Thanksgiving Triple Feature

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. Ours was a bit subdued as my beautiful wife and I came down with raging colds at the beginning of the week, so our guest list and our menu was curtailed, but we had turkey, cranberries, and stuffing (and will for days to come, as we bought a large turkey in anticipation of sharing it asynchronously if not in person. But no.

Instead of watching the three football games, I managed to spend the afternoon and evening on the couch with a trio of films.

Book coverI started with Zulu, the 1964 film about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Basically, during the wars with the Zulu in southern Africa, the natives wipe out a British column and then turn their sights upon a small outpost, basically a stockade, mission, and trading post with a garrison of only 150 soldiers. Those at the outpost get wind of what’s to come and builds some barricades, and the onslaught begins.

I invited my boys to watch the film, but they declined. But the oldest came down at some point and asked what’s happening. “The Zulu are attacking.” Basically, the film has two parts: The Zulu are going to attack, and the Zulu are attacking.

Which does oversimplify things a bit. There’s some tension between the two leftenants Chard and Bromhead, played by Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. The first is part of the engineer corps sent to repair a pontoon bridge and the other a young commander who is still a little naive. The story also features a stoic sergeant and a couple of privates, including one who is feigning illness to avoid duty but who will rise to the occasion like Sharpe, probably.

It’s not a jingoistic British piece of propoganda–it shows a bit of the weariness that comes from the World War II generation that’s making it. The British soldiers continue to ask why they’re there, why they’re dying, and whatnot, and the answer is never For Queen and Country or for civilization–it’s a more general and existential Because We Are Here. Still, I am certain this film could not be made today because the Africans are not clearly the good guys and the British the bad guys.

The cover of the videocassette features Michael Caine, who plays the naive Leftenant Bromhard, which is anachronistic–he is on the cover because he was the bigger star later, but this film was conceived and produced by Stanley Baker, who played Leftenant Chard. And who is unknown today because he appeared in British films in the 1950s and 1960s and not any Batman movies.

Book coverAfter Zulu, I tried to lure my boys in with a Jackie Chan film, and only my youngest joined me.

First Strike is the fourth installment in the Police Story series in which a Hong Kong policeman is tasked with following a Ukrainian woman to Ukraine and turn her over to the CIA, but she gets taken at the airport, and Jackie (called “Jackie” as he is in so many of his films) follows her to a castle and then follows a man to a cabin. Apparently, the man is an international arms dealer who has parts of a nuclear weapon. So Jackie is tasked to the Russian FSB to track down this arms dealer, who is actually hiding in Australia. He’s the son of a local (but Chinese) crime lord, and he’s luring the head of the FSB in to expose him as an international arms smuggler. It’s a little complicated.

Jackie does not dive right into the martial arts fights, but when he did, my son was quick to point out that they were cartoonish (not his word). At which point, I explained that most fights in movies were not very realistic–most would be much shorter, and more people would be seriously hurt. But he ultimately was not very much into the Jackie Chan aesthetic.

He was a little estranged as well by the dubbing in English, or at least the parts where the mouths moving are not matching the spoken words. As with Kung Fu Yoga, the actors were filmed speaking different languages, but when this film was released in North America, instead of subtitles, the non-English portions were dubbed. So sometimes, especially in the Australian scenes or when Jackie is talking to the CIA, it was filmed in English, so the lips match the words, but in other portions, they do not. Which is weirder than the straight dubbing of films originally made in a flavor of spoken Chinese like many martial arts movies we grew up with in the 1970s.

You know, I probably watched this film twenty years ago when it was fairly fresh–a friend from my gaming group was one of the first on the Jackie Chan train in the middle 1990s–and I’m sure I have seen Supercop, the preceding one in the series, at some point, but I don’t remember them distinctly, so it was like watching it anew. My beautiful wife asked me if it was the one with the plane, and I was not sure, but it is not (I don’t recollect which that is). I suspect it will take many more viewings of each film to really be able to tell them apart.

Book coverI talked about watching this film again in July because I watched all the Conan movies (many of which starred Sandahl Bergman) and because VodkaPundit included an animated gif from the film on a post. So on Thanksgiving, I got to it.

The younger son decamped after Jackie Chan’s First Strike, and I asked the older boy if he would like to watch Highlander or Hell Comes to Frogtown as they have both made their way to the top of the entertainment, erm, center (not a single unit, but a couple of old stereo cabinets and a little cabinet my sainted mother gave me when we lived in Old Trees. He was more interested in this film for some reason. I mean, its catchphrases are not recognized today (animated gifs notwithstanding). So we watched it to end the evening.

To recap the plot: After a series of nuclear wars devastated the population and rendered much of the surviving population sterile, a special government agency called Med Tech enlists a scavenger named Sam Hell (Roddy Piper), a man who has left a string of pregnancies in his travels, to help repopulate the species. They send Hell under the direction of Sandahl Bergman and a gunner played by Cec Verrell to a mutant reservation to liberate some fertile females captured by the mutants.

So it’s your basic post-apocalyptic direct-to-video/direct-to-cable fare from the middle 1980s. Much like Warlords which I compared to this film ten years ago(!).

So clearly it stuck with me a bit, and this might not be the last time I see the film. After all, my youngest has not seen it.

We’ve already looked at Sandahl Bergman when we reviewed the Conan films. Hell Comes To Frogtown also featured Cec Verrell, whom I remember mostly from the multi-part Hunter: City on Fire.

She had an interesting career. Her IMDB profile indicates a role or guest appearance or two every year from the early 1980s to 2001, but not a lot. Clearly, there’s some story to it, but the Internet doesn’t have it.

Also, in that’s creepy news, as I was typing out this post and viewing these films on Wikipedia and IMDB, Facebook showed me this ad/suggested post:

The last is the character Private Hook in Zulu, the private in the hospital feigning illness.

I would attribute it to coincidence, but why not just blame the algorithms?

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