Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eye Of The Eagle (1987)



1987 - Eye Of The Eagle (Premiere Productions/Concorde Pictures)


[US/Filipino co-production released internationally by Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures; released in Germany as "Battlefield Vietnam" and "Jungle Force", in France as "Commando Rebelle", in Finland as "Kotkan Silma" and in Poland as "Oko Orla"]
Director/Producer Cirio H. Santiago Story Catherine Santiago Screenplay Joseph Zucchero, Nigel Hogge Executive Producer [uncredited] Roger Corman Cinematography Ricardo Remias Music Marita Manuel Editor Gervacio Santos Sound Supervisor Rollie Ruta Sound Effects Rudy Cabrales Soundman Do Bulatano Assistant Soundman Vicente Dona 2nd Unit Directors "Joe"/Jose Mari Avellana, Bobby Santiago Assistant Director Jose Torres Production Coordinator Anne Roth Production Supervisor Emilio Guatelara Production Manager Aurelio Navarro Production Designer "Joe"/Jose Mari Avellana Art Director Ronnie Cruz Special Effects Gapo Marbella Stunt Coordinator Fred Esplana Assistant Stunt Coordinators Ronald Asinas, Day Guerrero Makeup Teresa Mercarder Makeup Assistant Edna Veleriano Wardrobe Mistress Elvie Santos  Wardrobe Assistants Gloria Garcia, Remia Mendoza Set Dressers Boyet Camaya, Jerson Arrididon, Max Paglinawan 2nd Unit Cameraman Ben Lobo Assistant Cameramen Rene Pancheco, Ricardo Dumigpi Casting Director Enrique Reyes [IMDB lists Al Guarino, not in credits] Assistant Casting Director Henry Strzalkowski Assistant Production Manager Honorato Perez Jr Continuity Supervisor Chining Sagarbarria Production Assistant Albert Macapagal Production Nurse Vicky Banzuela Transportation Captain Geronimo Holandez Legman Caloy Luna Assistant Editor Danny Pantua Production Accountant Armando Lacsamana Purchaser Ricky Tolentino Comptroller Dulce del Pilar Auditor Octavio Mabilangan Production Secretary Rachel Bernardo Stills Nilo Odiaman 


Cast Brett [Baxter] Clark (Sgt. Rich Stratton), Robert Patrick (Johnny Ransom), Ed Crick (Sgt. Bo Rattner), William Steis (Capt. Carter), Cec Verrell (Chris Chandler), Rey Malonzo (Cpl. Willy Leung), Mike Monty (Col. Stark), Vic Diaz (Colonel Trang), Henry Strzalkowski (Cpl. Weasel Watkins), Willie Williams (Gimme Five), Nick Nicholson (Pfc. Crazy Dog), David Light (Sgt. Maddox), Mel Davidson (Cpl. Beller), Jim Moss (Sgt. Warden), Tony Beso (Lol Pot), Jerry Hart (Doctor), "Dave"/David Anderson (Special Forces Officer), [uncredited] Steve Rogers



Mini-review by Andrew Leavold:



Oliver Stone's Platoon marked a change in the film market's prevailing wind from rampaging Vietnam War vets and missing POWs to actual combat, and Cirio Santiago, like the proverbial bamboo reed, bent with it. EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987) is the first in a substantial barrage of Vietnam War films from Cirio and company, a breathtaking, rapid-fire montage of explosions and head-shots which, luckily, leaves little breathing space for character development and pointless exposition. Brett Clark, a bulky blow-waved Corman and Andy Sidaris regular, plays Rich Stratton, leader of the crack three-man Eagle Team alongside sixgun-toting Johnny Ransom (T2's Robert Patrick, in one of four Cirio appearances) and Willy Leung (the Pinoy Bruce Lee and Search For Vengeance star/director Rey Malonzo). Firey war reporter Chris Chandler (Silk's Cec Verrell) brings news of a Lost Command of renegade American soldiers looting and killing US troops behind enemy lines to Eagle Team's commanding officer Colonel Stark (Mike Monty), but is told by intelligence officer Captain Carter (William Steis) to dismiss it as dangerous rumour. Carter, meanwhile, is knee-deep in dirty dealings with the Lost Command's leader Bo Rattner (Ed Crick, one of the rapists from Naked Vengeance), and once the ragtag group kill Leung during a payroll hijack and take Johnny Boy prisoner, Stratton flies into a solo rage and firebombs their hideout - actually the World War 2 ruins of Corregidor - in a typically incendiary Cirio finale. 

