Wednesday, 12 March 2014


WARBUS (1986)

Directed by: Ferdinando Baldi (as Ted Kaplan)
Written by: Ferdinando Baldi & John Fitzsimmons
Starring: Daniel Stephen, Romano Kristoff, Urs Althaus, Gwendolyn Hung, Ernie Zarate

Full throttle, Italian made, Vietnam military action spectacle that may just be the most streamlined 80 minutes of firepower and explosions ever committed to celluloid. Ok, so that might be an excessive case of hyperbole but Warbus gets straight to it: a bunch of soldiers, ensnared behind enemy lines, commandeer an old bright yellow school bus and set off through the Vietnam jungle, guns blazing, in an attempt to get back home. Along for the ride are a bunch of missionaries also trapped behind enemy lines and what follows is a lot of driving, a good dose of 80s Italian war film weirdness, tons of gunfire and an incredible amount of explosions: even by Italian made, Vietnam military action standards. 

After a brief opening credits sequence featuring an old war statue shot from every conceivable angle while the tiles roll over it (!), it’s straight into the gunfire and exploding huts as the missionaries desperately attempt to flee their under fire camp from the Vietcong. No messing about, straight into the action: excessive firepower, epic explosions and loads of extras getting wasted. This is how things proceed for much of the rest of the film as the bus, which picks up several American GI’s along the way, trundles through the jungle stopping frequently for gun battles, diffusing minefields (by shooting automatic weapons at them: awesome!), navigating tough terrain, more gun battles and seemingly blowing up every hut/building/free form standing building they come across. In the brief breaks between all the action, director Ferdinando Baldi keeps things ticking along with all kinds of absurdness: once character suffers from epilepsy for no apparent reason, the soldiers all shack up with the various lady missionaries at one point or another and the troupe discover an abandoned building full of alcohol at another point and stop to drink and talk about, well, I’m not really sure! 

But as mentioned, gunfire and explosions are the name of the game here and Warbus is jammed packed with both. There is a serious amount of explosions in this film, all gloriously captured and doing their job of blowing shit up good and well. It wouldn’t be surprising if the filmmakers were given a budget for explosions, found an old school bus and were told to craft a movie around the two. If so, mission accomplished. The film is also nicely shot, making good use of it locations and the cast are suitably sweaty, heroic and unhinged, in equal measure, meaning there is plenty of eccentricity to go along with all the action packed awesomeness. Those who like a little more plot to go along with their bang bang and boom boom may not find much to enjoy here (and probably shouldn’t be or wouldn’t be watching this type of film anyway!) but for the Italian jungle based military action film enthusiast out there, Warbus is a gem worth tracking down. 

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