aka COBRA MISSION
(Italy/West Germany - 1986; US release 1987)
Directed by Larry Ludman (Fabrizio De Angelis). Written by Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino, Larry Ludman (Fabrizio De Angelis) and Erwin C. Dietrich. Cast: Oliver Tobias, Christopher Connelly, Manfred Lehman, John Steiner, Donald Pleasence, Ethan Wayne, Gordon Mitchell, Enzo G. Castellari, Enio Girolami, Alan Collins (Luciano Pigozzi), Aldo Massasso, David Light. (Unrated, 87 mins)
"Forget about it, man. It's Vietnam."
This Italian-German Namsploitation actioner was shot in 1985 as COBRA MISSION but unreleased in the US until 1987, when it went straight to video courtesy of Imperial Entertainment, who retitled it OPERATION NAM, as Vietnam movies were in vogue in months after PLATOON. In West Germany, COBRA MISSION was known as THE RETURN OF THE WILD GEESE in an effort to tie it in with Antonio Margheriti's WILD GEESE ripoff CODENAME: WILDGEESE (1984), as both films shared German co-producer Erwin C. Dietrich. An unusually downbeat and cynical example of the '80s P.O.W. rescue movie, COBRA MISSION/OPERATION NAM avoids the flag-waving, "Born in the USA," "America! Fuck yeah!" jingoism of the Reagan era, when blockbusters like RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II went back to Vietnam to refight the war with a guaranteed American victory. OPERATION NAM shares the distrust of the powers that be exemplified by Charles Napier's duplicitous Murdock in RAMBO, but it goes further by letting the corrupt US government and military win and having the good guys lose the war a second time. The heroes of OPERATION NAM aren't killing machines like Sylvester Stallone's John Rambo or Chuck Norris' James Braddock in the MISSING IN ACTION movies. They're normal, everyday guys like the Vietnam vets in Ted Kotcheff's UNCOMMON VALOR. OPERATION NAM has some valid points to make and its finale is an unexpectedly subversive gut-punch, but it's still a Namsploitation B-movie directed by Fabrizio De Angelis, under his usual pseudonym "Larry Ludman." Much better known as a producer (ZOMBIE, THE BEYOND, 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS) than a director--something he didn't start doing until 1983's FIRST BLOOD ripoff THUNDER WARRIOR-- De Angelis blows things up impressively, but the film is ragged and filled with amateurish continuity gaffes (like one character going back and forth from light stubble to a two-week beard, often in the same scene) and sloppy corner-cutting, often glossing over important details just to get to the next explosion.
THE STUD), who's crashing in a mental institution for free meals and easy sex with the nurses, improbably break him out of the facility and head to Bangkok. "There's only one problem...how do I get outta here?" Richard asks, as De Angelis immediately cuts to the four men driving around Bangkok, never bothering to show how they managed to get Richard out of the hospital.
|Ethan Wayne hanging with his dad on the|
set of 1973's THE TRAIN ROBBERS
COBRA MISSION 2, directed by Camilo Teti (a production manager for Sergio Leone on ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and DUCK, YOU SUCKER and for Dario Argento on THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE) under the pseudonym "Mark Davis," with the younger and more Stallone-esque Brett Clark (BACHELOR PARTY, EYE OF THE EAGLE, DELTA FORCE COMMANDO) as someone named Roger--though it doesn't seem as if he's playing the same Roger as Connelly, who died of cancer in 1988--who's off the grid and working black ops for the US government, sent to help freedom fighters depose a Latin American dictator. COBRA MISSION 2 can be found on the bootleg circuit, but was never released in the US and has fallen into total obscurity.
Note: the version of OPERATION NAM that's streaming on Amazon Prime, under the original title COBRA MISSION, has a bizarre edit in the final scene that eliminates crucial information and inadvertently gives the film an anticlimactic and confusing wrap-up that significantly cushions the blow. After the men leave Vietnam and head home, forced by the military to leave the P.O.W.s behind, Mortimer is shown arriving at a hospital and saluting an apparently shell-shocked, motionless, wheelchair-bound Richard. The Amazon version eliminates a POV shot of Moritmer walking down the hallway to Richard's room as captions reveal that Roger and James both died mysterious deaths immediately after their attempted rescue mission, the implications being that they were murdered and Richard has been given a ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST lobotomy and dumped back in the V.A. hospital to keep quiet about what he knows. This scene is actually shown in full in the COBRA MISSION trailer above, so it's odd that it's incomplete in the Amazon Prime version, which actually runs two minutes longer and has more violence and gore than Imperial Entertainment's 85-minute VHS release of OPERATION NAM.