POW's rescued from tiger cages in Vietnam are brought into a secret mission by an Army Captain. However when the group finds a cache of gold, greed sets in and the mission goes awry.
When an author, in 1984, receives word that a man in Vietnam is willing to finally tell the tale of a series of events that transpired a decade earlier, we are transported back to 1974 and a very dire situation is unfolding in the jungles of 'Nam. After escaping from a prison camp, a group of soldiers are lost, angry, irritated and disillusioned. Capturing all the angst is a German photographer along for the ride. When they do manage to make contact with Captain Newport (Monty), they are told they must recover some documents from a helicopter that has been shot down, which only adds insult to injury. The final straw is the fact that the supposed "documents" are gold bars, which only adds fuel to the fire of division going on amongst the soldiers. While all this is going on, the men have to avoid various other jungle pitfalls such as a leg amputation, murderous locals, unfriendly nature, and much more. Will these embattled enlisted men be encouraged or entreatied to end it all? Find out...
Dog Tags is writer/director Romano Scavolini's follow-up to his horror classic Nightmare (1981), and those who have seen that can well imagine what he would do with the "namsploitation" genre. Well, here it is. It's an exploding hutter with a difference. It's unrelentingly dark, bleak, depressing and self-serious. Sure, that provides a point of difference with all the other jungle jaunts out there, who never come close to this level of straight-ahead dreary desolation. That said, the movie is very well-shot, with quality camera-work and creative lighting and angles, and the editing reinforces the "masterminds behind the scenes" vibe.
This would have been a home run if there was any character development. Imagine high drama but with a bunch of random people you know nothing about. There are many times when the whole outing becomes dull and loses any kind of drive. Imagine if Scavolini directed Platoon (1986) instead of Oliver Stone, but slower. That should give you some idea of what we're dealing with. Sure, there are a few blow-ups here and there, but the emphasis is surely on the grimness of 'Nam and the human toll. In its single-minded fixation on that, the movie forgot to have one strong, clear baddie, a misstep we see all too often, and is another contributing factor to the movie losing focus. All this is put in a clearly-delineated three-act structure, with epilogue, complete with title cards to help the audience.
In the cast department, we have fan favorite Mike Monty, a Philippines-shot movie mainstay, as well as fellow Romano, Romano Kristoff, who is also credited as being Second Assistant Director. Or maybe the credit-makers just got confused. Nick Nicholson is also credited, but it must be a "blink and you'll miss him" situation, and we definitely must have blinked, because we didn't see him at all. There's also the credit "Chris Hilton as Himself". Okay. Good to know. Baird Stafford, so memorable from Scavolini's Nightmare, returns as the soldier who, infamously, gets his leg amputated. If I may quote Scavolini himself, speaking about Stafford, from the book Spaghetti Nightmares: "He was also very effective in DOGTAGS because I managed to get him to accept the idea that he had to be sexually ambiguous. His leg being cut off clearly represents a type of castration, and it is his mutilated sexuality that, in the end, ruins everyone." So now you know. Consider yourself warned.
Never released on VHS or DVD in the U.S., Dog Tags succeeds stylistically, if not dramatically, and its style and substance seem out of sync with each other. Add to that the distressing, somber vibe, and it can make for a very rocky viewing experience indeed. Being in the mood of watching an Umberto Lenzi film,I got set to watch him take on an Indian Jones style adventure movie,with the 1991 film Hunt for the Golden Scorpion.About 2 minutes into my viewing,I discovered that a mistake had been made,when the DVD turned out not to contain Lenzi's movie,but to instead contain Antonio Margheriti's 1982 Adventure film Hunters of the Golden Cobra.Not wanting to let the disappointment sink in,I quickly decided to go for the film which had been laying under the Lenzi title,which would give me the chance to witness Romano Scavolini's tour of Vietnam.
Giving up years ago on ever finding out the truth about a story that a Vietnam War vet told him,an investigating author rushes to Vietnam to meet a man who claims that he is at last willing to open up and give details to events which took place 10 years ago.
Escaping from caged cells in a Vietnam jungle,a group of US POW's start searching for a way to make contact,so that a chopper can be sent to pick them up.When the group eventually get in contact with a leading general,they are given the unexpected news,that before they can be picked up,the gang must first complete a secret mission of picking up boxes containing secret US war documents from a shot down chopper.Struggleing to get any sense of direction in the jungle,the group stagger towards the fallen chopper,where they discover,that instead of containing US War documents,the boxes actually contain a gold cache.
View on the film:
Wising going for an emphasising the positives and hiding the negatives approach,writer/director Romano Scavolini, (who along with partly being inspired by his own experience in the Vietnam war as a freelance photography,would also not make another movie for 12 years) gives the setting a terrific stylised low-lit appearance,that along with being backed by a pulsing score from John Scott creates a strong atmospheric mood of the POW's being trapped in an almost alien like wasteland.Along with the lighting style, Scavolini also shows a refreshingly restrained approach to the gore scenes,with the use of clever sound effects helping to make images much more downbeat than what the film's ultra low budget could ever show.Making the Film Noir elements, (the reporter and the gold cache) and the last 20 minutes of the movie feel rather flimsy, Scavolini thankfully makes sure to pack the first hour with enough of a thrilling wallop to make the flaws in the films final 30 minutes easily forgivable.Deciding to not go with the typical approach of making the solider's/POW's look bloodthirsty in the jungle, Scavolini instead show's the POW's continued attempts to become friends with the Vietnamese people,as they do everything not to succumb to the insanity of the jungle. 646f9e108c
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