Archives for posts with tag: Cirio H. Santiago
sinai-guerrillas

Feel lucky, goy?

panther-squad

Great cover. Terrible movie.

Regular followers of this blog may be aware of my ongoing interests, not only in the Jewish Question as it expresses itself both culturally and politically in recent films, but also in the obscurely nostalgic as well as my apolitical fondness for VHS refuse of the awesome eighties and tacky nineties. These readers will understand and forgive my indulgence of curiosity in a moment of impaired judgment when I discovered a cheap 1991 video era relic titled Sinai Guerillas. Just take a look at the art on the box. What VHS trash aficionado could pass over something as righteous as this? That too-cool yenta commando with her machine gun, shades, exposed cleavage, and bullet belt, ready to mow down a horde of evil, cartoonishly stereotyped Arab primitives, like some hyper-Zionist variation on the work of Andy Sidaris, Fred Olen Ray, or Cirio H. Santiago! How could this promising cover adornment not herald some rare and boobs-and-blood-filled VCR viewing experience? Unfortunately, not since Sybil Danning beckoned siren-like from the similar cover of the abominable Panther Squad have I been so completely and mercilessly let down by a deceptive and damnable VHS box.

blazing-sand

It wasn’t enough to burden the Germans forever with “Holocaust” guilt. They also had to be subjected to epic turkeys like Blazing Sand.

Imagine my disappointment when Sinai Guerillas turned out to be not some unfairly neglected exploitation gem of the early nineties but a retitled and English-dubbed repackaging of the utterly tame and quaintly corny 1960 Israeli adventure movie Blazing Sand! Concerning a perilous mission to rescue a wounded Israeli stranded in Arab territory, the story plays much like a Middle Eastern western, with tiresome scenes of the Jewish posse riding their horses and camels across a desert peopled not by savage Indians, but by Jew-despising Arabs. Emphasizing the parallel with the western, one of the characters even dresses like a Jewish cowboy!

The genre connection is, furthermore, more than superficial. Just as the western in its heyday celebrated a rugged confidence in American mastery and expansiveness, so Sinai Guerillas extols the Zionist claim to a twentieth century “frontier” in Greater Israel. The story takes the characters into what is supposed to be Jordan – which, however, is never mentioned by that political designation. After all, this “whole place used to belong to us. Now we have to come here illegally,” one of the Jews says indignantly. The artificially imposed lines on maps “are a hindrance to the cultural development of a rising young nation,” the viewer is told. Apart from constituting a mild cinematic curiosity as a pop-cultural artifact of Zionist chauvinism, the film does offer some regional scenery, but very little else. Even the awkward attempt at sex appeal, with actress Daliah Lavi performing a robotic fifties-style exotic dance routine to entertain a dying comrade in his final moments of life, is enough to put a chill into those blazing sands.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

blazing-sand-daliah

Daliah Lavi in Blazing Sand. No slouch on the kosher bimbometer, but not exactly what I had been led to expect by the false advertising. The woman depicted on the glorious VHS cover appears at no point in the actual film – nor do the two helicopters, the flamethrower, or the scantily clad lounge singer pictured on the back of the box. God damn you, you Zionist bastards!

Cannibal Mercenary

Mercenary aka Cannibal Mercenary (1983) ****

This Thai film, titled to capitalize on the success of then-recent Italian gut-munching horrors Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Cannibal Ferox (1981), finds a ragtag team of sleazy and mentally damaged mercenaries venturing into VC-infested territory to assassinate a drug kingpin who commands an army of “Draculas”, cannibal tribesmen sort of like Indochinese hillbillies.

Clearly inspired by Apocalypse Now (1979), Mercenary opens with post-traumatic battle flashbacks intermingled with a shot of a ceiling fan like the one that transfixes Martin Sheen. After a little hokey, English-dubbed melodrama to set the plot in motion, Mercenary gets down to business – and brutal, nasty business it is, with the outnumbered protagonists encountering the Viet Cong, quicksand, booby traps, and (speaking of booby traps) a treacherous, manipulative jungle bitch who threatens the cohesiveness of the group.

Idiosyncratically edited, Mercenary has scenes of high-stress, noisy, tension-ratcheting quick cuts that appear to be designed to strain the viewer’s nerves to the breaking point, such as when a henchman threatens to waste a whining kid and initiates a death countdown. Standout imagery includes a beheading, eye-gouging, maggot-eating, face-urinating, a skull being split open by a spike, and subsequent hungry brain-gobbling. Horror watchers will also enjoy the tacky, uncredited appropriation of Goblin’s music from Dawn of the Dead (1978). Recommended to cannibal movie videovores and other perverts, who, however, should not get their hopes up about seeing the pictured Aryan super soldier spring into battle, as no such figure appears in Mercenary, an all-Asian affair, alas.

4 out of 5 stars.

Devastator

The Devastator (1986) ****

Directed by low-budget action specialist Cirio H. Santiago, a master of what Joe Bob Briggs has termed the “exploding bamboo” subgenre, The Devastator is yet another generic 80s ‘Nam vet vigilante movie – or, in other words, a classic! Richard Hill, better known for playing the title part in Deathstalker (1983), stars as Deacon Porter, a vet who just wants to get on with his life, but finds himself thrust back into the fray when his old commanding officer is murdered. In the rural California community of King’s Ransom, drug lord Carey (Crofton Hardester) rules his roost with a hell-raising paramilitary force and even has the sheriff (Kaz Garas) on his payroll. When Deacon and a few of his ex-soldier buddies assemble in town, however, Carey’s days of 80s drug tyranny are numbered.

Not much in the way of plot, The Devastator is primarily wall-to-wall action – largely set to chintzy synthesizer music – with some truly impressive stunt work along the way. The most fun, however, is probably to be had from Deacon’s burly compatriot Ox (Jack Daniels!), a growling party animal who greets his old teammate by punching a hole through his door (!) and who clearly delights in over-the-top mayhem for the kicks. The villain has a healthy, thriving marijuana field, which, when Ox assaults it and sets it on fire, results in an even more humongous marijuana holocaust than the one in Up in Smoke (1978) – that, and a funny variation on Duvall’s famous line from Apocalypse Now (1979), with Ox taking big, deep breaths of the stuff and exulting like some victorious barbarian.

Rock-jawed Hill is only so-so in the charisma department, but with his muscular build the actor definitely has the look of the all-American action hero. Jack Daniels, as noted, is quite the hoot as Ox, while foxy item Katt Shea, who co-stars as Hill’s love interest, spunky gas pump attendant Audrey, would go on shortly after The Devastator to become a director of some note, creating stylish thrillers like Stripped to Kill (1987) and Streets (1990). The Devastator would make a perfect double feature with funky Gary Busey actioner Eye of the Tiger (1986), an entry to which this programmer bears a thematic resemblance. 

4 stars. Check it out!

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