Movie Review: Attack Force Z (1981) – Severin Blu-ray

P.G. Kelly (Mel Gibson) is the leader of a small group of special forces operatives charged with rescuing survivors of a downed plane located on a heavily Japanese occupied island during World War II.

These are grim motherfuckers one and all, and they certainly aren’t above getting their hands very, very dirty in order to complete a mission… even if the blood they spill is from one of their own!

As the men soldier on in their quest they take up with local farmer cum resistance fighter Lin (prolific Taiwanese actor/director Koo Chuan Hsiung) and his daughter Chien Hua (Hong Kong actress/singer/director Sylvia Chang) who prove to be valuable allies in a place where they are in short supply!

Will Kelly and his men complete this seemingly suicidal mission, or will they succumb to the menace of the Japanese troops that surround them on all sides?

Attack Force Z is a strange picture…

Well, not strange in it’s narrative… this is a straight forward war melodrama with all of the clichés of the genre well intact. And believe you me my cats n’ creeps, the cast is on point as well, with early performances from the aforementioned Gibson, and Jurassic Park and In the Mouth of Madness‘ Sam Neill, as well as a turn from Danger: Diabolik and Barbarella‘s John Phillip Law… but that cast is where the strange creeps in… retroactively at first…

Seeing immensely recognizable actors (by today’s eyes that is) in what is ostensibly a rather low budget picture is surreal to say the least, but this is exactly that… but man does director Tim Burstall (working from a screenplay by Roger Marshall) get every ounce of production value from the film’s often gorgeous Taiwanese locations.

The strangeness also continues to the film’s dialog that often comes off as corny while everything else that surrounds it is a rather hard-edged, supposedly true, battlefield drama (though there is plenty of action on hand here as well).

The most off-the-wall part of the production has to be the film’s score courtesy of Eric Jupp and David Lautrec which is a bombastic, cartoonish, ear-slap that makes any scene it appears in seem almost campy.

Shit, I forgot about Lin’s Kung-Fu battle with the Japanese troops in which he hits people so hard they die hemorrhaging…

You may think some of the above would be negatives, but they instead make for one hell of an entertaining viewing experience that’s equal parts macho, sentimental, action-packed, and over-the-top!

And while we were just talking about “negatives” the negative utilized by Severin for this Blu-ray release (scanned in 2K from the original negative at The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia) is pretty damn spiffy and boasts strong color and excellent detail with most of the notable grain to be found in the film’s opening night-set submarine sequence.

As for extras on this release we get an interview segment featuring executive producer John McCallum and actors John Waters and Chris Haywood, a black and white slideshow featuring stills and behind-the-scenes shots, and the film’s trailer.

To sum it up; Attack Force Z is a rousing, bizarre, and an at times pitch-black war picture that should not be missed by lovers of off-beat war cinema and Ozploitation fans alike!


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