The most comforting aspect of these Philippine First Blood and Commando inversions is that you can always count on Mike Monty, Nick Nicholson, and Paul Vance to show up as the ubiquitously evil CIA, KGB, or General (from either the Ruskie or Yank side) with one hand over their heart — and the other in the war-profiteering honeypot.
The truth is, for as awful as these Southeast Asian namsploitation’ers can get, they are sociopolitical eye openers. Here, in the U.S., we safely experienced the Vietnam War that raged between November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975, as “Big Three” network evening news broadcasts; the peoples of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia lived it — in real time. And those horrors spilled into the islands of Indonesia. So, while hokey, these films do you give an understanding of how Indonesians viewed the western outsiders: as plutocrats. For the Americans, and even the Russians, not only screw each other, but themselves — with the “freedom” of the region on the bottom of the political agendas.
However . . . you think us Yanks get it bad in these movies: the Russians get it worse. According to No Dead Heroes, aka War Machine and Commando Massacre, the Russians have complete and total control of Central America, as they make their way up through Mexico and, eventually, into Texas (Chuck Norris’s Invasion, U.S.A ripping). All Russians hate god. All Russian men perpetually rape women. Russians will kill anyone and everyone, the young and the infirm be damned. Do they love their children too, Sting? Eh, maybe. But they do hate all the non-Russian kiddies.
“Ack. What are you doing? Political insights in a review of a Philippine war flick?”
Yeah, you’re right. Back to the mindless drivel.
First off: I am burnt out on my PWF binge this week. You know the “plot” of these films, by now, right? And Sony did a pretty decent job in the art and copywriting departments with the VHS marketing: so read the sleeve for the plot.
No, I can’t be that remiss in my reviewing duties. Besides, that copy could use some simplification.
So, we have an over-the-top Russian General conducting KGB experiments at a Vietnam prison camp. And we send in Richard Sanders and Harry Cotter (Max Thayer and John Dresden) to save the prisoners from the insane experiments. What’s “insane” about them: VC operatives are supplying Americans for the Russians to stick microchips into their brains (Hey, it’s the Apple-DOS ’80s*) to turn them into “robot assassins” via a Russian agent’s wristwatch controller.
Natch, Cotter’s not very good at his black-ops missions and wet work assignments, since he — as do all of our heroes in these Philippine war flicks, for we’d have no “plot” to speak of — is captured. Of course, he’s implanted with a chip.
Flash forward ten years . . .
Cotter — after “a command” to kill his family — is sent out on assassination missions, such as to kill the Pope and, eventually, the President of the United States. Of course, we don’t have the budget for anything to be shot in the U.S. or at the Vatican, so his Holiness conveniently tours the oppressed believers of El Salvador, aka the jungles on the outskirts of Milan. When the plan is discovered, the only man for the job is the only man who “thinks” like Cotter, which is his old friend and fellow soldier, Richard Sanders, from that botched mission from ten yahrens ago.
So, in addition to First Blood, Commando, Missing in Action, and Platoon, we’re in a pinch of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren’s Universal Soldier, along with a dash of the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate — which you most likely know for the 2004 remake with Denzel Washington, but this one pinches from the John Frankenheimer version made in 1962 with Frank Sinatra.
So, all of the expected spliced-in-clips from other films, awful dubbing, poor editing, distorted music, out-of-place sound effects that sound nothing like the actual weapon portrayed, dialog that cuts off cold before an actor can finish a sentence, ensues. It’s like a mixed-up baffle-job of the Alfonzo Brescia Italian Space Opera variety: only we are not in space and Uncle Al didn’t make it (we love ol’ Al’s Star Wars rips!).
On the upside: this one does bring on the blood. There’s so many bodies dropping, you start to lose count. Which is why we’re here in the first place: the blood and hut explosions. Get the hell out of here with that “plot” and “acting” nonsense.
Now, lets get down to what’s under the VHS sleeve.
Our director, Junn P. Cabreira, aka the Americanized J.C Miller, amassed 42 directing and 10 writing credits in a career that stretched back to 1974. But none of those mostly Filipino/Tagalog-titled films — even in the product-rabid VHS ’80s — received widespread distribution beyond their Indonesian homelands. Sure, there’s a few English-titled films that might have hit the Western drive-in circuits, possibly even home video shelves, with titles such as The Deadly Rookies (1978; starring Willy Milan!), The Tiger and the Lady (1979; starring 380-credits strong Romy Diaz), Cover Girls and Hotel House Detective (both 1981; with 600-credits Indonesian leading man Eddie Garcia), and Dope Godfather (1983, 200-credits Vic Vargas). Then there’s something called Eastwood and Bronson (1989) that, based on the title — and the fact that Indonesia “matinee idols” Richard Gomez and Joey Marquez channel Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson in a rip of an U.S. “buddy cop” film — I want to see it even more (Magsalita tungkol sa demonyo! As of October 2021 — several months after writing this — there’s a non-dubbed copy on You Tube! Mahusay!).
What helps this Rambo-rip entry is that it was made specifically for distribution outside of Indonesia with English-speaking audiences — especially the Rambo-swamped U.S. — in mind. While they were not “stars,” well, they are at B&S About Movies, we have Max Thayer (Planet of Dinosaurs, No Retreat, No Surrender 2) and John Dresden (Big Bad Mama II) as our John Rambo and John Matrix stand-ins. Both actors struggled for a foothold in American TV and films, only managing bit parts, but forged a fruitful co-starring and leading man career in Indonesian cinema with roles in Cirio H. Santiago’s Final Mission (coming this week, search for it), Teddy Page’s Phantom Soldiers (coming this week, look for it; we are writing ahead, here), and the Cameron Mitchell-starring Raw Force (nope, you’re on your own, we can’t watch them all).
But thanks to Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Chuck Norris — and to a lesser extent, Oliver Stone with Platoon — igniting a cottage industry in Indonesia, we will remember Junn P. Cabreira the best — well, the only film, really — for his Rambo Namsplotation entry.
Ugh. Not again. We had freebie ready to go and now it’s gone. Thank goodness for watching early and taking notes in my ol’ spiral notebook. Yeah, there’s a couple other free streams out there, but the links are iffy: just don’t do it. And that’s too bad, as I like this one and I think you will to, as it is one of the better Rambo clones, courtesy of Max Thayer and John Dresden, along with the familiar faces of Mike Monty, Nick Nicholson, and Paul Vance. Eh, give this 7 minute clip a spin to see if you want to go the full (Mike) monty.
*More A.I tomfoolery with these features!