International intrigue is a hard sell, not matter how you slice, dice or julienne it. Audiences just can't get behind the political problems of a banana republic, the potential coups of a despised despot or the cultural clash between Eastern and Western ideology. If anything, foreign conspiracy cinema relies less on the elements that make thrillers so special - the set-up, story and suspense - replacing them with local color, occasional nudity, and lots of travelogue shots of tourists petting monkeys. The actual successful examples of this particular motion picture product are as rare as real life James Bonds.
So naturally, this means something like G.I. Executioner just shouldn't work. It tries to tie up all manner of divergent diplomatic elements into the equally uneasy world of Singapore sin, believing it can do justice to both domains. But instead we get a movie that is neither sexy nor tense, Cold War cinema that is neither captivating nor compelling. Yet this doesn't mean that Executioner is a full out flop - well, actually it does mean that. However, there are other ways to appreciate the accidental atrophy present in this picture. As with most magnificently failed flicks, there is a treasure trove of tainted treats to be plucked from between its scabby, soiled knees.
Dave Dearborn is an ex-marine living in Singapore. When he's not breaking stories as a washed up ace reporter, or tracking down nogoodniks like the ex-secret agent he was, he runs a local nightclub from his rundown Asian junk. This particular Pacific hotbed is currently awash in gossip as a nuclear scientist defects from Red China, bringing with him lots of A-Bomb goodies. For some strange reason, Dave is approached by a portly putz who wants him to do a story on a crime boss and his babe. The mobster just so happens to be after the atomic stash. The moll just so happens to be Dearborn's ex-squeeze. Before you know it, people are shooting at each other, exotic dancers are shaking their skin sacks, and street urchin hookers are clamoring for their connubial cut.
Dave continues to pursue the "story", meeting up with some odd CIA operatives, an indignant police detective, and a mysterious hired goon who wants him dead. Every time he turns around, someone is trying to kill him. With the potential provocateurs falling into the grave one by one, Dave soon realizes that his potential death may be the design of someone from his past. You see, a weird while back, Dave played gay for the sake of a set-up. And his betrayed boyfriend may be looking for a little non-penile payback. One simply assumes life would be simple for such a switch-hitting gadfly. But Dave is not just a same sex charlatan or a bed-hopping club owner. He's a G.I. Executioner, and now he's MAD!
What would you call a movie that uses the physical equivalent of a middle management insurance adjuster as an action star, a defecting Chinese nuclear scientist as a mangled McGuffin, and rampant he-male homosexuality as a plot point? Well, if you were Joel M. Reid, the director behind the infamous Bloodsucking Freaks, you'd name your nonsense G.I. Executioner and pass it off as a spicy slice of Singapore espionage. Only problem is, this really isn't a spy thriller at all. In fact why the film is called G.I. Executioner is still a mystery, even after digesting 86 minutes of this mind-numbing merriment. Maybe Reid meant it as a comment on what his crackpot plotting would do you your intestines. One does indeed feel the need for some beneficial bowel work after his filmic ass-assin finishes slaying your lower gastro-intestinal tract.
Truth be told, this film is more of a mystery than a tense action adventure. Of course, the sole clandestine aspect of this movie is why Reid wanted to make it in the first place. He definitely couldn't envision that the stiff, surly medical supply salesman he placed in the lead would result in something sensational - or even saleable. And the muddled plot precariously poised on a defecting nuclear scientist and a bidding war for his plutonium based secrets is more or less abandoned in favor of constant hints at the hero's same sex leanings. Certainly we are given some curvaceous Asian hotties in various stages of undress, and one big blousy broad of a stripper shaking her silicon inflated cans for the camera, but such bared bodkin is not enough to keep us completely entertained.
Then, of course, there is the manner in which Reid manages his narrative. Obviously never hearing of character development (or introduction, for that matter) and lax in the logistics of keeping storylines sound, this demented director takes a potluck approach to his motion picture. He throws everything into this cinematic stew, including 'Nam flashbacks, random crotch kneeings, and the worst ersatz rock and roll since Christian heavy metal, and he overheats it all to the mind melting point. Motive can change at the drop of a jump cut, and individuals who seem sound in their intentions can go all random and rank in a single sequence. Reid obviously believes that this will keep his movie spontaneous and suspenseful. But all it really does is rob anything realistic or authentic from the situations, turning G.I. Executioner into a true labor of lunacy.
So, with so many strikes against it, with a motion picture methodology that reeks of the retarded, one would assume this is an abomination worth eviscerating, not enjoying. But G.I. Executioner is a glorious goof, a spree so silly and stupid that it is easy to take pleasure in its problems. This is classic 'so bad it's good' cinema, a movie so merrily misguided that you can't help but relish its ridiculousness. Unlike other examples of camp crap, there is nothing salvageable in this lesson in slack action. Reid regularly defies reasoning, undermines decades of directorial does and don'ts, and still finds ways to come up trumps in his tendencies. Something this spoiled and stanky should be standing on the street corner with a mattress on its back and a sign saying 'curb service'. It shouldn't exist as cautionary example or ridiculous relic. Yet G.I. Executioner finds a way to subvert its cinematic stool sampling to become an enjoyable, ingratiating romp.
