Bat 21 (1988) Coffee Slamming Danny Glover Flies Into War Zone To Save Golf Mad Gene Hackman

Bat 21 (1988) Gene Hackman Danny Glover vhs tape cassette cover vietnam

Day 11 Bat 21 from 1988

Tagline –Trapped behind enemy lines. A whole army after him… And only one man can save him.

Who’s our hero today?
Well I’m gonna switch it up here and put Danny Glover and his portrayal of Captain Bartholomew Clark, who goes by the name, Bird Dog in the hero spot.

Had I seen this one on VHS back in the day?
No I hadn’t but I really remember seeing the cover many times on the video store shelves. I don’t know why but I had thought it was a Vietnam war movie with a comic edge, like MASH. Must of been the title Bat*21 with the star in it. Like what M*A*S*H used on it’s cover. So I thought it was high time I saw this “action” film. Man it was not what I was expecting. I didn’t realise it was based on real events either. It doesn’t really fit in with this frenzied month of action collection like Uncommon Valor (1983) would of but I’m gonna try my best.

Bat 21 (1988) Gene Hackman Danny Glover vietnam pilot rescue mission

Quick plot run down.
A high ranking Lieutenant Colonel with vast knowledge of tactical battle strategies and an expert in weapons countermeasures is shot down in Vietnam. The Lt. Colonel might be well knowledgeable in the war rooms but he has never been in actual battle situations before. With the worry he might be captured and tortured for his information and the fact he is a high ranking official, the need to retrieve him is great. All this is made worse by the fact that they are about to carpet bomb the whole area in a day or two. Luckily a dedicated Captain is on hand to fly constantly into the war zone to keep contact with the Lt. Colonel and to pin-point his position.

Does the hero have a day job?
Captain Bird Dog is a United States Air Force pilot

What’s our heroes special skills?
Somehow manages to keep frosty and stay awake. He will soon have a knowledge of golf to add to his skill set.

Heroes weapon of choice?
Bird Dog fly’s a Cessna O-2 Skymaster reconnaissance and observation aircraft. He does manage to fire off a few rocket bursts even through I don’t believe his plane has the ability to do that? Now that’s proper skills.

Heroes drink of choice?
The Budweisers are flowing throughout camp but our hero pilot keeps knocking back the strong coffee.

Does hero have a sidekick?
Bird Dog has two sidekicks. Flyboy and poker buddy Ross Carver (David Marshall Grant). Bird Dog would be downing brewskis with Ross but for the time being it’s just bucket loads of caffeine for this tired guy. His other friend is Sgt. Harley Rumbaugh (Clayton Rohner). His wings mechanic and maintenance man. Ain’t nothing he can’t fix or rob. He’s a spiritual guru, likes to meditate and listen to hippy music.

Bat 21 (1988) Gene Hackman Danny Glover vietnam lost in jungle rescue mission

Hot girl? Damsel in distress or ass kicker?
Well I’ll guess our Gene Hackman will have to take this spot. Certainly not a hot girl but he can fill the damsel in distress and ass kicker positions well. Gene plays the downed officer Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton. Alone in the jungle, surrounded by the enemyA man desperate to retire with his loving wife and buy that dream house on the fairway of his local golf course. Now when Hambleton was shot down the plane had the call sign Bat 21. This call sign is what is used for our Lt. Colonel. One reason is they are pretty certain the enemy is listening on the radio waves.

Now Hambleton hasn’t been in conflict battle zones before. He’s been an officer all his life. Now he’s caught up in a very dire situation. Scared and desperate to be rescued, just like any normal person would. Unfortunately it isn’t possible at this time. Bird Dog keeps him company whilst he lay’s low until they can get him in the morning. As time goes on Hambleton realises he can send details about the enemies position for pinpoint airstrikes whilst he’s making his way to the extraction point. As an obsessed golfer he codes all his chat on the airwaves with golfing lingo and directions in golf course hole shapes. Bird Dog has to learn quick. “No, sir. Golf wasn’t big in my neighborhood.

Bat 21 (1988) Gene Hackman Danny Glover golf vietnam combat helicopter on green

Who’s the main baddie?
People’s Army of Vietnam

Baddies special skills?
Resourceful, relentless and know the lay of the land well.

Psycho baddies rating out of ten? 8/10
They have big numbers and like to spring a surprise attack.

Heroes balls of steel and anger ratings out of ten? 9/10
Bird Dog just won’t give up on Bat 21.

Surely it features a training montage scene?
Not this time.

Does it feature an impossible mission?
For sure and the real life rescue mission sounded even longer and harder but featured less Hollywood explosions.

Does the hero get a chance to show off their muscles?
Not applicable on this movie.

