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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Strike Commando

March 9, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Strike Commando

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #499: Strike Commando

DebuaryRebuary: Week 4

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never worn a beret in public or anywhere else, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four-hundred and ninety-nine, Debuary Rebuary concludes with the low budget Italian action flick Strike Commando starring Reb Brown and which was released upon North American audiences in November of 1987.

Strike Commando

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Strike Commando, directed and co-written by the great Bruno Mattei (under his Vincent Dawn name), is an absolutely batshit insane low budget action flick that makes absolutely zero sense. I didn’t actually understand what the hell was really going on with it until about a half hour in, and when I figured out what was happening, I was baffled by the choices Mattei and co-writer Claudio Fragasso made. I mean, Jesus Christ, what the hell did they think they were doing? At the same time, Strike Commando is a movie that, despite its 104 minute running time, is somehow still incredibly entertaining. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

Reb Brown stars as Sgt. Michael Ransom, the badass leader of the Strike Commandos, an elite American force that’s operating behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War. After a botched mission kills all of Ransom’s men, Ransom ends up in a Vietnamese village that’s sort of overseen by an old French guy named Le Due (Luciano Pigozzi, operating under the name of Allan Collins, who we just saw with Reb Brown in Yor, the Hunter from the Future). While in this village, Ransom strikes up a friendship with a local hot babe and a kid that desperately wants to go to America and Disneyland. The area is crawling with the commie Viet Congs and, apparently, the Soviets, so Random concocts a scheme to get the entire village to safety. So Ransom gathers up all of the people he can and calls his superiors for help.

Now, Ransom’s direct superior, Major Harriman (Mike Monty), is all for helping Ransom out because they’re friends and Harriman trained Ransom back in the day (sort of like Colonel Trautman and John Rambo). Colonel Radek (Christopher Connely), the major’s boss, isn’t too keen on anyone helping Ransom because it’s just too dangerous (and Colonel Radek also acts like a weenie politician too scared to let America win the war. Or something. There’s a whole section of the movie where that’s all people talk about, politicians getting in the way of the soldiers). Radek, though, this time, allows the major to send a team of choppers to a specific point to pick up Ransom and anyone he manages to bring along with him. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

Yeah, it doesn’t really work out for anyone. Ransom manages to get some of the people to the pick-up point, but most of them are killed by Viet Cong soldiers and Soviets (the Soviets are led by the brutal Jakoda, played by Alex Vitale) and Ransom is the only one that ends up getting rescued. Back at American HQ, Ransom tells the major and the colonel about the Soviet presence in the area. The major believes Ransom, while the colonel doesn’t (notice a pattern here?). But the colonel does allow Ransom to go back into enemy territory with a camera to document the presence of Soviet troops. So Ransom goes, camera in tow, and tries to document what’s there.

So then some stuff happens, Ransom finds the village he was hanging out in earlier has been massacred, and Ransom is pissed. Fuck providing photographic proof of Soviet involvement, he’s going to go kill as many VC and Soviets as he can find. Armed with an M60, Ransom goes apeshit and starts shooting up everything that he sees. It’s a pretty great game plan until Ransom gets captured and is tortured alongside another American POW, a man named Martin (David Brass). After a montage of various torture techniques, including a blow torch to the back, the Soviets want Ransom and Martin to read propaganda messages to the world, which they both refuse to do (Ransom gives his big fuck you enthusiastically). As punishment for what they’ve done, Martin is killed and his body is left to rot in Ransom’s cell, while Ransom is left to smell Martin’s rotting dead body for days on end. Jesus, that’s awful.

While all of that is going on, the major pleads with the colonel to send a rescue mission into Vietnam to get Ransom. As you would expect, the colonel rejects the major’s request because it’s just too dangerous. We also find out that the colonel isn’t exactly what you would call a patriotic American soldier. The colonel is, in fact, a criminal. How the fuck did that happen? Basically, it just sort of did.

