The Heart is a Jungle

April 26, 2015

Dear friends.  How long has it been since I’ve written?  Things have changed.  I’ve been so busy.  

But I still heart jungles.

I spent a few weeks in the Philippines recently.  Then I came home and re-discoverd the maps I drew for my jungle books.  Presto! A new post.

I just wanna look in there…

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Here is the first version of the Fire in the Jungle map.  My initial idea combined regular jungle, dark jungle, and apocalypse jungle into a single map…

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Later, I decided to move the dark jungle and apocalypse jungle ideas mostly out of the initial campaign area, to develop them separately with different styles and themes.  Here’s a later version of the original Fire in the Jungle map in pencil…

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Mostly similar to the final map.  Looking back, I like the shaded mountains in the that version better, compared to the icon style mountains in the published map…

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A short jungle interlude.  That’s me in the green shirt, participating in a wet t-shirt contest, in a river, under the jungle.  The woman in pink dominated…

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There were numerous steps in creating the Tomb of the Monkey God map.  First, I worked it all out in pencil, with lots of erasing along the way (right map).  Then I traced it in ink with the help of a stencil.  Finally, it was scanned, tweaked, and colored digitally to produce the final map…

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Roadtripping in northeast Mindanao, Philippines…

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The map in Jungle Castle Rock Apocalypse is based on northeast Mindanao, then flipped horizontally.  I’m so clever.  I sketched out a pile of topographic maps.  An early version…

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A couple versions later I experimented with a broader floodplain and steeper mountains…

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Until finally settling on a more balanced version…

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Another picture from the road.  This mountain valley area is probably the closest I’ve ever been to actual wild and crazy jungle-jungle.  This is actually the primary “highway” along the eastern Surigao coast…

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I visited Corregidor Island!  A primary inspiration for Jungle Castle Rock Apocalypse.  The book’s cover photo is the entrance to Malinta Tunnel in 1945…

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Here is that entrance in 2015…

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The Tunnels Under the Rock map is the Malinta Tunnel map repeated ad infinitum reductio ad absurdum lorem ipsum…

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The actual Malinta Tunnel goes all the way through the mountain, with numerous side passages…

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Watch out for Rebar Hulks…

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And Rebar Trolls…

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The Castle on the Rock map is a mashup of ruined buildings found on Corregidor.  The original penciled map…

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GIMP is your friend…

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Visuals…

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Physical graffiti…

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Da big gunz…

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I just wanna look in there…

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I just wanna go down there…

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A man’s home is his castle…in the jungle…

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Hello. How ya doin’? Happy holidays. I’m just sweeping out the ashes in the “draft post file” here…the long-awaited jungle companion to The Most Interesting 1980s Fantasy Movies in the World.

Presenting, in order of the five stages of trash…

The Most Interesting Trashy 80s Jungle Movies Made in the Philippines in the World:

frontage

backside

Trash stage 1: Nearly a normal movie, but two or three scenes reveal the truth.
Heated Vengeance
1985. Directed by the immortal Ed D. Murphy.
Vietnam vet returns to SE Asia to find his lost love and son. He meets a toilet salesman and is taken prisoner by a gang of druggies. He tries to escape and it becomes a jungle hunt movie. It’s too competent to get much love from trash fiends, but too far out to get much love from anybody else.

Award:
Greatest flamethrower scene not involving Klaus Kinski.

Soundtrack highlight:
“Bless our lucky stars for second chances”

Trash stage 2: Preposterous plot full of holes, but brazen editing gives it a brisk pace.
Commando Invasion
1986. Directed by Jun Gallardo.
Officer in Vietnam War gets caught up in a plot full of twists and surprises. General Giap was captured twice in the movie’s first 38 minutes! General “McMoreland” wants the bling! The French mercenaries weren’t wussies! Too bad the lead actor “Michael James” was a wussy. This movie could have been epic had it been headlined by Brent Huff, Reb Brown, Robert Patrick, David Carradine, Richard Harrison, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Klaus Kinski, Miles O’Keeffe, Richard Young, Jerry Kimble, Richard Norton, Rom Kristoff, David Warbeck, James Iglehart, or Rick Hill.

Award:
Greatest use of hats and scarves to differentiate factions and NPCs, because otherwise it would seem like indiscriminate slaughter even more than it already does.

