Thou Shalt Not Kill ... Except
Any film that has a story co-written by Bruce Campbell and features Sam Raimi in an acting role should pique the interest of a certain type of trash-movie maven.
Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, Fri., April 27, 2001
THOU SHALT NOT KILL ... EXCEPT
(aka Stryker's War)
D: Josh Becker (1985); with Brian Schulz, John Manfredi, Robert Rickman, Timothy Quill, Sam Raimi.
Any film that has a story co-written by Bruce Campbell and features Sam Raimi in an acting role should pique the interest of a certain type of trash-movie maven. Things open up in Vietnam as Sgt. Stryker (Schulz) leads his men into an ill-planned firefight, where he takes two bullets to the leg and is rescued by his buddy Jackson (Rickman). Stryker recovers stateside (walking with a cane) and reunites with his Marine buddies at his secluded cabin (actually the inside of Campbell's garage). The pals reminisce and drink, but things get interesting when Stryker's girlfriend is abducted by a cult of hippie dirtbags (her grandfather is murdered by them). Being a typically traumatized movie Vietnam-vet, Stryker has a footlocker full of rifles and shotguns; together the Marines go out to kick asses and take names. Sure, it's a bewhiskered action/ revenge/Vietnam vet plot, but the movie refuses to take itself too seriously. After all, don't forget that Stryker was the name of John Wayne's character in Sands of Iwo Jima. Raimi himself is an incredible bug-eyed scene-hog with his ratty wig, nasty teeth, and cut-rate Manson persona (Raimi's brother Ted fills in as Chainman, a member of the hippie/biker cult). Campbell and Becker supply a hilarious commentary track on the DVD, revealing such details as the movie's scant $60,000 budget, Rickman's sideline as Michigan's No. 1 Mr. T impersonator (requiring the T-top, a hairpiece to fit around his Mohawk), and the fact that the movie was shut down six days into production when the money ran completely out! Considering the problems, it's fairly incredible that it wound up looking as good as it did. Becker worked on the Evil Dead movies as well, and at times Thou Shalt Not Kill Except seems so much like a Raimi project that you half expect to see his butterscotch Oldsmobile drive through a scene. Listen for a cheesy remake of the Beatles' "Revolution #9" with the line "I buried Sam" and an ad-lib war reminiscence by Stryker that's a brief plot recap of Sam Fuller's The Steel Helmet -- and watch for Bruce Campbell's feet.