Color, 1989, 86 mins 42 secs. / 89 mins. 21 secs.
Directed by "Vincent Dawn" (Bruno Mattei)
Starring Brent Huff, Mary Stavin, Werner Pochath, John Van Dreelen, Romano Puppo
Cinestrange Extreme (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

After teaming up with cinematic junk food maestro Bruno Mattei on two delightfully trashy 1988 action films, Strike Commando 2 and Cop Game, Gwendoline star Born to WinBrent Huff stuck around Italy long enough to Born to Winmake it a trilogy with this 1989 entry in the still-thriving Rambo-sploitation sweepstakes. Still busy today, his enjoyable presence anchors this typical "go back to Vietnam and shoot everything in sight" saga, one of many Mattei co-wrote with drive-in power couple Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi. The trio cranked this one out in a flurry of activity around the time of their salvage work in the Philippines on Zombi 3, which also resulted in titles like Shocking Dark and RoboWar. Relatively speaking this one's more normal since it doesn't involve monster or robots, but it also opens with Huff forcibly expelling venom from a cobra into his beer and swigging it down on a bet. As we all do.

Colorful and jaded Vietnam vet and formerly imprisoned P.O.W. Sam Wood (Huff) is hanging around a jungle bar when he's approached by determined reporter Maryline Kane (fellow Strike Commando 2 alumnus Stavin). She wants to do a local tour and get his story about escaping from Lu Tan, the most notorious soldier prison in Vietnam, but the expedition turns out to be a lot more personal and dangerous than he realized. Born to WinSoon they're butting heads with Duan Loc (Bloodlust's Pochath) who even Born to Wintries to take them out in their hotel room, but as Sam says in his oft-repeated catchphrase, "It can be done." That means blowing up or shooting virtually everything in sight as the Vietnam jungle turns into a battleground once again.

Filmed as Nato per combattere (or Born to Fight, a more logical title since it's actually spoken in the dialogue), this is grade-A '80s Italian action fun with Huff clearly having a ball here delivering one liners and spraying ammunition everywhere, sometimes in slow motion. Pochath nearly matches him as the main sneering baddie, ruthlessly tormenting his captives and yelling things like "Schnell!" in the best Hogan's Heroes tradition. The film doesn't really try to do anything terribly original with its post-Rambo formula, though there are a couple of decent plot twists thrown in on the way to the impressive, pyrotechnic-packed finale. The cast and behind-the-scenes personnel are packed with the usual Mattei suspects, including the colorful Al Festa (Fatal Frames) turning up to provide the electronic-heavy score just after his work on Cop Game, RoboWar, and Zombie 4: After Death.

As with the bulk of the Mattei-Fragasso-Drudi cycle, this one only ended up hitting VHS in Japan and a handful of European countries since the demand for Italian genre product in the U.S. and U.K. was quickly drying up by this Born to Winpoint. In 2021, Austrian label Cinestrange Extreme bowed the film on Blu-ray under its Bahnhofs Kino line in five different hardbox options (three featuring a Blu-ray and DVD, the other two Blu-ray only). Image Born to Winquality here is about on par with other late '80s Italian films of the era; the film was shot with a pretty drab color palette heavy on browns and dull greens, but given the scarcity of this title, it's a thousand times better than what we've had before. The 1.66:1 framing appears to be accurate, and DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio options include English (the language in which it was shot with live sound) and German or Italian dubs with optional German subtitles. The film itself features the Italian title sequences, with the (long) opener also provided in VHS-sourced variants in German (with the English text credits), Japanese, and Spanish. Also included here is the slightly longer 89-minute Japanese VHS versions, which mainly features some brief scene extensions scattered throughout the middle of the film. Most of the these are really negligible (unless you really enjoy watching P.O.W.s running in the woods), but there is a nice longer bit involving a reunion between two pivotal characters. Also included are a newly-created trailer, a 1m39s gallery of frame grabs, and most amusingly, a 5m11s "kill count" featuring a running body count of the many, many deaths racked up by our hero during the entire running time.

Reviewed on October 31, 2021.