Sunday, 23 October 2011

Cobra Mission

Cobra Mission (1986) is another ‘rescuing Vietnam POW movie’ a short lived action movie sub-genre which existed almost exclusively in the 1980s. Chuck Norris pretty much made the genre his own with Missing In Action 1 - 3. However, other notable entries include Rambo: First Blood Pt II and Uncommon Valor with Gene Hackman.

Cobra Mission, also known as Operation Nam, begins with a bunch of old Vietnam buddies kicking back at the wedding of Roger Carson’s (Christopher Connelly) daughter. Roger and his buddies don’t care for the niceties of civilian life, preferring to swap ribald stories of nights out in Saigon. Roger’s well to do wife complains about their salty tales which can be heard by other guests, prompting Roger and his friends to walk out on the wedding.

They look up their old commanding officer who’s been kicked out the military. He wasn’t happy going along the continued cover-up of the existence of the American POWs In Vietnam. The old buddies decide there’s only one thing to do, head to Vietnam and bring the POWs home themselves. One minute your at a wedding, the next your off to the other side of the world to rescue POWs. It might seem unlikely, but it did look a dull wedding.

The guys sneak into Vietnam and find the POWs with a surprising amount of ease. Bizarrely the POWs don’t seem to keen on being freed for reasons the plot doesn’t make to clear. Carson, his buddies, and the POWs try to make their escape from Vietnam. However, along the way most of the POWs get killed off.

Finally, only one POW remains, and it looks like they’re all going to be killed when the Viet Cong track them down and surround them. But suddenly a US army helicopter flies in with a high ranking Colonel onboard. He says he‘ll fly Roger and his buddies out, but they can‘t take the POW as it‘ll blow the conspiracy of silence. Roger and his friends reluctantly gets on board the chopper and the POW is taken off by the VC.

It’s a surprisingly downbeat ending, but it worked for me. It was nice to be thrown a curve ball by the plot when your expecting all the prisoners to be rescued and for the conspiracy to be blown wide open.

Anyway, to the key scene in the film. Our heroes are trying to escape with the POWs in a stolen truck when they find themselves pursued by a helicopter. They drive into an open field and circle round crazily trying to avoid the machine gun fire from the chopper. Finally, someone has the brain wave of firing back at the chopper with a machine gun. And the rest is exploding helicopter history.

Artistic merit

In a word, lousy. The helicopter bursts into flame then plummets straight down like an express elevator. It disappears out of shot and we hear an explosion whilst the camera cuts back to our heroes in the truck. Goddamn it, show the bloody thing exploding properly.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Not sure it’s innovation but the helicopter catches fire like it’s been soaked in kerosene. You’d think a military helicopter would be able to sustain a certain amount of damage without combusting like a firework.

Number of exploding helicopters



Cobra Mission is a European financed flick and produced by exploitation hack Erwin C Dietrich. The film stars the usual hotch-potch of actors to ensure marketability in the maximum possible countries.

On board for this is the wonderfully grizzled Christoper Connelly, veteran of exploitation flicks like (1990: The Bronx Warriors). Ethan Wayne, son of John, who enjoyed a short lived acting career of the back of his dad’s name. Here he plays a delightfully trigger happy loose cannon. His dad would no doubt have approved of the way he gets stuck into the Viet Cong.

It was also good to renew acquaintances with Manfred Lehmann again, who’s a veteran of Dietrich productions. Lehmann always has a twinkle in his eye and a rangy, worldly wise charm. Definitely the kind of guy you’d want to go to war with.

And Donald Pleasance appears in a brief cameo as a French priest who happens to keep a weapons arsenal in the church crypt.


The early part of the film might be too slow for some people’s tastes. However, the exposition is hilarious with clichéd plot points delivered with such gusto and conviction that I’m inclined to be forgiving.

Favourite quote

“Forget about it man, it’s Vietnam.”

Interesting fact

Manfred Lehmann is better known to German audiences as the voice artist for Bruce Willis and Dolph Lundgren.


  1. This looks interesting. I haven't done enough European produced Filipino Vietnam War-sploitation, and these are all ones for me to keep in mind.

  2. Apparently they made a sequel to this, but without any of the same actors. People don't seem to rate it. But I'd think you'd enjoy this one.