Heaven is Hell (2014)

Ten years ago, we embarked on a journey that would take us places, physically and emotionally, one that would change us as artists and people, forever. Two and a half years. Fifty-two shooting days. Freezing cold. Scorching heat. Metric tons of Little Caesars, potential tetanus, and good, good times.
The filmmakers

Shortly after dying in a car crash, Faith, a devout Christian, arrives in Heaven — only to find it a barren wasteland ravaged by an apocalyptic war, populated by otherworldly, demonic-creatrues, and ruled by Zerach, a treacherous arch angel who has overthrown Heaven and enslaved God.

Her faith in tatters, Faith joins Judas, Thomas, and a team of rogue Apostles. Together, they lock n’ load to find an exiled Jesus Christ and reclaim Heaven’s throne.

This film — as with my recent, rabbit-hole discoveries of Mayflower II and 2025: The World Enslaved by a Virus — is a pleasant streaming surprise: one made for a mere $40,000. And when you experience the scope of this action-comedy/horror-fantasy hybrid, you’ll come to appreciate the filmmaker’s abilities to squeeze the most of out their slight budget.

Looking over the resumes of Chicago-bred co-writers and directors Mike Meyer and Chris Sato, along with fellow co-writer Jason Kraynek, you’ll realize they’re a trio of experienced filmmakers — ones with a lot of miles between them via various shorts, web-series, and music videos. And it shows in the frames of this Chicago-shot Christploiter that takes those outlandish, Italian and Philippine, post-apocalyptic knockoff flicks of the ’80s to task: only this is so much better than a chintzy Bruno Mattei or Cirio H. Santiago joint*.

Those apoc-sloppers, of course, got their start with John Carpenter’s Escape from New York; it’s important to mention that iconic film, because the spirit of Carpenter’s own action-comedy/horror-fantasy hybrid, the purposefully hammy Big Trouble in Little China, permeates, here. Simply remove the martial arts exploitation and a insert a little exploitation of Christianity. And let’s not forget the writer of that film, D.W Richter, also gave us The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension — which spins in the same wheelhouse as Heaven is Hell.

Raging Angels: Another Christian-based film* with a sci-fi twist.

However, looking over the two, lone IMDb user reviews, Heaven is Hell is a film with no middle ground: Christians are offended, referring to it as being “atheist,” “Satanist,” and flat-out “anti-Christian.” Secularists appreciate and applaud the parody.

The same derision met Luis Buñuel’s (Simon the Desert) surrealistic, but not as parody-driven, The Milky Way (1969). The British-made Monty Python’s Life of Brian, itself offering us the concept of “an alternate-universe Jesus,” suffered the irritations of Christians and Catholics, even though Eric Idle and his cohorts insisted the film was a goof on organized, man-made religions — and not a spoof on Jesus or The Holy Bible, itself.

Such a film is Heaven is Hell, again: a film made for $40,000.

Putting any offensives one may have regarding the threading of Christianity and Catholicism beliefs through the eye of the apocalypse, aside: there is no denying this is a very well-made movie, with all of the respective film disciplines firing on all cylinders. The actors “get” their material (as did the cast of the recent, parody-excellent S**t & Champagne) and the movie is all the better for it. It’s unfortunate the joke that the “sequel” Heaven Was Hell: 2 Holy 4 Eva was coming soon . . . never had a punchline.

You can learn more about Heaven is Hell on their official Facebook page and watch the full movie as a free-stream on You Tube. You can also sample the trailer.

* Hey, we know our ’80s apoc joints. Check out our two-part, “Atomic Dust Bin” round up with links to over 100 films. We also explored “Christian Cinema of the ’70s” with links to over 40 films.

The Judas Project: More sci-fi with a biblical twist.

— R.D Francis writes for B&S About Movies.

Space Milkshake (2012)

Quack you!

One look at that theatrical one-sheet combined with that title: you know you’re getting a space comedy that owes its clever cues to John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974).

Sure, we could mention the quicky-came-and-quickly-forgotten Space Station 76 (2014), itself a retro-parody of ’70s science fiction television series that used Gerry Anderson’s UFO and Space: 1999 for all of its costume, set and model cues. As result of that Liv Tyler-starrer (in spite of her presence) resembling those British-made, Century 21 Television/ITC Entertainment imports-to-U.S. television, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of Space Station 76 . . . and it was a huge disappointment (Liv Tyler f-ups another movie, for me) ejected from my below-the-waistline, rear celluloid airlock. Remember how Spaceballs was hilarious with its on-the-sleeve humor, while the The Ice Pirates certainly looked better but was “meh” in a post-Star Wars world? Remember how Galaxina was nerf herder-scuffy and Spaced Out (aka Outer Touch) sucked dianoga tentacles?

