Blu-ray News and Reviews | High Def Digest
Film & TV All News Blu-Ray Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders 4K Ultra HD Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders Gear Reviews News Home Theater 101 Best Gear Film & TV
Blu-Ray : Recommended
Release Date: March 28th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1987

Dog Tags

Overview -

A rescue mission to find and retrieve POWs behind enemy lines goes off the rails in the NAMsploitation classic Dog Tags. Directed by Italian exploitation master Romano Scavolini, the film plays like a heist film and a whodunit within the structure of a war film. Gritty and violent, Dog Tags comes home to Blu-ray with an excellent A/V presentation and awesome bonus features from Vinegar Syndrome. Recommended

During the Vietnam War, a special unit of Army Rangers is sent to rescue a small group of fellow soldiers being held as prisoners of war. After freeing the men, their next step is to reach a safe zone in order to be airlifted to safety. However, their plans change when a mysterious Captain Newport gives the men a new mission: find a downed helicopter in order to retrieve the classified information contained within. Facing enemy soldiers and navigating their way through the booby trap riddled jungle, the men reach the helicopter only to discover that it is actually filled with missing gold. Now, the men must fight for survival and try to avoid turning on each other as they attempt to make their way out of Cambodia in order to escape with their lives...and the gold.

Written and Directed by Italian genre filmmaker Romano Scavolini (A White Dress for Marialé, Nightmare), DOG TAGS is a brutally violent and bleak war movie mixed with elements of a heist film. Released in America by known exploitation producer Arthur Schweitzer (Evil Laugh, New York Ninja), the film was released in several different edited versions throughout the years. Vinegar Syndrome Archive is proud to present the never-before-seen uncut original English language version of DOG TAGS for the first time on Blu-ray, newly restored in 4k from the original Interpositive film elements and presented in its true cinemascope aspect ratio.

directed by: Romano Scavolini
starring: Clive Wood, Baird Stafford, Robert Haufrecht, Peter Elich, Mike Monty, Jim Gaines, Robert Marius
1987 / 111 min / 2.39:1 / English 2.0 Stereo

Additional info:

  • Region Free Blu-ray
  • Newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm interpositive
  • "The Dogs of War" (52 min) - an interview with writer/director Romano Scavolini
  • "Accepting the Mission" (8 min) - an interview with executive producer Arthur Schweitzer
  • Alternate Ending from the International version
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Original video trailer
  • Original TV spot
  • Reversible sleeve artwork
  • Newly SDH subtitles

Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
English SDH
Release Date:
March 28th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


While one of the most controversial and disastrous periods of U.S. history, the Vietnam Conflict (as it’s properly attired) spawned an odd assortment of exploitation action movies. Part of this came with a decade of raw passion needing to lick old wounds with films like Platoon, Coming Home, Apocalypse Now, and The Deer Hunter. People needed a means to come to terms with what happened. On the other hand, the movie industry saw a vein to tap for bloody action exploitation box office. Filmmakers from all over the world would jump into this burgeoning action sub-genre with a range of results. You had Rambo II and Cannon’s Missing in Action on one side with Italians offering up their own entries. Romano Scavolini’s Dog Tags happens to be one of the better Italian NAMsploitation flicks by playing with war film conventions to craft a thrilling heist film with a dash of whodunit-style mystery for extra flavor. 

A U.S. helicopter on a special mission is shot down over enemy territory in Vietnam. In another part of the jungle, an elite team of Army Rangers are on a covert mission to rescue a group of POWs. After successfully grabbing the men who have endured years of torture and hardship, a shadowy army Captain retasks the rangers and the POWs to traverse the jungle and recover “sensitive materials.” The men must forgo a quick trip home and brave tough terrain, bad weather, armed VC, and numerous boobytraps to uncover a secret so deadly men would kill for it. 

