Enemy Unseen (1989)


Enemy Unseen
(1989)- * *

Directed by: Elmo De Witt

Starring: Vernon G. Wells, Ken Gampu, Angela O'Neill, Jeff Weston, Michael McCabe, Greg Latter, and Stack Pierce 

"A crocodile is like an elephant. It doesn't forget." – Malanga

When Roxanne Tangent (O'Neill) and Mel Noble (Weston) go to Africa, they think they'll just be camping and partying down. What really happens is Jeff is killed by a tribe that worships crocodiles and Roxanne is held prisoner, presumably to be sacrificed at the appropriate time to the crocodile gods. Her father, a businessman named Gordon Tangent (McCabe), organizes a party of experts to rescue her. Their leader is Steiger (Wells), and his team includes, but is not limited to, Josh (Pierce), Malanga (Gampu), and Pencil (Latter). Along with Gordon, the team of adventurers must traverse the treacherous waterways and jungles of Africa. Every now and again a native will shoot a blow dart at somebody or a crocodile will show up and perhaps chomp them. Will the team save Roxanne? Or will they fall prey to the ENEMY UNSEEN?

According to the Video Hound Movie Guide, "A bickering squad of mercenaries slog through the African jungle to find a girl abducted by crocodile-worshipping natives. Dull Jungle Jim-style adventure notable for the hilariously phony crocs that occasionally clamp onto the characters." Notice the operative word? That would be slog - and they were so close to inventing the phrase that we coined: Jungle Slog.

Enemy Unseen is yet another South African snoozefest along the lines of Vengeance Cops (1971) and Cobra Force (1988). The standard for entertainment in that country must be much lower than in other places.

The movie started out promisingly enough, with a cameo from Jeff Weston of Crime of Crimes (1989) fame, but then they killed him off. At the other end of the spectrum, the end credits song, a catchy AOR gem which we think might be called "Need Somebody", receives no credit, so we don't know who performs the song. Another disappointment. In between those bookends, the best parts of the movie are the croc killings.

While we give Enemy Unseen credit for the fact that the 'enemies' are supposed to be actual crocs and not animated CGI cartoons like on the SyFy channel, there needed to be more croc action. Or any action, really. Even a Predator-inspired "shooting at the forest" scene is way too short.

It was nice to see fan favorite Vernon G. Wells as the good guy for once, so that was a change of pace. Of course, when Tangent first approaches him for the mission, he declines. No one ever just accepts on the first offer. Stack Pierce stands out as well, with his Rambo-esque red headband. There are some decent musical themes on the soundtrack. We're trying to look for the positives here, but it's undeniable that the film drags and is a tried-and-true Africa slog/jungle slog.

While the native with the crocodile headgear was noteworthy, what the movie could have used was a strong, evil bad guy, like a diabolical local king who tells his charges, "no more mistakes!" and sets out to kill our heroes. As it stands, despite its technical competency and a few standout blips, Enemy Unseen is missing a lot that would make it fully entertaining for the viewer.

Over the years, the AIP Home Video VHS has become quite rare, but whatever you do, don't pay high prices for it. It may have a cool cover, but it's not worth it. Don't be fooled. On the other hand, it's not every day you see an end credit like this: "Crocodiles supplied by Kroon Krok (Pty) Ltd." So now we know who to thank for providing the crocodiles. Presumably they supply them for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and other occasions. They were the best part of the movie, after all.

In the end, perhaps this movie should remain "Unseen". Eh, we're just joshin' ya, Enemy Unseen. But really it's not that good. For an AIP pickup with Stack and Vernon, we thought it would be better.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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