Death Hunt (1981)

Director: Peter Hunt
Starring: Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Carl Weathers, Andrew Stevens, Angie Dickinson, Ed Lauter
Music: Jerrold Immel
Editors: Allan Jacobs & John F. Burnett
Director of Photography: James Devis
Writers: Michael Crais, Robert Victor
Producers: Albert S. Ruddy, Raymond Chow

Death Hunt is allegedly based on a true story. The film opens in Yukon Territory in November 1931, and man, it looks imposing and icy cold – it looks dangerous! But one man who seems to be in his element in this hostile environment is Albert Johnson (Charles Bronson). We meet him as he is riding down from the mountains on his way home. As he passes through a settlement a vicious dog fight is taking place with a crowd of hardened mountain men circled round. The fight is in its final stages, and one of the dogs is owned by this fella called Hazel (Ed Lauter), and the beast is copping a hiding. It is covered in blood and can barely defend itself. The fight should be called off, but Hazel is too proud to give up – even if it costs the dog his life. Finally the fight is stopped. Hazel is angered and embarrassed, and pulls a knife, preparing to take out his frustrations on the dog. That’s when Johnson wades in. He knocks Hazel to the ground and picks up the wounded animal. Hazel is not happy that a stranger has intervened. Once again he has lost face with his peers. Johnson throws one hundred dollars at Hazel for the half dead dog. Still angered and petulant, Hazel demands more money. Johnson throws another bill at him, and then rides off with the dog on a stretcher.

Of course, Hazel doesn’t leave it there. First he approaches the local Mountie, Edgar Millen (Lee Marvin), demanding justice, claiming that Johnson forced him to give up the dog, so it was theft. Millen knows the type of guy Hazel is, and ignores the complaint. So Hazel takes matters into his own hands. With a posse of men, he rides out to Johnson’s lodge intent to kill him.

One of Hazel’s posse shoots the dog, and in anger, Johnson shoots the shooter down. Now Hazel runs back to Millen demanding action, as Johnson is no longer just a thief, but a murderer. Millen understands that the killing may have been self-defense, or Johnson was simply pushed to it – but the law is the law, and Millen sets off to reluctantly do his duty.

Millen, and a posse (mostly Hazel’s men) go to Johnson’s lodge. Millen tries to bring Johnson peacefully, but Johnson refuses. He dosen’t believe he has done anything wrong. When one of Hazel’s dupes opens fire during the negotiation, it becomes one big gun fight. With the numbers stacked against Johnson, it would appear he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.

One of the more interesting aspects of Death Hunt is the changing relationship between the two main antagonists. At the beginning of the film, Johnson is the good guy who is being treated wrong. However, when he refuses to go with Millen and have the matter sorted out – and inadvertently turns the investigation into a seige – he becomes the bad guy. As for Millen, he too starts out as the good guy but as he allows himself to be coerced into hunting down Johnson, even though he knows he is innocent, he becomes a bad guy. But even though they have both become bad in their way, you can still sympathise with their characters, because it is the people around them that have turned them bad. In their natural state, for want of a better expression, both of them are good men.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but is Edgar Millen Lee Marvin’s last great film role? Don’t you dare say Delta Force! Of course, he did work after this, but his age was really catching up with him and he didn’t seem to choose (or was offered) roles that weren’t age-appropriate. He was still playing the same hard living character as he had through the 60s and 70s as if time had stood still. Unfortunately it hadn’t, and some of his later roles are just hard to watch, such as The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission.

Death Hunt is one of my childhood favourites. I watched it many times on video, and still enjoy watching repeat viewings now. It is interesting to compare it to the film First Blood with which this film shares many common themes, and shares more than one or two similar scenes.

As a final bit of trivia, Death Hunt was directed by Peter Hunt, who directed the Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – and who would go on to direct Bronson again in the Secret Service thriller, Assassination.

If you have never seen Death Hunt, it is well worth a look.

