Philippine War Week II: The Devastator (1986)

Ol’ Uncle Cirio, he of the one hundred directing credits beginning in 1955 and ending in 2014. Hey, wait a minute . . . we lost Cirio H. Santiago in 2008. As it turns out: Cirio’s final film was Bloodfist 2050 (2005) — the ninth film in the Bloodfist series, if you’re keeping track of such things. Water Wars began shooting prior to Cirio’s death, but his then ill health resulted in his stepping down from the production. Roger Corman flew in (the great) Jim Wynorski to complete the film, which was released in 2014.

Ah, but this is our second “Philippines War Week” tribute (did you play with us back in August) and as much as Uncle Cirio loved to rehash Mad Max’s road warrior’in over and over again (Stryker, Wheels of Fire, Dune Warriors, and Raiders of the Sun — all of which were edited into Water Wars, natch), the king of Philippines junk cinema loved making copies of Rambo (Eye of the Eagle, Final Mission, Kill Zone, Firehawk*, Nam Angels — and don’t be surprised if you see those film each interchanging their footage into each other — and here).

For The Devastator, Roger Corman loosened the purse strings and allowed Cirio to shoot outside of the Philippines in Los Angeles. Also known as Kings Ransom and Force Commando, as well as The Destructors and The Destroyers in other quarters, ex-Canadian Football League running back Rick Hill (Deathstalker, Wheels of Fire) and director Katt Shea (Stripped to Kill, Poison Ivy, The Rage: Carrie 2; she also scripted The Patriot and starred in Barbarian Queen) co-star in this warsploitation tale about Deacon Porter, an ex-Special Forces officer out to avenge the death of his old commanding officer.

When Porter arrives in the small town of Kings Ransom, he discovers his commander died at the hands of marijuana farmers who control the town. To that end, he reunites his old squad — of Santiago stock players (so footage can be pinched from other films with some sense of continuity) with Bill McLaughlin (Silk), Terrence O’Hara (Naked Vengeance), and Jack S. Daniels (Wheels of Fire). Katt O’Shea is the local gas station grease monkey, aka the hot ‘n’ ass kickin’ local tomboy, that takes up their cause.

Now, if you know your Cirio like we hope you do, you’ll say, “Hey, this sure feels a lot like Final Mission* from 1984?” Have you not been following along? Did you not hang out with us during our first “Philippines War Week”? Have you not watched Cirio’s post-apoc movies at all? Of course it is — and does — as it’s all about the recycling.

When you can’t get Michael Dudikoff and Rick Hill is M.I.A., Miles O’Keefe will do the Rambo shuffle.

But it doesn’t matter. The scripts may be been-there-done-that dopey, rife with dumb characters spewing bad dialog who talk a little bit too much and slow down the action, but when the action hits — as with any Cirio flick, even when recycled — you get your monies worth.

So, if you need a film with a faux-Rambo cuttin’ loose in the woods of North California taking down pot growers in a rejected First Blood sequel, this is the film to see. And, you’ll notice — if you know your Cirio like we hope you do — he never, ever lets those three-wheeled apoc trikes go to waste. Oh, and Corman never lets the stock footage destruction of the likes Avalanche go to waste, either. Or wherever that dam footage came from. For you know Cirio didn’t shoot that for the film.

MGM/UA picked up a bunch of Corman’s Concorde stuff, which includes a lot of the Cirio H. Santiago canons, so this one is easy to find on disc. But, you know us: we found you a freebie on You Tube. You can also sample the trailer.

* One, if not all, of those films will be reviewed this week. We think. We’ve lost track at this point as all of the movies are bleeding into one, never-ending nightmare. So use the search box, you tamad anák sa labás.

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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