Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Zebra Force (1976)



          Sensible people should give this schlocky action thriller a wide berth, but those with a taste for entertainingly stupid films will find Zebra Force a tasty morsel. Boasting cheap production values, a no-name cast, and storytelling so sloppy that it’s never clear which character is supposed to be the protagonist, the movie surmounts its shortcomings—in a manner of speaking—by moving along at a brisk pace, flying from one goofy scene to the next even though logic falls by the wayside within the first ten minutes. Plus, it should be noted that some of the performances are adequate, with sorta-kinda leading man Mike Lane giving an enjoyably cocksure turn as a Mafia enforcer. As for the story, it’s a whopper: Under the supervision of a physically impaired leader, a group of Vietnam vets robs several Mob-owned businesses, disguising their white faces with sophisticated masks that make the gangsters believe the robbers are all black men. And, to answer the obvious question, no, the filmmakers don’t actually use sophisticated masks for the masquerade scenes. Instead, black actors perform all the action until it’s time for the masks to come off, at which point the white actors wear patently fake-looking masks for a few seconds. Some low-budget movie illusions are so brazen that you almost have to compliment the filmmakers for their hubris.
          The general flow of the story is that after the first robbery, an irate Mafia boss sends his top guy, Carmine (Lane), to catch the thieves. Meanwhile, Lt. Claymore (Clay Tanner), whose face is scarred and whose right arm is missing, both thanks to battlefield injuries, masterminds his former Army unit’s get-rich-scheme. Strangely, he’s portrayed as a chipper all-American type; Claymore refers to his thugs as “a great bunch of guys,” and he makes them flush heroin seized during a bust because, “We’re not in this to hurt society but to rid society of some of its scum—and of course we reap the profit.” To imagine the full effect, you should know that he delivers all his lines through an electrolarynx, so he sounds like a robot. Especially because the storyline gets dumber and dumber as the movie progresses, Zebra Force is always thisclose to becoming genuinely terrible. Yet for the right viewers, it’s a hoot. Inexplicably, the same team behind Zebra Force made a sequel, Code Name: Zebra, which was released in 1987.

Zebra Force: FUNKY

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