Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Films of Mats Helge: ANIMAL PROTECTOR (1988)

From the box:

“A group of na├»ve but well meaning animal lovers and conversafionists (sic) mount their own campaign to free the helpless creatures they considerneed (sic) rescuing. All hell breaks loose as these girls find themselves in a situation way beyond their capabilities. Bravely, with the help of Santino and Lomax, they battle against the almost insurmountable evil forces of Withlock’s (sic) private army. The girls find themselves trapped in the middle of small scale war leading to tragic consequences.”

Any film synopsis that has multiple spelling errors on the back of the case automatically gets points from me. So, have you ever wonder what it would look like if PETA were ever to make an action flick? Its plot might resemble the one of Animal Protector. But, thankfully, PETA didn’t have a hand in this film and it came from the master of over the top Swedish action cinema, Mats Helge.

P.E.T.A. - Pretty Euros Treasure Animals
This was only my third exposure to Swedish action madman Helge’s work (the first two being the even more insane THE NINJA MISSION [1984] and the singing slasher BLOOD TRACKS [1985]), but it is safe to say that he has a style that is all his own. First and foremost, Helge loves his explosions. He doesn’t just love them – he reallllly loves them. His films seem to be the predecessor of the PM Entertainment action films where bigger definitely means better. No joke, if the IMDb is to be believed, he is apparently half-deaf due to the big ass explosions from his movies.  ANIMAL PROTECTOR is no exception, although Helge saves the Mat-atude for this film’s last half. Secondly, Helge likes to have a plot that is a bit left of ludicrous. I mean, the aforementioned BLOOD TRACKS had snowbound cannibals taking on a hair metal band. Here, the animal activist group “Animal Protectors” decides to free some animals on a top secret island the same night C.I.A. agents Santino (Hellquist) and Lomax plan on taking the corrupt Whitlock (Carradine) out. What a stroke of luck! And who can be tougher than some ladies dressed in tapered jeans with big teased blonde hair? Once they get on the island they bust out some camouflage shorts.  Way to blend in there, sisters!

The cast is predominantly Swedish with the exception of top billed star David Carradine, who is enjoyable as Whitlock. He is surprisingly pretty physical for the role, throwing down in quite a few fights.  He also adds a clever little wink after he says something evil. Looking at his filmography, it appears Carradine did a three-film stint with Helge in the late '80s.  I guess ol’ Dave heard there was a ton of snow in the mountains of Sweden and took his chances.  I’m sure he was disappointed.  The film’s real star is owner of one of the best names I have seen in years, A.R. Hellquist.  He is a dead ringer for Kurt Russell in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986). Check out this photo if you don’t believe me:

"Jack Burton."
It was fun to envision this as a pseudo-sequel where Jack Burton gets wrapped up with some wacky animal lover chicks (actually, I want Carpenter to make that film now!). Hellquist is pretty agile and a good fighter, but has all the range of a VCR remote. Helge does him no favors by putting him ridiculous situations. For example, when Santino decides it is time to get down to business, he rips off his shirt to reveal a camouflage tank top and yells, “Whitlock, now it is time for you to dieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” What makes this even funnier is that Santino is completely alone when he does this and Whitlock is nowhere in sight.  And that, my friends, is why we love the cinema of Mats Helge.

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