Soundtrack highlight:
Moody abstract stuff punctuated by thunderous explosions, alternating with smooth jazzy 80s synth melodies.

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Trash stage 3: Even a martial arts champ needed to earn a living. And at $79.99 per tape, he was living good!
The Wolf, aka Jungle Wolf
1986. Directed by Charlie Ordonez.
Ron Marchini is the writer, producer, and star. I salute his persistence. He is needed in a troubled Latin American country to perform a jail break and prisoner exchange. This uses the few funny scenes from its prequel, Forgotten Warrior, as flashbacks and adds snap karate and a fat cousin with a heavy machine gun. So there’s no reason to ever watch Forgotten Warrior.

Award:
Greatest flashback containing a rainbow and funeral pyre.

Soundtrack highlight:
Recurring theme song:
“Back back in action. He’s fighting for their lives.
Back back in action. He’s got the will to survive.”

Trash stage 4: Now this is just the whole movie crew having fun.
Rescue Team
1983. Another one directed by Jun Gallardo.
There is a team that performs a POW rescue in the jungle. Everybody dies except Richard Harrison. I think the voice actors got hammered one afternoon and decided to watch the film and re-record the dialog track in one take. We learn that Tetchie Agbayani smells good.

Award:
Greatest strip club scene since Lenny.

Soundtrack highlight:
Epic theme song copied from some other movie that I can’t quite put my finger on, repeated over and over and over.

Trash stage 5: All other stages combined and more.
Nine Deaths of the Ninja
1985. Directed by Emmett Alston.
A better James Bond parody than the Austin Powers movies. It’s on the short list of best movies both set and made in the Philippines.

Awards:
Greatest saving throw vs punji pit
Greatest pick up line.

Soundtrack highlight:

The Ruins of Corregidor

January 22, 2013

I would guess that when people think of ruins in the jungle they usually think of something in Thailand, Cambodia, or Mexico.  Some great ruins there, but for something a little different, consider these…

6 Ft. Mills Hospital

4 Overturned pedestal Battery Ramsey

4 Topside Barracks

2 Battery Cheney

2 Topside Barracks rainy seaon

Middleside Barracks hallway

Battery James before clearing

3 Walkway to Middleside barracks

1 NCO barracks

All these pictures are of Corregidor Island and posted with permission from Steve and Marcia on the Rock. Check out their blog for a treasure trove of photos and stories from Corregidor.

Corregidor Island is the most well-preserved World War 2 battlefield. The remaining structures have a familiar look, but an otherworldly feel to them.  One of the most bombarded 3 square miles in the world, it hardly had any vegetation left after the war.  But you can’t keep a good jungle down.

The ruins of Corregidor have been repeatedly used as a movie set (for better or worse), either as themselves, a battle stage in a Vietnam war movie, a gang hideout in a post-apocalypse flick, etc.  This post is a reference list of movies that feature the ruins of Corregidor. More will be added as I find them. Let me know if you come across a filmed-on-Corregidor movie not on this list (not including stock footage).

The “Cirio H. Santiago” category. Cirio seems to have been the most prolific director on Corregidor. First is one of his Post-Apocalypse movies, then a bunch of Vietnam War entries…

Wheels of Fire (1985)
Corregidor ruins show up for about five minutes as a post-apocalypse militant gang hideout. Also of note is the painting of additional ravaged ruins into the scene during an outdoors shot of one of the batteries (perhaps Wheeler). Makes it look extra epic. Cirio recycled the same painted ruins scene for a few seconds in Raiders of the Sun (1992).

Eye of the Eagle (1987)
Corregidor is the headquarters of a “lost command”. Lotsa shots of the ruins and Battery Way throughout the movie, culminating in an explosive finale. A couple pictures in my Guide to Cirio’s Nam Movies show Corregidor ruins.

The Expendables (1988)
Terminate shirtless Vic Diaz and rescue the kidnapped nurses from the ruins in Cambodia!

Nam Angels (1989)
This contains the infamous gasoline torture scene involving the unfortunate South Vietnamese capitalists tied to the big guns at the abandoned fortress.

Field of Fire (1991)
In the other Nam movies it’s the “bad guys” that control the Corregidor ruins. This time it’s the US soldiers that defend the “Fort Bien Hoa” ruins.

