mama drive up to a prison work crew and break out Big Mama's son Loverboy (a rapist) and Slick (an Oriental psychopath) and then kill the remaining prisoners and guards, the group then pick up Nick the Knife (another criminal) and then rob a real estate office, looking for the huge payroll that was supposed to be delivered today. It looks like their intel was faulty because all they find are a bunch of nervous women and no money. Newlyweds Casey (Cindy Maranne), who works at the office, and her new husband Michael (Bob Fall), stop by to pick up their airline tickets that Casey mistakenly left there. Michael gets taken hostage by the hoods, but Casey gets away and alerts a security guard (who gets himself killed) and is then arrested by the cops.  When two cops and Nick the Knife are killed in a shootout, Casey convinces Police Captain Rader (McKeiver Jones III) that she is a victim (and that her husband is an ex-NYC cop). Word gets out to the TV news (the Mayor just happens to be banging TV news reporter Carla [Ona Simms] when he gets the call from Rader) and it turns into a major media event. Mad Dog demands $100,000 and transportation out of town. To divulge any more would be to spoil any little entertainment this wretched piece of flotsam has to offer. Let's just say Casey has less brains than the crooks, as she decides to take the law into her own hands. Good luck, Michael. You've married one crazy bitch.  Impossibly cheap (when people get shot, they simply fall down, no squibs and no blood, except for a short time in the finale) and indifferently acted (Big Mama, a black woman, plays her role like she has never heard of the Civil Rights Movement), PROVOKED tries to act like DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975), but comes up looking like PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959). Director Rick Pamplin (who, thankfully, switched to documentaries) looks like he had a $500 budget to work with (the crowd scenes consists of about five people) and hasn't got a clue how to build suspense. As with most films of this type, the press is portrayed as unfeeling and one-sided (Reporter Carla says to Casey, "You know your husband is probably dead, right?") and the cops are clueless, taking orders from a mayor who is more worried about his political future than the hostages' lives. The film is full of illogical situations (Who in their right mind would send a reporter into the building to interview the hostage takers and broadcast it live?) and inane dialogue, such as when Big Mama says to her son, "No pussy without checking with me first!" My mama never said that to me. She could have saved me a divorce if she did. When Casey just happens to run into Machine Gun Joe, an arms dealer, in the middle of the street and gives her a prototype automatic weapon for free (provided Joe goes with her on the assault!), you'll throw your hands up in the air and scream, "Aw, c'mon!" And let's not forget the rape scene where Loverboy and Slick rape one of the hostages while all of them are fully-clothed! As with all Raedon releases (except for DESERT SNOW [1989], which I actually enjoyed), you know going in that you're in for some stinky entertainment. This one just smells worse than most. It's a total waste of film. Also starring Sharon Blair, Harold Wayne Jones, Tara Untiedt (who also co-wrote the ridiculous script with Steve Pake), Phyllis Durant, Jody Brown and Daniel Kwong. A Raedon Home Video Release. Not Rated.

RAGE (1995) - The folks at P.M. Entertainment Group are getting much better at their craft. When they stick to straight action flicks such as this one, they can really entertain. Gary Daniels (FIST OF THE NORTH STAR - 1995) stars as Alex, a grade school teacher who is unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped by crooked government officials who try to turn him into an inhuman fighting machine. He escapes and the chase is on. Framed as a murderer, Alex has to escape the many traps laid out by the nasties. Alex gets his only help from a TV reporter (played by Kenneth Tigar in a rare starring role) who believes in his innocence. Plenty of good stunts, an excellent car chase (a P.M. trademark) and well-staged fight scenes (the finale is a ballet of shattering glass, filmed in a style usually reserved for Hong Kong actioners) make RAGE a good choice for non-stop action fans. Also starring Jillian McWhirter and Peter Jason. Directed by Joseph Merhi, who keeps getting better with every film (something I thought I would never say, considering he has directed such crap as EPITAPH [1987], THE NEWLYDEADS [1987], L.A. HEAT [1988] and REPO JAKE [1990]). This film made it’s world premiere on HBO and is now available on videocassette from P.M. Entertainment Home Video. Rated R.

RAIDERS OF THE MAGIC IVORY (1988) - One look at the title and you know what territory this film is heading. Mercenary Sugar (James Mitchum of CODE NAME: ZEBRA - 1986) is rescued from an Indonesian prison by fellow mercenary Mark (Cris Ahrens of SHOCKING DARK - 1989) to help him steal a priceless artifact. A Chinese businessman offers them $250,000 to heist a mystical ivory tablet from a religious sect located deep in the Vietnam jungle. To make sure they hold up their end of the deal, the Chinaman sends his right-hand man, Tao (Franklin Dominguez), to go along with them. As they trek through the jungle, the three are relentlessly pursued by VC soldiers and get into a few firefights until they reach an area called "The Hell Which No One Returns", which is strangely silent and lacks any wildlife. They find a boat (full of skeletons) and use it to travel down river until they reach the "Territory Of The Monks", a ghastly-looking religious sect that practices black magic and possibly cannibalism. After a couple of close calls with spiked boobytraps and bulletproof monks, our intrepid trio find the monks' hidden underground temple and the magic ivory tablet (which lets whoever holds it to become invisible). After stealing the tablet and saving a girl named My Lei (Clarissa Mendez) from sacrifice, they fight their way back to the extraction point, low on ammo and food. A betrayal two-thirds of the way through the movie leaves our heroes looking for revenge.  This Italian action/adventure film is nothing special, but I have watched a lot worse than this. Director Tonino Ricci (PANIC - 1976; RUSH - 1983), once again using his "Anthony Richmond" pseudonym, crosses many genres here, mixing one part war, one part action, one part horror and one part adventure into one uneven, but generally entertaining flick. The script by Italian writer Dardano Sacchetti (using his "David Parker Jr." pseudonym) is full of the dialogue we expect in films like this, such as, "Were you born an asshole or did you just work at it?" and "Up your ass, motherfucker!" Typical Oscar-worthy stuff. Be warned that the bloodletting is rather tame and, save for some bullet hits and explosions, is practically non-existant. James Mitchum is his normal wooden self and adopts the same non-acting style that his brother Chris Mitchum (FINAL SCORE - 1986) uses. I must confess, though, that I always wanted to see these two star as brothers in an Indonesian action film, because those Indonesian directors are hyper-crazy. The Italians don't seem to want to take the chances that the Indonesians do. And that's the problem with RAIDERS OF THE MAGIC IVORY: Crazy situations with normal execution. Also starring Charles Rack and Thomas Irving. The version I viewed was a DVD-R copy of a letterboxed English language, Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

RAIDERS OF THE SUN (1991) - Another Philippines-lensed post-nuke action flick from the prolific Cirio H. Santiago (whose other post-nuke films include STRYKER - 1983, WHEELS OF FIRE - 1984, THE SISTERHOOD - 1987 and DUNE WARRIORS - 1990), which recycles footage from Santiago's EQUALIZER 2000 (1986). After the "Insurrection" is won by the good guys, Brodie (Richard Norton) is sent by his Captain (Nigel Hogge) to search for gunpowder, which is in short supply in this futuristic society (in most post-nuke films, it's usually water or oil). In his search, Brodie runs into town leader Vera (Brigitta Steinberg) being kidnapped by Hoghead (the late Rick Dean) and his gang. Brodie teams up with friend Talbot (Blake Boyd), who is also Vera's husband, to rescue Vera from Hoghead and his gang of miscreants. Complicating matters is Brodie's old nemesis, Colonel Clay (William Steis), who joins forces with his brother Hoghead and set out to steal what little gunpowder is left at the Captain's headquarters. Brodie and Talbot save Sierra (Lani Lobangco) from the clutches of two mutants, when Brodie discovers that she is a native of a legendary place called the "Gate To The Sun", where "black powder" is plentiful thanks to a large potassium mine there. Brodie and Talbot think it would be best if they split up at the next town. Talbot will go undercover in Hoghead's gang looking for his wife and Brodie and Sierra will go to her village where Brodie can collect some gunpowder and bring it back to headquarters. With the help of a group of dwarves (a recurring theme in nearly all of Santiago's post-nuke films) from Sierra's village, Brodie (who is injured protecting the little people) and Sierra make it to the village. Hoghead and his gang go to the Captain's headquarters, where they kill the Captain and steal most of their gunpowder. Talbot is initiated into Hoghead's gang in a cheapjack MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985) imitation, where he has to fight Gonzo Gonzales (Ned Hourani) while they are swinging on ropes. Colonel Clay makes it to Sierra's village and Brodie and the villagers must protect the village's huge potassium mine from the invading forces. The finale finds Brodie (who has fallen in love with Sierra) fighting arch-nemesis Coloney Clay in hand-to-hand combat and Talbot and a freed Vera battling Hoghead (who actually wears a hat made from a hog's head!). When Sierra ends up dead by Colonel Clay's hands, Brodie brings the gunpowder back to headquarters, where the final battle between good against evil takes place.  Cirio H. Santiago (T.N.T. JACKSON - 1975; VAMPIRE HOOKERS - 1978) shot this low-budget flick for frequent backer Roger Corman's Concorde-New Horizons production outfit and, while it does follow all the standard post-nuke conventions (plenty of explosions, tricked-out cars and lots of gunfire), it's not without it's charms. Rick Dean is a hoot as Hoghead and the script, by frequent Santiago collaborator Frederick Bailey (DEMON OF PARADISE - 1987), gives him all the best lines or, maybe he ad-libbed them and Santiago kept them in because they were better than the script offered (He says to one of his men, "Don't you wear my hog hat because, if you do, I'll fuckin' know!"). Richard Norton (CROSS FIRE - 1987) has very little to do here except fight or fire a gun. The secondary characters are more interesting. Talbot has to pull a $100 bill out of a glass cage with a cobra in it to buy a drink and Vera's jailer Meatball (Ernie Santana), a huge bald black man, eventually becomes Vera's friend and helps her escape. Also on hand are Nick Nicholson as Colonel Clay's always-laughing right-hand man Ackerman and the tribe of dwarves. C'mon, admit it. Dwarves make you laugh, don't they? Especially when they talk in a funny language and dress in funny clothes. RAIDERS OF THE SUN is nothing special, but if lines like, "Hey, relax man. Take a laxative!" tickle your funnybone and scenes of senseless death (including a couple by flamethrower) gets your blood boiling, you may like this short (80 minute) action film. Also starring Henry Strzalkowski, Paul Holmes, Joseph Zucchero and Robert Ginnivan. A New Horizons Home Video Release. Rated R.

RAMBO (2008) - While I generally don't review recent theatrical releases, I'm going to make an exception here because I feel this is an important, nay, essential, viewing experience for fans of action cinema. Quite simply, this is the best 80's action film to be made in the past twenty years and director/co-scripter/star Sylvester Stallone has single-handedly restored my faith in American action cinema. It's not perfect, mind you, but it is the most rousing, bloody, audience-pleasing action flick that I have seen in theaters in many years. Stallone returns for the fourth time as a much older and even more world-weary John Rambo, who now lives in Thailand as a fisherman and snake catcher. A bunch of Christian missionaries want to hire Rambo and his boat to take them down river into Burma, where they plan to give medical attention and teach the word of God to a village of innocent souls. The missionaries, led by self-righteous doctor Michael Burnett (Paul Schulze) and his do-gooder girlfriend Sarah (Julie Benz), know that the Burmese people have been going through a bloody genocide for over sixty years, where a cruel National Army commits various atrocities against the people (including a painful-to-watch game of forcing villagers to cross a live minefield), but since they believe God is on their side, they think they are safe from harm (yeah, right). At first Rambo refuses (he turns his back on them and says, "Fuck the world!"), but Miss Goody Two Shoes convinces him and he finally relents. He takes them down river, drops them off (after a harrowing episode with some river pirates) and returns to his simple (and still nightmare-filled) life. A short time later, the entire village is wiped-out by sadistic homosexual military leader Tint (Maung Maung Khin) and his army (in one of the most bloody massacres ever committed to celluloid) and the missionaries are all taken prisoner and held captive in bamboo cages (one of them is fed live to a bunch of hungry pigs!). Rambo is then hired by the head of the Christian missionary (Ken Howard in a cameo role) to take a squad of mercenaries down river to save the missionaries. After some conflict with head merc Lewis (Graham McTavish), Rambo joins forces with the mercenaries (he's still mighty handy with a bow!) to save the missionaries. The rest of the film is non-stop carnage of the goriest kind and contains one of the best bomb explosions I have ever seen as well as a final battle that will have you on the edge of your seat repeating the phrase "Holy Shit!" over and over.  It's hard to believe Sylvester Stallone had to fight for several years to get this film made on his terms, but once you've seen it, you'll be glad that he fought a winning battle. Stallone has turned in one of the hardest R-rated action films in the history of American cinema. Nothing is left to the imagination as bodies are blown apart, heads explode, limbs are hacked off, people torn in half by gunfire and, in a scene that must be seen to be believed, Rambo grabs a 50mm machine gun and pulverises an enemy soldier's body until it is nothing but a bloody mist. Stallone as Rambo is still a man of few words, but he's in excellent shape for a man of 60+ years (thanks to his injections of human growth hormones [HGH], which he swears by) and is still believable as an action hero. The politics are pure 80's Reagan era, as the holier-than-thou Christian doctor, Michael, chastises Rambo for his violent ways (even threatening to turn Rambo in to authorities after he kills four river pirates, who would have surely murdered him and raped his girlfriend), only to take a life himself when he's pushed to the point of no return in the nail-biting finale. Stallone also pays tribute to the late Richard Crenna as Col. Trautman, using scenes of him from the previous three Rambo films in a black-and-white nightmare sequence, even using footage from the alternate ending of FIRST BLOOD (1982) where Trautman shoots and kills Rambo. There are also some obvious uses of CGI (especially Tint's death), but most of it is very quick and the explosion of the old WWII "Tallboy" bomb in the forest is a thing of beauty and managed to jerk back the heads of many audience members in a spectacular "Holy Shit!" moment. Stallone is to be commended for making such a politically incorrect action flick in a time where political correctness is akin to being a "patriot". This is Stallone's big "Fuck You!!!" to all those who said he lost his chops (not to mention his mind) and that ultra-violent action films were a thing of the past. After viewing this film with a highly-appreciative audience, I implore my readers to vote with your tickets as a way of telling studio executives that we are tired of watered-down PG-13 rated crapfests and want more of what RAMBO has to offer: Balls-to-the-wall mindless carnage for no other reason then to entertain us. We don't need "message" movies like Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2004) and APOCALYPTO (2006) as an excuse to show us the gore. Stallone knew what the audience wanted and he delivered it in spades. Thank you! Also starring Matthew Marsden, Rey Gallagos, Jake La Botz and Tim Kang. A Lionsgate Entertainment Release. Rated R, but I'm still shaking my head in amazement that the MPAA let this slide with that rating, considering the amount of carnage on view.

RED SCORPION 2 (1994)  -  In-name only sequel to the Dolph Lungren starrer. This one is Lundgren-less and continues the downward spiral of the career of John Savage (THE DEER HUNTER - 1978). Savage portrays the leader of a neo-nazi cult group who is responsible for several ethnic mass murders and the theft of the Spear Of Destiny, a magical lance used on Christ during his crucifixion. Savage hopes to use the spear to help him in his cause to make the world safe for caucasions. A group of trained specialists, led by Matt McColm, infiltrate Savage’s empire to put a stop to his menace. Limp action sequences, listless direction and Savage’s hammy overacting bring this film down to the mediocrity level. The Spear Of Destiny subplot is quickly dropped and forgotten. That’s a shame because I was hoping for some supernational shenanigans to go along with all the explosions. No such luck. Play Wolfenstein instead. You’ll have more fun. Also starring Michael Ironside (VISITING HOURS - 1981), Jennifer Rubin (BAD DREAMS - 1988) and Paul Ben-Victor (Sci Fi Network's THE INVISIBLE MAN [2000 - 2002]). Directed by Michael Kennedy (THE SWORDSMAN - 1992). A Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment/MCA Universal Home Video Release. Rated R.

RESCUE TEAM (1983) - Another crazy Filipino action film. Years after the end of the Vietnam War, an American P.O.W. escapes from a secret prison camp in the Cambodian jungle by hanging on to the undercarriage of a truck. After a few miles, he falls off, but before he dies, he tells a hospital doctor the location of the prison and other valuable information. The C.I.A. then hires alcoholic mercenary Robert Burton (Richard Harrison) to lead a rescue team and bring back an important American P.O.W. that is being held at the prison. With the promise of $100,000 for him and $50,000 for each team member, Burton gets his old group together and plans for the mission, if going bowling, visiting a strip club, screwing women and drinking excessively is considered planning (one of the team members talks about screwing his girlfriend, even though she's passed out, by saying, "She's good even when she's asleep!"). They manage to make it to Cambodia (disguised as archaeologists!) and set up camp in the jungle. Burton manages to keep their official V.C. escort occupied by teaching him how to swear in American ("You can call a woman a cunt, pussy or slit." is one exchange) until the escort is killed in a surprise attack by jungle guerillas. The rescue team then tranverse the jungle on their way to the P.O.W. camp, avoiding booby traps, surprise attacks from the V.C. and other jungle horrors. They meet their underground contact, Carla (Carol Roberts), in the middle of the jungle and she guides them down the river until they are ambushed and their boats and equipment are blown up. With no weapons, the rescue team must find a way to make it through the jungle in one piece and still meet their objective.  While not as delirious as some of the Indonesian action flicks (i.e. FINAL SCORE - 1986), RESCUE TEAM (also known as OPERATION COLEMAN [the last name of their P.O.W. target]) still has it's fair share of outlandish set pieces and risable dialogue. When the team use an enemy soldier as a test for jungle traps and is then killed by a spiked booby trap, one team member says, "Well, there goes our mine sweeper!" When they finally raid the camp, it's rather sloppy as only one P.O.W. survives, all the others are machine-gunned in their cell (to be fair, it's the only one they were paid to rescue anyway.). Director Jun Gallardo (COMMANDER FIREFOX - 1983; COMMANDO INVASION - 1986; SFX RETALIATOR - 1987; THE FIRING LINE - 1991), here using the pseudonym "John Gale", tosses all logic out the window and instead focuses on mindless action as Burton begins losing members of his team after the camp raid to a series of mishaps right up to the unforgettable conclusion and final denouement (which involves a spiked champagne toast). Richard Harrison has done countless Filipino, Indonesian and Hong Kong actioners, including BLOOD DEBTS (1983), MAJESTIC THUNDERBOLT (1984), NINJA TERMINATOR (1986) and homegrown product like THE CHANNELER (1989). Let's just say that he's a decent utility actor and leave it at that. Also starring Romano Kristoff, Don Gordon Bell, James Gaines, Michael James, Mike Cohen and Tony McQueen. Be aware that most of Jun Gallardo's films are not available in legal editions on VHS or DVD in the U.S.. You'll have to go to grey market sites to pick them up. The print I viewed came from a subtitled Venezuelian VHS tape titled "Comando De Rescate". Not Rated. UPDATE: I recently received this email from Carl Kuntze, The screenwriter of BLACK MAMBA (1974): " I noted some speculation on your site whether I wrote Rescue Team (Operation Coleman) with Richard Harrison. I must raise my hand and admit I wrote the original screenplay. I don't know if it came out as I conceived. It was a straightforward script based on an abortive attempted rescue. I'm quite unsympathetic about Harrison's complaints about having to improvise scripts on the spot for the Z movies, where he appeared. In Rescue Team, he had a completed one. I'm told he wouldn't let go of it once he read it, but he had to rewrite it, not so much to improve it, but to expand his part. K.Y. Lim was aiming for a better market, but Harrison refused to play the role unless he was allowed to rewrite it. When Mr. Lim asked my permission, I shrugged. I had been paid."

