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Strike Commando

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 21 - 2011

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.

Run and Kill

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 18 - 2011

Run and Kill (1993)
Director: Billy Tang
Writers: Bryan Chang
Starring: Kent Cheng, Danny Lee and Simon Yam

The Plot: Kent Cheng plays Fatty Cheung, an overweight businessman who loves his only daughter but is constantly bossed around by his cruel wife. When he comes home early one day he discovers his wife has been having an affair with a local store owner, and he is sent into a spiral of self despair. While drinking during a night out on the town, he confides his angst with a female patron at the bar and she informs him that she has a friend who will lay a beating on his wife and her lover for only a small fee. Being drunk at the time, Fatty agrees and when he meets with the hired muscle a misunderstanding arises. While trying to tell the goon that he wants his wife “dead drunk”, the man takes it to mean that Fatty wants his wife and her lover murdered. The killer then takes all of Fatty’s money as a down-payment for the $100,000 it will take to commit the murders. The next morning, when Fatty finally makes it home he finds his wife and her lover making out yet again. As he starts to discuss the issue with his wife, a gang of killers burst through the door and proceed to murder Fatty’s wife and her lover after knocking Fatty himself unconscious. Now, with the police watching his every move as they suspect him as the killer, Fatty must also contend with the criminal organization who ordered the hit, because they want their money.

The Review
Although Category III may simply be a rating within Hong Kong, in the minds of Hong Kong film fans the term CAT III will always bring about visions of a very specific time and era. That time and era was Hong Kong during the early to mid 90’s, when the CAT III rating truly came into its own and helped produce a new wave of highly exploitative titles. Films such as The Untold Story and Naked Killer were trashy and violent, but there were also films that were light-hearted and sexy for the most part. The film we are going to be discussing today however leans more towards the trashy and violent category, but in reality it is best described as mean and harrowing. Directed by “Bloody” Billy Tang, Run and Kill is an upsetting piece of work that is sure to challenge and disturb viewers but it isn’t without merit of technical prowess. Similar to Dr. Lamb from Tang, this is a movie that doesn’t play games.

From what I have gathered from the strange phenomena that is CAT III cinema, when these movies aren’t vividly portraying topless women from all angles they are showcasing the most bizarrely violent and mean spirited ideas that the human mind can possibly conjure up. Although Billy Tang doesn’t have a massive library of shockers to choose from, the few movies that he contributed to the world of CAT III cinema has definitely made an impression on all who have watched his work. While Dr. Lamb was certainly a nasty bit of serial killer cinema, Run and Kill takes things to a whole other level of depravity. The third act is what features the majority of all violence, but after the movie is over chances are you won’t remember much else other than the final twenty minutes anyway.

Kent Cheng leads this all star cast of genre film favorites, and he does an exceptional job in a role that I never imagined seeing him in. Overweight actors in the Hong Kong film industry are relatively obscure, which is likely why you see Kent Cheng, Eric Tsang and Suet Lam popping up so much. These actors are relegated to a certain amount of onscreen punishment due to their weight and are often the butt of many “fat jokes” throughout every movie they are in. Run and Kill is no different in that regard, as we see Kent Cheng take a considerable amount of name-calling. However, Cheng manages to take all of this and craft a genuine character in the midst of all the cinematic chaos that this movie manages to throw around.

Featuring a blowout cast, Run and Kill steps up to the plate in terms of actors involved. CAT III staples and legends Simon Yam and Danny Lee both show up playing their usual psychopath and detective characters, respectively. However Kent Cheng is the real standout here as he manages to leave his regular “character actor” position behind for a little while and steps into the role of a leading man with relative ease. His performance is addictive from the start and we the audience can’t help but feel sympathy for this man as he has his heart ripped out of his chest and then stabbed with a dull butter-knife. Cheng has great onscreen chemistry with the majority of the cast, but the moments spent between he and his child are the real selling points. The two seem to get along great and we see how much this character loves his child right from the introduction. The torment and horrors that follow him become all the more aching due to this sentimental touch.

I will concede that the general plot isn’t something totally unique, that’s for sure. There are plenty of movies out there that deal with a “regular Joe” being absorbed into the world of crime, but there are few that take the parable to the extremes that Run and Kill does. That level of depravity and psychosis which seems to decorate our film today is what makes it such an interesting little film. Although it isn’t something that I am going to recommend for all audiences, due to the content, but I do have to say that there is more to the movie than simply the grit and the grime. Beautifully shot and well acted… this is a well made film, on top of being a straight up piece of disgusting trash!