Kill Zone (1993)
Corregidor as weapons depot. Brief exterior shot and some interior shots that may actually be from Intramuros, Manila.

The “Corregidor as Corregidor” category…

Impasse (1969)
This movie has a common theme: find the gold hidden in post-war Philippines. The gold is on Corregidor, of course, so the final 35 mins or so is among and under the ruins. Notable for starring Burt Reynolds AND Vic Diaz.

Fortress of the Dead (1965)
A moody ghost tale by Ferde Grofe Jr. set on Corregidor Island with great B&W shots of the ruins and tunnels.  Warning: this contains a totally unexpected and eye-popping wet t-shirt scene about mid-way through the movie.

The ‘I haven’t seen these yet” category…

The Hell Raiders (1988)
Another one by Ferde Grofe Jr. I haven’t watched this or ever seen it available anywhere, but the Dutch VHS cover clearly shows scenes filmed on Corregidor, as seen at When the Vietnam War Raged…in the Philippines.

Island of the Living Dead (2006)
One of Bruno Mattei’s final movies and it looks like a hoot. Looks like I need to rewatch some of the earlier Mattei movies to see if he ever used Corregidor previously.

As I was updating my old Trash of the Apocalypse post (adopting the style of the Guide to Cirio’s Nam Movies) I noticed that most of them contained Little People.  You’ve gotta give credit to these directors for not succumbing to stereotype and using them differently each time…

Post-Apocalypse Dwarves d6

  1. Buzzing Dune Dwarves
  2. Babbling Scavenger Dwarves
  3. Leper Bandit Dwarves
  4. Cavemen Dwarves with crossbows
  5. Gypsy Dwarves with battle axes
  6. Immortal Assassin Clown Dwarves

The Philippines is also home of the Hobbit House grill and bar entirely staffed by little people.  This made me wonder… Are little people mad at Peter Jackson? Yes. Yes they are.

"Short people are just the same as you and I...a fool such as I...all men are brothers until the day we die."  Or in this case, "don't die".

“Short people are just the same as you and I…a fool such as I…all men are brothers until the day they die.” Or in this case, “they don’t die”.

It’s been awhile, months at least, since I’ve read a good passage of jungle description.  Page 134 of Guerrilla Padre in Mindanao by Edward Haggerty, in the Cotabato jungle…

“But such a forest is beautiful only from the outside.  A narrow trail winds through mud and creek beds in a gloom that weighs one down with its heaviness.  You see no birds of gorgeous plumage, no woodland flowers blooming in the grass.  Leeches cling to your ankles and insidiously crawl up your legs.  They suck the blood from your neck and from behind your ears and leave infection that spreads to a horrible tropical ulcer.  Inch-long needles of rattan pierce your feet and hands and face, thorns rip your clothing and pierce to the bare shoulder.  A vine may cause an itch; to save yourself from slipping, you grasp and innocent-looking branch and your hand is pierced with a hundred small punctures which leave a sliver inside which swells and festers.  There is no water in the slimy brook to drink, and troops of insolent monkeys chatter angrily as you pass, and the weary feet that strike an innocent-looking bit of rattan may launch a sharp bamboo spring into your legs–traps set for pigs and deer and human enemies.  At night mosquitoes bite with the deadly sting of malignant malaria which kills after the first symptoms in three or four days.  These and more, much more, is a tropical forest, even a forest with a good trail.”

A few pages later (141-142) they enter a swamp…

“Once we had entered the lake at the marsh’s center, we paddled at fair speed across it for hours.  At times huge floating islands, blown by the wind, caused detours; again our paddlers took to their forked poles to push us through floating grass. Gigantic water lilies with leaves ten feet across, made a great green cushion, acres in extent, with flowers of embroidered pink.  Black moor hens, or mud hens, with pink beaks and feet, ran over the leaves or dived suddenly into the water.  Fishermen with three-pronged forks speared into the mud when bubbles showed a fish.  Wild ducks in squadrons of hundreds swept by at dusk.  Huge cranes, their necks bulging with fish, rose heavily as our vinta passed.  As we entered the Buluan River monkeys chattered in the trees and swung on vines above our heads.  In vain we look for crocodiles, in this region once so filled with them.  A few years before the war one datu alone filled a contract for five thousand skins which are now portfolios, pocketbooks and shoes.”

