Peter’s Retro Reviews: Search and Destroy (1979)

May 19, 2014

search and destroy movie posterby Peter Nielsen

”’Nam made them the most highly-trained killers in the world… Back home they need everything they learned to survive!”

The movie I’ve chosen for this week’s “discussion” is one I’ve never seen before, oddly enough! It’s the type of movie we would, without a doubt, have quickly snatched of off the shelf in our local video rental store when we were teens. As I’ve stated before, we rented a crap ton of action movies back then… good or bad, it didn’t really matter, because we watched them all and actually liked most of them, as far as I remember. But, please… bear with me for a minute or two and I’ll tell you what I thought about this one.

Search and Destroy starts off in Vietnam, 1968, where we see a platoon get ambushed and most of the soldiers are killed. We then jump ahead 10 years and someone is killing the surviving members of the platoon. When one of the soldiers (R.J.) is found murdered in his car, his good friend, Kip Moore is understandably upset. The two of them worked at a used car lot owned by R.J.’s uncle and since he’s apparently a known criminal, the police is interested in knowing if R.J. and Kip were involved in anything that might have gotten him killed. Kip says no, not as far as he knows!

Shouting and hairpulling!

Shouting and hairpulling!

He then drives off to see another of the remaining soldiers, Buddy Grant, to tell him about R.J. They both decide to go pay the uncle a visit to see if he knows anything about the killing! And since none of them takes any crap from anyone, we get to see a little fisticuffs between the two friends and the uncle’s goons.

Kip Moore is played by Perry King, who’s an underrated actor in my opinion. He’s also been in Class of 1984, Switch and the TV-show Riptide.

His buddy, Buddy (sorry, couldn’t resist), is played by an actor I first remember seeing in the movie Hollywood Man. I never actually knew it by anything but its Swedish title, Djävulsänglarnas Hämnd (Revenge of the Devilangels… yeah, don’t ask), and never bothered to check either and to be quite honest, don’t remember anything about it other than watching it at one point! The title always stuck with me though… I don’t know why! Reading the synopsis for it now kind of, almost bring back a tiny sliver of recollection, but still… no! But, I digress! The actor’s name is Don Stroud who’s worked a lot in TV, but also in movies such as the original (and best) The Amityville Horror and Death Weekend. The latter one was released as The House by the Lake in the U.S and that one I DO remember!

Tisa Farrow

Tisa Farrow

Death Weekend was directed by William Fruet who also directed this week’s movie, Search and Destroy, and also Spasms, just to name a couple. Later in his career he mostly worked in TV, directing episodes in series like Poltergeist: The Legacy, War of the Worlds, Friday the 13th and Goosebumps.

Search and Destroy is a Canadian action flick and I like the fact that it’s set in Niagara Falls. Buddy actually works as a repair-man on the tourist boats at the falls. As far as I know, it was one of the first post Vietnam War movies and it depicted the veterans more realistically and not like some unbeatable super-human types, like in many later movies. They’re just regular guys holding “small” jobs and having a hard time dealing with, and letting go of the war. In one scene, Kip tells his girlfriend Kate that he actually liked the war and the rush it gave him, and that he misses that feeling.

The assassin about to wreak havoc!

The assassin about to wreak havoc!

We find out fairly quickly that the person killing the veterans is a guy who was a Vietnamese liaison in the platoon during the war. In the ambush I mentioned earlier, he leaves one of the wounded soldiers behind, which his buddies don’t like at all, so they basically do the same to him and that’s the reason why he’s picking them off one by one 10 years later. Kip and Buddy are the last ones and when the killer sets his sights on them and also Kip’s girlfriend, the shit really hits the fan and turns downtown Niagara Falls and its surroundings into a battlefield!

It’s not a “happy feeling” type of movie, because there are no real “winners” here. The vets are all scarred from their experiences in the war and don’t really know how to respond otherwise than with violence… and they kind of relish the high they get from it.

I went into this flick with no expectations at all… which was a good thing, I suppose, and I was surprised at how much I actually liked it. The cast is good and apart from the two leads, Perry King and Don Stroud, we also see Tisa Farrow as Kip’s girlfriend Kate. Ms. Farrow is the daughter of the gorgeous Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane in numerous Tarzan movies) and sister of Mia Farrow. You might recognize Tisa from such genre favorites as, for instance, Zombi 2 (Zombie Flesh Eaters) or Anthropophagus.

"Dammit! Where's Frank Drebin when I need him?"

“Dammit! Where’s Frank Drebin when I need him?”

Another actor I’m sure you’ll recognize is George Kennedy! He plays the part of the investigating police officer, Anthony Fusqua, and is great here… as usual, I might add. He’s been in Death Ship, the Airport movies and of course the Naked Gun movies too.

The Vietnamese killer is played by Jong Soo Park who only has two other credits to his name… a TV-movie called The Park Is Mine and an episode in a TV-series called Seeing Things.

The score for the movie was done by a Canadian progressive rock group called FM. It’s actually pretty good and I liked it a lot!

As I stated earlier, I really liked Search and Destroy and I’m sure I’ll re-visit it from time to time. It was paired with the movie The Glove on a drive-in double feature DVD with intermissions, trailers and stuff. It’s all pretty cool and kind of gives you a nice 70’s grindhouse feel! The Glove was actually the reason I bought the DVD in the first place, so Search and Destroy was a nice bonus. I haven’t seen The Glove either, so I’m looking forward to that one too, and I’ll tell you all about it next time.

So, until then… please tell me your thoughts in the comments section below!


(Unfortunately I was unable to find a trailer for this great flick. Not for lack of trying, though! How’s that for a forgotten flick, huh?)

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