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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Friday, December 23, 2011

P.O.W.: The Escape aka Behind Enemy Lines aka Attack Force 'Nam (1986)

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It has been a while since I'd made it out to do some thrift shopping, but I went recently and dug through the VHS section to find some gems. It was a different world from the one I'd remembered, with many more mainstream films from local video stores after they'd closed, not the kind of stuff a guy who runs a blog about Direct to Video movies could use. But I did find this bad boy, and for .99, it was a good one. Let's see if it made the trip worth it.

P.O.W.: The Escape is a Golan-Globus production of a Cannon flick starring DTVC Hall of Famer David Carradine as an Army colonel sent to rescue some soldiers from a POW camp in the waning days of the Vietnam War. It's a setup, and Carradine finds himself a prisoner among the troops he intended to save, including DTVC favorite Steve James and Philippine 'Namsploitation mainstay Jim Gaines. The man running the prison camp, Mako, has family in Miami that he'd like to join, so he cuts a deal with Carradine: you get me to Saigon, and then to America, and I'll help you escape. Things go wrong though, and now Carradine and his troops need to navigate the dangerous countryside and make it to the coast to rendezvous with some choppers that will get them the hell out of there.

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Definitely worth the dollar, and probably worth a few more, this one delivered. Great Philippine 'Namsploitation from Cannon, plenty of exploding huts and other action, Carradine is great as the main hero, Mako as the baddie, and Steve James in a supporting role. Near the end there's a bit of dead spot on the way there, which could cause your buddies' ADD to act up, but if they can persevere, this is the kind of movie you came for. Just a lot of fun.

David Carradine was about fifty when this was made, and he did joke at one point "I'm getting too old for this shit", to which Steve James gave him a knowing smirk and head nod. He still carries the day with this "I get shit done" demeanor and screen presence, the kind of thing he took with him somewhat to Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, but was able to flourish much more in a role like this. By the end, when he's running around with a machine gun shooting up Filipino stuntmen, then he sees a tattered American flag flying on a pole that he takes down and drapes over his shoulder, we're all in and loving it. A great Carradine vehicle here.

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Steve James has a smaller supporting role, but unlike his other supporting roles where it feels like he should be the main star, his character works better here as a guy supporting Caradine. His character gets who Carradine is right away, and Carradine's gets him, and they know that each other will make a great asset in getting the whole crew out alive. I just love Steve James so much, and he's great here. Also love Mako as the baddie. Unfortunately all three of this film's main stars are no longer with us.

Watching this, especially at the end with the American flag stuff, it had me thinking: what do people in other countries that watch these films think of that kind of thing? What about the 'Namsploitation genre in general. It has a certain connotation in the States, but 'Nam was our thing. Is it just that there's a universal language in exploding huts? Not only that, but a lot of them only exist today in the form of Japanese or Dutch VHS, so it's as if they're more popular abroad than they are here. It's fascinating, on top of the fact that movies themselves are often very fun. Any of my readers from outside the States, let me know what you think about this.

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Speaking of Philippine 'Namsploitation, check out the dude to the right, Jim Gaines (credited as James Gaines). I'm sure if you've seen any amount of these films that you recognize him. Unfortunately, at least as far as I could tell, there was no Vic Diaz too, so that was a disappointment. Gaines only had a very small role, appearing in a few scenes, never having a close-up, and playing a character listed in the credits as "POW #5", but it's always fun to see guys like this in a movie like this.

This is on DVD under the Attack Force 'Nam title, or it can be found on VHS under P.O.W.: The Escape. I'm not so sure you need to go out of your way unless you're a big time collector and want to add it on VHS, but definitely, if you're making your way through a VHS bargain bin and see it, don't hesitate to pull the trigger. This is a worthy find.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091713/

10 comments:

  1. That cover always caught my eye in the video store back in the day. It's such a cool cover. It's probably the only reason I ever picked it up in the first place. But I do remember enjoying it though. But it's been so long, I wonder if my memories still hold true. Maybe I'll get lucky one day and Netflix will stream it. Great review man!

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  2. Good review! We just watched this a few days ago. We loved the bit with Carradine and the American flag.

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  3. New to the site! Doug Brunell here (author of "Nothing Men" and writer for Film Threat). I am glad I found your blog. This is some good stuff. I remember this film, and I remember not liking it as much as I thought I should have. In fact, I fell asleep during the first viewing. The next day I decided to finish it and was mildly upset I did. Excellent blog!

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  4. Agreed, a jingoistic classic if ever there was one! And Steve James!

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  5. Havent seen this yet, but im sure ill come around to it sometime...just yesterday, Kung Fu Killer was on tv, featuring Carradine.
    Had me watching it for some time with interest...have to get me some info on that one...

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  6. Aussies were involved in Vietnam as well as every other war the States has been in since WW1.

    So being from down under I enjoy namsploitation films also and therefore have a love for films such as Battle Rats, Phantom Soldiers, The Last Hunter, Siege of Firebase Gloria and Warbus.

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  7. I'm from the UK and when I was a kid back in the late 80s all the boys loved a 'namsploitation film.

    There was something about that setting which that immediately said cool.

    Obviously in the UK you grow up on all the British WW2 films. Which are full of stiff upper lip types, smart uniforms, and doing the right thing to beat an evil enemy.

    Vietnam was much cooler because it was in colour, was more recent, and had a better soundtrack. The action was also better.

    There was also an added element of moral complexity in many of the films which you don't get in WWII dramas made in the 40s - 60s except in a few films.

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  8. I think you'll dig it robotGEEK, it was pretty fun. I can't wait to see your review on it too Ty, I'm glad you dug it. Hey Doug, welcome to the site, glad you're here. This one might deserve a second viewing for you. And Kung Fu Killer sounds pretty sweet hellford667, and I think you'll enjoy this as well.

    That brings me to what, as The Goodkind aptly called a "jingoistic classic", or my own question about how that kind of thing plays to foreign audiences. I get what you're saying Aussie, but it kind of misses my point, because this movie isn't about Aussie and American 'Nam forces. In fact, Return of the Kickfighter makes a point of telling us that, despite Richard Norton's accent, he was only born in Australia, but was raised in the US and is American through and through.

    Exploding Helicopter got to more of what I was looking for (and by the way, this film does have an exploding helicopter), that there is something these 'Namsploitation flicks offer in terms of the heroes they feature and moral complexity that aren't always there in UK productions. As an American, I'd never have thought of it from the UK perspective in those terms, so I thank you for that.

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  9. Well to answer your question about the flag scene and in general this type of movies. Fist i agree on the moral complexity that other commenters said. Second, personally i dont think that this scene has something to be a bitch about it and start yelling stereotypes against USA and stuff like that, if that is what you ask.

    Personally i see it like an larger than life act of heroism and idealism, plain, logical and simple. Since the dawn of time Action stories (Mythology, epic tales from around the world), always had the larger than life element and heroes that have an idealism about their cause and that translates worldwide.

    Hope i made my point, cause english is not my first language. (Greek is).

    It's been ages since i saw this movie, so i will give it a go soon.



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  10. I simply love films like this and Missing In Action, Rambo and I am a left-wing Finn. The To me the American hyperpatriotism in these films adds a touch of surreality and humour.

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