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]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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--Matt

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Platoon Leader (1988)

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This is an old Michael Dudikoff Cannon classic based on a novel that I haven't read. I saw it a long time ago, I want to say on TNT, but I may have rented it too. An interesting note on it before I dig in: though it has the feel of a Vietnam War flick shot in the Philippines, it was actually made in South Africa. Also, it had a short box office release, earning a little over $1 million, which isn't bad for 1988. (Okay, that was two notes...) The Lost Video Archive reviewed this as well, and upped some great VHS box shots you should check out.

Platoon Leader has Michael Dudikoff as a green horn lieutenant fresh out of West Point who has been assigned a small platoon guarding a small outpost from the Viet Cong. He's initiated quickly into the war, lessons he'd never get at the academy, but he toughens up just as quickly and earns the respect of his men. How much longer can they hold out though, before the Viet Cong overrun them?

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Part of me wants to say this is just for Dudikoff completists, because it does have a bit of a blah plot that meanders along for the better part of an hour before it gets totally Cannon on us and blows tons of shit up, but I don't know if maybe I'm being too hard on it. I mean, it would have been better if it was more like a Missing in Action style, where Dudikoff is the lone hero kicking ass and taking names, especially because he'd have been able to use his martial arts skills then; but this was a lot of fun for what it was: a bad Cannon Vietnam War flick with Michael Dudikoff. Plenty of violence and massive explosions, plus plenty of overly dramatic death scenes and soldiers carrying children from burning huts. If that sounds like a good time, then I'd go for it.

With this film, we have only three left before we have Michael Dudikoff's entire DTV filmography up here. If there's anyone who should have a complete filmography covered, it's him. That being said, my recommendation that this might be best for Dudikoff completists doesn't go for all of his films. There are plenty that are pretty atrocious, even of you are a huge Dudikoff fan, as I am, so just having Dudikoff doesn't exactly make it worth the watch. This is a rare one in his early Cannon days that isn't totally kickass though, and I know that's usually a sure bet to see the names Dudikoff and Cannon on the same film.

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Speaking of Cannon, this is also a rare film of theirs from the late 1980s that wasn't produced by Golan-Globus. It definitely had that Cannon feel though, especially in some of the later battle scenes, where you had their classic everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mentality, which is a huge reason why we love them in the first place. We probably could've used some ninjas though.

You'll notice either if you're watching the opening credits or look this up on imdb, that it's directed by one Aaron Norris. That's right, he's the younger brother of Chuck Norris, and he's actually directed him in a some films and Walker TV episodes. He also served in Vietnam. Just thought I'd throw that out there since we're talking about a Vietnam War film he directed.

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One thing he missed was this boom mike here. Didn't have those in Vietnam, did they? You can see it peeking out from the upper right corner. I have to say, out of our 600+ posts at the DTVC, boom mike sightings are actually not as frequent as one might think. To get one here was good though.

I got this on VHS, and that seems to be the best bet. It's also on YouTube as of my writing this, but I won't put the link, just because those things change frequently. Just type the title into the search bar and see if you still find it. If you don't spend too much money on it, you'll probably have a fun time, especially if you watch in a group.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095877/

7 comments:

  1. Nice Review! Saw this one a long time ago on VHS, i agree with your review, if it was like Missing In Action or Crossfire (With Richard Norton) it would be a action classic!

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  2. Yeah, it played out a little more in the standard war movie paradigm, only with the Cannon "let's blow tons of shit up" style, which worked on some levels, but not to the point I'm giving a rave review.

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  3. I don't know what to say. It's okay but Dudikoff as much as we love him isn't a strong enough actor for this type of role. Indeed only Smith was any good as Lyons was just too John Wayne in the role. It's one of those movies that would've been better as MIA as you said.

    PlatoonLeader is woth a look for Dudikoff fans merely out of curiousity. It's not one of his best though.

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  4. Thanks for the honorable mention. The memoir this was based on was, as you might have guessed much better than the movie. Although it lacks the explosive power of MIA it is a bit more historically accurate if, like me that is important to you. And also, while Aaron was in the military during Vietnam, he did not serve "in country", his oldest brother Wieland did. Wieland was killed in action which may explain why Chuck was so bent out of shape on redeeming the honor of 'Nam vets in so many of his movies.

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  5. No problem on the mention, it was my pleasure, and thanks for the added info, especially about the book and Aaron Norris. I read that their brother died in Vietnam, but I didn't know the rest of the circumstances.

    You and Kenner both make excellent points, and I think for the most part I agree. The only thing I would say is that this had a pretty heavy action quotient, which a lot of the more boring low-budget Vietnam War films don't.

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  6. I personally really enjoyed this- I found quite a few chuckles in it- the terrible, melodramatic monologues, the OD scene with the dude from Head of the Class, Dudikoff's bandage @ the end... I could go on. Objectively, I'd have to agree, for Dudikoff completists, but probably after American Ninjas, Moving Target, and Cyberjack, but before the Duds on a sub/plane movies.

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  7. I think I'm leaning more towards your end on this, in seeing more of the fun and less of the pain.

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