The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got.



Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Missing in Action (1984)


Missing in Action is, of course, not Direct to Video at all. It's very far from it, especially when you consider it made almost ten times its budget in US box office sales alone. That's why it's good to have weeks like this where I go outside the DTV box, and I'm glad my friend at Movies in the Attic selected this one for inclusion. It not only made Norris the star he is, but it proved to both Golan-Globus and Hollywood what audiences looked for in an action film, and paved the trail for the genre's renaissance in the 80s and 90s.

Missing in Action stars Norris as a Vietnam vet who escaped from a POW camp years after the war ended, and is selected to join a US diplomatic mission to mend fences with the Vietnam government. But Norris knows those Commie bastards are holding out on him, so he grills James Hong, the general in charge of Vietnam's diplomatic efforts, until he tells him the whereabouts of the other missing POWs still being held there. After, he's thrown out of the country, and has to go to Thailand where M. Emmet Walsh helps him invade Vietnam via the water so he can liberate his fellow soldiers.


If this is credited as being the film that made Norris big, it's understandable. From the beginning he's amazing, whether he's in the bush toting a machine gun, sneaking around a hotel picking guys off Apache style, or saving M. Emmett Walsh from a beating in order to drive the price down on his boat, it's all great. Again, I'm sure this more brutal and violent Norris is what made him clean up his act and become the Walker: Texas Ranger Norris, but it was sure good fun while it lasted.

I must amend my first paragraph slightly. First Blood was released in 1982, and made double what Missing in Action did, and was probably the main reason Missing in Action was made at all, making it more the film that paved the way to our 80s and 90s greats. It also had a budget $12 million higher, which is telling about the Golan-Globus success model. Why do for $14 million what we can do just as well for 2, and still make $22 million off it. Where Golan-Globus starts to fail is when they try their hands at things like Superman IV. Missing in Action was a very serviceable Rambo derivative with its own stand alone star in Norris. Had they stuck with that type of film, we might still have a Golan-Globus.


Joseph Zito directed this, along with Invasion USA, Red Scorpion, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Of those, only the last one isn't blatantly anti-Communist. It's interesting, because I couldn't find anywhere on his bio that suggests he holds those kinds of political views. It's also interesting to note that he might be the most successful director we've ever featured on here, because three of his films, this one, Invasion USA, and Friday the 13th IV, all held the number one spot in the box office. Joey Zito is gold, baby.

If I hadn't made this clear before, James Hong is the man. The guy has almost 350 acting credits on his imdb bio, starting as far back as the Golden Age of TV. I believe this is the fifth film of his I've reviewed, which is startling considering how many DTV films he's been in, but even worse, I don't have him tagged. How did that happen? What an egregious oversight. Like Richard Lynch, I need to do more of his films, and consider him for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2010.


I'm a huge Anthony Bourdain guy, and love his show, No Reservations. He had an episode on Vietnam, and it's interesting to consider if he had had the same show in 1984, would he have gone then too? Probably not. Not only was 1984 too soon for the wounds of the Vietnam War to have healed, but we were also still engaged in the Cold War. Even in the early 90s, when I first saw this, the themes were somewhat relevant. Just the same, even if the plot is strictly a product of its time, the overall style of the film lives on in a lot of today's action films, and I imagine it still will. Vietnam becomes Columbia, the Middle East, North Korea, Myanmar, and hopefully in twenty years we'll see action films based in those locations and think how much they too are a product of their times.

This is a critical picture in the evolution of the action film, and also one of the roles that made Chuck Norris the household name he is today. I can't think of any better Thanksgiving entertainment, but if you can't watch it today, it's plenty good to watch on a non-holiday too.

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