For a long time Dog Tags was cut and recut and re-recut on the home video and cable circuit. Sometimes it was a decent length, sometimes it was egregiously short. My only memory of this film prior to Blu-ray was checking out a well-worn VHS tape that was so choppily cut that it made little sense and I didn’t think much of it at the time. Considering its stylized war violence and the general oeuvre of director Romano Scavolini, it was certainly a natural fit for Vinegar Syndrome’s growing VSA line of titles so I was curious to give it another look. Now with the fully restored uncut original English edit, I was surprised to see that not only does Dog Tags actually make sense, but it’s also a pretty damn good film. 

As a war film, it certainly makes the best of things with a lush vivid jungle location but wisely doesn’t try to stage too many massive action-packed battle sequences. Most of the attention and focus is on the men traversing the landscape ducking deadly boobytraps and trying to reach their target for extraction. A mid-point sequence of revenge on some V.C. troops is oddly staged but it effectively thins out the cast. I mention this point because while a lot of the film plays like a heist movie set within a war film, it also has a little bit of an Agatha Christie “whodunit” vibe working for it. As the Rangers and the POWs steadily die off, more questions about the mission arise until the big reveal of what that downed helicopter has hidden inside. 

While that all may sound earnest and thrilling (it is) Scaolini is still an exploitation genre filmmaker and he doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of blood and viscera throughout along with enough time for oddly placed gratuitous nudity to remind the audience exactly what kind of movie they’re watching. This isn’t to say that the straightforward approach isn’t appreciated, but once the gnarly bits get a little more focus, the film feels like it really comes together. It may be odd, but it’s never boring!


Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Dog Dags
signs up for a tour of duty on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome. Pressed on a Region Free disc, the disc is housed in Vinegar Syndrome’s standard clear case with reversible insert artwork with a double-sided reversible poster, complete with their hard cardstock double-sided slipcover with spine label VSA33. The disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.

Video Review


Sourced from a new 4K scan of the original interpositive elements, Dog Tags attacks Blu-ray with an often impressive 2.39:1 1080p transfer. Details are often strong and clear allowing for a full appreciation of facial features, the jungle locations, and some of the gritty grotesque gore effects. Green is a dominant color for good reason but primaries get their time to shine with healthy skin tones to match. Black levels are overall solid with some deep inky spaces and shadow separations but there are a few sequences where the blacks can thicken bordering in on crush - but only slightly and not really an issue. The film elements are in good shape with only minimal speckling or damage.

Audio Review


At the outset of the film Vinegar Syndrome issues a little bit of a warning about the transfer but especially the audio elements in this DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. In order to reconstruct this original uncut version, a variety of audio sources were used and so sometimes dialog fidelity can shift from scene to scene but it works. The most notable inconsistency is how voices can change. Sound effects are generally active and engaging without issue. The music cues also sound fine and fill the soundscape nicely. Levels are also alright, but you might need to pop up the notches a little when that dialog shifts. 

Special Features


True to form for a Vinegar Syndrome release, this disc offers up some solid bonus features to pick through. What they lack in quantity they make up for with quality. The big highlight is the near-hour-long interview with director Romano Scavolini “The Dogs of War.” There’s another brief interview with famed producer Arthur Schweitzer that’s well worth a watch. The international alternate ending is included along with a trailer and TV spot. 

  • The Dogs of War - Interview with Romano Scavolini (HD 51:48)
  • Accepting the Mission - Interview with Arthur Schweitzer (HD 8:31)
  • Alternate International Version Ending (HD 1:46)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Video Trailer
  • TV Spot

As far as war films go, Dog Tags certainly isn’t among the biggest and best but for a piece of Italian NAMsploitation, it’s pretty damned entertaining. Solid performances from the cast and slick direction from Scavolini make for an entertaining evening. After only seeing one of the heavily cut versions years and years ago, it was actually pretty cool to see the film as originally intended and it turned out to be pretty damn good. Vinegar Syndrome resurrects this 80s war film/heist flick/whodunit for Blu-ray with impressive results. A/V presentation is a wonder considering all things and the bonus features package is well worth digging into. Recommended.