VCI Home Video // 1979 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Evans (Retired) // June 2nd, 2006
A coma might be more interesting.
Director René Cardona Jr. could be the Ed Wood of Mexico. At least Wood's films are entertaining.
Dissatisfied with his life as a killer, Carlos the Terrorist (Andrés García) begins to question the life he leads. After killing his crime boss, Carlos tries to trade information for help from the CIA. But when agents double-cross Carlos and kidnap his wife and daughter, the terrorist must complete a deadly mission for American operatives. If he refuses, his wife and child will die. Shootings and low-budget chases in junky old cars ensue. The ending comes off like the punchline of a bad joke that takes too long to tell.
There seems to be some uncertainty over the release year of this film by Mexican director René Cardona Jr., who also made Tintorera, a Jaws ripoff starring García and the bodacious Susan George (Straw Dogs). Some sources list a release year of 1977, others claim 1979. Whatever the year, this is a pitiful excuse for a thriller.
Cardona allows scenes to play out for minutes at a time, long after the point of the shot has been made. Who wants to watch actors walking down the street -- and doing nothing else -- for 10 minutes? The feature run time of 85 minutes feels twice as long. Heavily edited, this film might actually work as an hour-long television show, including commercials.
Worse, most of the action is telegraphed by an omniscient narrator, who saved Cardona a helluva lot of production money by describing many amazing things that we never actually get to see. We hear more about what Carlos did and might yet do, without the benefit of watching Carlos do anything at all. Act One is almost a silent film punctuated with narration as Carlos looks stern. Or peeved. Or determined. In Act Two, Carlos devotes considerable time to running around in his underwear after a long swim to a bad guy's oceanfront home. Act Three finds Carlos limping for hours with a bullet in his leg. In a scene that made me laugh out loud, when Carlos is shot the actor hobbles to his feet and clutches the wrong leg for an instant before realizing his mistake and shifting his hand to grab the other limb -- the leg with the special effects blood running down his pants.
All of the characters are unlikable or boring, especially Carlos. As played by Garcia, the character is less dynamic than a wooden Indian. Charles Bronson, by comparison, was positively vivacious.
What a crazy film! Sometimes the narration is in English, sometimes it shifts to Spanish without warning or any discernable reason other than sloppiness. Since there are no subtitles, being bilingual is no mere advantage to watching the picture; it is a necessity.
The video transfer is flecked with dirt and deep scratches throughout. The mono audio is weak and thin. Extras are limited to a few static screens of biographical information and five trailers of Cardona schlock, including this picture. The audio pops in and out during several trailers, rendering them all but unwatchable. VCI specializes in high-quality packages of old Western serials from the 1930s and '40s. Why the company added this title to their catalog is a mystery.
Cardona managed to shoot this extremely cheap-looking picture in focus.
On the Internet Movie Database website, under the user comments section for this film, someone has posted the following assessment of Carlos the Terrorist: "Perhaps the most beautiful and exiting (sic) film ever made!" That's precious; easily funnier than the movie itself. If you must, save this one for a rental on bad movie night.
Guilty of dramatic and technical incompetence so profound as to make watching a neighbor's vacation videos a thrilling alternative.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: VCI Home Video
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Five Trailers
* Cast and Director Biographies