Strike Commando (1987)
Director: Bruno Mattei
Writers: Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragrasso
Starring: Reb Brown, Christopher Connelly and Louise Kamsteeg

The Plot: Sgt. Michael Ransom (Reb brown) is part of an elite unit known as The Strike Commandos. While investigating a camp of North Vietnamese during a covert operation, Ransom and his team are double-crossed by Col. Radek (Christopher Connelly) who sets off a series of explosives within the rebel base before Random and his crew were due back at the rendezvous point. The entire Strike Commando force are blown to bits, except for Ransom who is only knocked into a nearby river. As he floats down stream, he eventually stumbles upon a group of friendly natives who inform him of a Russian force making its way into Vietnam. When he manages to escape via a helicopter, the poor Vietnamese locals who helped him are captured. Ransom heads back home to confront Col. Radek but is given the opportunity to head right back to Vietnam as a rogue agent in order to discover proof of the Russian involvement within Vietnam. While doing this Ransom must also track down those who helped him and free them from captivity.

The Review
Have you seen Space Mutiny? That’s a good question for the start of any film review really, considering the reputation it has for being one of the worst films of all time, but in the case of Strike Commando it’s even more apropos due to it featuring legendary thespian Reb Brown (who also lead the stellar cast of Space Mutiny) in the role of our titular “Strike Commando”. There’s no doubt about it, this was a project just begging for a review here on Varied Celluloid. A lone-military-man sort of action caper in the same vein as First Blood Part II, Missing in Action or the utterly atrocious The Deadly Prey, this is a title filled to the brim with b-movie pastiche and all around incompetence… which is everything one could possibly hope for in a title like this!

Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragrasso are responsible for some of the worst films ever made. Both while working on their own and when working together, their work is universally dreadful but occasionally between the two they were able to land on a few good ideas that were fleshed out into some truly magnificent pieces of b-cinema. Strike Commando is the rare case where these two were actually able to plagiarize enough and appeal enough to the lowest common denominator that they ended up with a movie that perfectly encapsulates all that is great in trash cinema. This is a film that can in no real way be classified as “well made”, but is certainly one hundred percent entertainment. From the braindead writing and the apparent lack of communication between filmmakers and actors, Strike Commando turns out to be a fantastic party movie. A movie that plays things as straight as they can get, but in doing so seals its fate in the great annals of b-movie history.

There are many high (or low, as it were) quality selling points that will no doubt continue to lead Strike Commando into cult status. If I were to choose one shining attribute that keeps this one afloat, ahead of the rest, it has to be the cast. Two men in particular lead this films charge towards the cinematic pantheon. Christopher Connelly, who was known to the mainstream world best as an actor who starred on the soap opera Peyton Place for all five seasons, would make an indelible impression on the genre-film world with his starring roles in both Rugero Deodatto’s Raiders of Atlantis and of course our film here today. Although being a key cast member on Peyton Place is a big deal, I would argue that cult film aficionados likely endear the man more in their hearts than any other group out there.

Connelly plays Col. Redek, who doesn’t get to stand out in the plot as much as Michael Ransom (Reb Brown), but his grizzly performance is startling for a production such as this. He seems to fluctuate at times between simply being upset, to frothing at the mouth with anger. These are the two dimensions that he generally goes between, and he actually makes for an intimidating onscreen character. Reb Brown, our white knight of the film, should be noted for two very different reasons. First of all, the man had an impressive physique, there’s no getting past that. A body that was built for pro-wrestling, he certainly personified the ideal of an eighties action film star. The other notable attribute that Brown brought to the screen was his very unique vocal inflections. If you’ve seen the man in Space Mutiny, then I guarantee you know precisely what I’m talking about.

His scream, which is featured prominently throughout Strike Commando, comes off as sounding slightly whiny but is thrown out with such total conviction that it becomes completely hilarious. Although there are some scenes where you can maybe question Brown’s interest in the role, he subdues that train of thought completely when he lets out one of his grunting blasts of vocal-ity (if that wasn’t a word, it is now). When he’s not yelling or making crazy faces for the camera, he is actually a charismatic leading man. That doesn’t mean he’s a tremendous actor, but he is the perfect sort of actor for this kind of role. Although one has to imagine that it was difficult to shoot such a movie in the Philippines, with an Italian film crew no less, he does a fairly decent job at stabilizing the movie with his macho performance. However, even I have to admit that his attempts at serious drama (Reb Brown literally CRIES during one scene with a young boy dying in his arms) are less than successful.

The action in the movie is handled fairly well, considering the budget, and is probably one of the standout features of the movie aside from the cast. There are plenty of explosions to go around and even some VERY obvious miniature sets that are blown to smithereens as well. The budgetary restraints certainly hold this one back a lot, but that’s part of the fun. The Philippine setting is seemingly tropic and doesn’t have the same look that a Vietnamese backdrop would, which leads to many more unintentional laughs. However, the low budget texture is far from being the key to this one’s unintentional hilarity. Truth be told, there is no “key” feature here. It’s all just so patently ridiculous that it becomes amazing. A movie that will guarantee cries of “JAKOTA!” afterward and will cause you to pontificate on Disneyland as well as cotton candy mountaintops! Sorry, after watching Strike Commando viewers will feel obligated to cash in on all of the ridiculous dialogue.

The Conclusion
Offensive in its absurdity, but brilliant in its stupidity, Strike Commando is pure entertainment in a can. Obviously it won’t be for all audiences, but if you have a sense of humor then chances are you might get something out of this one. Formulaic and beautiful because of it, I can’t help but give the movie a four out of five.