Thursday, April 9, 2009

Romano Scavolini's Dog Tags (1988)

During the Vietnam War, two soldiers successfully raid a P.O.W. camp and free the captives. No rescue helicopter awaits and the motley crew is diverted upon another mission--reclaim the classified contents of a downed helicopter and deliver them to the top brass. Dejected, wounded, and despondent, the soldiers find the classified cache and decide to keep it for themselves.Romano Scavolini has made some interesting films in his career, notably his 80s work, especially Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (1981). Spirits of Death (1972) is also worth mentioning. It's a fantastically surreal giallo with some great atmosphere and imagery. Scavolini's Dog Tags (1988) isn't shy with the surrealism and Baird Stafford from Nightmare along with Clive Wood star as the soldiers who set out on the reluctant mission.Informed by Scavolini's own experiences with the Vietnam War, Dog Tags is a cut above like-80s Italian action/war films. The surreal imagery of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) is a heavy influence seen throughout Dog Tags; however, Scavolini's surrealism isn't necessarily a comment just upon war. The imagery is truly alien in the most literal sense. Many of the scenes are other-worldly in their appearance. The brutal violence is delivered with machetes and hidden traps instead of clunky machine guns. No shortage of loud explosions though. However, this film feels more like a horror film with most scenes shown at night. John Scott provides a perfect accompanying dark synth score.
The war serves really as a backdrop for a tight lean action film. Although it's probably inspired by real events, Dog Tags is about the down-and-out, who see their one opportunity to come up. The soldiers' own avarice doesn't match up to the greed of the top brass: they'll kill for the cache. The soldiers struggle to make their way and continue to decline. In a very satisfying ending, tied to the film's title, they eventually disappear, like ghosts in the night. So like the Vietnam War, perhaps there was more hidden under the surface than many will know, and if the opportunity to see Dog Tags appears, it should be seized upon greedily.


Paul Cooke aka Buckaroobanzai said...

Hi Hans, Great write up on Dog Tags. A gem of a 'Nam movie that got kinda lost in the Jungle Action genre when it comes to people knowing about it. I really dig the movie also. Paul

clarew5747 said...

Hi I have been trying to get this film for a long time does anyone know where I can get a copy