• Losers, The

    Released by: Dark Sky Films
    Released on: 2/28/2006
    Director: Jack Starrett
    Cast: William Smith, Bernie Hamilton, Adam Roarke, Eugene Cornelius, Houston Savage, Paul Koslo
    Year: 1970
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    The Movie:

    A government big wig named Chet Davis (played by the film’s director, Jack Starrett) is being held hostage inside a Cambodian prison camp and the C.I.A. has hired a gang of bikers known as The Devil’s Advocates to supe up their hogs with the finest artillery around and drive on in there to spring him out and bring him home alive.

    The bikers, made up of Link (William Smith), Speed (Eugene Cornelius), Dirty Denny (Houston Savage), Limpy (Paul Koslo) and Duke (Adam Rourke), are typical cycle trash, more content to lay with the local women and smoke some of the local weed than to kick into action and save the day but once the guys have gotten the randiness out of their systems and their gear is ready to go, action does prove to be the order of the day and we realize that these unlikely soldiers of fortune mean business.

    There are few subplots thrown in here and there - one of the guys had an affair with a Vietnamese girl while he was serving active duty in The Nam a few years prior and another ex-soldier turned biker had a hand in running a brothel while he was there and he’d be only too happy to collect the monies owed him from that time – but The Losers (also known under the alternate, more ‘biker movie oriented’ title of Nam’s Angels) is more or less The Dirty Dozen in Vietnam with motorcycles and naked Asian girls. You know what though? It works.

    The movie starts off with a bang as the Viet Cong take down nine American soldiers in an ambush. Shortly after that the Advocates are introduced and their mission is setup and then for the next half an hour or so not a whole lot happens as the subplots are dealt with and the guys get acclimated to their new turf. Once the bikes are ready though and lost love has been found once more, the saddle up and ride on in to an amazing half hour long ‘guys on bikes versus evil communist soldiers’ action set piece that combines Peckinpah styled slow motion bullet ballet with Steve McQueen/Great Escape style motorcycle stunt work. Squibs are going off left, right and center, guard towers are taken down with cycle mounted rocket launchers, commie soldiers are blown away in gory detail and The Losers prove their worth without the aid of the American military that’s supposed to be backing them as the climax looms closer and closer still.

    The Losers benefits from an interesting cast of biker trash regulars. William Smith is instantly recognizable from his work in Angels Die Hard and Run Angel Run he did and still does show up all over the place and worked in blaxploitation movies like Hammer and even showed up in television fare like Nash Bridges. Adam Rourke tore up the pavement with his two wheeled turns in The Savage Seven and Hells Angels On Wheels and also showed up in The Psych-Out around the same time, while Eugene Cornelius is easy to spot from his performance in The Omega Man as Dutch. Vic Diaz, who helped out Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson in Bloodfist shows up here, as does Bernie Hamilton, also of Hammer and, more importantly, Scream Blacula Scream!

    Director Jack Starrett, who died in 1989, would go on direct a lot of television work and also appeared on TV as an actor in various capacities in Knight Rider and Hunter. He’s probably best known for directing Peter Fonda and Warren Oates in Race With The Devil and for Cleopatra Jones but he also directed a few episodes of The Planet Of The Apes television series and made his directorial debut with the biker film Run Angel Run. His direction here is solid and it shows a flare for handling the action scenes. The cinematography by Filipino native Nonong Rasca (who is credited with additional photography work on Sam Firstenberg’s American Ninja!) captures the locations nicely and it’s easy enough to believe that it is all taking place in Nam, not the Phillippines. The jungles look dense and thick and the towns and camp areas look sufficiently native to ensure that it all works even when, if you really think about the story line itself, it probably shouldn’t.


    While the colors are just a tad dull in a couple of scenes and there is some mild grain and minute instances of print damage throughout the movie, The Losers looks really good on DVD for the most part. The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer presents the movie in its original aspect ratio and this transfer does the movie justice. The black levels stay strong throughout, the reds look nice and bright during the shoot out sequences, and flesh tones look lifelike and natural. Edge enhancement and aliasing are there if you want to look for them but they’re never overpowering and there are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts to speak of. Overall, the movie looks really good on DVD.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is fine, and it comes with optional English subtitles. There’s a little bit of hiss in a couple of spots but otherwise there’s not much to complain about here. The score and the sound effects come through nicely without overpowering the performers and their dialogue. It’s not a fancy track but it gets the job done well enough.

    The main supplement is a feature length commentary track with two of the actors from the film, William Smith and Paul Koslo, who are joined by moderator Todd Wieneke. While Smith admits that his memory regarding this film is a bit of a blur, the two still manage to pull some interesting stories out of their hats about some of the problems that the case and crew ran into while shooting in the Philippines. They discuss director Jack Starrett and some of their co-stars in a bit of detail, and offer up some amusing anecdotes about a few various aspects of the production. There’s a bit of dead air in a few spots, which slows things down, a little bit but the good does out weigh the bad here and this ends up being a reasonably interesting discussion when it’s on.

    Aside from the commentary track, Dark Sky has also supplied two radio spots for the movie, a trailer a piece for The Losers and Werewolves On Wheels, and a still gallery of lobby cards and promotional materials for the film. Menus and chapter stops are also included.

    The Final Word:

    An unusual hybrid of an exploitation movie, The Losers takes a while to get going but completely delivers in the last half hour making this one to look out for. Dark Sky’s presentation looks and sounds very good and the commentary is the icing on the cake for this solid release.