Sunday, March 15, 2009

Death Raiders (1983)

1983 - Death Raiders (Emperor Films International)

 [Philippines release date 9th September 1983, original title “Mga Pusang Bundok”/“The Mountain Cats”. Distributed internationally by Atlas Films, released on French VHS as “Les Commandos De La Mort”]

Director Segundo Ramos [IMDB lists Leo Valdez as co-director] “Dialogues” Larry Dolgin [IMDB lists Ramos & Daddy Gomez as writers] Cinematography Danny Bustos Musical Director Pablo Gomez Editors Danny Gomez, Heinz Schulhof

Cast Johnny Wilson (Colonel), “George Pallance” [real identity unknown], George “Regan”/Estregan (Jose), Robert Lee, Ramon Zamora, “June Ariston”/Jun Aristorenas (Captain Barone), Rodolfo “Boy” Garcia (Karamat), Renato del Prado, Joel Alano (Donald), Raquel Montesa, Nina Sarah, Boy Sta. Maria, Tony Martinez, Benny May, Jolly Jogueta, Rudy Rivera, Bobby Oreo, Tony Beso, Allan Garcia, Buddy Lanuza, Big Boy Gomez, [uncredited] Ulysses Tzan (Elmer), Mohamad Faizal

Mini-review by Andrew Leavold:

Emperor Films’ successful sale of Deadly Commando/Suicide Force (1981) to Germany’s Atlas International prompted them to approach Atlas two years later, in true Filipino form, with essentially a carbon copy of their previous hit, dragging along much of its cast and crew. Once again, Army Commander Johnny Wilson sends a squad of black-clad commandos to rescue kidnapped person-of-interest from a rebel commander played by Rodolfo “Boy” Garcia; this time he is self-styled People’s Revolution leader Karamat, suffering from delusions of his own divinity, who snatches the province’s Governor and his daughter and drags them back to his mountain lair. Wilson charges Captain Barone (60s cowboy star Jun Aristorenas) to reactivate his Death Raiders, a boozing and brawling bunch consisting of three of the Pinoy Bruce Lees – Ramon Zamora, Ulysses Tzan and Robert Lee – plus the Man Mountain from Mindanao, Mohamad Faizal. From a cast well-versed in comic action films, you’d expect some broad comedy moments – Ulysses Tzan recreating his Drunken Master routine from Mantis Boxer (1979) during a street fight, for instance, and the Raiders’ room-trawling during their rescue of Tzan’s girlfriend from a busy brothel. It’s also a much less one-dimensional film than Deadly Commando, with more welcoming serves of sleaze and blood, more fleshed-out characters, and imaginatively shot bang-bang scenes. George Estregan is also back as Karamat’s reluctant second in command working to bring down the lunatic cult leader down, alongside Karamat’s son Donald, played by teenage pin-up Joel Alano, who would pass away from a heart attack in 1986 aged only 21. Not bad.

Ian Jane’s review from the Rock! Pop! Shock! website:

This Filipino picture from 1984, directed by Segundo Ramos (who also did Suicide Force which stars the same lead), begins when an evil military big-wig kidnaps a local politician and his pair of daughters, after which he marches them through the jungle and basically holds them hostage at his secret hideout/fortress. The government wants to get their man back but are worried that sending in the army will find them dead so they bring up a team of special forces types dubbed The Death Raiders and lead by Captain Barone to sneak in and get the hostages out. Unfortunately for the military big-wig kidnapper, his own son disagrees with his politics and stars to make life difficult for him just as Barone and his crew show up and shoot their way through a seemingly endless supply of enemy soldiers.

Fast paced and plenty violent, this is an enjoyable enough picture in its own right as long as you’re able to look past the cheap production values and just enjoy the chaos. The last half hour of the film is chock full of shoots outs, burning buildings, explosions and carnage but even before that there’s a weird energy to the film, from its bizarre rape scenes to its uber-macho dialogue, made all the more screwy by some ham-fisted acting and macho chest beating.

Fred Adelman's review from the Critcon Online website:

A provincial Governor and his two daughters are kidnapped by the evil Karamat and his trigger-happy men. After a treacherous trek through the jungle, Karamat and his prisoners finally arrive at his fortress, which is heavily fortified with men with guns and a series of maze-like caves. The government deems an air attack or a full-on ground assault too dangerous, so they reform the Death Raiders, a small group of Black Ops. soldiers headed by Captain Barone, to penetrate Karamat's fortress and rescue the Governor and his daughters. So begins this enjoyable (sometimes for the wrong reasons) action film from the Philippines, as Captain Barone rounds-up all the ex-members of his squad; from a disco (with the prerequisite bar fight), a police hostage situation (with the prerequisite attempted rape scene) and helping an alcoholic member free his girlfriend from a mafia whorehouse. Meanwhile, Karamat's son, who disagrees with his father's political views, unsuccessfully tries to lead the prisoners to freedom. When Karamat catches him, he ties him up in the middle of town and beats the stuffing oput of him with his bare hands in front of all the citizens. This does not sit too well with Karamat's wife, who secretly plans a revolution with a sympathetic rebel in town. After Captain Barone and his men train to get into shape, they set out on their mission to Karamat's stronghold. They make it to the cave where the Governor and his daughters are being held and they get an unexpected hand from Karamat's wife and son. From then on, the group try to make it through the jungle to safety, before the Army does a full air and ground attack on the compound. Members will be lost on the way as Captain Barone and his men must fight an inexhaustable supply of Karamat's soldiers, even as some of Barone's men return to Karamat's compound to rescue innocent women and children.