RETURN FIRE: JUNGLE WOLF II (1988) - I must confess that I've never seen the original JUNGLE WOLF (1986 - which looks to have been a Philippines-lensed war action film, based on the flashback footage shown here), but it's not necessary to understand this second sequel (FORGOTTEN WARRIOR [1986] is the first sequel). Ex-C.I.A. agent Steve Parrish (Ron Marchini) returns home to San Francisco to spend time with young son Zak (Dax Nicholas). Before he even reaches home, Steve is attacked in the bathroom at a (strangely empty) mall by several men with guns, leading Steve to steal a police car with thugs chasing him close behind, shooting at him and lobbing hand grenades. It all ends at a shipping yard where Steve either shoots or blows up the goons. Steve returns home to find his neighbor Jim (Rufus Norris) dead and Zak kidnapped. Steve contacts his ex-boss Carruthers (Adam West) and more bad men turn up at his house, forcing Steve to kill them all when none can give him the location of his son. Steve meets Carruthers in a graveyard, where Carruthers informs him that Zak was kidnapped by a man named Petroli (D.W. Landingham), a Central American gun runner that Steve pissed off (apparently in Part 1) and he kidnapped Zak in retaliation. Carruthers wants Steve to go on one last mission to bring Petroli down, but Steve passes and plans on getting Petroli his own way. Steve contacts female operative Teri Anderson (Lynn O'Brien), who finds out that Zak is actually being held by Carruthers, who is working with Petroli, smuggling drugs into the country. Teri rescues Zak and brings him to Steve. Steve then goes to Petroli's headquarters and steals a van containing the latest shipment of drugs and Carruthers' dirty money. Now, Carruthers wants Petroli and Steve dead, Petroli wants Steve and Carruthers dead and Steve wants Carruthers and Petroli dead. Steve turns the tables on everyone when he takes over Petroli's warehouse, boobytraps it with explosives and then blows up all the drugs while wiping out all of Petroli's men, saving Petroli for last. Steve then catches Carruthers trying to leave the country and gives him a few direct hits with a shotgun, his way of saying "Bon voyage!"  The first thing you'll notice about this film is the awful music soundtrack. It's so out of place during some of the action sequences, you'll swear it was written for another movie. One-time director/co-scripter Neil Callaghan delivers a lot of action for the film's low budget, including plenty of bullet squibs, explosions and car chases. Ron Marchini is not much of an actor, but he makes an O.K. action hero and martial artist, appearing in such films as DEATH MACHINES (1976), OMEGA COP (1990 - also with Adam West) and KARATE COP (1991). This is actually Marchini's third time playing the role of Steve Parrish, first essaying it in JUNGLE WOLF (1986), then FORGOTTEN WARRIOR (also 1986) and, finally, in this film. There was a third JUNGLE WOLF film, KARATE COMMANDOS: JUNGLE WOLF III (1993), but it's an in-name-only sequel, as Marchini plays someone called "Jake Turner" in it. RETURN FIRE is mindless action fun if you can get past the low budget, wooden acting and glaring plot holes. I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would, thanks to the frequent shoot-outs, stunts and explosions. Lynn O'Brien also has a topless scene. For some reason, Ron Marchini, who produces most of the films he stars in (he Executive Produced this one), has used Dax Nicholas in four of his films. He's not much of an actor and is the weakest link here. Also known as MISSION TO WIN. Also starring Ty Randolph, Jim Alva, Joe Meyer and Alfred Burt. An Action International Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

REVENGE OF NINJA (1984) - I'm not sure what to make of this confusing Indonesian action flick. I'm not even sure if it takes place in the present or the future, since it mixes modern automobiles, futuristic weapons, sorcery and miniature dune buggies (maybe it takes place in some alternate universe). The film opens with Kohar (W.D. Mochtar) and his gang trying to forcibly take a magical red stone necklace from the neck of a white-robed sorcerer. After either shooting, stabbing or blowing-up all the sorcerer's men, Kohar shoots the sorcerer with his special rifle and the sorcerer disappears in a puff of smoke, leaving the necklace on the ground. The necklace turns out to be a fake (the real necklace will turn water red when submerged, but it's power is never really explained), as Kohar regrettably finds out when he hands it to his boss (who is also a sorcerer). The white-robed sorcerer appears bathed in a glow of red light in front of Maya (Dana Christina), after saving her from an attack by some of Kohar's men (and one high-kicking woman). He gives her the real necklace and tells her to protect it with her life. Maya doesn't want to wear the necklace, so the sorcerer trashes her apartment (!) until she agrees to wear it. Maya begins acting strange (she gains fighting ability and magical powers), which worries her boyfriend Ricky (Barry Prima). Ricky takes her to a medicine man (She says, "I don't believe in mumbo-jumbo!") to help her with her problems. The medicine man (who has a hunchback assistant) turns out to be Kohar's boss. He hypnotizes Maya, while Kohar and his men search her apartment for the necklace (for some reason, she still doesn't like to put it around her neck!). They are interrupted in their search by a mysterious man in black (Advent Bangun, the closest thing to a ninja in this film), who beats the shit out of all of them. Meanwhile, Maya becomes possessed by the sorcerer and destroys the evil medicine man's home (rather than leave through the door, she kicks a hole in the wall!). The sorcerer reveals himself to Ricky and explains what is going on (I wish he would explain it to me!) and even imbues Ricky with some magical powers. The evil medicine man frees a witch in exchange to locate the body a even more evil sorcerer, who he plans on using to kill the good sorcerer and then gain control of the necklace. After performing a ceremony involving a freshly removed beating human heart, they locate the body. Now it becomes really confusing. Ricky fights the man in black and he beats the possessed spirit out of Ricky. The reanimated evil sorcerer and his undead zombie army fight the good sorcerer, Maya, Ricky and the man in black for possession of the necklace. It seems the right people win in the end, at least I hope so!  I'm still trying to figure out just what the hell I watched here. Filled with nonsensical scenes, like the one at a disco where the dancers on stage swing their hips while the one in the middle turns a huge ship's steering helm (!) or the scene where the man in black outraces a speeding car on foot, jumps on the roof and rides it like a surfboard. He then puches a hole in the roof with his bare hands, killing the driver and forcing the car to crash and explode. He also kicks the hunchback so hard, he stands up straight (the look on the hunchback's face is priceless!). He then stomps on the poor man's hump, crushing it. Director Ratno Timoer (THE DEVIL'S SWORD - 1984) lays on the supernatural elements pretty thick, as objects float in the air, the flames on candles erupt like flamethrowers and, at one point, when Maya becomes possessed, she looks like Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST. The final battle (the evil sorcerer has a spike in his head, which keeps him alive) is a hoot and contains gory manual disembowelment, an army of fast-moving zombies and Barry Prima (doing his best Chuck Norris impression) jumping through the windshield of Kohar's moving car, killing both Kohar and his boss. It also has the man in black swallowing the necklace, in one of the most "What The Fuck?!?" moments in Indonesian film history. There's also some choice dialogue, such as when one of Kohar's assassins says, "I'll blow his brains out if I can find them!". All-in-all, REVENGE OF NINJA is a likable action-packed film as long as you don't mind not understanding what the fuck is going on. Advent Bangun, who portrays the man in black, starred as the Si Buta, the blind swordsman, in Prima's THE WARRIOR 2 (1983) and would play the same character in his own successful series of films, starting with THE BLIND WARRIOR in 1985 (also directed by Timoer). As a matter of fact, it's hard to watch any Indonesian action flick in the late 70's and 80's and not see at least one of the actors that you see in this one. This Rapi Films production (Indonesia's premiere production company for action and sleaze) was written by Darto Joned (THE WARRIOR 1 & 2) and produced by Gope T. Samtani (HELL RAIDERS - 1985). Also starring Harry Capri, Mundi Cader, I.M. Damsyik, Kandar Sinyo and Farida Pasha. Not available from any legitimate label in the U.S., it is, though, available from many gray market sellers. Not Rated.

ROLF (1983) - This charming bit of Italian action sleaze tells the story of mercenary-turned-commercial pilot Rolf (Tony Marsina), who is trying to put his past behind him, but circumstances won't let him. A flashback reveals that the local police refuse to believe he has changed his ways, so he is arrested and one of the cops shoves his hand into a shit-filled toilet, wipes his hand on a wall and then makes a remark to Rolf that he now won't have to be fingerprinted! When a member of his former mercenary squad offers him $50,000 to fly drugs out of the country, he refuses, which upsets his girlfriend Joanna (Ketty Nicols). Rolf explains to her the reason he turned it down was because when he was a kid he saw his prostitute mother die of a hot shot administered by her pimp when she refused to trick for him anymore (in another one of the film's many flashbacks). When Rolf's entire former squad show up and beat the shit out of him and then tell him if he won't fly for them, he'll fly for no one, a battered Rolf passes out in the woods (they dislocate his knee, which he painfully resets himself), where insects and leeches attack his body (!) A worried Joanna reports him missing to the police, but they refuse to look for him, so she goes looking for Rolf herself (after nearly being raped by two thugs!) and finds him in the woods! After finding out the next day that he's been fired from his job (Rolf: "Why can't I fly for you anymore?" Boss: "Let's just say I don't like your face!"), Rolf puts two-and-two together, hijacks the plane with the shipment of drugs, pisses on them (!) and tosses the drugs out of the plane. His former buddies don't take too kindly to it, so they kidnap Joanna, make her strip in front of them and take turns raping her. After they are done with her, they shoot Joanna "dead center in the heart" (according to a cop at the crime scene). When Rolf finds out about his girlfriend's brutal gang rape and murder, he sends a message to his former buddies to meet them in the forest, where the film turns into a FIRST BLOOD clone (with Italian sensibilities). Rolf goes Rambo on his former crew, hunting them down one-by-one, using spiked boobytraps (are there any other kind?), explosions, gunfire and hand-to-hand combat to achieve his retribution. When one of the mercenaries escapes, Rolf must stay one step ahead of the police in order to hunt down and kill his last nemesis.  As you can tell by my description, this action flick lacks logic of any kind, but that's where this film's strength lies. Just when you think you've seen it all, this film throws another head-scratching scene in your direction. I was in hysterics when one of Rolf's former buddies tortures another pilot (who was with Rolf when he hijacked the drug plane), throwing boiling soup in his face, sticking his head into the open flame on the stove and then shooting him in the head when he refuses to give up Rolf's location. A couple of minutes later, as he is walking out of the dead guy's apartment, the former buddy is delivered a message telling him where to meet Rolf! Talk about bad timing. Director/scripter Mario Siciliano (EVIL EYE - 1974; THE PERFECT KILLER - 1977; SKIN 'EM ALIVE - 1978), using his frequent pseudonym "Marlon Sirko" (all other credits on the film are also Anglicized), doesn't offer much in the way of heady dialogue (It doesn't get more thought-provoking than, "Shut up, you bag of shit!"), but the film is bloody as hell and a wild ride until the final third, when it turns into a FIRST BLOOD rip-off. Still, it's an amazing Rambo clone, with impalements, exploding bodies and Rolf screaming, "God, help me!" after being shot in the hands. Whoever was in charge of the dubbing has a hard time deciding whether the title character's name is "Rolf" or "Ralph". There's also an amazing flashback scene towards the finale showing Rolf's mercenary squad (in their final mission together) shooting up an African village full of innocent women and children. What's truly remarkable about it is when they throw one African boy up in the air and shoot him like skeet over and over! Rolf, of course, is appalled and manages to save some of the other children. I also love how, for an action hero, Rolf spends a good portion of his screen time crying, either over the loss of a loved one or in pain. He even carries a photo of his dead hooker mother in his wallet and cries when he looks at it! This is classic Italian nonsense and worth searching out. The lyrics of the cheesy title tune (sung by Chris J. King), goes, "Rolf, you've run out of luck. Rolf, you've taken the road that leads to pain..." Days later, I was still humming it! Also starring Tony Roccosta, Malcolm Duff, Louis Walser, Cynthia Cindy and Nike Anderson. Available on VHS from Mogul Communications as THE LAST MERCENARY. The print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

ROME: ARMED TO THE TEETH (1976) - This is an excellent example of "Poliziottesco" or Italian "Tough Cop" film. Maurizio Merli stars as no-nonsense Inspector Tanzi, who is tired of arresting people and them having them go free due to Article 20 (a big problem in Italy at the time). After he arrests crook Savelli (Biagi Pelligra) at an illegal gambling operation, Tanzi is forced to set him free for lack of evidence, only to have Savelli kill a bank guard during a robbery the next day. Complicating matters is Tanzi's court psychiatrist girlfriend, Anna (Maria Rosaria Omaggio). After he arrests two teens for stealing a purse, she sets them free rather than sending them to a reformatory. They end up getting killed the next day when their scooter jumps a curb after they steal another purse. Tanzi wants to create a special squad that deals with criminals on their own terms, but his boss, Ruini (Arthur Kennedy), refuses, so Tanzi and his partner, Inspector Caputo (Gian piero Albertini), go out and look for Savelli on their own and break every rule in the book. They start with one of Savelli's friends, a hunchback butcher named Vincenzo Moretto (the crazy Tomas Milian). When Moretto refuses to talk, even after Tanzi kicks him square in the nuts (Moretto says, "If you was kicked in the balls, you'd hurt too!" when Caputo asks why he is crying.), Tanzi plants drugs on him and brings the hunchback to the station, where Tanzi and Caputo work him over pretty good. Moretto tries to slit his wrists in the station's bathroom, so Ruini demotes Tanzi (He screams to Tanzi, "Can you see tomorrow's headline: Hunchback Battered By Vicious Cop!"). Savelli kidnaps Anna and brings her to an auto junkyard, where they rough her up and threaten to crush her in a junked car. They set her free after giving her a single bullet to give to Tanzi as a warning. Tanzi is forced to work in the Licencing Bureau issuing permits, but during his lunch breaks and evenings he searches for Savelli (He visits Moretto at his house during dinner and forces him to swallow the bullet that Savelli gave Anna.). After killing a kid who was involved in a brutal gang rape (The kid says to the victim, "We're gonna ball you till you die!" and then sodomizes her with a piece of wood), Tanzi finally gets the chance to confront heroin dealer Tony Parenzo (Ivan Rassimov), Tanzi's oldest nemesis and best friend of Savelli. When Moretto shoots Parenzo and frames Tanzi for it, Tanzi offers his resignation to Ruini, but a hostage situation at a bank involving Savelli offers Tanzi a chance at redemption.  While the narrative structure of this film is all over the place, director Umberto Lenzi, who directed a whole crop of these Poliziottescos (BURNING CITY - 1973; ALMOST HUMAN - 1974; SYNDICATE SADISTS - 1975 [aka: RAMBO'S REVENGE]; VIOLENT NAPLES - 1976; THE CYNIC, THE RAT & THE FIST - 1977; FROM CORLEONE TO BROOKLYN - 1979; COP TARGET - 1990) as well as giallos like SPASMO (1974) and EYEBALL (1975), does a good job of displaying Tanzi's justified rage at a legal system that favors the criminals over the victims. Time after time, we witness the criminals getting off easy (or suffering no consequences at all) for their crimes, including murder. If it weren't for Tanzi, most of these crooks would get off scott-free. One still has to wonder if Tanzi's brutal tactics are responsible for hunchback Moretto's later crimes in the film (You've got to hear his story about crapping out the bullet that Tanzi made him swallow!), as he was pretty rough on Moretto, trying to beat information out of him that he never really had in the first place. Tomas Milian (ALMOST HUMAN) is an absolute riot as Moretto. He is given the best lines and his sudden change from helpless victim to bloodthirsty murderer is simply amazing. I especially liked the scene where he shoots a guy for not touching his hump for luck ("I bet you wish you touched it now!") and when he hijacks an ambulance (He asks a guy in the back where he is going. Before he has a chance to answer, Moretto shoots him with a machine gun and says, "You're going to the graveyard, that's where!). Maurizio Merli is the king of the Italian tough cop genre, appearing in nearly a dozen of these films, including VIOLENT ROME (1975), VIOLENT NAPLES (1976), A SPECIAL COP IN ACTION (1976), MAGNUM COP (1977) and COVERT ACTION (1978) before dying of a heart attack while playing tennis at the age of 49 in 1989. His good looks (some say his resemblance to actor Franco Nero is what made him so polular) and tough demeanor serves the role very well. ROME: ARMED TO THE TEETH was released under two titles in the U.S., both by Terry Levine for his Aquarius Releasing company. The first title was the straightforward BRUTAL JUSTICE. The second title was ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON, which was extensively recut, scenes shuffled around, new scenes added and the cast and credits totally made up (the direction is credited to "Walter Gaines"). It's this version that made it's way to a U.S. video release in the 80's, as part of "Sybil Danning's Adventure Video" from U.S.A. Home Video. Alfa Digital offers the uncut Italian release (dubbed in English) on DVD in a beautiful widescreen print. Also known as THE VIPER. Also starring Aldo Barberito, Stefana Patrizi, Luciano Contenacci, Valentino Macchi and Luciano Pigozzi. An Alfa Digital DVD Release. Not Rated.

RUN AND KILL (1993)  -  When Fatty (Kent Cheng) comes home and finds his wife screwing a store owner, he leaves and gets stinking drunk at a bar. Too drunk to understand what he is doing, he hires an assassin to kill his wife (he tells the assassin that he wants to see his wife dead......drunk, but the assassin doesn’t hear the drunk part). He wakes up in the gutter the next morning and goes home to witness the brutal murder of his wife and her lover. Fatty’s life begins to unravel, as he is questioned by the cops, blackmailed by the assassin, sees his thriving business burn down and must flee Hong Kong for mainland China. Fatty’s problems don’t end there as he is dragged down into the underbelly of society and is forced to watch people being stabbed, dismembered and riddled with bullets before he can get back his reputation. Fatty must transform himself from a meek, frightened dweeb to a one man killing machine in order to survive his ordeal. And what an ordeal it is. Many consider RUN AND KILL minor Hong Kong Cat. III exploitation, but it is far better than most of the U.S. crap that is being released direct-to-video these days. Kent Cheng gives a quiet, understated portrayal of an everyday man who goes through hell and learns to survive. I dare you to watch the scene involving Fatty’s daughter (who is tied up and set on fire while Fatty watches helplessly) and not feel affected. You’ll root for him when he says enough is enough and takes matters into his own hands. Revenge is sweet when it is a dish not served cold. Good bloody effects and a complicated, yet satisfying, storyline help round out this film. They sure couldn’t get away with making something like this in the good ol’ United States. Directed by Billy Tang and co-starring Simon Yam and Danny Lee. Subtitled in English. From Come On Film Co. Video. Not Rated due to some bloody violence and the aforementioned scene involving Fatty’s daughter. It’s now one of my favorites.

RUN LIKE HELL (1995) - A real rare one: A cheap SOV American-made post-nuke actioner making it's home video debut on DVD. It's the year 2008 and the "planet has been devastated by war and disease" (The filmmakers could have at least tried to set this film in a more distant future, but I guess in 1995, it must have looked pretty hopeless for Earth and they figured thirteen years was just enough time to destroy it. Christ, George Bush Jr. wasn't even President yet!). In order to control the population, the corrupt new world government has declared single women a threat to society (I would have considered them a treat to society!) and a bounty has been placed on all unattached women. When captured, these chicks without a steady man are sent to special prisons. At one such prison, the Warden (Robert "The Chin" Z'Dar, who has never sunk lower, and I'm taking EVIL ALTAR [1988] into consideration) watches contently on his close circuit TV system as two topless prisoners take a shower. He orders his guards to bring them to his office, where he degrades one of them by bending her over his desk and threatening to rape her. Too bad for the Warden that this was all a planned escape on the women's part, as they knock him out and flee the prison with two other topless prisoners (all of them wearing matching black g-strings) after a short shotgun fight with some unlucky guards. The four women find clothes (damn it!) and weapons at a guard outpost in the desert and, after killing the two horny guards on duty, head for the safety of Paradise City. After nearly getting raped by two goons while they are sleeping in the desert, the women are saved by a black clad ninja named Jag (Henry Olvera), who accompanies them on their journey. The Warden hires bounty hunter Blade (Gil Cologne) and his droid partner (co-scripter Robert Rundle [who directed the insane DIVINE ENFORCER - 1991] in one of the cheapest robot costumes ever) to bring the four escaped women back dead or alive, with a side order of severe suffering if they are to die. Jag doesn't do a good job of protecting the women, because in the very next scene, one of the women is shot and killed by a bunch of mutants (one of them wearing a pimp's fur coat!), so he teaches the remaining three women martial arts and how to handle a sword (which, in this cheap film, means showing a montage of the women doing push-ups, chin-ups and running through the desert). After another one of the women is shot in the back and killed, Jag and the last two women end up at a martial arts tournament, where Jag fights a hulking masked mutant with a chainsaw (the blade of the chainsaw never spins, yet the over-amped sound effects wants you to believe otherwise). After defeating the mutant, Jag and the girls make it to Paradise City (but we don't get to see it) and the Warden is left to stew in his own juices.  There's a good reason why this "film" wasn't released until now. By the looks of what my eyes have just witnessed, RUN LIKE HELL looks to be an unfinished film or, at least, a film made by someone without even basic filmmaking knowledge. Director Eric Brummer (better known as porno director "Slain Wayne"; TERRORS FROM THE CLIT - 2000; KUNG FU GIRLS - 2001) can't be bothered with simple things like continuity, as scenes begin and end with little or no rhyme or reason (the shooting death of the first escaped prisoner is particularly confusing) and the screenplay, by Rundle, Steven Stein and Alan Hall, introduces too many characters and sub-plots to sustain interest (A sub-plot involving a bounty tracker named John Steele rescuing a woman from prison ends unceremoniously when they are both shot dead in the desert). While this film has plenty of topless female nudity, the overall cheapness of the production, with it's flat, shot-on-video camerawork, hopeless acting ability of the cast (all Z'Dar does is slap a baton repeatedly in his palm and leer at the topless women on his TV monitors like some masturbatory loon) and lame-ass action sequences (badly-staged and choreographed martial arts and gun fights), makes me wonder if this "film" should have ever seen the light of day. Some movies go unreleased for a reason. Run like hell from RUN LIKE HELL unless you want to experience the filmic equivalent of having bamboo chutes shoved under your fingernails. Also starring Dree Lang, Colleen Corrigan, Liz Davies and Elizabeth Prince as the four escapees and featuring Frankie Maldonati, Janet Linnane, Anita DeFrancesco, Lisa Pret and Jeff Rector. Available on DVD as part of RAREFLIX.COM TRIPLE FEATURE VOL. 2 from Code Red/Media Blasters. There's a hidden Easter Egg commentary track featuring AVManiacs.com reviewer Ian Jane, Media Blasters executive Richard York and DVD author Dave Beinlich, where they drink King Cobra beer and crack wise while the film is playing. It's funny as hell, so if you must watch this film, do so with the commentary track turned on (It can be accessed by clicking on the RareFlix.com logo in the Special Features section on the DVD). Not Rated.

SAIGON COMMANDOS (1987) - This film spends little time addressing the Vietnam War, even though it takes place in Saigon during the year 1970. This film spends most it's time dealing with the exploits of a group of MPs, led by Sgt. Mark Stryker (Richard Young; FINAL MISSION - 1984), as they deal with a city that's so corrupt, it's nearly impossible to get anything done. Sgt. Stryker and his men not only contend with a serial killer dubbed the "Hollowpoint Killer" by the press (due to the type of bullet the killer uses), they also have to constantly keep the peace between the American occupation and the locals who resent their presence. Tensions are so bad, some locals slit the throat of Sgt. Tim Bryant's (John Allen Nelson; KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE - 1988) Vietnamese girlfriend while he watches. The appearance of Associated Press reporter Jean Lassiter (P.J. Soles; HALLOWEEN - 1978), who is assigned to ride along with Sgt. Stryker, only makes his job more difficult. When the Hollowpoint Killer, who has murdered ten Vietnamese locals, kills his first American victim, the pressure is put on Sgt. Stryker to find him and find him fast. Complicating matters is when Tim, who is grieving the loss of his girlfriend, turns rogue and begins murdering locals in retribution. Not anonymous locals, mind you, but prominent, influential locals. Sgt. Stryker, who had an opportunity to bring Tim in, but let his personal friendship with him get in the way, is framed by Col. Tranh (Joe Mari Avellana) for the death of Stryker's commanding officer (Frederick Bailey). When a lynch mob of locals try to grab Stryker as he is taken into custody, he escapes with the help of Jean and some of his MP buddies. He then sets out to clear his name, stop both Tim and the Hollowpoint Killer and bring Col Tranh and his men down. To do that, Stryker gathers all his Special Forces buddies together (he first has to rescue them in the jungle while they are under heavy enemy fire) and they then begin to lay waste to Saigon. When a nun and some orphans are killed by a sniper, the locals blame Tim, but Stryker knows better. The sniper is actually working for Col. Tranh, who is also responsible for the Hollowpoint Killer. Col. Tranh hopes to get the locals so riled up that they force all Americans out of Saigon. The sniper then kills a bunch of Buddhists and tensions reach the boiling point. When Jean is kidnapped, Stryker and his men swing into action and save her. The finale takes place at an anti-American rally, where Tim has the rally's leader, Nguyen HuuTri (Joonie Gamboa), in his sights. Stryker must settle with Tim, the Hollowpoint Killer and a corrupt political system all at the same time before the film concludes.  This is a halfway decent actioner that also attempts to address the difficulties the American occupation had to endure while living amongst people quite different than us during a time of war. While far from perfect (there's evidence of post-production tampering by adding narration by Richard Young to walk us through some scenes, which were probably never finished or didn't contain enough footage to survive without an added explanation), director Clark Henderson (who also gave us the god-awful WARLORDS FROM HELL [1985] and the so-so PRIMARY TARGET [1988]) at least tries to deliver something different, mixing action, mystery, political intrigue, corruption and racial tensions into a heady little brew. You've got to admire a film that opens with a Vietnamese rock band (actually Filipino group "The Eurasia Band") grooving to "House Of The Rising Sun" and "Midnight Special" while a group of American GIs (led by Nick Nicholson) and Vietnamese locals face-off in a bar. The script, by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (THE SISTERHOOD - 1987; THE TERROR WITHIN - 1988), is much more political than most films in this genre and the backdrop of cultural differences does manage to generate some genuine suspense. SAIGON COMMANDOS also tries to play fair with both sides of the political coin. Scripter Cleaver portrays the occupying American forces and the native Vietnamese as flawed human beings with passions that turn out tragically for both sides. Sure, there are villians here, but most of them pay for their sins with their lives. Tim's death is probably the film's most dramatic, kind of what law enforcement calls "death by cop", where Tim leaves his buddies no choice but to kill him, even though his sniper rifle is out of ammunition. To Tim, this is a hero's death. He would rather his friends kill him then spend the rest of his life in prison. Director Henderson fills the film with plenty of bloody bullet squibs (including scenes of children getting killed), explosions, chases and nudity, so action fans will not be disappointed, but this film has loftier ambitions than a straight-ahead action flick. Give it a try. If I didn't know better, I would say that Filipino director/producer Cirio H. Santiago had a hand in this (it's full of his people, both in front and behind the camera), but his name is nowhere to be found in the credits. Also starring Jim B. Jr., Spanky Manikan, Willie Williams, Crispin Medina, Leo Martinez, Steve Rogers, Ronnie Patterson, David Light and Jack Daniels. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Not yet available on DVD. Rated R.

