THUNDER WARRIOR aka Thunder (1983) – Here at Balladeer’s Blog I’ve reviewed plenty of Spaghetti Westerns and Spaghetti-pocalypse movies, but in this item I examine what could be called Spaghetti Rambo flicks. Mark Gregory, famous as the post-apocalypse action hero Trash from 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape from the Bronx, stars as an Apache named Thunder.
This Italian schlock film takes Stallone’s First Blood and combines it with elements of the Billy Jack series of movies in which the title hero was a Native American fighting on behalf of his people against 1970s racists, corrupt politicians and plutocratic businessmen. However, Thunder Warrior ramps up the action to nearly superhuman levels and piles up a Spaghetti Western sized body count.
The story features Mark Gregory’s character Thunder as a modern-day (1980s) Apache who lives on a reservation in Arizona. Assorted corrupt cops and bigoted construction workers are verbally and physically abusing the men and women of Thunder’s tribe.
The cops are led by Bo Svenson as Sheriff Bill Cook and the hate-filled construction workers are led by Antonio Sabato as the Hispanic-American Tomas, no last name given. Your standard amoral businessmen are planning to construct roadways and assorted businesses on the Apaches’ land, so their wealth and influence provides cover for Svenson’s and Sabato’s men.
Thunder saves an Apache woman from being sexually assaulted by evil Deputy Barry Henson (Raimund Harmstorf), only to face violent reprisals from Henson and his fellow dirty cops. The law and the construction tycoons, backed by their bought and paid for politicians, even ignore the legal evidence that Thunder produces to prove they are desecrating an old burial ground.
Well, it’s on, of course, and the scenic deserts and canyons of Monument Valley in Utah (passing as Arizona) are the stage for spectacular action set pieces as Thunder spends a few days at large, whittling down his enemies all the while. Our hero performs physical feats that would be impossible in real life, but are treated as realistically as the over the top fights in many martial arts movies.
Thunder is cheered on by the locals and by an Apache pirate radio broadcaster called Dancing Crow as he uses fists, kicks, bullets, arrows, explosives and even a bulldozer to kill the bad guys and destroy their buildings.
In the end, our hero fakes his own death and heads off with his love interest to look for a peaceful life elsewhere.
THUNDER WARRIOR II aka Thunder II (1987) – In 1985, Rambo: First Blood Part Two hit theaters and Stallone may well have seen the Thunder Warrior ripoff of his 1982 film. Either way, Rambo turned it up to eleven action-wise and also made the hero as virtually indestructible as his imitator Thunder.
Mark Gregory’s character returned in Thunder Warrior II a few years later, using explosive arrows and more against his enemies. The action scenes aren’t as enjoyable this time around, the plot makes very little sense and continuity goes out the window.
At a roadside restaurant/ bar, Thunder beats up a biker gang who are hassling a Mom, Dad and child who are dining there. Cops show up, but our hero doesn’t bother running. Dialogue tells us he is now a cop, somehow – using his REAL name! Even worse, he’s been assigned to serve in the corrupt county in which the first movie was set, under the SAME SHERIFF WHO TRIED TO KILL HIM LAST TIME AROUND!
Raimund Harmstorf plays a dirty cop again, but even though his conversations with Thunder make it clear he’s supposed to be the same character as in the first Thunder Warrior, his name this time is Deputy Rusty Weissner. (?) Bo Svenson is still the sheriff, but this time he’s named “Sheriff Roger”, no last name.
Even though Roger refers to going through all the events of the previous film just like Thunder, the movie acts like Bo Svenson was really an honest cop fighting a corrupt department, despite the fact that he was the ringleader of the corruption last time.
Sheriff Roger refers to the governor of the state placing Thunder with their county, making even less sense. Since this flick just plain doesn’t care about logic, let’s use the reference to the governor to pretend that the Arizona governor pardoned Thunder after the presumed exposure of some of the bad guys from the previous movie.
It still wouldn’t make sense why the Gov would place our hero in the corrupt department he fought – and slaughtered most of – last time around. So, just put your mind on hold, I guess, because things only get weirder from here.
Thunder kicks butts while clamping down on a drug ring in the area, and it turns out the biker gang from earlier are drug dealers working with crooked cops, led by Deputy Rusty. Sheriff Roger makes multiple remarks to Thunder in this flick that he knows Rusty is a dirty cop but has no evidence, despite him brainstorming with his corrupt deputy all last movie.
Rusty and his fellow dirty cops frame Thunder for possession of drugs by planting them in his locker. In the next scene, our hero has apparently had his trial and been convicted. He has said goodbye to his pregnant woman Sheena (named Sheila in the first film) and is taken under heavy guard to prison.
One of the prison guards is a friend of Rusty’s, and makes a point of hassling and abusing Thunder, adding some “men behind bars” tropes to the storyline. Eventually, Thunder survives a period in the Hot Box at the prison and escapes by fighting off several guards and driving a commandeered car on a convenient ramp that takes him over the penitentiary wall. Don’t ask.
Thunder links up with his still-pregnant fiancee Sheena and his lawyer, who looks like a fat Kenny Rogers. The authorities chase them through the desert, resulting in the good guys’ vehicle overturning. Our hero, using bizarrely superhuman strength, singlehandedly rights the vehicle and gets away, allowing for the lawyer to get medical attention for Sheena.
Once again, like in Thunder Warrior, the fugitive Thunder survives a fall into a river from an incredible height, this time from a helicopter. He learns that Sheena is alive but has lost the baby. Thunder dons his war paint like last time around, assembles an arsenal of weapons, including the aforementioned exploding arrows, then besieges and destroys police headquarters in a series of wildly unlikely action scenes.
Bo Svenson is finally able to lock up Deputy Rusty, and a brief exchange of dialogue with Thunder makes it clear that our hero’s lawyer has miraculously resolved all of the Apache’s legal problems, including all the guards he killed back at the prison. (?)
Sheriff Roger says goodbye to Thunder, Sheena and Not-Kenny-Rogers, and the trio drives off. Then, contradicting the entire rest of the movie, in which Bo Svenson’s character was supposedly honest and indeed even defended Thunder several times, he takes out a rifle, aims it at the vehicle carrying our hero and company … and fires. The End.
THUNDER WARRIOR III aka Thunder III (1988) – You can forget all about Bo Svenson firing a shot at our departing heroes at the end of Thunder Warrior II. Apparently, he missed, or … something.
In this third and final Thunder Warrior film, Thunder and Sheena are living in a small Native American trailer park in New Mexico. A third movie means we have a third different actress playing Sheena, who is now Thunder’s wife.
This time around, our story starts off with Colonel Magnum of the United States Army being relieved of his command in New Mexico over a scandal involving him simultaneously running a renegade militia made up of volunteer civilians and fanatical cops.
Some of Magnum’s men capture Thunder, beat him up, then leave him bound to a rock in the desert, where they expect him to die a slow, agonizing death. The Apache is rescued and, as that does not sit right with the renegade militia, they raid the trailer park where Thunder and other Native American families are living and inflict a lot of damage.
Ultimately, they are driven off by our hero, who then informs “Sheriff Jeff” (John Philip Law) that the militiamen owe him and his people $56,000 (which would be $141,000 here in 2023). Jeff is actually an honest man, but the militiamen and their connections are big enough to laugh off the demand for repair money from the Native Americans.
Thunder stoically accepts this and moves on. I’M KIDDING! He starts out busting up some of the businesses owned by the militia members, then moves on to burning down said businesses. This results in all-out war between Thunder and the militia, who can bring to bear some very heavy weaponry.
At one point, the villains abduct Sheena, but Thunder rounds up a posse of fellow Native Americans and they mount a raid to take her back. From there, our hero unleashes more and more violence, ultimately destroying what seems like every vehicle within a 50 mile radius.
Mark Gregory gets to return to his roots as the motorcycle riding post-apocalypse hero Trash, as the longest action sequence in Thunder Warrior III features him on a motorbike in a running battle with the militiamen. More destruction and more dead bad guys later, the villains surrender and pay the $56,000.
Sheriff Jeff refuses to arrest Thunder, who turns the money over to his fellows at the trailer park, then he and Sheena drive off in a pickup truck, bringing this odd, unrealistic but entertaining trilogy to a close.
It’s a shame that cult icon Mark Gregory never got to play the Apache Kid in a western.
FOR MY REVIEW OF MARK GREGORY AS ADAM IN THE MOVIE ADAM AND EVE VS THE CANNIBALS CLICK HERE.
FOR MORE BAD MOVIES CLICK HERE.
2 responses to “THUNDER WARRIOR: ALL THREE MOVIES”
I love these kinds of reviews!