Death Hunt (1981)

Hurricane Smith (1992)

Country: Australia / United States
Director: Colin Budds
Starring: Carl Weathers, Jürgen Prochnow, Cassandra Delaney, Tony Bonner, David Argue, John Ewart
Music: Brian May

When Hurricane Smith was released in the early 1990s, I didn’t realise it was an Australian film – so I didn’t bother with it – figuring I would catch it at some stage on video. I never did. The poster certainly doesn’t give anything away, and the casting of Carl Weathers as the hero, and Jürgen Prochnow as the villain, suggest it is an international action thriller. And I guess it is, but if you were to compare it to the other ass-kicking action blockbusters of the time, such as Lethal Weapon, Die Hard (and even the Beverly Hills Cop films – as Prochnow starred in the second), then this film comes up short. It doesn’t have the budget to compete with Hollywood action extravaganzas.

However, if you were to look at Hurricane Smith as a late entry in the Ozploitation cycle, then there’s a lot of fun to be had over its meager 85 minute running time.

Billy ‘Hurricane’ Smith (Carl Weathers) is given a warm Aussie welcome by Shanks (David Argue).

Carl Weathers, plays Billy ‘Hurricane’ Smith, a Texan whose mother has just died. To settle affairs, he needs to find his sister Sally Mae, who he has not seen in years. Her last known whereabouts, was in Surfers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, in Northern Australia.

With only a few postcards to go by, Billy flies to Australia, and begins tracking his sister down. His first port of call is a fancy high-priced brothel, where he meets Julie (Cassandra Delaney – for those curious, Delaney was the naked, car hood ornament in the Ozploitation thriller, Fair Game).
Julie explains she used to share a flat with Sally Mae, but it was said she went back to the US.

‘Hurricane’ and Shanks, chased by Dowd’s minions in speedboats.

Billy knows this is not true and investigates further. This puts him into contact with two shady organised crime figures. The first is Howard Fenton, played by Tony Bonner. The second is Charlie Dowd, played by Jürgen Prochnow. Both are keen for Billy to return to the US, and express this desire, by having Billy beaten up, and then tossed from a moving car. Of course, Billy is not the type to turn tail – especially without knowing his sisters whereabouts.

The film is fairly professionally put together, but I suspect hastily filmed. Throughout the movie, there is barely one close up. Nearly everything is filmed in a medium shot – which is fine for the action sequences. But for the more dramatic scenes, it would be nice to be able to see the actors faces, and know what the characters are feeling. Secondly, I have seen a few production stills, which feature sequences not in the film. Of course, the shots could have been staged simply for publicity – but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the film was chopped and changed around as it was being made.

Shanks blasts away at Dowd’s minions – albeit with his eyes closed

Two local character actors, David Argue and John Ewart almost steal the movie from their international co-stars. Argue plays Shanks, a small time pimp, and loyal friend to Julie. He starts off against Billy, but as the film goes on, he comes around to the side of good and virtue. He also has a good line (well, it would have been good in 1990). In a moment of danger, as bullets rain down on his position, he says ‘he is too young for this shit’… obviously riffing off the popular ‘too old for this shit’ line in the Lethal Weapon films.

John Ewart plays Griffo, a crotchety old publican, who hates ‘septics’. For those who don’t know, us Aussies call Americans ‘septic tanks’, which is rhyming slang with ‘Yanks’. Ewart chews up every scene he is in, with his ‘ocker’ than ‘ocker’ performance. He’s great fun to watch.

The villainous Charlie Dowd (Jürgen Prochnow) holds a gun on Julie (Cassandra Delaney) – the tart with a heart

I am pretty sure, Hurricane Smith, was not a hit. But it is not a stinker. It is just a lower-tier, 80’s action film. It has a likeable cast, and enough mayhem to satisfy most action junkies. It’s strange that appears to have almost disappeared off the face of the earth.

Hurricane Smith (1992)

Rocky IV – Trailer

Uploaded by: YacovTV

May sees the launch of King of the Outback, the sixth book in the popular Fightcard series – and my literary debut (writing as Jack Tunney). Accordingly, in a month long celebration, Permission to Kill will be looking back and some of the highlights – and lowlights – of boxing in film and literature – and in music too.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Fightcard series check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page.

Rocky IV – Trailer

Rocky III – Trailer

Uploaded to Youtube by: oldhollywoodtrailers

May sees the launch of King of the Outback, the sixth book in the popular Fightcard series – and my literary debut (writing as Jack Tunney). Accordingly, in a month long celebration, Permission to Kill will be looking back and some of the highlights – and lowlights – of boxing in film and literature – and in music too.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Fightcard series check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page.

Rocky III – Trailer