Well, for me: Space Milkshake spins to the Spaceballs side of the vortex.

Yes, Space Milkshake fluxes my capacitors over the puerile, dead-in-space-before-it-even-hit-the-big-screen Leslie Nielsen-starring Alien parody Naked Space (1983), as well as his other space “comedy,” 2001: A Space Travesty (2000). Don’t even get me started on Eddie Murphy’s The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) — a movie so painful that Sam or myself (or any B&S guest writer) wanted to cover that $120 million dollar turd for our “Box Office Failures” week of films (and it is noted as the #1 biggest of bombs). Amid those flurry of “space comedies,” however, I enjoyed — to the chagrin of many — Mike Hodges’s Morons from Outer Space, so what do I know?

Okay, back to Space Milkshake.

While not as deadpan in its its funny-dry humor as Dark Star and not as slapstick as a Mel Brooks galactic joint, Space Milkshake is more aware of its ancestors and goes for the “fan humor” of the genre. So, think Shaun of the Dead (2004) set on a space station in terms of humor. When it comes to the sets, reflect back to your days of watching Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf on public television (in the States). If you’re a fan of Blake’s 7 or the Tom Baker-era of Dr. Who, you’re in the sector of space you need to be.

Owning up to Dark Star: one of the off-screen characters referenced is named Professor Gary Pinback: after Sergeant Pinback from Dark Star. As with the Carpenter progenitor: the crew deals with the boredom of space and hygiene issues. They play board games. However, unlike Dark Star: there’s two females on board, so there’s a comical, sexual innuendo component. In the second half, as in Dark Star, the tedium breaks when the “monster” appears: Dark Star had a beach ball with claws. Here, we have a mutated-enlarged rubber duck on a rampage. In between, the crew deals with the fact that all life on Earth has ended — and there’s that pesky time flux that zips them between various dimensions and timelines.

QUUUACK! Don’t call me a dianoga, you scruffy nerf herder. Go eat daggit dung!

As with the Nostromo before them (and Buck Henry’s of Get Smart! fame creating the garbage-hauling Quark starring Richard Benjamin in 1977): we have four blue collar astronauts employed on a Sanitation Station responsible for collecting space garbage from Earth orbit.

Jimmy (Robin Dunne) is the station’s newly-arrived, socially awkward computer technician. He’s welcomed by a dickish Captain Anton (Billy Boyd) who’s just broken up with his fellow crew member, the statuesque beauty queen Valentia (Amanda Tapping). The other female of the crew, the Ripleyesque Tilda, quickly becomes Jimmy’s love jones.

The ludicrous plot twists ensue as Anton and Valentia discover a glowing trinket from the salvage of an abandoned space shuttle. The “Time Cube,” accidentally activated, the station loses all contact with Earth as Tilda begins acting oddly — and discovered to be an android. Then a rubber duck — identical to the one given to Valentina by her ex-lover, Professor Gary Pinback — slams into ship. Brought on board by Valentina, it grows (and has George Takei’s voice). It is soon learned that Pinback, via the duck, is possessed by the galactic evil responsible for the “Time Cube” and is bent on universal conquest.

Yes. The above paragraph about mutant tub toys voiced by a Star Trek alumnus, time cubes, and androids is real. I did, in fact, write it.

It is reported this cost $300,000 to make — and this film looks great for a film made for less than a half million dollars; it certainly stands tall against its raison d’etre, Alien (1979), which cost $11 million and came to clear over $100 million during its initial box office. At its reported price, I see no reason why Space Milkshake didn’t — at the very least — break even on its production costs through cable buys and streaming rentals (it never saw a theatrical or hard media release). Again, it’s a fine film that looks great; however, make no mistake that the proceedings in Space Milkshake are still more Full Moon (the monster, seen above, takes me back to the alien mayhem in Bad Channels) than 20th Century Fox: but that’s not a bad thing, for Full Moon (and its previous incarnation as Empire Pictures) had their moments (Robot Jox).

The film had a trouble production that, according to Playback Magazine, began in the winter of 2011. The production was stymied — according to the Hollywood Reporter — by the provincial government of Saskatchewan, where the film was shot, closing out their refundable tax credits program: a tax credit that “funds” productions due to films contributing to the local economy through jobs and crew members frequenting area businesses.

Never intended for a theatrical release in its homeland, Space Milkshake premiered on the Canadian television channels The Movie Network (now known as Crave) in February 2013, then in March on Movie Central (defunct; 2016). Never picked up for U.S. cable distribution (Why, not Syfy? It had Amanda Tapping from Stargate, which you rerun.), Space Milkshake made the U.S. film festival rounds in 2013, in addition to the festival circuits in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. It began appearing on streaming platforms outside of Canada in 2015.

