Sunday, 13 September 2009

Tiger Joe (1988)

Snakes... why'd it have to be -
wait, I already made that reference

Antonio Margheriti was incredibly prolific in the early 80s and knocked out a string of jungle adventure films, ranging from blatant Indiana Jones rip-offs like Ark of the Sun God to slightly less blatant Indiana Jones rip-offs like The Hunters of the Golden Cobra. Tiger Joe is the middle film in a trilogy of shot-in-the-Philippines Vietnam war films (although it isn't really set in Vietnam) sandwiched between The Last Hunter and Tornado. Like many of Margheriti's films, Tiger Joe stars the great B-movie regular and would-be Bond David Warbeck.

Warbeck plays Joe, a pilot who does some gunrunning for a group of Cambodian guerrilla rebels with his partner Midnight (Tony King). He is also helped out by his grizzled mechanic Lenny, played by Luciano Pigozzi (it's a Margheriti film so he's bound to pop up somewhere). During his Last Big Score he is attacked by the Khmer Rouge and his plane is riddled with bullets. He escapes death but crashes into the river.

After narrowly avoiding death by jungle trap he is captured by a different group of guerilla rebels and is tended to by the lovely Kia (Annie Bell from House on the Edge of the Park), an American woman who has taken up the rebels cause. They take him to a nearby village, but the entire rebel army is wiped out by Khmer Rouge forces. Only Joe, Kia and her childhood friend Tatu survive. It should be noted that Kia does a lot of screaming for a battle hardened rebel soldier and someone should probably tell her that an oversized t-shirt and no pants is not suitable clothing for guerrilla warfare. Meanwhile Joe spends most of his time wandering around without a shirt, so I guess between them they have one full set of clothing.

It should go without saying that eventually Kia succumbs to Joe's hairy-chested masculinity. This comes to a great disappointment to Tatu who attempts to kill Joe in a jealous rage but is stopped by Kia. The three of them are relentlessly pursued by soldiers into an abandoned house where Joe has an amusing Mexican stand-off with a deadly cobra. Tatu redeems himself by throwing himself onto a knife and saving Joe's life and Kia finally decides to put some pants on.

Meanwhile Midnight, Lenny and their cowardly boss Ronsky attempt to mount a rescue mission of their own. Their plane crashes after they are attacked by the Khmer Rouge and they are nearly captured but eventually Joe and Kia show up and save their asses. Ronsky demonstrates why surrendering to the Khmer Rouge is rarely a good idea and the rest of them manage to avoid dudes with flame throwers and other dangerous jungle foes, such as a man-eating tigers (or at least stock footage of a man-eating tiger). Disappointingly, after scaring it off with machine gun fire, Joe claims ominously that "it's still out there" and then it's neither seen nor mentioned for the rest of the film.

Subsequently our heroes wander around getting into scrapes and trading quips flavoured with the casual racism that is a beloved part of so many Italian genre films. For example Midnight is black (duh) so Lenny peppers their banter with terms like "son of sambo" and "spearchucker". Oh Lenny, you hilarious racist! I guess Midnight doesn't harbour any resentment though, because when Lenny is killed in a tunnel collapse (spoiler) Midnight bursts into a fit of anguished screaming that must be seen to be believed.

Despite a great performance from David Warbeck and an entertaining and bullet riddled finale, I didn't think this was one of Margheriti's better ones. It's relatively free of Margheriti's trademark model work (except for a train explosion that rips off Bridge on the River Kwai) and although it steals several action scenes from his superior Vietnam war film The Last Hunter, it doesn't steal it's gritty anti-war sentiment. In fact the film avoids making any statement about war whatsoever, except for a scene where Warbeck rants vaguely about "causes, those damn causes". Yeah, fuck causes! It was obviously made as a means to use up the leftovers from The Last Hunter, kind of like when they used all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's leftover DNA to make Danny DeVito in Twins. Like that film Tiger Joe is probably best avoided.

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