SEARCH AND DESTROY. 1979. Perry King, Don Stroud, Tisa Farrow, George Kennedy, Tony Sheer, Jong Soo Park. Director: William Fruet.


   First Blood, the first Rambo movie, was made in 1982, and at the time, that was the earliest post-Vietnam War movie I remember seeing. Until this one, that is. I’m no expert on the genre, but since the war didn’t end until 1975, and no one was very much interested in seeing films about that particular military debacle, Search and Destroy may have been among the first.

   And despite a story line that doesn’t allow much room for digression, it’s a good one. It takes place in 1978, with members of a small platoon of Vietmam vets in the process of being hunted down and killed. It seems that the group was ambushed during one of their missions, and in the confusion of the attack and the haste of the retreat they left an Vietnamese advisor behind. To die, so they assumed, but — you’ve caught on already? — no indeed, he did not.


   Two of the still surviving vets (Perry King and Don Stroud) live in the Niagara Falls area, which makes a terrific background for the action film of retribution and revenge, both the falls themselves and the rather shabby town that’s been built up next to it. (I’m told most of the movie was filmed on the Canadian side, even though it’s meant to be the American, logically speaking.)

   George Kennedy, in his usual fine pugnacious form, plays the police chief whose job is to stop the violence and keep the general populace safe. (Good luck on both!) Tisa Farrow, King’s slim girl friend looked awfully familiar to me, but the bell didn’t ring until after the movie was over, when I read through the credits again, and her last name finally jumped out at me. Jon Soo Park, who has the assassin’s role, didn’t have any lines to say, as I recall, but he’s quite effective as the methodical, single-minded killer, well-trained in the martial arts and other deadly skills.


   But it’s only when the action moves to the background that the movie takes on any real purpose or meaning: about the buddies you make in wartime, the promises you make to each other, the highs that fighting a war without supervision can give you, and the lows that have to be overcome when you come home and try lead a normal life again.

   If there were a little more of this side of the story, and a little less of firepower and other pyrotechnics, as grand as they may be, I wouldn’t hesitate in calling this a noir film – at least neo-noir. It didn’t have much of a budget, and I’m sure it was all but unknown when it was first released, but if you’re into this kind of film, this is a good one.