Written by: George Pacheco on January 3rd, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: April 28th, 1988
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Writer: Tito Carpi, Arne Elsholtz
Cast: Lewis Collins, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Brett Halsey, Bobby Rhodes, John Steiner
DVD released: November 19th, 2012
Approximate running time: 100 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Arrowdrome (Arrow Video)
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99
The Commander was the final installment in director Antonio Margheriti’s trilogy of ‘macaroni combat’ films released in the 1980s. The effort once again starred British actor Lewis Collins in the lead, alongside a bevy of returning Margheriti favorites and newcomers, including fellow Brit John Steiner (wearing a ridiculous beret, and bearing an equally outrageous French accent), Brett Halsey, Bobby Rhodes and iconic American tough guy Lee Van Cleef.
This final act in the trilogy does admittedly have a tough time getting off the ground at first, which is somewhat unsettling, given that this was a series which prided itself upon no-nonsense action and brisk pacing. The Commander doesn’t really get going until Collins’ ‘team’ is assembled roughly halfway into the film, after which things finally start picking up with regards to energy and excitement.
Indeed, although The Commander does benefit from screenwriter Tito Carpi’s trademarked habit of inserting humor and wisecracks into his characters dialogue—a nice contrast from the relatively straight forward manner in which Margheriti and Co. approached 1985’s Commando Leopard—the feelings we the audience are left with overall is that, somehow we have seen much of this before, particularly within the trilogy’s finest celluloid moment, 1986’s Codename: Wild Geese.
Collins once again proves that he is a confounding choice for an action star—given his stone-faced lack of personality and charisma—and he is upstaged by most of his supporting ensemble cast at every given moment, particularly Rhodes and Steiner, who chew up the scenery quite nicely. Van Cleef also has a much diminished role in this film, while Margheriti regular Klaus Kinski is noticeably absent in his villainy.
Of course, there are plenty of bombs, guns and guts to make all of this nitpicking relatively moot, as this isn’t exactly the sort of film one views for any sort of artistic or existential pleasure. No, this is a blood ‘n guts action flick where mayhem is the key, all of this being delivered convincingly enough during the film’s final act, where Margheriti’s penchant for the explosive comes to its expected fruition.
Kudos must once again be placed at the feet of cinematographer Peter Baumgartner, whose penchant for low angle, heroic action shots lend The Commander a certain sense of artiness which, to be honest, a film of this caliber probably shouldn’t even possess…but it’s sure welcome. Meanwhile, the soundtrack music from Eloy and Jess Franco collaborator Walter Baumgartner is breezy, electronic minimalism which gives the film a cool, spacey 80s edge.
Although Codename: Wild Geese is far and away the best of Margheriti’s trilogy, both The Commander and Commando Leopard more or less share second place, for different reasons. While Leopard probably wins its hand in terms of action from the get-go, its dour atmosphere and serious tone do not exactly a ‘fun’ film create. The Commander, on the other hand, is a film which, although uneven, does more to ingratiate itself to Margheriti mavens in its second half than Commando Leopard managed to achieve throughout its entire running time.
Arrowdrome presents The Commander in a widescreen presentation which preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This DVD possesses the clearest and sharpest picture of all three films released from Arrowdrome, apparently taken from a (cut) German print from producer Erwin C. Dietrich with an easily understandable English dub. Extras are once again non-existent, although there apparently is a collector’s booklet included within the film’s final package, not included with the screener sent to 10kBullets for review. Overall, Arrowdrome gets a solid audio/visual presentation for The Commander, with a disappointing score in terms of extra content.