Bullet Points: Zone Troopers
Picture it. Italy. 1944. Three American soldiers and a war correspondent are trapped behind enemy lines, but they’ll encounter much more than Nazis on this adventure.
That is the hook for a movie I would classify as another hidden gem of the 1980’s, Zone Troopers.
Zone Troopers was produced by Empire Pictures. Empire Pictures, which was run by Albert Band and his son Charles, were masters of cross pollinating their action movies with elements of sci-fi and horror. We’ve covered other Empire Pictures productions in the past like Eliminators and Ghost Warrior, but Zone Troopers is by far my favorite of the bunch. And one of the main reasons for that is the cast…
- Our Heroes: Leading our group of heroes is Sgt. Stone, or as he is more commonly known The Sarge. The Sarge is played by the one and only Tim Thomerson of Iron Eagle fame. The Sarge is becoming something of a legend after cheating death on numerous occasions. Thomerson plays the part to hard ass perfection… Then there’s Art La Fleur, a grizzled combat vet known as Mittens to his fellow soldiers. You may remember LaFleur from such action flicks as Death Warrant and Cobra… Joey (Timothy Van Patten) could be considered the heart of the movie. His youthful exuberance and imagination is a stark contrast to the other heroes in the movie… Finally there’s war correspondent Charlie Dolan (Biff Manard). Dolan is a pretty well known writer having many of his articles published nationally (he even received a Zippo lighter from General Patton) Dolan was sent to do a story on the invincible Sgt. Stone, but instead gets up caught up in the action and ends up with a story more fitting for a sci-fi magazine than a newspaper… There is great chemistry among these four characters and as a viewer it is easy to emotionally invest into them.
- Our Villains: Zone Troopers greatly benefits from having one of the greatest group of villains in the history of the world as their movie bad guys… the Nazis. The Nazis make for great movie villains too, just ask Indiana Jones and The Blues Brothers. Zone Troopers even takes it up another notch with an appearance from Adolf Hitler (more on that a little later). Using the Nazis as an evil entity also allowed the movie to not really have one main villain. Normally this is something I’d frown upon but it worked in this movie. You may be wondering why there are so many Nazis running around this rather remote part of Italy. Well the answer to that question is the discovery of a rocket ship that crashed on Earth that has Hitler and the Nazis very curious. Think about it, advanced alien technology could greatly affect the outcome of the war, so it makes sense that the Nazis have some of their best men trying to unlock the secrets of the rocket ship and enough men there to protect this game changing discovery.
- Intergalactic Allied Powers: The Nazis didn’t just discover the rocket ship, they also captured the sole alien survivor of the crash. But the alien isn’t the only one captured by the German based heels. After a not so well thought out deer hunt by Mittens and Dolan, they too find themselves prisoners of war. Fortunately the tough as nails Sgt. Stone is not one to leave his men behind, so he springs into action along with Joey to go save their fellow soldiers. Joey ends up freeing the captive alien too. After this act of earthling kindness, the alien joins forces with the Americans forming an intergalactic alliance. The alien proves to be a valuable ally and the aforementioned “advanced alien technology” more than evens the odds as Sgt. Stone, Joey, Mittens and Dolan have to take on an entire platoon of Nazis with tanks.
The thing I love most about Zone Troopers is that the movie is rooted in reality with World War II in Europe as the backdrop, but then the story goes completely out of this world. It makes for a a one of a kind movie watching experience that you can watch over and over again. Zone Troopers gets my seal of approval and highest recommendation.
I also highly recommend you read these Bonus Bullet Points…
- In the Mood: The movie kicks off with the classic song “In the Mood” probably made most famous by The Glenn Miller Orchestra. The energetic big band classic sets the tone of the movie, taking the audience back in time and getting them ready for some fun.
- Trancers Reunion: Tim Thomerson, Biff Manard and Art LaFleur all appeared in another Empire Pictures production, Trancers.
- THIS Is How We Do It: Zone Troopers was the first movie that aired during the “soft launch” of American diginet THIS TV in October of 2008.
- When In Rome: This was the first film the Band Family made in Rome, Italy. The Bands would eventually set up shop and build Empire Studios there.
- Scene of the Century: When the forces of evil are interrogating Mittens and Dolan, the Führer himself, Adolf Hitler shows up but before he can say anything Mittens punches Hitler right in the kisser! I think the only other man who can make such a claim is Captain America.