Ten Zan - Ultimate Mission (1988) Poster

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Zags in North Korea!
tarbosh220007 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
When a scientist invents a serum, extracted from the bodily fluids of both humans and animals, that can recreate the "master race" of the Nazis, an American hero named Lou Mamet (Zags) travels from his native Mattituck, Long Island, all the way to North Korea, of all places, to stop the scientist. Helping him out along his way is fellow soldier of fortune (?) Ricky (Kristoff), but they're going to have to face off against the evil Jason (Gregory) and a ton of local North Korean goons. And what does the mysterious Glenda (Siani) have to do with any of this? Thankfully, Lou Mamet and Ricky have plenty of firepower to pull off the mission...or do they? Find out today! Interestingly, Ten Zan was indeed shot in North Korea (or NoKo as we call it). This was a smart move on behalf of then-Supreme Leader Kim Il-Sung. Unlike his successors Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un, Kim Il-Sung clearly realized that the way to become a valued part of the international community and endear yourself to the rest of the world was to get Frank Zagarino in there and blow the crud out of some huts. Whether this was truly in the spirit of international brotherhood, or just a ruse to make people think they're not a rogue state on the world stage, it was truly the best - nay - the ONLY logical move. It has been said that Kim Jong-Il was a huge movie buff and had a VHS collection consisting of thousands of titles. It has even been said that he loved action movies, the First Blood series in particular. Perhaps his love of movies culminated when he kidnapped a film crew and actors from South Korea and forced them to make a movie in the North. But the real question is: Is Ten Zan: Ultimate Mission in that large collection? Odds are it is. There's a very good chance that a madman with nukes has seen Frank Zagarino, Romano "Rom" Kristoff, and Mark Gregory romping around in an Exploding Hutter. It truly boggles the mind.

While Ten Zan doesn't quite scale the lofty heights of the truly awesome Commander (1988) (though it would be unfair to compare every Italian Exploding Hutter to that masterpiece), we can still chalk up another in the win column for Frankie Zags. Thankfully, he's as wooden as ever. We wouldn't have it any other way. Of course, once again, he gets tortured. Backing him up is Mark Gregory - Trash and Thunder himself - almost unrecognizable here with short hair and very clean-shaven. The presences of those two stars amongst a panoply of exploding huts is enough right there to recommend the movie, but the North Korean connection just puts the weirdness level over the top.

Ten Zan was the last film of director Ferdinando Baldi, coming not long after his Warbus (1986). We'd say Ten Zan is a bit better than the one-note Warbus, but they're certainly cut from the same cloth. Without a doubt, there are enough blow-ups to go around. You just have to love the 80's. It's just so cool to see the words ULTIMATE MISSION on the screen. Ultimate Mission. You just wouldn't see that in a movie released today. Unfortunately, the movie didn't get wide distribution - only officially released in the Netherlands and Japan (the Japanese get everything!), with no U.S. VHS release. That is a shame, as it could have developed into something of a cult classic - but did the North Koreans purposely prevent it because they hate America? Perhaps we'll never know.

Ten Zan: Ultimate Mission is an Italian Exploding Hut movie that was filmed in a rarely-seen location, featuring some of our favorite stars of the genre. If you can see it, see it.
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Italian Rambo kills Nazis in North Korea?
oraklon17 April 2009
OK little italo action time-waster, the film's history is probably more interesting than the film itself since it was shot in north Korea with the blessing of Kim Il-sung! It's about an evil drug dealer/nazi who uses "deer-serum" (!) to create a race of ├╝bermensch and of course a good guy blowing lots of stuff up. In the tradition of Andrea Bianchi's similar Megele: Angel of Death we get to see very little of these nazi experiments, but more of screaming men with machine guns and huts blowing up. We also get to see two of Italys worst actors, Mark Greogry and Sabrina Siani, together at last (though Sabrina is so fine you don't care if she can't act and Mark Gregory is at least cool as Trash and Thunder in better Italian 80s action flicks... but completely free of charm here). If only Conrad Nichols would have shown up the circle of Italian loser actors would have been complete.
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North Korean action filtered through the Italian porn industry
jarius19 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I can't believe that there actually are five other people who have seen and bothered to rate this film. I saw It a few years ago at the Gothenburg Film Festival in their section for Korean film and had a blast.

The story in short: Some kind of evil people, I forget who or why, have found out a way to extract bodily fluids from the base of the brain of unsuspecting victims. This fluid is then used for some reason or another. A couple of western heroes have to stop this in true 80's action style, big explosions and violence ensue.

The only real reason to see this extreme turkey is that it is actually financed by the North Korean state! True! They apparently gave money to an Italian director who brought along what must be a bunch of Italian porn stars and tried to make an action extravaganza. Just an example: There is a car chase, but it really isn't that exciting since they drive around on an empty high way (I doubt there are that many vehicles in the country to begin with) and the ancient cars sway like they hadn't even heard of suspension and could topple over at any time. Also the cars top speed seems to be 50 kph at the most so you could probably catch them with your bike. This is the only film ever where you have people running around showing up outdated communist hardware and where you have so many hilarious moments of unintended homo eroticism and a female porn star proving why they never, ever even try to act in porno.

