Saturday, March 17, 2012

Code Name Zebra

The Action Mutant…
's code name is "Art Vandelay".

Code Name Zebra

review by Joe Burrows

The Plot, as it was:
Glenn Wilder plays a scarred Vietnam vet that heads a group of former soldiers on a different type of mission. They concoct heists of the local mob by disguising themselves as African Americans and escaping elaborate situations, all the while knowing they won't be questioned. Naturally, the Mafioso blame the black drug dealers and the crooked Sgt. Stangman (Stafford Morgan) amongst them so an all out gang war breaks out while the Zebra gang gears up for one last job.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Interesting gimmick aside (Racist.Clever...cute, but racist), Code Name Zebra plays out as your standard 70s crime thriller that's low on frills and even lower on budget. Granted, the filmmakers make the most of their budget with some nice action pieces and ostentatious slow motion shots. A veteran stuntman, Wilder does fine in the lead, complete with charred face makeup & voice box device (which makes him sound like pro wrestling legend Harley Race). The makeup in question may be the most believable on him, as suspending the disbelief of the others being black is absurd at best (watch for the scene where one guy literally has the black beaten from him). The "white as black" angle (get it? Zebra! Huzzah!) doesn't take away from the fact that the story is the standard mix of double crosses, car chases and wooden dialogue. The Zebra gang can't really be called the "heroes" of the story either, if you need a hero that is. They just rip off one unwitting side and pit them against the other, which makes for a rather mechanical and unfulfilling premise. The only thing that saves the flick from being totally routine is the twist ending. I don't know if it really made sense or what but it does qualify as the most memorable thing in Code Name Zebra.

Body Count/Violence: 49. For a late 70s actioner, CNZ is fairly kill happy. Lots of gunplay results in the majority of corpses with occasional blood splatter. Stabbing, beating, electrocution, car crashing and impaling are also on the menu. This flick also reminds you to NEVER turn down a shoe shine.

Sexuality/Nudity: None.

Language/Dialogue: A few mild expletives but nothing memorably potent.

How bad was it?:
It's a mess trying to find a solid review for this, as its usually confused with a 1987 low budget action thriller named Code Name: Zebra. Reviews & comments for that film are peppered throughout this CNZ's page and vice versa, so be forewarned if you want to do some reading. The few lines I read about this film cited it as just being routine and not taking advantage of the main concept.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Filmed in late 1974 in Los Angeles by Pac West Cinema Group, Code Name Zebra didn't see the light of day until 1976. Released by Entertainment International Pictures, CNZ doesn't have any budget or box office figures to its name. You can watch it for free on public domain sites, as Amazon sells copies of the 1987 film for the most part.

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ***/*****

Copyright 2012 The Action Mutant.

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