SAVAGE INSTINCT (1989) - Holy crap! I've seen some low-rent action flicks in my time, but this one is absolutely anorexic. The film opens with hulking, bald-headed drug manufacturer Mongo (Brian Oldfield, who looks like Peter Boyle in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN - 1975!) putting a spiked leather headband on his noggin and then head-butting a sweaty lab technician, killing him (while his workers chant, "Do him! Do him!" over and over) for dipping his nose in the company stash. We then meet widow Susan Morris (Debra Sweaney), who is thinking of buying a house "out in the sticks" and is going to check it out with a real estate agent. They get a flat tire right by Mongo's drug operation, so he chases them down in his pickup truck (Real Estate Agent: "We've had it!"  Susan: "Don't say that!"), kills the real estate agent and takes Susan prisoner, where she is abused, bitten and nearly raped twice (once by a woman!) until she escapes and runs to the house of Mr. Wilson (J. Brown). Trouble is, Mr. Wilson is in cahoots with Mongo, so he turns Susan back over to Mongo, where she is tied-up again, nearly raped again and escapes again. She hitches a ride with three horny teens, who try to rape her before Mongo's men kill them and recapture her again! Mongo tries to kill her with the spiked headband, but she escapes again, by walking on top of the heads of Mongo and his gang (as she runs away, she turns around to face Mongo, grabs her crotch and yells out "Hey! Hey! Hey!" like Fat Albert!). She steals a police car, runs down a few of the gang and then decides she's had enough. Suddenly, she turns into a one-woman termination squad, fashioning weapons from farm tools, changing her appearance from a schoolmarm to a sex vixen and killing nearly all of Mongo's gang with various edged weapons and a whip! She kills Mongo, steals all his drug money and walks off into the sunset. I guess she deserved something for all her troubles.  Where do I begin to explain just how awful this film really is? First off, Debra Sweaney as Susan is simply a horrible actress. She seems to think that she's acting in a comedy and her line delivery, where she is always talking to herself and smiling (even when she's being attacked) is annoying and amateurish (Watch the scene where she jumps in the car with the three horny teens and tell me that she isn't one of the worst actresses of all time.) It's embarrassing to watch. Since this was directed/produced/scripted by Patrick G. Donahue, who also gave us the unbelievable KILL SQUAD (1981; his first and best film) and the so-bad-it's-good PAROLE VIOLATORS (1994), you know what to expect here: Action sequences on a dime store budget (including an obvious junked car being used in a crash gag), amateur actors (including Donahue's brother, Sean Donahue, as Mongo's right-hand man Terk) and cheap, unconvincing gore effects. The finale, where Susan takes on various members of Mongo's gang with her homemade weapons is so badly done, it's not even good for unintentional entertainment value. Her first opponent is Chang (Steven Lee), who warns Susan that he has had fifteen years of martial arts training. Susan then shoves a spike into Chang's foot and says "Ballet. Six months!"  She then throws two giant nails into Chang's eyes and he is so dishonored by her actions that he pounds the nails deeper into his skull until they protrude out of the back of his head! The film's lame attempt at humor comes when Susan shoves a twig in the ear of a black gang member who tries to rape her and he spends the rest of the film saying "What?" every time some talks to him. Also, for a film with so many attempted rapes (I think there were a total of five), there is no nudity at all. That's like shooting yourself in the foot, isn't it? Truly painful to watch, almost like a filmic version of having a colonoscopy. Just like in Donahue's KILL SQUAD, the lead villain is decapitated by an axe in the finale. Please, please, please, do yourself a favor and pass on SAVAGE INSTINCT unless you get off on watching paint dry. I think I just gave paint a bad name. Troma Films released this film (originally filmed as EDGE OF FEAR) under the title THEY CALL ME MACHO WOMAN. Enough said? Also starring Mike Donohue, Roger Arildson, Jerry Johnson, Paul Henri and Sean McCarty.  An Action International Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

SEARCH AND DESTROY (1979) - Pretty good Canadian-made actioner. A crazed Vietnamese assassin (Park Jong Soo) with a deformed hand begins killing American soldiers across the United States years after the war ends. He's now in Niagra Falls and when Kip Moore (Perry King) is notified by Police Captain Fusqua (George Kennedy) that his business partner (and fellow squad member) was found dead in his car, he contacts best friend (and also a squad member) Buddy Grant (Don Stroud) and they begin an investigation of their own. They at first think local mobster Ernie Cappel (Rummy Bishop) may have something to do with it, but change their minds when the assassin shoots and wounds Kip as he steps off the Maid Of The Mist and then chases Buddy (after shooting him in the leg) into a nearby power plant and beats the crap out of him before the police arrive. Buddy is hurt badly and hospitalized and Kip tells Captain Fusqua that the assassin use to be part of his squad until they were ambushed and they were forced to leave him behind. It looks like he has returned for some payback. Fusqua and his men tail Kip in hopes of catching the assassin in the act, but he is much too smart for that. Kip visits Buddy in the hospital and learns that Buddy is going to be a quadraplegic for the rest of his life. He begs Kip to kill him, but Kip doesn't want to do it until Buddy has some time to think about it. The assassin kidnaps Kip's girlfriend and leaves a note (as well as a dead cop) for Kip to meet him alone and settle the score (When one of Fusqua's men wants to set up a stakeout, Kip says, "See to your dead and leave me alone!"). Kip gets ready for battle by arming himself to the teeth. He manages to turn the tables and makes the assassin the prey after rescuing his girlfriend. The final battleground turns out to be a busy city block where innocent pedestrians are killed before Kip and the assassin fight it out on the rooftops and then in a wooded city park. The war is on!  Grittily directed by Canadian genre vet William Fruet (DEATH WEEKEND - 1976; FUNERAL HOME - 1980; SPASMS - 1982; and many others), this film is different from most action films because it paints a sympathetic picture for both sides. Kip just wants to forget about the war, but he knows it is impossible (his dreams won't let him) and the assassin can't forget about it until he gets total revenge on the soldiers responsible for leaving him behind and letting the enemy torture him, his mangled hand a constant reminder of the pain he endured. Fruet and screenwriter Don Enright don't play favorites as can be seen in the scene where Kip tries to explain the war to his girlfriend Kate (Tisa Farrow, who made ZOMBIE a short time later), which is intercut with the assassin looking at his war scrapbook and praying to a photo of Jesus. The scene between Kip and a paralyzed Buddy in the hospital is heart-wrenching and is another unusual thing in a film like this (even though the paralysis angle is never resolved). The Niagra Falls locations are used to good effect, especially the Maid Of The Mist/power plant and city block/park scenes. Although the film is rated PG, this is not kid's stuff. The material is adult and engrossing without being bloody. Put this on your list of action must-sees. Also starring Tony Sheer, Phil Aikin, Daniel Buccos and a wax figure of Telly Savalas as Kojak. Also known as STRIKING BACK. Available on VHS from Astral Video (Canada) and Vestron Video (U.S.A.). Also available on DVD as part of a double feature (with THE GLOVE - 1978) from Dark Sky Films. Rated PG.

SFX RETALIATOR (1987) - A robbery at a shipping yard results in a shootout where many people are killed. In retaliation, there is another shootout at a restaurant, courtesy of crimeboss Morgan (Gordon Mitchell), who is looking to take over the territory. Morgan's new girlfriend, Doris (Linda Blair) steals a briefcase with a million dollars in it out of Morgan's safe, which leads to a car chase in which Doris' car is disabled. Doris flags down Steve Baker (Christopher Mitchum), who happens to be in the wrong place at the right time. After fooling Morgan's men with a fake hand grenade, Steve and Doris get away. Luckily, Steve is a movie special effects technician and it will come in handy later on. Doris delivers the money to Morgan's rival Mancini (David Light) and we learn that Doris hates Morgan because he killed her father when she was a child (she witnessed it). Morgan orders his men to pick up Steve, so they go to his house, rough up his wife Kate (Christine Landson) and kidnap her when they realize Steve is not home. Morgan gives Steve 72 hours to return Doris and the money to him or his wife will be killed. Steve begins searching the town for Doris with very little luck until a bartender who Steve questions calls Mancini. Soon, Steve has Mancini's men gunning for him, but he tricks his house with pyrotechnics and special effects, including a remote control pickup truck, which he uses to follow the thugs back to Mancini's home. Steve kidnaps Doris and then finds himself in a whole new pickle. Mancini's men try to stop him from delivering Doris to Morgan, using a rocket-firing helicopter, but Steve shoots it down with a grenade launcher (in one of the film's cheesier effects). He delivers Doris to Morgan, but Morgan refuses delivery because Doris doesn't have the money she stole from him. Morgan gives Steve and Doris three hours to return the money or Kate dies. They must now go back to Mancini's house and steal the money. Stealing the money is easy (maybe too easy) and Steve makes the trip back to Morgan, not aware that Mancini switched the money with counterfeit bills and has shot and killed Doris for her treachery. This is not going to be a pleasant day for Steve and Kate.  This Philippines-lensed film, a Silver Star Film Company production directed by Jun Gallardo (RESCUE TEAM - 1983; COMMANDO INVASION - 1986), using his "John Gale" pseudonym, is a decent enough diversion, but it is missing much of those wild action setpieces that we come to expect from films of this type. Chris Mitchum is, of course, stiff as a ten day-old corpse, but we don't watch these films for his acting ability, do we? He makes a serviceable action hero and I especially liked the scene where he rescues his wife, they make love and she screams out "Action!" just as she reaches climax (while a "best of" compilation of Steve's best special effects explosions are spliced-in to represent her pleasure!). Speaking of explosions, there are plenty here, as we are shown Steve blowing up stuff in a film he is working on (a Vietnam War film), his truck is tricked-out with hidden machine guns and grenade launchers and he even blows up his own house as a diversion for Morgan's men! There are also plenty of gunfights, a real sappy song plays on the sountrack while Steve searches for Doris (the lyrics repeat the phrase, "Get my baby back" over and over), Gordon Mitchell has a role here that isn't a glorified cameo (like most of his 80's roles) and most of the cast can't seem to remember if Steve's last name is "Baker" or "Becker", as they use both, sometimes in the same scene! SFX RETALIATOR contains enough weirdness, including the death of Steve's wife, even after all they've been through together and Steve's homemade tank (you gotta see it!), which he uses in the finale to destroy Morgan's property (Morgan calls the police and says, "No, not thanks, tank! T-A-N-K!") to make this worthwhile viewing. It's no FINAL SCORE (1986) but, hell, what is? At least Gordon Mitchell blows up real nice. Also starring Dave Petterson, Warren McLean, Don Holden and Paul Perry. The version I view was a DVD-R ripped from a Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. Picture quality was very good. Not Rated.

SGT. CLARIN: BULLET FOR YOUR HEAD (1990) - Another wild Filipino actioner with too many "What The Fuck?!?" moments to process in one viewing. The film opens with a bar fight (what else?), where Danny Clarin (Max Laurel; ROBOWAR - 1988) tries to stop a drunk American from fondling a female dancer on stage. This turns into a melee where Danny has to beat the crap out of three guys (at one point, Danny and a brawny fighter get into a ball-grabbing competition!). Immediately after the fight, Danny is introduced to a military man and he instantly joins the Marines! After a basic training montage (where Danny excels at every task), the film switches to a bunch of guerilla rebels holding an American soldier captive at their base camp (he has two live grenades tied around his neck by a piece of twine while live ants crawl all over his body!). The Marines lay siege to the rebels' camp, with Danny blowing the crap out of anyone and anything in his way, eventually rescuing the American soldier after cleaving the rebel commander's head in two with a sword. After being wounded in battle, Danny is promoted in rank to Sergeant and gets to lead his own platoon. When Danny's brother is killed and his mother is put in the hospital by the goons of a local crimelord, Danny asks for a leave of absence from his superiors, but is turned down because they are on "triple red alert". Seeing that his mother is a basketcase (she witnessed Danny's brother being viciously gunned down), Danny goes AWOL to get his revenge. He is framed for the assassination of the town's mayor, so Danny becomes a one-man hit squad, killing all the crimelord's goons, by crossbow, gunfire and even decapitation before he finally blasts the crimelord to kingdom come. Danny then gets married to his childhood sweetheart Mary (Monica Herrera) and talks his platoon into secretly helping him in ridding the area of the rebels who have been raiding and murdering the people of his and neighboring villages. When the rebels take Danny's entire village hostage and demand that Danny give himself up in trade (or they will kill a hostage every twenty minutes), he has no choice but to turn himself over to the rebels. After being brutally tortured, Danny is rescued by his platoon. They then steal an APC and head towards the rebel's base camp, where Danny throws the rebel leader in a water-filled cage, followed by a two-grenade chaser. The finale finds Danny and his AWOL platoon making a decision to surrender to the Marines. Danny, with the help of new wife Mary, makes a deal to surrender, but a series of miscommunications and unfortunate events leads to the death of Danny's entire platoon and Danny himself (while clutching a baby, no less!) by the Marines. Mary arrives just in time to hear Danny say, "I love you!" one more time before he croaks. Cue the angelic choir (literally).  This off-the-wall Filipino actioner is nothing more than one bloody vignette after another. Every 15 minutes or so, the film switches to a new storyline (some plot points, like the search for hidden gold, are completely dropped without ever being resolved) and a different direction, the only connecting link being Danny and his need to kill someone or blow something apart. The film is bloody as hell, as people are shot in the head, riddled with bullets, stabbed, impaled (one poor rebel is impaled on a long pole and dragged across the ground by Danny) and decapitated (there is a lot of violence to people's heads here). The English dubbing is truly atrocious, the funniest example being that the dubbers changed Danny's last name from "Clarin" to "Clark", totally ignoring the title of the film! This film also has a slight religious subtext to it, as there is a lot of talk of Heaven, Hell and having faith in God, but actor-turned-director Willie Dado (this is his only directorial effort), working with a script by Leleng Ubaldo Jr., has no problem showing scenes of bloody torture (Danny is sliced repeatedly with a knife and then thrown into a stagnant, water-filled cage), horrendous deaths or having a bad guy press a gun to a baby's head. This mindless, gory actioner is a treat for fans of Filipino action cinema and gets my highest recommendation. Grab it if you're lucky enough to locate a copy. If star Max Laurel looks familiar to Filipino movie fans, it's probably because he essayed the title role in ZUMA (1985) and it's sequel ZUMA 2: HELL SERPENT (1987). Also starring Romy Diaz, Lola Rodriguez, Orestes Ojeda, Charlie Davao, Ruel Vernal, Ramon (Boy) Bagatsing, Tony Bernal, Rommel Valdez and Alex DeLeon. Made by popular Filipino production company Regal International, Inc., who were better known for making sex comedies and film parodies with titles like SMITH & WESSON (1988), STARZAN: SHOUTING STAR OF THE JUNGLE (1989) and SUPERMOUSE AND THE ROBORATS (1989), all directed by Tony Reyes. The print I viewed was sourced from a pretty sharp fullscreen Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. This has not had a legitimate U.S. home video release in any format, but what's so unusual about that? Wake up, America! This is exactly the kind of shit we need to see! Not Rated.

SKYSCRAPER (1995) - Unbelievably bad action film that is basically a vanity project for the late Anna Nicole Smith (who was also an associate producer on this). It's quite obvious that she has a screen presence (she even does a nude shower scene in the first 15 minutes), but as soon as she opens her mouth to speak, it's easy to see she can't act a lick and her slurred speach shows that, even back in 1995, she had a prescription pill problem. To stretch credibility even further, Anna Nicole plays a commercial helicopter pilot (aw, c'mon!) named Karen who unwittingly gets in the middle of a terrorist's plot when they take over a highrise building. Yes, this is a gender-reversal rip-off of DIE HARD (1988) and is only recommended for those who like to watch tragic train wrecks. The train wreck is, of course, Anna Nicole Smith and watching her try to act is truly a painful experience for the viewer (she literally cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, which is never more evident when she tries to run with a gun in her hands). While the film is very violent (hardly a minute goes by without someone getting shot, beat up or blown up), most of the film lifts scenes and characters verbatim from DIE HARD, from Anna Nicole's close call while swinging off the side of the skyscraper and crashing through a window in the nick of time, only to almost be pulled back out the window by the weight of the object falling from the other end of the cable and the fact that some of the terrorists have long blond hair and speak with a German accent. There's also the co-worker that offers to bring Karen in for his freedom (only to be shot dead), the gun-shy security guard (substituting for Reginald Vel Johnson's cop) who uses his gun to save Karen's life and many other instances which would give the makers of DIE HARD more than enough evidence to sue for copyright infringement. There's a subplot where Karen's detective husband Gordy (Richard Steinmetz) breaks into the skyscraper trying to save her (In the beginning, she yells at him, "I want a baby!" after they make love in the shower, in one of the film's creepier moments), but it goes nowhere. Director Raymond Martino (DAVINCI'S WAR - 1993; TO THE LIMIT - 1995, also starring Anna Nicole and made back-to-back with this) tries to keep the film moving at a brisk pace, but the sad fact is that whenever Anna Nicole is on screen, the film grinds to a screeching halt. This film is just a sad reminder of what the public's idea of what a celebrity is. Instead of holding Ms. Smith in high regard, we should have been getting her some much-needed help for her addictions. Unfortunately, SKYSCRAPER is a testament to her celebrity and will always be here to remind us what a tragic figure she really was. To get our minds off how truly bad she was as an actress, she gets naked three times here, including a rape attempt and a romantic flashback. This is a rare misfire for producers Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi, made during their "Golden Period" of PM Entertainment, when they were turning out winners like RAGE (1995) RIOT (1996) and many others. Also starring Branko Cikatic, Calvin Levels, Jonathan Fuller and Lee DeBroux. A PM Entertainment Release. Rated R.

SLOW BULLET (1988) - Here's something you don't see every day: A SOV war film. It's not listed in any of the reference books. Hell, it's not even on the IMDB. There's a reason for that. Just like it's title, SLOW BULLET is the deadly-slow story of Buddy (Jim Baskin), an ex-GI who suffers from nightmares from his stint in the Vietnam War. It's apparent to see from the opening shot that it is going to take some heavy intestinal fortitude to get through the entire film. A flashback (which looks like it was filmed in someone's back yard [actually Tennessee and Florida]) shows Buddy cheating death when a V.C.'s (Quan Nguyen T) gun fails to discharge and he shoots the gook. He saves the faulty bullet and wears it around his neck. Sixteen years later, he's a chain-smoking, drug-addicted, drunken bum who obsesses over his time in Nam (and particularly, one episode during the end of his tour), talking about it to himself in his dingy room, arguing about it with his girlfriend (Lisa Leonard) or commiserating over it with his uncaring shrink (Vic "Bruno" Akers), who keeps interrupting the sessions to take personal phone calls. Buddy has hallucinations of the gook raping and killing his girlfriend and spray paints a scope sight on his cinderblock bedroom wall. He keeps ranting to himself while taking sips from his booze bottle (and badly superimposed stock footage of the war is projected on his face). It gets to the point that you hope that bullet he wears around his neck would spontaneously explode, so there would be a premature ending to this film. Alas, the cycle of Buddy ranting to himself, his shrink, his girlfriend and having flashbacks are repeated over and over until the film ends a long 95 minutes later. If there is a moral to this film, it is this: If you are part of a platoon who rape and kill innocent gook women during the war, don't expect your girlfriend to come out unscathed in the present.  It's hard to describe what one feels when watching this film. It's apparent the novice director Allen Wright and screenwriter Kenneth Ward (who both have roles as soldiers in Buddy's platoon) were trying to make a serious statement about the plight of Vietnam vets that came home to an uncaring public (as demonstrated by the shrink), but damn, it's hard to take this seriously, especially when some hair metal bands' (Convicted and Vandetta) music keeps popping up on the sountrack. The lyrics to their original songs are way out of place (one song repeats the chorus: "Bang, Bang, You're Dead. You're Fucking Dead!") and the ballad ("Still Waiting") that plays during the scene where Buddy is first making love, then fighting, with his girlfriend, is so far over the top that you forget you're watching a war film. Toss in endless dialogue scenes, solarized shots (a favorite with SOV films because the button is right there on the video camera, begging to be pushed), endless flashbacks (are there maple trees in Vietnam?) and that tinny live sound that comes with shooting on video, and you have one hard-to-find film that deserves to stay that way. It felt like it lasted longer than the actual war. This is another one of those films that my friend William Wilson likes to send to me. I'm beginning to think he finds satisfaction in torturing me. Also starring Steadman Stahl and Tony Akers.  A Phoenix Associates Distributors/Mama's Home Video/Rest Area Productions Home Video Release. Not Rated.

