Director: Aristide Massaccesi (Joe D'Amato)

The man synonymous with 70s sleaze, Joe D'Amato, dabbled in just about every genre in European exploitation. Whether it be horror (ANTROPOPHOGUS), nunsploitation (IMAGES IN A CONVENT), erotica (the BLACK EMANUELLE series) or porno (countless films), D'Amato took a nosedive into filth after a respectable career as a cinematographer and was still as happy as a pig in shit. With the strange popularity of war films in the late 70s and early 80s, it was only natural to jump on the bandwagon with an over-the-top action/adventure flick like TOUGH TO KILL.

Eurocrime badass Luc Merenda plays Martin, a globe-hopping hitman who lands in Hong Kong and signs up to join a band of mercenaries in an unidentified jungle fighting an unidentified enemy. After landing at the group's training camp, he watches as a bomb falls from the sky and blows up the helicopter and pilot who brought him! Eurocult favorite Donald O'Brien is Haggerty, the tyrannical leader of the troupe who takes no nonsense from his men. Among the soldiers is Palaski, a former piano player who carries a cute little bunny with him at all times and Leon, Haggerty's blustery right-hand man. When 20 men are sent on a suicide mission to take back possession of a dam in the hands of "the enemy," it is revealed that one of them is a wanted man with a ransom on his head...and Martin is anxious to get his hands on the reward! But he must fight to bring back his man.

The film takes its sweet time getting started, with no character development, action sequences or sex and violence to keep viewers interested. But once the plot finally kicks in, it's pretty engaging. There's lots of great gritty dialogue, a heart-pounding obstacle course, a native forced into a vat of urine and feces, quicksand, a meal of cyanide-filled rabbit, an offscreen decapitation, multiple double-crosses (including a great surprise ending), irritating dubbing, several scenes of beefcake (including Donald O'Brien in tiny bikini briefs underwear!), and a pretty ridiculous musical score by Stelvio Cipriani which recycles the closing theme to BAY OF BLOOD!! However, it's not one of D'Amato's best and despite being a lot of fun while watching it, it's pretty forgettable in the long run.

Ventura's letterboxed DVD is a real eyesore, to say the least. The transfer appears to be from a battered widescreen VHS tape, but what makes it worse is that the bottom matte is larger than the top, possibly to obscure foreign subtitles. There are tracking lines in several scenes, colors are ugly and washed-out, skin tones way off. The mono audio sounds muffled in some spots, but comes across clearly enough to understand the dialogue. There are no extras, making the disc as a whole easy to skip. (Casey Scott)