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.
Friday, December 23, 2011
P.O.W.: The Escape aka Behind Enemy Lines aka Attack Force 'Nam (1986)
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.
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.
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.
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/