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  Search and Destroy Niagara Mauls
Year: 1979
Director: William Fruet
Stars: Perry King, Don Stroud, Tisa Farrow, George Kennedy, Jong Soo Park, Tony Sheer, Phil Aikin, Rummos Bishop, Daniel Buccos, Rob Garrison, John Kerr, Géza Kovács, Bill Starr, Kirk McOll
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1968, a small platoon of American troops in the Vietnam War were pinned down while on patrol; they had done a lot of damage to the Viet Cong, but one night their luck ran out. Flashforward to the present day ten years later in Niagara Falls, and three of those troops still know each other and live near one another there, but fate has intervened and depleted their number by a further one when he is found dead of a gunshot wound to the chest inside his car, said vehicle being crashed partly in the river. Kip Moore (Perry King) is alarmed to hear this, especially when the police call him in as a suspect, which makes up his mind to hunt down the culprit himself: but first he must tell his other comrade...

He being a kung fu kicking Don Stroud, not the most obvious candidate for martial arts and when his big fight scene finally arrived, director William Fruet kept his camera in so tight on the actor's face that you wondered why they bothered including those skills for the character at all. Search and Destroy, besides having a cool title, was one of the soon-to-be burgeoning amount of movies to feature Vietnam War veterans, who after Taxi Driver had become a hot property in action flicks and serious drama alike, and it was not unusual to see the two combined as the United States came to terms with their humiliating defeat in the Far East. But King and Stroud played it well-balanced compared with some.

Some like their antagonist, who in a rather to the point development was an actual Vietnamese gentleman who had taken their activities in his homeland to heart. Played by Jong Soo Park in his sole cinematic outing, he was the man who was intended to be the platoon's guide but thanks to a spot of unpleasantness that combined his cowardice or neglect of a beloved American soldier and the Americans' subsequent reluctance to assist him as the enemy's bombs and bullets went off around him. Therefore revenge is on his mind as he somehow travels to the States (it's never explained how he managed to get a visa, if indeed he does) and sees to it someone pays for his now-malformed hand.

He's never given a name in the credits, but we are aware he suffered terrible torture from the Viet Cong, which has twisted his mind and provoked him to thirst for bloody satisfaction. The reason we are told he manages to blend in there is because of the amount of East Asian tourists at the Falls, so in a twist on the racist's claim that they all look the same, here they really do to the local lawmen (led by George Kennedy) so they have no idea what to do short of arresting every Asian they can find, and that would create an even bigger incident. Nevertheless, the incident that actually does occur come the action-packed climax was big enough, though it was a bit of a slog through earnest dramatics to reach it.

King acquitted himself well enough, particularly in contrast to the oddly buffoonish Stroud, but Tisa Farrow as Kate, Kip's girlfriend, couldn't do much with a perfunctory part that merely saw her present to be kidnapped in a cliché that was already making its presence felt even before the eighties heyday of action dawned. Meanwhile, you could ponder the "Vietnam War never ended" theme of the plot, since that was definitely the case with American movies for the next few years as they returned to the subject like a dog worrying at a wound. Making the villain both Vietnamese and actually invading America, a one-man invasion but an invasion nonetheless, was not exactly subtle, and when he didn't get any dialogue you could accuse the script of fumbling the issues it held at arm's length, but this was redeemed, at least partly, by a really very good final act which saw Kip save Kate and then go after the assassin himself with a machine gun and loads of ammo. With some excellent location work around tourist sites, this was obviously why they made the movie and remained the best reason for catching up with it. Music, often quite menacing funk, by Martin Deller, Cameron Hawkins, and Ben Mink.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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William Fruet  (1933 - )

Canadian director of low-budget horror and thrillers. Best known for the 1976 revenge shocker Death Weekend, Search and Destroy, Spasms with Oliver Reed and the voyeuristic thriller Bedroom Eyes. Has mostly worked in TV since the mid-80s, on shows like Friday the 13th and Poltergeist: The Legacy.

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