MARK GREGORY WEEK: Tan Zan Ultimate Mission (1988)

Terrorists are making genetic experiments on kidnapped girls. And Professor Larson has a dream. That dream is probably your nightmare, as he wants to create a master race to rule the world. Luckily, some scientific organizations in Asia and Europe have hired a group of mercenaries to kill everyone. Yay!

But wait! This movie is a North Korean/Italian co-promotion! Kim Il-Sung actually allowed this movie to be made in his country and, well, it’s a total piece of shit.

That said — Mark Gregory is the bad guy, the leader of the terrorists. And who is being paid $65,000 by FSR (Final Solution Research) to stop him? Frank Zagarino — Striker himself! Plus, Sabrina Siani (ConquestThrone of Fire) came along too. Did you know her mother used to come to nearly every set she was on and get in the way? Well, she also encouraged Jess Franco to film her daughter naked, so there’s that.

There is also a veritable army of North Korean extras ready to do whatever it takes to make this entertaining. They failed!

There is one goofball scene where Lou, a commando, talks about how he spent the last year with the Bolshoi Ballet and how he had to kill a ballet dancer who was ready to stop disarmament talks between Russia and the U.S. Not only does this sound like the kind of script conversation that Quentin Tarantino used to get paid to write (like that discussion about the Silver Surfer that comes out of nowhere in Crimson Tide) and a way better movie than what I suffered through.

But Mark Gregory is in it! That has to count for something.

An interesting trivia note: the evil Professor Larson was played by Charles Robert Jenkins, a United States Army soldier who lived in North Korea from 1965 to 2004 after deserting his unit and crossing the Korean Demilitarized Zone. He immediately regretted this decision and was treated poorly for years. In 1982, Jenkins appeared as Dr. Kelton, painted to be the mastermind behind the Korean War, in the film Unsung Heroes. This was the first evidence to the Western world that he was alive, but the U.S. government did not acknowledge this fact until 1996. He was given a Japanese wife, who was allowed to go back to Japan and he eventually was able to go there, where he spent the rest of his life.

The country of Japan asked for the U.S. to pardon him for treason, but they refused. Jenkins put his conscience to rest by reporting to Camp Zama on Patriot Day, September 11, 2004. He showed up in full uniform with all of his medals and saluted the military police.

On November 3, he pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and aiding the enemy, but denied making disloyal or seditious statements. Those charges were dropped and he was sentenced to 30 days in the brig. He was released early for good behavior and received a dishonorable discharge.

He published a biography in Japan called To Tell the Truth, which was re-published nearly a decade later in the U.S. as The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea. He died in Japan on December 11, 2017.

His story would make a much better movie than Tan Zan: Ultimate Mission. But you can still watch this movie for free on Amazon Prime.

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