“Very funny. You should be on the Johnny Carson show.”
— Dialog as only the Philippine film industry can dub
Teddy Page in the director’s chair. Philippines War flick mainstay Jim Gaines penning the script that he also stars in. And Gaines brings along pals Mike Monty, Nick Nicholson, and Paul Vance . . . in a Silver Star Film Company Production.
Load the tape. Let’s roll the stock music and jittery n’ wobbly opening titles and get to the explosions.
Well, unlike the last couple of films PWFs we’ve watched this week, at least this one has opening titles and credits all of the actors. But you are probably wondering who in the hell Robert Mason is. Well, Mason is another of those expatiated American actors who appeared in all of our beloved Philippine war and post-apoc flicks throughout the ’80s.
Mason is also an actor that achieved a level of Michael Sopkiw-ness in my VHS spoolin’ heart.
While Sopkiw bailed after four — better made, natch — Italian ditties (2019: After the Fall of New York being the pinnacle, IMO), Mason kept it going in these Philippine patch jobs for 30 starring roles, beginning with Willy Milan in the apoc-epic Mad Warrior. If there’s a made-in-the-Philippines actioner with the word “Commando,” “Vengeance,” “Warrior,” “Blood,” or “Thunder” in the title: Robert Mason was in it. The B&S About Movies elusivie Warriors of the Apocalypse by Bobby A. Suarez (with Roger Moore’s daughter Deborah Barrymore, aka Deborah Moore!): Robert Mason was there. A ripoff of Oliver Stone’s Platoon with Assault Platoon (1990): Robert Mason was there. Need a solid actor to prop up Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones in a Mad Max rip: Robert Mason is there in Driving Force.
So, we are in 1982 Cambodia and already, we’re in a firefight-for-no-reason with a helicopter and a tank, so there’s more money spent on this than most Philippine Rambo rips. We think. It could be stocked-out from another film. But whatever the hell this fight is about, we do know from the conveniently dropped voice over that “Operation Green Hornet” failed and left 600 dead. And one of those two soldiers stranded for enemy capture is “Wild Weasel” and he is lost. Or “Wild Weasel” is a MacGuffin of some sort.
Why an unarmed civilian passenger copter flew into a war zone for an extraction is not a question we should be asking. We should also not be asking why all of expositional dialog is spewed in only wide shots with no close ups: for we know that is to cover the fact that is a patch job from a couple of left over Southeast Asian films from the ’70s doin’ the Viet Cong Two-Step in the Rambo ’80s. At least we think it’s a patch job. With these films you just don’t know: there’s stock footage and there’s shot linking material and none it matches well and none of it makes sense. But there’s all of those cheap-to-make exploding huts and bamboo and palm-thatched roofed guard towers blowing up that we expected. Even thought might be from another film. Like that errant tank. And helicopter.
Oh, my god. Budget! There’s a machine gun-packin’ river patrol boat? A gun battle with a Cambodian Junk. Oh, my god! They blew up the gun boat? And Mason is in the footage? Wow! Actually real footage was shot?! And, what . . . that’s it? So much for waiting for one hour for that excitement. Well, back to the mismatched office footage with white guys in wrinkled military fatigues man-bitchin’ about stuff that probably has to do with greed because in these films us Americans are never about the democracy but the green we don’t want the Russians to have. Fuck the poor Cambodians, aka the Philippine “ahiiiyaaaah” extras, because to quote Gordon Gekko: “Greed is Good.”
So, through the shot-through-cheese cloth cinematography and more babbling about a “common enemy” of the Kampuchean people, we come to learn that “Wild Weasel” — since we never actually seen the jet or the crash — is a new, top secret jet with an advanced rocket system. And U.S. Air Force Pilot Captain Ted Wilson (Robert Mason) was shot down by the KGB (the KGB and CIA are always at it in these films). Or the KGB sabotaged the jet; again, we never seen the jet or the KGB baddies or an airstrip. And now our Captain is behind enemy lines. And amid all of this is Paul Vance’s Colonel organizing a rescue mission. Not so much for God. Or country. Or the men. But for the plane, boss. The plane. We know this because a couple of dopey white guys bicker over “Wild Weasel” and money and drop “Johnny Carson” jokes at the 30-minute mark.
“Hey, this sounds a lot like that Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman-starring plane-shot-down-rescue flick Behind Enemy Lines, only without the Carson jibe,” you ponder.
Nope. This was made 15 years earlier . . . in the Year of our Sly n’ Arnie. Oh, and just so you know the era we are in: keep your eyes open for those ubiquitous Ronald Reagan pictures on the desks and walls. But that may be stock from another film. Or maybe those set designers for Silver Star thought the Reagan pics tricked us into thinking we are in the States and not in Manila that’s masquerading as Cambodia in a film that is also masquerading as a third installment of the “Commander” series. What was Commander I and II, you ask us. Again, this is a Philippine war movie with no plot and no characterization and all so interchangeable and you need not ask why.
Just enjoy the War Without End on You Tube.