Saturday, November 20, 2021

Diafragma War.

During the late 1970’s and all throughout the 1980’s, movies about Vietnam war vets were being made and the movies were often dramas of the hell the veterans were put through and how it affected their lives once they came back home. A lot of those movies were very serious & very dramatic—but there were also plenty of exploitive movies about this particular subject matter and exaggeratedly done with its poor portrayal of the actual war, hyper-violent scenes & deep psychological mind-fucking (I’m looking at you, My Friends Need Killing (1976)) In the case of Combate Salvaje (aka "Guerrilleros Salvajes" & "Sudamerica: Matar O Morir"), it just portrays the Vietnam war in a very peculiar manner & quite cheaply too. Is that bad though? Not in this case. 

Gringo Vietnam vet Jessie (Bob Hevelone) often has nightmares of the war where he was brutally tortured & held up like a prisoner. Jessie’s chicano war buddy Johnny (Eduardo Diaz) was also held prisoner & tortured brutally and he even fights a ninja at night (yes, seriously). In the present time, Jessie is called upon by his old general (Roy Jenson) for a special mission to retrieve top-secret US government tapes stolen by a man who has fled to Central America. Jessie agrees to do the mission despite growing tired of war zones and he manages to partner up with good ol’ Johnny again. The two ol' war buddies then head out to the nameless Central American country where they proceed to fight rebels & betraying militants.

Combate Salvaje has to be the most random & ultra obscure movie I’ve come across in a good while because I never thought I’d watch a videohome like this trying to be like an American movie. Maybe I’m wrong here, but it seems like the minds behind Combate Salvaje watched The Deer Hunter & Salvador and thought maybe they can make something like those 2 movies, but with a low-budget and not much time, they just put together a cheapie action-war flick to sell off to video stores for a profit. Did it work out well? I don’t know, but what I do know is that Combate Salvaje isn’t a bad movie at all. It’s just super cheap and weird, but the fun kind of weird. 

Combate Salvaje was shot on tape in Los Angeles and all the war stuff was shot in Tucumán, Morelos, which is a perfect spot for war zone settings since it looks like it can be a Central American country and slightly Vietnam as well. Next to its good use of settings, the movie does have a decent story which is generic but still very amusing since it consists of old war buddies going back to hard combat in order to save the USA (in secrecy). The action scenes are cheap as fuck looking, but it is the fun kind consisting of obvious plastic toy guns, no real gunfire sound-effects & ultra slow-motion deaths. I also cannot forget to mention the Vietnam soldiers are all played by mexican actors. Since the actors don’t know how to speak Vietnamese, they just angrily speak English with heavy accents. Wonderful. 

Combate Salvaje was made by the production company “Diafragma Films”, whom in the late 1980’s & 1990’s made many videohomes released through top Mexican video labels: Mexcinema Video Corp, Million Dollar Video and Esco-Mex. Combate Salvaje was released in 1988 (filmed in ‘87) through a video label I know nothing about called “Producciones Azteca [Aztec sun stone]. I honestly feel this was a self-released title since the aztec sun logo on the VHS cover of Combate Salvaje genuinely reminds me of the Diafragma Films logo from the 90’s, which is a metal spiral. Both logos are circular fragments. 

I’m reading too much into this, huh? I’ll shut up for now. 

If somehow you come across Combate Salvaje, you’ll enjoy the heck out of since its cheaply efforts are thoughtfully entertaining. Low-budget war movie fans will for sure get a kick out of it as well. 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Rabid Dog.

 The most brave & strong men in the Mexican police force are brought together to be part of a squadron dubbed “Jauria” (Dog Pack). Jauria is to capture the most dangerous criminals in the city and many of them are of course drug pushers. The man behind all the drugs flowing into the city is Richy Apolo, a man who not only feels powerful, but also wants to look powerful as well and so much so that he works out non-stop and despite being bald—he dons a blonde wig to keep up with the powerful appearance. Richy wants to buy out Jauria in order to keep the drugs coming, so he then tries to bribe the leading Jauria officer Rodrigo Mascarena. Rodrigo of course doesn’t give into the bribes and this pisses off Richy so much that he decides to kill him with a car bomb. The car bomb is set off, but it kills Rodrigo’s wife and 2 children instead. Rodrigo with nothing else to lose—vows to kill Richy and all of his criminal syndicate! 

Ever since I watched Perro Rabioso ("Rabid Dog") over 10 years ago, I felt that had it been made with a big budget/better production, it could've been a big cult favorite of sorts. Sure it’s the typical Mexican revenge videohome from that era, but the tone of the movie feels uniquely gritty and the best part of the movie is how unique the characters are. The villain of Perro Rabioso is “Richy Apolo” (played wonderfully by Agustin Bernal) and he is by far the most bizarre & most intriguing character of the movie. Richy Apolo is a man who knows he has power, but he also makes sure his appearance goes along with it as well, thus why he works out constantly, surrounds himself with beautiful women and the wigs he wears have to look good on him because his bald head makes him look inferior. There’s an interesting scene with Richy sobbing over his bald head and it’s the only time we see him vulnerable & weak. He says “Why me? Why?” over his appearance and one of his girlfriends pitifully assures him that he’s a good looking man. It is so strange to see a villain in a movie like this get some deep-depth, but it’s so damn interesting too. I still long to know who exactly was Richy Apolo.. Sergio Goyri plays a vengeful cop as he has many times, but here in Perro Rabioso he seems to do the part very well. It’s almost as Goyri really got into this particular role and you can tell by the looks on his face through out the movie. He truly becomes a rabid dog. He attacks & kills the enemies with no mercy and when he finally confronts Richy—the final battle between these two is rather short, but still sweet & satisfying. 

As mentioned before, had there been a big budget, Perro Rabioso could of been a hell of a lot better and perhaps big as El Mariachi or some shit like that. Alas, Perro Rabioso has been forgotten and buried in obscurity like many others like it. But during its heyday, it was a rather popular title in rental shops and so popular that it spawned 2 sequels, but unfortunately those sequels are very inferior. Part 2 is a continuation of the Rodrigo Mascarena story, but it has not much going for it and it is a true snooze fest. The same can be said about part 3 as well. 

It’s fairly known that box art on many videohomes can be rather deceiving, but the one for Perro Rabioso doesn’t deceive at all. What you see is what you get and you’re in for a good time because Perro Rabioso is entertaining all the way through and to be frank, it truly stands out from the many titles that the San Diego-based video label Cine-Mex was releasing in the 1990’s. I honestly feel it is the best title that this video label had ever released because this particular movie really tried to be good despite it being made on such a low budget & lagging/rushing production.

Perro Rabioso was released on VHS through Cine-Mex and later on through the Oxxo label. Both VHS releases are very hard to find now. There has been one DVD release to my knowledge that contains part 1 & 2 (from Oxxo), but over the years it has gotten scarce. Perro Rabioso is a must see and it's definitely worth seeking out a copy of. Don't hesitate and get a copy immediately!