Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr
Screenplay: Brain Russell
Starring: Christopher Stone, Jim Antonio, Sid Conrad, Gerrit Graham, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, Paul Koslo
BBFC Classification: 15
The 1980’s was awash with US military themed action films. Celebrating the heroic and jingoistic nature of soldiers, particularly those who had served in Vietnam, the 80s gave us the likes of Rambo , The Delta Force and hundreds of cheap jack imitations of these big budget films, usually from Cirio Santiago. Either set during the Vietnam war or seeing soldiers return to the country to rescue POWs or set at home on US turf where former soldiers take up arms to do good, these types of films were a dime a dozen back in the day. Riding that wave and ripe for rediscovery is the low budget but high fun The Annihilators.
Using the soldiers back home after the war who have to reunite to take action crux, The Annihilators wastes no time in its set up as a team of crack commandos re-form after many years to avenge the death of one of their former comrades at the hands of a nasty gang who are running riot in a downtown Atlanta neighbourhood. Said team includes genre greats such as Christopher Stone (Cujo), Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs (L.A. Heat) and Andy Wood (Rambo: First Blood Part 2) who, ala The Magnificent Seven, train the neighbourhood residents to protect themselves against (hey, it’s that guy!) Paul Koslo and his gang of nasty hoods.
Low rent, daft and just tipping into exploitation (thanks to a couple of gratuitously violent scenes), The Annihilators is nonetheless an action hoot with plenty of shoot-outs, explosions and b-movie barminess carrying it through its breezy 85 minutes. Sure it’s dated, budget stretched and the action is very much of The A-Team style of everyone shooting constantly and hitting nothing variety but it’s got charm thanks to the committed leads and assurance that the bad guys are getting what they deserve. Speaking of The A-Team (which was a popular show at the time this flick was released), The Annihilators plays like a more grown up version of said show as bad guys actually die and do get shot and stabbed in bloody squibbed fashion. Hell, the titles even seem to steal the font and style of The A-Team opening, complete with gun blast noises as they appear on screen. Cool!
In amongst all the shoot ‘em up action and B-movie cheesiness, there is a blue collar hero vibe that makes a refreshing change from all the super and high-tech heroes that clog up films these days. There are also hints of seriousness with one of the squad battling a drinking problem and some local kids potentially seduced into Koslo’s violent gang but they are soon glossed over in favour of more cheap gun blasting action. Fan’s of 80’s action films will find a lot to enjoy here and kudos to Arrow for digging out a less well known and fan-boy loved cult flick and giving it a shiny new release.
The Annihilators is released on UK Blu Ray by Arrow Video on 13th May 2019. Along with a new 2k restoration the film comes with a reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork, trailer and a censorship comparison (which shows what was cut in the original UK release).
The best features are a couple of short docs.
In Search of Charles E. Sellier Jr looks at the director’s earlier works with former producing partner David O’Malley offering an interesting insight in to how Sellier worked.
However, The New Heat on the Street is the best of two: an interview with co-star Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, who talks fondly of making the film and is refreshingly proud of what they managed to do on such a small budget.