One country in particular that pumped the VHS market the world over in the past with appallingly cheap exploitative Vietnam trips was the Philippines, the local backlot to many Italian action films then. Filipino action and warsploitation flicks were typically shoddier than their Italian counterparts though, often having lower budgets, worse actors, worse music, worse dubbing and murkier production histories, if you're lucky enough to find out some of them. Teddy Page's Fireback fits the above bill nicely, but does that mean it's not enjoyable? Opening the movie is Richard Harrison as American colonel Jack Kaplan, stationed in Vietnam. Harrison, who in total straight-facedness to hide his complete reluctancy at being in such a role, is introducing his men to the most re-cock-ulous gun prop ever; the Omega, the most impractical fictional gun to exist before the gunblade of Final Fantasy VIII (though the gunblde is not even a third as cool). The Americans however are ambushed by Vietcong and all captured (no the gun does not actually do much in the way of holding them off). Meanwhile, in a place the film wants us to believe is America, a man by the name of Duffy Collins (Bruce Baron) complains to a girl called Eve (Gwendolyn Hung) about how Jack Kaplan's wife Diane ignores his advances and he wants something done about it (Duffy, for whatever reason, always has his face obscured throughout the movie). After a rescue operation is launched, Jack is returned back home only to find Diane is missing, and goes on a search for her, being led from distraction to distraction, who all come in the form of nameless characters that have no real dialogue (such as a man with a golden claw for a hand, a guy who looks like a French freedom fighter who lives with a cat, and a ninja).
Kaplan is eventually led to Diane's location, only to find her dead (not much of a big shocker, especially when the UK VHS box actually has "they thought he was dead and killed his wife, but he came home for revenge" in the tagline!), Nameless Police Chief (Mike Monty with bleach-blond hair) puts a hunt out for Kaplan because of all the murders (apparently what sets him off though is how Kaplan is blamed for a murder he did not commit) and the battle is taken to the jungle (this is meant to take place in America still, by the way), in which Kaplan customises a car and even makes his own shotgun/crossbow/bazooka hybrid-gun (this sequence is actually very cool). A second encounter with the ninja sees Kaplan mysteriously kill him off (then again, it's to be expected from a man who can apparently "turn an ordinary soft drink straw into a weapon", too bad we don't actually see that) and he dons his outfit to infiltrate Duffy's headquarters, here Duffy tells him that the reason he killed Diane was because if he can't have her, nobody can (of course, the bad writing means that comes out a bit more prolixiously and awkwardly than it has to be, and as to be expected, Duffy doesn't have a real reason for liking Diane at all). Kaplan slashes Duffy to death and then the film freezeframes and ends incompletely, dismally delivering a caption saying that Kaplan was shortly imprisoned and then died of a disease after release. What. A. Washout. Though to be frank, it's a hilarious example of terrible filmmaking.
The script, apparently written by Richard Harrison under a pseudonym, was evidently cobbled together overnight for the production company to have enough reason to make another film for the video market; characters spring up left and right like barely-cooked toast and stay that way. The super-impractical multi-calibre weapon that the film proudly carries about on its cover artwork is featured only long enough to be an insignificant point, at most it makes way to show off Kaplan's weaponry mastery (the only tiny smidge of actual character development in the whole movie, but really, I've no reason to complain about that aspect) in which he makes his own almost-streamlined, lesser-due-to-poorer version from car parts (yes), but even that does not feature for very long. Kaplan himself is only ridiculously likable because he's played by the aforementioned Richard Harrison, a man who seems to inject every scene with the boredom or pain he is feeling as an actor now working in this armpit of the film world. Music cues for the drab synth score are laughably schizophrenic while the risible action is, as always in these sorts of films, satisfying in a way.
An almost polarizing piece of bad movie fare, fans of the genre will either find this to be laugh-a-minute material like the average Bruno Mattei flick (in comparison, this easily makes one of his films look so much more spectacular) or will find it to be a drag because of its relatively drab atmosphere. Lovers of bad Filipino movies will no doubt already have this nestled among their collections, proud of its reprehensible cinematic qualities. An insightful read is an interview with Rihard Harrison's son, who appears in it as an extra, the interview can be found at Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys. The film is excessively poor, needless to say, it would have gotten a greater marking in terms of entertainment if it was Richard Harrison killing people with an adapted Nerf gun and showing half the skills he is made out to have. On, the other hand, the trailer succeeds at making it seem like a serious movie, all the while making it even more funny.
A stoner's movie at best.
- Convincing me this took place in America: 0/5
- False advertisement: 4/5
- God I wish I had that gun
-James, 02 July 2010 (original date)
Review source: UK VHS
Screenshot source: UK VHS
- Production company: Silver Star Film Company
- Year of release: 1983
- 復讐! 炎のコマンドー "Fukushou! Honoo no komando" <Vengeance! Commando of Fire> (Japan)