SPECIAL SILENCERS (1979) - Oh my God! This is one of the most outrageously insane action/fantasy films I have ever had the pleasure to view. This is one funny Indonesian film, thanks to whoever was responsible for the hilarious dubbing and the unusual screenplay (by Deddy Armand). The story is simple: Conniving crook Gundar (Dicky Zulkamaen, who gets to spout the best lines) wants to be mayor of the town. The only problem is that there already is a mayor and he is bringing a special cop into town to investigate some funny business that is going on. Luckily Gundar has these red pills he keeps in a small box around his neck. They are called "Special Silencers" and he stole them from his monk grandfather (but not before his grandfather cut off his right leg right below the knee!). When injested, the silencers grows plants in the person's stomach and branches burst out of the chest, mouth and eyes. Gundar (who has skin made of steel thanks to a practice he learned from his grandfather) takes a meeting with the mayor and puts one of the red pills into the mayor's coffee when he's not looking. A couple of minutes later, the mayor is lying on the floor screaming while plants shoot out of his stomach, mouth and eyes (I guarantee that you will be shocked as well as laugh). Gundar has his henchmen destroy the bridge leading into town to stop the special cop from making it into town. With the cop is the mayor's daughter Julia (Eva Arnez) and they both meet Hendra (Barry Prima), who stops on his motorcycle to help Julia and the cop (who is her Uncle) refill their car's radiator with water. All three stop at the bridge and Hendra goes on his motorcycle to bring back help to fix the bridge (He jumps the broken bridge with his motorcycle like Evel Knievel). While Hendra is away, Julia and her Uncle decide to have a picnic. Unfortunately, Gundar's right-hand man Gumilar (W.D. Mochtar) is waiting behind the bushes and puts a red pill in the food. While Julia is off taking a dip at the river, her Uncle starts eating the food on the bridge and he falls down and screams in pain as plantlife comes bursting out of every orifice. Julia comes running and passes out after seeing the condition her Uncle is in.  The rest of the film finds Gundar trying to kill Julia and Hendra, as they are the only people standing in his way from becoming the mayor. A few more people will swallow the red pills and there are many martial arts fights between Julia, Hendra and Gundar's inept fighting force.  Believe me when I say that once you watch this you will never ever forget it. Director Arizal (who also made the amazing THE STABILIZER - 1984 and the astounding FINAL SCORE - 1986), peppers the film with constant fighting, outlandish sound effects and a great amount of graphic gore and carnage. The red pill scenes are very well done and extremely bloody. I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions and I believe that a lot of it was intentional, although some of the dubbing was to blame, too. You know you're in for something special when right in the beginning Gundar says to Gumilar, "If you're going to be tenderhearted about it, then take your tender heart some place else!" He also says on one occasion to Hendra, "You'll never kill me, so let me go!" My favorite line comes after one of Gundar's henchmen, named Tonto, gets impaled on a tree branch after fighting with Hendra. Gundar later says to Gumilar, "Why didn't you bring Tonto's body back with you?" Gumilar replies back, "I didn't have a saw!"  There are also some outlandish setpieces on view, too, such as when Hendra and Julia are at her father's grave when all of a sudden a dozen of Gundar's men come popping up out of the ground and out of coffins to fight the duo. Hendra also does a truck stunt that is very similar to the one Harrison Ford does in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), although this one was done three years earlier! There's also a scene where Hendra rolls down a room in a barrel while holding a sickle and slices off a fighters leg (and knocks off Gundar's fake leg), a shot of a snake eating a rat, a mouse attack on Julia while she is tied up (Gundar calls them his "black commandos") and plenty of the red stuff (some of it shoots right into the camera lens), including a fight in a lumber mill where Gumilar gets his head shoved into the spinning blade of a giant lumber saw! I'll leave the rest for you, the viewer to enjoy as there is so much more here to take in. This film officially makes it into my CritCon top 20 films of all time! The version I viewed was taken from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not available legally on home video in the U.S. in any form. That needs to change! Not Rated.

SPITFIRE (1994)  -  Albert Pyun strikes again! Why? Why? Why? I would like to get my hands on his financial backers and shake some sense into them. He is truly one of the worst directors of B movies in the world, yet he still gets the moola to churn out 4 or 5 films a year. This one is a lame James Bond takeoff about the world’s greatest spy (Lance Henriksen, who should have learned his lesson after appearing in Pyun’s awful KNIGHTS [1993]) who is kidnapped by the other side (led by a bored-looking Sarah Douglas). He manages to hide a key in his long-lost daughter’s (Kristie Phillips) luggage. Luckily, his daughter is a world-class gymnast and martial artist because she gets into numerous clashes and fights with Douglas and her cronies. What follows are some of the worst staged action scenes and fist fights committed to celluloid. See if you can count how many times Douglas slugs Henriksen in the face (a running gag throughout the film). Do yourself a favor and steer clear of this one or any film with Pyun’s name on it. More painful than an ass full of hemorrhoids. Also starring Tim Thomerson as an alcoholic sports reporter (could that be a prophecy?). A Vidmark Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R. For more Pyun nonsense, see the reviews for CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990), NEMESIS (1992), RAVEN HAWK (1995) and OMEGA DOOM (1995).

THE STABILIZER (1984) - Wow! After viewing SPECIAL SILENCERS (1979), FINAL SCORE (1986) and, now, this film, all I have to say is this: All hail director Arizal!  This film is so full of non-stop action, carnage and "What The Fuck?!" moments, you'll never want it to end. When a genius professor (Kaharuddin Syah) is kidnapped by Victor (Mark Sunglar), a henchman for international crimelord Greg Rainmaker (Craig Gavin), the Indonesian government sends for FBI agent Peter Goldson (Peter O'Brian), known as "The Stabilizer", to rescue the professor and bring down Rainmaker. Peter has a severe hate for Rainmaker, because seven years earlier, he raped and killed Peter's fiancee by stepping on her with spiked shoes, his weapon of choice (As she lies there dying, her last words to Peter are, "Watch out for his shoes!"). Rainmaker kidnapped the professor because he has invented a "narcotics detector" and he will not give Rainmaker the formula (this plot device is all but dropped after the kidnapping). When Victor sets up and captures Peter and his cop friend Johnny (Harry Capri), they are saved by crossbow-wielding Christina (Dana Christina), the professor's daughter (I also think this is the first time I have ever seen anyone killed with a weed whacker!). Christina joins forces with Peter, Johnny and Peter's FBI partner Sylvia (Gillie Beanz) to look for her father. They find him, but he is killed in the rescue attempt. Rainmaker kidnaps Christina ("She should give me some fun!"), so Peter, Johnny and Sylvia travel by speedboat to Rainmaker's private island (after avoiding some torpedos!) to rescue her. They find Rainmaker's ex-mistress Nora (Yenny Faridha) tied-up with a bomb around her neck (long story) and disarm it (if you count throwing it away from you while it explodes disarming it). Nora agrees to take them to Rainmaker's compound, but they are all taken prisoner and tied-up in a burning warehouse (Rainmaker says to Peter, in one of my favorite lines ever: "You'll soon meet God. Tell him I'm doing fine here."). They manage to break free and then get into one of the bloodiest shootouts/matorcycle chases in film history. Peter finally catches Rainmaker and stomps on him with Rainmaker's own spiked shoes ("This is for my wo-man!"), but Rainmaker manages to escape by helicopter. Not for long, though!  This highly entertaining, yet brainless, action flick made me laugh so many times, I thought I was going to have a coronary. From the opening scene, when a guy on a motorcycle crashes through a window of the professor's house, only to get off his bike to open the front door to let Victor in (!), to the unbelievable conclusion, where too many things happen to explain, you'll be shaking your head so much in disbelief, you're lucky if you don't come down with a case of whiplash. So many vehicles come crashing through windows or walls, you'll wonder if anyone in this film (besides Victor) knows how to use a door! Nevermind that lead actor Peter O'Brian is the mirror image of Frank Stallone if he had a permed mullet (Wait. He did at one time, didn't he?), just sit back and enjoy all the mindless violence, nudity, explosions and car chases/crashes. Not only does one of Victor's goons look like Mr. T (who was popular at the time with THE A-TEAM [1983 - 1987]), you will also see a guy geek lizards (disgusting scenes of a man ripping apart lizards with his teeth), watch in amazement as Rainmaker kills his own men for disappointing him (he strings one guy up, gives him a couple of kicks to the knees with his spiked shoes and then electrocutes him!) and listen to the hysterical dialogue. This is Peter's opinion of Rainmaker: "He's the man I hate the most. I despise scum like Rainmaker!" And Rainmaker says this to Nora when he thinks that she's betrayed him (she hasn't): "If you weren't so good in bed, I'd kill you right now!" I especially loved Victor's remark to Nora, just before he kills her: "Dance to your grave, you dirty whore!" So, if you like never-ending bloodshed (including death by flamethrower, crossbow, axe and multiple firearms), unbelievable stunts and quotable dialogue, look no further than THE STABILIZER. The screenplay was written by Deddy Armand and John Rust. Armand has written the screenplays for SPECIAL SILENCERS, FINAL SCORE and the Peter O'Brian-starrers THE INTRUDER (1986) and Arizal's little-seen DOUBLE CROSSER (1990; a.k.a. CROCODILE CAGE). This is Rust's only Indonesian script. He is better known for directing/producing/writing video documentary shorts for DVD releases as special features (The featurette he did for Warner Home Video's DVD release of LITTLE CAESAR [1931] is must-viewing for any fan of the genre!). A Troma DVD Release. The presentation is fullscreen, but watchable, even if the final reel looks a little wobbly. Not Rated.

STEALTHHUNTERS (1991) - Obscure Texas-lensed SOV action thriller with a total budget that doesn't look to exceed two hundred dollars. Ex-TechStar employee Jonathan Gage (Bill Jenkins) smuggles out a videotape from his former company showing illegal experiments on humans in order to turn them into unfeeling super soldiers (the tape shows one super soldier sticking his arm in a fire and not flinching, even though his arm is burned to a crisp). Gage shows the tape to a reporter friend in his home and before he even has time to respond, TechStar founder J.L. Mitchell (Bill Poague) and a goon break down the front door and unload a shotgun blast into the lawyer's stomach, while Mitchell shoots Gage in the head. TechStar decides to test their prototype soldier, dubbed "Stealthhunter, Soldier of the 21st Century" (impossibly cheap concoctions consisting of skinny guys all dressed in black wearing masks that cover the top half of their heads), so they use about a dozen of the prototypes to fight a platoon of real soldiers, commanded by Captain Fields (Rocky Patterson; THE NAIL GUN MASSACRE - 1985), in what is advertised as a harmless "wargame". Yeah, right. The dastardly Mitchell and Dr. Landers (Gordon Fox), the lead scientist on the Stealthhunter project, set their squad of computerized cyborgs on "kill" and it's not long before they kill all the soldiers in the field except for Burke (Bruce Walker), who manages to escape by hitching a ride with five annoying teens on their way to a picnic, with the Stealthhunters hot on their trail. Wouldn't you know it, the teens' pickup truck runs out of gas (caused by a Stealthhunter's bullet to their gas tank), forcing Burke and the teens to take shelter in a deserted garage. While Captain Burke is held prisoner at TechStar (Dr. Landers is about to turn him into a Stealthhunter), Burke tries to protect the teens from the onslaught of black-clad cyborgs (frankly, most of the teens don't deserve to live, especially Cy [Vince Phillip], who seems to always do the wrong things at the most inopportune times), teaching them how to fight back and defend themselves. Can Captain Fields escape from the TechStar operating room to rescue Burke and the teens?  This impossibly cheap shot-on-video wonder, directed/produced by Matthew Trotter (his only feature film) and written by Trotter and Tom Anthony, is a total mess, with plenty of amateur acting (lots of Texan accents here), flat, smeary video photography, a grating synthesizer score and some really bad dialogue (listen closely to two TechStar interns talking about comic books during the end of the film to experience a truly head-scratching moment). The film's only saving grace is the plentiful gore, as limbs are hacked off, bodies are graphically run over, people are riddled with bullets and shotgun blasts, throats are slashed and body parts are stabbed with knives. The make-up effects may be less than professional, but there are at least a lot of them on view, nearly enough to get your mind off the amateur video look of the film and the mawkish, sappy dialogue between some of the teens. Plotwise, STEALTHHUNTERS is a run-of-the-mill actioner that tries to copy it's big-budget counterparts (strangely, though, the similarly-themed UNIVERSAL SOLDIER would come out a year later) and fails miserably, but at least it has the good sense to kill-off most of the teens before they can be rescued. For that I am extremely grateful. Other Texas-lensed obscurities include NIGHT FRIGHT (1967), ENTER THE DEVIL (1972), PSYCHO FROM TEXAS (1977), R.O.T.O.R. (1987) and nearly every film from directors S.F. Brownrigg (DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT - 1973) and Larry Buchanan (CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE - 1966). Also starring Brent Hadaway, Mary C. Quintana, Kate Rodger, Gerald A. Smith, Shawn Walsh, Chad Wood and Stuart Kyle. Originally available on VHS from VCII Home Entertainment and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

STEEL ARENA (1973) - Stunt-filled car crash actioner that mixes fact with fiction. Dusty Russell (playing himself) drifts into a small Southern town and accepts a job from bar owner Harry (Bill McKnight) driving and delivering moonshine in a souped-up 1939 Dodge. Before he can make his first delivery, Dusty is chased by an overweight sheriff (Eric Nord) and his deputies, which leads to many wrecked police cars and Dusty barely getting away. When Harry refuses to pay Dusty, it leads to a bar fight where Dusty meets new friend Buddy Love (playing himself). Along with Harry's ex-waitress Jo-Ann (Laura Brooks), Dusty's new squeeze, they head to Jefferson, where they enter the Dodge in a demolition derby with Dusty as the driver. Before the derby even starts, Dusty makes an enemy in competing driver The Masked Marvel and, sure enough, Dusty wins the derby by destroying the Masked Marvel's car. Dusty and Buddy are hired to become members of owner Gene Drew's (playing himself) Daredevils stunt driving team and, pretty soon, Dusty and Buddy are doing barrel rolls, dive bombs and crashing through walls of fire in a stunt show that travels throughout the South. Fellow stunt driver Crash Chambers (Bruce Mackey) grows jealous of Dusty's new popularity (Gene makes him the star of the show) and endangers everyone's lives when he suddenly replaces the regular driver in one of the two-car head-on collision stunts where Dusty is the other driver. Unbeknownst to Crash, Buddy convinces Dusty to let him take his place in the stunt and Buddy ends up seriously wounded when Crash purposely misses his mark. Crash then slashes the safety harness in the car Dusty is about to use in a record-breaking 80 foot dive bomb stunt. Dusty is wounded and Gene fires Crash for his sabotage with Crash declaring that he will get even. The finale finds Dusty about to do a hundred foot dive bomb, with Crash watching in the audience. Dusty's fate is left uncertain, as he completes the jump, is taken away in an ambulance and the final scene is of Jo-Ann hopping on a Greyhound bus. The lyrics of the song, playing over a shot of Jo-Ann's tear-stained face, go "I don't want you cryin' when I'm gone", which could suggest two things: 1) Dusty has bitten the dust, or 2) Jo-Ann has left Dusty because she cannot stand to watch him put his life in constant danger night after night. You decide.  While nothing but a series of precision car stunts interspread with scenes of the (mostly) non-professional cast trying their best to keep their heads above water in the dialogue moments, director/screenwriter/co-producer Mark L. Lester (TRUCK STOP WOMEN - 1974; STUNTS - 1977; CLASS OF 1984 - 1981) offers a fascinating, almost documentary-like, behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put together a car stunt show on a continuing basis. This involves visiting local junkyards picking out cars for use in the show and traveling countless miles from one location to the next, with the team breaking up the constant boredom by tapping their cars into each other on the back streets to stay awake and pulling pranks in bars to break up the monotony. It helps immensely that nearly all the members of the stunt team are played by the actual members. They may not be good actors, but their presence adds realism to the proceedings. I was especially impressed with the older Dutch Schnitzer, who, show after show, blows himself up with sticks of dynamite while laying in a wooden box. Now that's dedication to your craft, especially when you take into consideration that he's probably old enough to collect Social Security. This is director Lester's first theatrical feature (his first non-theatrical film, 1971's TWILIGHT OF THE MAYAS, was a documentary about the mining industry in Mexico) and, while it's not great cinema, it's an entertaining look at a subject that may be foreign to many viewers (I went to many of these stunt shows during my youth). While there is nothing remotely offensive on view (unless you find smoking and drinking offensive, as everyone here does both), STEEL ARENA is a fascinating glimpse into the monotonous lives of a professional stunt driver. Co-produced by Peter S. Traynor, who directed the bizarre DEATH GAME [1977] and was one of the co-directors of the piecemeal horror film EVIL TOWN [1985]). Also starring Speed Stearns, Ed Ryan, Big Tim Welch and Dan Carter as themselves. Originally released on VHS by Vestron Video and not available on DVD. Rated PG.

THE STRANGER (1994)  -  Modern day feminist variation of Clint Eastwood’s HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973). A high-kicking biker chick with no name (Kathy Long, star of the abominable KNIGHTS - 1993) roars into a near-dead town and makes her intentions perfectly clear: She has come to kill the local biker gang, led by the metaphysical Angel (Andrew Divoff; WISHMASTER - 1997). Angel and his crew have taken over the town and the populace turns a blind eye, in fear of bodily harm. The sheriff (Eric Pierpont of ALIEN NATION: THE SERIES [1989 - 1990]), who turned to booze when his fiancee was raped and murdered by the biker gang two years earlier, finds himself drawn to the stranger. Could she actually be the ghost of his fiancee come back to exact revenge? Though slow-moving at times, director Fritz Kiersch (TUFF TURF - 1985) manages to hold your attention and sprinkles in some extreme bits of ultra-violence. Not bad for its’ type. Screenwriter Gregory Poirier also scripted the final two DANGER ZONE (1986) sequels: DANGER ZONE III: STEEL HORSE WAR (1990) and DEATH RIDERS (1993). Originally slated to be directed by Lewis Teague (ALLIGATOR - 1980; FIGHTING BACK - 1982), which would explain why some of the ad materials for this film still bear his name as director. Also starring Hunter Von Leer. It had its’ debut on HBO and is available on VHS from Columbia Tristar Home Video. Rated R.

STRANGLEHOLD (1994) - Tired and cliched actioner that is nothing by a cheap knock-off of DIE HARD (1988). Congresswoman Helen Filmore (Jillian McWhirter; DUNE WARRIORS - 1990) travels to Malaysia to take a tour of the newly-opened American chemical plant Chemco, only to find herself and the American Chemco executives taken hostage by terrorist Gerald Richter (Vernon Wells; KING OF THE ANTS - 2004) and his band of black-clad goons. Richter demands twenty-five million dollars for the safe return of the Congresswoman, but it becomes clear that he is only using this situation as a front for something more devious. Luckily for the Congresswoman, she brought along ex-CIA operative Ryan Cooper (Jerry Trimble) as a bodyguard. Cooper breaks free and leads the Congresswoman, Chemco executive William Atkins (Bob McFarland; NOT LIKE US - 1995) and Chemco employee Pete Olo (Archie Adamos; NAM ANGELS - 1988) through the plant's labryinth-like structure as they fight a never-ending supply of Richter's men in their quest to reach safety. It turns out that Richter was actually after Chemco's top-secret new nerve gas called KZ7079 and, once he gets his hands on it, he unleashes a small canister of it at an innocent crowd of people who have gathered outside the Chemco plant, killing them. He then demands fifty million dollars or he will uncork more of the nerve gas in a major city, threatening to kill many more people. The rest of the film details Cooper's numerous battles with Richter's men and, finally, with Richter himself, as he tries to stop the nerve gas from being dispensed. Cooper must also rescue the Congresswoman again when it is revealed that William Atkins is actually on Richter's team. After blowing up the Chemco plant and getting away with a large amount of the nerve gas, Richter escapes on a freighter with the Congresswoman as a hostage (After killing two of his own men after they try to rape the Congresswoman, Richter then takes his turn and gives it a go!). Never fear, because Cooper isn't far behind. Expect lots of ass-kickings and explosions.  This is the third, and final, actioner that Filipino director/producer Cirio H. Santiago made with martial artist/non-actor Jerry "Golden Boy" Trimble (LIVE BY THE FIST [1992] and ONE MAN ARMY [1993] being the other two) and it is definitely the worst of the trio. While the other two were nothing to write home about, STRANGLEHOLD is a tepid affair at best and the fact that it took three people (Mark Evan Schwartz, Brendan Broderick and Rob Kerchner) to write the generic screenplay speaks volumes on how desperate this film really is. It's nothing but a series of badly-staged gun battles, martial arts fights and chases, none of them particularly exciting or bloody. It's pretty clear that at this stage in his career, director Santiago was running on fumes and delivers a film that lacks any vibrancy or life. It didn't help that Roger Corman, who financed the majority of Santiago's films, forced Santiago to make this film on a budget that wouldn't feed a hungry family at dinnertime. Most of the film takes place at either the same boiler room set (filmed at different angles) or at a boardroom where the American government representatives (including Santiago staples Ken Metcalfe and Henry Strzalkowski) endlessly discuss what to do about Richter and his demands (They, of course, end up doing nothing and only serve to pad out the film's paltry running time). We all know how bad Jerry Trimble is as an actor (he also looks like he packed on a few pounds since ONE MAN ARMY), but the usually reliable Vernon Wells is simply horrible here and looks like he's coke-out or high on meth. This is quite possibly Santiago's worst film ever and even though it's only 73 minutes long, it's a chore to sit through. A total dud from start to finish. Santiago would go on to direct only a handful of films after this (2005's BLOODFIST 2050 is his last as of this writing), but he is still active as a producer. Also starring James Paolelli, Tony Carreon, Joe Sabatino, Joseph Zucchero (also this film's Editor), Jim Broome, Paul Holmes and Ramon D'Salva. Available on VHS & DVD from New Horizons/New Concorde Home Video. Rated R. NOTE: Sadly, Cirio H. Santiago passed away in 2008 and his last film, WATER WARS (co-directed by Jim Wynorski when Santiago passed away in the middle of filming), is still looking for a U.S. home video distributor. Word is, that as the films stands right now, it is unsalable (From what I heard, lead actor Michael Madsen looks drunk as a skunk throughout the entire film and the different styles between the two directors is highly obvious). When even Roger Corman can't sell a film, you know there has to be serious problems with it, but eventually everything makes it to home video.

