Throughout most of the 1980s, prolific
filmmaker Charles Band ran the (sadly) now defunct distribution company Empire
Pictures. Empire, whose fun movies had their own unique style and humor, released
a plethora of enjoyable, low-budget action/sci-fi/horror/fantasy titles the
likes of Walking the Edge (1985), Crawlspace (1986), From Beyond (1986), Troll (1986), Dolls (1987) andCellar Dweller (1988).
The company, however, is probably best known for the amazing cult classic Re-Animator (1985) as well as the
popular Ghoulies and Trancers series. If, like me, you’re a
fan of Empire Pictures’ entertaining output (as well as a fan of Band’s later
company, Full Moon Pictures, which is best known for the iconic Puppet Master series), you can rejoice
as their much-sought-after cult favorite, Zone
Troopers, has finally been released on Blu-ray.
Solidly directed by Danny Bilson (The Rocketeer) who also co-wrote with
his long-time friend Paul De Meo (Arena),
Zone Troopers tells the enthralling
tale of a small group of American soldiers who, while battling the Nazis in
Italy in 1944, stumble across a crashed spaceship from another galaxy. Led by
tough-as-nails Sergeant Stone (Tim Thomerson from Trancers), the soldiers not only do everything in their power to
stay alive, but also to ensure that the aliens and their advanced technology do
not find its way into the hands of the evil Nazi horde.
Zone Troopers is a unique and
extremely fun combo of old-time war films and B-movie science fiction fantasy.
The highly enjoyable movie also boasts an amazing cast. Timothy Van Patten (Class of 1984, The White Shadow) is
dead-on as young, New Jersey soldier Joey Verona. Van Patten goes all out
delivering the innocence and patriotism (as well as the requisite East Coast
accent) necessary to bring this wonderfully clichéd role to life. Art La Fleur
(1988’s The Blob) is terrific as
tough, but loveable Corporal Mittinsky aka Mittens, and Tim Thomerson, who
conveys quite a bit of info through very subtle facial expressions, is
excellent as the indestructible Iron Sarge. Rounding out the group of stalwart
heroes is Biff Manard (Trancers II)
who makes his character of writer/reporter Dolan more than likeable. The
lighthearted film is filled with action, adventure, camaraderie and humor, and,
at times, feels like a 1940s comic book. It also benefits from a fun musical
score by talented composer (and brother of Charles) Richard Band (Re-Animator, The House on Sorority Row),
wonderful special alien effects by legendary makeup artist John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New
Blood); not to mentiontop-notch
cinematography and editing by long-time Charles Band associates Mac Ahlberg (Prison) and Ted Nicolaou (Subspecies) respectively. Filmed in both Italy and the US, the
well-paced film also contains intentionally dated and, therefore, intentionally
corny and priceless dialogue (mostly from Van Patten) as well as a bunch of
1940s references which makes the war section of Zone Troopers feel entirely authentic.
Zone Troopers has been released
on a region one Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. The high definition transfer looks
fantastic and the movie is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Special features include the original theatrical trailer, an interesting
onscreen interview with the great Tim Thomerson, and an amusing and informative
audio commentary by director Danny Bilson and writer Paul De Meo who both seem
to enjoy revisiting their cult film (and rightly so). Whether you’re a lover of
war movies, retro science fiction, or you’re just looking for something fun and
different, Zone Troopers is
definitely the Blu-ray for you.