BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Strike Commando (1986)

Sgt. Michael Ransom (Reb Brown, who was both Yor Hunter from the Future and Captain America) and his team of Strike Commandos are decimating a Vietnamese base, ready to blow it up real good. But one of the team is killed and alarms go off, scuttling the mission. Instead of allowing the team to come back and fight another day, the mission’s commander Colonel Radek (Christopher Connelly) orders that the explosives be set off while the Strike Commandos are on the retreat. One of Ransom’s men is killed and he’s knocked into a river.

So begins Strike Commando, a post-Rambo: First Blood Part II film directed by Bruno Mattei and written by Claudio Fragasso that lives up to everything I dreamed that it could be.

Ransom is rescued by a young boy named Lap and brought to a village to recover. There, he makes friends with a retired soldier named Le Due (Luciano Pigozzi, making this an unoffical Pag and Yor reunion!) and tells the children of the village just how amazing America — mostly Disneyland — can be.

Of course, everyone in that village is soon killed by Russians, so our hero goes back to Vietnam again, this time motivated by the need for horrible revenge. He sees his little Vietnamese friend  Lao one more time, talking him into the next life with more stories of Disneyland before unleashing absolute hell on the Russians until they threaten to kill civilians unless he surrenders.

Let me just share this dialogue with you, as Lao dies…

Lao: American… tell me… tell me about Disneyland.

Ransom: (choking back tears of rage) They got tons of popcorn there. All you gotta do is go climb a tree to go eat it. And there’s cotton candy. Mountains of it. And chocolate milk, and malts. And there’s a genie. A magic genie. And he can’t wait to grant your wishes.

Much like all post-John Rambo military films, that means it’s time to torture our hero, which includes making him stay inside a cell for months with a rotting corpse and forcing him to record a message renouncing America. Of course, it’s just words, not deeds, because in seconds Ransom is killing Russkies all over again before getting is revenge on Radek, which involves a gigantic machine gun and a grenade, all before a final battle with his nemesis Jakoda. They’ve already battled on a waterfall, Holmes and Moriarty be damned, but this time, the big bad and brutal bolshevik has metal teeth after losing all of his molars in their last battle.

This is the very same Jakoda who made sure to tell our hero, “Hey, hero. Remember that Vietnamese village? With that boy called Lao? Nice boy, wasn’t he. That’s why I decided to save him for last. He had such fragile bones.”

Oh Vincent Dawn and Clyde Anderson! Oh Bruno and Claudio! You never cease to thrill me with the madness that you throw at the screen, filling this movie with explosions, machine gun fire and Reb Brown screaming every single line of dialogue with the blazing intensity of a thousand Republican wet dreams.

If you’re wondering, “Did Bruno steal any footage to make this?” the answer is, “This is a Bruno Mattei movie.” Look for the helicopter scenes from The Last Hunter. Why pay for something when someone else has already shot it? Bruno would pay himself back by reusing footage of this movie in Cop Game.

My greatest dream is that someday, somewhere, somehow, Strike Commando and Thunder form an Italian exploitation version of The Expendables with Jake “Tiger” Sharp from Blastfighter, Paco Quernak from Hands of Steel and Nadir from Warriors of the Wasteland.

There’s a reason why Severin is my favorite label. They keep releasing movies like this and putting them out in way better quality than anyone ever thought that they’d deserve. Beyond a 2K remaster of the film — looking better than it probably did when it was originally screened — you also get interviews with Fragasso and Rossella Drudi. You can get this movie from Severin now.

Fugitive Alien (1986)

EDITOR’S NOTE: R.D already covered this one, but I figured that because we’re doing a week of science fiction movies, why not watch it again?

Fugitive Alien is an example of how strange something is when it’s translated into one language, then translated back into its original language. It’s a Japanese TV series — Space Hero Star Wolf — that was based on an American series of science fiction novels by Edmond Hamilton — The Weapon from Beyond, The Closed Worlds and World of the Starwolves — that were then dubbed and sent back to America as two movies somehow summarizing multiple episodes into an amazingly condensed narrative.

There’s a Star Wolf warrior named Ken — who supposedly comes from the planet Valna Star but was born on Earth — who is attacking our planet at some point in the near future. He doesn’t fully believe in his mission and stops his best friend from killing a human. When his friend dies, he becomes a, well, fugitive alien and joins the crew of the Bacchus 3, which is made up of Dan, Billy, Rocky, Tammy and Captain Joe.

