Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hustler Squad

Does 1976's HUSTLER SQUAD match up to its incredible poster? Could any film?

Filipino actors posing as Japanese and a lack of period detail add to the hilarity of this silly action flick set in World War II. Basically THE DIRTY DOZEN with chicks (and only four of them to fit Crown International’s budget), HUSTLER SQUAD grasps its pervy premise with both hands and commits halfway, ignoring the sensual aspects. It’s set in Australia, but obviously filmed in the Philippine Islands, and the clothing, hairstyles, and language is strictly Seventies. Still, HUSTLER SQUAD is an entertaining drive-in picture that serves up plenty of pulpy action.

The Allied have sixty days to plan a stealth attack on an envoy of Japanese officers holding a strategic meeting at a whorehouse. Major Stonewell (John Ericson, best known as Honey West’s sidekick), who doesn’t really seem like an out-of-the-box thinker, recruits four women with little to lose, trains them to kill, and sends them into the brothel disguised as prostitutes. On the squad: salty hooker Cindy (Crystin Sinclaire in the Roberta Collins role), convicted killer Rose (Nory Wright), rape victim Sonya (Liza Lorena), and terminally ill nurse Anna (Johanna Raunio), in addition to Lieutenant West (Karen Ericson, billed in earlier productions as Karen Huston) and Paco (Ramon Ravilla), the lone survivor of the initial assault on the island containing the brothel.

Perhaps director Cesar Gallardo’s heart wasn’t in it, because even though the women spend most of their downtime bitching about needing to get laid, HUSTLER SQUAD is remarkably sexless. The director occasionally pops for a topless scene, but he emphasizes the men’s adventure aspect of the plot, putting the girls through extensive training and bookending the film with extended rat-a-tat shootouts against Japanese ground forces. A Japanese admiral is portrayed with intelligence and sensitivity, adding a dose of complexity to what is otherwise a simple actioner.

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