Seriously, this is so bad it's good but yet still gives you angst for seeing it. Actually, when I think about it, you should see it. If you can.
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"All This Is Absurd! You've Always Had An Infantile Imagination!"...
azathothpwiggins20 May 2021
In TEN ZAN - ULTIMATE MISSION, young women are being abducted and taken to a secret facility, where they're injected with "hornless deer serum" -betcha didn't see that coming!- by a group of Nazis. Said Nazis are led by the cruel Jason (Mark Gregory) who likes putting his feet up on things. These nasty Nazis -try saying that ten times!- are out to build their master race once more!

A special team is assigned to infiltrate the group and put an end to this foolishness.

Enter Frank (Frank Zagarino) and his cohorts, who engage with their targets, resulting in the usual gunfire, explosions, and karate fights. Astoundingly, win spite of all the action going on, this movie still manages to be tedious, and about as enjoyable as a flypaper sandwich.

It's too preposterous to be taken seriously, but not preposterous enough to be a schlock classic. It does, however, receive extra credit for the whole hornless deer serum thing...
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Tan Zan!!!
BandSAboutMovies12 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Terrorists are making genetic experiments on kidnapped girls. And Professor Larson has a dream. That dream is probably your nightmare, as he wants to create a master race to rule the world. Luckily, some scientific organizations in Asia and Europe have hired a group of mercenaries to kill everyone. Yay!

But wait! This movie is a North Korean/Italian co-promotion! Kim Il-Sung actually allowed this movie to be made in his country and, well, it's a total piece of crap.

That said - Mark Gregory is the bad guy, the leader of the terrorists. And who is being paid $65,000 by FSR (Final Solution Research) to stop him? Frank Zagarino - Striker himself! Plus, Sabrina Siani (Conquest, Throne of Fire) came along too. Did you know her mother used to come to nearly every set she was on and get in the way? Well, she also encouraged Jess Franco to film her daughter naked, so there's that.

There is also a veritable army of North Korean extras ready to do whatever it takes to make this entertaining. They failed!

There is one goofball scene where Lou, a commando, talks about how he spent the last year with the Bolshoi Ballet and how he had to kill a ballet dancer who was ready to stop disarmament talks between Russia and the U.S. Not only does this sound like the kind of script conversation that Quentin Tarantino used to get paid to write (like that discussion about the Silver Surfer that comes out of nowhere in Crimson Tide) and a way better movie than what I suffered through.

But Mark Gregory is in it! That has to count for something.

An interesting trivia note: the evil Professor Larson was played by Charles Robert Jenkins, a United States Army soldier who lived in North Korea from 1965 to 2004 after deserting his unit and crossing the Korean Demilitarized Zone. He immediately regretted this decision and was treated poorly for years. In 1982, Jenkins appeared as Dr. Kelton, painted to be the mastermind behind the Korean War, in the film Unsung Heroes. This was the first evidence to the Western world that he was alive, but the U.S. government did not acknowledge this fact until 1996. He was given a Japanese wife, who was allowed to go back to Japan and he eventually was able to go there, where he spent the rest of his life.

The country of Japan asked for the U.S. to pardon him for treason, but they refused. Jenkins put his conscience to rest by reporting to Camp Zama on Patriot Day, September 11, 2004. He showed up in full uniform with all of his medals and saluted the military police.

On November 3, he pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and aiding the enemy, but denied making disloyal or seditious statements. Those charges were dropped and he was sentenced to 30 days in the brig. He was released early for good behavior and received a dishonorable discharge.

He published a biography in Japan called To Tell the Truth, which was re-published nearly a decade later in the U.S. as The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea. He died in Japan on December 11, 2017.

His story would make a much better movie than Tan Zan: Ultimate Warrior.
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Italian exploitation in North Korea? How can this be so dull?
ofumalow10 June 2018
Despite the novelty of it being filmed in North Korea, and a luridly fantastical premise, this is a strictly routine Italian 80s action movie in the wannabe-"Rambo" mode. There's a lot of extras being machine gunned and things exploding, but the action is quite dull. It's strange, too, that given the "Rambo"-esque air, and the casting of handsome lead male actors who often appeared in these sorts of movies (and/or martial arts-based ones or "Conan" ripoffs), that the over-the-top muscle machismo factor is zilch. There's almost no mano-a-mano fighting, and nobody takes their shirt off (except briefly the male villain in a non-action scene) or even exposes some bicep in a tank top. What kinda "Rambo" ripoff IS this?!? Perhaps shooting in North Korea meant that showing too much skin (of either sex) was forbidden.

Another disappointment is that the mildly sci-fi conceit (the heroes are tasked with stopping a diabolical ttempt to create a "master race" by experimenting on kidnapped young women) is only talked about, never depicted, so hopes of any "Boys from Brazil" and/or women-in-prison type cheese go entirely unfulfilled. The female villainness is at least visually memorable: She wears so much makeup she'd seem like a drag queen even without her long blonde hair making her look weirdly like Fabio's twin sister.

Alas, even she isn't as much fun as she should be. This is the kind of movie that should be a guilty pleasure, but it's so completely forgettable and void of any eccentric, campy or humorous (intentional or otherwise) qualities that it's just kind of a slog.
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