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I was looking through the archives and came across the post about Cirio Santiago’s Vietnam War movies.  One of my worst posts, as all it basically says is “wow he made a lot of these movies but I don’t have anything interesting to say about them.”  I’ve now trashed that post.

I’m here today to fix that deficiency by creating a viewing guide for Cirio Santiago’s Vietnam War movies.  This debuts my new not-exactly-objective rating system for jungle movies:

Jungle Rating System:
0 = no jungle
1 = only a little jungle and it’s nothing special (not sufficiently green and leafy, maybe filmed in a nature park during dry season, or it’s just a poorly maintained coconut plantation)
2 = only a little jungle but it’s pretty good (sufficiently green and leafy, perhaps dark, moist, or uniquely evocative)
3 = a lot of jungle but nothing special
4 = a lot of jungle and pretty good
5 = my entirely subjective jungle hall of fame

Trailers, reviews, and more info on these movies at youtube, IMDB.com, Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys, and When the Vietnam War raged…in the Philippines.

(Also check out my Guide to Cirio’s Post-Apocalypse movies.)

Henry Strzalkowski demonstrates what these movies are all about (pic from Bamboo Gods):

First, sorted by release date according to IMDB.com:

1987:
Eye of the Eagle
Behind Enemy Lines
1988:
The Expendables
1989:
Nam Angels
Eye of the Eagle 2: Inside the Enemy
Eye of the Eagle 3 (aka Last Stand at Lang Mei)
1991:
Field of Fire (aka Battle Gear)
1992:
Beyond the Call of Duty
1993:
Kill Zone
Firehawk

There’s a few more movies related to Nam that Cirio made, all predating the above.  Caged Fury is a “Women in Prison” movie set in Vietnam, but it has very little in common with these movies and doesn’t have much or good jungle.  The Devastator and Final Mission are First Blood knockoffs set in America, except for the opening scenes portraying the destruction of a village in Vietnam.  Not enough Nam or jungle to deserve more just a passing mention in this post.

Now, sorted from my least to most favorite, but they are all terribly entertaining.

Beyond the Call of Duty
Jungle Rating: 3
Keywords: gold, funny boat
Why watch this first?  If you want to start at with worst of this list and work your way up.

Note:  IMDB says this is edited from Nam Angels.  Not really…only a minute or so that was used from Nam Angels:  the gas torture scene filmed at Corregidor’s Battery Way. Several scenes were also taken from the Eye of the Eagle trilogy (Vic Diaz and Mike Monty cameos). In fact, nearly the entire first twenty or so minutes is scenes taken from Cirio’s other Nam flicks!  Beyond the Call of Duty doesn’t really begin until twenty minutes in and by then you are confused by the typhoon of disjointed action scenes that you just watched. Maybe it’s intended to replicate the chaos and confusion of the Fall of Saigon…I dunno.

Eye of the Eagle 3 aka Last Stand at Lang Mei
Jungle Rating:  1…yeah, it’s mostly set on the blasted firebase and the background doesn’t even look like jungle.
Keywords: Montagnards, improvised napalm
Why watch this first? If you want to compare it to Siege of Firebase Gloria and won’t miss R. Lee Ermey.

Eye of the Eagle 2: Inside the Enemy
Jungle Rating:  2
Keywords: Mike Monty sober, nudie bar scene
Why watch this first?  If you want to see the movie on this list that has partially believable gun battles (ie least reminiscent of old video games) but the most nudity, and you only have 78 minutes to waste.
Note: this is the only movie on this list not directed by Cirio. Carl Franklin directed it. Cirio was the producer. Definitely has a different feel to it.  Furthermore, none of the Eye of the Eagle movies have anything to do with each other.

Behind Enemy Lines, aka Killer Instinct
Jungle Rating:  3
Keywords:  Soviet villains, a cold cold ending
Why watch this first? If you want to study stereotypical portrayals of the Soviet commando in western cinema during the Cold War.

The Expendables
Jungle Rating:  3
Keywords: topless Vic Diaz, nudie bar scene, shower raid, Corregidor filming location
Why watch this first?  If the phrase “topless Vic Diaz” causes you to raise an eyebrow.

