It's Bruno Mattei. It's Reb Brown. It's Christopher Connelly. It's Brent Huff. It's Richard Harris. Hang on, Richard Harris? Richard fucking Harris? What the hell is going on in the world were Bruno Mattei is directing Richard Harris? Jesus H Christ.
And that's all I've got to say for this intro, let's get on with the films.
Tonight's Zombie Club was bought to you buy Jim in association with Richard Harris in a Bruno Mattei movie. Whatever next?
Strike Commando (1987)
Plot While operating behind enemy lines, Sgt. Mike Ransom learns of a Russian presence in North Vietnam.
Jim First up then is Strike Commando, which is a film that has been crying out for a Zombie Club viewing for as long as I can remember. We've always had a love hate relationship with Bruno Mattei here at Zombie Club, and to be fair these two movies are going to do nothing to change that.
Strike Commando opens with Reb Brown and his other, err, Strike Commandos storming an enemy placement and planting loads of explosives. Then it all goes tits up, one of them is spotted, generic Indo-Asian bad guy guards start shooting, one goes nuts blowing a whistle ("He loves that whistle!" - Zomblee) and Chris Connelly sets off the explosives early killing nearly everyone. Except Reb Brown of course, he escapes and soon finds himself surrounded by white-faced tribal people all chanting "American!".
Anyway, from there Reb finds a dead parachutist with a radio, so he rings in that he's okay ("In the blue zone with red company 20 clicks north?" - Zomblee) and they send a helicopter to get him. Cue a quite ridiculous scene with a helicopter gunner repeatedly shooting the same bunch of bad guys (probably the same bunch of bad guys from the opening scene, let's face it) before they finally pick Reb up and get on with the rest of the movie.
Basically from here on in the movie is all about Reb defending a village from some Vietcong, and there's also some Russians involved and, um, something about revealing the traitor in their midst. There's the usual stuff you'd expect from what's essentially a Rambo rip off - a torture scene, more helicopters, a scene where Reb unloads a shed load of ammo into a hut for no reason, a sequence with a boat, a grenade launcher and a bridge that we all thought was rubbish, and a big final fight between Reb and the big Russian that is one of the biggest let downs ever - there's no choreography at all, they just fight like fat kids in a playground. But despite that, Strike Commando is a lot of fun to watch. It's so ineptly filmed and edited but there's a lot of unintentional humour that makes the movie thoroughly entertaining, and Mattei leaves no stone unturned in the action movie cliche stakes - there's even a scene where Reb chucks a bunch of grenades strung together on to a boat with only one pin pulled and they all blow up - brilliant!
Rawshark said at one point "He's just coming under random fire from all over the place!", and that kinda sums the movie up. Zomblee was also obviously impressed - "It's everything I expected.". Quite.
"Shut up and pass the shears."
Rawshark Mr Mattei has previously given us his visions, or rip-offs as we like to call them here at Zombie Club, of films such as Aliens and The Terminator (see Shocking Dark) and Jaws (see Cruel Jaws), and now the man returns to our hallowed movie nights with his version(s) of Rambo: First Blood Part 2, kicking off with Strike Commando 1 - the ‘1’ is optional by the way.
In this film, Reb Brown plays Green Beret Sgt Mike Ransom, a man operating behind enemy lines in North Vietnam with his small band of elite soldiers. After a fairly exciting opening attack on a military base (our guest Jon was initially misguided with his ”you can always tell the quality of a film if it starts with a fence-cutting scene” comment, although to be fair Jon hadn’t seen a Bruno Mattei film before), the mission soon goes to pot and Ransom and his team are lucky to make it back to base.
However, it’s not long before they’re sent off out on another mission that also fails (what sort of Green Berets are these muppets?) and Ransom is captured and held in a POW camp by Russian KGB man Jakoda (Alex Vitale). Whilst there, Ransom discovers his mate Col. Radek (Christopher Connelly) is also a Russian spy which makes Ransom mad, and although he doesn’t quite turn green, he does escape with a girl and swears revenge…
Mattei has never been known for his convincing filmmaking, and Strike Commando is no exception. Bad acting, bad action, directing and editing, yet there is something strangely enjoyable about watching men running around the jungle playing a kind of primary school variation of Action Man whilst yelling at the top of their lungs. The final topless fist fight is quite funny, and you can’t really knock a film too much for having a flying head butt (which did make all four of us cheer loudly in a Sylvester Stallone ”mwuaargh!!” way).