Will I be needing to pause the video player? AKA are there any boobies?
Not applicable on this movie.

Sex scene?
Not applicable on this movie.

Any good totally random surprise scenes?
The opening scene is really cool. The Lt. Colonel and his officer friend are busy playing golf when a large combat ready helicopter appears right above them and lands just meters away. With the bellowing noise and the propeller blades blowing a hooley both golfers completely ignore it and carrying on as if it’s not there.

Films body count? Low/Medium/High
It’s pretty bleak with those carpet bombing campaigns. The innocent casualties must of been truly horrifying.

Innocent baddie death rate?
Not applicable on this movie.

Bat 21 (1988) Gene Hackman Danny Glover explosion jungle vietnam

Explosion ratio? Low/Medium/High?
Monstrously high. The end bomb run is devastating and horrific.

How many stuntmen probably really died making this film?
I’m sure every stuntman was back safe and sound on this mission. However they did a grand job on all the flying work. Low passes and flybys, close contact work and looking out of control flying skills. Some proper skills were on the show.

Any cool car chases?
Not applicable on this movie.

Best lines
Helicopter pilot Ross Carver – “They not gonna stick a fork in me until I’m done!

Any other familiar faces and actors pop up?
Country and Western singer Jerry Reed is a familiar face you will know. He is known by many as Cledus in the Smokey and the Bandit films. He plays Colonel George Walker in Bat 21 and is head of operations at base camp.

Production Credits
Bat 21 is based on a dramatization of true events by a retired USAF colonel, William C Anderson who also stepped up for screenplay duties. The drama is directed by Peter Markle. Unfortunately for Peter Markle he would later be directing Wagon’s East (1994) the disastrous film that would very sadly be comedy legend John Candy’s last movie when he died during filming.

Cheese-O-Meter! Low/Medium/High?
This film is rock bottom low on the meter. Not even a whiff of cheese.

Bat 21 (1988) Gene Hackman Danny Glover vietnam Cessna O-2 Skymaster firing something

IMDB score rating – 6.5/10

Wolfman ACTION & FUN rating – 7/10

Wolfman over all film rating – 7/10

Closing thoughts………………………………………….
Bat 21 is based on true events but with many changes to the story. I haven’t read either the William C Anderson’s Bat 21 book from 1980 or the 1998 published book called The Rescue Of Bat 21 by Darrel D. Whitcomb. Though I have read the Wikipedia page that outlines the historic mission to save the stranded Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton. It’s worth a read if you are interested in the history side of things here The Rescue Of Bat 21.

The real events were coined the “largest, longest, and most complex search-and-rescue” operation during the Vietnam War. Whereas the Danny Glover character seem’s to have been made up with an amalgamation of real people though the rescue. It does sound like one was an African American called Captain Larry Potts. I won’t go into any more detail as it may give spoilers away but put it this way things go down a little differently in reality.

Still the film is really very good. Danny Glover is most excellent as the sleep deprived pilot and, well, Gene Hackman is his usual excellent self. I’m glad to have caught up with it after all this time.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the films if you want but please don’t feel you need to as I know it’s pretty relentless this month. However, most important, have fun with the movies.

Keep it filmy…. Mikey Wolf.

PS It’s on YouTube at time of writing.

13 thoughts on “Bat 21 (1988) Coffee Slamming Danny Glover Flies Into War Zone To Save Golf Mad Gene Hackman

  1. Gene Hackman came in at a very solid #19 on my list of Top 50 favourite actors so I’m most definitely a fan.

    Unfortunately this movie, in my view, suffers from being lumped with one of the worst, most insipid titles to ever be put out by a major Hollywood studio. From reading your write-up Mikey I now understand where they got the title from (I still haven’t seen this movie) but from a marketing ‘putting the final tinsel on the tree’ perspective, it still doesn’t make a person want to go out and see it.

    Like you, back in the day, I thought it was a comic Vietnam movie similar to MASH based on the poster and the title so I swerved it. Compare a ‘nothing’ title like this to the mystery/danger/poetry infused one of another of Gene’s films, the beyond-superlative CRIMSON TIDE (1995) – and it’s pretty clear the selling power a film has to get people to see it based on something as simple as just the name itself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great list Glen. I can’t comment on the page otherwise I would of added
      “What great images you found. Burton in the bath, Sean Connery and baby Bond!! liking the inter-species loving Charlton (what a film that is) funniest picture of Swayze I’ve ever seen LOL. Deniro’s Taxicab license is way cool. And WTF Jack Nickle Son LOL.”