STREET SOLDIERS (1989) - Pretty good action thriller about life in street gangs. The film opens with Max (Johnathan Gorman) and Spud (Darrel Guilbeau), members of the Tigers gang, getting the shit kicked out of them by Spider (Jude Gerard) and other members of the rival J.P. gang. Max's friend, Charles (Joon Kim), who is not a member of any gang, intervenes, but Spud is stabbed in the stomach with a huge knife by Spider and dies. The entire incident happened because Max and his clean-cut friends were playing stickball on J.P. turf and they accidentally broke a window of a karate school. The owner of the school, Master Han (producer/fight coordinator Jun Chong; SILENT ASSASSINS - 1988), comes outside and befriends Max, but makes Spider look like a fool in the process. Since that day, Max formed the Tigers, a gang of good guys from his high school, but Max will soon learn after Spud's death that being the leader of a gang isn't all shits and giggles. His major trouble will come from Priest (Jeff Rector; HELLMASTER - 1992), the leader of the J.P.s, who was just released from prison. Priest has brought a new friend with him: the mute Tok (Jason Hwang), who had his tongue cut out in a prison fight. After teaching Spider a lesson for breaking the truce he imposed while he was serving time in prison, Priest sets his sights on the Tigers, especially when Max's straight-laced brother Troy (David Homb; CAMP FEAR - 1991) becomes romantically involved with Julie (Katherine Armstrong), Priest's ex-girlfriend who has just returned to town after a long absence. The J.P.s invade the high school dance and a rumble breaks out. Priest goes nutsoid and fires his gun in the gymnasium (All the fighters hit the floor until Priest runs out of bullets. They then stand back up and continue fighting each other like nothing happened!). Charles and Troy becomes fast friends when they defend each other during the rumble. Luckily, Charles' uncle is Master Han and he teaches Troy how to defend himself using just his hands, but first he must be taught discipline. Troy turns out to be a natural and learns martial arts quite easily (in true 80's montage fashion). As Troy and Julie's romantic relationship grows stronger, Priest becomes more enraged and violent and tries to take his rage out on Troy, Charles and Max, but they manage to escape (by jumping off a bridge onto the back of a moving hay bale truck [thank God these things are around when you really need them!]). Priest retaliates by invading the Tigers' clubhouse, killing three Tigers members and putting Max in the hospital. The police want Max to turn state's evidence against Priest, but Max prefers to take care of Priest himself. Troy and Charles are forced to join-in on the fun when Priest tries to kidnap Julie. When Priest and the J.P.s gang-rape Max's girlfriend Marie (Deborah Newmark) and put her in the hospital, Max and the Tigers join Master Han's school to learn martial arts. When Charles is killed and Priest finally does kidnap Julie (he ties her up and forces booze down her throat), Master Han joins the fight. God help the J.P.s! Not every good guy makes it through the final (and well-done) rumble, because lessons have to be learned that the streets play no favorites when bullets are involved.  This crazy gang actioner, directed by Lee Harry (SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 - 1987) and co-written by Harry and Spencer Grendhal, contains so many outrageous set pieces and sight gags (including Tok's fake "cobra in a box", that spits out a green blinding liquid when squeezed!), it's hard not to enjoy this film, even though it has enough holes in the plot to make swiss cheese jealous. Some of the preachy dialogue is also pretty hard to swallow, but when Priest breaks out a roll of condoms whan they are about to gang-rape Marie and he says, "Better safe than sorry!", it more than makes up for the preachy moments. There is plenty on violence on view, including shootings, stabbings, neck-snapping, martial arts fights and, of course, rumbles, and Jeff Rector steals the show as Priest, playing his role like he is channeling Clint Eastwood if he were to turn bad. There's also plenty of humor on view (Troy trying to explain baseball to Master Han [who is well aware of the sport] is very funny, if only for the look on Charles' face; when Priest kidnaps Julie and Spider tries to hit her father with a two-by-four, Priest yells out, "Don't kill him. He's paying for the wedding!"), some unusual camera set-ups and nicely choreographed fight scenes, making STREET SOLDIERS a good bet for fans of action cinema. Also starring Joel Weiss, Frank Novak, Troy Fromin, Fabian Carillo and Fred Olen Ray go-to guy Jay Richardson as the one-legged Wheelchair Willie, who is still a force to recon with, in or out of his wheelchair. An Academy Entertainment VHS Release. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

STREET WARS (1992)  - Director Jamaa Fanaka (SOUL VENGEANCE - 1975; PENITENTIARY - 1979) tries to make a serious statement about a black man’s struggle to rise above drug selling and gang violence only to become the boss of the city’s biggest drug-running outfits. Unfortunately, Fanaka fumbles the ball and turns in an unintentionally hilarious fable complete with badly executed action scenes, risable dialogue, unbelievable characters and awful post-synch dubbing. Black military student Sugarpop (Alan Joseph) comes home during summer vacation to spend some time with his older brother Frank (Byran O’Dell), the head of a drug syndicate. When Frank is murdered by a rival drug gang, Sugarpop takes over and uses his military training to exact revenge. He trains his gang (including a drag queen!) on how to operate motorized hang gliders and they use them to attack their rivals from the air! The film ends on a high note when Sugarpop blows away the white rival leader and rids the entire city of drugs, turning his brother’s syndicate into a legitimate business! This is one of the most unbelievable endings of all times. Often surreal at times (Frank’s funeral is jaw-dropping stuff as Soul Train-style dancers boogie around his coffin while Fanaka [real name: Walter Gordon!!!] himself sings an awful gospel tune), this is by no means a good film but is OK for a good belly laugh if you are in the right frame of mind (say about a case of Bud or three good joints). Also starring Clifford Shegog, Jean Pace and Vaughn Cromwell. A Triboro Entertainment Video Release. Rated R.

STRIKE COMMANDO 2 (1988) - In this semi-sequel to STRIKE COMMANDO (1987), soldier Michael Ransom (Brent Huff; COP GAME - 1988; the role was essayed by a memorable Reb Brown in the first film) is haunted by nightmares of the capture of his commanding officer, Vic Jenkins (a slumming Richard Harris; GAME FOR VULTURES - 1979), by the Viet Cong (A newspaper on Ransom's night table announces that Vic Jenkins is dead). He commiserates with fellow Strike Commando member Ruby (Anthony East; FAST GUN - 1987), who now walks with a limp, and he tells Ransom that Vic is actually alive and being held by the CIA. Vic escaped his Viet Cong captors and the CIA faked his death, but they are holding him in some unknown facility. Ruby give Ransom a contact name, so Ransom heads off to find and free Vic. Shortly after giving Ransom the information, Ruby is killed (garrotted) on a train by Russian baddie Kramet (Mel Davidson; ROBOWAR - 1988), who alyways dresses in a white suit, after Rudy screams, "I did everything you told me to do!" Uh, oh. Looks like Ransom is being set-up! Ransom drives to an import/export business, where he meets his contact, Peter Roeg (Paul Holme; ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING - 2007), who gives Ransom's Vic's location after nearly being choked to death by Ransom. When Vic learns that Ransom is on his way, he's not worried because they've always been the best of friends, but Peter orders Vic and the CIA agents "protecting" him to move out of the safehouse immediately. When Ransom arrives at the safehouse, Vic and the agents have yet to leave and Vic is kidnapped by Kramet, who followed Ransom to the safehouse by helicopter with a bunch of black-clad ninjas. Paul lets Ransom watch a ransom video where Vic says that he is being held captive by Huan To (the always dependable Vic Diaz; WONDER WOMEN - 1973), who demands that ten million dollars in diamonds be delivered in the middle of the Burmese jungle for Vic's safe return. Ransom volunteers for the job and the bloody adventure begins. Everyone he runs into wants the diamonds, including the occupants on the boat taking him to his first destination, who Ransom kills with knives and shotgun blasts. At a bar, Ransom meets Rosanna Boom (Mary Stavin; TOP LINE - 1988), the tough-as-nails bar owner (when we first meet her, she is challenging some burly Filipino guy to a belching contest, which she handedly wins!), but when Kramet arrives with some ninjas and demands the diamonds, Ransom and Rosanna (who is now holding the diamonds) barely escape with their lives when a gunfight breaks out, the bar catches fire and is blown to bits (thanks to ten cases of dynamite kept behind the bar [They don't call her Rosanna Boom for nothing!]). Ransom gets his hands back on the diamonds when Kramet tries to steal them from Rosanna. Ransom and Rosanna become unwilling partners when Rosanna is the only one able to lead them to Huan To, who turns out to be the area's biggest drug smuggler. Can Ransom rescue Vic, escape from Huan To's compound and romance Rosanna without getting his damn fool head blown off? What do you think?  This crazy actioner, directed by the late Bruno Mattei (CAGED WOMEN - 1982; CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST: THE BEGINNING - 2003), using his frequent "Vincent Dawn" pseudonym, and scripted by Claudio Fragasso (MONSTER DOG - 1985), is not quite as classic as the original film, thanks to a one-note performance by Brent Huff (he's no Reb Brown, but then again, who is?) and some lame attempts at humor, especially whenever Mary Stavin is on-screen. Unlike the first film, the sequel is not a straight-ahead war actioner, but rather a jungle adventure/CIA conspiracy thriller whose surprises are telegraphed well ahead of their reveal (such as Vic being a traitor and a drug smuggler). Thankfully, Mattei throws in plenty of bloody violence (stabbings, bloody bullet squibs, torture), as well as scenes copied directly from bigger-budgeted American action/adventure films (I saw direct steals from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - 1981; RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2 - 1985; PREDATOR - 1987 and other scenes literally lifted from other films [I know I saw that same exact bar explosion in another film, but the name eludes me at the moment]). This Italian-financed actioner (A Flora Film Production), lensed in the Philippines, is just bloody and silly enough (Ninjas? Really?) to keep viewers entertained throughout. Also starring Alan Collins, Richard Raymond and Alex McBride, with cameos by Jim Gaines, Jim Moss, Michael Welborne and David Brass, all well-known names to Filipino action fans. I don't believe this ever got a legitimate U.S. home video release, but I found a nice widescreen Japanese subtitled VHS tape that will do very nicely until a DVD becomes available, but I'm not holding my breath. Not Rated.

SUDDEN THUNDER (1990) - Patricia Merrill (Andrea Lamatsch; BLOOD RING - 1991) is an undercover Miami cop who we first meet singing some bad disco tune at a nightclub and she immediately blows her cover by getting caught planting a bug in a back room where a big drug deal is going down. This leads to a big shootout, where Patricia and her fellow officers shoot all the bad guys (some in the back!) and nearly destroy all the drug evidence in a hail of gunfire. On a totally unrelated note, Patricia's father, a sheriff in the small jerkwater Florida town of Wilbury County, is killed when Mike Gray (Mike Monty; LAST FLIGHT TO HELL - 1990) and his men run his car off the road and set it on fire, burning him alive. Patricia goes to Wilbury County alone to investigate and is captured by Mike, who orders his men to take her into the woods and kill her. The men, of course, decide to rape her first (Goon #1: "Harlan, you got crabs, so you go last!" Harlan: "I got them from your sister!"), but Patricia escapes and is saved by her late father's black moonshiner friend, Jake Stokes (Jeff Griffith; FINAL REPRISAL - 1988), who nurses her back to health (Alert: gratuitous skinny dipping scene and it's not bad). When they don't hear from Patricia in a few days, a quartet of her Miami cop buddies, Tom (Corwyn Sperry), Tony (James Paolelli), Jack (Ernie Santana) and Max (Ned Hourani), head to Wilbury County and run into the new sheriff: Mike Gray! The four Miami cops get into a barroom brawl and are forced to kill the shotgun-toting bartender. Mike arrests them and tosses them in jail, where the crooked mayor, Bob (Anthony East; FAST GUN - 1987; here using the pseudonym "Albert Bronsky"), orders Mike to kill them all, but Patricia breaks them out before Mike can carry out the order. Patricia brings them all back to Jake's shack, where Jake tells them that something illegal is going on, but he doesn't know what it is. What he is sure of, though, is that it is going on at an abandoned plantation, so Jake takes them there, where they overhear Mike and Bob talking about a major cocaine shipment coming in tonight by plane. Also on the plane is Alfredo Strocssner (Robert Marius; FIST OF GLORY - 1991; here using the pseudonym "Edward Burnett"), a "half-Nazi, half-Brazilian" drug lord who is responsible for killing Tom's partner in the past and getting away with it on a legal technicality. Our heroic Miami cops wait for the drug deal to take place, steal the shipment and try to fly back to Miami, but Max is shot and injured (not to mention almost being killed in a pretty impressive plane explosion) and they are forced to escape into the woods. Alfredo becomes mightily ticked-off that his cocaine is gone, so he brings in a lot of his own men to search the woods. When Max dies of his injuries and Jake sacrifices himself, Patricia and the two remaining Miami cops get vengeance on Mike, Bob and Alfredo.  Technically, the film is a mess, with a lousy sound recording mix (the music drowns out most of the dialogue) and some hinky editing and camerawork, but director/producer David Hung (here using the name "David Hunt") and screenwriter Steve Rogers (both responsible for the comedic actioner TRIPLE IMPACT in 1992) still manage to wrangle some suspense and good action set-pieces on a paltry budget, including the aforementioned plane explosion; a tense situation involving an overturned pickup truck with Jake's leg trapped underneath it; a helicopter/motorboat chase; and plenty of gunfights and explosions. Thankfully, the acting talents of Andrea Lamatsch (who sounds like she is channeling Arnold Schwarzenegger) takes a back seat to the action and while there is very little blood or gore (just some bloody bullet squibs and a nifty bullet-to-the-head shot), it's nice to see a bunch of American expatriate actors like Corwyn Sperry, James Paolelli, Ernie Santana, Ned Hourani, Jeff Griffith, Robert Marius, Anthony East and Mike Monty get some major screen time for a change instead of playing their normal secondary or background characters (Monty gets the best death scene here, as Paolelli shoves a stick of dynamite in his mouth and blows him out a window). Not a bad way to spend 95 minutes as long as you don't set your sites too high. Shot in the Philippines by Davian International Productions. Nick Nicholson puts in a cameo as a disco manager and Henry Strzalkowski puts in a quick appearance as "Harvey Scruggs". Released on VHS by A.I.P. Home Video. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

THE SUMMERTIME KILLER (1972) - As a young boy, Ray Castor witnessed mobsters beat-up and drown his father. Now an adult, Ray (Christopher Mitchum) is systematically killing all those involved in his father's murder. In New York City, Ray shoots one guy in the head when he pulls-up next to his car while on his motorcycle and then shoots another guy later on in a subway car. He then heads to Rome, when he shoots another guy at a cocktail party. Crooked cop Captain John Kiley (Karl Malden) is paid $10,000 to find out who is killing all the Mob's semi-retired men (you never fully retire in the Mob, unless you're dead). Ray travels to Madrid to kill his latest target, Mob kingpin Alfredi (Raf Vallone), but this hit isn't going to go as easy as the rest, because Alfredi lives in a well-guarded villa. Ray gets romantically involved with Alfredi's secretary (Claudine Auger) to try to find a way into the villa. Captain Kiley shows up at the villa just as Ray is about to shoot Alfredi with a high-powered rifle. The glare of Kiley's car windshield hits Ray in the eyes just as he pulls the trigger, causing him to only wound Alfredi. Ray barely gets away on his motorcycle when Alfredi's men chase him on horseback. Captain Kiley starts piecing the puzzle together (Alfredi and the three dead men were partners back in 1952, the year Ray's father was murdered) and he goes to Alfredi's secretary for some information, where he learns that Alfredi has a secret daughter, Tania (Olivia Hussey; BLACK CHRISTMAS - 1974), who is going to school in France. Ray already has that information and has kidnapped Tania and is holding her prisoner on a boat anchored in the ocean, using her as bait to draw Alfredi out in the open. The only problem is, both Captain Kiley and Alfredi now know Ray's true identity and they both want him, but for different reasons. Ray and Tania, after a rocky start (where Tania attempts numerous escapes and tries to kill Ray with a sharpened closet pole), begin to fall in love. Ray, who has lived his entire life with only vengeance on his mind, has only experienced love previously through the dogs he has owned as pets since his childhood, so his feeling for Tania are alien to him. When Tania discovers that her kidnapping was not for money, but revenge (She says to Ray, "You're one of them!"), it sets the stage for a finale set at a bullfight, where Ray, Alfredi and Captain Kiley converge. Ray's feelings for Tania force him to hesitate to take the killshot, which results in him getting wounded, stealing a motorcycle and leading everyone on a long chase. When Ray returns to his boat, Captain Kiley is there waiting for him, gives Ray an implied surprise revelation (Kiley may be something more than just a cop) and an even more surprising scene of knowing sacrifice in the film's closing shot.  This Spanish/French/Italian action film, directed by Antonio Isasi (VENGEANCE - 1976), is a halfway decent time-waster, if you can get past Chris Mitchum's wooden, monotone line readings. Mitchum was never a great actor to begin with, but given the right vehicle (like FINAL SCORE - 1986), he could still be pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, this film is not that vehicle but, thankfully, Karl Malden (CAT O' NINE TAILS - 1971) is here to pick up the slack. We are never quite sure what Captain Kiley's true intentions are until the film's finale. What we do know about him is that he has ties to the Mob and that he's a damn good cop, as we watch him dig up clues to Ray's childhood, which will eventually lead him to Ray's Madrid apartment. Ray's apartment is a treasure trove of information, if only for what it lacks. The only personal photo in the apartment is that of Ray as a young boy on the beach with his mother and father. The only other objects in the apartment are motorcycle models, pictures of sailboats and racing trophies. We also find out that it was Ray's mother who instilled this sense of vengeance into Ray when his father died, telling him that it is better to seek justice "within the family" rather than trust the police to do their job. While not overtly violent (it was rated PG when released to U.S. theaters), THE SUMMERTIME KILLER (the title makes no sense, unless we're talking about Ray killing people in nice, sunny weather) does have a couple of good car chase scenes (performed by Remy Julienne and his crack stunt driving team), some quick bursts of violence (with that bright red 70's blood that we've all come to love) and a surprising shot of a skinned bull during the final chase. I was particularly impressed with Ray's dog (a Boxer) sacrificing itself, biting a bad guy on the neck while he is driving, causing a fiery car wreck, so that Ray could escape. Man's best friend, indeed! Try to get past Mitchum's one-note performance and you may find yourself liking this. Also known as TARGET REMOVED. Also starring Gerard Tichy, Gerard Barray, Ricardo Valle and Jose Nieto. Originally released to theaters by Avco Embassy Pictures and it was one of the earliest VHS releases from Magnetic Video, considered to be the first VHS company in the United States. The print I viewed looks to have been taken from a 35mm print in fairly good shape. It's in widescreen and, besides missing some frames at reel changes, seems to be complete. Rated PG.

SURVIVAL GAME (1987) - Mike Hawkins (Mike Norris; YOUNG WARRIORS - 1983; BORN AMERICAN - 1986) and his partner "Sugar Bear" Wilcox (Ed Bernard) run the War In Peace Survival Camp, where weekend warriors can play soldier in harmless war games (give or take an unavoidable situation, like Mike having to save a lily-livered bespectacled soldier-wannabe stuck in the middle of a rope bridge). Sugar Bear wants Mike to go back to college and make something of himself, but Mike likes what he is doing and he's damned good at it. While driving his car, Mike gets into an accident with C.J. Forest (Deborah Goodrich; REMOTE CONTROL - 1987), the daughter of Dr. Dave Forest (Seymour Cassel; BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY - 1977), who is an old hippie political protestor/hallucinogenics creator that has just been released from prison. Dr. Dave supposedly has two million dollars stashed somewhere, the profits from an LSD-like drug called "Forest Fire" that he created and was eventually arrested and imprisoned for. Dr. Dave is still a major celebrity, as the throngs of reporters prove at his prison release, but he adamantly denies having two million dollars hidden anywhere. It's plain to see that his mind is nearly burned-out from dipping into his supply of Forest Fire in his younger days, but he still maintains that he never made a profit from the drug, preferring to give it away for free. Unfortunately, there are some bad people from Dr. Dave's past who don't believe his story and while at the restaurant where C.J. works (Mike stops by to get insurance information from C.J. and meets Dr. Dave, who asks Mike what he does. Mike says, "I play survival games." to which Dr. Dave replies, "Don't we all?"), a bunch of thugs kidnap Dr. Dave and nearly get C.J., too, but Mike intervenes using his martial arts skills. Mike and C.J. give chase in Mike's car, but lose the kidnappers and return to the restaurant, where they find that the owner and good friend of Dr. Dave, Max (Paul Samuelson), has been shot. Somehow, Mike and C.J. become suspects and end up on the run. The kidnappers (who works for someone who hides in the shadows) bring Dr. Dave back to his old, dilapidated hippie commune and give him 24 hours to tell them where the two million dollars is hidden. Mike and C.J. spend the night at Sugar Bear's and C.J. calls her father's friend Charles (Jon Sharp) to tell him what is happening, only for him to tell her that FBI agent McClean (Lee Paul) is looking for her. The bad guys eventually kidnap C.J. and Charles and bring them to the old commune, but when the bad guys shoot Charles (off-screen) when Dr. Dave refuses to tell them where the money is, Mike enlists the help of a hesitant Sugar Bear to lead a raid on the commune, this time using real ammunition instead of blanks. C.J. and her father come up with a plan of escape by using a hidden stash of Forest Fire on the unsuspecting bad guys, while Mike and Sugar Bear race to the commune. The ringleaders finally make themselves known (it's really no surprise) in the film's action-packed finale, where we find out if the two million dollar stash really exists.  This film, directed and co-written by Herb Freed (HAUNTS - 1975; BEYOND EVIL - 1980; GRADUATION DAY - 1981), clearly belongs to Seymour Cassel as an over-the-hill hippie who has a hard time adjusting to modern day society. The music soundtrack is full of classic 60s & 70s tunes like "Louie, Louie" (played during a chase between the bad guys and Mike & C.J.) and "Lean On Me" (during a lovemaking session between Mike and C.J.), partly to convey Dr. Dave's fragile state of mind (after all, he did name his daughter "Celestial Jewel", but she would much rather be called "C.J."). Those expecting a slam-bang serious actioner are going to be bitterly disappointed, as most of the action scenes have a comical tone. It's very clear to see that the acting gene doesn't run in the Norris family (Mike, like father Chuck, is a better martial artist than actor and when he looks into the camera, it's like a deer caught in a car's headlights), but SURVIVAL GAME moves at a brisk pace and has plenty of chase and fight scenes to appease action fans. Don't go in with your sights set too high and you just may have fun here, especially whenever Seymour Cassel is on-screen. Also starring Arlene Golonka (TRAINED TO KILL - 1988) as Mike's flabbergasted mother (she's quite good here), Rick Grassi and Michael Halton. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and not available on DVD. Rated R.

THE SURVIVALIST (1987) - When an American nuclear bomb is accidentally detonated in Siberia, the President puts the United States under martial law, waiting for the Russians to retaliate. America turns into a society of looters, rioters and murderers, as all bank accounts are frozen, travel is restricted and a country-wide curfew is in effect. Texan Jack Tillman (Steve Railsback) runs afoul of rogue National Guard officer Lt. Youngman (Marjoe Gortner) when he goes to his bank to retrieve a sack of gold from his safety deposit box. When he returns home, Jack finds his wife shot dead and his daughter seriously wounded with a bullet in her stomach, caused by home invaders looking for food and weapons. Jack takes his daughter to the overcrowded hospital, where she dies. Jack then takes his best friend, Dr. Vincent Ryan (Cliff De Young), and his nurse wife, Linda (Susan Blakely), out on the road with him, in search of his son, who is away at summer camp. Jack is a survivalist and has prepared himself for just such an occasion and he will have to use this knowledge to fight bloodthirsty marauders, mistrusting police and the relentless pursuit of Lt. Youngman and his band of newly deputized men. Jack saves Vince and Linda from a motorcycle gang, when they decide to leave Jack and head to the nearest town to tend to the wounded (how cowardly of them!). After Linda is nearly raped by the gang, they quickly change their minds and stick with Jack. After running into a gun-toting wolf pack on the side of the road, our trio stop at the house of kindly old timer Dub Daniels (David Wayne), who feeds and gives them shelter for the night. Vince has a falling-out with Jack and takes off in one of Dub's old pickup trucks without Linda. Vince stupidly picks up a couple of hitch-hikers, who kill him for his truck. After stopping for a night of doing the mattress dance in an abandoned motel, Jack and Linda must face off against Lt. Youngman and his biker pals. This all happens when Jack finally locates his young son. Youngman attacks from the air, while the bikers take care of the ground assault. Everything ends on a happy note (except for Lt. Youngman, who gets a knife tracheotomy followed by a bullet chaser).  Directed by the late Sig Shore (who produced the blaxploitation classic SUPER FLY - 1972 and directed the revenge thriller SUDDEN DEATH - 1985) and written by John V. Kent, THE SURVIVALIST offers a pretty spot-on interpretation of what could happen if a situation like this did happen. While there are plenty of exploitative elements (Marjoe Gortner basically reprises the same role he portrayed in EARTHQUAKE - 1974), director Shore doesn't rely on them. This film also has many human moments, from Jack's search for his son, a town that refuses to allow anyone it doesn't know to enter city limits, to Vince's examination of Dub's cat, who is his only companion. That's not to say there isn't plenty of violence and bloodshed. People are shot, garrotted, stabbed, blown up and run over. The final assault on Jack, his son and Linda is well-handed and suspenseful, with good stunts, plenty of firepower and some creative deaths. This Reagan-era depiction of paranoia, power, greed and loss is pretty good entertainment for a rainy night. It also a pretty good advertisement on why it's important to own a Jeep Cherokee should something like this ever happen. On- screen title: JACK TILLMAN: THE SURVIVALIST. Also starring Michael Flynn, J. Kenneth Campbell, Jason Healey, Jeff Olsen, Jack North and Denis William. A Vestron Video Release. Rated R.