Armen Evrensel effectively wrangles all of the touchstone plot elements of the genre, along with cheap, but well-made sets and costumes (think 1980’s Battle Beyond the Stars) and schlocky, but better than ’70s British sci-fi series special effects. The cast is a shaken to perfect chemistry ensemble fronted by the instantly recognizable and perpetually likeable Robin Dunne (TV-familiar “Will Zimmerman” from Sanctuary and a few Lifetime Christmas flicks), along with Billy Boyd (yes, “Pippin” from Lord of the Rings), Kristen Kreuk (“Lana Lang” from TV’s Superman spinoff, Smallville), and Amanda Tapping (the Stargate TV series-verse). Oh, please tell us you do not need us to tell you who George Takei is.

Writer and director Armen Evrensel made his feature film screenwriting debut with the Canadian-produced romantic-drama The Zero Sum (2009), an inventive, unique tale about a mugger (a great turn by Scottish actor Ewen Bremner; yes “Spud” from Trainspotting) who falls in love with one of his victims. While Space Milkshake served as his second feature screenplay and his directorial debut, Evrensel hasn’t made another film, since, and since moved into television in other disciplines. That’s a shame because his wacky take — across the same comedic stars explored in the earlier frames of Galaxy Quest (1999) — is infectiously nuttier than that Tim Allen annoyance. Space Milkshake should have been a harbinger for more feature projects.

You can enjoy Space Milkshake as a VOD on You Tube Movies or as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi. Amazon no longer offers it as a stream, but if you want to avoid the ads and prefer not to use You Tube, it is still available on Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu. Be wary of those DVD-r, as this has never been official issued to DVD. You can sample the trailer on You Tube.

Films like Space Milkshake and the short-lived U.S. television series Quark joke about “junk in space,” but the reality is that it’s a very real problem. B&S About Movies frequent reader and fellow WordPress’er Peter Adler breaks it down with his “Garbage In Space” post — which turns you on to the 360-degree tracking map, Stuff In Space. See? Fascinating stuff and not just junk films are to be had at B&S.

Be sure to visit these past features!

— R.D Francis writes for B&S About Movies.

Superdome (1978)

The kings of the U.S. “Big Three” network TV movies are back: David Janssen (Wolf of the Moon) is in front of the camera, with director Jerry Jameson behind the lens (the Drive-In’er The Bat People, the runaway box-office hit, Airport ’77, and TV’s knockoff of The Towering Inferno, aka Terror on the 40th Floor).

Janssen vs. Heston: Let’s get ready to rumble!

Yeah, Sam reviewed this one for a previous “TV Week” back in August, but after my this week’s watching and reviewing Janssen’s radio station helicopter pilot going “Dirty Harry” on murderous bank robbers in Birds of Prey, well, my UHF-TV pumpin’ heart drifted back to this highly-rated, TV movie knock off of Chartlon Heston’s cop vs. football stadium romp, Two-Minute Warning. (Dig into that 1976-made, Heston movie: There’s two different cuts: the theatrical and the TV movie version: the cuts turned the TV movie version into an art heist movie vs. the theatre’s crazed sniper movie — and Heston transforms from a leading to support character!)

In an unprecedented history! A new, crappier version of a mediocre movie.

Also known in overseas quarters and VHS reissues domains as The Super Bowl Story and Countdown to the Super Bowl, ABC-TV actually used this “Monday Night Movie” entry as a promotional ramp-up for their broadcast of Super Bowl XII. And to make sure we watched: the cast is all here: Ken Howard (then of TV’s hit basketball series, The White Shadow), Michael Pataki (Grave of the Vampire and so many B&S favorites from the ’70s), Donna Mills (hubba-hubba and thumpy-whumpy), and a pre-Magnum Tom Selleck (still career building with things like Daughters of Satan), along with pro-players-turned-actors Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith.

As with Heston’s stadium romp — and later, with Oliver Stone’s dark look at professional football with Any Given Sunday (and toss in the Keanu Reeves-starring The Replacements) — we have another ersatz-professional football league . . . as someone has bone to pick with the hailing world champion, New Orleans Cougars.

Oh, the drama!

Ken Howard’s Dave Wolecki’s has martial issues and a bum knee, Tom Selleck’s Jim McCauley is a star quaterback making bad business choices, and Donna Mills is between it all, as a “who’s who” TV cast of then-hot soap actress Robin Mattson, ’50s and ’60s TV stalwarts Jane Wyatt, Van Johnson, Peter Haskell, and Edie Adams, as well as ’70s everywhere-man Clifton Davis caterwaul about life’s problems as sniper is on the loose. Turns out the Mafia isn’t keen on the odds-favored Cougars for the win, which jeopardizes their $10,000,000 bet on the game for the Rangers to win: when the Cougar’s trainer won’t dope-up the players, he’s murdered. Don’t worry: David Janssen’s team manager will get to the bottom of the mayhem.

