BRUTE CORPS (1971)
Director: Jerry Jameson
Starring: Alex Rocco, Jennifer Billingsley, Joseph Kaufman, Paul Carr
The first time I watched Brute Corps was on a DVDr that was burned from a low grade VHS of dubious origin. The print was horrendous. It looked like it was copied from a copy of another copy of another copy and on and on until what was left was barely viewable. Faces were blobs with two black dots for eyes. Voices tended to be the consistent guide, separating one character from the other. Even the nude scene between Kevin and Terry when they’re in the creek was pretty blown out. The only way you knew they were completely nude was because there were no blobs of color on their bodies. The print was so terrible that you could even see cracks in the film negative as the tape via the DVDr rolled on. But I kept with this movie because it is actually pretty good for what it is and an obscurity that should be better known with genre fans. The main characters are fleshed out enough to keep you interested and, at some point, feel sympathy towards.
Fortunately, Code Red released this on Blue Ray, and it looks great. It’s like seeing it for the first time in comparison to that grotty VHS dub to DVDr that I mentioned above. Faces are clear, you can see their features, know who’s who, and enjoy the mean and nasty movie that is coming your way.
Brute Corps starts off with a group of men in military fatigues winding through canyon roads in Southern California on their way to some undisclosed country in Central America. There’s a scene where one urinates out of the back of the truck while it’s in motion and the rest look on is not to be missed because it’s one of those “Did I just see what I think I did?” moments. Indeed, you did. We soon learn these men are a group of mercenaries known as Burkhart’s Bastards, led by the ineffective Colonel (Charles Macaulay). They pass a hitchhiking hippy, Kevin (Joseph Kaufman), who later becomes a central figure in the movie. But first, these Bastards tangle with some bikers, and a short while later stop off at a cantina in a dusty desert town to harass the locals, and prove to all in attendance that they are indeed deserving of the Bastards half of their moniker. It’s here that we are introduced to the sleazy and violent Wicks, played by Alex Rocco (The Godfather, The Entity, Three the Hard Way, Detroit 9000, The Friends of Eddie Coyle,Bonnie’s Kids, and numerous TV shows). He harasses a young barmaid while everyone just looks on. She wriggles out of his grasp, but the stage is set, and you know this guy is one nasty scum bag to not take your eyes off of. He has no moral boundaries whatsoever, just get what he wants and let no one get in his way. Rocco plays him perfectly. A villain you easily despise and will relish in seeing him get his much deserved comeuppance.
That hitchhiker, Kevin, that I previously mentioned just so happens to be headed in the same direction. He’s on the run from the military, and he meets up with Terry (Jennifer Billingsley), the free spirit hippy girl who tells him, “I like to ball, it’s the thing I do very best in life. I should have been a hooker.” Of course they hook up and have sex, and start to develop an emotional relationship rather quickly as they make their way into whatever town across the border their looking to disappear into.
Eventually Terry and Kevin cross paths with Wicks, and go back to the camp with the promise of free food. From here Wicks begins to manipulate the couple for his ends, which is to get Terry. Kevin gets hip to what Wicks is doing but is too high to effectively fight back, and knows he’s outmatched and outnumbered to save Terry from the hell that is coming her way.
Terry’s arrival in the camp exacerbates the division and dysfunction among Burkhart’s Bastards. The distrust among each of them makes you wonder how they made it this far this long. They all want Terry and they will gladly hurt one another for to get her. The ineffective Colonel Burkhart suggests they compete for who gets her, as to them she’s nothing more than a piece of meat. The competitions are pretty goofy for the most part, mostly hand to hand combat, and pad out the running time of the film. One member, Ross (Paul Carr), is sort of the conscious of the group, but for the most part a coward in that he doesn’t act sooner.
Once Wicks gets his hooks into Terry this movie gets nasty and grim. There’s enough tension to keep you engaged, and the performances from Rocco and whoever played Terry are pretty good. Rocco is so vile and sleazy you can’t look away. Terry elicits sympathy as the broken girl. You do wonder how she will go on with life after all the humiliation Wicks put her through.
This movie could be easily written off as a low budget trashy action flick, and it is, but the writers Michael Kars and Abe Polsky (who wrote the must see The Baby (1973)) and director Jerry Jameson (The Bat People, The Six Million Dollar Man, etc.) did pretty well with their resources and delivered much more than anyone could have expected. (MA)
Nate Wilson: NW Devon Cahill: DC Matt Average: MA