Tammy may be in love with Ken, but he already has a lover named Rita. It just so happens that the friend that he killed was Rita’s sister, so now she’s been ordered by Lord Halkon to avenge her brother’s death. She tries to murder him, but their love is too strong, so of course, she gets killed in moments after that revelation.

If you watch this and it makes no real sense to you, remember how this movie basically played the telephone game with itself. And then realize that one of the writers was Keiichi Abe, who also wrote Time of the Apes.

This movie appeared in the UHF era Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the Comedy Central episodes, too. You can watch the latter on Tubi.

The Ghost Snatchers (1986)

A Hong Kong Ghostbusters? Sure, except even more delirious and strange than you’d ever expect.

This one starts at the opening of a Hong Kong high-rise. Judy Hsu (Shu-Yuan Hsu) becomes a victim of poltergeists and her spirit is possessed and returns to carry out the sinister plans of the evil presence, which also employs a ghost squad of dead Japanese soldiers who still want to fight World War II.

Security guards Chu Bong (Jing Wong, who also wrote this movie) and Fan Pien-Chou (Shui-Fan Fung) learn that the evil spirit’s plan is to kill people based on their birth year and time. Not so coincidentally, they’re marked for death.

Hijinks, as I always say, ensue.

This was directed by Ngai Choi Lam, who also made Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, so you know that there are going to be some out-of-control effects and gross-out moments, despite this seeming like a fun comedy. No complaints here!

It also has an animated skeleton, a baby monster who plays mahjong, a TV set that grows legs, an elevator filled with hands ala Day of the Dead’s dream sequence that ends with a giant hand emerging from the shaft that snatches away a girl, people getting ripped in half and spiritual kung-fu.

It may be completely less coherent than the film that inspired it, but I was entertained by every single frame of this one. Man, why didn’t they make The Ghost Snatchers 2 so I could see how Hong Kong filmmakers treated Vigo Von Homburg Deutschendorf?

Deadly Messages (1985)

Man, I’m on a Kathleen Beller made-for-TV kinda sorta giallo kick. I’m also a huge fan of Ouija-board-themed movies, even if I refuse to ever have a spirit board in my house. Combine the two and have Jack Bender (The Midnight HourChild’s Play 3, multiple episodes of Lost and Game of Thrones) and I’m all over it.

Beller plays Laura Daniels, a young girl in love with lawyer Michael Krasnick. When she gets home from a date with him, she watches a black-gloved and masked figure strangle her roommate Cindy Matthews (Sherri Stoner from Reform School Girls!), who had become obsessed by speaking to the ghost of David, who was murdered in the same apartment in 1978.

When the cops show up, all of the evidence — and Cindy’s body — are gone. The cops — hey there Dennis Franz and Kurtwood Smith — don’t believe Laura, who is being trailed by the killer everywhere she goes.

Laura decides to use the Ouija board and also comes in contact with Mark, who claims to have been the one who has murdered Cindy and announces that he is going to kill her next.

Oh man — this is getting good.

Seriously, even a swim in a pool leads to the killer attacking again, but a doctor thinks that it’s all in Laura’s head. And when he examines her brain, he discovers that she’s received electroshock therapy in the past and may be dealing with either extreme depression or schizophrenia. Her boyfriend can understand all that, but when he learns that the majority of her life story has been taken from a series of books by an author named Laura Brooks.

Actually, I really don’t want to spoil this movie for you because the plot gets totally wild and just keeps getting wilder. It’s has so much in common with the side of the giallo genre where a woman loses her mind and descends into a nightmarish odyssey of lost memory and revelation.

It was written by William Bleich, who wrote another great movie in this lost woman genre, The Hearse, as well as From the Dead of NightThe GladiatorA Smoky Mountain Christmas and Danger Island. Nearly all of those movies are going to end up on our site.

You can watch this on YouTube.

LEE MAJORS WEEK: A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)

Originally airing on ABC on December 14, 1986, this Henry Winkler-directed made-for-TV movie has pretty much everything you want out of a holiday film: Dolly Parton as a disillusioned country star. Dan Hedaya as a sleazeball. Bo Hopkins as a lawman. David Ackroyd! John Ritter as a judge. A witch! Rance Howard! René Auberjonois! And Lee Majors as Mountain Dan!