Yeah, this is a nostalgia-miles-may-vary flick that’s a disaster-flick-on-the-cheap that plays more as an extended, three-part episode arc of a U.S. soap opera, excuse me, “daytime drama,” with very little football (that’s all stock shots of who knows what semi-pro teams’ game). Is it all Superbad? Superdumb? Superboring? Eh, yeah. Rewatching it all these years later, I see the point. Oh, to be a UHF kid, again, when movies like this were a “wow” experience and movies like this tore it up on the weekly ratings.

You can get your restored DVDs from Kino Lorber. You can watch the three-part highlights from the real Superbowl between the 1978 New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49’ers on You Tube. The Mystery Science Theatre 3000-spoofed version is on You Tube, but we found a very nice, clean rip on the Euro F-Share streaming platform.

We LOVE our ’70s TV Movies (yeah, even ones from the ’80s and the ones from the early-cable ’90s) and our “Lost TV Week” link will also expose you to many more TV flick delights.

— R.D Francis writes for B&S About Movies.

Birds of Prey (1973)

Director William A. Graham, who worked with Elvis Presley on Change of Habit (1969) — and too many TV series to mention (but we’ll mention Trapped Beneath the Sea (1974) and Beyond the Bermuda Triangle (1975) and the excellent, 1977 Frank Sinatra-starrer, Contract on Cherry Street) knocks it out of the park . . . er, sky, as it were . . . with a stellar debut script by Robert Boris (who nailed it with his second script, 1973’s Electra Glide in Blue) in a tale about a troubled, ex-war helicopter pilot who fights his person demons by stopping a bank robbery.

Overseas theatrical for the 1976 release/courtesy Worthpoint.

The always likable and reliable and David Janssen (Moon of the Wolf, the must-see submarine romp Fer-de-lance) stars as Harry “Smiling Jack” Walker: a highly regarded pilot and traffic reporter for Salt Lake City, Utah’s KBEX Radio. As part of his celebrity, Walker will display his fully restored P-40 Warhawk — the same plane he flew during WW II as a member of the Flying Tigers — to promote his station’s “throwback weekend” of playing WW II era big band standards of the 1940s. (Janssen, a skilled pilot in his own right, did most of his own flying, which only adds to the film thrilling realism.)

As the film opens, we see Walker’s “war flashback” (courtesy of the 1942 war film, The Flying Tigers) as he tows the plane — causing his own, ironic traffic jam — to the station. Courtesy of a smart script by Robert Boris (who also gave us the 1982 Richard Pryor entry Some Kind of Hero and the 1983 Dan Aykroyd vehicle, Doctor Detroit), the plane serves as a metaphor: Walker is as outdated as his plane. To that end, his old war pilot buddy, Jim McAndrew (the always on-point Ralph Meeker), now himself an outdated and desked cop, urges Walker to quit the bitching about the “glory days” and live in the now.

The “Dirty Harry” catalyst (if not made by CBS-TV, this would have made for a great Clint Eastwood theatrical vehicle) for Walker to get off his duff is a daylight bank robbery by two ex-Vietnam Marines using weapons stolen from Salt Lake City’s National Guard Armory. Warning the highway denizens below of the police pursuit, Walker takes it upon himself to begin an aerial pursuit of the robbers, communicating with McAndrew the details about the car — and their female teller hostage.

Now, you’d think a helicopter following a car would be boring . . . think again. Thanks to Walker’s ex-war piloting skills, our ersatz Harry Callahan pilots the chopper just over the getaway car’s roof, ripping between buildings, down city streets and under underpasses.

Now, just when you think the helicopter chasing the car gets boring . . . the robbers have their own “getaway” helicopter perched on top of a parking garage. Now, the chase takes to the skies over the Utah deserts and mountain ranges. And Walker’s running out of gas . . . living life by the seat of his flying pants, as he recaptures his “glory days” one last time.

A rating winner when it aired on January 30, 1973, CBS-TV, in conjunction with Warner Bros. (Clint’s old studio; so why didn’t Eastwood do this?), successfully marketed the $400,000 film throughout Europe and the Pacific Rim to box office gold. Of course, when the home video era arrived, Prism Entertainment released it in 1985, while VCI Entertainment picked it up for its 2007 DVD release.

Go VHS retro. Get the DVD. Stream it. However you do it: Watch this movie. Team it up with the car-on-car chase flick Vanishing Point (1971) for a great double feature. Want to go for a triple (or a TV movie double): check out another Vietnam war ex-chopper pilot who’s called into action to safe the day with Bernard Kowalski’s Terror in the Sky (1971).

