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Slaughter

The capo has a rancho outside Mexico City with a secret computer in his polo pony stables, every name and amount is stored there. His right-hand man wants to move up, offloads information and meanwhile assassinates a fellow mobster who gets wind of the computer. Slaughter ferrets out the killer.

The mob has a private casino for a front. Slaughter was a Green Beret, his mother was in the car when it blew up his father.

The U.S. Treasury Department has its case ruined by Slaughter, he’s brought in under its auspices.

The action sequences, punctuated by slow-motion and distortion lenses that annoyed Roger Greenspun of the New York Times, include a car ramming a small plane on the runway, Slaughter on foot at night eluding another car full of assassins, a rooftop knife fight, and the grand battle at the hacienda, which doesn’t end the film. A car chase through a poor Mexican village does that very satisfyingly.

Starrett’s great film has Jim Brown, Rip Torn (right-hand man), Stella Stevens (his moll), Robert Phillips, and Norman Alfe in a unique performance as the Sicilian capo, with Cameron Mitchell, Don Gordon, and Marlene Clark as Treasury agents.

 

Cleopatra Jones

Cleopatra Jones is a truly great invention, in Tamara Dobson’s hands. As first seen on the dry plains of Turkey, supervising a poppy roast, she looks like a sweet little clothes horse, but this long drink of water is a karate expert who takes exactly one second to turn the tables on a knife-wielding assailant and make him beg for mercy (she searches his room, rips up his flashy threads and flushes his stash in another minute or so). She’s very good. Pursued in her Corvette (which has a cache of arms in the door panel) she drives along the inclined concrete banks of the Los Angeles River and demolishes two cars full of drug thugs. Her inner resources come into play quite vividly, and Starrett (who doesn’t miss a thing in this film) registers her extraordinary depths.

Antonio Fargas as a lion in the streets is dressed to the nines before his end at the hand of rivals, and Starrett takes him in, opulently.

No less than Albert Popwell is her backup. The redoubtable Brenda Sykes is a chanteuse kept by Fargas (his character’s name is Doodlebug).

When Starrett has no money, he creates a film out of nothing. With a production budget more or less equal to his abilities he takes action directors to town, richly.

The cast includes Bernie Casey, Shelley Winters, and Paul Koslo.

It’s hard to think of another director who has exhibited more enjoyment while filming on location in Los Angeles.

 

Race With the Devil

Peckinpah’s entire appropriation of the material, shorthand, analytically, for The Osterman Weekend is one of the greatest lifts in the cinema, or an hommage as they say (pace Truffaut).