• Strike Commando (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 22nd, 2021.
    Director: Bruno Mattei
    Cast: Reb Brown, Christopher Connelly, Luciano Pigozzi, Jim Gaines
    Year: 1986
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    Strike Commando – Movie Review:

    Bruno Mattei’s 1986 film, Strike Commando, opens when the members of Strike Command, under the watchful eye of Major Harriman (William Berger) and his boss Colonel Radek (Christopher Connelly), sneak into a Vietnamese compound to quietly and strategically place some explosives that should be detonated once they make their way out. Radek has other ideas, however, and as it gets close to go time, he orders that they be detonated. Everyone in Strike Command is killed, except for Sargent Michael Ransom (Reb Brown), who somehow floats down a river to a small village populated by those sympathetic to the American cause and a random Frenchman named Le Due (Luciano Pigozzi).

    Here Ransom befriends a boy named Lao, regaling him with stories of Disney World, where cotton candy grows on trees, promising to take him back to America with him. Of course, a short time later Lao and the rest of the village are gunned down by a Russian squad led by the hulking Jakoda (Alex Vitale), and while Ransom makes it back to friendly ground, when he learns what happened he swears vengeance. Harriman understands and lets him head back into the jungle to take care of business, with Ransom well aware that this is going to have to be kept under wraps and will remain a one man operation.

    Armed with a machine gun and a seemingly endless supply of hand grenades, Ransom heads back into the thick of the jungle to track down Jakoda, make him pay, and learn the cold, hard truth about the events that really took place when his squad was killed.

    Strike Commando may borrow very heavily from Rambo: First Blood Part II, but Mattei puts enough of his own spin on things to make this one work, and a whole lot of credit for that has to go to leading man Reb Brown. His turn here as Ransom makes this whole thing work – no scenery is safe from chewing, as he yells and howls his way through the film, blowing stuff up and mowing down enemies as fast as Mattei and company can through them on the screen. Subtlety has no place here, nor should it be welcome in the first place, as Brown bulldozes his way to the inevitable confrontation with Jakoda (and as predictable as this movie might be, you won’t see the ending of this one coming!). Vitale is also a blast here, his character always referring to Ransom as ‘Americanski’ (because that’s how Russians address Americans?) and just doing mean, random things throughout the movie to solidify his place as an asshole (at one point he kicks a snake – which is worth pointing out, as it looks real, as do the cock fighting scenes at the end!). The rest of the cast are fine - Luciano Pigozzi is amusing as the flask-swigging old white dude in the jungle and both Berger and Connelly do fine in their respective roles – but it’s Brown, and to a lesser extent Vitale, that are the main reasons to want to watch this exploitative trash epic in the first place.

    Mattei paces things pretty nicely. This was obviously made on a modest budget, the frequent use of stock footage in pretty much every helicopter scene in the movie standing as proof positive of that, but the movie doesn’t lack quirky charm. Some fun miniature work is used here and there but there are also what appear to be some pretty decent pyrotechnic effects on display here and there. We also get a very cool, and very eighties sounding, score from Luigi Ceccarelli.

    This disc also includes both the extended cut (1:42:09) and the theatrical cut (1:31:45) of the film.

    Strike Commando – Blu-ray Review:

    Strike Commando is presented on a 50GB disc with the transfer of the extended cut given 31.8GBs of space on the disc while the theatrical cut gets 28.6GBs (logic would dictate that some seamless branching has been used here). The AVC encoded 1080p high definition image is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and is taken from a 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. Overall this looks quite nice. There are some (well, a lot) of stock footage inserts that are sometimes clearly taken from lesser sources and you’ll notice some scratches during the opening credits and some of the scene transitions but otherwise, the image is clean and nicely detailed with very good color reproduction and strong black levels.

    Audio options are provided for both cuts in English and Italian language 24-bit LPCM 2.0 tracks with optional subtitles provided that translate the English audio and not the Italian track. There are one or two scenes in the English track that sound a little less pristine than the bulk of the track – when Ransom first meets Le Due, for example, the audio sounds a little scruffier – but for the most part the track is clean and nicely balanced.

    Extras start off with a new interview with War Machine, a brand new interview with co-director Claudio Fragasso that lasts twenty-minutes. He speaks here about working with Mattei, what Reb Brown was like to work with on set, getting alone very well with Alex Vitale despite his sinister screen presence, the quality of Grassetti's work behind the camera, using a primarily Filipino crew on the picture and his thoughts on the movie overall.

    All Quiet On The Philippine Front is a new interview with screenwriter Rossella Drudi that runs for thirteen-minutes. She talks about how she got into screenwriting, what it was like working with Mattei and his obsession with Rambo (and how that influenced her script) trying to infuse some moments of legitimate drama into the storyline and quite a bit more. Both of these interviews are quite interesting and definitely worth checking out.

    Additionally, the disc includes a trailer and an ‘in production’ promo for the movie as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    Strike Commando - The Final Word:

    Strike Commando is as wildly entertaining as it is ridiculously derivative with a powerhouse performance from Reb Brown taking overacting to new heights of awesomeness. Severin’s Blu-ray looks quite good and the two interviews are genuinely interesting stuff, shedding some welcome light on the film’s background. Highly recommended for those who like their action movies big, loud and dumb!

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







































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Excellent review, Ian. I was tasked with writing about this film for elsewhere, with my article about the release being posted online today; I hadn't seen it since the 1980s and had great fun with it.