Wednesday, February 6

Some quick thoughts on Jungle Heat (Last Breath) (1985)

Tokuma Video's Japanese VHS in stunning condition
A group of South Vietnamese trained by an American platoon led by Sam Jones of Flash Gordon (1980) fame are sent on what amounts to several suicide missions into the green inferno during the Vietnam War. In-between vicious encounters with Vietcong, the soldiers spend their nights at a seedy strip club until the brother of the bar girl is captured. She pleads with the troop's leader, who's sweet on her, to go on one final mission despite the official declaration of the war's end to save him.

If you watch enough of these really cheap Eastern exploiters (in this case Taiwanese), you begin to notice a trend I like to call "near-movie". A phenomena when you realize nearly every scene in a particular work merely seems like filler shot to desperately claw to the given feature-length standard of ninety minutes. And damn near all of Jobic Wong's wild Jungle Heat screams near-movie in a funny way in which each sequence seems disembodied from the surrounding material.

A prime example is when the troop is captured on their mission with one suffering horrific torture. His comrades are forced to watch as the poor guy is buried up to his neck, his scalp sliced deeply, and then some sadistic bastard pours acid into the open wound. Using totally inept logic, one can only assume the acid was forced down through his skin by gravity, and the sheer agony causes him to literally leap out his own bloody flesh husk and die screaming. That night, the men are tied up while their captors party. They manage to escape into the pitch blackness after their commander practically mutilates his own hands to break free of his barbed shackles. Despite the horrors endured, the very next scene depicts the soldiers drinking and laughing their cares away at the strip club with hardly a mention of what just occurred.

Of course, no one watches this mean-spirited junk for even the most basic of plot structure. You come for the crazy torture scene described above. Or the sadistic scene of a live rat set ablaze and let loose to catch fire to tied down prisoners in a betting game of who'll be first to be burned to death. Or the apparently "fun" pastime of dirtbikers racing across a deadly road trying to run under semis carrying logs without getting crushed. Or the bloody beatings, brutal kung-fu, a two-man saw being run across on a man's stomach, and explosives so powerful the camera shakes from the shockwave. When the print (frequently) explodes into massive tears and sudden, heavy tint shifts; one can't help but get that warm feeling of watching something that simply can't be duplicated nowadays. Tack on ripping off a pivotal twist in Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter and Jungle Heat is worth tracking down as its exploitive payload is delivered with gusto.

The Japanese VHS is the one to own as it's the only video release worldwide to present the uncut international version of the film, with several segments with Sam Jones inserted, in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. All other video releases, both tape and disc, are zoomed to full screen and/or edited. Wong's use of the panoramic frame isn't like that of Leone or Carpenter, but it's surprisingly employed and watching a cropped pan-and-scan presentation would be an eyesore in comparison. Jungle Heat also has the distinction of being a film with several unique versions "tailored" to the country it was released in. Jack J. over at the always informative En lejemorder ser tilbage is the one to go to for a detailed explanation of the various, possible four different cuts of the flick released worldwide.

No comments: you dare tread upon the staircase?

Basement of Ghoulish Decadence, Basement of Ghoulish Archive, and all original material Copyright © 2009-present by Jayson Kennedy. All rights reserved.