THE EXCELLENT EIGHTIES: Delta Force Commando (1988)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Freese contributes to many different magazines, zines and websites such as Videoscope, Rue Morgue, Drive-in Asylum, Grindhouse Purgatory, Horror and Sons and Lunchmeat VHS. (His most recent piece, about the 80’s video distributor Super Video, can be found here). He also co-hosts the Two Librarians Walk into a Shelf podcast so he has an excuse to expose library patrons to ninja and slasher films. 

An unnamed terrorist leads a team of mercenaries onto a United States military base in Puerto Rico to steal a nuclear weapon. Commando Lt. Tony Turner witnesses the gang’s getaway. His pregnant wife is killed in the crossfire.

Vowing vengeance for his murdered wife and unborn child, Turner immediately commandeers Delta Force pilot Capt. Samuel Beck’s Mercedes and directs him at gun point to follow the goons. From this moment forward, Turner and Beck follow the rebels to Nicaragua and senselessly blow up so much property there is little left for Col. Keitel and the Delta Force calvary to sift through when they finally catch up with the rogue commandos.

For me, Delta Force Commando is perfect Saturday afternoon entertainment. It is an excellent example of the kind of movies I would rent with my brothers on VHS and devour over the weekend. All the thrills we craved to burn through a lazy afternoon are delivered here by the truckload: non-stop action, the obligatory scene where the hero packs his duffle bag with weapons, torture with some wires and a Diehard car battery, multiple shootouts, hand to hand smack-downs, a scar-faced villain, throwing knife mayhem, sling-shot mayhem, crossbow mayhem, macho one-liners, bodies destroyed in meaty bullet hits and copious, glorious explosions. They blow up everything in this movie: cars, buses, jet fighters, helicopters, trucks, bodies, bridges, buildings… I lost count after forty-three explosions, and every last one of them was old school gunpowder and gasoline pyrotechnics, no doubt pulled off by a pyro-effects wizard, probably missing a finger or two.

Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (Black Caesar) as Beck and Bo Svenson (Walking Tall Part 2) as Keitel have their names above the title, but Brett Clark as Turner, is the real star of the film. Like Michael Sopkiw before him, and Richard Anthony Crenna after him, Clark was given the chance of headlining an Italian production made for the international film market in the hopes of becoming a superstar like Clint Eastwood. Clark will be instantly recognizable to you, but you might not know him by name. We’ve been watching him since he first played one of the Camp Mohawk basketball players in Meatballs. He made all kinds of daytime soap and movie appearances. He’s maybe best known for his role of Nick “The Dick” in the Tom Hanks comedy Bachelor Party. (And if you aren’t familiar with “Mr. Dick,” you just need to watch Bachelor Party.)

Mark Gregory essays the role of the unnamed bad guy. Gregory is probably best known for his portrayal of post-apocalyptic hero Trash in 1990: The Bronx Warriors and the sequel, Escape from the Bronx. Here he sports some scabby facial make-up, short hair and a never wavering maniacal smile. Of all his performances I’ve seen, this is the first time Gregory appears to really be having fun with his character.

Director Frank Valenti (a nod to former president of the MPAA Jack Valenti, perhaps?) is really Pierluigi Ciriaci. Long time Italian movie scholars don’t need me to tell them writer David Parker Jr. is really Dardano Sacchetti.

To understand my appreciation for this flick, you really have to understand the era in which it was made. The 80’s were an amazing time of every kind of movie getting made, many receiving a theatrical release and almost all of them eventually showing up on home video or cable. One hit would begat dozens of similar follow-ups, from all over the world. Delta Force Commando was one of the many films that came into creation thanks to the always in demand action movie market and the success of films like Rambo: First Blood Part II, Commando and Missing in Action.

These films would get made, usually on low budgets, have a few recognizable stars, lots of action and sell tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of videotapes to the vid stores across the country. When Vista released this film on VHS, it was in every neighborhood video shoppe, in the new release section, right there next to 1988’s Rambo III.

For me, Delta Force Commando is way more entertaining than Rambo III. Of the two, Rambo III has some stunning action sequences, yes, but the characters talk too much, there’s too much plot and story and worst yet, the movie has a “message.” On the other hand, Delta Force Commando doesn’t have a “message” to bog down the action, and we can just munch popcorn and cheer on Lt. Turner as he turns the men responsible for his pregnant wife’s death inside out.

I had the opportunity to ask Dardano Sacchetti about his involvement with this film, as it is a film in which not a lot seems to be known about it. He had this to say, “The Ciriaci brothers had a supermarket and an oven that made bread in a small town near Rome. The oldest was very rich and the youngest wanted to be a director. My agent told me they would pay well for my script. I talked to them and they ended up making films from three of my scripts, but they did not come up roses. I only did it for the money, which turned out not to be very much, in a cloud of cigarette smoke and lots of Vodka.”

As far as the similarity of this title with a Cannon release around the same time, Sacchetti offers, “I believe my Delta Force was written a few months before the American one with Chuck Norris.”

When you’re in the mood for just watching a couple old-school guys blow up a lot of stuff in the name of vengeance, Delta Force Commando is a perfect pick.

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