Firehawk
Jungle Rating:  5…best jungle on this list
Keywords:  caves that are supposed to be vietcong tunnels, nuke bomb plot
Why watch this first?  If you want to watch closest thing on this list to a normal movie.

Kill Zone
Jungle Rating:  3
Keywords:  nudie bar scene, Montagnards, Banaue rice terraces filming location, Corregidor filming location, David Carradine wearing aviators and chewing cigars, punji trap
Why watch this first? If you are a fan of former NFL player Tony Dorsett and prepared to think lesser of him, and want to see Carradine go batshit.

Field of Fire (aka Battle Gear)
Jungle Rating:  4
Keywords:  nudie bar scenes, David Carradine in a khaki jumpsuit, Corregidor filming location, punji trap
Why watch this first? If you were disappointed with the second half of Bat 21.

Nam Angels
Jungle Rating:  3
Keywords:  Montagnards, gold, Soviet (or is it Nazi?) Vernon Wells, motorcycles, nudie bar scene, Corregidor filming locations
Why watch this first? If the idea of Hell’s Angels in Vietnam interests you in the slightest and you want to see the next big step in the career of Vernon Wells after letting off some steam in Commando.

Eye of the Eagle
Jungle Rating:  4
Keywords:  Mike Monty drunk, Vic Diaz shot between eyes, Montagnards, memorable theme song, Corregidor filming location, non-nudie bar scene
Why watch this first? If you want to watch the quintessential Cirio Santiago Vietnam War movie.

Yup, I’m giving Eye of the Eagle the crown.  It was a tight battle between it and Nam Angels.  The deciding factor was Eagle‘s superior theme song.

This post needs some fire in the jungle.  The big winner Eye of the Eagle gets the last word, filmed at Corregidor ruins. (photo again from Bamboo Gods.)

Many of the low-grade Nam flicks that I’ve mentioned on this site only received official release on VHS.  Incredibly, some have had “official” release DVD, and this post lists the cheapest.  Video quality isn’t great on most of these, they appear to be sourced from VHS tapes, some with burned-in subtitles in foreign languages. Except for a couple non-jungle movies in the MERCS collection, these were all filmed in the Philippines.

Phantom Raiders (1988), directed by Dan Harvey.  Fantastically entertaining, but I don’t understand the economics of releasing a movie like this on it’s own DVD and not part of a collection. Starring Miles O’Keefe of Ator fame.  He puts in a decent “Clint Eastwood as a jungle ninja” performance.


Expendables 2: Zero Heroes is a collection of four low budget jungle action flicks on one DVD.  Couldn’t believe it when I saw this for sale at a local Best Buy. This was put out a couple years ago to cash in on the popularity of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, but these movies have nothing to do with that movie.  Stallone’s The Expendables 2 is scheduled for release in August.

The Expendables (1988), directed by Cirio Santiago
Wild Team (1985), directed by Umberto Lenzi
Cobra Mission, aka Operation Nam (1986), directed by Fabrizio De Angelis
Cobra Mission 2 (1989), directed by Camillo Teti

The main reason to get this collection is for Cirio’s The Expendables.  Cobra Mission is a decent movie too, but the print used here is completely unwatchable.  Fortunately, a better print is included in the next collection…


Grindhouse Experience Presents: MERCS.  Ten movies on three discs, listed in rough order of my least to most favorite…

The Last Mercenary (aka Rolf) (1984), directed by Mario Siciliano
Soldiers of Fortune (1990), directed by Pierluigi Ciriaci
These two aren’t much it a jungle at all, more of an arid desert setting, so I didn’t really watch them closely at all. That shows how serious my jungle pretentiousness is.

Fireback (1983), directed by Teddy Page (“famous” for Phantom Soldiers).  Starts off looking like a “big gun in the jungle” movie, but then the big gun and the jungle are never seen again and it becomes a ho-hum revenge flick.  Mike Monty has the quote of the movie when he says, “He can make an ordinary soft drink straw into a weapon.”

Mannigan’s Force (1988), directed by John Ryan Grace.  Opens with an explosive raid that may or may not have been in a jungle, but the rest of the movie doesn’t have much to offer.  The main reason to watch this is to laugh at Mike Monty wearing a beard and dictator/general costume.

Death Raiders (1984), directed by Segundo Ramos.  I’m having a hard time constructing a complete sentence to describe this movie, so here’s some keywords:  Jungle, Cave, Drunken Kung Fu, Twice-baked Dialog, Awkward Machismo.