This is a completely ridiculous story perfect for the holidays — or to be honest any time — and it gets by because I cannot and will not dislike anything Dolly ever does. I mean, she somehow made it through Rhinestone intact. And the fact that a Christmas movie exists where Dolly is menaced by not just Bo Hopkins, but a witch in love with Bo Hopkins and is saved by Lee Majors, well, I’m beyond all in.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Solarbabies (1986)

There was a time, like probably 1986, where end of the world movies and rollerskating movies crossed paths to make one film. Mel Brooks was involved. And it went nowhere in our reality, but if we are to believe the theory of multiple Earths each with their own divergent timelines, there is one version of life where Solarbabies was a Star Wars sized hit and there would be a whole new slate of Italian ripoffs of end of the world rollerskating movies and not just the Roller Blade movies that Donald Jackson unleashed on an uncaring planetoid.

There’s no water in the future and there are orphanages and there’s a game that’s kind of like rugby on skates. A team of orphans — Jason (Jason Patric), Terra (Jami Gertz), Rabbit (Claude Brooks), Metron (James LeGros), Tug (Peter DeLuise) and Daniel (Lukas Haas) — have bonded over this game and when Daniel finds a glowing orb that might be the key to everyone having enough water, this family unit has to seek it out.

That’s because another orphan named Darstar (Adrian Pasdar) has stolen it and taken off for the desert with the Eco Protectorate e-Police in hot pursuit. Oh yeah — that orb is also called the Bodhi and is part of an alien who the government also wants to capture.

This movie leaves me with so many questions, like why did talented people like Charles Durning, Sarah Douglas and Alexei Sayle from The Young Ones end up in it? How do rollerskates work in the desert? How amazing is it that Mel Brooks lost $9 million dollars of his own money on this and had to fly out to the set to threaten to fire everyone when the cast fought with director Alan Johnson, who up until then was a choreographer and only directed one other movie, Brooks’ To Be Or Not to Be? Can you believe that this movie was delayed for weeks because of rain, even though it was lensed in a Spanish desert? And how absolutely wild is it that it has a theme song by Smokey Robinson, “Love Will Set You Free” that directly quotes Jesus throughout*?

Bad gut Grock — great name — was played by Richard Jordan, who had to have been sick of being in desert movies that bombed after this and Dune.

And you know, I loved this when it came out. I was that lone kid when Patric and Gertz got hot in The Lost Boys that kept saying, “But have you seen Solarbabies?”

*To be fair, every character in this movie is named for some religious figure and the Bodhi is at one point literally called the sphere of Longinus, which is a direct tie to the Spear of Destiny that pierced the side of Jesus and ended his life after being crucified.

Lone Runner (1986)

Uh, oh. Here comes those alternate titles and artwork, again, with this Ruggero Deodato time waster that’s also known as Fistful of Diamonds and Flash Fighter. Now, while the first title may evoke a little of the ol’ Clint Eastwood spaghetti squint in your eye, do not let the second title confuse you into thinking you’re getting a repack of Micheal Sopkiw in Blastfighter. Or Micheal Sopkiw in Fireflash, which was a repack of 2019: After the Fall of New York.

But, if you’re confused into thinking you’re possibly watching a ripoff of Patrick Swayze in Steel Dawn — which wasn’t even released yet — don’t worry. It’s an Italian-made post-apoc movie: confusion is part of the dusty terrains, which, in this case, is in Morocco.

So, hopefully, you’ve got strong eyes can read the VHS box image — and save me from typing anymore about this movie than it deserves. If not, right click and hit “view image” on your pop-up menu, to make it larger, since the box copy pretty much tells it all. However, since I’d be remiss in my journalistic duties to you, ye B&S reader, here we go.

We’ve got our ubiquitous B-Movie beefcake Miles O’Keefe from Tarzan the Ape Man, ack! No! The Miles we love was Ator in Ator, the Fighting Eagle, The Blade Master, and Iron Warrior. And maybe you don’t remember Miles as the not-Snake Plissken Python Lang in Philippines war flick Phantom Raiders, but I do.

So, with a pinch of Swayze and Eastwood, and a dusty pair of cowboy boots and a white overcoat — and don’t forget the crossbow — the singular Garrett is our “Lone Runner” of these desert proceedings. He spends his days picking off Arabs with exploding arrows via horseback — since this “future” can’t afford the obligatorily 1970s-era Mad Max rust buckets — to free a kidnapped princess being ransomed for her daddy’s diamond interested.

Lots of explosions and “hiya-ahhh”-styled kills, ensues.

