This film has TV splashed all over it. And that's no accident. Both director Jack Starrett and writer Alan Caillou had a long history in episodic television before creating the stunning epic known originally as "Nam's Angels", presented here on DVD as "The Losers". Everything about The Losers just screams "Please, put me on television!" from the miniscule story (almost an episode of The A-Team worth), to the clipped dialogue of Rt. 66, the cardboard characters from Rat Patrol, the action sequences taken from the Devlin cartoon, while props from the K-Mart sportsman collection and Big Stinky Pete's House of Military Surplus Treasures, round out the genuine awfulness of the production.
Set against the horrific carnage of the Vietnam War (of which you will see none) the CIA recruits a biker gang to rescue an operative held in a Red Chinese camp just over the border in Cambodia. The gang, known as Devils Advocates (but not the same ones as in Werewolves on Wheels), consisting of Link (William Smith), Duke (Adam Roarke), Limpy (Paul Koslo), Dirty Denny (Houston Savage), and Speed (Eugene Cornelius) were, I guess, in the army but "busted out" for various violations and now have Southeast Asian chapter of B-Movie Bike Gangs Limited.
Given five brand new 20 horsepower 2-stroke Yamaha bikes (It's a broad's bike!) and a all the scrap metal they can carry, the Devil's Advocates are supposed to modify their bikes with the help of a local mechanic. However, because they are a bike gang, the Devil's Advocates have to cause havoc wherever they go. So once they are handed their bikes the gang immediately breaks protocol and screams off to the nearest village. Duke has a girlfriend already out in the bush, so he abandons the gang for her.
Captain Jackson (Bernie Hamilton) is left to find all of the gang and get them focused. He finds Dirty Denny in Mama San's Go Go (of which he is part owner) and the other gang members in various shitty locations throughout the village. They get to work. By the 20 minute mark or so, the internal gang politics take over the script which leads to several Batman-type fights with various Filipino men. All that's missing are the "Biff! Whammo! Skree!" of the old TV show. Only Link cares about completing the mission, and even he is relatively ambivalent about the whole "war" thing.
Like all gang members in film, the Devil's Advocates care only about being drunk, stoned, or in the arms of women, preferably all three at the same time. When the gang ends up in the slammer for beating the shit out of a Filipino band, several military police (also Filipino) and several bar patrons (Filipino again) inside Mama San's brothel.
They gather their respective gear and head off to Cambodia to rescue Chet Davis (Jack Starrett).
Davis, apparently, knows Link and vice versa, and there is some poorly written bad blood between them. Davis had something to do with Link's incarceration before the movie starts.
Then they raid the compound, blow up a whole shitload of a dummies (enough to make Godfrey Ho jealous) and get captured. Davis doesn't want to leave. He's trying to negotiate the Red Chinese out of Cambodia (which in and of itself is insane if you know anything about the history of the Vietnam war). Davis provides the anathema to Link's free spirited and ultimately naive patriotism. Link can't understand why Davis doesn't want to leave. Davis can't understand why Link would bring his garishly dressed gang of five goobers into Cambodia and risk an international incident. There is a weird bit of dialogue here where Davis brings up the past charges against Link, including sexual assault on some young girls.
Okay, so Link may be a rapist… Lovely. Link's defense is that "the man doesn't understand. He grinds down whoever doesn't toe the line…". Yeah, whatever Link.
The gang has to get Davis out and they plan an escape.
What makes The Loser's fun is the general goofiness of the whole exercise. From the WW2 surplus weapons used by everyone (The Red Chinese have Sten guns, Garand M-1, and Arisaka rifles the Devil's Advocates have Schmeissers) the Red Chinese wear surplus Imperial Japanese Army uniforms, the Vietnamese wear black jammies. Even better is the very idea that a motorcycle gang would serve the US Government/CIA in this manner. Yet even better than that is the very gumption to put a plan like this together. McGuyver has nothing on these guys.
The acting is about TV quality as is the direction. Much of the film looks like an extended episode of The Rat Patrol, and that's no coincidence. Jack Starrett directed several episodes of the desert-born WW2 program. And while he makes pretty good use of the widescreen for the longer action shots, much of the film is contained in the center screen better suited to the TV aspect ratio. In 1970 this was pretty typical of a director making the TV to film transition. Today it's lazy. Starrett also manages to squeeze in a musical interlude when Duke is hanging around with his nameless girlfriend. The song "The Losers" sounds like Judy Collins and it really sucks. He also shoves in a nightclub band that sounds suspiciously like Credence Clearwater Revival, if CCR were Filipino. We get to hear it again at the end too during the finale (see if you can guess what that means).
Dark Sky films presents The Losers in remastered widescreen. The film, as crappy as it is, looks great. The DVD offers one language track, English, and one subtitle track, also English (LOL!). There is a commentary track too featuring William Smith (Link) and Paul Koslo that sheds lots of light on the production. Both guys seem to have not seen each other for decades, and the commentary has a really nice vibe to it. Like these are long lost friends sharing their special memories with you. I generally like commentary tracks like this rather than standard director shot-by-shot snorefests. The DVD also offers a stills photo gallery, original radio spots, and a trailer.
The Losers is like watching an A-Team marathon immediately following a severe head injury. It's goofy, it's stupid, it's predictable, and as far as the morality that makes up the final quarter, like being hit over the head with a sledgehammer engraved with the words "Vietnam is bad". That said, the film is unintentionally hilarious at many places and well worth spooling up if you have a roomful of witty friends around to riff on it.