Operation Nam (aka Cobra Mission).  Better video quality than in the Expendables 2 collection. Watchable at least.  Plenty of nice greenery, but it’s mostly of the “coconut plantation” variety, not jungle.  Memorable scene:  After blasting up a village, the commando gets frustrated by the fasteners on a damsel’s shirt and growls…”All these buttons!” So she turns her back to him, all demure and such, to undo the buttons. Turns back around to reveal her bosom completely covered in scars. Then she says “American napalm”, lifts a pistol and shoots him dead through the chest.

A couple movies in this collection have been previously mentioned on this site: Tiger Joe and Strike Commando.

War Bus (1986), directed by Ferdinando Baldi. An irresistible premise: escaping from North Vietnamese-controlled territory in a big yellow school bus.  Neat thing about this one is that it felt a little like a Spaghetti Western or Post-Apocalypse movie at times. Trailers are better in German…

Raiders of the Magic Ivory, aka Predators of the Magic Stone (1988), directed by Tonino Ricci.  Borderline candidate for inclusion on the Big List of 1980s Fantasy Movies. Like an Indiana Jones movie set in Vietnam, but over-the-top ridiculous.

Best in the MERCs collection?  Tough choice between Strike Commando, War Bus, and Raiders of the Magic Ivory. All three are top trash contenders, but Raiders gets my vote for a couple of reasons…

Was it OV-10 planes or Predator drones?

OV-10

Predator

On February 2nd, an airstrike eliminated several most-wanted terrorists on Sulu Island in the Philippines.  Official reports say that it was two Phillipines Air Force OV-10 Bronco manned aircraft that carried out the strike.  Then came speculation that it was actually unmanned Predator drones that did the deed.  Now, that speculation has arrived onto the stage of international media, but it’s not being framed as speculation any longer.

Prior to this, unmanned drone aircraft have been primarily known for their usage in desert and arid mountain terrain.  Have they arrived in the jungle?  It’s been 25 years since the original Predator was destroyed in the jungle.  Will this lead to a RoboWar?

Continuing last week’s theme of jungle native, I watched a few movies this weekend:

Picked up a DVD for $3 at a local used book store…a double-feature of The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and its sequel The People That Time Forgot (1977), both directed by Kevin Connor and based on stories by E. R. Burroughs.  Filmed in the Canary Islands, the jungle footage is average and the natives and dinosaurs are silly.  But it’s all good fun.

The natives in Land have an interesting three-tier hierarchy of tribes based on their evolution.  Except they think of it more as a metamorphosis rather than evolution…i.e. individuals are born to the lower tribes and transform to join the higher tribes.

People is a borderline candidate for inclusion as a precursor on the Big List of 1980’s Fantasy Movies.  Most of the “natives” in this one are samurai ghouls led by a green-skinned tyrant in a groovy skull castle with a Frazetta “Death Dealer” tapestry!  Don’t believe me?…check out a fine review of People with many screenshots at Teleport City, here.

Banaue: Stairway to the Sky (1975), directed by Gerardo De Leon.  Got this in Manila last summer and was excited to watch it because it stars Nora Aunor and Christopher De Leon and I thought it would be about the Banaue rice terraces.  It shows a few shots of the terraces at the beginning and end, but the movie isn’t about the terraces at all.  It’s apparently about the ancient tribes of natives that moved into the area and the conflicts between them, leading to gruesome-ness such as beheadings and roastings.

Unfortunately, Banaue was hard to watch because the source film is very poor quality.  It has a thick tinting around the edges that severely restricts the viewing area.  I’m not sure if the tinting was a result of film deterioration, or if it was deliberate, to give it a dreamy “long long time ago” quality.  Very strange.

(For a more watchable movie filmed at and around the Banaue rice terraces, see Batad (2006))

Also, Banaue is in Tagalog, without English subtitles, so I couldn’t really follow the story at all.  On the other hand, there are other Tagalog films that are easier to follow, I think due to their more modern contexts.  Such as these two…

Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (“Three Years Without God”) (1976), directed by Mario O’Hara, and also starring Aunor and De Leon.  It makes sense that the two greatest movies about the Philippines during WW2 are Filipino productions.  This and Oro, Plata, Mata.  It’s disappointing that Hollywood has all but ignored the subject during the past 50 years.

