BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Strike Commando (1986)

Sgt. Michael Ransom (Reb Brown, who was both Yor Hunter from the Future and Captain America) and his team of Strike Commandos are decimating a Vietnamese base, ready to blow it up real good. But one of the team is killed and alarms go off, scuttling the mission. Instead of allowing the team to come back and fight another day, the mission’s commander Colonel Radek (Christopher Connelly) orders that the explosives be set off while the Strike Commandos are on the retreat. One of Ransom’s men is killed and he’s knocked into a river.

So begins Strike Commando, a post-Rambo: First Blood Part II film directed by Bruno Mattei and written by Claudio Fragasso that lives up to everything I dreamed that it could be.

Ransom is rescued by a young boy named Lap and brought to a village to recover. There, he makes friends with a retired soldier named Le Due (Luciano Pigozzi, making this an unoffical Pag and Yor reunion!) and tells the children of the village just how amazing America — mostly Disneyland — can be.

Of course, everyone in that village is soon killed by Russians, so our hero goes back to Vietnam again, this time motivated by the need for horrible revenge. He sees his little Vietnamese friend  Lao one more time, talking him into the next life with more stories of Disneyland before unleashing absolute hell on the Russians until they threaten to kill civilians unless he surrenders.

Let me just share this dialogue with you, as Lao dies…

Lao: American… tell me… tell me about Disneyland.

Ransom: (choking back tears of rage) They got tons of popcorn there. All you gotta do is go climb a tree to go eat it. And there’s cotton candy. Mountains of it. And chocolate milk, and malts. And there’s a genie. A magic genie. And he can’t wait to grant your wishes.

Much like all post-John Rambo military films, that means it’s time to torture our hero, which includes making him stay inside a cell for months with a rotting corpse and forcing him to record a message renouncing America. Of course, it’s just words, not deeds, because in seconds Ransom is killing Russkies all over again before getting is revenge on Radek, which involves a gigantic machine gun and a grenade, all before a final battle with his nemesis Jakoda. They’ve already battled on a waterfall, Holmes and Moriarty be damned, but this time, the big bad and brutal bolshevik has metal teeth after losing all of his molars in their last battle.

This is the very same Jakoda who made sure to tell our hero, “Hey, hero. Remember that Vietnamese village? With that boy called Lao? Nice boy, wasn’t he. That’s why I decided to save him for last. He had such fragile bones.”

Oh Vincent Dawn and Clyde Anderson! Oh Bruno and Claudio! You never cease to thrill me with the madness that you throw at the screen, filling this movie with explosions, machine gun fire and Reb Brown screaming every single line of dialogue with the blazing intensity of a thousand Republican wet dreams.

If you’re wondering, “Did Bruno steal any footage to make this?” the answer is, “This is a Bruno Mattei movie.” Look for the helicopter scenes from The Last Hunter. Why pay for something when someone else has already shot it? Bruno would pay himself back by reusing footage of this movie in Cop Game.

My greatest dream is that someday, somewhere, somehow, Strike Commando and Thunder form an Italian exploitation version of The Expendables with Jake “Tiger” Sharp from Blastfighter, Paco Quernak from Hands of Steel and Nadir from Warriors of the Wasteland.

There’s a reason why Severin is my favorite label. They keep releasing movies like this and putting them out in way better quality than anyone ever thought that they’d deserve. Beyond a 2K remaster of the film — looking better than it probably did when it was originally screened — you also get interviews with Fragasso and Rossella Drudi. You can get this movie from Severin now.

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