SURVIVAL QUEST (1989) - Let me preface this review by stating this film follows the basic clichéd storyline of "newbies in the woods vs. murderous survivalists", but since this was written and directed by Don Coscarelli, the man responsible for PHANTASM (1979, and the three sequels), THE BEASTMASTER (1982) and BUBBA HO-TEP (2002), it is more entertaining than it has any right to be, thanks to Coscarelli's skills, the beautiful location photography and a top-notch cast of character actors. A bunch of greenhorns from all walks of life take a prop plane yo a runway deep in the mountains, where they are to spend the next four weeks learning survival techniques from Hank Chambers (the always dependable Lance Henriksen), the lead teacher and owner of Survival Quest. The participants are the usual bunch of disparate souls, including juvenile delinquent Gray (Dermot Mulroney; POINT OF NO RETURN - 1993), who chose this class over spending time in the slammer; old man Hal (Ben Hammer; HAUNTS - 1977), who wants to be productive in his old age; rich socialite snob Olivia (Traci Lin), who is about to be married; fed-up wife Cheryl (an impossibly young Catherine Keener of THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN - 2004), who is in the process of divorcing her husband; and best friends Joey (comic Paul Provenza) and Jeff (Dominic Hoffman). Hank instills a sense of teamwork into the group, whether it's climbing walls, walking on rope bridges or rappelling down trees, Hank's motto being "no man (or woman) left behind". Gray has trouble assimilating into the group, but Hank and the rest of the participants try their damnedest to make him feel at ease. Their teamwork is about to be put to the test when a rival group, part of the Blue Legion Survival School, run by the extremely cruel Jake Connor (Mark Rolston; HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP - 1996), start using Hank's group for target practice, first by using harmless paint guns, but graduating to deadlier tactics as the film progresses, especially after Gray stop Raider (Steve Antin), Jake's top student, from harassing the elderly Hal. As Hank and his group trek through the woods, living off the land (such as eating earthworms) and growing closer to each other, not only as a team, but also as friends, Jake and his group make life difficult for them, first by destroying a rope bridge, forcing Hank and his group to make a dangerous detour over a snow-covered mountain, nearly freezing to death in the process. When a demented Raider shoots Hank and then slits Jake's throat, making it look like Hank and Jake killed each other, Hank's team are hunted down by Raider and the rest of the Blue Legion team, only this time they have automatic weapons with live ammo. The Survival Quest group must muster all of their teamwork to survive, but it turns out Hank and Jake are not quite dead, as Hank teaches Jake the real meaning of survival while the two opposing teams duke it out in the woods and over the white rapids of a raging river. Watch out for that waterfall!  This action adventure film is a detour from what we have come to expect from Coscarelli. Sure, there is violence to be found here (although the majority of it doesn't happen until the final third), but this film is more about human relationships and bonding during difficult times than anything else (Or, as Hank says to Jake when he and his team illegally shoot a deer with automatic weapons; "Survival in the wilderness is a matter of heart, not hardware."). The simple fact is this: Rather than going the easy route and making this just another bloodbath in the woods, Coscarelli took the harder route and wrote a screenplay with well-rounded characters that the audience can identify with and, not surprisingly, the film works much better because of it. SURVIVAL QUEST is nothing earth-shattering; just solid entertainment for those who like films that take place in the wide outdoors. Also starring Michael Allen Ryder, Ken Daly and Coscarelli regular Reggie Bannister as the pilot. Originally released on VHS by CBS Fox Video and available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment in a beautiful widescreen print. Rated R.

THE SWORD OF BUSHIDO (1988) - During the end of World War II, Lt. Bradley Connors (Glenn Ruehland; NAILED - 2007) is beheaded by the Japanese in the jungles of South Thailand with a very special katana sword. In present day (well, 1988) San Diego, Zac Connors (Richard Norton; THE FIGHTER - 1988), Bradley's grandson (who is also a Vietnam vet, an architect and an accomplished swordsman), decides to find out what really happened to his grandfather since his body was never found. With the help of a military information officer named Billie (Judy Green; GET THE TERRORISTS - 1987), Zac is able to pinpoint the location in South Thailand where his grandfather's body is probably buried. After bedding Billie as a way of saying "thank you", Zac heads to the jungles of Thailand with a native guide named Udom (Prasert Khunthongchandra) and within a couple of days they find the rusted wreckage of Bradley Connor's downed plane and soon the headless skeleton of his body nearby. Before Zac can celebrate his find, he and Udom are attacked by jungle bandits and Udom is killed. Zac is saved by a shotgun-toting Rambette named Suay (Rochelle Ashana; KICKBOXER - 1988) and her partner Chai (Kevit Wattanaroon), who kill all the bandits. Suay takes Zac back to her village, only to discover that bandits have destroyed the village and nearly everyone has been killed, including the children and Suay's mother. Zac stays to help rebuild the village and Suay begins to show a romantic interest in him ("He's a different kind of American."), which doesn't sit too well with Chai, who challenges Zac to a fight. Both are evenly matched in martial arts skills, but Zac wins because Chai is too emotional. Zac confides in Suay that he is looking for a katana sword that his grandfather stole from Japan just before his plane crashed in the jungle. The sword, known as the "Hand Of The Goddess Of Mercy", is a Japanese treasure and Zac considers it his duty to find the sword and return it to Japan. Zac learns from Suay that there is a legend of a WWII Japanese soldier living in a cave in the mountains, so Zac hires drunken American expatriate Gerry (Jim Simmonds) to guide him, Suay and Chai to the cave. When they arrive at the cave, Zac finds the sword, along with the corpse of the Japanese soldier who killed his grandfather (he killed himself in a ritualistic suicide over the shame of killing of Lt. Connors). Gerry turns bad guy, steals the sword, kills Chai and runs into the cave, only to be killed himself by an old Japanese booby trap that causes a cave-in. Zac and Suay must find an alternate route of escape (which they do) and then they head to the Japan Embassy to return the sword and collect a $2,000,000 reward. Easier said than done, since a Japanese creep named Yamaguchi (Toshishiro Obata; SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO - 1991) sends some ninjas to steal the sword before Zac can deliver it. When Yamaguchi kidnaps Suay, Zac must find a way to rescue her and still return the sword to the Embassy. Expect plenty of slicing and dicing before this fight is over.  This is a decent Thailand-lensed action adventure that is equal parts martial arts actioner, jungle adventure and crime drama. Director Adrian Carr (MIND GAMES - 2003, also starring Norton) and screenwriter James Wulf Simmonds (who shortened his name to "Jim Simmonds" to essay the role of Gerry) keeps the film moving at a brisk pace by constantly shifting gears and changing the direction of the plot. Richard Norton is also given just enough screen time to show off his martial arts skills as well as his skills at bedding women. Norton may not be a good actor here (but, to be fair, he got better as the years and films rolled by), but he does have enough goofy charm to carry a film on his broad shoulders. What other action star do you know that could pull-off stealing a kid's miniature go-kart and give chase to the bad guys (who have kidnapped Suay) through the streets of Bangkok and not make it look ridiculous? Can you imagine Seagal or Van Damme doing the same thing? I think not. THE SWORD OF BUSHIDO contains enough outrageous craziness and bloody violence (including bullet hits to the head, slow-motion shotgun blasts and sword impalements) to keep even the most jaded action junkie entertained for 100 minutes. Producer John Lamond also directed the Australian horror film NIGHTMARES (a.k.a. STAGE FRIGHT - 1980). Also starring Roy Horiuchi, Kajit Chuayprasit, Mirren Lee, Somboon Putaroj and Sompol Sungkawess. Never legitimately available on U.S. home video, although it can be purchased on British VHS & DVD (the print I viewed). Not Rated.

THEY CALL HER...CLEOPATRA WONG (1978) - Cleopatra Wong (Marrie Lee) is a globe-trotting Interpol agent who is an expert martial artist and marks(wo)man. She travels from Manila to Singapore to investigate a money counterfeiting ring, which has been distributing phony bills all over the Far East. Cleo sets herself up as a counterfeiter by paying for some expensive jewelry with bogus money and getting herself arrested. Argo, the local kingpin of the counterfeiting ring, bails her out of jail and has his goons bring her to his mansion. When Cleo tells him the truth (that she's an Interpol agent sent to catch him), he doesn't believe her (!), so he has three brawny wrestlers try to beat her up. When they fail, Argo brings out dozens of kung-fu fighters, but Cleo escapes (she jumps to the top of a twenty foot wall with one leap!) and leads the bad guys on a chase through Singapore, stopping every now and then to beat the stuffing out of Argo's men. Cleo captures Argo and his information leads her to Hong Kong, where she follows a truck filled with crates of strawberry jam that are concealing plastic bags filled with funny money. Cleo gets caught by the crew on the truck, forcing her to kick the shit out of them (one guy falls off a cliff). This leads Cleo back to Manila, where she disguises herself as a reporter for "Asian Weekly" and questions workers at a strawberry farm. This information takes her to a Catholic monastary (!). She takes photos of the monastary and notices a helicopter parked on the front lawn. Three thugs go to Cleo's apartment and try to steal the negatives, but she shoots and kills them all. Cleo and four hand-picked men assault the monastary, armed with guns, bows and a high-tech shotgun, just as five of the biggest heads of crime syndicates are holding a meeting there. Disguising themselves as nuns, Cleo and her gang enter the monastary and save all the real nuns, who are being held prisoner in the basement. After getting the nuns to safety (the head nun gives them her blessing to return to the monastary to kick ass!), Cleo and her men clean house, killing all the bad guys. Cleo hops on her tricked-out motorcycle (with hidden machine guns) and dishes out justice to the head bad guy, who tries to get away in the helicopter.  Obviously made as a quick cash-in to the American blaxploitation CLEOPATRA JONES films, this early directorial effort by Bobby A. Suarez (ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER - 1980; AMERICAN COMMANDOS - 1985), here using the pseudonym "George Richardson", is a light comical tale that's heavy on the martial arts, but shys away from showing any real graphic bloodshed or carnage. Most of the time, when people are shot, it's all bloodless (there are some bloody bullet squibs in the finale, but nothing too graphic). I did like Cleo's choice of men to go with her on the monastary assault, as they are all veterans of Filipino cinema. They include George (George Estregan), Dante (Dante Varona), Alex (Alex Pecante) and Ben (Franco Guerrero, here billed as "Chico Guerrero"). It's hard to watch a Philippines-lensed action film made during the late 70's and 80's and not see at least one of these four gentlemen appear in it. Like I said before, the majority of the film carries a comical tone (nuns with moustaches; the head bad guy at the monastary is called "Mr. Monk"), so don't go into this expecting something like the hardcore action of FINAL SCORE (1986) or DEATH RAIDERS (1984), because you will be severely disappointed. This is more in line with PG-rated fare, as the action is cartoonish and broad and there is no nudity and very little foul language. Once you understand this, you may find yourself liking this goofy little film, especially when you hear dialogue like, "Freeze, or you're a dead nun!" Director Suarez's next films were DYNAMITE JOHNSON (1978), a sequel to both this film and his BIONIC BOY (1977) and DEVIL'S THREE (1979 - a.k.a. PAY OR DIE), a much more violent, but still comical, second sequel to this film, both starring Marrie Lee as Cleo. Also starring Johnny Wilson, Kerry Chandler, Philip Gamboa and Bobbie Greenwood. Never legally available on home video in the U.S., the widescreen print I viewed on DVD-R looks to have been sourced from a beat-up, but watchable, 16mm print. Finally available on a widescreen double feature DVD (with Suarez's ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER) from Dark Sky Films. Not Rated. NOTE: In 2007, Bobby A. Suarez announced he was going to helm VENGEANCE OF CLEOPATRA WONG, also starring Marrie Lee, but the last I heard, his financing fell through. SAD NOTE: Bobby A. Suarez passed away on February 7, 2010.

TIGER FIGHTING (1976) - Another crazy action film from Thailand which very few people outside of its native country have seen in unedited form. When Pang Danang (Sombat Methanee; THE KILLER ELEPHANTS - 1976) returns to a gambling casino to retrieve $500 cheated out of his brother while playing Poker, the casino's owner (after seeing what a good fighter he is and having his men sucker punch him in the parking lot) offers Pang $10,000 to go to prison on a trumped-up charge so he can get close to prisoner Tom, who is serving a life sentence (The casino owner tells Pang that Tom is tall with wavy hair, has a tattoo on his chest and, when he meets him, ask him about "King Cobra", because he can't afford to wait for Tom to get out of prison). Pang agrees to the deal (whatever it is; something got lost in the translation from Thai to English) and the next time we see him, he is pounding rocks with a sledgehammer in a prison quarry. Pang finds Tom (only he's bald now!) and gets into a guard-sanctioned fight with him, which Pang easily wins. After the fight, Pang asks Tom about King Cobra and learns that King Cobra is a powerful crime boss who is out to get Tom (which is why Tom shaved off all his wavy hair!). Since he owes the casino owner a favor, he tells Pang where King Cobra can be found: a town where Tom's brother runs a small coffee shop. Another prisoner listens-in to their conversation and that night Tom is found dead, a shiv sticking out of his chest and a crumpled piece of paper clenched in his fist (which is a letter of introduction to King Cobra). Pang is released from prison and is promptly picked up by men of the casino owner's rival and is driven to his house, where the mobster offers Pang ten times the money the casino owner offered him for the information of King Cobra's whereabouts. Before Pang can answer, another rival gang breaks up the meeting, a fight ensues and Pang gets away. Pang patiently waits for his payment of $10,000, but is betrayed when the casino owner sends a hitman to kill him after he gets the info on King Cobra's location. Pang kills the hitman instead and becomes wanted by every crime syndicate in the area because only he knows where King Cobra can be found. After getting into a fight in a whorehouse, Pang heads to the town where King Cobra is staying, where he meets a wealthy mine owner and his beautiful daughter (Prichela Lee). Pang becomes the mine's foreman, as well as the daughter's paramour, and foils an attempt to sabotage the mine (which leads to a fight atop a dam) and kidnap the daughter. The casino owner sends a hitwoman to kidnap Pang's brother, which she does, and will only release him when Pang finds King Cobra (who is now known as "Wang Pu") and turns him over to her (It seems Wang Pu killed the hitwoman's parents years earlier. Wow, this is getting confusing!). Pang finally meets Tom's brother at the coffee shop and hands him the letter of introduction. Pang then meets King Cobra, who has been hiding out in a cave (!), and Pang must defend his life (It turns out King Cobra once saved Pang's life. Now I'm really confused!) when members from all the crime syndicates flood the town and try to kill King Cobra. How the hell is all this going to turn out? It has something to do with a hidden princess and a secret list of names of undercover agents.  Although the plot of this film (also known as MAGNUM KILLERS and KARATE TIGER) is much too confusing to follow, director Vichien Sa-Nguanthai (who directed DIRTY HEROES [1979] using the name "Vachien Sakon") and the uncredited screenwriter(s) offer plenty of awkwardly-staged fighting scenes (Pang uses his legs more than his arms and fists when he gets into his many scrapes, which is probably why this is titled TIGER FIGHTING) and bloody violence (including neck-snapping, bloody stabbings and impalements) to keep the viewer occupied. The hilariously bad English dubbing (the dubbers have a hard time deciding if the lead character's name is "Pan" or "Pang") will have you roaring with laughter at the absurdities of the dialogue ("My heart has chosen to guard you!"), as well as voices that don't match the actors (pay close attention to the gay owner of the whorehouse). TIGER FIGHTING also contains a cockfighting scene; a motorcycle that spits-out red smoke; torture by red-hot poker (that looks surprisingly real) and meat hook (a graphic effect); and a bit of female nudity that is creative for the way it manages to show nothing obscene (all her naughty bits are hidden behind a bathroom sink). Nothing earth-shattering, but a fun film nonetheless. Also starring Boosith, Viboonlap, Anant-Choinanich and Somkiat-Phranpriyachet. Released overseas by Joseph Lai's IFD Films (although Lai's name doesn't appear on the credits). Originally released on VHS in the U.S. by Unicorn Video (under the title MAGNUM KILLERS) in an edited version missing the meat hook torture and some of the more extreme violence. The print I viewed was sourced from an unedited British VHS tape. Not Rated.

TIGERSHARK (1986) - Decent martial arts/actioner filmed in the Philippines. A trio of beautiful models are kidnapped out of a hotel in some phony Asian country, forcing Tava "Champ" Parker (co-scripter Mike Stone; AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION - 1987), the boyfriend of captured model Karen (Pamela Bryant; H.O.T.S. - 1979), to leave his martial arts school in Hawaii and join old Vietnam buddy Cowboy (John Quade; MR. RICCO - 1975) and taxi driver Tony (Roy Alvarez) to rescue the buxom beauties. Before Tava arrives, Cowboy and Tony head to an upscale brothel run by Madame Claude (Rosemarie Gil; THE DEVIL WOMAN - 1973), because they believe it's the most logical place to hide three beautiful women. Turns out they are right. As soon as Tava steps off the plane, he saves a young American woman named Jan (producer Lana Lee Jones) from being kidnapped by the same creeps that kidnapped the models, led by corrupt official Colonel Barro (Vic Silayan; NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN - 1972). Tava beats the crap out of Barro's men a short time later when they follow him out of the airport (Tava sports a fake leg cast to make him look like an easy target), which pisses-off Barro to no end. It seems Colonel Barro has kidnapped Karen and her friends to satisfy the lust of Vladimir (Jaime Fabregas), a Russian arms dealer that is about to trade a huge amount of weapons to Colonel Barro for a fortune in heroin. When Tava, Cowboy and Tony show up unannounced at Madame Claude's, they discover that they have missed saving the girls by mere minutes. After beating-up a few more of Barro's men, the trio end up at an illegal martial arts tournament, where Tava challenges Barro's champion fighter, Ponsok (Roland Dantes), to a duel to the death (where they are chained together and kick each other in the body and head with metal blades attached to their feet) in exchange for Karen and the other models. When Tava wins, Barro renegs on the deal and tosses Tava a roughed-up Jan instead. Jan tells Tava that the models have been transferred to a communist camp in the jungle, so Tava, Cowboy and Tony gear-up (with a CO2-powered dartgun, a rapid-fire crossbow and other weird weapons) and head for the camp, meeting heavy resistance along the way (including an unfriendly cobra). The finale finds our heroic trio assaulting the enemy camp, rescuing the models (although one doesn't make it out alive), killing Colonel Barro (Tava stabs him in the balls when he tries to rape Karen) and striking a huge blow against communism.  The biggest detriment to this humorous action flick, directed by Emmett Alston; NEW YEAR'S EVIL - 1980; DEMONWARP - 1988), is the dreadful performance by lead Mike Stone (the brother of actress Sharon Stone and considered by many to be in the same league as Chuck Norris and Bruce lee as one of the pioneers of American Karate), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Ivan Rogers (CRAZED COP - 1986). Stone has the emotional range of, well, a stone, and the film suffers when he is required to actually act. As an action hero he's just fine; his martial arts skills are dandy, but put him next to an established character actor like John Quade (in a rare good guy role; he usually plays greasy scumbags or corrupt cops and is probably best known as Cholla, the leader of the Black Widow motorcycle gang in EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE [1978] and ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN [1980]) and he looks way out of his element. The action here is plentiful and there is some graphic violence (stabbings; the tournament fight; two guerillas shooting a woman and a young boy in the back), but the majority of the violence and pyrotechnics are saved for the finale, where our heroic trio assaults the communist camp. There's also zero nudity, which is strange considering the subject matter (Models and brothels and no bare breasts? I'm deeply hurt.). Still, it's mindless fun if you can get past the terrible performance of Mike Stone, who was also this film's Fight Coordinator. Also starring Kasey Antonio, Jerry Bailey, Eva Winnercrans, Jimmy Luspo, Taina Manigque and Pablo T. Manigque. Never legitimately available on U.S. home video, the print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

TNT JACKSON (1975) - TNT (Jeanne Bell) travels to Hong Kong searching for her missing brother (who we see is killed in the beginning). As soon as she gets into town, she gets into two big fights where she shows her martial arts prowess (she breaks on guy's arm with a sickening snap and a gusher of blood). TNT believes drug smuggler Sid (Ken Metcalfe, who also co-wrote the screenplay with genre actor Dick Smith) is involved in her brother's death so she goes undercover as a spy to find out the truth. She cozies up to Sid's right-hand man and muscle, Charlie (Stan Shaw), who sticks up for TNT when Sid thinks she's involved in a series of drug hijackings that are seriously hurting Sid's business (it's actually Charlie who is doublecrossing Sid). Sid doesn't trust her (and rightfully so), so he sends Elaine (Pat Anderson) to keep an eye on TNT. Elaine gets caught spying on TNT so she knocks Elaine out and takes her captive. She then finds out that Elaine is an undercover government agent who is deep in Sid's operation. Elaine and TNT agree to work together to bring Sid down. Sid sends Ming (Leo Martin) to beat the information out of TNT, but she turns the tables and beats the shit out of Ming and his men (while topless, the film's highlight). When TNT finally learns that Charlie was responsible for her brother's death, she goes on a one woman vendetta to bring him down, not caring that doing so will interfere with Elaine's plan to arrest Sid. Elaine has TNT arrested, not knowing that Sid has discovered Elaine's deception. It's now up to TNT to break out of jail and get justice for everyone.  Although labelled as blaxploitation, TNT JACKSON really isn't because there are only two black people in the entire film (if you don't count TNT's brother in the beginning). Besides one white woman (Elaine), it comes as no surprise that Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago (who has almost 100 films to his credit, including NAKED VENGEANCE - 1985 and FUTURE HUNTERS - 1988) fills the screen with Filipino actors and locations. Jeanne Bell (POLICEWOMEN - 1974) is an OK actress (and looks great naked) but it is apparent that in many of the fights scenes a male stunt double in an afro wig was used. The scene where she fights topless is memorable (and was spoofed in Quentin Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN - 1997), even if the fight choreography is awkward at best. There are a few bloody scenes, especially when TNT puts her fist through Charlie's stomach until it exits out his back, but mostly it's just martial arts fights. The print used for the Dollar DVD release is a total mess. It looks like it had a long life running through projectors as it has plenty of emulsion scratches and is missing quite a few frames during reel changes. It's like you're watching the film at an actual grindhouse, minus the smell of ass and sticky floors. This is a pretty entertaining flick if you can get past the weak martial arts fights. Roger Corman was the uncredited executive producer. Also starring Chiquito, Imelda Ilanan and Max Alvarado. A Dollar DVD Release (actually a Brentwood subdivision). Also available on a triple feature DVD (with FIRECRACKER [1981; a remake of TNT JACKSON] and TOO HOT TO HANDLE [1976]) as part of the LETHAL LADIES COLLECTION (Volume One) from Shout! Factory. Rated R.

