Black Warrior (1987)

a.k.a. - Super Platoon (JPN)

Hong Kong producer Tomas Tang's take on the Vietnam war is an incoherently edited mess. X-Rated Kult German R0 DVD.

The Film

The Viet Cong raid a village and take hostages including two American Red-Cross workers who were supplying secret information to the military. A commando team is called in for an operation deep behind enemy lines to liberate the hostages and they are surprised when their jungle guide turns out to be a woman. Although making good progress they find the Viet Cong are a dangerous enemy and they start to take heavy casualties.

The Vietnam war proved a long lasting scar on the American psyche and has been treated with reverence and respect by American film makers, but throught the 1980s, exploitation producers in the Far East discovered a market for low budget, action packed war films set in 'Nam. While most of these films were produced in the Phillipines, Black Warrior is a Hong Kong production from producer Tomas Tang's Filmark International and follows the typical exploitation approach to the conflict - using it as a background for commando raids behind enemy lines. The script, credited to a Glenn Clegg (almost certainly an anglicisation), is an incredibly basic affair - we meet the team and they set off on the mission, the identity and even nationality of the team is never mentioned, nor even the year in which the events take place - some of the dialogue refers to the Vietnam War as a past event.

There is almost no characterisation at all - the American officer is shown as pretty heartless compared to the rest of the group who are happy to slow down and look after their wounded comrades (despite being ordered not too) but that all but sums it up, a number of long dialogue scenes seem to be trying to add character to the rest of the group, but just fall flat and the group remain completely indistinguishable. The commando team proceed to their target (usually walking down the middle of the road and unable to bypass even tiny enemy patrols) and get into a few brief fights, but these scenes seem to be rushed over to get back to the banalé dialogue that takes up a large chunk of the film. A sub-plot involving a second commando group on a supporting mission seems to be completely tacked on and adds nothing to the storyline (it might even be a sequence edited in from a different production, as Filmark were often prone to doing). The centrepiece attack on the enemy base is a small affair and then the team are walking back home in scenes all but interchangeable with those earlier, spluttering along to an expectedly dull conclusion.

Directing chores are credited to a Christ Hannah (which might well be another pseudonym for Tang's regular director Godfrey Ho who used over a dozen different names during his extensive exploitation career) and the film never manages to escape its tiny budget production - the rural locations never look particularly remote and jungle-like, looking more like one of Hong Kong's small rural areas. The first fight scene is good fun, with some Kung-fu combat in addition to machine-gun fire, but the martial-arts just seem tacked on to the later fight scenes and most of them just consist of the actors waving machine guns around with extensive over-use of slow-motion - even the explosive effects are disappointing, with none of the elaborate (and dangerous looking) effects for which the Filipino lensed Vietnam war films are notorious. The opening scene uses stock footage of jets and explosions, but this is not repeated in the film - perhaps a pity as it might have made the action scenes more entertaining.

The worst aspect of the film however is the editing with scenes just randomly jumping along, action sequences in particular will start to get interesting before suddenly jumping to a dialogue scene (on more than one occasion a grenade is thrown and the scene cuts before the explosion is even finished), which serves to make the already rather poorly written plot almost incomprehensible - this however might stem from the film being edited for VHS release, as might the surprising lack of gory effects or sex scenes (although it is hard to see where any sex scenes might have come - a few potential nude scenes, including a river bathing sequence and a rape scene, leave the actresses fully clad and it is hard to imagine they would have been filmed in alternate clothed versions). The appropriately generic light-techno soundtrack is credited to Chris Young (quite probably Christopher Young (now working in Hollywood on films like Spider-Man 3 (2007)) who did work on a couple of exploitation films from the Phillipines in the mid-1980s under that shortened moniker).

There is no cast list available for Black Warrior and none of the names credited on the print seem to be genuine. Acting is nothing too impressive but not as bad as some similar films, if nothing else none of the cast are actually required to emote in any way. The only notable actor is the leader of the group who sports a carefully trimmed Lee Van Cleef mustache.

While low budget Vietnam War movies rarely prompt particularly high expectations from audiences, Black Warrior is an almost unwatchably inept example of the genre. A dull script that could barely have filled a single page is combined with uninspired direction, crude editing and a complete lack of the explosive highlights that make the rival Filipino films so entertaining (the almost identically plotted Teddy Page Jungle Rats at least redeems itself with an absurdly over-the-top action climax). Nothing to recommend at all here - one to skip.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No real credits for the film are available.
Directed by anyone interesting? Christ Hannah - probably Hong Kong director Godfrey Ho who directed over 100 films, mostly ultra-low budget martial arts films, from Ninja Champion (1985) to Ninja Dragon (1986) and The Ninja Squad (1986).
Any gore or violence ? Some blood, but nothing particularly gory.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? Not recommendable to anyone.

Visuals Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Colour
Print looks to be from a good quality VHS, minimal damage but a general lack of detail and sharpness.
Aspect ratio seems to be correct.
Audio German mono - sounds very good with no background distortion.
Subtitles English - translate the German, frequent spelling and grammatic errors, but nothing serious.
Extras This disc includes:
  • Bonus trailers for other X-Rated Kult releases - Seedpeople, Death Ship, Mondo Brutale 2, Last Hunter, Three Faces of Terror and Creepzoids.
Availability German DVD release - title Dschungelratten 2.
Limited edition of 666 copies.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? Re-released in Germany by VZ-Handelsgesellschaft in the FSK-18 rated version (which lists a running time two minutes shorter) and without the English subtitles (although these are still listed on some retailer sites).
Cuts? Cut status unknown - while the DVD case touts this as the most uncut release available, there are many scenes which would appear to be awaiting a gory close-up which never comes and the sudden editing in many of the action scenes does imply cuts. English language print.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 1st February 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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