Back at the prison camp, Ransom decides one day that he’s had enough of this shit and breaks out of the camp, snatching a Soviet babe for insurance (and proof that the Soviets are there in Vietnam) and killing a shitload of bad guys, some of them with a flamethrower (easily one of the greatest moments in low budget action movie history. I mean, come on, it’s Reb fucking Brown with a flamethrower. That’s awesome!). Ransom gets the Soviet babe to the old pick up point, and the colonel is there to shoot her dead and try to kill Ransom. Holy shit!

So then some stuff happens, Ransom kills several more bad guys, then fights Jakoda one-on-one in a hellacious brawl that’s also hysterically ridiculous (it’s all about the head butt scene). Ransom eventually defeats Jakoda, and then goes after the colonel (that sonofabitch is in cahoots with the Soviets!). Ransom just misses the colonel during the fall of Saigon, but because he’s Michal Ransom, the Strike Commando, he will find the colonel and fucking kill him.

The last section of the movie has Ransom in Manila in the “present day,” armed to the teeth and looking for the colonel. To say that mayhem ensues would be a serious understatement.

I’m going to assume that the reason Strike Commando takes place during the Vietnam War is because the movie isn’t about rescuing American POW’s, which is what Missing in Action and Rambo: First Blood II and loads of other ‘Nam movies were about back in the day, but then the question becomes, if Mattei is going to rip off those movies to begin with, why not rip them off wholesale? I mean, at no time does Strike Commando feel like a “period” movie. It always feels like it’s taking place in the 1980’s. So why have it take place towards the end of the Vietnam War? Why is it necessary to do the whole sequence in Saigon? To me, it would have made more sense to just do a movie about “Commie troops” in Manila and the Soviets doing some bullshit and the Americans send in the Strike Commando Michael Ransom to deal with it. That way, Mattei and company can still have a kind of “’Nam movie” without actually doing the whole ‘Nam thing. But then no one is going to watch Strike Commando for historical accuracy. Strike Commando is about action, explosions, and Reb fucking Brown killing as many bad guys as he can.

And, holy shit, Reb Brown kills a lot of people in this movie. Whether it’s by knife, machine gun, grenade, flamethrower, or simply with his bare hands, Reb Brown’s Michael Ransom is a one man war machine. He has a nice guy side, sure (watch all of the scenes where Ransom hands out with the village kid and tells him all about America. It’s heartwarming, even if most of what he tells the kid is a series of exaggerations), but when you give the man a gun and drop him into the jungle, Sgt. Michael Ransom is one badass motherfucker.

The look of the movie is fairly typical for low budget movies made in the Philippines in the 1980’s. It doesn’t look expensive, but at the same time it doesn’t look cheap, either. The stunt work all looks good, and all of the explosions are real explosions. I’m not sure about the helicopter scenes. Most of them look like stock footage or lifted from some other movie, but they’re cut into the movie well enough to where they don’t look ridiculously out of place. There’s one boat scene that doesn’t look right as the boat that gets blown up already looks like it’s been destroyed before it explodes. There is one terrific exploding human body scene, though, that makes up for the lame boat. It’s like the exploding body at the end of Brian De Palma’s The Fury but nastier. Awesome shit.

The synth soundtrack, by Luigi Ceccarelli, is terrific. Yes, it sounds like plenty of other low budget ‘Nam soundtracks (or, really, other low budget Italian genre movies) but it works and fits the movie perfectly. I wish more low budget genre movies today did this kind of music. It’s somehow both of its time and timeless.

Reb Brown is simply awesome as Sgt. Ransom. He manages to sell every aspect of the movie, even the ridiculous parts, and he’s never boring. He does a great job with the fight scenes, the action scenes, and he shows that, when he has to, he can be a nice guy and “act.” Those scenes with the Vietnamese kid are heartwarming and, in retrospect, sad when we find out that the kid is dead. It’s too bad Brown didn’t get to do the sequel.

