United States/Argentina – 1985
Director – Hector Olivera
Media Home Entertainment, 1986, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 22 minutes
Readers familiar with the Corman library of skullduggery will no doubt recall the heady days of Conan, when the master of low-budget was cranking out the knockoff fantasy barbarian franchises like they were going out of style. Which they were, very quickly. Although the Deathstalker series would continue into a fourth film and the stylin’ 90’s, it was the longest running franchise at a mere seven years. Shorter and possibly lower budget (it’s a tight race) films like Barbarian Queen and Wizards of the Lost Kingdom were churned out too and are notable primarily for their even more addled plots. These were the days when Corman was farming out production overseas to the Philippines, Mexico and even Argentina where the first of the Barbarian Queen and Wizards films were made. One man was responsible for directing both of those bungling and silly indulgences, Hector Olivera. Some might not wish to ever tread the Olivera path again (especially after Wizards) but I’m stubborn, and I find it all quite fascinating. The plot thickened perceptibly when I discovered Cocaine Wars.
1985 would appear to have been a good year for our intrepid Argentinian who helmed not one, not two, but all three of his Corman productions. It was still a few years until the Latin American Drug Cartel action films would have to make way for Inner-City Drug Gang films in the 90’s and Corman was going to try his hand before they moved back home. Hiring one of the Duke Bro.’s (John Schneider to be exact) as his “Name,” he passed the reins to Olivera who crafted a bungling and silly yarn about an undercover DEA agent (Schneider) and his investigative reporter wife (Kathryn Witt) who are after the same Kingpin. Kidnappings and intrigue follow in typical though clumsy and meandering fashion, and all resolves itself somehow. To be honest, by the time I got to the end of Cocaine Wars I was no longer paying much attention, there was little to elicit it.
Still, there was something memorable about the film. What lingers with me is the VHS box art. It’s a vision of saccharine machismo that calls forth memories of some of the finest in men’s pulp magazines and makes me ache for Reagan-era cinema. Like the cover of Equalizer 2000 (also Corman produced) over which I waxed poetic last month, Cocaine War’s rippling bare-chested hero and vulnerably draped female token are quite literally iconic. Those were the terminal days of Communism and drug’s synonymity, when USAmerica still needed cowboys to protect the womenfolk and defend the frontier. Corman and his directors didn’t always hit the target, but a look at the poster/box art for any of the films I’ve mentioned here and there can be no question that they knew what they were aiming at.
Our friends over at Comeuppance Reviews have a thing or two to say about Cocaine Wars.