I do not want to recommend this film to the gorehounds out there looking for dismemberments, as I think those audiences would be more than a little disappointed with a title such as this one. The CAT III genre isn’t one that I normally associate with extreme “gore” anyway, since most of the time the disturbing factor in these films are their ideas and not necessarily what they “show” you. Run and Kill features a bit of both, however. Never shying away from violence, but never going to the grotesque limits that many splatter movies would, Run and Kill is instead a very intense and sordid character piece that will leave you haunted and utterly destroyed by the time the credits role.

The Conclusion
I really can’t recommend this one enough. Although it’s a movie that is made for a decidedly niche audience, there are more film fans out there who would really get something out of this than you might at first think. A dark and gritty piece of work, check out Run and Kill if you’re looking for a really fantastic piece of transgressive filmmaking that will actually challenge you as a viewer.

Demon, The

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 14 - 2011

Review originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Demon (1981)
Director: Percival Rubens
Writers: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell and Craig Gardner

The Plot: This tale begins when a prowler breaks into the isolated Parker house, tying Mrs. Joan Parker up with a plastic bag over her head and running off with her fourteen year old daughter Emily. The father comes home in time to save his wife, but the prowler has his way with the daughter in the nearby forest. After days go by and the search for Emily fails, the Parkers hire retired Marine Colonel turned psychic Bill Carson who can identify the killer and find their daughter by using his telepathic powers. In the meantime, our bulky leather strapping killer picks up a ride, asphyxiates the driver and attempts to rape and murder unsuspecting young women. It seems the killer is trying to kill a sassy young kindergarten instructor named Mary, who lives with her cousin Jo who is trying to hook up with a flashy rich boy named Dean Turner. Col. Carson reveals two particular aspects about the killer: 1) he has a deadly obsession with random young women and 2) his faceless visage suggests that he is not human or is at least possessed by something evil. Knowing this and how every attempt to stop him fails with fatal results, will Mary have a chance to evade the killer once he comes for her?

The Review
When looking through obscure Slasher movies, you’ll often come across some generic titles to surprisingly entertaining Horror movies. There’s a genuine sense of reward you get when you pick up movies like Stage Fright, The Prowler, House on Sorority Row or even Joe D’Amato’s Horrible and find some creepy atmosphere or gut wrenching death scenes that make you wonder why they’re often ignored. Then there are the titles that sound generic but have no payoff to them. The ones that make you feel like an idiot after having watched it. The Demon is one of them.

I should be honest with you, dear reader, this movie doesn’t feature an actual demon; much like how the tag line to The Prey does not feature an axe wielding monster but instead a mutant beatnik played by the bad guy from Battle for Endor.

The easiest assessment would be the fact that our killer is simply possessed by a demon which is why he kills, but that information is hardly lucid in the movie itself. It is hard to say whether the killer is really a demon since there are times where we can clearly see the man’s face and hair, as well as times where he suddenly no longer wears a white Halloween (or Alice, Sweet Alice) mask and instead has white face paint on. ‘But why are you looking into this,’ you may be asking. ‘Why analyze the title and its connection to the movie?’ Why? Because that’s the only interesting thing about this movie. The Demon is a confusing, lagging, poorly shot crap-fest of an ‘80’s Slasher movie. The only demonic specification the poor chump carries is his propensity to grunt and growl and his nearly obscure distaste for midnight radio evangelists. I actually had a hard time re-watching this for a review. The structure of this failed ‘80’s Slasher Film is so broken that not even a modern day remake would fix it. This is one of those movies that you can clearly envision as a person, throwing its hands up in the air, shaking its head and failure and admitting “I just don’t know.”

We essentially follow three stories here one consisting of a brutally strong, strangulating, serial death-rapist, his plucky soon-to-be next victim’s cousin Jo and Cameron Mitchell. Rarely do these stories connect or represent any real conflict. Most of the Cameron Mitchell sections just consists of Cameron being a mysterious, but ineffective psychic as he occasionally sees the killer and how Mr. Parker wants to hunt the killer down. The Mary sections just consist of the build up to her young cousin Jo (rather than Mary), her life style and how it will be ruined once the killer finally attacks her.

