Color, 1989, 104 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Eric Louizil
Starring Gene LeBrock, Kellee Bradley, David Crane, William J. Kulzer
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
If jingoistic action movies of the '80s (like just about anything Chuck Norris made for Cannon) hit your sweet spot, you really won't believe what's in store with Fortress of Amerikkka. The second film for UCLA grad and Troma veteran Eric Louzil (after Lust for Freedom and followed by two Class of Nuke 'Em High sequels), this gun crazy, dime store action epic is loaded with rah-rah-America dialogue that feels like John Milius on quaaludes, pounding rock music, acres of gratuitous nudity, and something exploding or getting shot every couple of minutes. Needless to say, you already know if this is the movie for you.
Back in Troma City after doing time on trumped-up charges, John Whitecloud (LeBrock from Beyond Darkness and Metamorphosis) is itching for revenge and loading up on firearms to target Sheriff Tex Bodine (Crane), who in turn is dealing with the presence of the Fortress of Amerikkka, a murder-happy paramilitary corporate syndicate bankrolled by the scuzzy Colonel Denton (Kulzer). After reuniting with old girlfriend Jennifer (Bradley), John stumbles into a covert war zone mostly taking place in the middle of the woods where any car in the vicinity is bound to get blown up.
Actually titled Fortress of Amerikkka: The Mercenaries on screen, this one has had a pretty cruddy reputation since its borderline unwatchable VHS release and a scuzzy DVD edition from Troma that didn't look any better. This definitely shouldn't be approached with a straight face though as the Russ Meyer-style opening narration should hopefully make clear: "This is a story about you and me. Good, freedom-loving Americans. Good, strong, hard-working citizens. People who ask only to be left in peace so that we and our families may travel down the American highway to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, our quest for the American dream is threatened because we are caught in the middle of a terrible war. We the people are the helpless victims of mortal combat between two powers elite battling for economic and political control of our society. John Whitecloud is one such decent American victim." In terms of narrative the film is a mess with inconsistencies and logic gaps all over the place, but on a trash level it delivers the goods-- perhaps to an absurd degree given the abnormally long running time for a movie like this.
As with its other Troma releases, Vinegar Syndrome has given this one a whole new lease on life on Blu-ray with a beautiful new 2K scan from the 35mm original camera negative. It looks so dramatically superior to the older video releases that this truly feels like a whole different film, and it's all the better for it. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track (with optional English subtitles) is also a hefty improvement with much more clarity and range than before. On the extras side, "Back to the Woods" (17m18s) with Louzil covers his pitching of the film to Troma's Lloyd Kaufman in New York, the natural and temperate shooting locations, the planned insurance scam that led to swapping out the leading man and tweaking the script a week into shooting, the tactics to shoot in Arizona to get away from SAG entanglements in Los Angeles, and the fact that Rambo III was shooting very close by with even more explosions. Plus, as he notes, "We didn't have names, but we had boobs." In "Chant with Me" (9m27s), "Bazooka" actor Troy Fromin recalls auditioning for the film, hopping in a motor home to shoot the Washington rain forest scenes, and the reason he isn't seen firing weapons too often in the final product. Finally in "Bad Dreams" (6m49s), actor Brad Roth shares the story of how he ended up on this film right after breaking up at his prom and discovering the wild world of Troma filmmaking, and the "18-year-old's dream" of being around prop guns and naked actors. This is part of the label's limited edition VSA series (5,000 units in this case), featuring the usual rigid slipbox packaging and a double-sided insert poster.
Reviewed on February 22, 2022