Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Death Rage (1977): Review

If you like Yul Brynner and harness racing, this might be the perfect film for you. Unfortunately, Brynner does not play a star jockey on the run from by the mob. Instead, he plays a retired hit man seeking revenge for his brother’s murder. That murder is set up quite well at the racetrack, and we are introduced to most of the seedy characters in Naples. Trying to keep the peace is top cop Martin Balsam, assisted (or hindered?) by his team of perpetually stunned looking police officers.

The scene shifts to New York where we meet Brynner, enjoying his retirement by spending his days fishing under the Brooklyn Bridge. He’s pissed off, and travels to Italy ready to get his vengeance on. He’s a cool customer, though, and no one is really certain as to his intentions, or when and/or how he will seek revenge.

Barbara Bouchet plays some sort of dancer. I’m not entirely sure if she’s actually a stripper, but the place where she works does not exactly look like the Naples Ballet. From what I’ve read, there’s a version of this film with lots of nudity. That’s not the one I saw. The only person who went topless in this one is Brynner, and that’s a very acquired taste.

The storyline is nothing new, but as Brynner’s progress is initially slowed down by a lapdog played by Massimo Renieri. Ultimately, he begins to train the young lad and inadvertently creates a new generation of mechanic. Another problem is that Brynner is haunted by flashbacks; impairing his vision. This is the titular ‘Death Rage’, created by a low budgets over-exposure technique every time Brynner’s about to kick ass. It’s cheesy, but a fun element.

The action is decent with some strong car chases (some good FIAT violence), and a well choreographed showdown in the subway tunnels midway through the movie. At one point, Brynner is saved by a marching band with impeccable timing. For J&B fans, there’s a whole stack of mini-bottles in one scene and, of course, we get a vegetable cart knocked over.

All in all, too much of the violence is either bloodless or off-screen. The film has a weird, synthy score with some elements better suited to a sci-fi film. It does work at times, particularly when the pan flute is introduced. It’s pretty middle of the road Euro-Crime fair, directed with efficiency by Margheriti and greatly assisted by the presence of Balsam and Brynner.

MVT: Brynner, in his final on-screen performance. He seems to be having a good time here, and brings a touch of class to the production. It's too bad we didn't get the chance to see him act after this film.

Make or Break: It's a break for me. There's some lame humour after the initial murder and it sets a tone that flows through the entire film. The one-liners are pretty terrible, and Renieri's character is the main culprit.

Score: 5.75 out of 10.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a fun movie! Plus the title is great!