Honestly, I was so bored by it all and FF’in through it, that I don’t recall if we are in the Arabian Nights’ past or a post-apoc future. And you won’t care either, since this is more Ator in a western and less Ator in an apoc — courtesy of all of the galloping horses and sword fights and flying arrows. In fact, this isn’t really an apoc at all, since it reminds of Enzo G. Castellari’s Tuareg: The Desert Warrior from two years earlier — which isn’t an apoc flick and is just a desert adventure flick that feels more like a Philippines war flick. Not even the presence of familiar British actor John Stainer (Tenebrae) and Italian cinema mainstay Hal Yamanouchi (Rat Eater King in 2019 After the Fall of New York and Red Wolf in 2020 Texas Gladiators) can save it.

Yes. The guy who made Cannibal Holocaust made this. If you must, you can watch it this (poor) English dub with Russian subtitles 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.

Girl School Screamers (1986)

Suckered yet again into a Troma film, this time one about seven Catholic school girls who go off to renovate an old house that has a mysterious and dark history. There’s also an art collection, the ghost of a girl killed in the house, nuns, no gore and no nudity, either.

It’s like someone filmed a slasher and forgot to, you know, actually make a slasher.

John P. Finnegan also wrote Blades, a golf-themed slasher that I know I’ll have to sit through one of these days.

After a great opening, where a bride ghost shows a melting face to some spooky synth, I was expecting more. But then there’s no actual death until fifty minutes more.So there you go. If you’re a slasher completist, and yes, I am certainly one, you can mark this to avoid.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Reform School Girls (1986)

Tom DeSimone is a maniac and I say that in the kindest of ways. ChatterboxHell NightSavage StreetsAngel III: The Final Chapter…the dude knows exactly what I want to watch and delivers.

Seeing as he already made two women in prison films, Prison Girls and The Concrete Jungle, DeSimone decided that it was time to make a parody.

Yet this movie is a force of nature. I mean, Wendy O. Williams*, the lead singer of the Plasmatics, plays Charlie Chambliss, the top dog of the reform school who sleeps with Edna (Pat Ast, Halston’s muse and the star of Warhol’s Heat), the head of the ward, for special privileges.

Jenny (Linda Carol, who may have been 16 when they shot this, making her nudity underage) is our heroine, a girl who gets caught in a shootout thanks to a bad boyfriend and ends up becoming the newbie who runs afoul of, well, everybody.

And to make this even better, Sybil Danning plays Warden Sutter, a religious zealot with a radio tower that she uses to blast the Word of God while the girls try to sleep.

Sherri Stoner, who plays Lisa, who would go on to write for Animaniacs and voice Slappy Squirrel. Other actresses** that appear in this are Denise Gordy (D.C. Cab), Tiffany Helm (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning), Darci DeMoss (Friday the 13th Part VI), Michelle Bauer, Julia Parton and Leslee Bremmer (Hardbodies).

The only sad thing I can say about this movie is that Mary Woronov was originally cast to play Dr. Norton. Unfortunately, DeSimone thought she played the role too hard during the first cast reading. Any movie that would have had Woronov, Williams and Danning in the same story may have been too much for my fragile mind to deal with.

*Williams was 36 when she played this teenage role. She also refused any outfits that were suggested for the movie, providing her own clothes and refused to take off her boots, even for the shower scenes.

**Linnea Quigley is one of the posters, yet isn’t in the film.

Raiders of the Living Dead (1986)

A regional New Hampshire film with a synth score that was reedited with new footage by Sam Sherman with that iconic Independent-International Pictures logo at the start of the show?

If you’re wondering, “Is it weird?” My answer is, “Would it be on our site if it wasn’t?”

While filming on this movie originally began in New Hampshire by co-writer Brett Piper as a movie called Graveyard, it was finished by writer-producer Samuel Sherman, the man who formed Independent-International Pictures with Al Adamson.

In an abandoned prison, a doctor is using executed convicts to form a labor force of the living dead. Meanwhile, Jonathan (the one-time Flick and future adult actor Scott Schwartz) has turned his dad’s LaserDisc into a laser gun and decides that he should hunt down zombies with the help of his girlfriend, grandfather, a reporter and a librarian (who was played by Zita Johann, the female star of Universal’s The Mummy, lured out of retirement by Sherman).

There are three versions of this. A sixty-minute version by Piper called Dying Day, an initial take on the footage by Sherman called Dark Night and then Raiders of the Living Dead, which is one of the best carny movie titles ever.