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.