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Andrew V. McLaglen
This was the first of a German-produced war trilogy by leading Italian "Euro-Cult" exponent Margheriti; I actually watched the follow-ups (COMMANDO LEOPARD  and THE COMMANDER ) prior to it but, as often happens, the original is still the best (if still not saying very much in this case). To begin with, it has the best cast: Lewis Collins (star of all three films), Lee Van Cleef and Klaus Kinski (who also turn up in the third and second entry respectively, the latter in a different role since he dies here), Ernest Borgnine, Mimsy Farmer and even that "Euro-Cult" stalwart noted for his resemblance to Peter Lorre i.e. Luciano Pigozzi aka Alan Collins, albeit uncredited (he did similar duties, again playing someone else, in one of the sequels). The title would seem to aspire towards a cut-rate version of THE WILD GEESE (1978), itself followed by an inferior (and entirely unrelated) second helping a year after this one; anyway, the war we are dealing with here is not strategic but moral since the mission involves annihilating an opium compound deep into the jungles of the Far East (thankfully, we are spared the sight of slithering reptiles which is usually obligatory with this type of setting, and one of the sequels did in fact have such a scene). Collins is the tough leader of a crack squad who typically rubs his men the wrong way but eventually earns their respect; the aging Cleef is a helicopter pilot(!) who took the job in exchange for a prison sentence hanging over his head (besides, he can handle himself on a battlefield); Kinski and Borgnine are, ostensibly, the men who oversee the plan and put it in motion respectively but the former, along with Collins' own superior, are revealed to have ulterior motives (incidentally, the hero's own son had lost his life to drugs); Farmer and Pigozzi, then, are people the team meets on the way she is a journalist captured and rendered a junkie by the native militia later freed by Collins, and he a priest who also administers medicine to the wounded but winds up literally crucified for his beliefs. The film emerges to be undeniably proficient in the action sequences (especially the scene in which Kinski perishes via flame thrower in a large fuel depository a set which would actually be re-used in its immediate follow-up!) but is otherwise fairly routine, indeed clichéd; mind you, it offers mild entertainment while it is on (particularly the verbal sparring between Kinski and Borgnine) but is in no way memorable and certainly far below the work Margheriti could turn out in his heyday (though he had always been somewhat erratic).
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