Wednesday, October 14, 2009


"A Taste of Hell" (* out of ****)has little taste and is hell to watch. This thoroughly ordinary World War II melodrama takes place in the Philippines during 1942after General Douglas MacArthur had left the country to the Japanese and their usual sadistic skullduggery. Mind you, the Japanese are portrayed as treacherous dastards. The military action that occurs here is not part of a coordinated overall campaign. The heroes find themselves in the position that they might have to relocate if the enemy brings in reinforcements. In other words, "A Taste of Hell" is about low stakes. The action, the romance, and the battles constitute nothing memorable either in their impact or depiction. The most interesting performance is given by Victor Diaz as the villain who has many opportunities to throw back his head and laugh insanely like a bandit.

The first scene sets the stage for a vendetta between the hero and the villain. Major Kuromoto (Victor Diaz of "Project: Kill")catches They catches U.S. Army Lieutenant Barry Mann (John Garwood of "Nam's Angels") and his guerrilla army of natives in the open and get the drop on them. Kuromoto wants Mann alive and vows to kill all his men if the American refuses to surrender. Mann demands the Kuromoto let his men live and he will surrender. Kuromoto promises Mann that his men will receive "the proper treatment" and then massacres them when they do surrender. Mann is wounded in the arm and crippled for life. An explosion hurls him into a river that carries him downstream. Kuromoto is convinced that Mann is dead.

Unable to speak coherently, Mann wanders around in the jungle for the bulk of the
movie's 90-minutes in civilian attire with a battered hat to conceal his hideous features. "A Taste of Hell" is not a conventional World War II adventure opus like "Ambush Bay," "The Walls of Hell," or "Once Before I Die." You don't see any military equipment like tanks, planes, battleships, or even jeeps and it doesn't contain a standard-issue briefing scene with a map and superior officer describing the mission as suicidal. Indeed, there are no scenes with a radio operator calling
in a request for air support or a supply drop. Essentially, "A Taste of
Hell" is a behind-enemy-lines actioneer with tame heroics. There is also a subplot about a hunched-back adolescent and his friendship with the disfigured Mann. Another problem is that "A Taste of Hell" boasts no sympathetic characters.

Later, savage Japanese soldiers raid a village, murder a patriotic resistance leader, and abduct ten of the most beautiful women. Maria (Lisa Lorena of "Black Belt Avengers") is one of the women taken. She was once Lieutenant Mann's girlfriend. She keeps pictures of Mann around and lights candle to his memory. Jack Lowell (William Smith of "Conan the Barbarian") shows up in civilian clothes with an Army issue .45 caliber automatic pistol and a grease gun to help coordinate a
guerrilla attack against the Japanese. Kuramoto anticipates that the guerrillas will launch their attack at night, but they decide to catch the Japanese by surprise with a dawn attack. The heroes don't arrive in time, however, to prevent the Japanese from raping the women. We are shown soldiers manhandling the helpless, screaming native girls in a hut.

Meanwhile, Mann infiltrates the Japanese camp and starts knocking off soldiers. He hacks off Kuramoto's head with a huge knife when he catches him trying to rape Maria. The decapitation scene is passable. In the end, nobody of prominence survives the action-packed attack. Jack shoots Mann as Mann is helping Maria escape, and Maria takes a bullet in the stomach. The Japanese gun down Lowell before the battle concludes and he dies without firing a shot. Nobody wins.

Believe it or not, this low-budget, B-movie monstrosity was produced by notorious porno producer Harry H. Novak, better known for soft T&A features like "The Dirty Mind of Young Sally," "Midnight Plowboy," and"The Exotic Dreams of Casanova." No, freshman co-directors Basil Bradbury and Neil Yarema drum up neither suspense nor tension. The only thing that they do well is hide the hero's face until we have to see it. "A Taste of Hell" lacks any nudity, but contains modest amounts of blood & gore. Diaz chews the scenery like a Spaghetti western bandit. None of the characters change or show any depth. The film concludes with the phrase ". . . and Satan smiled." The firearms look authentic as do the Japanese uniforms, but there is nothing noteworthy about this pathetic potboiler. The sole virture of "A Taste of Hell" is that it appears to have been lensed entirely on location without any visual effects or obvious backdrops. William Smith looks glum throughout the action.