Mike Monty does a decent job as the Colonel Trautman character Major Harriman. He doesn’t really get to do anything beyond talk up Ransom and look tough, but he does both of those things well and, hey, I’m sure the part helped pay the bills. Christopher Connely makes Colonel Radek an absolute piece of shit that you despise, and that’s before you find out he’s a traitor.

The great Luciano Pigozzi is terrific as the Frenchman Le Due. He’s resourceful, he hates the commies, and he likes blowing shit up. You’ll shed a little tear when he gets killed by the rat bastard Jakoda. Speaking of Jakoda, Alex Vitale’s performance as the Soviet brute is excellent because he manages to give the character an unexpected menace. Jakoda could have been just a brutal henchman, like the Yushin character from Rambo: First Blood Part II, but Vitale makes him something more. I think you’ll love the way Ransom takes care of him at the end.

Strike Commando is awesome. It’s insane and ridiculous and, at times, incomprehensible, but it’s filled with enough energy and explosions and Reb Brown killing bad guys that you’ll love every minute of it. I know I loved it. Reb Brown is a worldwide treasure.

Track down and see Strike Commando. See it, see it, goddamn see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Over 70, but less than 100. It’s difficult to get an accurate count.

Explosions: Several, both big and small.

Nudity?: None, which I’m surprised by.

Doobage: Chain link fence cutting, knife to the back, arrow to the chest, crossbow hooey, exploding depot, multiple exploding buildings, a “Vietnam” montage, a long, wooden bridge, suspicious clumps of leaves in the river, white faced adults, booze drinking, a dead and rotting body in a tree, grenade attack, a kid killing 3 bad guys with an AK-47, exploding boat, neck breaking, a very brief “suiting up” montage, knife to the side, strangulation, RPG attack, mortar attack, serious slow motion M60 hooey, a press conference, a Soviet patch, exploding bridge, a waterfall, a massacred village, fancy binoculars, total hut destruction, anti-Americanism, prisoner of war hooey, torture, blow torch to the back, cane to the back, a sort of crucifixion, general beatings, push-ups, electrocution, almost barfing, straight razor hooey, more neck breaking, exploding tower, flamethrower hooey, multiple man-on-fire gags, multiple burning barrels, multiple bondage scenes, a spiked booby-trap, knife to the chest, boat attack, plastic grenades, another exploding boat, nose pulling, a wicked knee to the balls, eye gouging, mega head butting, Saigon, cockfighting in Manila, yellow bandana hooey, grenade launcher hooey, multiple exploding humans, and a hilarious voiceover.

Kim Richards?: Big time.

Gratuitous: Reb Brown, Reb Brown cutting a chain link fence, a digital watch, Vietnam, guys playing dominoes, a kid that wants to watch over Reb Brown, an entire village yelling “American!,” talk of American military might and the people behind it, complaints about politicians screwing up wars, helicopters, Reb Brown telling a kid that America is basically one big Disneyland, palm trees, a shirtless Reb Brown running through the jungle for some reason, a venomous snake, Reb Brown wearing a bush as camouflage, Reb Brown running through rice paddies while dodging explosions, Reb Brown with an M60, everyone sweating, Reb Brown having an emotional breakdown, torture, Reb Brown using a flamethrower, Reb Brown not knowing how to speak Russian, Reb Brown jumping out of the water to kill people, Reb Brown loading his AK-47, Reb Brown in Manila, Reb Brown watching a cockfight, Reb Brown wearing a yellow bandana, Reb Brown threatening a woman with a grenade, metal teeth, and a hilarious voiceover.

Best lines: “Major, the depot at all costs, remember?,” “What happened, Mike? I don’t know! Let’s get out of here!,” “Oh, God, they’re all dead!,” “Make sure he is secure. We will worry about his life later,” “All that is evil must be wiped out!,” “The Russians? What the hell you talking about, old man?,” “Strike One to Sad Eagle! Strike One to Sad Eagle!,” “Major, I don’t have to justify crap,” “Major, this Ransom, is he really that good? There’s no one that can touch him, not in your whole damn army!,” “It’s not right to fool children,” “Damn! They’ll get all of us now!,” “I need some explosives!,” “Do you remember me, Frenchman?,” “Listen you bunch of Army ants!,” “That sonofabitch!,” “Commando heading in your direction. Use mortars. Use mortars,” “Ransom! Get your ass in here! Quick!,” “Russian officers in Vietnam?,” “Bring me to Jakoda!,” “Are you looking for me, Americanski?,” “Back of! I’m full of plastique and I’ll blow us all to hell!,” “I’m gonna kill you, Jakoda!,” “You bastards! He’s dead! You killed him! He’s dead!,” “Relax! The worst that can happen to you is you get shot by your own men,” “Major! It’s incredible! It’s goddamn incredible!,” “Just you and me, pussycat,” “I break your back!,” “Radek!,” Come on, Major, screw the Russians! Let’s go in there and pull him out!,” Where is he? Right here!,” and “These Russian dentists make some pretty good dentures.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0

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Things to Watch Out For This Week

Antidote

Antidote: Randy Couture and Chuck Zito star in this low budget sort of action-horror thing about treasure hunters who team up with a female doctor in order to find/uncover an old Mayan legend. Or something like that. The movie, according to imdb, was originally known as Treasure Hunter: Legend of the White Witch, which is a much better title than Antidote. Antidote makes it sound like more of a horror movie than anything else. There are some scary images in the trailer, sure, but is it really a full on nasty horror flick? I doubt it. Very rentable.

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Showdown Special Edition: The fine folks at MVD Rewind Collection are outing out this special features loaded Blu-ray of a low budget Billy Blanks martial arts action flick from the early 1990’s that I don’t think I’ve ever seen. I’m watched the trailer several times now and, goddamn, I don’t remember this thing at all. I think I’m definitely going to have to get this and see it, finally. I mean, this is the kind of movie that I used to live for back then, the kind of movie that was always at either a local video store or on The Movie Channel. The great Patrick Kilpatrick is also apparently in this, along with the now late but always great Brion James. Goddamit, how the hell did I miss this? Anyone out there see this? Anyone at all?

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Do you like Cult TV?

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The 1970’s TV thriller Kolchak: The Night Stalker is first up! Check out what I think about the show with the links below!

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B-Movie News

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New Scott Adkins movie No Surrender set to hit home video on April 2nd!: Scott Adkins, the hardest working performer in the action movie world, has another movie coming out soon, and it’s a movie that Adkins made in Egypt called No Surrender. Under its original Egyptian title Harb Karmooz or Karmouz War it was a box office smash in Egypt (that’s what the article over at Action Flix claims) and was apparently a big deal at the most recent American Film Market. ITN apparently has North American distribution rights to the movie. Now, Adkins doesn’t actually star in the movie (the actual star is Amir Karara), but he’s going to be the reason action movie nerds tune in. I definitely want to see this and, hey, maybe this will usher in a series of Egyptian action movies? I mean, how many Egyptian action movies have there been?

Is Scott Adkins awesome or what? Check out the new trailer for No Surrender below.

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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Strike Commando

Reb Brown– Sgt. Michael; Ransom
Christopher Connely– Colonel Radek
Alex Vitale– Jakoda
Mike Monty– Major Harriman
William Berger– Major Harriman (voice)
David Brass– Martin Boomer
Loes Kamma– Olga
Luciano Pigozzi– Le Due
Karen Lopez– Cho-Li

Directed by Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
Screenplay by Claudio Fragasso (as Clyde Anderson) and Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn) and an uncredited Rossella Drudi, based on a story by Rossella Drudi (also uncredited for that)

Distributed by International Video Entertainment (IVE), Avid Home Video, Cinefear, and Video Asia

Rated R for violence and language
Runtime– 104 minutes

Buy it here and here