Strike Commando (1987)

Strike Commando VHS CoverFrequently when I’m at one of those Strike Commando conventions they hold a couple of times a year, I hear other fans debating which was their favorite Rebbo moment. For some it was when he fought the big Russian to the death. For others, it was when he fought the big Russian to the death a second time.

Still, you have your holdouts that maintain it was when Rebbo (Yor, the Hunter from The Future‘s Reb Brown) burst forth from the water in super slo-mo, screaming and big gun blazing. There’s also a school of thought that when Rebbo was running along the rice fields in super slo-mo, screaming while rockets and bombs exploded around him was perhaps the finest display of Rebbo mayhem in his 100 minute long tour of duty.

Me? I appreciate all those bits and can’t wait to relive them five or six times in the coming week, but I’ve also got a sensitive side that I’m cool with and so does Rebbo. Whether it was when Rebbo was describing Disneyland to his new native sidekick, Lao, or when it was when he was describing Disneyland to his dying native sidekick, Lao, you could practically feel his anguish as he related how all you had to do was climb trees to eat the popcorn and there was genie there who would grant you any wish you wanted.

Sure, that anguish was the anguish of a guy who obviously has no clue what the hell Disneyland is, but he meant well enough. Besides, he was just flexing his emotions in anticipation of the end of the scene where he holds the dead Lao in his arms and screams the name of the big Russian at the top of his lungs so that it echoes throughout the jungle. Jakotaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Brings a tear to my eye just typing it.

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He was the best soldier the army ever produced! A killing machine! Head of a strike commando team, he was betrayed by his superior officer, left for dead and fought his way back to civilization, before being sent back behind enemy lines to face off against the Red Menace that was propping up the North Vietnamese only to be betrayed again! A story so loaded with potential for lots of explosions, guys getting shot and Rebbo snarling, “I’m going to kill the bastard!” at least once per act, that it would take a very special kind of filmmaker to capture it all in a minimal amount of time for a less than minimal cost.

There was one only man who could take on this heavy burden of responsibility and still make two other movies that year as well as a six hour TV miniseries. One man who so perfect a choice that he would make a sequel the very next year. And four other movies besides. One man named Bruno.

Italian junk juggernaut Bruno Mattei jumps into the Vietnam movie genre with both feet just as he did with the shark attack genre in Cruel Jaws, the zombie genre (Hell of the Living Dead) and the nun genre with The Other Hell.

But what of the guys that wrote this? How did they feel? After all, some don’t appreciate Bruno for the towering titan of tacky trash he is. All things considered, I doubt they minded too much since it was Bruno and frequent co-conspirator Claudio Fragasso who came up with Rebbo.

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While Claudio has been involved with scripting many of Bruno’s most highly-regarded films (Rats: Night Of Terror, Hell Of The Living Dead), he’s an accomplished director in his own right helming Beyond Darkness and such numbered flicks as Troll II and Zombie 4: After Death, so he can appreciate what Bruno does here.

Mattei uses his trademark pell-mell, damn-the-character-development, let’s-kill-a-bunch-of-stuff directing style that served him so well throughout his lengthy career.

Rebbo finds himself up to this thick neck in one action-packed scene after another. Whether he’s shooting people, stabbing people, breaking their necks, or heaving grenades at them, Rebbo proves that the only thing as inexhaustible as his guts is his ordnance.

Rebbo also knows that sometimes you have to lay your guns down, strip off your shirt and go toe to toe with your big Russian arch enemy with only your two fists between you and a Soviet-dominated southeast Asia. They also kick each other in the nuts a few times, but war’s a dirty business isn’t it?

But what of the evil Colonel Radek who seems to be out to get Rebbo? What with Radek having his strike commando team blown up, then having Rebbo sent deep behind enemy lines armed only with a camera, and finally with him having Rebbo shot at from a helicopter that was supposed to be picking him up, you might get the idea that Radek isn’t all that he seems.

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The war is over and the time is the present, yet Rebbo remains obsessed with tracking down Radek so much so that he’s even willing to go to Manila to do so. Of course since that’s where the movie was being shot anyway, it’s not really that big of deal, but Rebbo did get to take in a cock fight while he was there so it wasn’t all business.

After blowing Radek in half with a rocket launcher, Rebbo is walking around minding his own business when who should appear but the big Russian! And this time he has metal teeth!

Non-plussed by this startling development, Rebbo battles the big Russian for a few seconds before shoving a grenade into his mouth and blowing him in half as well. Showing that indomitable American spirit, Rebbo catches the big Russian’s metal teeth, smiles and says “these Russian dentists make some pretty good dentures.”

Then, demonstrating that perhaps he was affected by the giant headbutt during his first fight with the big Russian, Rebbo engages in some voice over narration about how any resemblance to living or dead people is purely accidental or one in a million…maybe!

Oh Rebbo, don’t sweat it! We know your one man battle in a war they didn’t want you to win has nothing to do with Braddock’s or Rambo’s one man battle in a war they didn’t want them to win either! Just enjoy some R&R, maybe hit Disneyland or something. But stay out of those popcorn trees. That stuff will go straight to your hips.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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