Darker Than Amber

A shakedown racket pushed into murder, old gents with money in their pants and no family encumbrances are baited on cruise ships with a pretty girl and then deep-sixed.

One of the girls goes over the side of a bridge with a bodybuilder’s footweight tied to her, right where Travis McGee and his pal Meyer are fishing quietly at night like the two hoboes in Capra’s Meet John Doe, she comes up with a fishhook in her thigh, perfecting the theme from Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and Ophuls’ Caught.

Reviewers have noted the feeling for locations and a gift for rapid, brutal action, but while generally not averse and even favorable seem not to have gathered the point.

Winner takes the final brawl on the cruise ship landing for Death Wish II.

Brenda Davies (Monthly Film Bulletin), “Tony Rome [dir. Gordon Douglas] did it all with so much more style.”


Black Belt Jones

It’s a classic position, mob wants building, Jones to the rescue. This is an amazingly limpid version of the style Clouse displayed in Enter the Dragon, and not at all like Golden Needles either, surprisingly.

The elegant script has been commented upon, and the structural lines are as good, with an intermediate gang between predator and prey, leading to a great scene as Pinky’s bunch mop up the students at the gym.

After Jones delivers a comeuppance, he idles at the beach awhile, until he’s pursued to a sanitation yard, where a fistfight ensues amid the suds of a car wash on the facility. All of this is appreciatively filmed, with some rare slow motion, and the villains are carted off to jail in the back of a garbage truck.


The Amsterdam Kill

A small shift of government policy, the grand rational setup at last, seized heroin sold to pharmaceutical suppliers, all it takes is one bad DEA official in Hong Kong and another in Amsterdam.

The monopoly assassinates all rivals (cf. J. Lee Thompson’s Death Wish 4).

A bit of Welles from the Citizen Kane newsreel prepares an allusion to Reed’s The Third Man.

Alan Hume is the cinematographer.

“The whole setup is so neat.”

Janet Maslin of the New York Times pooh-poohed, “misguided”.

The Catholic News Service Media Review Office likewise, “seems no more than a string of action sequences.”

Time Out makes the turd, “dim”.

Hal Erickson (Rovi) describes another film entirely.

Halliwell’s Film Guide compounds all errors, “roughly made and uninventive”.


Force: Five

Clouse’s remake of his own Enter the Dragon is tailored to an understanding of the Jonestown Massacre, which he is particularly intent on revealing.

An island cult with a bull’s-head logo counts among its members the daughter of a United States Senator, who flies in by helicopter with five black belts to free her.

The final surreal scenes, which feature a bull chasing the hero down the corridors of power, make evident that this is the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.

With the entire concentration of his style into the force of this revelation, Clouse has a simpler exposition looking toward the China O’Brien films.

One slow-motion sequence has the hero reckoning with two opponents in a small room, turning and kicking like a dervish the weasels who pop up as they are knocked down by turns, until both are quelled.

The bland cultists wear white, and so does a cadre of fighters superintending them, but with black trim to indicate their special status.

After the hero dispatches the cruel, murderous, speechifying leader, the Senator gives a speech of his own, before being whisked away from the smiling applause of the ex-cultists still in their white garments, by the helicopter and his team.