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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > War > Vietnam > Bikers > Counter Culture > The Losers (1970/Dark Sky DVD)

The Losers (1970)


Picture: B-    Sound: C+    Extras: B+    Film: C



Promoted at the time of its release as "The Dirty Bunch on Wheels," obviously alluding to The Dirty Dozen and The Wild Bunch, The Losers takes two late-1960s subgenres, the biker flick and the outlaws on a suicide mission film, and combines then within a truly ridiculous premise: At the height of The Vietnam War, an American CIA agent has been kidnapped by The Red Chinese inside Cambodia.Since The United States isn't supposed to officially be in Cambodia in the first place, The U.S. Army recruits five dishonorably discharged former soldiers turned bikers for a suicide mission (a la The Dirty Dozen) deemed too dangerous and crazy for anyone else.


The five societal dropouts, a cross-section of misfits ranging from a flower child to a neo-Nazi, comprise a biker gang called The Devil's Advocates.  They're hired by the U.S. military to soup up their motorcycles with weaponry, ride into Cambodia and attempt to retrieve the kidnapped CIA agent.  Why such a high-risk mission is attempted with loud motorbikes in broad daylight is one of those things we're obviously not supposed to spend much time thinking about.


The Losers (which has also appeared under the title Nam's Angels) has a cult following and was the movie playing on television in the background of a motel-room scene between Bruce Willis and Maria de Medeiros in Pulp Fiction, so Quentin Tarantino is clearly one of its fans.I have a feeling, though, Tarantino's admiration of The Losers has more to do with the grindhouse nostalgia it evokes than anything else.  The film works best, however, if viewed as drive-in fodder that's very much of its time.


The film was directed by actor/director Jack Starrett, an underrated B-movie filmmaker from the 1970s who also plays the role of the kidnapped CIA agent in the film.He's probably best remembered as the meanest of Brian Dennehy's deputies who brutalize John Rambo in First Blood (1982).Starrett was a maverick who preferred doing things his own way outside the Hollywood system.He went on to direct such films as Slaughter, Cleopatra Jones, Race With the Devil (reviewed elsewhere on this site), and one of the great unsung crime movies of the decade, 1974's The Gravy Train (aka The Dion Brothers), which was co-written by Terrence Malick, and stars Stacy Keach and Frederic Forrest as slow-witted West Virginia brothers who become involved in a robbery plot.Somebody please get this wonderful little movie on DVD.


More entertaining than The Losers itself is the DVD's feature-length audio commentary by two of the film's stars, William Smith, who plays gang leader Link Thomas, and Paul Koslo, who plays Limpy, the hippie of the group.Koslo and Smith wax nostalgic about the time they spent filming The Losers in the Philippines circa 1969.They amusingly take note of some scenes and on-set antics that are very politically incorrect by today's standards, and speak about the boorish behavior of a real-life biker type named Houston Savage (he plays Devil's Advocate member Dirty Denny in the film), who once severely offended their gracious Filipino hosts with racist comments.


Dark Sky Films has done a top-notch job of restoring The Losers for their new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen all-region DVD.The picture quality is a good as can be expected for a low-budget exploitation flick that's 36 years old.Starrett gave the film a nice, professional look on just a then $275,000 budget, and Dark Sky has done a good work remastering it in high definition from the original 35mm negatives and doing a decent digital High Definition transfer in the process. The 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital sound is also above average.But itís the extras that make this DVD worthwhile.In addition to the aforementioned audio commentary by Smith and Koslo, we're given a photo gallery featuring original still photos and lobby cards, radio spots and the original theatrical trailers.



-†† Chuck O'Leary


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