goes something like this.
the 10th January, 1945. A small team from Z Special Force,
a secret operations unit of the Australian armed forces led by Captain Paul Kelly,
land on a South West Pacific island occupied by the Japanese.
Their mission is to locate a plane that has crashed in the
island's jungle region and either rescue the two survivors or
confirm they are dead. It's first light when they land
in their canoes, but mid-morning in the jungle a few yards
away. Well, never mind that.
don't get far before they're shot at by a Japanese
sentry post. They kill the Japanese soldiers, but the battle leaves one of
their number incapacitated. He's no use
to them any more, so they kill him too. They convince a
local farmer that they are here to help, get directions
from him and then shoot him as well.
short while later they invade a house occupied by Chinese
girl Chien Hua. She's nice and speaks English, which
is handy for our boys. It's not long before her dad Lin appears. He's
nice, too. He's also spiritual and talks to his dead wife for guidance. Then some Japanese soldiers turn up.
They're not nice, not at all, so squad leader Captain Kelly
and the boys kill the lot of them. Lin even lends a hand with some
rather iffy kung fu. He's not only nice, he's useful, and
he knows where the crashed plane is. Will he take Kelly's
heroes there? Sure he will. He hates the Japanese as much
as they do. After all, they killed his wife.
Kelly, the boys and Lin set off to find the plane, but on
the way they have to take cover from a Japanese army patrol.
When their cover is accidentally blown by Veitch, a Dutch
member of the team, Kelly, Lin and the boys kill all
the Japanese. Well, all but one. Veitch chases after him
and kills him with a telephone cord, taking out another
for luck and hanging him on the back of a door.
all these bodies turning up, the occupying Japanese realise
that there are Allied soldiers about and that they are looking
for survivors from the crashed plane. They ask the locals what they know, but the Japanese
are nasty people and do everything from threatening
to behead a child to repeatedly shoving Chien's hand in
a hot wok to get the information. Just for that, Veitch
emerges from his hiding place and kills some more Japanese.
He's become separated from the rest of the boys by then
and trots off with Chien to find the crash survivors and
fall in love with this nice, pretty Chinese girl. They have
so much in common. After all, Veitch's parents were killed
by – you've guessed it – the Japanese, and he thus really hates
them. Meanwhile, Kelly and the boys continue with the mission,
pausing only to kill some more Japanese. And so on. It all
builds to a climax in which Kelly, the boys and some noble
Chinese locals get to kill loads and loads of Japanese.
not claiming the film itself is racist – the attitudes and
situation are no doubt authentic to the time and location,
but that's as far as it goes. For the most part it's tiresomely
one-dimensional stuff – the Force Z soldiers are tough,
resourceful and heroic, the Chinese are brave and spiritual,
the Japanese are ruthless and evil and referred to only
as "Japs" or "Nips." The action is by
the numbers, the script is clunky, the music a tacky symphony
of pomp and cheese, and the performances, save for a chirpy
turn from the always enjoyable Chris Hayward, are functional at best,
despite the teaming of rising newcomers Mel Gibson and Sam
is a potentially interesting touch of irony to the Z Force
mission (which the plot saves until later but the DVD box
reveals right up front) and it all ends with a sense of
"war, what is it good for?" But for the most part
this is a work depressingly out of its time, a 1940s propagandist
flag-waver time-hopped to 1982. We can only speculate on
the film that might have been had the original director
Phillip Noyce – he of Newsfront, Heatwave,
Dead Calm and Patriot Games –
not been fired and made the more strongly anti-war film
that was originally intended.
DVD box states that the transfer here has been "digitally
remastered." I have a feeling that most of you will
have specific expectations of that claim, and that they
will not be met by what we are presented with here. Sunlit
exterior scenes are not bad in terms of colour, contrast
and detail, but when darkness falls or the action moves
into the shade the bitrate drops, the contrast greys out and
compression artefacts start dancing around the picture.
Dust spots are visible, more prominently in some places
than others, and there are even some odd shot-to-shot variances
in brightness and contrast, making it look almost as if
these moments have been rescued and spliced into the print.
sound is Dolby 2.0 mono and does the job without either
shining or offending.
Force Z "The Z Men Debriefed" – An Interview with
Cast and Producer (26:55) kicks off with a
warning of spoilers contained within and the advice to watch
the film first, a move I applaud, despite my belief that
you should always watch the film before even tampering with
the extras. In the absence of stars John Phillip Law, Mel
Gibson and Sam Neill, it's left to producer
John McCallum and members of the support
cast – namely Chris Haywood and John Waters – to deliver the goods. And to a large part
they do, with some nice on-set stories, a little insight
into the unfortunate dumping of original director Phil Noyce
and a couple of amusing anecdotes regarding John Phillip
Law's ego and concern over his hair. An engaging inclusion.
Gallery contains over 40 production stills,
including some on-set photos. The quality is a tad soft,
but they are presented in anamorphic 16:9 and fill the screen,
which itself should be cheered.
Theatrical Trailer (2:38) is in anamorphic
widescreen but iffy quality, the opening shots being plastered
with dirt. This appears to be an American trailer, hence
the pronunciation of the title as "Attack Force Zee."
just one year before Nagisa Oshima and Paul Mayersberg examined
the wartime relationship between the Japanese and the Allies
with intelligence and depth in Merry Christmas Mr.
Lawrence, Attack Force Z feels
horribly out of time and touch, a simplistic presentation
of a based-on-fact story in which the Japanese are demonised
and function mainly as objects for Mel and his boys to slaughter
en masse. The film has clearly been dug out to cash in on
Mel's continued fame, as his name is plastered larger than
the film's title on the DVD cover, even though John Phillip
Law got top billing on its original release.
DVD is no great shakes, with the picture quality not impressing
much, though I did enjoy the retrospective featurette, not
least for Chris Haywood's mourning for the Phillip Noyce
version that never was. I'm with you, Chris.