And let’s face it, the final scene is pretty special – as a hand grenade is forced into the baddie’s mouth leading to a pretty cool body explosion and Ransom nicely catching the flying metal teeth (”Russian dentists, make some pretty good dentures” before walking off screen whilst reciting the whole ”Any relationship to any persons living or dead, especially dead…” spiel. Yeah, as if that’s going to stop Stallone suing!
”I'll break your back, Americanski”.
Zomblee Strike Commando One, as I like to call it, is indeed everything I expected it to be. And if you have a weakness for rickety, low budget actioners then you're in for a good time, as Reb Brown AKA Mike Ransom kicks Vietcong arse in Shrewsbury. Or somewhere like that. What's 'Reb' short for anyway guys? Rebert? I'm sure Bruno Mattei didn't really care about this, but you never know. Chances are, he was just looking forward to embracing the pure 1980sness of that grenade-in-mouth moment at the end. I always enjoy a good grenade-in-mouth scene myself - remember when Rutger Hauer did that to evil Mcnasty Gene Simmons in Wanted Dead or Alive? Brilliant. I haven't seen that since I was about 15, and I still remember more about it than Strike Commando. Odd. But that's Bruno Mattei movies for you I guess.
So Rebert Brown goes into the jungle, then comes out of the jungle, then goes back into the jungle - is that what happens? Of course, he's completely BADASS and shouts and screams as much as humanly possible, wiping out about three and a half thousand human lives in the process. He also embraces moments of tenderness, you know, just to show that he's not all brawn (Reb Brawn?) and that he can really act. Which of course he can't.
The so-bad-it's-good stakes are high with this one, but then again that's what you often get with Mattei. Sometimes you just have to be grateful that they took it all as seriously as they obviously did.
Director Bruno Mattei
Cast Reb Brown
Runtime 90 mins
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Strike Commando 2 (1988)
Plot Michael Ransom's Vietnam squad leader, Vic Jenkins, is captured by terrorists demanding ten million dollars worth of diamonds in return for his release.
Zomblee Rip-off merchant extraordinaire Bruno Mattei returned in 1988 to give the worldwide enthusiasts of utter crapolla exactly what they they wanted: Strike Commando 2. It was quite a busy year for Mattei. Always Mr Prolific (or 'El Prolifico' as I like to call him), he managed to vomit no less than three additional titles in the same 12 months, with Sortis de Route, Zombi 3, and Born to Fight. No doubt you, good reader, will have viewed all of these titles on numerous occasions, when you're done punching yourself in the face with a massive hammer. That's because you know what's good for you. Or something. I don't know, maybe I'm just avoiding talking about Strike Commando 2. Do I have to? Shit. Here goes...
Shot in the Philippines (where else i ask you!), this sequel sees Brent Huff sent into the Vietnam jungle to rescue his old commander from dodgy Vietnamese looking drug peddlers. But things are not quite as they seem, because said kidnappee happens to be none other than Richard Harris. Yes, that Richard Harris, the same Irish actor who played Cromwell, King Arthur, and of course English Bob (from The Unforgiven). And now here he is, sweating and drinking his merry way around the jungle for Bruno Mattei, which is really quite sad. It's comforting to know that his career didn't continue on a downhill trajectory after this experience. I'll tell you a few other things about Richard Harris too - once, when I was watching Orca: The Killer Whale, oh hang on. I'm getting side tracked again. It's just too tempting, you see.
So, tits up it all goes, as Huff is caught, tortured and God knows what else, though you can safely assume that whatever happens, you've seen it in another movie, shot more convincingly and with better actors. But don't let that put you off. Actually, feel free to let it put you off, life is too short. Were there really ninjas in this movie? And did I really say "Ninjiana Jones"? That's not bad actually. Unlike Strike Commando 2.
Sorry, I can't remember hardly any of this. It was too long ago and it was utter rubbish.
