Toy Soldiers – Aspel & Company – tape 1528

Movies first on this tape, with Toy Soldiers.

It starts off in Colombia, with a hostage situation. South American Drug Dealers did tend to be the go-to villains in so many movies around this time. It’s part of the reason I hated Licence to Kill the first time I saw it. And these are very very bad people. They’re trying to get their leader (and one of their father) released from US custody, and to ramp up the pressure, they throw a woman out of a high window, so we know the stakes are high right from the start.

When they learn he’s already in the US, they leave via helicopter, but not before throwing the judge they were coercing out of the chopper, a stunt done for real.

The film then moves to a boarding school in the US. I’m assuming the pupils aren’t completely happy there.

One of the boys there is the son of the judge who will be presiding over the arrested drug dealer’s case, so he’s visited by the FBI to warn him of potential danger, given the man’s sons have demonstrated they’re pretty ruthless. So for safety he’s shipped off to a secure military location.

His friends are Wil Wheaton

and Sean Astin

Another of their friends looked really familiar to me. Then I remembered where from. He was the boy in Adventures in Babysitting, Keith Coogan.

Astin is established as a troublemaker – he was the one who spraypainted the graffiti. Wheaton’s more sensible – he even does Astin’s homework for him. Their idea of fun is to sneak out of their dorms, drink vodka disguised as mouthwash, and phone a sex line.

They’re busted by the crusty old Dean, Louis Gossett Jr. He’s reluctant to expel Astin, the ringleader, because he’s already been expelled from three other schools.

Also on the staff is Denholm Elliot, whose presence in anything always makes me happy.

But the cheeky escapades are soon forgotten when the crew of evil drug dealers arrive and start shooting guns in the dining room. They’re super organised, as pretty soon they’ve got the whole school rigged with explosives. And when they find out their target, the judge’s son, has already left the school, they have to change their plan a little. Lucky for them, a lot of the boys at the school have really rich and/or influential parents.

Mason Adams, off of Lou Grant, plays the FBI man in charge of the siege.

The film introduces some nice constraints to the possible actions of the hostages. The terrorists do a headcount, and repeat that every hour, which immediately gives a time limit for any excursions that might happen. Our core heroes collect information about the number, and location of terrorists, how they are armed and protected, and Astin ducks out of the school, under cover of various diversions arranged by the others, to deliver that info to the FBI and army on the perimeter. But will they let him get back within the hour necessary to be there for the headcount?

Jerry Orbach is Wil Wheaton’s dad, and to complicate matters, he’s a mob boss.

He cuts a deal with the bad guys to have his son released, but Wheaton doesn’t much like his dad, and grabs a machine gun as they’re escorting him out. It doesn’t end well for him. In revenge, Orbach has his men kill the father of the terrorists in jail.

With the terrorists’ plans unravelling, the army go in, with Gossett tagging along, and there’s a nicely tense climax which deftly manages to resolve the story without having to have any of the boys shoot anyone – the only boy who actually shoots a gun in the whole movie is Wheaton, and he’s dead moments later. I have the feeling that might have been intentional, since the movie isn’t stinting on the violence otherwise.

The film is directed by Dan Petrie Jr, better known as a writer on Beverly Hills CopThe Big Easy and Turner and Hooch. The screenplay was written by Petrie and David Koepp, who would go on to write the screenplay for Jurassic Park and lots of other stuff.

The credits do something I wish more films did – show the names of the lead actors along with a scene with them in the film. I find it difficult, sometimes, to work out which named actor is playing which part, so this is a welcome feature, and a bit like ‘You have been watching’.

Another Spielberg connection in the credits is editor Michael Khan, a longtime Spielberg collaborator. And I should mention the rollicking score by Robert Folk. It’s really working its socks off throughout the movie.

After this, recording switches to LWT and Aspel and Company I’ve also recorded elsewhere. What’s weird about this is it’s an episode – featuring Victoria Wood, Kate Bush and Lenny Henry. So I obviously wanted to make sure I recorded it.

However, there’s an extra treat after this, an episode of Spitting Image. Among those featured, Graham Taylor, then England manager.

Norman Fowler tells a story about the Tories and their completely innocent party donations.

John Major looking greyer than ever.

Richard O’Brien plays the Crystal Maze with the Labour Party.

Arnold Schwarzennegger and Dot Cotton are an unlikely pairing of police officers who initially dislike each other but who ultimately, surprisingly, manage to get on together and beat the corrupt judicial system with unorthodox methods.

Barry Norman

And Victor Meldrew

This was the last episode in this series.

The tape ends right after Spitting Image.

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2 comments

  1. I wonder a) why Jerry Ohrbach decided to go uncredited and b) how many TNG fans saw this movie and went “YES!” and punched the air when Wheaton’s character bought it.

    From the liner notes of Robert “every single ‘Police Academy’ movie” Folk’s soundtrack album:

    “The recording sessions will long be remembered for a variety of reasons. There is one particularly striking image that sticks in my mind. The image of Dan Petrie, Jr. in a highly excited state, and against his better judgment, being coerced into performing a very critical cymbal roll which crescendos to a luftpausen just before the terrorists’ bomb is disarmed in the headmasters office.”

    (Folk also has an aural cameo – he looped a line of dialogue (no idea which one – I follow him on Twitter, so I might ask).

  2. Not the worst action movie called Toy Soldiers, there’s an 80s one that is truly abysmal, but I remember renting this as a teenager and being disappointed it wasn’t about teen characters going all John McClane on the terrorists’ asses. In retrospect, probably no bad thing that I was disappointed.

    Missed a trick not getting the rights to the Martika song for the soundtrack (I know that’s about drugs, but Central American terrorists were very interested in drugs distribution in action movies of this era).

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