THE TORMENTORS (1971) - Truly terrible biker drama that is ripe to be rediscovered. B. Brentwood Kemp (Bruce Kemp) and his group of Nazi-loving bikers, called the Fourth Reich, lead a path of death and destruction as they rob banks, deal in illegal weapons and murder innocent people. When they rape and strangle a young woman, her boyfriend Ballard (William Dooley) swears revenge. When a police detective (Anthony Eisley) refuses to help him, Ballard decides to infiltrate the gang, passing himself off as a Nazi-lover in order to get close to Kemp. Once he is accepted into the group he learns about many things, including free love, love-ins and a mysterious Christ-like figure called "The Messiah", who preaches love and understanding amongst the youthful population. The Fourth Reich wants The Messiah dead because he is taking the kids away from their cause. When The Messiah is gunned down (next to a large wooden cross), Ballard strikes up a deal with Eisley to finally end Kemp's reign. Ballard has also fallen in love with Eve (Chris Noel), a Fourth Reich chick who accidentally blows Ballard's cover. She is tortured with a lit cigarette by Kemp's sadistic girlfriend (Inga Wege). It is up to Ballard to save Eve and get his revenge on Kemp. This bizarre flick has a strange preoccupation with knocking heads. In every fight scene someone is having their head slammed repeatedly against an immovable object such as a wall, floor or the hood of a car while the added post-synch sound effects make it sound like watching a cartoon. There are also some priceless 70's fashions and weird dialogue. At one point, Kemp says after discovering Ballard's real identity, "Ve vill shoot him. But mit taste und decorum!" Top-billed James Craig (THE CYCLOPS - 1957) has little more than a cameo role playing Kemp's boss. Screenwriter James Gordon White essays the role of Marco, a Fourth Reich member who has a severe distrust in Ballard. Anthony Eisley has made a career of appearing in truly awful films such as NAVY VS THE NIGHT MONSTERS (1965), Al Adamson's DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN (1971), Ted V. Mikel's THE DOLL SQUAD (1973) and Oliver Drake's classic badfilm MUMMY & CURSE OF THE JACKAL (1967). Director B. (Boris) Eagle is a pseudonym for hack director David L. Hewitt, who is responsible for such dreck as RETURN FROM THE PAST (a.k.a. THE BLOOD SUCKERS and GALLERY OF HORRORS - 1967), THE MIGHTY GORGA (1969) and THE LUCIFER COMPLEX (1978). Why did he change his name on this one? With these facts alone, THE TORMENTORS is a must for fans of bottom of the barrel entertainment. A Trans World Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available on budget fullscreen DVD from Platinum Disc Corporation. Rated R.

TRAINED TO KILL (1988) - During the 80's, action films like this were a dime a dozen and I avoided them like the plague whenever I went to the video store. The funny thing is, over twenty years later, I'm eating these films up like they are manna from Heaven. Why? I've asked myself that question many times and the only reasonable answer I can come up with is that 80's action films throw political correctness out the window. Terrorists are sweaty Arab towelheads, drug lords are greasy Mexicans, pimps and crackheads are Black men who slap their women around and government officials are traitors actually working for our worst enemies. When the 90's rolled in, so did the PC police and many action films suffered because of it (there are exceptions, though) and many of the bad guys became so vanilla, it was hard to tell them apart from each other. Which brings us to TRAINED TO KILL. The film opens with Ed Cooper (Chuck Connors; TOURIST TRAP - 1978) rescuing his Asian son Sam (Glen Eaton) in Cambodia after a sixteen-year wait. Ed impregnated Sam's Vietnamese mother during the war and she escaped to the States with a fortune in diamonds, including the priceless Red Diamond, but she callously left Sam behind. Meanwhile, Ace Durran (Henry Silva; BRONX WARRIOR 2 - 1983) and his sidekick Loc Syn (Harold Diamond), who likes to rip-out throats with his bare hands, have just aided in breaking Walter Majyk (Robert Z'Dar; DEADLY MEMORIES - 2002) and Felix Brewer (Marshall Teague; VENDETTA - 1985) out of a Nevada military prison to follow Ed and Sam in hopes that they will lead them to the Red Diamond. Walter and Felix are eager to kill Ed since he was responsible for their twelve-year incarceration, but Ace convinces them to keep their eyes on the prize. Ace believes that Sam possesses the diamonds in a box he carries with him at all times, so Ace and the gang try their damnedest to steal it. Ed brings Sam home to meet his wife Martha (Arlene Golonka), his other son Matt (Frank Zagarino; SPIKER - 2007) and his best friend Cotton (Ron O'Neal; MERCENARY FIGHTERS - 1988), as well as Matt's girlfriend Jessie (Lisa Aliff). That night, Ace and his gang break into Ed house and steal the box, but not before shooting Martha in the back and roasting Ed alive with a flame-thrower (Loc Syn holds his hands over Ed's burning body in a mock warming gesture!). Half-brothers Matt and Sam, along with Jessie and the usually-soused Cotton, join forces to get revenge on Ace, Loc Syn, Walter and Felix. After some intense training from a sober Cotton (I smell an 80's training montage!), Matt and Sam go after their prey, first killing Walter by throwing a grenade in his car. When Loc Syn kidnaps Jessie and kills Cotton (an intense battle of the blades that ends with Cotton getting his throat cut), Matt and Sam must fight a battle to the death against Felix, Loc Syn and Ace (in that order) in Las Vegas, that begins in a casino, spills out onto the Strip and ends at an abandoned prison with Jessie chained to the top of a huge bonfire.  Although a little slow in getting into its groove, TRAINED TO KILL picks up considerable steam once Ed and his wife are killed. Director/screenwriter H. Kaye Dyal (PROJECT: ELIMINATOR - 1989, also starring Zagarino; He also co-produced the faux horror flick SLASHED DREAMS in 1975) not only gathered quite a cast of B-movie veterans (which also includes Michael Pataki [GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE - 1972] in an uncredited cameo as a police sergeant), he also stages some decent action set pieces that includes gunfights, car chases and martial arts battles. While the low budget shows itself more than I care for (including numerous appearances of the boom mike at the top of the screen, although this could be because the film is shown "open matte"), this film has an infectious energy that's hard to deny. Sure, it's a cheap B-actioner (and, yes, it does contain topless female nudity), but it's an entertaining one with the right mixture of humor, drama, violence and action. You can do a lot worse (and I have). Kane Hodder puts in an appearance as a bouncer at a strip club who gets the crap kicked out of him by Matt and Sam. Ray Dennis Steckler (BLOOD SHACK - 1971) was coordinator of all the scenes shot in Las Vegas. Originally available on VHS from Prism Entertainment and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

TRIDENT FORCE (1987) - Somewhere in the desert of the Middle East, a British military outpost is living peacefully with the local Muslim military and villagers. Lt. Rashid (Anthony Alonzo; BLOOD WAR - 1989) is assigned by his superiors to drive American reporter Leslie Prentiss (Nanna Anderson) around so she can take photos of the area. Lt. Rashid doesn't think this is any place for a woman and just as he makes his feelings known to her, the whole military base comes under attack by rebel forces, leading to a heated battle (lots of shots in the head and objects exploding). When the smokes clears, the British come out the winners and Leslie and Rashid look like they are about to make a romantic connection. We then switch to the Kremlin, where we watch some fat and balding guy named Abu Hassad (Ed Gaerlan) banging a poor boys asshole (!) before some Russian guy interrupts him with a briefcase full of cash and a plane ticket (What they are to be used for is not yet made clear). We then switch to Malaysia, where a woman dressed head-to-toe in black leather hops on a motorcycle, drives into the middle of an open-air café and triggers a bomb on her body, killing herself and the majority of the people in the café. We then switch to the Israeli Ambassador's residence in Beirut, where we watch a pair of hooded terrorists savagely gun-down the Ambassador (Paul Holme; SPYDER - 1988), his wife and two young kids as they are eating dinner. We then learn that all these attacks were coordinated by the dastardly Abu Hassad, who heads a terrorist organization called the Palestine Revolutionary Legion. Lt. Rashid joins a top-secret group called the Trident Organization to combat Hassad and the PRL (we also find out that Leslie is a CIA operative), but first all the members of the newly-formed Trident Force (which contains men from all cultures and religions) must go through a rigorous training program (I smell an 80's-style training montage!) before they can be put into the field. Rashid makes an instant enemy in Training Officer Ox (Nick Nicholson, also the Casting Director), who calls Rashid such epithets as "camel-humper" and "Sinbad", but Rashid turns out to be the best of the best and Ox turns out to be a pretty decent guy after all. The Trident Force is set loose on the PRL, but complications quickly arise when we discover Rashid's brother, Ahmed (Mark Gil) is working undercover in the PRL. Abu Hassad discovers the treachery and mails Ahmed's decapitated head in a box to Rashid. Oh man, all bets are off now! I think we're going to see at least one more person lose their head before this film concludes.  Way more plot-heavy and complex than the usual Filipino actioner, TRIDENT FORCE plays more like a low-budget riff of THE DIRTY DOZEN (1965), replacing the prisoners in DIRTY with the best combat professionals from around the world, including America (Jim Moss), China (Tony Lao), Spain (Carlos Terry), France (Gerald Tosco), Germany (Rafael Schulz) and other countries. The complex storyline (the opening credits don't appear until 18 minutes in!), by screenwriters Rosanno Abelardo and Sigfried Sepulveda (Joe Mari Avellana gets a "Story By" credit), follows a three tier approach: 1) Display the PRL's terror tactics around the world. 2) Introduce all the members of the Trident Force and put them through their paces (including personal dramas). 3) Unleash the Trident Force on Abu Hassad and the PRL. Director "Richard Smith" (actually a pseudonym for female producer Maria Sarrett) offers the viewer plenty of violence, as people are riddled with bullets (a lot of them in the skull region), Leslie is tortured with a stun gun, plenty of people and buildings explode and the final fifteen minutes is a non-stop barrage of death and destruction. This may not be one of the best Filipino actioners I've seen, but it contains enough weirdness (including forced gay sex and Anthony Alonzo preparing himself for final battle by shaving-off all his body hair, including his pubes, with a knife!), bloody violence and strict Muslim morals (that doesn't come across nearly as preachy as it does in KRIS COMMANDO [1987] or the previously-mentioned BLOOD WAR) to make this a worthwhile choice for fans of Philippines-made action. Also starring Steve Rogers, Willy Schober, Tony Ogumsaya, Majid Jadali, Randy Hrobar, Ronnie Patterson, Mike Aguas and Moshen Hassani. Mike Monty and Dave Gibberson have blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos, Filmed under the title THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., the version I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

TRIPLE IMPACT (1992) - Another Philippines-lensed martial arts actioner from Davian International, the same company that gave us BLOOD RING (1991) and many others. During the Vietnam War, a platoon of American soldiers are ambushed by the VC and nearly everyone is killed (one soldier has his leg blown off when he steps on a land mine), except for Captain Burroughs (screenwriter Steve Rogers: SPYDER - 1988) and Sgt. Adams (Robert Marius; FIST OF GLORY - 1991), who fall into a cave and discover a crate that contains a solid gold statue of Buddha. Twenty years pass, and best friends Dave Masters (Dale "Apollo" Cook; FIST OF STEEL - 1991) and James Stokes (Ron Hall; DOUBLE BLAST - 1994), who make a living fighting in fixed illegal back alley martial arts bouts, save a harried-looking Sgt. Adams from a bunch of goons working for crime kingpin McMann (Nick Nicholson; NO DEAD HEROES - 1986). It seems Adams has spent the last twenty years in a military prison for assaulting Captain Burroughs (in all fairness, Burroughs got greedy and tried to kill Adams) and was just released. Adams tells Dave and James that if they help him find the cave where he hid the golden Buddha, he will split the proceeds 50/50. Adams draws them a map to where the cave is located in Cambodia and then he is shot dead by McMann's thugs. Since Dave and James are broke and need money to go to Cambodia, Dave enters himself in a fight against the Philippines' best martial artist, Cobra Cole (Mike Cole), for a $20,000 purse. After winning the fight (barely), Dave and James fly to Cambodia and hook-up with female martial artist Julie Webb (Bridgett "Baby Doll" Riley), the girlfriend of one of Dave's old buddies, who recently died in a car accident. Julie is not too happy to see Dave (they have a romantic history), but she gets talked into joining the jungle hunt for the statue. Trouble ensues when McMann plans his own jungle adventure with a drug-addled (and blind!) Captain Burroughs as their hazy guide. Dave, James and Julie fly into the jungle by helicopter, but they get shot down by rebel drug runners, taken prisoner and then forced to fight one-on-one against the rebel's best fighters in the "Ring Of Death" for their freedom. Meanwhile, the blind and drugged-out Burroughs accidentally walks off a cliff, killing himself, leaving McMann without a guide, so he orders his head henchman, Karl (Ned Hourani; KING OF THE KICKBOXERS 2 - 1992), to bring our heroic trio to him. They manage to escape from Karl and locate the cave and the statue, but McMann and his goons show up a short time later, which leads to a fight-filled finale full of flying fists and feet, a gun battle or two and plenty of explosions. Our trio are the only ones who make it out alive, but they do so without the statue. Dave has a new plan to retrieve the statue, but James and Julie convince him otherwise.  Played more as a comedic action adventure than a straight martial arts flick, TRIPLE IMPACT utilizes much more location work than the usual cheap 90's Filipino actioners and is therefore a much more interesting and enjoyable film. Though no one has ever accused Dale Cook of being a good actor (and believe me, he's not), he does have good chemistry with Ron Hall and Bridgett Riley (who has a very strange-looking nose) and their comical banter and the situations they get themselves into do manage to raise a chuckle or two. Director/producer David Hunt (SUDDEN THUNDER - 1990; who used his real name, "David Hung", when acting as cinematographer on THEY CALL HER...CLEOPATRA WONG [1978] and editor on ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER [1980]) and screenwriter Steve Rogers (who gives himself the most humorous death scene) raise this film a notch or two above most 90's Filipino actioners thanks to the location work, a wide variety of fight scenes (only one actually takes place in a ring), some bloody war action in the beginning, a pretty exciting finale in a cave and lots of intentional humor. It's also nice to see Nick Nicholson in a larger role than normal, since he is usually assigned to secondary or bit parts. All in all, not a bad way to spend 92 minutes. Also starring Tom Seal, Sheila Lentin and Barbara Dougan. Originally available on VHS from A.I.P. Home Video and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

UNDER THE GUN (1995) - Frank Torrance (Richard Norton) is having one of those nights when nothing goes right. This former hockey star-turned-nightclub owner has just ripped-off the Mob for $450,000, is in the midst of selling his nightclub for over a million bucks (if he could only get in touch with his accountant who has the phony financial books) and hopes to skip to Mexico with his annoyed wife (Jane Badler; V: THE SERIES [1983 - 1985] and the 2009 - 2011 Reboot) at 6 A.M. But things don’t run too smoothly. Frank has to contend with a murderous police detective, a pimp with a grudge, the Chinese Triad and employees who may not be what they seem. A good, involving storyline with wall-to-wall action gives this film a major edge over most of the video fodder on the shelves. Richard Norton (THE FIGHTER - 1988) is quite good in a role that lets him exercise his acting chops as well as his karate chops. An excellent example of what a B-movie action film should be. Also starring Kathy Long (THE STRANGER - 1994), Roland Dantes, Peter Lindsay and Robert Bruce. Made in Australia by director/writer Matthew George (FOUR JACKS - 2001), who gives you your money’s worth in both departments. Not to be confused with the 1988 action film with the same name, starring Sam Jones and Vanessa Williams. A Triboro Entertainment Group Home Video Release. Not Rated.

UNMASKING THE IDOL (1986) - The first of two films (the other being THE ORDER OF THE BLACK EAGLE - 1986) featuring James Bond wannabe Duncan Jax (Ian Hunter) and his baboon sidekick Boon. When we first see Duncan, he is stealing a micro-cassette from an apartment in a high-rise building when he is suddenly spotted by some bad guys. After using his expert ninja fighting moves (he wears a hood made of chain mail!), he jumps off the balcony (at least twenty stories high) and lands in a swimming pool (the sight of an obvious dummy falling will have you howling with laughter), where he escapes by somehow getting his hands on a hot air balloon, rises out of the water and floats through the air while the bad guys fire their guns aimlessly while choking on poison gas. Duncan's boss, Star (C.K. Bibby), gives Duncan his next job: Steal over a billion dollars in gold bars from Devil's Crown Island, protected by a masked ninja known as the Scarlet Leader and his scarlet-wearing ninja assassins (The Scarlet Leader also has a pond full of piranhas next to his throne, where he throws unwanted visitors to his island). Also on the island is the Baron, a.k.a. Goldtooth (Ron Campbell), the person responsible for the murder of Duncan's parents, so Duncan takes this assignment personally. After receiving some gadgets from the Q-like Sato (Shangtai Tuan), Duncan and Boon (whose main talent seems to be flipping everyone off) put a team together and head to Devil's Crown Island, including female agent Gunner (Lise Peterson), helicopter pilot Bugs (Vernard Littleton) and The Whale (William T. Hicks; A DAY OF JUDGMENT - 1981), an overweight prisoner in a Latin American jail that Duncan must break-out because he has a map somewhere on his large body that can lead them to the gold. It's obvious that someone on the team is a traitor because the Scarlet Leader feeds Duncan's inside contact, Echo (Janet Nease), to his piranhas (Guard #1: "Boy, he's strict!" Guard #2: "Yeah!"). After catching the traitor, Duncan and his team land on the island (but first they send a bunch of explosive dummies by parachute to blow up the Scarlet Leader's first line of defense) and an all-out ninja war ensues, complete with sword fights, gun battles, bazookas and plenty of explosions. The final battle includes a pit of alligators, a giant gold statue of Buddha that is stuffed with priceless gems, a one-on-one fight between Duncan and the Scarlet Leader that leads to his (actually, her) unmasking (in which Duncan groaningly says, "Frankly Scarlet, I don't give a damn!") and the destruction of Goldtooth's submarine, thereby letting Duncan get the vengeance he needs for his parents' deaths. James Bond would be proud if he wasn't laughing so hard.  This is a competently made actioner with some intentional, but mostly unintentional, bits of humor. Director Worth Keeter (WOLFMAN - 1979; L.A. BOUNTY - 1989; SNAPDRAGON - 1993; SCORPIO ONE - 1998) and screenwriter Phil Behrens, who both worked in the same capacities on the sequel, fill the film with wall-to-wall action, but some of the dialogue and set pieces are risible and outlandish, such as when Star chastises Boon the baboon for chewing gum at a staff meeting or the Scarlet Leader's constant need for quoting lines from THE WIZARD OF OZ. My favorite line comes when one of the guards on Devil's Crown Island puts this out on a radio broadcast: "Calling all guards. Calling all guards. Be on the lookout for trespassing ninjas." The fights and action sequences are all very well choreographed and executed and the set direction, especially the Scarlet Leader's hideout, is colorful and amusing. All-in-all, UNMASKING THE IDOL is an entertaining time-waster if you like cheap James Bond knockoffs, complete with a Bond-like opening and closing tune (co-written by Keeter and sung by Obie Jessie). Unlike the R-rated sequel, this film's violence is PG level, but there are some scenes that push the boundaries. Filmed in North and South Carolina, some on Earl Owensby's sound stages, where Keeter began his career. Also starring Shakti Chen, Bud Browning, Danny Spivey, Theo Levine and David Hager. Originally released on VHS by Celebrity Home Entertainment and not available on DVD. Rated PG.

VELVET SMOOTH (1975) - Four guys in masks are beating the crap out of small business owners, which pisses off local crime lord King, who was using those businesses as fronts for his gambling and numbers rackets. King hires local female detective Velvet Smooth (Johnnie Hill) to find out who is responsible for muscling in on his territory. Velvet assembles an all-female crew and begins her investigation. When a group of masked thugs tries to beat up and rob one of King's bagmen, Frankie, one of Velvet's broads, beats the living daylights out of a dozen goons in one of the most awkwardly staged martial arts in blaxploitation film history (all the fights were choreographed by co-star Owen Wat-Son, who plays King). After Velvet herself is attacked and beats the stuffing out of four masked hooligans (another bad kung-fu fight), it becomes apparent that one of King's right-hand men, Calvin, is behind all this trouble. Things come to a boil when one of King's bagmen is robbed and knifed to death in front of dozens of witnesses and the police finally become involved. Velvet and her girls are convinced that Calvin is involved but think he's too stupid to be doing this all on his own. They devise a plan to flush out the kingpin even though King is convinced that Calvin is acting alone and kicks him out of the organization. When masked thugs rob one of King's gambling dens, steal all his money in the safe and beat up one of Velvet's lady friends, Velvet, King and the crew track Calvin to a pool hall and a major fight ensues, resulting in the death of Calvin by a trigger-happy cop. King finally learns the identity of the person trying to take over his business and loses his life. Velvet gets revenge and there's a final surprise as the film fades to black.  For an action flick, VELVET SMOOTH (which, believe it or not, was retitled DIRTY MARRY in some territories!) is pretty pitiful. As a blaxploitation film, it's even worse. Director Michael Fink (FORCE FOUR - 1974) hasn't got a clue how to block a fight scene, as the camera is always in the worse possible position, catching every missed punch and kick by a country mile. It becomes very distracting (and not the least bit funny) after the second fight. There's also bad acting (it looks as if some of the actors are reading their lines off of cue cards), extremely poor soul music (I swear that my ears bled at one point) and some cheap gore so, if I were you, I would let this forgotten little relic (made to cash-in on better blaxploitation films like CLEOPATRA JONES - 1973 and COFFY - 1973) stay forgotten. This is one of the crappiest blaxploitation films ever made and that's saying a lot. Also starring Frank Ruiz, Moses Illiya, Rene Van Clief, Elsie Roman, Wilfredo Roldan and Emerson Boozer. Originally released by Paragon Home Video on VHS, you can also get this on DVD as part of Brentwood Communications 4 movie compilation titled BAD BROTHAS-MEAN MUTHAS. Rated R.

