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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Soldier (Blu-ray)
The Soldier (Blu-ray)
Kino // R // March 27, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $23.20 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted April 5, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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1982's The Soldier was James Glickenhaus' follow-up to the previous year's cult favorite The Exterminator. While that movie went rather crazy with the "revenge movie" formula, this time he tried his hand at an international political thriller that was called a "de-glamorized James Bond." The rather generic title is actually the codename of an otherwise unnamed man played by Ken Wahl, who heads a force of top-secret agents in a "special force" run and known only to the head of the CIA.

The conflict they deal with here is a nuclear bomb that terrorists have placed near a major oil field in Saudi Arabia. They issue a threat demanding that the Israelis withdraw from the West Bank of Jordan, otherwise they will detonate the bomb and not only cause a huge explosion but also render about half of the world's oil supply unusable for 300 years. "The Soldier" has to get his team together and figure out exactly who is behind this and how to stop the bomb from going off- and to do this he has to travel across many different countries all of which, including most of the United States intelligence, think he's an enemy. The plot is rather disjointed and serves mostly to showcase some rather impressive action sequences for such a "small" movie, including a rather complex ski chase and a car jump over the Berlin Wall.

Like The Exterminator, Glickenhaus pulls very few punches with the violence and also gets in several practical (meaning not faked) explosions. The cast including Wahl however don't get a whole lot of dialogue, and a first-time viewing can be rather confusing figuring out exactly who everyone is and what they're doing. For example there's a sudden cut from Europe to a scene in an American redneck bar (with an early appearance from George Strait providing the entertainment there) for no apparent reason, only later does it make sense that this scene introduces two of the team members getting together and heading to join the mission. Klaus Kinski gets a "special appearance" billing as the KGB agent the Soldier travels to Austria to meet up with, but is hardly onscreen for more than a couple minutes. The movie also features one of the most abrupt endings I've ever seen. The action is its saving grace however, as well as the electronic music score by Tangerine Dream which isn't one of their best as it borrows heavily from their prior work- the closing theme is an obvious rip-off of their "Beach Theme" from 1981's Thief.

Picture:

The hi-def transfer done by MGM is a revelation compared to the 1983 Embassy CED videodisc which is the only way I've previously seen this movie. (MGM released it on VHS more recently, in an assumedly updated transfer from that.) It's infinitely brighter and sharper, showing details that are lost in the shadows on the older transfer, yet doesn't appear to be artificially enhanced. Colors are intentionally cold, and there's a bit of dirt visible which was likely on the negative. There's also a few white hot spots throughout which are also present on the older transfer.

Sound:

The mono audio is encoded in 2-channel DTS Master Audio and stays properly centered, with a bit of noise in parts typical of optical film tracks. It certainly isn't perfect, some dialogue is a bit hard to understand (subtitles would've been very helpful here, but there are none) but Tangerine Dream's music still shines through under the circumstances.

Extras:

Kino's Blu-Ray includes two commentary tracks- one from director James Glickenhaus who talks about the casting and production, and another from Jim Hemphill who is a huge fan of Glickenhaus. He spends most of the track talking not about what's onscreen but more about Glickenhaus' career overall. It's quite informative at least assuming you've already seen The Exterminator as that is talked about a lot.

Besides the trailer for The Soldier, there are also previews in varying quality for the following: The Taking of Beverly Hills, the 1980s remake of I, The Jury, When Eight Bells Toll, Gorky Park, The Park is Mine (also featuring music by Tangerine Dream), The Package and Malone.

Final Thoughts:

The Soldier has some memorable action pieces accomplished with a low budget, and its datedness makes it that much more entertaining today. It's also quite impressive to see such a short (under 90 minutes) movie cover so many territories, although by the end it feels like some scenes were mistakenly left out.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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