Directed and co-written with a lot of intentional humor (check out the disco and whorehouse scenes) by Segundo Ramos (SUICIDE FORCE - 1982), this film has a lot going for it (especially the early martial arts fights, including an inventive, almost comic book-like, use of a spinning bar stool), but stops dead in it's tracks every time it goes back to the Karamat father-son conflict. This film works best when it concentrates on the Death Raiders themselves and their comradarie, which seems natural and unforced (it's apparent these actors, including Johnny Wilson [DEVIL'S THREE - 1979] and George Estregan [CLASSIFIED OPERATION - 1985], here using the name "George Regan", have worked together many times before this film). As with most Filippino action films, this one contains more than a few scenes of attempted rape (but, surprisingly, no nudity), including a comical scene where a bunch of Karamat's soldiers fight each other in the middle of a lake as they try to rape one of the Governor's daughters. While most of the action in the latter-half of the film is basically gunfights and explosions, the film has a kinetic energy that's infectious and fun to watch. I was taken aback by the abrupt ending, but that's a small complaint to an otherwise highly watchable film and, at 80 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome.

Paul Cooke’s review from the Ballistic Blood Bullets blog:

Rebellious Filipino jungle war fare in which a governor and his two daughters are taken hostage. An explosive opening montage of stock footage and pretty well staged pyrotechnics open proceedings on a high. Jungle combat dominates the screen with a glut of gun power and explosive grenade pitching. Watch towers explode, and a bridge is obliterated, as the Filipino national military corps take on the rebels in an ongoing plight for democracy.

The governor of the province has his home invaded by the rebels whilst holding a private function. Along with his two adult daughters the governor is forcibly taken away and delivered before the rebel force leader. Held to ransom for the Filipino government to concede to their demands, it is up to the military forces to initiate a counter strike in order to safely retrieve those abducted. Time to call up the Death Raiders!

The military big wigs assign a special rescue team, a unit of crack commandos called the Death Raiders. Given two weeks in order to seek out and rescue the governor and daughters before the rebels designated demands deadline comes to be.

Death Raiders is not the greatest example of low budget ‘B’ movie jungle goodness produced in the Philippines, and indeed for the greater part is a flaccid affair. There is neither a great bad guy to goad, nor any particular good guy to steal the show. The movie goes about its business pretty much by the numbers, plodding through a basic plot until its inevitable climax. There are though enough moments of explosive Action and hand to hand combat scenes to see the viewer through the entirety, if only to leave a feeling of being left under whelmed. It’s a one time drink from the trough for this pony, but the sub stallion ride isn’t completely without its giddy up moments.

Throwing the members of the Death Raiders together again serves up some fun as each of the main players gets his own moment of introduction. A minor play on the bringing together of The Magnificent Seven (1960). Tough guy Ray busts some nifty kung fu moves at a disco, as a local thug with his lackey’s foolishly pick a fight. Freddie sends a low life man handler, holding a young woman at gun point, to his final resting place as he acrobatically leaps through the air, deftly delivering a bullet directly to the forehead of the scumbag.

As the team of specialist comes together there is also a rewarding full on fist fight, and more martial arts mastery played out in a whorehouse, as Ray and Freddie help out their buddy Elmer rescue his girlfriend from a prostitution racket.

Proceedings are often peppered with Action scene moments akin to the old Harold Lloyd silent movie styled set up sequences. Well done, but somewhat odd in what is a movie portraying itself as a tough Actioner!?

Following a fast track training camp, to make sure that the teams working parts are well tuned and their mental application is readjusted, the Death Raiders are back in tandem.

The team is helicopter parachute dropped into the general region of rebel activism within the Filipino jungle with orders to retrieve the governor and his two daughters with all due prejudice to any aggressors.

Arriving under cover of night the commandos soon uncover and surreptitiously sneak into the rebel leaders camp. They take out the perimeter guards using knives to keep things quiet, and bust a few heads with the butts of their guns for any others in their path. The alarm is inevitably raised though and it soon becomes open season, with guns and grenades fuelling a fight for freedom.

With an unexpected assist from within the rebel ranks, Ray and Freddie, along with their fellow Death Raiders, round up the governor and his daughters, and make an immediate play to escape the enemy. It’s a frenzied fight to the finish line here on in as the rebel leader rounds up his own troops to stop the commando corps. Some furtively futile sequences of stupidity ensue as the audience is treated to formation death tolls, dutifully dollied up by rebels lining up in bunches of three to fives for some synchronised kills by the commandos. Just like shooting sitting ducks at a fairground these hapless rebels run out into the Death Raiders gun sights, like multiple swim teams, soon drowning in their own blood!

Heavy artillery support brings wanton annihilation to multiples of straw huts, enveloped in explosive flames, and the destruction of innocent trees alike. An all out war that brings proceedings to a welcome Action ending.

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