      Exactly I’m sure that’s the same reason I never saw it. I would of been 16 and the title “Bat 21” didn’t sell it’s self to me. Not when Rambo III is dropping on the shelve like a Claymore Mine.
      Mate you right on Gene’s name being on the poster is enough no matter the name of the film. I never thought about it BUT yeah man Crimson Tide aint a great name!!! Not against Sub film titles like The Hunt For Red October and K-19: The Widowmaker.
      Gene’s the man. That’s for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another reason why Gene Hackman was one of the great actors of his day and has been sorely missed for nearly 20 years now. Glad to see you giving props to my man Jerry Reed. A country music legend and one of the great guitar players of his era. Yes that Elvis song Guitar Man was written and played by Jerry on the recording. I remember being impressed with this one seeing it for the first time on VHS and recommending to all my pals. Danny was in his prime years here as well with the Lethal Weapon series putting him on the map. Herzog’s Rescue Dawn reminded me of this one on it’s release. and again, yup, got the poster around here somewhere. Great pick!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nice one buddy. Thanks for the extra info on Jerry Reed. Didn’t realise Rescue Dawn was a Herzog film! Might have to revisit that one day. Remember it being pretty good.
      So true on Gene Hackman. He’s still hanging on at a grand old age. The film sites are gonna light up when that sad day comes! A true legend.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘Not applicable on this movie’ x 5 = disappointment! Just kidding…I did see this one years and years ago, and I think it was a video store BETA rental! And I think I saw a few trailers beforehand so I knew going in what the story centered on…the crazy thing is, I remember nothing about the film, except Gene running around in the brush!

    And yes, that will be a sad day when he’s no longer with us…I’ve always enjoyed the movies he’s been in (but I never saw ‘Welcome to Mooseport’!), and I miss not seeing him in new ones anymore. It seems with each passing day, more and more of the actors I grew up with are no longer making movies, which depresses me to no end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know right! What was I thinking. 5 X disappointment (that really cracked me up Todd LOL)
      I have to say Welcome to Moosepoint completely passed me by! If I’m honest I didn’t realise that was his last film.
      I know it’s scary to think all the old movie stars are slowly put surely passing away.
      Clint’s gonna mess a lot of our generation up, that’s for sure.


      • I’ve read a few times where ‘Welcome to Mooseport’ was the reason Hackman retired from acting…I guess it was so bad, he said enough was enough and got out. I’ve always been tempted to watch it, just to see how rotten it is.

        I remember back in 1976, when my Dad took me to see my first Eastwood film at the theater, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ (I was already an Eastwood fan by then), I came out of the screening so thrilled about seeing such a cool film, and I strangely thought, ‘I wonder how old I’ll be when Clint Eastwood passes away’, and I imagined myself in the far future reading a newspaper headline about his passing. Now, 40+ years later, he’s still making films…but in May he’ll turn 90, and I fear that my ‘newspaper vision’ might now be playing out sometime in the not-so-distant future.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Great to hear your cool Dad story of him taking you to see Josey Wales. I didn’t see any Clint with mine on the big screen (he did take me for a double of Rocky 1 and 2, so awesome) but he did sit me down to watch Dirty Harry and The Good The Bad and The Ugly on the telly. The seeds were sown and the icon was born. I’m sure Clinty will do one more swan song film in his 100s. He just too badass not too.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s so weird. I’ve always wanted to have a house right on the fairway of a golf course too!

    I would see this probably because of Gene Hackman alone. He, like many above, is also one of my favorite actors ever.

    Also interesting that the military guy it’s based on “stepped up” for the screenplay duties!?
    Not much of a varied, interesting life he’s been living, is it, lol ! ! !

    Liked by 2 people

    • “That’s so weird. I’ve always wanted to have a house right on the fairway of a golf course too!”
      Even if it’s just to shout “FORE” every five minutes as loud as you can to laugh your ass off watching golfers diving to the ground for cover LOL

      The guy it’s based on is Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton which William C Anderson, also in the United States Air Force wrote about and then helped to do the screenplay.
      Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton was way too busy jumping into bunkers on the golf course as some lady keeps shouting “FORE” from her house of the fairway! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Underrated war pic! You can always count on Hackman! People remember the fun Uncommon Valor, but this one has been completely forgotten by moviegoers. Both movies are good. BTW, I didn’t know it was based on a true story!


    • The true story, almost, is more fascinating than the film but you do think was it worth it, if it wasn’t actually Gene Hackman….
      to quote wiki “His rescue was the longest and most costly search and rescue mission during the Vietnam War”
      “During the rescue operation, five aircraft were shot down, 11 airmen were killed in action, and 2 were captured. Nine additional aircraft and helicopters were badly damaged during the rescue attempt”
      Sorry for the late reply Eric. Will be catching up with your posts soon.

      Liked by 1 person

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