Sure, David Janssen was no Clint Eastwood or Charlton Heston (I watched Chuck in Two Minute Warning (1976) this week; Janssen would have been great in that film, as Chuck, here) meant for leading man roles U.S. big screens, but when it came to carrying films on the small screen, no one did it better than David Janssen. Nobody.

You can watch Birds of Prey on the Internet Archive.org or You Tube. You can watch highlights of the heli-stunts on You Tube HERE and HERE.

Be sure to check out our last “TV Week” of reviews concerned with action and terror in the skies with our “Airline Disasters TV Movie Round-Up” featurette.

— R.D Francis writes for B&S About Movies.

Philippine War Week II: Invasion Cambodia, aka Intrusion: Cambodia (1983)

“There ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
— Apollo Creed, telling you there won’t be a “Philippine War Week III”

Thank god. The last and final, ever, Philippine war flick reviewed on this site (well, sans the idiotic Commando Invasion snafu that led us to review it, twice, this week). We started this nonsense four months back, with our first week of reviews during the first week of August. Our reviews of 40-plus film — with plenty of links and mentions of so many others — will get you were you need to be, that is if you must watch every single Sylvester Stallone-to-Arnold Schwarzenegger-to-Chuck Norris ’80s war rip ever made in the lands northwest of Down Under.

In one of Jun Gallardo earliest rips, he shanghais Richard Harrison (we explore his career by way of his Neapolitan-cum-North African passion project, Three Men on Fire) in a tale about ragtag group of not A-Team lads led by Richard Harrison into the Cambodian jungle.

The roles of the good guys and bad guys are divided up among the familiar names and faces of, well, everyone that’s on that VHS sleeve. Yes! Romano Kristoff (Raiders of the Magic Ivory) is here as well? Hey, Mike Monty, you’re back . . . oh, not for long? What flick did your scene get cut-in from, I wonder? If you’re keeping track: Anthony Alonzo was in W Is War and Mad Warrior. Vic Vargas? IMDb him: he’s got over 300 credits to pick at (Daughters of Satan is one of them). Remember the Robert Clouse (Golden Needles) mess that is Gymkata starring Kurt Thomas? Well, Tetchie Agbayani — who’s done a few of these Asian war romps and is a much more serious, accomplished actress, one with over 100 credits, as well as Asian television series — not only stars in Gymkata: she “invented” the martial art-gymnastics hybrid used in the film; something to that effect.

As you can see, I am going to rant and make this Namsploitation’er sound way better than it is.

Looks like a U.S. ’70s-era war flick. Stinks like a Rambo rip.

Harrison — with a ‘stache that’ll scare the shite out of Tom Selleck (who got his start in Daughters of Satan) — is an ex-Special Forces ops who makes his scratch as a mercenary for hire who leads a ragtag group of U.S and Southeast Asian guerrilla freedom fighters into Cambodia. Harrison’s claim to fame: he’s the only one that comes back alive from his missions. Lovely. In steps Tetchie, our hot guide — the only one who knows the terrain — because you need a sex-love interest between the showers of blank n’ squibs. All the racist cliches are then thou unleashed: the Italians are oversexed nut bags (Romano Kristoff), the Asians are all yellow-troped to the extreme, and the African Americans (actor Jim Gaines, in this case) make Sgt. Lincoln Osiris positively subdued.

This is a movie that, before we get to the no-plot-and-just-explosions part of the picture, our newly formed force of no-Rambos hangs out at a disco-strip joint (lifted from another Harrison war opus, Fireback by fellow Sliver Star alum, Teddy Page; we did that on Friday; we are writing ahead, here) and bowling alleys to pad the running time until they find that “secret” document that started this mess.

Wow. Poor Richard Harrison. He made ONE ninja movie for Godfrey Ho, then, by way of splicing, ended up “starring” in a dozen more films — and had his career ruined because everyone thought he was down-and-out and on the drunken skids to a grave in Manila. He was anything but, as he was putting together his grand opus, Three Men on Fire.

Just damn you to Charlton Heston ape hell, K.Y Kim, you cheap bastard. Curse your Silver Star Studios for torturing me and Sam the Bossman these past five months in dealing with faux-Nam joints. But oh, my crazy celluloid uncles of Cirio Santiago, Teddy Page, and Jun Gallardo: your Z-grade rips of Clint Eastwood’s The Dirty Dozen to Sly Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood II made my VHS home video days of youth all the much sweeter.

And as we add another oxtail to the Kare-Kare: Anthony Alonzo previously appeared in another Pearl of the Orient warsploitationer, Wild Cats Attack. But you’ll notice Tony’s name isn’t on the video sleeve (seen below). So what’s the stewed mechado all about, my kaibigan? Well, in the grand tradition of all things Manila-doubling-as-Vietnam-and-Central America and actors starring-by-proxy: Wild Cats Attack clips all of its war footage from Task Force Alamid (1982), which aka’d as The Red Barrets — which should only have one “r” in the title, but it’s Philippines cinema, don’t cha know? But Wild Cats Attack, to keep that wheel of title confusion, spinning, also aka’d as Special Forces U.S.A. “Ahiiiiyaaaah! Make it stop!”