His regulation Pigs In Space crew are well represented in Rattner's band of losers: Nick Nicholson, his hyena laugh pitch-perfect, is Crazy Dog, Henry Strzalkowski's character is appropriately named Weasel, and Willie Williams is "Gimme Five". Portly Vic Diaz briefly appears as a Vietnamese Colonel before he's shot in the skull, and David Light and Jim Moss, Cirio's dependable White Goons, make up Eagle's rival Condor Team. If it looks and sounds familiar by now, it's not surprising, as the screenplay by Cirio stalwarts Joseph Zucchero and Nigel Hogge plays its tripartite power struggle - Americans, the NVA and Rattner's Lost Command - like its iconic post-apocalypse counterparts. Montagnards with bows and arrows look suspiciously like Wheels Of Fire et al's mountain tribe, Robert Patrick's rebel hat is identical to the one he wore in Equalizer 2000, and even the Philippines' stand-in wastelands for Vietnam makes Eye Of The Eagle, more than Cirio's other 'Namsploitationers, feel like a precursor to the inevitable Apocalypse. Click here for the trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZE4hByfrho



Nick Nicholson on Eye Of The Eagle (from his blog):



This was one of my favorite films. I got to work with a lot of my friends and made some new friends here. This was a good start for Robert Patrick’s career. We shot this at Valenzuela, Bulacan, which is where most of Cirio’s family lived. The mother’s side owns a tannery there as well. But we had set up a base camp near the church on the same street where his cousins lived. It was cool and we had a place to relax at Ricky Tolentino’s house. They let us use a small hut in their backyard to relax in. The other time, we spent time at Corregidor Tanay and Mt. Makiling, Los Banos where we found a giant poop at the base of a Banyan tree that quickly became the set controversy for many days and I still vividly remember to this day.



I remember that Henry and I went to find a smoking site away from the set and we went to this Banyan tree and as we moved to the side not visible to the set, Henry said, “Holy Shit Pare, look at that!” and he was pointing at a fresh pile a poop that was fucking huge! I would guess that the diameter was at least 3″ and it must have been no less than 3 feet long kind of coiled up. You wouldn’t think it was possible for a human to take a dump like that, but there it was complete with a couple of pieces of tissue that were used to wipe this super humans butt! It was times like this that I kick myself for not bringing a camera with me to capture this oddity. Throughout the day various people went over to that tree to look at that magnificent piece of shit and speculation ran wild with, “Who did it!?!” A lot of people pegged Gloria from wardrobe as the culprit, others claimed it could only have come from her brother Lino who was gay, and made our coffee. Nobody ever claimed it, but, it was talked about for years! It ell you, it was fucking scary!!!



Anyway, as I said earlier this is kind of where Robert Patrick’s career took off! Brett Clark was supposed to be the lead but he ended up wimping out. There was a minor stunt where he was supposed to jump from the roof of a 3 storey building into some boxes below. He chickened out and we told Robert to tell Cirio that he could do it. Well he did, and he got the stunt and the film suddenly focused on him. We were quite happy about that! Robert was a good guy and real fun to work with. He was thus inducted into the “Pigs in Space”!



Los Banos was always a cool place to shoot due to the fact that we would always stop at the Dairy outlet for UP Los Banos and we would load up on chocolate milk and Keso Puti which was a kind of fresh mozzarella cheese. Also we would purchase Buco pie which was a pie made with young tender coconuts.



