Before Pete Walker became an underground cult horror figure with such classics as Frightmare and House of Whipcord, he honed his skills in the crime genre with the little known Man of Violence, which mixes the cool, suave elements of James Bond and the gun-for-hire that plays both sides to his advantage outline of Yojimbo. Throw in some hijacked gold, sultry, half-naked women, some heavy’s with a Mafioso complex, and a showdown in Morocco, and you have yourself one hell of an interesting movie!
Hired gun Moon has recently taken on a job from a not-so-honest real estate agent named Sam Bryant. The job, as described by Bryant’s right-hand man Nixon, entails shaking down a local businessman named Grayson, who’s sitting on some land they want for themselves. Little do they know that Moon knows Grayson quite well; he’s working for him too and is playing both sites against one another. What Moon doesn’t know, but soon realizes however is that the root of this has nothing to do with real estate but a huge sum of gold that’s tucked away in a third world country that both sides want to get their hands on. Once Moon finds this out, and steals one of Grayson’s top ladies away, he decides he wants the gold all to himself. But obviously this is easier said than done, since as hard as it is to keep both sides that are paying him happy, there may be a couple other interested parties as well.
From its first frame, Man of Violence pops from the screen like an art deco explosion. The complete antithesis of an Italian or Asian crime film, Walker chooses to go in a colorful, sensory-overload direction with the look of the film; these aren’t the smoke-filled rooms and shadowy corners of your father’s crime flicks. The “cool oozes from my pores” Moon, hard-as-nails but sensual array of women, and the bumbling yet crafty evildoers all ensure that Man of Violence has a vibe all its own, one that’s more interested in pulp fun than anything too weighty (watch out for the nihilistic ending though, which is a stark contrast to everything that comes before and is like a swift kick to the nuts). Taking things in a less-than-serious direction isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, as it certainly helps the film stand out from the pack, and when taking into consideration this was among Walker’s first films (without question his most ambitious to that point), it was a smart decision.
Michael Latimer is perfect as Moon, spreading on the charm without feeling fake and managing to slither his way out of the toughest situations without breaking a sweat. His demeanor with the ladies rivals that of Bond himself; if they were in the same room, eyeing the same woman (or guy; nope, Moon doesn’t discriminate), it’d be anyone’s game. Who knows, maybe it’s just that smooth British accent, but I bought his slick, canny nature one-hundred percent. There’s honestly not much to note about the rest of the cast, most of which don’t have nearly the same amount of screen time as Latimer, but Hammer aficionados will notice a couple of the studio’s more fetching ladies from their later period, including Luan Peters of Twins of Evil and Lust for a Vampire, who has a sizable role as Moon’s love interest, and Virginia Wetherell of Demons of the Mind and Doctor Jekyll & Sister Hyde as the devilish vixen Gale who will go to any means, including lesbianism, to get her way.
While Man of Violence will have little problem holding your attention, even throughout the talk-heavy sections thanks to the psychedelic color scheme, the script itself is a bit too ambitious for its own good. By the end there are more than a handful of characters to keep track of, and motivations begin to become muddied and previously taut plot threads start to fray. It almost becomes a chore to keep it all together, and while it doesn’t really ruin things, it does hold the film back from being better than it could have been. I know, that basically can be said for any film that isn’t perfect, but this had a lot of things going for it where the potential for something greater was definitely within grasp.
Ultimately, Man of Violence is certainly worth a look for fans of pulp crime stories and hip, 70’s cinema, and if you’re a Pete Walker fan, this one is a no-brainer. Whether it’s the artistic design, the naked flesh, the snappy dialogue that actually works, or the occasional blast of violence, this is one crime flick worth its weight in gold.
Man of Violence on Blu-Ray is part of BFI’s second wave of Flipside releases, which is a series dedicated to the weird cult side of British cinema. The film is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p and it looks, to put it simply, jaw-dropping. There’s zero print damage, grain is represented beautifully (THIS is how older films should look on the format; stop the gross use of DNR!), and details and colors look sharp and nicely rendered. Even the night scenes pop off the screen, with a wide array of different black shades, and everything is easily discerned whereas they could have just as easily been hard to make out. The sole audio track is Linear PCM 2.0 Mono that is unremarkable in the range department but is acceptably balanced and all dialogue comes through loud and clear.
When it comes to extras, BFI has added something here that is amazingly exciting: a whole other Pete Walker crime flick, and in two versions no less! The Big Switch from 1968 tells the tale of playboy John Carter who after a woman he took home from the club turns up dead, is the prime suspect. Turns out a mob boss is the one behind it all, and it’s because he wants Carter to do a job for him. Of course things aren’t what they seem and Carter ends up embroiled in the seedy underworld of pornography. As you may expect from that, there’s tons of flesh on display, and it all looks great as the film is also presented in 1080p and is in great condition. The film isn’t as polished as Man of Violence, but clocking in at 77 minutes (65 for the original cut), it never wears out its welcome, and the finale is fantastic.
The two different versions of the film are mainly the same, but the 77 minute export cut adds in a ton of extra nudity and violence that the BBFC had cut, basically making the film a more exploitive experience. Hell, six of the extra 12 added minutes are nothing more than a strip show that opens the film. Rounding out the extras on the disc are trailers for both films and an alternate title card for Man of Violence, all in 1080p. Also included in the package is a full-color booklet with essays on both of the films, commentary on exploitation in the UK, and a word from Walker himself. All in all, another amazing package from BFI, and I love they’re giving obscure films like this the royal treatment.
*The clickable screenshots on the left are from the Blu-Ray, although scaled down to 720p to conserve bandwidth.
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