Now you, our fellow Philiploitation fetishist may disagree on that Wild Cats Attack titling snafu, but let’s not forget that Tony starred in Diegong Bayong (1984), which was recut into a post-Oliver Stone world as Platoon the Warriors (1987). Hey, if starring-by-proxy is okay for an expatriated Richard Harrison and Gordon Mitchell, then it’s good enough for our native son, Anthony Alonzo. Oh, did you know Alonzo won an award for “Best Actor” in the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts & Sciences for Willie Milan’s Bambang (1982)? True story. No, sorry, that’s a Death WishLethal Weapon-styled story about Manila street gang wars and not a ‘Nam flick, so you’re on your own with that one.

Anthony Alonzo? Where for art thou?
Hey, Tony!

Okay, let’s get back to Invasion Cambodia . . . er, uh . . . there’s nothing else to tell . . . except that there’s no trailer to share. But you can pick through the full film on You Tube and see if you want make a 90-minute go of it.

Well, that’s it! Thanks for playing along with our two “Philippine War Week” blow outs. See yahs for the next “theme week” at B&S About Movies. As for our “Philippine War Week” theme weeks: click the hyperlink to populate all 48 reviews in one easy-to-scroll list. You can learn about the genre with an in-depth interview with Godfrey Ho at Nanarland.com.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Philippine War Week II: Commando Invasion (1986): Again?

Well, it had to end sometime. Two weeks (the last one was during the first week of August) and 48 films. Sure, there’s oh so much more Vietnam war raging in the South Pacific — and just as many jungle-based sci-fi off-shoots, such as Reb Brown starring in Bruno Mattei’s Robowar. But we just can’t, anymore. From here on out, you’re on your own to discover the rest of the Sylvester Stallone-to-Arnold Schwarzenegger-to-Chuck Norris ’80s war rips. And lets not forget the ones with Ron Marchini and Michael Dudikoff.

Okay, so right off the bamboo shoot: we want to know who wrote this logline: “Superb action set during the Vietnam War. The prologue shows a French army convoy being ambushed by the Vietcong in 1950.”

What’s wrong with this logline: the use of the word “superb” in a Jim Goldman, aka Jun Gallardo movie.

Thanks to Condition Critical for the clean image.

Okay, so there’s second unit and Assistant AD Rod Davis, aka Davies, aka we’ve never been able to track down if he’s an actual American expatriate or a South Asian doing the Americanization waltz on the lens as well as working the Brother typewriter. Paul Vance, aka Paul Van, however, is a real American who — as with our “star,” here, Gordon Mitchell — never “made it” in the U.S. film industry, but Vance forged a nice career northwest of Down Under with an acting resume of 20 films (starting with W Is War in 1983 and ending with Jungle Rats in 1988). We also have to mentioned that, in addition to co-writing Commando Invasion, Rod Davis also gave us this week’s Slash Exterminator (go back to Monday at 12 noon, folks; were writing ahead, here), and the we-love-it-so-much SFX Retaliator, among his five Filipino writing credits.

Then there’s our real “star,” the lead of these proceedings: American expatiate Micheal James, who was in eight of these jungle romps, including Mad Dog II and Rescue Team (both 1985; yep, reviewed this week and we’re writing ahead, so use that “search box”) for our Jim Goldman, and Searchers Of The Voodoo Mountain, aka Warriors of the Apocalyspe (1985), for Bobby A. Suarez. Michael James actually made a decent war film alongside David Carradine, Mako, and Steve James (a frequent Micheal Dudikoff sideman) in P.O.W: The Escape (1986). (I know: how “decent” is a down-and-out David Carradine Chuck Norris-wannabe knockoff?)

Okay, so since we already went deep with Gordon Mitchell — as well as with his frequent acting partner, Richard Harrison (I wish he was here; he’s not) — in our review of their joint, Neapolitan effort, on Three Men on Fire, let’s blow this one up!

Ol’ Gordo is good-to-bad guy General MacMoreland (he’s barely here and probably from another film, entirely) with Paul Vance picking up a co-starring credit as Lt. Frank Terryl, and Ken Wantanbe — from the 1985 martial arts classic Nine Deaths of the Ninja and the writer behind that same year’s Ron Marchini-starrer, Ninja Warriors! — as our evil General Diap. Hey, there’s Jim Gaines — who blew out 60-plus of these films since 1974, but we remember him best as Reb Brown’s sidekick Sonny “Blood” Peel in the previously mentioned Robowar — as Lt. Frank’s sidekick, Sgt. Morgan. Everyone else: they are somebodies that we think are nobodies because they all have bogus, “Americanized” names like “John Crocker,” “David Scott,” and “Bobby Clinton.” As is par for the Filipino jungle course: not only are the actors, stock (defacto “starring” in some cases as result of their cut-in from other pictures): all that sfx-slaughtering war footage is stocked as well.

