Monday, August 24, 2009

Ferdinando Baldi's War Bus (1985)

The little yellow school bus. It inspires images of happy and laughing children, going to and coming from school, and LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow. It's truly jarring to imagine one in the middle of the jungle, during the Vietnam War, specifically its end with the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The little yellow school bus is filled with missionaries and mercenaries and a South Vietnamese major: their mission and school has been overrun by North Vietnamese forces, shown in an exciting firefight at the beginning. With a little fuel, some wire mesh on the windows, and few bullets, the motley crew escapes the clutches of the North Vietnamese. A few twists and turns and the bus stops. Three marines emerge from the jungle led by Sgt. Dixie (Daniel Stephen) and they are going to commandeer the bus. The marines have been separated from their platoon and desperately need to find a friendly base to withdraw from the combat zone. Major, says Sgt. Dixie, since there's no more joint command, we're taking this bus. And going to get into some adventures, too, in Ferdinando Baldi's War Bus (1985).War Bus runs on emotion and simplicity: the thinnest of plotlines to tie together the action sequences, with some very clever touches however, and characters, dialogue, and imagery to inspire empathy/sympathy to all of the film's participants (save the North Vietnamese Army). After successfully commandeering the bus, the marines turn the bus south, away from enemy territory. The trio has a tip that there's still a friendly base nearby and want to check it out. Major Kutran (Ernie Zarate) wants to help the marines make a quick exit, so he can get himself and the others to safety. The bus has little fuel and really cannot make it anywhere far like Da Nang. After a botched crossing at a river bank, lined with landmines, the marine trio splits on foot to explore the nearby base, while the bus coasts on fumes going nowhere fast. The marines discover after nightfall, that the base is now in the hands of the enemy, and completely desperate, the three attack the base in an exciting sequence filled with stealthy kills, gunfire, and grenade explosions to get another vehicle. The little yellow school bus arrives to rescue the marines when the fight becomes too heavy. The marines escape on the bus, having also gained some drums of fuel and some friends: realizing that the terrain is too uncertain with unexpected hostility nearly everywhere, all have to unite to survive.
Veteran Italian genre director, Ferdinando Baldi creates a real Italian 80s action classic with War Bus. Baldi like his contemporaries cut his teeth on Westerns and made some great ones: Texas, addio (1966) with Franco Nero, Hate Thy Neighbor (1968) with George Eastman, and perhaps his most well-known, the strange and unique Blindman (1971) with Tony Anthony, for example. One of his most notorious films is the George Eastman-scripted Terror Express (1979), a Last House on the Left-ish sleaze picture set on a train, starring lovely Silvia Dionisio. Indisputably, Baldi can craft action and bring strong emotion and delivers with War Bus. In one of the best sequences of the film, the bus stops at a mountainside and notices dead marines tied to stakes, littered on the mountainside. Unfortunately, the marines cannot free their dead comrades, because the corpses have all been filled with explosives as a trap. Angered and inspired, they decide to ignite the traps to free their comrades' souls, and this emotional scene segues into another exciting fire fight with the North Vietnamese.With the little downtime from the action sequences in the approximately eighty-minute film, Baldi fills War Bus with scenes of sexual tension between the females and males on the bus, blossoming romance between some, and moments of pure emotion, such as when a missionary tells her story about why she became who she is. While the characters' emotions are not really complex, they are certainly pure; and when the conclusion builds to its crescendo, in another exciting firefight, the emotions of camaraderie fuel the exciting final explosive action. Setting the film during the withdrawal of U.S. troops during the Vietnam War is a nice creative touch: none of the characters know what is lurking around any of the jungle, so every encounter is unexpected. The setting also makes all of the characters desperate: since the War is nearly over, there are no two sides fighting a war: "it's every man for himself." The characters' union isn't inherently born from the plot, it's actually created from their actions. Exciting and action-packed, War Bus is fantastic 80s action from Italy. Well worth seeking out for fans of the genre. See it.

7 comments:

Matt-suzaka said...

Is War Bus Commando the sequel to War Bus?!

War Bus sounds great, and I really like the imagery of a school bus being used in the jungles during 'Nam. I'm gonna have to seek this one out, and I'm sure it's not readily available on DVD so I will have to scope out a VHS copy, unless it's in some random box set.

Matt-suzaka said...

Heh...I just found it on that Mercs Grindhouse Experience box set that you told me about like forever ago. Almost bought it back then and kinda just forgot about it. I'm definitely gonna pick it up now!

Hans A. said...

Matt--

I think WBC is the one w/Mark Gregory in Afghanistan? No, it's not a sequel but a cheezer Italian actioner. I was going to say that it's on the Mercs collection--well worth picking up. Should be able to get it for less than $10. now. I love Italian action flix. Thnx for reading and commenting!

Mr.LargePackage said...

I made a similar genre film back in the 80's. It was called Mr. Large Package's Fun Bus. It would have been released in the U.S., but due to the strippers and balloons, it never got an R rating. And of course, the film was feature length, and that is large and in charge.

Aaron said...

It's like the short bus of DOOM. Brilliant.

Min Blogg said...

I saw this movie when I was younger. Would like to buy it now, but the movie is imposible to find. :-(

sedwy said...

i watched thiz movie when i were kids in africa but i want to watch it again i can't find it