Bullet Points: White Ghost
The Vietnam War may go down as the most unpopular war in the history of the United States, but the Vietnam War was super popular in the movie world, especially in the 1980’s. Many an action star was getting their piece of the Vietnam pie during that era… Sylvester Stallone had Rambo: First Blood Part II, Chuck Norris had three Missing in Action movies, David Carradine had P.O.W. the Escape, Michael Dudikoff had Platoon Leader, Richard Norton had Not Another Mistake and William Katt had White Ghost.
That’s right, believe it or not… William Katt of The Greatest American Hero fame was cast as an Army badass in 1988’s White Ghost…
- The Premise: Steve Shepherd (William Katt) was proudly serving his country in the Vietnam war, but on July 4, 1972, Shepherd disappeared in the jungles of Vietnam. Fifteen years has passed as our movie begins and Shepherd has now made the jungles of Vietnam his home. Shepherd has fallen in love with Thi Hau (Rosalind Chao) and the two are expecting their first child. As the border wars between Vietnamese and Cambodian forces are heating up, Thi Hau begs Steve to reach out to the United States Army so they can get the hell out of Vietnam and start a new life with their child in the United States. Steve reaches out and the powers that be decide to send a team of mercenaries to go into the jungles of Vietnam and extract Steve Shepherd and Thi Hau, but there is a problem…
- The Problem: The team of mercenaries that is tasked with the extraction is led by Captain Walker. As bad luck would have it, Walker was Steve Shepherd’s former commanding officer. He is also the same man that Shepherd filed charges against after Walker purposely (and happily) killed innocent women and children in Vietnam. While Walker was never court martialed, he was quietly asked to leave the United States Army… hence his new life as a mercenary. In Walker’s eyes this extraction mission is a chance to get even with Steve Shepherd and he has painted Shepherd as a traitor to the member of his team that needs to be brought back… dead or alive. Unfortunately, the man who ordered Walker and his crew to go on this mission, Major Cross (Reb Brown of Cage fame), did not find out this not so fun fact until Walker and his men arrived in Vietnam. To his credit, Cross hops on a plane to try to right this wrong.
- The Predicament: Steve Shepherd goes from meeting up with what he believes is the extraction team to becoming a target for an execution team moments after he and Walker lock eyes for the first time in 15 years. The only thing Shepherd has going for him is all of this is happening on his turf… having spent the last decade and a half in the jungle, Shepherd knows the area like the back of his hand. Shepherd starts taking out members of Walker’s team of mercenaries and he even gets some help when Waco (Martin Hewitt), the junior member of the merc team, realizes Walker is off his rocker and that he has been fighting on the wrong side. But things get worse for Shepherd after the Vietnamese forces that were patrolling the area have taken Thi Hau captive and torture her as they believe she is in cahoots with the Americans. Now Shepherd not only has to avoid being killed by Walker, he also has to save the love of his life and he has to do all of this in time to meet the helicopter so he and Thi Hau can start their new life together.
I enjoyed the unique twist that White Ghost gave their Vietnam themed story, this allowed White Ghost to stand on its own and not come across as a cheap imitation of one of the more popular films in the sub-genre. And any film that gives Reb Brown the chance to shoot a gun and scream at the top of his lungs is ok with me.
Bonus Bullet Points are ok with me too…
- The Fashion Files: William Katt spends most of the first act of the movie rocking some Army green short shorts and a mullet. This was still a better look for Katt than the deep v-neck sweater he wore in House.
- The Name Game: The movie got the name White Ghost because the locals believed that Steve Shepherd was actually the ghost of a dead American soldier who is now haunting the jungle.
- Familiar Faces: John Barrett of American Kickboxer 1 infamy, played one of Walker’s mercenaries. Barrett also had supporting roles in Shootfighter: Fight to the Death and Gymkata… Len Sparrowhawk played one of the powers that be early on in the movie that decided whether or not any action would be taken when Steve Shepherd requested an extraction from Vietnam. I will always associate Sparrowhawk with his role as Sgt. McCarthy in the classic American Ninja 2: The Confrontation where he so eloquently told Michael Dudikoff’s Joe Armstrong to not go “puking on the pavement”… Another member of Walker’s mercenary team was played by Graham Clarke, who MST3K fans will recognize from his role in Space Mutiny.
- Favorite Quote: “What we have here gentlemen is a real clusterfuck.” – Captain Walker
- Directed By: White Ghost was the first feature film directed by BJ Davis, a man primarily known for his stunt work.