Let's face it; you've got to love a movie that has a skinny, whisper thin pencil pusher for the water department playing at your international man of intrigue. Nothing can quite prepare you for the sight of Tom Keena, decked out in undersized skivvies, scampering around his junk of a junk (which also serves as a local hot spot of all things) as a beefy assassin tries to cancel his dental plan. Or better yet, an equally revolting bit where Dave and his ex-dreamboat get frisky in a pile of dead bodies (eww!). Or better still, a scene in which our hapless hero lies unconscious as an exotic dancer, stripped to the skin, gets involved in a firefight and buys a couple of bullets in the balloon boobies (no explicit gore though, drat the luck). Indeed, Keena is like a walking ad for rickets, his gait and demeanor revealing a possible Vitamin D deficiency. Even his hairline screams scurvy!
Of course, the characters on the other side of the mangled moral compass are no walk on the wild side themselves. We get a buck-toothed tool who hires the drippy Dearborn, then tries to kill Dave, and then simply decides to do his own version of swimming with the fishes. There are a pair of ancillary agents who look like refugees from the avant-garde stock company of an experimental theater (rancid hippy, hopeless jarhead) and one lone Russian who is only allowed to walk on, shoot his pistol and push up the daisies before ever getting out a single "Nyet". Between the police chief whose so proper and British that even his sphincter has a stiff upper lip, to the last minute character addition who mixes effeteness and French into a language wholly his own, this is one G.I. that should have its R&R revoked for immediate reassignment to the front lines, pronto.
The best bits are saved for the babes, however. Dave loves the little Singapore slings and we get several shots of his emaciated machismo carrying on with the local tweens of the night, promising them everything from new dresses to love and compassion. He even marvels at their cutesy-pie cut-rate bargains. But Big D is also a sensitive lout, and he carries on with a pigtailed prig who gives new definition to the word 'desperate'. This sweet young thang apparently can't get enough of Dave's defeated odors and snuggles up to him like a baby bunny in search of a bunting.
Of course, there's that naked markswoman, a slutty Caucasian Miss who is actually fond of her plastic pulp enhanced pleasure pillows. She's ditz redefined, a woman lost in the leaking chemicals clogging up her mammalian arteries. Yet none can compare to the supposedly enigmatic Foon Mai Lee. As Dave's old dish, this Asian appetizer doesn't quite sizzle. Instead, she somnambulates, vacant vamp stare smeared across her mug, a cold combination of carnal and "couldn't care less" directing her desires. Her scenes with Davy have all the eros of an ear infection and when they play out plot-wise, we suddenly see that nothing here makes a damn bit of sense - even the diddling.
This is why G.I. Executioner wins the wickedly unwatchable sweepstakes. After all, any movie with the nerve to undermine its main characters sexuality for the sake of a plot twist is just too skeazy to be anything but sensational. Toss in the near incoherent dialogue (there are times when you'd swear Reid is employing Beat writer William Burroughs' cut and paste method for his conversations) and an unexpected downer of an ending (well...that depends on how you look at it, actually) and you've got greatness in the disguise of gunk. It takes a truly warped mentality to imagine a movie as rambling and redundant as this one, but Reid would soon prove that he wasn't just a one shit hit wonder. Inspired by his obvious success with Executioner, Reid went on to make that classic of geek cinema, Bloodsucking Freaks. Yet as messed up as that movie is - and it's pretty friggin' bad - G.I. Executioner is actually worse. No, it's not more violent or repugnant or gross - it's just worse. Frankly, it couldn't be anything else.
G.I. Executioner supposedly has an interesting technical past. It was made in the early 70s, and sat around unreleased until Troma took interest. As the company that championed Reid's baneful Bloodsucking Freaks, the connection kind of makes sense. So any flaws in the 1.33:1 full frame transfer are completely understandable. This is not a film handled from vault to vault with tender loving care. One imagines it was chucked in the bin alongside last night's Duck Surprise. As a result, the colors are faded, the movie looks incredibly old, and some of the edits appear less than professional. Still, the print is perfectly acceptable as long as you don't mind a DVD as VHS presentation.
As mentioned before, some Beau Brummels wannabes make irregular atonal appearances throughout G.I. Executioner, offering their tainted take on smooth summer rocking with seminal songs like "Wit's End" (how appropriate). Troma's Dolby Digital Stereo presentation captures this cardboard pop in all its bland bliss. The clarity and cleanliness of the other sonic elements are equally acceptable. There is no significant drop out, and all dialogue is front and center.
Aside from a trailer for the film (a Troma version - not the original, if there even was one) which is VERY spoiler heavy, a stupid scene of bimbos beating each other up from Troma's War, and a nonsensical bit of Combat Shock shtick called "Cooking with the Combat Chef", we don't get much bonus feature delight. The typical Tromatic treats (PETA ads, Radiation Dance PSA, Make Your Own Damn Movie pimping) are present, as is the generic fill in the blank ballyhoo by Uncle Lloyd Kaufman and his vixen ventriloquist dummy Debbie Rochon.
If you love bad films, you will give your heart over to G.I. Executioner like a lonely computer geek to an Asian mail-order bride. If you are a fan of international men of intrigue, those dashing Don Juans who shoot from the hip, sip Campari and soda on the rocks, and wax poetic as they foil complicated political plots, you'll be needing your action adventure fix from somewhere else. This is a movie mired in its own majestic mediocrity, unafraid to flaunt standards in return for some of its own randy redesigning of the genre. Perversity is a perfectly acceptable panacea to most cinematic shortcomings, and with a movie as deficient as G.I. Executioner, you need a whole series of salacious supplements just to get the minimum daily requirement. Don't be put off by the ham acting, uninspired direction or stagnant scripting. Cheese this rancid and runny has to be savored and sampled with gusto. Although the Far East is not famous for its fromage, G.I. Executioner could very well be the curdled Camembert that changes said ripe reputation.
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