Code Name: Vengeance (1987)

Code Name: Vengeance (1987)- * * *

Directed by: David Winters

Starring: Robert Ginty, Shannon Tweed, James Ryan, Don Gordon, and Cameron Mitchell

In Africa, an evil terrorist named Musseem Tabrak (Ryan) seems to be gaining political influence in his region. In order to further his nefarious ends, he kidnaps the wife and son of one of his rivals. That’s when the ambassador, Harry Applegate (Gordon), calls in the only solution to this geopolitical problem: Monroe Bieler (Ginty). Bieler is a warrior who was imprisoned by Tabrak for twelve years and is burning with the desire for revenge. Applegate teams him up with a guy from the U.S. consulate named Chuck Hawley (Brophy), but things really start to heat up when Bieler re-connects with old warhorse Dutch Busselmeyer (Cam). Along with love interest/reluctant compatriot Sam (Tweed), the four unlikely heroes proceed to shoot, blast, and blow up the minions of Tabrak – but who is the true mastermind? Will Applegate wrap himself in the flag…and will Monroe Bieler live to machine-gun-shoot another day?

Fan favorite Robert Ginty saves the day in CODE NAME VENGEANCE, an entertaining shoot-em-up/blow-em-up that you pretty much have to love. It’s a non-AIP outing from director David Winters, which may explain why the movie looks more professional than usual. His production company this time around was The Killmasters Company, and when you see that that is the first credit on the screen, you know you’re in for a good time.

As we’ve noted before, there are many types of dumb. Thankfully, Code Name Vengeance is the fun kind of dumb. Lots of very stupid things happen, but you can’t help but smile. The movie has that 80’s charm mixed with the type of charm that comes from clunky editing and ridiculously-staged action scenes. The viewer can get by on this combination of dumbness and charm any day of the week. It is also satisfying to see black-robed terrorists getting killed by the good guys. There are many instances where all this comes together. For example, in one scene, there are some terrorists in an abandoned warehouse. Ginty somehow hooks a bunch of grenades onto a very, very slow-moving forklift and sends it towards them. The baddies see this coming and have ample time to run away. Instead, they just sit there for a long time, yelling. Then they blow up. Thank goodness.

When we first see Ginty, he’s embroiled in a prison-yard fight and he looks a lot like Chuck Norris. Then we see Gordon as Applegate and he looks a lot like John Saxon. We went on Cam watch and he eventually shows up 43 minutes in. He adds a lot of energy and even gets into the shooting action with the younger cast members. He would shortly re-team with James Ryan in another South Africa-shot David Winters movie, Rage To Kill (1988).

All the other characters, but especially Hawley, say Bieler’s name many, many times. Almost every sentence they say ends with the word “Bieler”. “I don’t think so, Bieler”, “Not a good idea, Bieler”, etc. It’s not even that cool of a name. By contrast, James Ryan’s name in Rage To Kill was Blaine Striker. Now that’s a name worth repeating. Bieler is dangerously close to Bieber. Obviously they must have known that in 1988 and should have acted accordingly.

The music, by Steve McClintock along with Mark Mancina and Tim James, is terrific and McClintock contributes yet another excellent song, “Is It Really Love?” This just goes to further prove that McClintock was one of the most underrated musical talents of the 80’s.

All the ingredients are here: the Winters direction, the McClintock music, the conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, the terrorists getting blown up, the silliness, the combination of Cam Mitchell, Shannon Tweed, and Robert Ginty, and it was the 80’s. Consequently, it’s easy to love Code Name Vengeance. We say give it a watch.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Invasion Force (1990)

Invasion Force (1990)- * * *

Directed by: David A. Prior

Starring: Richard Lynch, David "Shark" Fralick, Renee Cline, Douglas Harter, and Walter Cox

A film crew – an AIP film crew, no less – is shooting their latest action movie in the woods around Mobile, Alabama. Sure, there are some of the typical squabbles that go on, but jokes are being told and pranks are being played in the crew’s off hours, so all seems to be going as normal. That is until a paramilitary organization led by Michael Cooper (Lynch) parachutes into the area with his goons. This INVASION FORCE plans to take over a city (presumably Mobile) as part of their dastardly plans. They take the director, Ben Adams (Cox) hostage and begin shooting people with machine guns. The film crew only has their prop guns, explosions, and tanks to fend them off, so they’re going to have to use their wits to foil the plans of the baddies. Thankfully, Joni Marshall (Cline), the lead actress, and Douglas Harter (presumably playing himself), the weapons expert, have some tricks up their sleeves. In this battle of film crew versus the bad guys, who will come out victorious? And will there be a final twist to this AIP movie-within-an-AIP movie?

A lone, shirtless meathead stalks the forest. He begins shooting two machine guns at the same time and blowing up various huts. It’s a promising start. Soon enough, the director calls cut and lead star Troy (Fralick) whines that the aforementioned Joni stepped on his foot. What AIP mastermind and writer/director David A. Prior seems to be implying is that these action stars might not be so tough after all. Prior goes on to postulate what might happen if one of his small film crews, who normally are so expert in rigging up explosions and providing actors with ammunition, came up against the real thing in real life. How would they handle it? Interestingly, this same ground was covered in Contra Conspiracy (1990) that same year. It would be an interesting double feature of low-budget meta mayhem.

While certainly not a behind-the-scenes documentary of AIP, Invasion Force might be as close as you’ll get. The movie takes the time to show everyone in the crew, from the chef on down, interacting with each other. AIP mainstays like Doug Harter and Sean Holton (as Joey) are engaging and very likable. The director, Ben, bears a strong resemblance to – and should have been played by – Brian Benben. Coincidence? There’s a crew member who looks exactly like Andy Richter who has to help fight the baddies as well. Lower-tier fan favorite and Frank Zagarino competitor David “Shark” Fralick has some fantastic outfits and is well-cast as the musclebound hero. While most of the men in the movie have mullets, we think the bandanna he wears is to cover up his thinning hair on the front of his head. But it’s just a theory. Of course, Richard Lynch is the “Lynch-pin” that holds it all together. (Heh heh). But it’s true.

Could Invasion Force be one big ego trip for Prior and his band of AIP stalwarts? The idea that they could fight against a paramilitary group with real guns and ammo in real firefights? Maybe, maybe not, but it's a good idea for an 83-minute direct-to-video action movie. Even still, Prior and the gang managed to fashion something modest, yet entertaining, on a rock-bottom budget, which is impressive. Imagine Red Dawn (1984) meets Invasion USA (1985) meets Mankillers (1987). And they even thank the Piggly Wiggly, among other chain stores like Krispy Kreme and Home Depot, in the closing credits. It's blue-collar, homespun filmmaking all the way and therein lies the charm.

Comeuppance review by: Brett and Ty