The Ravagers (1965)
One thing we can be sure of when it comes to a made in the Philippines production no matter what the genre and that’s the appearance of Vic Diaz. Shockingly he’s a member of John Saxon’s guerilla army battling the Japanese who occupy the territory as opposed to playing trader and working for his country’s invaders. But don’t underestimate our perpetual bad guy of Philippines cinema. Give him time and he’s bound to go bad.
Produced by Hemisphere Pictures and directed by Eddie Romero, Saxon was cast in the lead for what I can only assume were overseas sales in this low budget effort with very little plot to recommend it at 79 minutes . However, despite the fact that there isn’t much going on in the pages of the script, there are some expertly directed and choreographed battle sequences of in your face fighting to compensate when Saxon and his army take on the Japanese led by Vic Salayan.
The story involves a fortune in gold that the Japanese commander has confiscated as the spoils of war. He’s set about storing it in within the walls of a convent that houses a group of Catholic Nuns overseen by the Mother Superior, Kristina Scott, who scored an introducing credit at the film’s opening. According to the IMDB she would go on to make just one more appearance on camera. So much for the intro buildup. Hidden away within the walls is an American blonde haired gal played by Bronwyn Fitzsimons. Here’s another actress who had a very short career. This proved to be her farewell performance in a career that scored just two movie appearances. The other being a bit in 1963’s Spencer’s Mountain starring…. SURPRISE …. her mother, Maureen O’Hara.
Saxon intends to lay siege to the convent, kill as many enemy soldiers as is possible and steal the gold and hand it over to the allies. Backing him up and looking as if he just stepped off the cover of GQ in a white dress shirt is the Philippines own, Fernando Poe Jr. who according to the IMDB scored an incredible 261 acting credits and even ran for his country’s presidency in 2004 shortly before his untimely death at the age of 65.
Did John Saxon mention gold? Believe me Vic Diaz heard it and he also took more than a passing interest in Miss Fitzsimons. Looks like Vic’s on screen persona isn’t going to let me down after all.
The last half of the film is mainly a battle zone with the camera right in the middle of the action. The black and white photography and rapid fire of machine guns comes off as top notch footage caught on camera by Romero and his crew. The sequences are clearly the film’s highlight.
During the height of the gunfire exchanges between Saxon’s freedom fighters and Salayan’s occupation force, Diaz and a few of his own followers are looking to make off with a truck loaded with gold and hide it away in a mountain waterfall. Now Saxon is on his trail and so are the Japanese which will culminate with a mountain side battle that again proves to be a highlight of this minor entry in the career of the prolific John Saxon who is probably best known for his co-starring role in Enter the Dragon.
Always considering myself a fan of John Saxon since childhood, picking this film up out of a bargain bin on DVD was an easy decision. Thanks to those battle sequences, it proved to be a wise decision and worthwhile checking out despite my having little faith in seeing anything memorable. By the time of this production, Saxon had gone from a teenage heartthrob romancing Sandra Dee to playing the lead in War Hunt opposite a young Robert Redford to working for Mario Bava in a Giallo thriller. There really isn’t a genre you won’t find this versatile actor in be it under a cowboy hat, battling Freddy Kreuger or wearing a suit.
Of course the film is dubbed aside from Saxon but then most films are that found their way to North America from the Philippines. Cult and horror film fans might be the first to recognize both Hemisphere Productions and Eddie Romero’s name. The pair are responsible for some gross out fun titles including Beast of the Yellow Night, Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Beast of Blood and yes, The Brides of Blood. Seen and enjoyed them all and with the recent release of them all on blu ray I look forward to seeing them once again. Eddie would also produce these films working side by side with actor/producer John Ashley on these Blood tiles and many others.
Rare? I suppose so considering it’s taken years to come into my world of movie watching. But then that can be said of plenty of John Saxon movies and by extension Eddie Romero efforts. With just 47 Saxon films in my collection there are plenty still to hunt down. So if you find yourself looking through some discarded titles, here’s the cover of The Ravagers.