Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)This WW II films stars the Duke (John Wayne) as Sgt Stryker, head of a marine corps out fighting for the red white and blue against the Axis powers. Considering how old this movie is, it actually does have some moments that feel real with Stryker's issues at home affecting his command and the way he treats his men. Whenever John Wayne is in a movie its kind of like Schwarzenegger in a movie. Even when its a good movie you still know your watching John Wayne. Despite the many war cliches in this film (eloping with a war bride during leave, constant griping about the new platoon leader) there's a few moments where Wayne stretches his acting a little bit and its pretty good. Patrioticsploitation!
Enzo G. Castellari's THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978) on Blu-ray for the first time.Like "The Dirty Dozen" with the boring parts (the training, the "getting to know you" moments, etc.) cut off, "The Inglorious Bastards" embraces and relishes the cliche that war movies glorify violence. That's exactly what this movie is, a violent comic strip that is a text-book of how to stage maximum war violence employing the tricks of the trade and stretching your budget smartly. It takes 45 min. for an actual plot to kick in, and you're never more than 10 min. away from a cool action scene and/or shootout. Bo Svenson (who appears to be, from his appearance in the making-of documentary, an intolerable douche), Fred Williamson (having a ball and being a physical mother) and Michael Pergolani (you can't take your eyes off of Nick when he's on screen) headline a small army of actors, technicians and stuntmen that director Enzo Castellari commands and directs with the energy and skill of a dozen flicks combined. Plus he throws in a gratuitous bunch of naked chicks that fire machine-guns and some Peckinpah slow-motion montages just because the movie needs a stylish break from its awesome war mayhem. The most fun exploitation movie I've seen this month by far.
The Ascent (1977)Two Russian soldiers seperated from their group run afoul of German patrols and endanger the lives of innocent villagers. It's a pretty harsh movie, both in tone and the vast frozen wastelands. It's also not so much a fully-fleshed out story as a huge religious allegory. But the ending is pretty emotional, and I'm likely to remember it for a while. P.S. When is Doug gonna get his own War Movies Podcast?
^ I really like this war movie podcast idea. There have been podcasts devoted to zombie movies and alien invasion movies and westerns, so why not war movies (after which I will be eagerly suggesting and awaiting the appearance of a film noir podcast)?
Fort Graveyard (Chi to Suna) (1965) Literal translation of the title, “Blood and Sand”I picked this film for my war exploitation film based on its pretty wild cover art (and love for Toshiro Mifune) thinking it was a “B” level war film, boy was I wrong. The film depicts Mifune as a sergeant during WW2 who is sent to a backwater post in Manchuria (China) for insubordination. There he is placed in command of a group of soldiers, technically a marching band, and must lead these untrained misfits on a suicide mission to capture a Chinese installation.The film moves between moments of comedy and the classic war is Hell trope wherein director Okamoto explores the value of human life and subsequent loss of humanity and wastefulness of war. While the film moves between these tonal shifts they feel earned and not jarring. The direction and story telling create memorable characters the viewer can relate too and care about, heightening its tone, sense of loss, and futility. In all I am glad I watched this film and found it to be an engaging and thoughtful war film that also delivers on the action.
The Inglorious Bastards (1978)Hugely entertaining war film is really a celebration of big-budget action films of the 60s. In addition to the obvious nod to The Dirty Dozen, there’s the motorcycle from The Great Escape, the train from Von Ryan’s Express, and slow-motion death from The Wild Bunch. The movie also seems inspired by the kind of war comics I grew up with (especially Sgt. Rock), where a man could stand straight up and blow away the Krauts without getting killed in microseconds. Another winner from the Films that Inspired Tarantino section – which should get its own category on Netflix.
I’m not as well-versed in this genre as I should be, so I decided to skip the B-movie obscurities and instead watch one of the classics I’d not yet seen: THE GUNS OF NAVARONE. What a good movie! It has huge action, great performances, and it asks the big, big questions about how to maintain your principles while doing horrible things during wartime. (Inner-conflictsploitation!) Also, I can’t get over how suave Gregory Peck is. If had just one-tenth of his suaveness, I’d be doing all right. Richard Harris is in this one, too. We’re all to assume that this is Dumbledore working undercover, right? But, yeah, I really liked this movie.
The Secret Invasion (1964)During WWII, a group of criminals are drafted by the Allies to rescue an Italian general who wished to defect, but was captured by Nazis. So they get taken as POWs and hatch a plan to get the general out. The cast, story and action were all excellent. And while it took a bit for the movie to get going, there are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep me interested. All in all, a really solid film. Roger Cormansploitation!
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)It's easy to forget how good First Blood actually was. It's more thoughtful than it gets credit for, and it's considerably less violent and nihilistic than the David Morrell novel on which it's based. It made a decent amount of money, of course, so John Rambo was called back into action for a sequel that takes everything that was good about the first one and shoots it with an exploding arrow.The only thing more cartoonish than Stallone's exaggerated physique is the jingoistic screenplay (by Stallone and unobtanium-enthusiast James Cameron) which amps every moment up to 11 and has characters (let's call them characters, anyway) speak in nothing but clichés. It's still a fun watch, though, and it's what made Rambo into an icon, for better or worse.
Platoon Leader (1988)Cannon rips off Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, like the '80s version of The Asylum. Michael Dudikoff stars as the (what else?) leader of a platoon in Vietnam. Has the same bad acting, clumsy action sequence and obvious budget limitations of most other Cannon movies, but here it doesn't sit right with me. Maybe because it's trivializing a real-life war in which a lot of people died. It feels a lot like one of Max Fischer's plays. Badly directed by Aaron Norris, Chuck's brother.
Rambo (2008)When I started this movie, it was still the 26th. Better than Rambo 3, probably better than First Blood Part 2, not as good as First Blood. I like the movie, but it gives me some troubles. It's a little over serious, and the violence is amped up to 11. Wanted to like it more this time, but I found myself nodding off (Yeah, it's late, but I wanted to not fall too far behind) But the action perked me back up again, so... win?
Ministry of Vengeance (1989)Oh, THAT kind of "ministry".A combat-veteran PRIEST out for revenge (sweet!) for the killing of his wife and daughter (damn, even priests did whatever the fuck they wanted in the 80s) travels to war-torn Lebanon to kick some terrorist ass with his pal Colonel Principal Strickland. The movie takes itself pretty seriously but I had fun watching it!