Commando Leopard (1985) is the second of three European financed action films starring Lewis Collins.
They were all financed by producer Edwin C Dietrich and directed by Antonio Margheriti, here under the pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson.
The plot’s are largely inter-changable with Collins leading a ragged band of soldiers on a mission against a semi-famous actor brought in to boost the marketability of the film, this time Klaus Kinski.
Collins plays Carrasco who’s leading a guerrilla campaign against the leader of an unidentified South American country. I assumed I’d find out why the guerrillas were fighting and what was so bad about the country’s dictator, however, we’re never offered an explanation.
If anything the dictator is a sympathetic character. He seems tired with dealing with the guerrilla war, and having his military adviser Klaus Kinski (underused throughout) constantly cluttering up his palatial residence.
Despite the regular and well staged action scenes the film is rather dull. It’s hampered by a turgid script and a thoroughly uninteresting storyline about a priest who runs a hospitals.
There’s a also a prison break where a couple of the mercenaries escape, simply it appears, by letting themselves out the jail. You’re left wondering why they didn’t do that earlier.
Despite the questionable pedigree of the film the special affects throughout are good. Apparently half the films budget was spent on the model work which was used to render the large scale action scenes. These include a spectacular airplane crash and the demolition of an oil refinery when a train is turned into a rolling bomb.
Anyway, at the start of the film Collins and his team fight there 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 over head Collins opens fire with his machine gun causing the chopper to explode.
Later in the film Kinski and his henchmen fly in aboard choppers to shoot up the missionary hospital. When Collins arrives with his troops Kinski and his men head back to the choppers. Kinski escapes, but his companions aboard the other chopper aren’t so lucky as Collins uses the grenade launcher on his rifle to take out the chopper.
The 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.
They way sequence is shot is also very confusing. Collins is clearly shown firing at the rear of the chopper. After it explodes we cut back to Collins with the wreckage of the helicopter directly in front of him. Did he teleport at some point in proceedings?
The second chopper fireball is again juicy and plush as flames consume the wreckage, but 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 Anthony 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 Anthony Margeriti energies were sadly misdirected on this occasion.
The dialogue in this film is uniformly awful, full of clunky corkers like:
“Maria, in any other situation this would be a political crime I agree. But in this case it could bring on the collapse of the regime and ultimate victory for us.”
At 15 million Swiss francs this was, at the time, the most expensive Swiss financed film ever.