The director seemed to have little idea how to make either story connect effectively, thus creating tension and conflict or make us care about any of the characters involved. Granted, some of the characters are well acted: Jennifer Holmes certainly breathes some life into the character, but despite all the screen credit she’s given, she’s given little screen time or dialogue compared to her heart struck cousin. Cameron Mitchell is pretty decent in the movie, too; he pulls the struggling psychic role off pretty well as he telepathically tries to track the killer by getting into his persona. However, it would’ve been better if he was the main character in the story and if he actually confronted the killer at one point. It would’ve felt more like a Halloween rip-off if he did, but at least HIS plot would’ve tied in with the the killer and even Mary’s plot! Plus, it’s kind of funny how he switches from being facetious to serious when he’s first introduced to the bereaved Parkers; maybe that explains why his story arc ends so abruptly and why a secondary character steals the best line in the movie.

The movie is so wildly obsessed with Mary’s cousin Jo and her relationship with Dean that the segments involving them get old fast; we spend several minutes watching these lame-brains getting to know each other through wine drinking, boat rowing and photo shootings. Ordinarily, I’d say these two characters are the build-up and the character development found in any good Horror movie. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t interesting! Sure, Dean has a back story and he’s acted fairly well, but he’s no different than Robert Taylor from the French in Action TV series (in kidding, they practically have the same back story… and why I remember that series so well I don’t know*)!! By the time the movie focuses on Jennifer Holmes’ character, there’s a very brief sense of fear and dread, but not enough to really care whether she makes it out all right.

The movie is flawed on a technical basis, too. The music consists of a relentless string quartet that goes to unbearably high pitches during the jump scares. There are rare moments where the soundtrack works, mostly in the Cameron Mitchell scenes or when Mary finally confronts the killer in the end. The lighting in the movie is quite horrible as the only real good lighting is natural light; some shots in the film were far too dark to notice any details. I kept adjusting the screen to the brightest notch on the gamut during nighttime and day-for-night scenes and I still had to squint in order to see anything. You may notice there’s very little shots of intensity or murder in the shots I picked. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to see a few shots that looked decent like close-ups of the killers claw-gloves, but because the lighting is so murky in the indoor scenes I couldn’t get a good enough shot without editing it. There are some continuity errors here and there, but nothing out-right hilarious, just confusing. There are moments where the killer is supposed to be wearing a plaster Last House on Dead End Street Mask but it’ll change to white face paint. There’s one scene near the end where Dean and Jo are in bed to which Jo says Dean has to leave, but the next scene shows them frolicking in the pool. Like I said, the continuity isn’t good, but it’s not hilariously bad, either.

Probably the biggest goof in the whole movie is when someone who has all ready been in contact with the police finds the killer and several other people know about this. So when the person gets inevitably killed by the killer… why doesn’t anyone take the initiative to get the police involved?? Seriously, the character finds the killer’s location, the killer offs him, dumps his body right where he’s staying and it’s found the next morning… What the Hell, are the police in South Africa really that dense?! After that character’s body is found, the killer stays there, too! The people who knew about the character’s going there could have easily sent more police there!! Why’d it take so long for someone in the movie to find Emily’s body? Was it just an excuse for the director to use that classic skeleton wearing a wig effect?

I will be a little fair to this movie, though: it’s not THE worst ‘80’s Slasher I’ve seen; it is ONE OF the worst ‘80’s Slasher movies out there, but it’s slightly better than The Prey. Unlike The Prey, The Demon has a few moments of intensity, mainly when Mr. Parker hunts the killer down and when Mary defends herself from the killer. In fact, the last five minutes of this movie are the most intense as Mary and the killer play a game of cat and mouse and the final scene itself is surprisingly inventive. The Demon also has its share of T&A which, again, makes it better than The Prey; Compared to another ‘80’s Slasher directed by and starring people involved in the Adult Film industry about horny young adults in the woods that featured no nudity whatsoever, The Demon certainly has the upper hand.

The Conclusion
I won’t kid you, though, The Demon is not an obscure movie tracking down, not even for Cameron Mitchell fans. I honestly can’t re-watch this movie without taking a break halfway through. I’m sure it had potential somewhere and somehow, but it certainly didn’t go very far and in short deserves to stay there.

Stinger: “Did your Extra Sensory Perception prepare you for THIS?”

*: Oh, wait, I know why I remember French in Action so well: Valérie Allain! Yuum!





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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.