03 October 2011

Operation 'Nam

Italy – 1986
Director – Fabrizio De Angelis
IDF Films, 1986, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 35 minutes

The ‘Nam was such a major shock to the United Statesian social psyche that it catalyzed over a decade of filmic reinterpretations and finger pointing. Here at Lost Video Archive we’ve talked about the well-worn cast of comfortingly predictable stereotypes to which United Statesian ‘Nam movies quickly devolved. The unhinged ‘Nam Vets and sensitive killers are fun and all, but never so entertaining as when percolated through the Italian exploitation cinema machine. Fabrizio De Angelis' Operation ‘Nam is the most intense concentrated dose of predictable ‘Nam that I have had the pleasure of experiencing.

Ethan Wayne kicks grandpa ass.
Dispensing with all pretense, Operation ‘Nam opens with its four protagonists weathering a barrage of ‘Nam Vet stereotypes that doesn’t stop until the clip is empty. Within seven minutes one man’s wife declares that “you ‘Nam vets aint worth shit!” A potential employer says “Three years in ‘Nam don’t count for shit” on his resume. A pawnbroker assessing military medals offers, “Yeah, looks like you fought the whole Vietnam War by yourself pal. How much did you say you want for these?” At her wedding a third man’s daughter complains that her dad and his war buddies embarrass her and the wife throws them out. Deciding to commiserate over a few cold ones they head to a nearby bar where they have a run in with some WWII and Korean War vets who call them druggie cowards from a pussy war.

A few brief minutes to catch your breath and then, government conspiracy tales kick in full blast. Channeling all the Chuck Norris they can muster (Missing in Action came out just two years earlier) our squad of protagonists, (their fourth ‘rescued’ from a mental hospital) confront the charge that Washington knows about but doesn’t care about the P.O.W.’s still in ‘Nam. But why hold the Fed accountable when you can still blame the Vietnamese! So our protagonists head back to Southeast Asia to re-fight the war in under an hour. Along the way they pick up weapons from Donald Pleasence, a holdover French priest with a stash of firearms available for packs of embittered ‘Nam vets. The next forty-five minutes of explosions (including a toy helicopter!), gunfire and yelling go precisely according to cinematic formula. The accompanying chase results in the deaths of all the rescued P.O.W.’s, the whole point of the operation actually being the philosophical redemption of the soiled honor and dignity of veterans.

'Nam Vet vs. The World
Operation ‘Nam would be exactly like any other crude Vietnam conspiracy movie except that it’s exactly like all other ‘Nam conspiracy movies in one fucking movie. Stacked with a stable of action-exploitation movie veterans that includes Gordon Mitchell, Manfred Lehmann, John Steiner and John Wayne’s son Ethan, this movie is the very meaning of “if you see only one shitty reactionary ‘Namsploitation movie in your life” make this the one. Operation ‘Nam covers all the bases without any of the confusing subtlety or moral complications of its contemporaries.


Ty said...

Nice review! Love Namsploitation also. Also Ethan Wayne was really silly in this.

The Goodkind said...

Thanks Ty. I was amused that Wayne was so wooden and among the first to die, yet they headlined his name. Pure sleaze.