Only not quite as awesome as that sounds
“The war is over, but the real battle has just begun”
While not exactly inspired, the premise of The Annihilators was simply too delicious for me to ignore. A team of special forces from Vietnam have long been home and readjusting to civilian life when one of their friends is violently murdered by criminals in Georgia. When their leader Bill (Christopher Stone) attends their friends’ funeral, it becomes clear that the crew must reassemble to take down the villainous gang that took their friend’s life. It’s a crew of highly trained Vietnam vets assisting a group of fed up townspeople and small business owners waging full-on urban warfare against a gang of criminals run wild. In other words, it’s Rambo meets Seven Samurai meets Death Wish 3… but it never quite rises to the level of highly entertaining exploitation that combination teases.
It’s still a pretty enjoyable watch, however. Coming from New World Pictures, there’s an amped up entertainment factor at play here. While the cast wasn’t exactly loaded with actors I am familiar with, the leads are actually really solid. The crew’s karate expert is Floyd (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs from Welcome Back, Kotter), portrayed quite adeptly by Jacobs, who also gets an interview bonus feature on this Blu-ray release. The clown of the team Gerrit Graham’s Track, who gleefully leaves behind being a practicing lawyer to mete out a little justice. Andy Wood plays Woody, the film’s “social relevance” character who has struggled with a drinking problem in his civilian life and who finds some inspiration to get sober amidst the challenges of this urban warfare.
The villainous gang leader, Roy Boy, is indeed a worthy opponent for the annihilators. Portrayed by perennial 1970s bad guy actor Paul Koslo (Mr. Majestyk, The Losers, The Omega Man), Roy Boy isn’t so much physically intimidating as he is shockingly sadistic and just… supremely punchable. The murder of our squad’s friend that incites this whole battle is brutal but also needless and ill-conceived. Roy Boy isn’t a criminal genius, he’s just a bad seed. As things escalate, he’s eventually wielding a flame thrower and taking a school bus hostage, so you’ve got that to look forward to.
The premise and the exploitative elements are the appeal of The Annihilators. Well, that and the killer cover art which definitely sells a movie they did not deliver. The fact that some character actors put in solid work and that the action plays out competently isn’t enough to sell this film, and the attempts at drama and character work sadly never rise above cliche. (With the notable exception of a little “tap three times” device which our heroes teach the townspeople. It’s a code for when ordinary folks need to stand together against the bad guys. Several times everyone is doing this rhythmic tap that’s wholly unrealistic but effective dramatically). But The Annihilators delivers a modicum of period-specific thrills which are ultimately enjoyable if slight.
At 84 minutes, The Annihilators is a lean genre exploitation title that never particularly delivers any kind of mind-blowing visuals or spectacle. This transfer actually looks nice but the film feels more like a feature length episode of The A-Team rather than a significant footnote in genre film history. With a couple of frankly pretty interesting bonus features including the Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs interview, Kino actually went above and beyond for this title.
And I’m Out.
The Annihilators is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics