Sunday, June 27, 2021

STRIKE COMMANDO (1986) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Severin Films
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 92 Minutes (Theatrical), 102 Minutes (Director's Cut)
Audio: English & Italian PCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Bruno Mattei
Cast: Reb Brown, Christopher Connelly, Loes Kamma, Luciano Pigozzi, Alex Vitale 

Italian director Bruno Mattei never saw an American blockbuster he thought he shouldn't knock-off with his own cheaply made exploitation stamp, and such is the case with Strike Commando (1986), an action-packed bit of
‘Namsploitation that stars Reb Brown (Sssssss) as the bad-ass  Sgt. Mike Ransom, who at the start of the film is knee deep in the muck of Vietnam alongside his squad to take out a North Vietnamese military base, operating under the direction of Colonel Radek (Christopher Connelly, Manhattan Baby). When the mission goes awry and they lose the element of surprise the men retreat, but are blown to smithereens when Col. Radek decides to prematurely set off a series of explosive devices remotely, killing all the American soldiers with the exception of Ransom who is knocked unconscious after being blown into a river by the explosion. He is later discovered floating unconscious by a Vietnamese boy named Lao (Edison Navarro) who takes him to his village and helps nurse him back to health.

Presumed dead by Radek the soldier befriends the young boy who dreams of America and the fabled paradise that is Disneyland. He ends up teaming-up with the freedom fighting villagers to fight the North Vietnamese in the area, promising to protect them from the Viet cong. In the process he meets an elderly former French soldier named Le Due (Luciano Pigozzi, Yor, the Hunter from the Future) who tells him that there is more happening in the aside from the Viet cong, that the Russians are known to be active in the area. Reb later finds a radio on a dead soldier and radios  Maj. Harriman (Mike Monty, Zombie 3) and Radek, informing them what happened and  for them to send a  helicopter for extraction. Back at the U.S. base Ransom alerts them to the Russian presence in the area, lead by the muscle-bound baddie Jakoda (Alex Vitale, Robot Jox).

Ransom returns to the village to fulfill his promise of helping them escape the North Vietnamese threat only to find that they have all been slaughtered by Jakoda and his Viet cong soldiers.  After that Ransom declares a one-man war against the Jakoda and the Viet cong that leaves a bloody wake of bullet-riddled bodies and loads of scenes of boats, huts and bamboo bridges blowing up real nice!

If you're a fan of Rambo: First Blood Part II and the Missing in Action sort of 80's 'Namsploitation flicks Mattei's spirited knock-off is a helluva fun time with plenty of action, a few saccharine heart-string moments that reek of cheese,  and plenty of 1980's testosterone dripping masculinity.  My favorite parts of this film aside from the fist-pumping action is a few verbal nuggets from Reb Brown, after he finds the kid dying he attacks the base of Jakoda, screaming his name and firing his machine gun wildly into every building like he's a testosterone fueled version of Linda Day George screaming "Bastards!" in the Spanish slasher Pieces. Another weird quip is while he's pulling a Viet cong of a patrol boat he humorously says "Cuckoo!" for some treason, it's a weird choice for sure. 

Audio/Video: Strike Commando arrives on Blu-ray from Severin films in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, advertised as being new 2K scan from the original camera negative. The theatrical cut offers a solid HD presentation with good clarity and depth, the colors are string and there's some nice fine detail throughout. Occasionally grain will get heavier and the visuals will occasionally drop a notch in quality, but these are brief and overall it looks great. The extended cut does show more significant instances of print damage like fading and vertical lines, but I found those issues to be very minor.

Audio comes by way of English and Italian PCMO 2.0 with optional English subtitles. It's a mixed bag, the dubbed English dialogue sounds boxy and flat, even occasionally muffled with a tiny bit of distortion, while not ideal it didn;t ruin it for me. 

Extras on Strike Commando include a new 20-minute interview with co-director Claudio Fragasso who talks about the production, working with the cast including star Reb Brown whom he said was a lot of fun to be around. He also tells how Loes Kamma gave him a painful medical injection that left quite a bruise, and how Alex Vitale, who played the hulking Russian villain, was quite a sweet man, and that he worked out relentlessly on the set to stay in shape. He also touches on working with the very capable Filipino film crew, and cinematographer Ricardo Grassetti, and then into the success of the film.

There's also a 13-minute interview with screenwriter Rossella Drudi who right away dispels the myth that women don't like action movies, She gets into the story of the script writing process, and how Mattie kept insisting that she re-watch Rambo: First Blood Part II, and to "borrow" scenes and dialogue from it. She also gets into how she approaches writing action films in general, the mixing of  drama with the action elements,  and not taking things too seriously, and how at Mattei's direction they copped the metal-teeth villain idea from Jaws from the 007 film The Spy Who Loved Me.  Extras for Strike Commando are buttoned-up with a 3-minute production trailer and a 2-minute theatrical trailer for the film. 

The single-disc release arrives in black keepcase with one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the testosterone-pumping original illustrated movie poster artwork, which is replicated on the disc inside.  The spine has some nice shelf appeal with bold, thick white lettering on a red background, it certainly draws attention to itself on the shelf. 

Special Features:
- Includes both Theatrical  (92 mins) and Extended Cut (102 min) H D
- War Machine – Interview with Co-Director Claduio Fragasso (20 min) HD
- All Quiet on the Philippine Front – Interview with Screenwriter Rossella Drudi (13 min) HD
- Strike Commando In-Production Promo (3 min) HD
 -Trailer (2 min) HD 

Strike Commando (1986) is a fun 'Namsploitation entry that  gets double-points for being such a fun and shameless knock-off of Rambo: First Blood Part 2. Mattei can be a bit of an an acquired taste but I love his brand of bootleg exploitation, he's like a grown kid who keeps getting caught with his hand in the movie-jar, but he so entertaining that you let him get away with time and time again. 

Screenshots from the Strike Commando (1986) Blu-ray