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Combat Shock (1984)

A dangerously disturbed Vietnam veteran struggles with life 15 years after his return home, and slowly falls into insanity from his gritty urban lifestyle.


Buddy Giovinazzo


Buddy Giovinazzo (as Buddy G)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rick Giovinazzo ... Frankie Dunlan (as Ricky Giovinazzo)
Veronica Stork Veronica Stork ... Cathy Dunlan
Mitch Maglio ... Paco - Gang Leader
Asaph Livni Asaph Livni ... Labo - Gang Member
Nick Nasta Nick Nasta ... Morbe - Gang Member
Michael Tierno ... Mike - Junkie
Arthur Saunders Arthur Saunders ... Pimp
Lori Labar Lori Labar ... Lead Prostitute / Vietnamese Woman
Jim Cooney Jim Cooney ... Interogating GI
Ray Pinero Ray Pinero ... Welfare Worker
Leo Lunney Leo Lunney ... Frankie's Father
Eddie Pepitone ... Terry - Strung-Out Junkie (as Ed Pepitone)
Martin Blank Martin Blank ... Doctor
Bob Mireau Bob Mireau ... Security Guard
Tom Desantis Tom Desantis ... Man Behind Frankie


Frankie is a war vet whose life sucks. He has no money, a nagging wife, junkie friends, and a deformed baby. This is the story of one day in his pathetic post-war life. Written by Josh Pasnak <chainsaw@intouch.bc.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Fighting, killing, maiming. Agent Orange and the torture cages were the easy part!...


Drama | Horror | Thriller | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

14 May 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

American Nightmare See more »


Box Office


$40,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Several other actors all did screen tests for the role of Frankie before Buddy Giovinazzo decided to cast his brother Rick Giovinazzo in the part. See more »


When Frankie inspects the revolver drum magazine after loading it, some of the cartridges have a dent in the primer made by a firing pin, meaning that they've already been fired. See more »


Cathy Dunlan: What have you been doing all day? Where have you been?
Frankie Dunlan: In the jungle...
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original DVD version released by Troma is missing several scenes, most notably the scene where Frankie drinks sour milk toward the beginning and several trims throughout the film, especially noticeable during the film's climax. These scenes were intact for the unrated Troma VHS release in the late 1990s, which is currently the only way to see the uncut version of the Troma theatrical edit. Buddy Giovinazzo confirmed that he did not sanction any of these edits in an interview with Troma fan webmaster Justin Channell in January 2004, though Troma president Lloyd Kaufman adamantly claimed there was no missing footage in an interview later that year. The same version of the "theatrical cut" is present on the 2-disc DVD edition released in 2009 (which also includes the full-length original "American Nightmares" cut), likely to allow the inclusion of the initial release's commentary track. See more »


Referenced in Post Traumatic: An American Nightmare (2009) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

When I saw this, I said it's the greatest film of all time! Well, not THE greatest, but it's sure one of 'em!
12 December 2003 | by one4now4See all my reviews

Where do I begin in a review of a film as powerful as "Combat Shock"? Here is the film that shoots holes in every patriotic belief. It is an art film with subtle moments throughout that don't even feel subtle, for even its calmest, most non-violent scenes get under the skin of the viewer. In it, Ricky Giovinazzo (writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo's brother) gives an excellent performance as a haunted 'Nam vet named Frankie. With his pregnant wife and severely disabled one-year-old son (totally mutated because of his father's exposure to Agent Orange), he struggles to survive in a ghetto filled with poverty and rot. Desperate to find a way out of his hopeless situation for his family and himself, he wanders the streets, having hellish flashbacks, being beaten by drug dealers, and searching for a job that doesn't require killing, robbing, or technical experience. Frankie's only friend is a quivering, bitter junkie who steals just to nurse his drug habit, and Frankie also encounters unfortunate people such as two young children being pimped on the street. As he wonders how this could happen in the country he had gone off to fight for, his sanity continuously crumbles before cold, graffiti-sprayed, industrial backgrounds. Adding more to the cold, relentless intensity is a droning mass of white noise that fills the soundtrack from the machines when the score isn't going. Soon Frankie sees that the very nation he has called home is a battleground all its own. There is not an uplifting moment in the entire film, not so much as even an iota of dark humor. "Combat Shock" offers strong insight into just how human even the most inhumane of killers are. Not once do the filmmakers glorify the violence seen in the movie, instead using the horrific and gory elements in the ugliest, most depressing way possible. Believe you me, this is no complaint, because this is what makes "Combat Shock" a powerful and unforgettable experience. It is raw, gritty, and very deep, as it is made for those who prefer films that force them to think. The score (by Ricky Giovinazzo as well) is one of the best I have ever heard, and fits the film like an uncomfortably tight glove, conveying a horror-movie feel while combining it with more melancholy and dramatic sounds (as well as some dirty, seedy, bored, punked-out-sounding death disco sensibilities) to help give this movie a feel of a study of reality as a horror movie. The gore FX and the mutant baby are very well-done, but this is not a movie for people who just want to see blood and guts. As I said, where most splatter films dehumanize their characters, "Combat Shock" makes you feel for the characters. It's so much more disturbing and moving that way, and I must say that this is more horrific than any of the full-on horror films that I've seen. The director was obviously a fan of "Taxi Driver" and "Eraserhead", but this film is not derivative and not only stands up well on its own, but stands up so well that it is much better than both of those films, gaining intensity and momentum until the shocking and heart-wrenching climax. I've watched this movie several times and still come away laughing at the end every time, not because it's funny (which it's not), but because it's a feeling of relief and release I get when the catharsis finally occurs in the brutal, climactic scenes. Don't think this is some cheezy, goofy movie just because it took Troma to release it. After all, nobody else would. It's been a long while since I have seen a movie that I would be ready and willing to crown as my favorite above all others, but this amazing masterpiece of independent cinema definitely deserves the title. (It's not its fault that it shares the title with many others, but that's beside the point!) And, by all means, see the unrated version!!!

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