VIRUS (1996) - After his debut in STONE COLD (1990), I have been a fan of ex-footballer turned actor Brian Bosworth. But even I have a problem with this action vehicle. For one, it’s rated PG-13, so the Boz has to keep the carnage down to a minimum. Then there’s the fact that the entire film is slow-moving, which make it seem twice as long than it actually is. Bosworth stars as Ken Fairchild, a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the President. He is sent to secure a location in a state park in Oregon, a site in which a world conference is to be held. Once there, he is accidentally infected by a new strain of germ warfare, developed secretly by the government without the President’s knowledge. Bosworth, with the help of a female veterinarian (Leah Pinsent), must try to warn the President while avoiding the government baddies who are trying to kill him. Not terribly exciting or original, VIRUS (shown on cable TV under it’s original title, SPILL) is just a typical Canadian-made tax shelter film. Director Allan A. Goldstein (BLACK OUT - 1995, also starring Bosworth) offers no suspense and badly-staged fight scenes, severe no-no’s in an action film. Bosworth has done much better. Check out ONE MAN’S JUSTICE (a.k.a. ONE TOUGH BASTARD - 1995) for superior Brian Bosworth fare. Boz also starred in BACK IN BUSINESS in 1997. If you can believe it, it’s worse than VIRUS. Also starring Eric Peterson and Chuck Shamata (HOUSE BY THE LAKE a.k.a. DEATH WEEKEND - 1976). A Vidmark Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated PG-13, so don’t expect much bone-crushing violence.

WAKE OF DEATH (2004) - Jean-Claude Van Damme has matured into something more than an action star. He has become an actor. This film should cement that once and for all. Yes, this is a DTV action flick but, believe me when I say that this is better than 95% of the crap that gets released to theaters. It also has a heart and soul usually not found in films of this type. When a 14 year-old Chinese girl witnesses her crimelord father (Simon Yam) kill her mother, she escapes on a ship headed to America and ends up in the custody of a female social worker for the INS. When the crimelord comes to America looking for his daughter (he has a severe hatred for white people), a crooked INS agent points him to the social worker. He ends up slitting the social worker's throat (and kills her adoptive Chinese parents, too), but the little girl and her son Nicholai get away. What the crimelord didn't count on was that the social worker has a devoted loving husband, Ben Archer (Van Damme), an ex-mob enforcer who gave up his gangster life to have a normal relationship with his wife and son. Now, Ben will revert back to his violent past to hunt down the crimelord and make him pay. And make him pay hard. After making sure his son and the girl are safely tucked away in a safehouse, Ben reconnects with his mobster cronies and sets out to destroy the crimelord's life and businesses from the bottom up. He takes out three guys at one of the crimelord's whorehouses (he kills one of the guys who was present at his wife's murder by blowing the top of his head off with a shotgun). Ben and his cohorts torture the crooked INS agent with a power drill to get the location of the crime boss, but the shifty Chinaman manages to grab Ben's son and the girl from the safehouse. After a well-executed car chase (performed by Remy Julienne's stunt team), Ben manages to get the girl, but the bad guys get away with his son. Ben uses the little girl as bait for a final showdown on a ship docked at the L.A. harbour, which turns out to be a non-stop barrage of explosions, knife fights, fist fights, gun fights and death.  Deftly directed and co-written by Philippe Martinez (CITIZEN VERDICT - 2003), the film moves at a brisk pace but doesn't lose it's emotional center thanks to an eye-opening performance by Van Damme. Age may have given him more wrinkles, but it has also given him more character and it's apparent he cares about the quality of his work (as opposed to most of Steven Seagal's recent work). Van Damme is quite simply a revelation here as a committed husband who loses most of his humanity once his wife dies. You can actually see it drain from his face. The violence in this film is brutal. Not only are people shot point-blank in the head, there's also shotgun deaths, broken necks, the hard-to-watch power drill torture scene and the bloody finale where Van Damme and his gangster brother assault the ship (including a painful knife to the crotch). Although Van Damme does let his feet do the talking in some scenes, he's equally at ease with letting his gun finish off the bad guys, too. That's the true sign that Van Damme is maturing not only as an actor, but also as a human being. A man has to know his limitations and after watching him in this and his recent prison flick IN HELL (2003), I think the world is ready to see him on the big screen again, this time under a totally different light. I certainly look forward to what his future has to offer. Given it's troubled production history (two directors, including Ringo Lam, either quit or were fired before Martinez took over), it's surprising everything about WAKE OF DEATH, from the acting, directing, photography and stunts, is first-class and it should please action fans looking for a quality fix. Also starring Philip Tan, Valerie Tian, Tony Schiena, Claude Hernandez, Lisa King and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by Burt Kwouk. Filmed in South Africa. A DEJ Productions DVD Release. Rated R.

WARDOGS (1986) - This unbelievably violent Swedish actioner begins with a funeral, where Charles Stewart (Ted Earle) confronts his mother and sister about his brother Rick's (Bill Redvers) death. Charles doesn't believe that his brother is dead and is out to prove that Rick, who disappeared during a top secret raid he participated in with his brother in Vietnam years earlier, is still alive, despite a letter his mother received from the government which states otherwise. We then see a band of soldiers wipe out a town with gunfire when a Spanish official and his daughter stop there to use the toilet and get an ice cream cone. The soldiers graphically shoot everyone in sight, including women and children. Charles gets in touch with reporter Dean Daniels (Gunnar Ernblad) who, along with cameraman Roger Hoover (David Gillies), took film footage of the town slaughter. When both Dean and Roger are both savagely murdered (Dean is shot repeatedly and then blown up with a grenade, while Roger is garrotted out in public and left hanging on a lightpole), Charles gets his hands on the footage and it shows Charles' old Special Forces leader Spacek (Bengt Fridh) leading a troop of top secret soldiers on the slaughter of the town and one of the soldiers is his brother Rick. Charles is now a marked man, as Spacek sends his "WarDogs" after him, nearly killing him at a carnival and a restaurant, where many innocent people are gunned-down. Charles is eventually captured by Spacek and tortured with a metal hook to his chest and, after some hand-to-hand combat with Spacek (where Charles loses), Charles escapes with the help of his brother Rick, who has been fed a steady diet of experimental drugs in an attempt to make him and those like him perfect killing machines. Now, Charles and Rick must fight Spacek and his band of chemically-altered soldiers. After Charles and Rick kill all the soldiers and Spacek, Charles brings his brother home to meet his wife Sheila and little son Ricky (named after his brother). The government and Inspector Parnell (Sidney Livingstone) go after Rick, because they feel he can never be cured. They are correct, as what happens next at Charles' house is a slow-motion ballet of violence. Rick snaps and Charles realizes that Rick was better left dead back in Nam. You can never go home again.  This insanely violent action film is so bloody and without morals that it has no problem showing innocent children getting blown away in painful-to-watch slow motion. Directors/producers/scripters Bjorn Carlstroem and Daniel Hubenbecher ladle on the bloody bullet squibs. When someone gets shot, they don't just bleed, they explode in a shower of blood. This plays like an ultra-low-budget version of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (1992), made six years later (Hmmmm...), where Charles saves his brother from a life as a "perfect soldier" and then being hunted down by the other soldiers before they can go public with the secret. There are car chases (when Charles and Rick try to escape in a Volvo, it is slowly torn apart piece-by-piece by Spacek and his soldiers), explosions (too many grenades to count), bullets to the head (ditto) and some people are literally torn apart by gunfire. This is not a film for the faint of heart, especially if you're squeamish about violence against children, as this flick pulls no punches. The finale is a nail-biter and pits brother against nosy neighbor, brother against brother, uncle against nephew and government against soldier. All releases of this film are shorn of the most violent images (it was cut by the producers in fear that no one would release it in it's uncut form), but what's left will still make every gorehound stand up and take notice. A German DVD, to be released in late 2007/early 2008, promises to be the unedited print. I will be the first online to buy it. When you think of Sweden, you usually think of pretty blond-haired girls, not bloody, violent films. But this film, along with Mats Helge's THE NINJA MISSION (1984), will surely change your mind. Also starring Irene Gronwall, David Lundberg, Chris Masters, Wolf Linder and Catherine Jeppson. Also known as WARDOG. Not to be confused with the 1994 Italian action film, WAR DOGS, directed by Stelvio Massi (as "Max Steel"). A Vista Home Video Release. Not Rated.

WHITE FURY (1990) - Snowboarding champion Danny (Sean Holton) takes his girlfriend Christine (Christine Shinn) and friends Greg (William Berg) and Lesley (Chasity Hammons) to his uncle's secluded winter cabin for a weekend of fun and sex. The cabin is so secluded, it is only accessible by snowmobile in the Winter. A psychotic escaped con named Tyler (Deke Anderson), who has just robbed a bank with his partner Marcus (Michael Kaskel) and gunned-down all the witnesses, shows up at the cabin and terrorizes the foursome. Danny escapes and must think up a way to save his three friends, unaware that a bounty hunter named Martin Towers (Douglas Harter) is tracking Tyler and Marcus and is not far behind. Money-hungry Lesley (who is a cunt with a capital C) comes on to Tyler, gives him a blowjob and flaunts her infidelity in front of Greg. Danny steals Tyler's loot and offers a trade to Tyler: The money for his friends. Christine and Greg get away on a snowmobile (Tyler shoots and kills Lesley when she wants to stay with him) while Danny uses his snowboarding skills to lead Tyler and Marcus on a chase through the snow-covered mountains. After Christine runs over Marcus with her snowmobile, Danny forces Tyler to ram his snowmobile into a tree. Danny shoots Tyler after Tyler shoots Martin in the arm and both believe Tyler is dead. They should have known better. Rather than go back to civilization like any person with even half a brain would, they all go back to the cabin and are paid a surprise visit by the still alive Tyler. After a little more terrorizing, Tyler leaves the cabin with the loot, but is blown up by Danny, who somehow has gotten his hands on a rocket launcher. And they all lived happily ever after.  Yes, this is another one of director/co-writer David A. Prior's weak action films. If you've seen Prior's previous action films, such as DEATH CHASE (1987) or NIGHT WARS (1988), you know what to expect here: Weak acting (and it doesn't help that lead actor Sean Holton looks like a girl), terrible sound and badly-staged action scenes. It amazes me that Prior (who also directed the terrible horror films SLEDGEHAMMER - 1984 and KILLER WORKOUT - 1986) never learned from his mistakes and kept churning out these Grade Z actioners. Believe it or not, this one is worse than most as there aren't even the frequent bloody bullet squibs that are usually on view in Prior's films (When Tyler and Marcus shoot dozens of people in the bank holdup, they all just drop to the floor and all the furniture and the walls are undamaged). Everyone here dies nice, dry deaths. Couple that with endless scenes of Danny's snowboarding skills (some POV shots are repeated two or three times) and risable dialogue like, "There's a lot more to women than brushing teeth." (What the hell does that mean?) or, "Don't fucking slap me, you cunt!" and what you have is a film that's not good enough to line your birdcage with. This is one excreble piece of crap that doesn't have one redeeming quality. Everyone acts retarded and always do the least logical thing, the action looks like it was choreographed by Stevie Wonder and it all sounds like it was recorded in a tin can. It's not even good enough for an unintentional laugh. I have bowel movements more interesting than this. If you really want your ears to bleed, try listening to the end credits tune, "White Fury". It's sheer aural torture. An Action International Pictures Home Video Release. Not Rated.

WILD CATS ATTACK! (1981) - Here's a rare misfire: A clumsily paced and somewhat boring Filipino war actioner. A military base comes under attack by rebels, who steal a red diary containing top-secret information before they retreat. Sgt. Torez (Rey Malonzo; SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE - 1984) is one of the few survivors of the rebel attack and becomes concerned when his girlfriend Perla (Leila Hermosa; BLIND RAGE - 1978), who was visiting him at the base at the time of the attack, disappears and is presumed dead. Sgt. Torez is promoted in rank to Lieutenant and is given carte blanche to put together a team of his choice to recover the red diary.  He grabs a handful of people, all experts in their field, including a demolitions expert on death row for murder; an Army sharpshooter; a macho man who only has a few weeks left to serve; and an AWOL soldier who is good with a crossbow. The quintet's mission is to sneak into the mountain compound commandeered by the ruthless Commander Commandant (!) and his force of 250 rebels (Fifty-to-one? That's a mighty steep ratio!) and steal back the red diary. Well, they can forget about sneaking in, because as soon as Lt. Torez and his men parachute into enemy territory, they get into a firefight with some rebels, who radio-in to the Commander and let them know of their presence. The Commander makes it known in no uncertain terms that the five invaders are in no way welcome in his compound alive, so Lt. Torez and his men must contend with constant enemy gunfire and traitorous villagers as they fight their way to the compound. Lt. Torez still has time to contemplate the fate of his girlfriend Perla and has flashbacks to past conversations with her (clues which leads the audience to believe she may not be as innocent as Lt. Torez believes she is). Torez and his men make it to the compound and kill Commander Commandant, only to discover that the red diary isn't there. It's now in the possession of one Commander Sancho, which now means Lt. Torez and his men will have to go undercover as political activists sent to prison in order to trick the only person able to get close to Commander Sancho to break out of prison and lead them to the red diary. War is never easy, is it? Especially when your girlfriend turns out to be a total enemy bitch.  This early Kinevista International production (I had a good laugh when the opening credits states: "Kinevista International Superbly Presents", as if "Proudly Presents" just isn't good enough!), directed by Frances Jun Posadas (THEY CALL HIM BRUCE LEE - 1979; WILD FORCE - 1986) and scripted by Clem Santiago (also the Line Producer), is full of lazily-staged action set-pieces and bad English dubbing ("Sir, I have to go over there to hit the head!"). While there are a lot of bloody bullet squib effects, the majority of the shooting victims merely grab their head or chest when shot, which cheapens the effectiveness of some of the battle scenes (Surely Lt. Torez and his men don't deliver head and chest shots on every kill? Or are they just that good?). That's not to say that there aren't some decent action scenes on display. The attack on Commander Commandant's compound contains some good slow-motion scenes of grenades being thrown and blowing up their targets, resulting in some nifty explosions. Unfortunately, right after that sequence the film stops dead in it's tracks and takes forever to recover, thanks to the film's new direction where Lt. Torez and his men go undercover as prisoners to infiltrate Commander Sancho's compound. It takes nearly thirty minutes for the action to kick in, an eternity to viewers when all you have to entertain you is some hilarious dubbing ("It's dangerous if they find the body. Let's hide it" and one of Lt. Torez's men singing "Camptown Races" before attacking Sancho's compound.). Bad dubbing only goes so far and thirty minutes without a single death is stretching it to the limit. The "surprise" ending, where a certain female is revealed as the enemy ringmaster, is telegraphed early on. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the theme music from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) is "borrowed" for the climatic battle scene? This may be one of the rarer Filipino war actioners, but WILD CATS ATTACK! is not one of the better ones. Not a total misfire (like most Filipino actioners, everyone is so earnest, no matter how ridiculous the situation), but it's still a disappointment. Also starring Anthony Alonzo, Efren Reyes Jr., Dante Rivero, Conrad Poe, Philip Gamboa, Dick Israel, Ruel Vernal, Renato Del Prado, Roldan Rodrigo and Greg Lozano. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape on the Hollywood Electric label (The cover art contains the wrong credits from another Filipino film.). Not Rated.

WILD FORCE (1986) - While on a pleasure cruise with his assistant Barbara (Barbara Peers), the sickly Dr. Johnson (Filipino staple Mike Monty) has his yacht boarded by a bunch of machine gun-toting pirates, who kill all of the yacht's crew and then kidnap Dr. Johnson and Barbara. Since Dr. Johnson is a world-famous scientist as well as a Representative of the United Nations, the Filipino military is eager to secure his rescue before his kidnapping turns into an international incident. When the kidnappers demand two million dollars for Dr. Johnson and Barbara's safe return (Dr. Johnson says to the head kidnapper, "You are insane!" to which he replies, "Thank you!"), Colonel Romero assigns his best man, Lt. Valdez (Yusuf Salim), to rescue the pair before the ransom has to be paid in five days. Lt. Valdez nearly captures some of the kidnappers when they make a ransom call in a crowded restaurant, which leads to a shootout where one of the kidnappers is killed. This pisses-off head kidnapper Ernesto (a.k.a. "The Commander"), who kills some innocent people and dumps their bodies, along with a cassette tape, in the town square for everyone to see. On the tape, Ernesto demands not only the two million dollars, but also a huge cache of automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition, or else he will kill his two captives. With only five days to perform the rescue, Lt. Valdez gathers four of his former squad members (which includes Benny, Nick, Danny and Hercules, who lives in a foxhole!) to help him, but when Colonel Romero forces Valdez to bring a female officer, Sgt. Jennifer, along for the rescue, some members smell a rat. The newly formed squad, codenamed The Wild Force (which now also includes black marketer Kimoporo), follows a clue which leads the to the palatial estate of Alfredo Montoya. This leads to a shootout with some of the kidnappers, where Lt. Valdez and two other squad members are arrested by the local police and locked-up in the local jail. Since they have to remain undercover, they are unable to reveal their true identities to the police, so Kimoporo, the crazy member of the squad (he walks around dressed in nothing but a kimono), breaks them out of jail. Working on a clue they got from Montoya before he was killed, the Wild Force hops a ride on a helicopter and land in the jungle. They are welcomed by a squad of gunfire-happy kidnappers who seem to have been expecting their arrival. Is it possible that there is a traitor in their ranks or is it all just a coincidence? I'm afraid you'll have to watch the film to find out.  While not as action-packed or explosion-heavy as most Filipino actioners of the period, director/screenwriter Frances "Jun" Posadas (THEY CALL HIM BRUCE LEE - 1979; WILD CATS ATTACK! - 1981) manages to hold the viewer's attention thanks to some bloody shootouts and comedy relief, usually at the expense of Kimoporo, who can't seem to keep his kimono on and exposes his naked ass on one occasion. He also tries to sell members of his squad fake gold jewelry (apparently fake gold turns black when you dunk it in vinegar) every chance he gets. While WILD FORCE may lack the excitement level of it's brethren, it does contain some unusual set pieces to distinguish itself, such as the scene where Kimoporo, whose knee has been shattered by enemy gunfire, commits suicide by throwing himself off a cliff so he doesn't slow down the rest of his squad, who want to carry him, but he knows that if they do, they will not reach Dr. Johnson in time. While the film does drag in spots, it conveys enough heart and soul between the squad members (especially between Hercules and Kimoporo), as well as scenes of female nudity (most notably when Barbara is gang-raped by three kidnappers), torture and gun violence to keep audiences entertained. It may not be one of the better Filipino action films, but I have seen much worse. Also starring Robert Talby, Danny Riel, Ben Morro, Nick Alladin, Hasmin Hassan and Roy Flores. Never legitimately available on U.S. home video, the print I viewed was sourced from a British VHS tape. Not Rated.

WONDER WOMEN (1973) - You gotta love a film that begins with a PG-rating MPAA title card and then the first shot shown is a bunch of beautiful topless women swimming in a pool. Ah, the good, old 70's. God bless 'em! All these girls are then knocked-out with tranquilizer darts and kidnapped by a group of scantily dressed kung-fu women. These same women also kidnap an entire male polo squad, a famous black basketball player and a champion jai alai player. All these kidnapees are shipped in airtight coffins to the secret island compound of Dr. Tsu (Nancy Kwan; WALKING THE EDGE - 1983), who is working on an immortality formula by transplanting the brains and other organs of famous people into the cloned bodies of her own design. Secret agent Mike Harber (producer Ross Hagen; ACTION U.S.A. - 1989) is sent to Manila to investigate the disappearance of the jai alai player. Lloyds of London offers Mike 20% of the player's $500,000 insurance policy if he can find him in one week's time. Mike agrees and begins his investigation, while Dr. Tsu sends her second-in-command, Gregorious (a fully-haired Sid Haig; THE WOMAN HUNT - 1972), to interview a potential customer, an aging Howard Hughes-like germ phobic named Mr. Paulson (Tony Lorea), who wants a new immortal body impervious to germs. After agreeing to give up half his fortune for the new body, Mr. Paulson is shipped to Dr. Tsu's island compound for the operation. Meanwhile, Dr. Tsu's all-female assassination/kidnap squad, which includes Linda (Maria De Aragon; THE CREMATORS - 1972), Laura (Roberta Collins; THE BIG DOLL HOUSE - 1971), Vera (Claire Hagan, Ross' real-life wife) and Maggie (Shirley Washington; BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN - 1974), amuse themselves by making love to the kidnapped donors before their organs are removed. Mike, working with insurance investigator Lorenzo (Tony Lorea again) and taxi driver Lapu-Lapu (Vic Diaz; TOO HOT TO HANDLE - 1976), begin making progress in their investigation, which leads to many shoot-outs (Mike favors using a sawed-off shotgun), fistfights and car chases. Dr. Tsu sends Linda to seduce and kill Mike, but he catches on rather quickly and makes Linda tell him the location of Dr. Tsu's compound. Once on the island, Mike is captured rather easily by the all-girl security crew (I wouldn't put up much of a fight either!). Dr. Tsu gives Mike a tour of her transplant facility, where she shows him her collection of decapitated heads and other organs waiting for transplant, as well as showing him her dungeon full of failed experiments and her "brain sex" machine, where he and Dr. Tsu have sex without touching each other. To make a long story short, Linda falls for Mike's charms, helps him and the other kidnapees escape and sets loose the caged freaks to cause a diversion. Mike, Linda and the jai alai player escape, as does Dr. Tsu (who disappears in a cloud of smoke), which sets up a sequel that unfortunately never materialized.  This entertaining actioner, directed by Robert Vincent O'Neill (THE PSYCHO LOVER - 1970; BLOOD MANIA - 1970; ANGEL - 1983) and written by Lou Whitehill, is a colorful, fast-moving flick that takes us to various Philippines locations (including a slow-motion cockfight; a car chase down the streets of Manila; and various nightclubs), shows us plenty of women in various states of undress (there's no way in hell that this film would get a PG rating today) and gives us plenty of violence, including gunfights, chases and fights. The film even tosses in a little sci-fi/horror into the mix when Dr. Tsu's "failures" escape from their cages and begin attacking Dr. Tsu and her underlings in the finale. Ross Hagen, who has had a long and varied career in low-budget genre films, has never been much of an actor, but he makes a serviceable action hero, shooting, chasing and fighting the bad guys while bedding the women (he has a long fight/chase scene with Maria DeAragon that is one of the film's highlights). Don't get me wrong, WONDER WOMEN (also known as THE DEADLY AND THE BEAUTIFUL) is mindless entertainment, but it is fun mindless entertainment. I originally saw this in theaters back in the early 70's (yeah, I'm old) with the John Ashley flick BEYOND ATLANTIS on a fun double bill. Good times that most kids today will sadly never experience. Also starring Joonee Gamboa, Gail Hansen and Eleanor Siron. Originally available on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and not available on DVD, although it's available on VHS & DVD-R from Something Weird Video for $10.00. Rated PG.