Nick Nicholson and Henry Strzalkowski
On this particular film, it was much like any other Cirio movie in the sense that a lot of running was involved, not to mention explosions and gunfire. We did all of this and in between we smoked weed and did some exploring. We weren’t too far from the boiling mud spring as Mt Makiling is a volcano. Hence, Los Banos means “the baths” there is a lot of geothermal activity in the area and I still believe that this sucker will pop its cork one of these days.




Above is a picture of Me, Ed Crick and Robert Patrick in makeup on Mt. Makiling Below is Steve Rogers and myself doing some of the “running and shooting”.



Nothing really interesting happened here. We shot some fun stuff at the Valenzuela set. I don’t have any pics from there. The real stuff happened at Tanay and Correigidor.



We went to Mariveles Bataan which is now a Sweatshop for footwear manufacture and BASECO which is the Bataan Shipyard. We stayed at the Hilltop Hotel which was a pleasant place to stay. Food in the restaurant was edible. Me, Henry and Steve cracked up one night while we were there. Brett demanded that food served to him by our caterer should be steamed. No fried foods at all as he was on a strict diet. Holy Jebus! One night we walk into the restaurant and who do we see? Brett! And.. what was he eating? A whole fried chicken with a huge plate of French Fries! What a fucking joke!



Anyway, in the morning we would get on a jeepney which would take us to the pier at BASECO and from there we would ride a boat going to Corregidor.




Above is me, Mike Soques and Steve Rogers on the boat. It was a nice ride over to the island. Once on the island we would get situated, find the coffee, and adjust our attitudes. The rest of the day was filled with more running, gunfire and explosions. Cirio loved explosions. The bigger the fireball the better. We all had survived numerous encounters with these blasts. Henry has a photo of us going up the stairs of one of the batteries on Corregidor where he and Ed Crick are engulfed by a fireball. The thing is, before doing a scene, if we see a red flag, we check it out. We look to see how big is the powder charge, then how much gasoline is being used, then we guide ourselves accordingly. Unfortunately for Ed Crick, he didn’t do his homework before the scene. He lost his eyebrows and got 2nd degree burns on his face. Steve and I were in front of Henry and Ed and we hauled ass going up the stairs and our heads looking away from the blast. Henry did the same thing, but Ed was just looking forward. he learned fast and it didn’t happen to him again.



Nick Nicholson and Steve Rogers

I think it was our first day there at Corregidor that we were met by our buddy Bill Steis. He and the other Hollywooders had already been shooting a couple of days. Henry, Bill and I quickly started to explore the area. We crawled in between the magazine walls, up and down the gun batteries. We were all over the place! No matter where you went there were spent bullet casings all over the place. We took a piss at the entry of one of the gun batteries and uncovered a pile of .30 cal machinegun casings. I Can only imagine what it was like when the US Army retook Corregidor from the Japanese. There were bomb craters within bomb craters. The US Army Air Corps pounded the shit out of the island before dropping paratroops. There wasn't a living tree or bush left on the island. later the island was seeded with Ipil Ipil seeds. After that it was Ipil Ipil Trees, Birds and cobras. It is said that the waters around the island are shark infested. We never went swimming there to find out.



Fred Adelman's review from his Critical Condition Online website:



EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987) - This film, the first of Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's full-on 80's Vietnam War action flicks, finds Sgt. Rick Stratton (Brett Clark; ALIEN WARRIOR - 1985), Cpl. Johnny Ransom (Robert Patrick, wearing the same rebel cap he did in Santiago's EQUALIZER 2000 - 1986) and Cpl. Willy Leung (Rey Malonzo; SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE - 1984) saving a squad of American soldiers who are pinned-down by the enemy in the jungle. Sgt. Stratton fires his pistol in one hand and an AK-47 in the other, Cpl. Leung keeps the enemy at bay with his automatic rifle and Cpl. Ransom shoots his Winchester rifle from the hip. All three of them are crack shots, kill all the VC and lead the American soldiers to a waiting helicopter. We then witness a group of traitorous American soldiers, led by Sgt. B.O. Rattner (Ed Crick), invade the headquarters of Company C, laying waste to all the buildings and killing all the American soldiers stationed there. Col. Stark (Mike Monty) and Capt. Carter (William Steis) assign Stratton, Ransom and Leung on a mission to kill enemy Col. Trang (Vic Diaz) as he is traveling by train through the mountains. The trio sneak on-board the train, kill Trang and are forced to steal some enemy motorcycles and drive to safety when, for some reason, Capt. Carter never picks them up by helicopter. When the trio get back to headquarters, they make sure to voice their displeasure to Carter and then get into a bar fight with Sgt. Maddox (David Light) and his men (who were supposed to back them up on the last mission) when someone calls Leung a "gook". Meanwhile, journalist Chris Chandler (Cec Verrell; SILK - 1986) has discovered the secret location of the "Lost Command", a squad of rogue soldiers that are officially listed as AWOL or MIA, commanded by, you guessed it, Sgt. B.O. Rattner. When Chandler is discovered taking photos of the secret location, Rattner orders his men to kill her and get the film. That's not going to be easy, because Chandler's assistant, Lol Pot (Tony Beso), is also the leader of a local tribe of spear and bow-carrying freedom fighters. When Chandler makes it back to her base camp, she manages to get one radio message out before Rattner and his men appear to destroy the camp. Chandler is saved, but loses her camera and the film. When Stratton finds out that Rattner is involved, he has Chandler lead him, Ransom and Leung to the location of the Lost Command. You see, it turns out that Rattner murdered Stratton's brother years earlier and it's payback time. It looks like it's going to be a hot time in the old jungle tonight, especially after it's revealed that Capt. Carter is in cahoots with Rattner. When Rattner kidnaps and tortures Ransom, Stratton and Chandler race to the Lost Command headquarters to save him. Will they get there in time?  

I'm not going to pretend that this film is nothing but a low-budget PLATOON (1986) rip-off, but it's still damn entertaining. Director/producer Cirio H. Santiago, working with a script by frequent Santiago collaborators Joseph Zucchero and Nigel Hogge, has fashioned a fast-paced, mindless actioner that's basically a non-stop series of action set-pieces connected by the barest of plots. Brett Clark is stiff as a piece of one inch-thick plywood and Robert Patrick, who would appear as the same character in Santiago's next Nam film, BEHIND ENEMY LINES (1987), only this time as the lead, mugs for the camera and screams out his lines. Luckily, we don't watch these films for the acting talent and Santiago doesn't disappoint when it comes to the carnage. People are shot in the head (our trio's preferred method of disposing of the enemy), blown-up or riddled with automatic gunfire and Santiago also includes a shot of a man on fire, a recurring gag in nearly all his films. I'm still trying to figure out why Ransom dresses like a Southern rebel from the Civil War and why he was allowed to bring a Winchester rifle and a Colt pistol to Vietnam, but I suppose it's best not to dwell on such matters. Unfortunately, Cec Verrell keeps her clothes on throughout, but there's a brief shot of a topless prostitute during the bar fight. If you like war action films, EYE OF THE EAGLE is a good way to spend 82 minutes. Two unrelated sequels followed, EYE OF THE EAGLE II: INSIDE THE ENEMY  (1988; directed by Carl Franklin and produced by Santiago) and EYE OF THE EAGLE 3 (1990; with Santiago returning to the director's chair). Other Santiago Nam epics include THE EXPENDABLES (1988), NAM ANGELS (1988), FIELD OF FIRE (1990), BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY (1992), KILL ZONE (1992) and FIREHAWK (1992). Also starring Nick Nicholson, Henry Strzalkowski, Willie Williams, Mel Davidson, Jim Moss and Jerry Hart. Originally issued on VHS by MGM/UA Home Video and later released on DVD by Roger Corman's New Horizons Home Video as part of their AMERICAN VALOR series.



Timothy Young's review from the Mondo Esoterica website:



At the height of the Vietnam War a brutal attack on an American base kills dozens of soldiers. In charge of an elite team known as 'Eagle', Sergeant Rich Stratton leads his men on a commando attack on a train carrying a Viet Cong officer - they kill their target but are abandoned by their pick-up and forced to trek back to base. Meanwhile a journalist Chris Chandler manages to get close to an abandoned military base where she discovers a 'lost command' of American soldiers who have absconded from their units and hidden in the jungle, carrying out covert attacks on American troops and bases for loot. Stratton and his Eagle team are sent to investigate...