Rawshark Yes, somehow Strike Commando managed to be rented and watched by enough misguided fools and action-junkies, that a sequel was greenlit by producer Franco Gaudenzi who brought Mattei back to the jungle for some more Ransom action.
No return for Reb Brown this time around though, as he is replaced by Brent (Nine Deaths of the Ninja) Huff and joined, bizarrely enough, by English legend Richard Harris. Seriously, whoever would have thought that Richard Harris once needed alcohol so badly he would willingly accept a role in a Bruno Mattei movie! That’s what four years out of work will do for you. Luckily Harris got back in the saddle with proper movies only four years later when Clint Eastwood took pity on him and cast him in Unforgiven and balance was restored to the world of crappy Italian rip-off movies.
Anyway, back to the dross, as Strike Commando 2 opens with one of the longest, most rubbish slow-motion shots ever as a guy helps the new ‘Huff’ Ransom out of the water. Turns out, someone is holding Ransom’s old squad leader, Vic Jenkins, hostage and they’re demanding a ransom – but what they get is certainly not the Ransom they were expecting.
In all honesty, Brent Huff’s not as bad / good as Reb Brown was in the original, a point not lost on Jim who spotted quite early on that ”Huff’s not got it man”. Ransom does manage to get Jenkins back, but then soon loses him again soon after a strange Raiders of the Lost Ark drinking game (first to belch loses) when a Russian KGB agent wearing glasses (looking incredibly like Major Arnold Toht) turns up with four ninjas (”It’s Ninjiana Jones!” - Zomblee).
So, not content with ripping off both Rambo and Raiders, Mattei then goes for the third R and incorporates Romancing The Stone as Ransom hooks up with 80s bimbo Mary Stavin and tries to buy Jenkins back with some diamonds. Blah blah blah, Jenkins then turns out to be a baddie, blah blah blah, Ransom wins, the end.
Funnier than the first (Mattei uses both slow-motion explosions and sped-up fight sequences, lending the final fight scene a hilariously bad Keystone Cops feel), but not as enjoyable, this is only really recommended so that you can one day say that, yes, you did once see Richard Harris dress like Klaus Kinski in a Bruno Mattei movie. The world of Italian B-movies never fails to amaze.
”You can’t kill me. You owe me your life.”
Jim Yeah, whereas Strike Commando is a really fun, badly-made jungle romp of an action movie, Strike Commando 2 is more, well, it's just shit really, and it's not often you open a Zombie Club write up with a statement that's quite as final as that, but it's the cold hard truth.
The plot goes something like this. Brent Huff takes over as the lead Johnny Ransom and is hired by some guy called Roeg to find, get this, Richard Harris, in obviously the lowest point in his career. And he finds him, by stealing scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Yes, first off there's a scene with a drinking, sorry, belching competition that is interrupted by a Nazi turning up with some henchmen. Unbelievable. Then there's a getaway scene with Huff driving a truck with bad guys in the back, and they try to climb round the outside of the truck - ring any bells? He even throws them over the bonnet and they pull at the radiator spokes.
Anyway, there's ninjas, loads of running time padding slow mo ("I feel like I’m watching it at normal speed but that I'm on some kind of weird drug" - Zomblee), something about diamonds and another double cross, and loads of other stuff I obviously couldn't be bothered to remember. I think I switched off quite early with this piece of crap, after the opening scene of Roeg hiring Ransom that is literally filmed in someone's living room with a fixed position camera and no editing, it looks like a home video. And then when I click Mattei has entered the absolutely no shame stage of his career, that was that.
At least a bad guy goes down by having his face rammed in to a pile of coke, that's good to see. ("Always does the trick!" - Rawshark) but in truth this is one to stay away from.
"That's the most ridiculous slow mo scene ever, isn't it?"
Director Bruno Mattei
Cast Brent Huff
Runtime 95 mins
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So, one really fun, badly-made jungle romp of an action movie and one really shit movie that rips off Raiders of the Lost Ark and has Richard Harris in it. What do you fucking know? Looking on the bright side, there can't possibly be many more Bruno Mattei movies we haven't screened yet, and thank Christ for that.
Tune in next time, when I'm sure we'll be watching a load more rubbish.
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