A lifelong mercenary commander and weapons expert played by George Lazenby is commissioned to train an army for an exiled African leader. But as his conscience finally catches up to him, he...
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Jean-Claude Van Damme,
A lifelong mercenary commander and weapons expert played by George Lazenby is commissioned to train an army for an exiled African leader. But as his conscience finally catches up to him, he is seen as a threat to the powers behind the operation. Written by
Universal Soldier was the film that changed my life!
Universal Soldier was aired on British TV around 1980* and I watched it, as a young teenager, in our family sitting room on my own with the lights turned down. It was the first film I can recall having any kind of emotional effect on me (other than fear, which was the usual outcome watching 'scary stuff' like Dr. Who as, say, an eight-year old).
Having not seen the movie since then, this review might understandably be a little shaky in the fact department. All I am writing here is a memory of a film I saw over 20 years ago.
Universal Soldier stars ex-007 George Lazenby who plays a mercenary being hired by some African despot to carry out dirty deeds. The movie opens with him arriving off a long-haul flight and going to collect his pistol from the purser/ customs department in the arrivals hall (you could obviously do this sort of thing in 1971 especially if you had been Bond). Whilst back office he glimpses some long-haired bum having his body cavities searched for illicit substances, and gives him a wry smile. He is living a glamorous lifestyle with flash cars and a bird on each arm but the purpose of this visit is also work related: making contacts for his next assignment, testing some assault hovercraft on a country estate in England, that sort of thing.
Anyway, somehow along the way he meets fellow Australian Germaine Greer, the now-well known feminist, who plays a sexy hippie chick with a cool pad where they can both smoke pot and chill out. They fall for each other; she shows him the light and causes him to reject his immoral and unethical ways.
I am sure the movie is hiply shot and full of devices in fashion with filmmakers at the time, giving it a now much dated feel. (See the incongruous running-around-in-circles 'musical' scene in the otherwise excellent The Swimmer for example). But, at the time, I saw through that (or more likely, obliviously went along with it).
The film made a strong impact on me as a teen full of romantic ideals about love and war. Universal Soldier has many potent ingredients: dashing leads, cool gadgets, interesting plot, soft drugs, a strong female, sex and ethics. (I wonder what my ex-girlfriends think of this review). Incidentally, another film that appealed, viewed several years later, was Sherman's March.
In the days after seeing the film I kept coming back to it in my mind and marvelled at how a mere movie could have such an unexpected impact. From then on I saw all films with different eyes learning to pay close attention to what was going on to get the most out of them.
Since then movies have played a small but significant role in my life as I have served on the committee of my university film society, been a buyer for a video club and have over 300 movies at home on DVD and video.
In my memory of over 20 years ago, this is surely a cult classic but when I first looked up Universal Soldier on the IMDb in 1998 the title didn't even exist as an entry and now at time of writing only has 10 votes. If I saw it again would I be disappointed???
Edit 17 Oct 2014 - just found out the actual date this was broadcast due to the BBC genome project: 28 Feb 1981. http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/5042eb362d8b4cb89f97531ad4e90615
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