The Vietnam war affected a whole generation of young Americans and divided a nation over what many saw as a needless war. As a result the conflict has been treated with earnest sincerity by most American film makers, examining its brutality and suffering in films from the viewpoint of the men on the ground in Platoon (1986) to the suffering of the neglected veterans in Born on the Fourth of July (1989). However in the Phillipines during the 1980s there was a boom in exploitation film making and a number of enterprising producers saw the potential for using the country as a double for Vietnam leading to a slew of action packed war movies throughout the decade. Attracted by the incredibly cheap production costs of these films, American exploitation producer Roger Corman provided funding and several American actors for the first of what would become a trilogy of films.



Scripted by Joseph Zucchero (who had previously written director Cirio H. Santiago's Rambo rip-off The Devastator (1985)), Eye of the Eagle starts off with a bang, literally - the opening frame of the film shows a soldier being shot in the head - and it never seems to let up on the action with well over two-thirds of the film's runtime being dedicated to explosive gunfighting and action scenes with the plot coming a distant second place. The storyline that there is, is incredibly simple (with its absconding officer theme it does seem to be a homeopathically distilled take on Apocalypse Now (1979)), serving to get our characters into innumerable fights with minimal exposition. Of course this does leave all sorts of important questions unanswered, like the actual motives of the 'lost command' (they are making money from their looting, but what they can do with this in the middle of a jungle is never stated), however none of this seems to matter particularly as the storyline speeds on to the next explosion - even what might have been a token romantic sub-plot is bypassed (although this does deny us the chance for a gratuitous sex scene). Obviously the pacing never gets time to slacken and the film builds to an inevitable but suitably dramatic climax.



Although hardly likely to be authentic the production looks as good as you could expect - the screen is continually filled with explosive effects and enough gun wielding extras to give the combat scenes a large scale feel, there is a good selection of American military hardware on show (including the requesite UH-1 helicopters and M113 troop carriers) and the Phillipine jungles do make a suitably convincing Vietnam (certainly much more so than the American rural locations used in many US produced low budget 'namsploitation films). The commando unit conform to all of the usual genre clichés with completely inplausible uniforms (including a noticable lack of any supply packs, even when dropped far behind enemy lines) and a habit of successfully wielding several guns at once. Probably the most inadvertantly humourous scene is the attack on a train which is built up as a major operation with commandos boarding at both ends, but turns out to be a tiny narrow gauge steam train with four coaches bouncing along the tracks.



Director Cirio H. Santiago is never more than workmanlike behind the camera, but adds enough variation to the combat scenes to keep the film from feeling repetitive - only one of the battle scenes, an attack on a village, becomes rather confusing with it being hard to tell just who is fighting whom. Despite the endless gunshots and explosions, gory effects are surprisingly understated - a few bloody head-shots are the most vivid effects on display, while some bikini-clad dancers in a nightclub are the closest the film comes to female skin, probably a reflection of the film's intended American release market. The soundtrack is a very mixed bag - sometimes fitting, often rather less so - one combat scene plays out to soft jazz and not in an deliberately ironic way.



Bulky American actor Brett Baxter Clark plays Stratton and does seem to be perfectly suited for this sort of film, he is joined by a very young Robert Patrick (best known as the T-1000 in Terminator II (1991)) in one of three films he made for Santiago in the Phillipines in 1986. Filipino exploitation film veteran Vic Diaz (The Big Bird Cage (1972)) has a very brief part as the Viet Cong commander targetted in the train assault.



For an audience wanting a serious, worthy Vietnam war film, this will doubtless prove disappointing (if not completely insulting), however to an audience looking for an all-out low-budget action-fest and prepared to accept the limitations of the genre, Eye of the Eagle does not disappoint - an almost non-stop parade of over-the-top gunplay and explosions with just enough storyline to keep things moving, plus the amusing sight of a pre-fame Robert Patrick - only the lack of gratutious nudity stops this from being the ultimate exploitation action film.