Medal of Valor: Lt. Jack Moreno (1991), directed by Garcia and Nuqui.  Apparently based on a true story, this is about a Filipino army officer’s exploits of bravery while hunting down and defending against communist rebels in the jungles of the Philippines.  If I hadn’t known what it was about before I watched it, I would have thought it was a Vietnam War action movie.  Excellent jungle.

JUNGLE VIRGIN FORCE!

January 24, 2012

Last month I purchased Tales of Voodoo: Volume One on ebay for 59 cents plus $2.95 shipping.  It contains two garbage flicks:  Escape from Hell Hole and Jungle Virgin Force.  The movies have absolutely nothing to do with the DVD cover art:

(The cover says it includes Hell Hole, but it’s actually Escape From Hell Hole, an Indonesian film made in 1983.  Hell Hole is a different movie, made in the Philippines in 1978.  In any case, “Women in Prison” movies aren’t my thing, so I don’t have much to say about this one.  There was a minute or two of kinda-looks-like-a-jungle scenes with gory bamboo traps, but don’t waste your time with this one.)

“Jungle Virgin Force” just rolls off the tongue, don’t ya think?  I’ve been annoying my wife  at random moments the last couple weeks by saying in a movie trailer voice:  “JUNGLE VIRGIN FORCE!!!”

A couple days ago, my brother asked if I wanted to borrow a DVD of a movie starring Anne Hathaway.  I replied:  “Nah.  I’m gonna watch JUNGLE VIRGIN FORCE instead.”  We laughed.

So I did watch Jungle Virgin Force instead.  Made in Indonesia in 1988.  Near the beginning of the movie, the “Professor” says:

Your expedition could very well be fatal.  You’ll be encountering real savages who don’t apprehend the concept of mercy.  You won’t find this island on any map in existence.  It’s uncharted and unexplored.  It lies roughly midway between Australia and New Guinea, in an area known as “The Triangle of Death.” 

This may sound melodramatic, but only a handful of explorers who have gone there have lived to tell the story.  I befriended their queen, and with their help I got out alive.  The rest of my men weren’t so lucky.  Their high priest encourages the practice of cannibalism.  His black magic is something you must take seriously. His powers are quite real. 

Your guide will be a hunter named Bunyon.  He spent over ten years searching the jungle for his daughter, who was lost in a plane crash. 

And on final thing:  I implore you to forget about any stories you may have heard about tribal treasures.  Don’t invite your own death.  There’s no way to emphasize this too strongly:  

Forget about the treasure! 

That sums up the movie well.  Of course, it’s all about the treasure.  The jungle and caves were ok, but the real highlight of the movie is the grating music and grunting jungle natives.  There’s even a High Priest and Priestess that shoot lightning from their hands and magically hurl stalactites through their enemies’ chests.  A borderline candidate for inclusion on the Big List of 1980s Fantasy Movies.

Jungle Virgin Force is bonkers and headache inducing, but except for rampant violence it’s actually quite tame.  No virgins or nudity or cannibalism, so you can watch it with the family…depending upon your family.

Hey, speaking of humans eating humans.  Cannibal movies don’t interest me much, but I have seen a couple:  Last Cannibal World (1977) (aka Jungle Holocaust) and Cannibal Holocaust (1980), both directed by Ruggero Deodato.  Cannibal Holocaust is the more infamous of the two, but it’s little more than a shock showcase.  Last Cannibal World has a more interesting adventure and contains some of the best jungle footage of all time.  Superb rain forest with huge buttress rooted trees and a variety of thick foliage and swamp.  The caves and natives are well done too.  This movie is not tame, so do not watch it with the family…depending upon your family.

Text at the beginning of Last Cannibal World says it is based on an actual story regarding the discovery of a stone age tribe on Mindanao.  I’m 99% certain that’s completely false, based on what I know about Mindanao and the Tasaday.  Also, there is conflicting info about where Last Cannibal World was filmed.  I’m skeptical that any of the jungle was filmed in the Philippines, as is suggested in some places.  I don’t know for certain, but I’m of the opinion that the jungle scenes were all filmed in Malaysia.

One last time before I give it a rest…

JUNGLE VIRGIN FORCE!!