[Editor’s Note: I was a big fan of the One from the Vault feature that we started last year in order to dig through the depths of Netflix streaming to highlight obscure or cult titles not yet available on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, due to hectic schedules and lack of time, we let this drop off our radar. I’ve asked our new blogger Wayne to revive the feature for us. He’s started off with a fun pick. -JZ]
In a world that time forgot… a world where humans of Earth rented VHS tapes… fortunes once were made and lost from crappy Z-grade movies and rip-offs. ‘Zone Troopers’ is a classic ’80s flick of said ilk. What are you getting into with this movie? WWII film clichés, interesting production design, and a score only slightly modified from John Williams ‘Star Wars’ themes should be clues enough.
The ever-versatile Tim Thomerson, second in line to Bruce Campbell’s B-movie throne, stars as “The Sarge.” Thomerson has made countless movies like this one. ‘Zone Troopers’ is a sci-fi/action/comedy romp and a tribute to times gone by, where men were men, when punching Hitler in the face was hilarious, and when special effects were… well, cheap masks and lens flares. (Oh wait, J.J. Abrams is STILL using lens flares, sorry.)
Other stars of ‘Zone Troopers’ include ‘American Ninja’ mentionable Timothy Van Patten (before he made his rise to TV director stardom) and the very busy/prolific character actor Art LaFleur. Danny Bilson, who is better known for his writing skills, directed this movie. Bilson penned all six ‘Trancers’ flicks, ‘The Rocketeer’ and several video game scripts/stories.
Thomerson, Van Patten and LaFleur make their way through a thin sci-fi/World War II adventure fraught with aliens, Nazis, peril and wonky humor. The Sarge’s platoon, having recently been thinned out by an enemy encounter, gets trapped behind enemy lines. Soon, the hapless bunch is caught between both aliens and the Nazis who are trying to figure out what’s going on. Apparently, a spacecraft crash landed (or was shot down by the Nazis; it’s unclear). The remaining aliens wander the woods, mysteriously saving the G.I.s and shunning the Germans. I’m not sure if I should say much more, since those who have seen it know all the hoots. Those who haven’t and are curious should surely spend 86 minutes reveling in this ’80s glory.
‘Zone Troopers’ is not currently available on Blu-ray, like many of Thomerson’s flicks or the catalog from defunct Lightning Video (which includes one of my favorite films, ‘Alligator’). Having it available on Netflix is quite welcome. The presentation is nothing to write home about, but is decent enough. The color is often inconsistent and occasionally washed out. Grain levels are also capricious. Darker scenes look like sandpaper, and other scenes look slightly worn. But this is the case with so many of these ’80s B-movies. It’s completely watchable. Streamed in HD, it looks better than I remembered it. Which is to say, the last time I saw it was probably on videotape. Regardless, any fan of schlock and Thomerson should definitely check it out.
If you’d like to see an incredibly condensed version of Zone Troopers, complete with every special effects scene, watch this “trailer” from VHS:
Catalog titles are still playing catch-up on Blu-ray, and out of print DVDs are getting hard to find. Luckily, there’s Netflix. “One From the Vault” is a recurring feature exploring the wide selection of movies that the Netflix Instant Streaming service has to offer that are out of print, unavailable, or just hard to find in other formats.