Commando Squad (1987)- * * *
Directed by: Fred Olen Ray
Starring: Kathy Shower, Brian Thompson, Sid Haig, Marie Windsor, Robert Quarry, William Smith, and Ross Hagen
Kat Withers (Shower) is an L.A. narcotics agent who cleans up the trash on the streets and asks questions later. Her boss, Milo (Quarry) informs her that a "renegade federal agent" named Morgan Denny (Smith) and his sidekicks Iggy (Haig) and Cowboy (Hagen) have not only moved their drug operation south of the border to Mexico, but that they've also kidnapped Withers's boyfriend Clint Jensen (Thompson). Never fearing a fight, Withers goes in search of her beloved Clint. Along the way, she faces many obstacles and challenges - but will Kat and Clint stop the baddies and their drug running? Is Kat Withers a one-woman COMMANDO SQUAD?
Fred Olen Ray is certainly no stranger to the action genre, having directed Armed Response (1986) and Operation Cobra (1997), among others. While Commando Squad boasts a strong first half, Ray seems to have lost interest around the halfway mark. Still, 'Squad has plenty to offer the 80's action film fan. For one thing, the cast of B-Movie favorites is incredibly strong. It's almost literally an all-star cast as Shower, Quarry, Smith, Hagen, Haig and Thompson are backed with Mel Welles, Russ Tamblyn, Ray regular Dawn Wildsmith, and Tane McClure and Michelle Bauer in small roles.
Perhaps the most inspired casting choice was Golden Age actress Marie Windsor as the Machine Gun Joe character, Casey. Not only that, she uses her employment at Hollywood Book & Poster as her cover! A poster for the John Savage film Soldier's Revenge (1986) is clearly seen in this scene, as are other notable background posters. Also, instead of a sign that says either Open or Closed, theirs says We Be Here or We Be Gone. Maybe locals to the area can tell us if that's their real sign.
Despite the slowdown of the second half, this is still a great role for Kathy Shower. Finally, we get to see her shooting many people and really getting in on the action. To show that she's undercover and serious, she wears a black-haired wig that gets her resembling Pat Benatar more than you might think. Interestingly, on the American VHS box cover we see Shower's blonde hair. On foreign issues, she had the short black hair. It must be a cultural thing.
From the outset, we're taken in by the sleazy backdrop, the sax and wailing guitar on the soundtrack, Shower's attitude and her shooting of baddies, and of course the fact that this is "One Last Job" for her, a cliche we always love. There's also a coke deal gone wrong, naturally enough. After they're ensconced in Mexico, we do get some action and blow-ups, including an exploding helicopter. We also get some classic Prerequisite Torture of the hero, in this case Brian Thompson. We're happy he was playing a good guy, similar to his role in Hired to Kill (1990). Sid Haig wears a Miami Vice-style white suit (remember this was 1987), and William Smith's voice is its normal, gravelly self.
A movie highlight occurs when we see that Kat Withers has what they call a Vengeance Knife. Apparently, this is a knife with an acid-filled blade. That could be the title for a film on its own.
While, overall, the whole of Commando Squad should have taken place on the streets, as it did in the first half, and things become a bit soft after that, there still is plenty of 80's charm and other noteworthy aspects that make it worth checking out.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty