After a few years experimenting with no-budget porn-saturated projects, prolific Spanish Director Jess Franco had returned to making more 'respectable' films by the late 80s. 'Dark Mission' has helicopters, explosions, espionage, Brigitte Lahaie and Christopher Lee ... and is mostly gloriously terrible!
Like a particularly meandering episode of (80s action adventure serial) 'Airwolf', this effort's style of filming and acting has all the hallmarks of an American daytime soap. Eurocine had by this time begun to model their films on Hollywood produce, but at a fraction of the cost. Robert Mitchum's son Christopher is the nadir of the piece as Derek Carpenter, a cocky, strutting CIA agent sent to South America to bring down drug lord Luis Morel. Christopher Lee once again plays Christopher Lee, here playing Morel. Uninspired he may be but he brings a certain gravitas to his scenes. Hearing him say 'sons of b*tches', however, will never be a comfortable experience (didn't he once refuse to say Dracula's dialogue in a Hammer film? How bad could it have been?). There's no sign of Lina Romay, but regular Antonio Mayans is briefly on hand as an uncredited Dr. Meryl Ramos, revealing the disturbing effects of drugs to Carpenter, who gleefully takes photograph after photograph of the victims.
Franco co-wrote this, but his usual personal vision is hard to detect here. There is one familiar theme though - his attitude to drugs. For a creative artist who has made many delirious, psychedelic films, he has always portrayed drugs in an overwhelmingly negative light. Incest, rape and other forms of sexual abuse is a passion of his, but drugs? Evil. This is, of course, the point of view that propels what thin story is on display here.
Louis Alborado's music score is lightly jazzy, sprightly and often inappropriate, displaying much of the bland hopelessness that cursed much of the late 1980s. And while the editing is remarkably sloppy on a few occasions, there's no denying the excitement generated by a fast moving, fairly spectacular finale. Should I mention the jeep pushed over a cliff-edge which bursts into flames well before its cue, or would that be unkind? For the destruction of such an expensive prop, there was no way they'd leave that on the cutting room floor! There's fun to be had here, but any hope of character empathy is definitely sunk by the dreadful leading man. My score is 6 out of 10.