The Excellent Eighties: High Risk (1981)

Oh, the cable TV memories! It was a HUGE deal when HBO was finally offered in my neighborhood and this Stewart Raffill-directed action-comedy will forever be paired in my analog-cerebral cortex with Enzo G. Castellari’s The Inglorious Bastards. Another of my Raffill-loved flicks from my cable days of yore was 1978’s The Sea Gypsies, which also needs to find a home on a Mill Creek box set.

We unpacked Raffill’s career with our review of his Star Wars dropping that is The Ice Pirates and his studio-interfered E.T. romp-redux Mac and Me. You can learn more about Stuart Raffill’s career in the pages of Master of the Shoot ’em Ups by reading his chapter (pages 36-43) for free on Google Books.

So lets get into this flick!

While this looks like a drive-in quickie of the Crown International variety, a de rigueur studio when it comes to Mill Creek box sets, this was actually produced by Hemdale Pictures, the studio that brought you the likes of Oliver Stone’s Platoon, James Cameron’s The Terminator, and the teen-angst drama River’s Edge.

Yeah, as with The Ice Pirates and Mac and Me, Raffill didn’t catch a break with this James Brolin-fronted flick that got buried at the box office as result of being released the same week as a somewhat similar action-in-foreign lands romp: Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is Michael Douglas’s Romancing the Stone, sans the rom-com and more action. This is Rambo: First Blood Part II as a dark comedy.

James Brolin is a down on his luck documentary filmmaker who used his filmmaking credentials as a recon-scam on the military regime-backed encampment of a South American drug lord. Recruiting his cash-strapped dork-friends (Bruce “Willard” Davison (Kiss My Grits), Cleavon “Prince of Darkness” Little (FM), and TV character actor and animated voice artist Chick Vennera), the quartet plans a raid on the camp of James Coburn’s drug lord and steal the spoils.

Stockpiled with weapons purchased by Ernest “Cabbie” Borgnine (!) as an illegal weapons dealer (who’s more concerned that they don’t go hunting with the weapons and kill animals), they make their raid — while gaining the ire of mountain bandit Anthony Quinn (Stallone’s Avenging Angelo) and rescuing imprisoned American Lindsay “Bionic Woman” Wagner from jail. The real pisser of the film: twin thespians David and Richard Young (Bradley Cooper lookalikes, no?) as two retro-drug running hippies with their machine-gun mounted DC-3 coming to the rescue — all to the tune of the Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” blaring from their cockpit tape deck, machine gun turret on fire, bullets blazing.

See what I mean? This comes highly recommended! And you can watch it as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi. If you want to own a copy of High Risk, the fine folks at Mill Creek Entertainment include it on their Excellent Eighties 50-Movie Pack.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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