So, not only is the U.S. in the jungle, so are the French, whose 1950-era army convoy rife with millions in art and diamonds is ambushed. The booty is stolen.

Meanwhile, 15 years later: We have an American commando unit doing what they do best: kill Asian commies as they track down that booty to VC General Diap’s (Watanabe) underground bunker. The men turn on Captain Brady, the head of the unit who — not again, how many of these flick have this subplot: he makes his scratch stealing diamonds from the locals. Why? Well, we weren’t there to stop Communism. We are there for the diamonds. Brady’s men plan to kill him and take the loot — then Diap and his men show up and killing them all. The exaction unit finally arrives and finds ol’ Cap Brady alive: with a gaggle of dead bodies around him and a fistful of sparkly rocks.

To stop his court martial, Brady is allow to return to “Vietnam” for five days track to down Diap, bring him to justice, and save his own skin in the process. In the jungle, Brady soon realizes U.S. General MacMoreland is in kahoots with Diap, that’s he’s been double and tripled-crossed, and the French military is on his tail to retrieve the stolen loot. And I swear I’ve seen this same plot in another movie we’ve reviewed during these two weeks?

Flash forward four months later . . .

Shite! I did. I just watched the same movie, twice — months part — I just reviewed Commando Invasion, again (it posed back on Monday). Oh, Dear Lord. Okay, well, let me go watch and review the film that I meant to review: Jun Gallardo’s Invasion Cambodia. Oh, man. I can’t. But I have to. Ugh! Just . . . one . . . more. I can do it! You just gotta believe!

See what I mean? Arrrrrgh! NO MORE PHILIPPINE WAR FLICKS! I’m losing my mind. The celluloid coffers are closed. Find the rest on your own. And watch this one on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Philippine War Week II: Final Mission (1984)

Richard Young. Only 50 credits to his resume, but what a bunch of films: Night Call Nurses (1972), Inferno in Paradise (1974), Cocaine Cowboys (1979), High Risk (1981), The Ice Pirates (1984), Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) — and don’t forget Saigon Commandos (1988), which, you guess it, pinches footage off the earlier Final Mission, courtesy of its acting common denominator, like any good Phillipines-backed namsploitation movie should. And if you know your Philippines warsploitation ’80s like we know you do: you know that Final Mission pinched from another war flick, somewhere in the Laos backwaters of it’s-not-Vietnam-it’s-the-Philippines. For it’s the Cirio way, baby!

And guess who’s the director behind Saigon Commandos? Surprise! Not Cirio H. Santaigo. Or Godfrey Ho. Or Jun Gallardo. Or Teddy Page. Nope. It’s Clark Henderson, who made his bones with the Corman House of Waste-Not-Want-Not in the production cues for Forbidden World, Android, and Wheels of Fire.

Oops. Getting excited over Philippine war flicks and digressing, again.

So, Uncle Cirio is a back with another Deacon-named character (not forgetting we had a Deacon Porter in The Devastator* and that later film is actually a script retread of Final Mission). This “Deacon” is Vince Deacon (Richard Young). This time, our ex-vet is not a wayward vet of the John Rambo variety. This Deacon has got his shit together and turned his Vietnam War decorations into a gig as a Los Angeles P.D. SWAT commander. But instead of countryside pot farmers with blood on their hands, with lots of blowin’ up and bullets in the woods, we’re in the big city.

So, when a gang attacks his family and Deacon kills one of the thugs in self-defense, the law coddles the criminal, natch, and our Deacon is suspended by the force. So his family heads out to the woods for a get-away-from-it-all camping trip . . . shite, we are back in the woods, after all. Oh, well.

Well, you guessed it: that attack was a hit — that failed — and now the thugs are back to finish the job. And who’s the chief thug? Deacon’s old, slighted ex-war buddy, Slater. Will the town sheriff help? Nope, he’d be Slater’s brother, you neophyte Philippine warmonger, get with the plot twists of these flicks, will ya? So, think of a happier, gentler, socially well-adjusted Rambo with a wife and kids and a job and having to protect them. So goes this “final mission” where the ultimate mission is projecting your family.

Oh, shit. Plot twist. His wife and son are dead. Uh, oh.

Anyway, in the spirit of keepin’ the “Rambo” a-go-go’in the woods: we have a Col. Trautman — only his name is Col. Cain — called in to talk some sense into his ex-soldier.

