Commando Leopard (1985) is the second of three action films that British tough actor Lewis Collins and exploitation legend Antonio Margheriti made together.
Once again - the plots of these films are largely interchangeable - Collins leads a ragged band of mercenaries on a mission to kill a villain played by past-it actor looking to earn a quick paycheque (this time it’s Klaus Kinski who’s pimping out his name).
Despite regular and admittedly well-staged action scenes, the film is rather dull. It’s not helped by a storyline that fails to explain why our heroes are trying to overthrow the unidentified country’s president.
Still, the special effects throughout are rather good. These include a spectacular airplane crash and exciting sequence when an oil refinery is blown up after a train is turned into a railway-rolling bomb.
Anyway, at the start of the film Collins and his team fight their way into a power station with the aim of blowing it up. However, the defending troops summon reinforcements including a helicopter gunship. As the helicopter passes overhead Collins opens fire with his machine gun causing the chopper to explode.
Later in the film Kinski and his henchmen fly in choppers to shoot up a hospital, giving Collins the chance to use a grenade launcher on his rifle to take out the aircraft.
The first helicopter explosion is shown in slow motion - always a nice touch. But it’s shown from behind, so it feels like you’ve missed out on the best angle to view it.
The sequence is also edited in a very confusing way. Collins is clearly shown firing at the rear of the chopper. But after it explodes, we cut back to Collins who is now in front of the wreckage. Did he teleport at some point in proceedings?
The second chopper fireball is rather juicy especially the way the flames consume the wreckage. But it is spoilt by the sudden switch to a model helicopter which is completely different to the real one we just saw take off.
Number of exploding helicopters
Exploding helicopter innovation
Despite a good track record of regularly destroying helicopters director Antonio Margheriti has never pushed the boundaries of the genre. Once again, he fails to bring anything new to the art.
There is a hunky chunk of helicopter action for chopper fans to enjoy. A particular highlight is the raid on a village which supports the guerrillas. Choppers, with flame throwers fitted, to them fly in at night to torch the village.
It’s a shame that the amount of love, care and attention that was put into realising the explosion of the airplane wasn’t put into the destruction of the helicopter. Director Antonio Margeriti energies were sadly misdirected on this occasion.
At 15 million Swiss francs this was, at the time, the most expensive Swiss financed film ever.