• Die Ruckkehr Der Wildganse (Operation Nam/Cobra Mission)

    Released by: Ascot Elite
    Released on: December 10th, 2013.
    Director: Fabrizio De Angelis
    Cast: Oliver Tobias, Christopher Connelly, Manfred Lehmann, John Steiner, Donald Pleasence
    Year: 1986
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    The Movie:

    Better known in North America as Operation Nam or Cobra Mission, 1986’s Die Ruckkehr Der Wildganse is another jungle action/war movie produced by Erwin C. Dietrich, though this time it’s directed not by Antonio Margheriti but by Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman), one of the most prolific director/producers of Italian trash action films to have worked in the eighties.

    The film is set is set ten years after the end of the Vietnam War. A group of American soldiers - Richard (Oliver Tobias), Roger (Christopher Connelly), Mark (Manfred Lehmann), Mike (Ethan Wayne) and James (John Steiner) - decide to head back into the jungles of Southeast Asia to save some American prisoners of war who are still being held there. Not wanting a PR disaster, the government keeps their mission a secret and sends them into the thick of things where they receive some help from a kindly old priest (Donald Pleasance) who hooks them up with all the hardware they’ll need and helps get them on their way. When they find a Vietcong soldier torturing an American, they follow him and soon find the holding point they were looking for, but as luck would have it not all of our heroes are as stable as they might have initially seemed. Making matters worse is some undesirable government interference…

    Featuring a strong cast and some really good action set pieces, this is one of the better made films in the Italian jungle action war genre that’s maybe even a bit more interesting than you’d probably expect thanks to its odd political/anti-imperialist stance on the Vietnam War. While it was common in eighties action films to exploit the plight of American POW’s (Missing In Action being an obvious one, and Rambo: First Blood Part II another), here the movie makes it pretty clear that the government really doesn’t care about the after effects of its international meddling. That’s not to say that this is a particularly deep or intelligent film, because it isn’t, but there is a bit (not a lot, just a bit!) more going on just under the surface than is at first apparent. The movie looks like it’s going to take on the challenges grizzled vets encountered when returning to civilian life, like in The Deer Hunter or even Rolling Thunder, but no, it just toys with that concept and then heads straight into the low budget action and explosions you’d expect from a movie like this.

    The film benefits from some solid direction and strong performances from all the key players (Pleasence in particular is a lot of fun in his role but it’s not much more than a glorified cameo, so Pleasence fanatics, keep that in mind) and it moves at a good pace. Action fans will find enough carnage and gun play here to keep them satiated and hey, wow, Gordon Mitchell and Enzo G. Castellari both show up in supporting roles. Weird! Christopher Connelly and John Steiner are pretty good here, and if their characters are little more than stereotypes at least they put some enthusiasm into it. Ethan Wayne, John’s son, is in this too and it’s kind of amusing to see him running around playing tough guy. Lots of goofy violence and some great exploding huts and helicopters keep things awesome and there’s even an unexpected twist towards the end that most won’t see coming.


    Die Ruckkehr Der Wildganse debuts on Blu-ray, uncut, from Ascot Elite framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Contrast is a little off here and sometimes things look a little flat but detail and depth are better than standard definition could provide. The stock footage inserts can sometimes stand out but that’s not a problem with the transfer so much as it is an issue with the way that it was shot and cut. Black levels are okay and skin tones look decent enough. The greens could have maybe looked a bit lusher but the bright hues of the explosions are nice and colorful. There are no issues with any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement and this would seem to be a pretty faithful representation of the source material. This movie was released a few years ago in a cheap Video Asia multi-pack. That transfer was sourced from an old tape and it looked awful – this is obviously a pretty serious improvement even if it isn’t a reference quality HD presentation.

    DTS-HD 2.0 Mono are provided in German and French while DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks are provided in English and Italian. There are no subtitles provided. The English audio is fine. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and the score sounds good enough to work. There’s some decent power behind the gun shots and explosions here and while this is still limited by the age and low budget of the material, it sounds fine.

    The only extras on the disc are a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Ascot Elite action Blu-ray titles, menus and chapter stops. Additionally the cover art for this release is reversible, with one poster art style on side A and an alternate poster art style on side B – it’s a little thing but it’s a nice touch.

    The Final Word:

    Die Ruckkehr Der Wildganse isn’t deep even when it tries to be but it does deliver some decent quality ‘Namsploitaiton action done right, Italian style! The cast keep it fun and the action scenes are actually pretty decent. Not the definitive take on the genre but a decent one and the Blu-ray, despite being light on extras and far from perfect, offers a massive upgrade over previous VHS and VHS sourced releases.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!