Saturday, December 14

Some quick thoughts on Jungle Rats (1988)


Rom Kristoff leads a squad specializing in underground tunnel combat back into Vietnam to rescue several POWs, including jungle action veteran Mike Monty, after the war's official conclusion.

There's something innocent about these cheap Rambo echoes from the late '80s. It's hard to fathom there being a market for these even back when these were fresh. I can only figure the only target audience for this very niche brand of war flick, especially nowadays, is wannabe veterans or those that those that grossly inflate their service simply to impress others that also don't have very discriminating cine tastes. In that respect, these old flicks are like those old guys in that they're usually harmless with their bullshit stories, yet you can never really expect too much from them.

As far as these Philippines-lensed war actioners go, Teddy Page's Jungle Rats is fairly generic. The team assembles, engages in skirmishes with Vietcong, rendezvouses with a female defector, encounters more micro battling, gets a bead on the prisoners, and a finally climatic blow-up ensues. With its story being your standard POW rescue, the many goofy details outside the plot become the reason to keep watching. In the initial capture of the soldiers, flashbangs are indiscriminately fired at scattered American fighters that somehow magically explode exactly about two feet from each of them. We're introduced to the team, all with goofy nicknames (Boom-Boom, Batman, Blackstar), and despite being all decked out to remain hidden in the green inferno, one wears a bright blue baseball cap for reasons beyond comprehension.

There's also an intense scene in which a landmine is defused with its would-be victim still standing on it. Kristoff then stands back and detonates it since naturally loudass explosions aren't a dead giveaway to enemy forces potentially nearby. After finally reaching a few tunnels over an hour into the movie, one of the supposed experts in underground warfare whines about it being so dark. In the concluding battle, apparently short wild sprays of machine gun fire can accurately strike and kill ten-to-fifteen Vietcong soldiers at a time. Just some of the crazy oddball aspects that constantly remind your brain to remain shut off.

(From Nanarland's Phantom Commando review)
There's two last tidbits of note concerning Jungle Rats. Director Teddy Page and writer/co-star Jim Gaines (pictured) had a professional partnership spanning the decade with several jungle brawlers. So curiously Gaines' character nicknamed "Killer", a misfit soldier that constantly goes over the head of his commander, is by far the most fleshed out even trumping Kristoff's one dimensional lead. Yet still, like everything else here, don't expect anything more than a poorly written take on the token stereotypical asshole seen in many other war pictures.

Concerning the soundtrack, much of it is actually Jack Trombey from the De Wolfe collection of library music, even the two Trombey pieces heard in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) are played several times throughout. I thought I was hearing things when same music from Roger struggling with his rifle with zombies nipping at his boots in the truck barricade sequence played over the team's first descent underground. Neither as fun as Bruno Mattei's Strike Commando (1987) or as ridiculously over-the-top as Ignazio Dolce's Commander (The Last American Soldier) (1988), Jungle Rats isn't one to watch as a first experience, but you'll want to track it down once becoming acclimated to these meat n' potatoes 'Nam-fueled actioners.

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