Right, Col. Cain. Just bring in the body bags. And don’t forget the “Aiahhh-yeeee” rail kills, but since we aren’t on a ship or inside an old factory and are in the woods: tree, cliff, and mountain kills. Oh, and flashbacks to ‘Nam . . . because Cirio’s heroes must always have a flashback because, well, how else can we reuse all of that old ‘Nam-shot-Philippines war footage. Of course, since we are in the California woods, again, don’t be surprised when that wooded battle footage returns in The Devastator two years later.

Dude, I don’t care. Xerox, copy, soldier, spy. I love this movie. One of Cirio’s ripped-off best as he tinkers with the Rambo Steenbecks, once again.

As you can see from the ’80s VHS sleeve, this had great direct-to-video distribution in the States and spun on HBO back in the day, so it’s not hard to find on disc. Ah, but we got you covered with the freebie on You Tube. Sample the trailer . . . if one minute of it doesn’t grab you, nothing will.

* Yeah, we reviewed it . . . and we are writing ahead, here. You gotta work it for, aking kaibigan. Right click that mouse and use the search box.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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.

Philippine War Week II: Eye of the Eagle (1987)

If you joined us for our “Philippine War Week I” and made it though this second and final week, you know the production drill of these films. Nick Nicholson, Steve Rogers, Jim Moss, Mike Monty and Vic Dias all “star” here — and with the added incentive of Robert Patrick, yes that one: the T-1000 one.

Everyone has to start somewhere and Patrick debuts, here, as Cpl. Johnny Ransom for this Cirio H. Santiago faux-Stallone romp. Patrick also starred for Cirio in the Max Mad rip, Equalizer 2000. Then Patrick became a defacto “star” in The Raiders of the Lost Ark rip, Future Hunters — by way of Cirio cutting in footage from Equalizer 2000. Or that may be the other way around: Patrick ended up in Equalizer 2000 by of way hunks of his Future Hunter work being cut in. You know how it goes in the Philippine editing suites of Silver Star Productions.

It’s been critiqued that Cirio’s Killer Instinct (1989), aka Behind Enemy Lines, which also stars Patrick, is a sequel to Eye of the Eagle; it’s not: the only throughline is that Patrick’s character is also named Johnny Ransom — and for no particular reason. But all of the war footage certainly looks the same, because it is — and is par for the course when it comes to the recycling war coffers of the Philippine Rambo Consortium.

Adding to the confusion: Eye of the Eagle is also known as The Lost Command. And Battlefield Vietnam. And Killer Instinct, aka Behind Enemy Lines, is also known as Eye of the Eagle 2: Inside the Enemy, and as Killed in Action (instead of Missing in Action IV to evoke a little Chuck Norris). And Last Stand at Lang Mei (1989) — which has nothing to do with the other two films, outside of Cirio H. Santiago directing them — is known as Eye of the Eagle III.

We give up. Is one a sequel to the other? We really don’t care.

Patrick also starred in another 1987 film, Warlords from Hell, that is believed to be another Cirio cut n’ paste joint: it’s not. That’s actually a trashy action flick about American bikers taking on a Mexican drug cartel that shot in the U.S. and was directed by Clark Henderson; he’s known for his behind-the-scenes production work on Roger Corman’s Forbidden World and Space Raiders, Cirio’s Wheels of Fire, and major U.S. films such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and The Cider House Rules.

And now, back to our program of Eye of the Eagle. The first one.

All of the usual, endless barrage of (stock footage) gun battles and over-the-top explosions ensues as Sgt. Rick Stratton (Brett Baxter Clark, who got his start in Tom Hanks’s Bachelor Party and the teensploitation romp Malibu Express; he also appears the Filipino war flick, Delta Force Commando), along with Cpl. Johnny Ransom (Patrick), set off with their “Eagle” squad to stop a band of U.S. renegades known as “The Lost Command” terrorizing South Vietnam. Stratton also has a side hussle: avenge the murder of his brother by the renegades. One of the missions Stratton and Ransom need to pull off is a train hijacking — and yes, those are shots of an electric model train. Hey, Silver Star productions can’t afford tanks or planes — only ones cut in from other films — so why did you think they could afford more than a model train and one real rail car to shoot on? Is there a mouthy, know-it-all pesky female photo journalist to get them into scrapes? Ah, you know your Philippine war flicks better than we thought.

You can enjoy the awful sound and jumpy edits and bad-everything-else-we-love on You Tube.

Of course we dug up Eye of the Eagle II and Eye of the Eagle III for you, both on You Tube. Sorry, that is actually kind of mean of us. Eh, you know you wanna watch ’em.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Philippine War Week II: War Without End (1986)

“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.

F-14 jets and Apache copters may not appear in the actual film.

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.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.