Dog Tags (1987)

Three of the cinema’s best genres are finally mixed together to produce a love child of death, dismemberment, and amputee fellatio! Taking the very finest elements of the Vietnam POW movie, the stolen Nazi gold movie, and the micro-budget mid 1980s Italian action movie, Dog Tags manages to even work in a strip club scene for no reason except that director Romano Scavolini (Nightmare In A Damaged Brain) is just that damn good! Could anything less be expected from the brother of the writer of American Rickshaw?

I came into Dog Tags concerned that it would be one of those boring jungle movies heavy on filthy dudes with filthier mouths running around shooting Charlie, getting blown up, and watching buddies die all around them for a mission that no one wanted them to survive. And thankfully, I was dead right! But Dog Tags smartly splits the movie up into five parts, all with title cards so that the viewer can easily justify shutting things down for a day of R&R between sections!

You’ve got your prologue which sets things up with some silly narration by a writer recounting how a chopper laden with stolen Vietnamese gold (see how craftily Romano brings the whole Nazi gold angle into the 1970s?) is shot down.

The writer travels to the Philippines since that’s where the only survivor of the whole misadventure is now living. He was just a little native boy at the time, but for some reason he is now in the Philippines. (Probably because that’s where they shot the movie.)

The story he tells consists of Act One: The Facts, Act Two: The Getaway, and Act Three: The Chase. To give you a little flavor of the movie, the Getaway involves an old guy riding a water buffalo that’s dragging the gold and an injured soldier behind it.

To give you even more flavor, as soon as two of his buddies get done sawing off a soldier’s gangrene infected leg, a native girl removes the severed limb and then gives him a blow job! Best amputation ever!

Things begin with your standard POW rescue mission doublecrossed by the higher ups. Instead of getting a chopper home like they were lead to believe, HQ informs them that they need to proceed to another checkpoint and retrieve some classified material from a helicopter crash site.

Too bad for them, but great for us because this provides ample opportunity for soldiers to turn into whack jobs! Like the black dude who kept saluting, yelling stuff like “yes sir!” over and over along with calling himself racial epithets before wandering off into the jungle to get blown up by a mine!

Or the dogface with glasses who was trying to prove himself by killing a Vietnamese with a machete! The Vietnamese is trying to set up some sort of grenade booby-trap and Four Eyes stands over her trying to get the guts to slice her up.  He finally does, but only wounds her in the shoulder, prompting his buddies to finish the job the old-fashioned way by shooting her! Then one of them finishes Four Eyes the old fashioned way, too! This is one hardcore platoon!

And you fans of booby traps will love this one just as much as fans of post-op BJs do! There’s a guy who gets shot up with pointy sticks, one of those Indiana Jones rope bridges gets blown up, and two swimming holes are mined, one of which happens during the traditional Italian skinny dipping scene! No wonder everyone in that war was always dirty!

Like all really great movies about gold booty, the mere whiff of the stuff fires up the paranoia. The guy who has to have his leg chopped off immediately assumes it’s all a plot to deprive him of his share. His friends reassure him that they WILL get his share if he doesn’t have the infected leg removed. It’s all very Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Well, except for the tramp going down on the guy afterwards.

Back at HQ, their evil commander meets a guy at a strip club. There was some talk about retrieving the gold and only the gold – no excess baggage!

This leads us to the big finish where the helicopter lands to get the gold but finds itself under attack. Succumbing to the lure of the gold, the evil commander refuses to let the helicopter take off without out it and gets blown up. Our heroes rip off their dog tags and drop them on the ground which is the best non-booby trap, non-BJ, non-strip club, non-machete attack scene in the whole film!

This brings us to the epilogue where the writer is looking at the pictures the now-grown native boy still has of the army guys. To pad out the movie a little, we are shown a montage of all the scenes we just sat through, but brighter, because it’s now only a memory. I think this is Romano inventing a technique.

Finally, the writer says that he can’t believe that this guy managed to fit so many memories in such a small box. I can’t believe that Romano managed to fit so many memorable moments into such a scuzzy movie!

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2 thoughts on “Dog Tags (1987)

  1. I LOVE that poster. Pretentious, big, loud, and misleading! Just the way I like my italian/philipine “Vietnam” movies!

  2. I know – that poster tells me this movie is going to be like Rambo but like twice the awesome. The abject disappointment once you actually see the movie is part of the movie’s charm.

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