Mario Siciliano was a pretty minor player as far as Italian scuzz cinema goes with credits on a few spaghetti westerns, a bunch of sex comedies, and Evil Eye. Mario proves though that it isn’t how much you do, but what you do with what you have. Some folks like Lamberto Bava or Bruno Mattei may be willing to share their gifts with us three or four times a year. Others, like Mario, may simply explode one day on the scene and burn brightly for a single film or two before returning to the relative obscurity whence they came.
There is some trepidation though when approaching a director’s work on a film when he isn’t exactly known for that particular genre. When guys like Pierluigi Ciriaci and Camillo Teti fire up the jeeps and blow the crud out of jungles, you don’t fret much since these guys know their way around an exploding bamboo hut.
When it’s an unknown like Mario though, you wonder if he’s going to understand what we need in our jungle mercenary movies. Is he going to realize that our hero needs to be more psychotic than the guys he’s hunting down for some good clean revenge?
I am happy to report that not only is Rolf a total nutjob, but he also carries a gigantic gun that he fires in the air during his hunting of his old mercenary buddies for no real reason! Guys with big guns are great! Even better are guys with big guns that have a great backstory!
Rolf isn’t just some blank slate who decided one day to be a merc because the local college had all the astronomy classes late on Friday afternoon! We learn during a particularly sensitive moment with his girlfriend via flashback that Rolf was raised by a whore!
But not just any whore! That whore was his mother! And she was a junkie! And her pimp gave her a fatal overdose of drugs right there when Rolf is the room! In the pimp’s defense, he did sort of push Rolf to the floor and knocked him out for a little while so that he didn’t actually get to see the lethal injection.
Once he woke up though, he did get to hold his mother’s head as she was foaming at the mouth while stupidly saying something like “mama, what’s wrong?” What’s wrong? Your hooker mom just got a bad case of that drug rabies that’s going around all the used up whores!
Rolf’s girlfriend also had a backstory, but who cares because she’s just there to get gang raped and shot so that Rolf will get off his duff and start rampaging!
Now why would Rolf’s girlfriend go and get herself violated and ventilated like that? Blame on it Rolf! Rolf’s old pals want him to pilot a plane full of drugs for them, but he’s against drugs due to his mother’s death and refuses.
That’s not why they did his girlfriend though. They only beat Rolf up and left him for the leeches after that. It’s when Rolf hijacks their plane, pisses in the drugs and chucks them out the window that his buddies go looking for Rolf’s girlfriend!
Despite the fact that there’s only five guys that Rolf needs to settle up with, the film still delivers a nice dosage of violent mayhem. There’s grenade traps, impalings, stabbings, shootings, and Rolf even gets his hands all full of bullet holes! This leads to a scene where he’s involved in a truck chase and he has to drive with his wrists!
You also see a guy getting boiling soup heaved in his face and then having said face held over a gas burner before he’s finally shot in the head! There’s even flashbacks to when Rolf’s buddies threw kids into the air and used them as target practice!
Mario clearly doesn’t have a hell of a lot to work with here. The sets for the interior shots look a lot like something left over from one of his low budget sex movies, the story is barely existent, and the dubbed dialogue sounds like it was written by someone who has no idea how conversational English sounds.
Mario also doesn’t exhibit much flair behind the camera and his efforts could be characterized as fluctuating somewhere between aggressively disinterested and not quite passable. Simply put, Rolf looks every bit the cheap and nasty film it is.
Still, there’s no question that there’s more than enough positive stuff going on here to require a viewing or three. Aside from the healthy dose of violence already outlined, there’s also a great scene where a prison guard shoves Rolf’s hand into a toilet full of poop and smears it on his hand. Then he puts Rolf’s poop-stained hand on the wall and says they ran out of ink for the fingerprints!
As great as that was, it left me deeply troubled. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out whether that was the best part of the movie or whether it was Rolf’s theme song which sounded like it was performed by a Bee Gees tribute band!
Gloriously grotesque and unabashedly ugly at every turn, Mario makes sure that one of his only forays into jungle warfare has the impact of a guy getting his head slammed repeatedly into a truck door by Rolf! He also ensures that you’ll be on the lookout for his other misanthropic mercenary flick, Skin’em Alive!
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