Friday, February 10, 2006

THE LOSERS

Dark Sky Films sent me an early screener of their upcoming DVD release, THE LOSERS (a/k/a NAM'S ANGELS, 1970) starring William Smith and directed by exploitation veteran Jack Starrett of SLAUGHTER, CLEOPATRA JONES and RACE WITH THE DEVIL fame.

Smith is the leader of a motorcycle gang called The Devil's Advocates, which is recruited by the Army during the height of the Vietnam War to rescue a captured CIA agent from a Communist prison camp in "neutral" Cambodia. The Army gives them Yamaha motorcycles ("This is a broad's bike," whines one of the bikers) which the gang equips with armor and mounted machine guns before setting out on their suicide mission.

It's a lot of fun, a cool hybrid between a biker film and a war movie shot in the Philippines, with some social conscience and really solid performances by the cast, which includes Paul Koslo and Adam Roarke. Alan Caillou's (KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS) screenplay's not bad either (I've always liked his stuff), playing well off the regular Army's reactions to these pot-smoking, whoring bikers and building smoothly to a great, bloody climax. It's a bit slow in the middle, but never really boring.

Smith is pleasure to watch, always charismatic and convincingly tough. Every time I see him in one of these films, I keep wishing that the studios had listened to Frank Frazetta and cast Smith as Conan; the man would have made a damned impressive axe-swinging barbarian.

Dark Sky's disc presents the film in a decent 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, with anamorphic enhancement. The source print is in good shape with only minor instances of damage or debris. Overall, it looks pretty good for a drive-in movie of this vintage. Sound is 2.0 Dolby mono, and is about as good as it can be. There's a decent commentary track by stars William Smith and Paul Koslo – Koslo's memory seems to be better than Smith's in regards to this particular film, but there's plenty of decent anecdotes and information here, and it's worth listening to. There's also a photo gallery, some great vintage radio ads, and theatrical trailers for THE LOSERS and Dark Sky's other upcoming oddball biker flick, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS.

An above-average drive-in actioner comes to DVD in a fine presentation. Recommended.

BUY: The Losers