COLLECTING VHS: LET’S GET HARRY (1986)

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Title: Let’s Get Harry
Year:
 1986
Genre:
 Gonzo-action
Tagline:
 Five men risk everything to save a friend. 
Released by:
 HBO Cannon Video
Director:
 Alan Smithee (Stuart Rosenberg)

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Plot: A group of five friends led by a mercenary-for-hire travel to the harsh jungles of South America to rescue their pal Harry, a mid-western engineer working on a new refinery who’s taken hostage along with the American ambassador by a gang of Columbian terrorists.

Thoughts: Very few have laid eyes upon this crazy 80′s action opus that takes the much used POW/rescue flick formula and adds an extra thick coating of Reagan era right wing fantasy to the mix. The result is an oddly structured tale about a young American engineer named Harry Burck (Mark Harmon) who’s abducted along with a U.S. ambassador by some swarthy, drug manufacturing, brown-skinned bandits who hold them for ransom demanding that their compadres be released from prison in return for their release. But our country does not negotiate with terrorists so it’s up to Harry’s kid brother Corey (Pretty in Pink heartthrob Michael Schoeffling) to convince his pals into hiring a crusty old mercenary named Shrike (Academy Award winner Robert Duvall) who’ll lead a rescue mission to the remote compound in the jungles of Columbia.

Joining the group of Harry’s buddies are a veritable who’s who of random eighties supporting actors like Rick Rossovich (Top Gun), Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future’s Biff), The Eagles‘ Glenn Frey playing a friend with a cocaine problem who brings his stash along on the rescue, and last, but never least, a typically bat-shit crazy performance from Gary Busey as Jack, the cigar-chomping car dealership owner who funds this mission as an excuse to get some big game hunting in. The big game being a gang of machine gun toting Latino drug dealers.

The film is one of those that features an Alan Smithee credit for director because veteran filmmaker Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke, The Amityville Horror, The Pope of Greenwich Village) was so displeased with the final cut he disowned it. The plot itself is similar to the excellent Vietnam/MIA action gem Uncommon Valor, but with a very unhealthy attitude towards non-U.S. citizens whom are all portrayed as untrustworthy, corrupt, vicious, drug-fueled cretins that deserve to be blown to pieces by a marauding team of proud, working class gringos. Maybe this is one of the main reasons why Rosenberg took his name off it and also why it has never found a release on anything other than VHS and Amazon instant.

Despite its obvious racism and overall cheesiness (or more likely because of it) the film is an entertaining watch for our post modern, ironically hip viewing pleasure. There’s far more talking than shooting, but I had a great time watching this oddly casted creation play out. The whole concept of blue-collar factory workers from Aurora, Illinois putting together a commando unit because it’s the American thing to do is as wonderfully insane and heartwarmingly dumb as you could imagine. Cue the montage!

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