January 26th, 2014

THE DEVIL’S 8 (1969) **

Christopher George is a special agent who is sent in undercover to work on a chain gang. His mission is to break out a bunch of criminals to help him on a secret assignment. He teaches them how to drive fast and fight with their fists before embarking on their top secret mission. They then infiltrate the gang of a tyrannical backwoods moonshiner (Ralph Meeker) who is responsible for killing many of George’s fellow agents.

The Devil’s 8 plays sorta like a half-assed version of The Dirty Dozen (or more accurately, a two-thirds-assed version). Transplanting the action from WWII to the present day south was a novel notion. It’s just a shame that director Burt Topper couldn’t make it work.

The opening scenes of George recruiting his unorthodox team and whipping them into shape are fairly entertaining. However, once the team gets in good with Meeker and his moonshiners, the film becomes inert and dull. The action scenes are also pretty weak and suffer from some terrible rear projection effects in the driving sequences. And by the time the finale rolls around, the whole thing pretty much fizzles out.

The titular 8 are well-cast. Ross Hagen, Fabian, Robert DoQui, Larry Bishop, and Joe Turkel do their best, but the script (co-written by Willard Huyck and John Milius) fails to make them characters we care about. At least Christopher George looks like he’s having fun essaying the Lee Marvin role.

AMAZONS (1984) **

Madeline Stowe stars as an emergency room doctor who loses her patient after a simple appendectomy. Since the patient was a Congressman, there is an investigation and Stowe’s job is in jeopardy. Stowe does some digging and learns that the Congressman was actually killed by a team of hit women who pattern themselves after Amazon warriors.

Amazons was directed by Starsky himself, Paul Michael Glaser. It’s fairly silly (there is a random monkey attack), but it never really gets silly enough to be entertaining. Had Glaser played up the goofier aspects of the plot I think it might’ve had a chance. However, if you can get past the fact that there are no traditional Amazon women (except in the opening flashback, that is), you might have a good time with it. For me, it just felt like a letdown.

Things get off to an interesting enough start, but the flick bogs down once Stowe and a cop (Jack Scalia) start tracking down the mysterious Amazon women. The final reveal of the Amazons is too long in coming and the payoff is pretty unsatisfying. I mean the idea of having modern day Amazonian warriors is a potentially intriguing one. But couldn’t they do more to update them besides giving them a crossbow instead of the traditional bow and arrow?

On the plus side, Stowe is good in the lead. And I really liked Tamara Dobson (from Cleopatra Jones) as the Kung Fu, ass-kicking, Amazon woman, although she isn’t given nearly enough to do. The rest of the cast fails to make much of an impression though.

Glaser went on to direct The Running Man.

THE EXPENDABLES (1988) ***

No, this isn’t the all-star action extravaganza starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Statham, etc. It’s actually a Vietnam flick (filmed in the Philippines) directed by Cirio H. Santiago and co-starring Vic Diaz. And quite honestly, the fact that it’s a Santiago/Diaz joint is more than enough for me.

Captain Rosello (Anthony Finetti) gets all the shit details because his superior officer hates him. In nearly every single one of his missions, he isn’t expected to come back. His latest battalion is made up of a ragtag bunch of criminals and it’s up to him to whip them into shape. Of course, they all have to learn to work together as a team and fight the Viet Cong.

I really dug this movie. It’s an old-fashioned he-man macho movie. In the first five minutes no less than three bamboo huts explode into tiny pieces. Then there’s a great scene where the team blows up a bridge. It took William Holden almost three hours to blow up a bridge in Bridge on the River Kwai. It takes the Expendables only 25 minutes. After kicking some serious ass, the film loses its way after the boys go to a strip club for some R & R. But although the second half of the film is missing that certain spark the first half had, The Expendables is still a good time.

The flick also contains some great macho dialogue. The religious nut on the team says, “Thy will be done. In Vietnam as it is in Heaven!” And the stoner guy of the group says, “I’m getting ‘roids waiting for you!”

Here is Comeuppance Reviews’ take on the flick: http://www.comeuppancereviews.com/2012/11/the-expendables-1988.html