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Thursday, July 7, 2016

HELL HUNTERS -- DVD Review by Porfle

Interesting Brazilian locations, including Rio de Janeiro's fabled carnival, and some venerable actors doing a little slumming highlight the cheap-but-fun action thriller HELL HUNTERS (1986), now on DVD from Film Chest. 

An aging but lively Stewart Granger seems to be having a good time playing mad scientist Martin Hoffmann, an escaped Nazi (loosely based on Joseph Mengele) living in South America and performing experiments he hopes will result in a serum that will turn people into Hitler-heiling zombies.

Meanwhile, a rag-tag group of armed Nazi hunters headed by Amanda (Maud Adams, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, OCTOPUSSY) keep pursuing Hoffman through the Brazilian jungles.  An early gunfight between the two factions helps kickstart the film.

Amanda even goes so far as to marry Hoffman's nephew so that he'll take her to the ex-Nazi's secret jungle compound, the route to which she records in her diary before she's assassinated by Hoffman's lethal toady El Pasado (Eduardo Conde) in a suspenseful scene that takes place in an airport bathroom.

When Amanda's estranged daughter Ally (Candice Daly) comes to Brazil to attend her mother's funeral, she gets caught up in the search for Hoffman and gets a taste for revenge in which her training in self-defense and target shooting comes in handy.

What follows is a rather lighthearted--as well as lightweight--action flick with some touchy romantic interplay between the skittish Ally and an amorous young Nazi hunter named Tonio (RĂ´mulo Arantes) that yields much amusingly bad dialogue and a softcore sex scene or two. 

Tonio's female partner Nelia (Nelia J. Cozza) is a dark, sassy beauty who likes to leap into the fray right alongside the guys even when the bullets are flying fast and furious. 

During the group's foray up the river toward Hoffman's elusive hideout (one of the production companies mentioned in the credits is called "Heart of Darkness") they pick up a man-mountain named Kong (Russ McCubbin) who adds to the film's comedy-relief quotient as well as ramping up the amount of physical mayhem whenever they confront the bad guys.

The inevitable bullet-riddled climax pays off pretty well for such a modest production, reminding me a bit of the finale of Ted V. Mikels' THE DOLL SQUAD (1973).  Nothing really amazing happens, but like the rest of the film it's well-paced and competently handled by director Ernst R. von Theumer, who also manages a nifty chase scene in and around Rio de Janeiro earlier in the film.

Acting is all over the place among the lesser members of the cast although they all seem to be having a good time.  Aside from the jovial Granger, Maud Adams is more appealing to me here than in both her previous Bond appearances.  And speaking of Bond, one-time 007 George Lazenby (ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE) makes a brief but welcome appearance as one of Hoffman's associates. 

The DVD from Film Chest is in 16x9 widescreen and is "restored in HD from the original 35mm print."  Meaning that the visual quality won't knock your socks off but it looks pretty good for a film of its age and low budget.  No extras. 

There are those, of course, to whom HELL HUNTERS will be well out of their tolerance range for low-budget and hopelessly hokey action flicks.  For me, however, it was a nice bit of good, clean, nostalgic fun. 

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