Eric Reifschneider's review from the Blood Brothers website:



Antonio Margheriti may be the king of likable cheesy 80's Italian actionploitation but halfway around the world in the Philippines, a Filipino director by the name of Cirio H. Santiago was also making a name for himself in the cheesy low budget world of actionploitation. The one difference is his films tend not to be nearly as likable or enjoyable as his Italian counterparts. Eye of the Eagle is no exception.



Though Santiago flirted with a Vietnam War film in his First Blood rip-off Final Mission, Eye of the Eagle would mark his first full fledged Vietnam War film which desperately tries to copy the macho hero successes of Rambo: First Blood Part II and Missing in Action. Here we get a lame Rambo type hero in the form of Brett Baxter Clark who seems a rather oddball with his blond highlighted 80's hairdo despite the film taking place in 1970. He is in charge of a military assassination group called "Eagle" (catchy code name isn't it?). After a botched mission our group comes in contact with a reporter who has proof of an existence of a rebel American military group made up of MIAs. This rebel group just happens to be headed by the same asshole that killed Brett's brother in cold blood! Brett and his trusty sidekick (Robert Patrick, pre T-1000 role!) set out to shoot lots, and lots of bullets.



When it comes to no brain action, Eye of the Eagle could be the dictionary definition. No thought goes into this plot what-so-ever and it seems machine guns are fired through most of it's 90 minute run time. Everything cliché in an war action film is here, including a typical bar fights and double crosses. All aspects of this film are just downright poor, from its writing, to its editing, to its acting. Hell even the sets are so damn cheap that they almost fall down when Robert Patrick slams a door! You also got to love that ultra lame model helicopter explosion at the end.



The absolute worst part however is the jarring editing during the action sequences. Whenever an explosion goes off, the film has a very jarring edit before people go flying. The film is filled with these awful edits! This is the cheap filmmakers way around action sequences as he cuts at an "opportune" times to switch people out with stunt men. I have never seen this an action film utilize this technique so much and so badly.



I enjoy no-brain 80's action as much as the next guy but Santiago's action outings tend to be not only no-brain but also brain killing. It has some amusing unintentional laughs but this comes nowhere near the enjoyment factor of other cheesy Vietnam flicks produced in Italy and America. The Last Hunter... now that's a likable B-grade Vietnam war flick. My advice is to check out the work of Margheriti instead. If for some God forsaken reason you were floored by the awesomeness of Eye of the Eagle... don't worry, it was followed by two sequels!

Henry Strzalkowski's on-set photos:

 
 
 
 

2 comments:

  1. I have this film in my collection, I think, or have seen it on VHS. I like the descriptions of Mt. Makiling,etc. and agree that the US-side produced films made in Florida swamps or North Carolilna,etc. are not as good as the real scenes shot in the Philippines, even if such star BIG NAMES LIKE JOHN WAYNE,ETC. VIC DIAZ is one actor that has appeared in various roles in many AMERICAN MADE BIG BUDGET FILMS or at least foreign ones made there, such as SURABAYA. His face and voice should be more familiar to audiences than it is,of course, but for one who has seen many of his films, including those in Tagalog for local consumption, I do recognize him and rate him as an 'international' actor. Also most of the audiences fail to recognize such TOURIST SPOTS used over and over,again and again, in the Philippines, such as, TAGAYTAY & TAAL VOLCAN O, BAGUIO RICE TERRACES, PAGSANJAN FALLS, etc. etc. More can be added to this list. Nor do they recognize many of the MANILA AREAS often used in such films. Anyway, keep up the good work. BY THE WAY, Brando made a film with LIZ TAYLOR called REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE which had a Filipino Actor named ZORRO DAVID who played a 'bakla' in it. I can't find information on him beyond the fact he was in the film but on a blog I found that they made some connections with Brando's later film,etc. APOCALYPSE NOW! with some descriptions etc. of veterans and the like.

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