Philippine War Week II: Fireback (1983)

Here I go again, with my Richard Harrison squeezin’ and pleasin’. Deal with it, ye reader. . . .

Silver Star Productions. Teddy Page. Richard Harrison. Sly and Arnie ripping. So, what’s not to like? Well, each and every Southeast Asian Pacific Rim film that starred Richard Harrison also starred Jim Gaines: for by hook or by crook . . . or by stock footage . . . Harrison and Gaines will always co-star in Silver Star productions. They will. And here, Gaines is the bad-guy-who-goes-good Digger. And so . . . that ends the common sense portion of the film.

The Omega: An all-in-one machine gun, missile launcher, bazooka, and grenade launcher.

Well, not really. This one actually has a sensible story, a plot, and (minor) character development, and Harrison isn’t thespin’-expressionless driftwood as the other actors, and the proceedings lack the usual shot-through-cheese-cloth cinematography and stock footage stitching we’ve come to expect with most of the PWFs we’ve reviewed back in August and this week.

But wow. These ’80s Silver Star flicks really screwed up Richard Harrison’s career.

Harrison acted in five flicks for K.Y. Lim’s stock footage-and-everything-else-stocked celluloid factory o’ sausage: Fireback, Hunter’s Crossing, and Blood Debts, which were directed by Teddy Page, and two for Jun Gallardo: Intrusion Cambodia and Rescue Team (both of Jun’s Rambo joints are coming this week; search for ’em, ya lazy surfer). But it gave Harrison a chance to write, which he does here, as Timothy Jorge (Three Men on Fire is another of his films). But I don’t know . . . I can’t see Harrison’s years in film culminating in a screenplay like this. Perhaps he did write it. But, between the dubbing — that he had no control over, as that is not even his voice you’re hearing — and the fact Silver Star Films shot with no locked scripts and were improvising along the way, Harrison’s original intent is, mostly likely, barely on the end product.

Then Godfrey Ho came along and compounded the career problems.

Harrison contracted to make a couple of low-budget ninja films for Ho. Then Ho cut-and-pasted, as is the par for the celluloid in Southeast Asian cinema of the low-budget variety, Harrison “starring” in the films Ninja Terminator, Cobra Vs. Ninja, Golden Ninja Warrior and Diamond Nínja Force. The list goes on and on. Shame on you, Godfrey, more so than Jun and Teddy. Well, not really. We still love you guys.

Okay, so Richard Harrison is U.S. Army weapons expert Jack Kaplan — and he can MacGyver (Oy! That CBS-TV reimage sucks donkey) any liquid into a weapon. He’s captured while field-testing a new “super gun,” the Omega, that turns a man into a one-man-army. Holy Shit! Micheal Sopkiw déjà vu with Blastfighter!

Calm down, my friend. The gun ain’t around for that long.

So, Kaplan’s rescued from a Southeast Asian POW camp. But he returns to the States to find his wife Diane missing. And he comes to discover that Duffy Collins, a local gangster, kidnapped and murdered Diane after she rejected his need to rape her. And Kaplan — with a souped-up junk yard set of wheels, along with his crossbow-shotgun-bazooka armament thingy he patched together — goes after Duffy.

Oh, shit. The music that sounds like it’s clipped from Mad Max!

Jack Kaplan: An all-in-one Rambo-meets-MacGyver.

Calm down, kid. For this is no more Blastfigther than it is Max Max. But we do get a lot of Kaplan daydreamin’ and flashbackin’ to Diane bikini diving into a swimming pool. So there’s that. Yeah, we know: we are also wondering, if we are back in the States: why we are seeing so many citizens of the Philippines in this movie? Well, remember when Tom Selleck made Daughters of Satan (note how much Selleck and Harrison look alike; I think Harrison’s ol’ stache is bigger) in the Philippines — but that was actually set in the Philippines — and there were more white actors than Filipinos in that film? See? It all balances out in the end.

Anyway, Duffy has a hitman man on his payroll known as the “Man with the Golden Hand” gunning for Kaplan. And Digger (Jim Gaines, natch) is the crook who comes to help Kaplan take down Duffy while avoiding the Sheriff (Mike Monty, natch) who’s after Kaplan for murdering one of Duffy’s men. Then things go oh-so-very Tarantino with an assassin squad of ninja killers with the names of Panther, Shadow, and Cat Burglar on Kappy’s trailer — and that’s after Eve (Gwen Hung, who’s all over these movies), our femme fatale, fails at killing Kaplan. So Duffy kills her — just as Kaplan was goin’ in for the hook up.

Now Kaplan is really pissed: So he “Rambos” all of their asses from a makeshift mountain-jungle cave in a climatic battle in the woods of Somewhere, U.S.A. — with a side of Arnie to spare. Oh, and Kaplan goes full-regalia Ninja with a katana. So there’s that. Oh, and we assume they ran out of short ends and couldn’t finish the film . . . so we got this end credits epilogue to wrap up the tale:

There ain’t gonna be no rematch.
Don’t want one.

Fireback is better than I had hoped — and that’s not my blinded-by-Richard Harrison fandom. That’s not saying it’s good, just not as bad as the usual ’80s PWF Sly n’ Arnie homage. If only they kept the gun in the movie and the car was a bit more Road Warrior and we had some highway mayhem on the screen instead of the usual flailing and frolicking about in the woods.

Finally! We progressed from the-schedule-to-review process and the film uploads are still there to enjoy. You can watch Fireback on You Tube HERE and HERE.

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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