Remo Williams: TV Series Pilot (1988)

A little bit more on the Destroyer. In 1988, an attempt to launch a Remo Williams television series was made. Only the pilot was completed – obviously not good enough (or popular enough?) to garner the support to proceed to a fully fledged series.

I haven’t seen the Pilot myself, but below a few clips from Youtube.

Uploaded by Sosaix:

And a golf sequence uploaded by supersandor:

Have a good weekend!

Remo Williams: TV Series Pilot (1988)

The Destroyer: Troubled Waters

Author: Mike Newton
Publisher: Worldwide Gold Eagle
Published: 2003
Book No. 133
Based on characters created by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy

To suggest that I am an expert on the Destroyer series, after only reading two books, would be the height of arrogance. So accept my comments as broad generalisations. Yesterday, I looked at a book, The Head Men, which was written in 1977. Troubled Waters was written in 2003, and not so surprisingly, in some ways is a very different beast to the earlier book.

Most of this has to do with politics – not so much who was running the country, although The Head Men dealt with the US presidency, but the political and social climate of the day. In the seventies, the US was still dealing with the last vestiges of the hippie movement, and recovering from Watergate. The ‘noughties’, as today, are much more homogenised – well, at least on the surface anyway. There are possibly even more lifestyle choices, but political correctness insists that we are all the same.

It is my impression that the Destroyer series often mined these political landscapes as sources of humour, particularly black humour. The 1970’s were ripe for the picking and a well placed jibe could say a lot about society. But now observational black humour is much harder to present, without being labelled racist or sexist (or any other ‘ist’). The Head Men was rather sexist.

Therefore Troubled Waters is not as humorous as The Head Men. But there is humour, obviously the banter between Remo and Chiun, and a view jibes at female body image (things like breast augmentation etc.) But while the humour quotient in the story may be down, the action adventure element is up. It is worth noting here, that like the Executioner series, Destroyer moved from Pinnacle Books to Gold Eagle, and although a different style of book, could almost be considered a stable mate for the Executioner. It is also not so surprising that some of the authors that worked on the Executioner, would also work on the Destroyer.

Mike Newton is the author of Troubled Waters, and I have talked briefly about Newton before. I thought Paramilitary Plot was, well to put it politely, a very clunky piece of action adventure writing. However I thought Troubled Waters was quite okay.

For the writer, I think that one of the hardest aspects of writing a Destroyer novel would be about getting the pacing right. The problem is that Remo and Chiun are literally supermen. They can do anything. And if they were to discover the villains of the piece straight away, the story would be over in a flash. So the story has to be dragged and teased out, which if done well can be highly entertaining. But if not, the banter between the two heroes is not enough to appease action adventure fans. On this level, I think Troubled Waters succeeds, whereas The Head Men sort of meandered towards its climax. At least Troubled Waters throws up a few odious minions for Remo to intimidate and baffle with his Sinanju skills, on his way to the final confrontation. Of course, the result is never in doubt.

This story is essentially a pirate story. As the novel begins, a woman who has been held captive by a cadre of modern day buccaneers, escapes from their island in a small boat. Without food and water or navigational equipment it seems like she is done for, but miraculously, at the last second, she is discovered and saved.

It turns out that she is the daughter-in-law of a US Senator. And his son was killed by the pirates when they attacked their boat as the couple cruised around the Caribbean. The daughter-in-law is hospitalised after the trauma of being in captivity, and being used and abused by the pirates. The senator uses his clout to hunt down the pirates, but the regular authorities have no luck.

Then CURE is called in. Remo Williams, the Reigning Master of Sinanju, and Chiun, Reigning Master Emeritus of Sinanju, are assigned to cruise around the Caribbean, appearing as potential wealthy targets, hoping to draw the pirates out so they can put an end to their bloody reign of terror.

The fly in the ointment, however, is the US senator’s daughter, Stacey Armitage. She is a headstrong girl who chooses to avenge the death of her brother by hunting down the pirates herself. Of course, she gets in over her head. When she is nearly raped by four hoodlums in a seaport, Remo comes to her rescue and is reluctantly convinced to allow her to join their party as they search for the pirates.

The pirates themselves up throwbacks. These are not modern, high-tech pirates. They live the old ways – eye patches, cutlasses, raising the Jolly Roger, and a goodly amount of raping and pillaging. It will come as no surprise that the author has given them names such as Kidd, Morgan and Teach.

There are other characters, and plot contrivances along the way too, such as a boat load of rich kids who are captured by the pirates, man eating sharks, and an angry Colombian drug lord to contend with. But they are merely potholes on the road to the final confrontation.

Over time, I will read more Destroyer books. However they are different to the other blood and bullets men’s action adventure series. They have a different flavour. And, if you are like me and are only just now discovering the series, you may find adjusting to the slightly more comical, and less bullet riddled adventures of Remo and Chiun, a bit disconcerting. Don’t write them off though, just expect something different.

The Destroyer: Troubled Waters

The Destroyer: The Head Men

Author: Richard Sapir & Warren Murphy
Publisher: Pinnacle Books
Published: 1977
Book No: 31

I remember when the Destroyer movie came out in the mid 1980’s. I was very excited about it. That wasn’t because I was a fan of the Destroyer books – and in fact, The Head Man, which I am reviewing here, is the first book in the series that I have read. But in ’80s, in a time before the internet with millions of facts, press-releases and opinions available about any subject; information on upcoming films was pretty much the domain of magazines and newspapers. And if the mags and papers got it wrong, or were slightly misleading, the lie or deception could be accepted as fact.

In America, after the film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins tanked at the box office (well at least didn’t perform to expectations), it was released in Australia as Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous, and what attracted me to the movie, was that it was touted as a new film series from the makers of the James Bond. Notice the word ‘makers’. Not ‘producers’. So Remo was not an EON production (the production company behind Bond), but it was very heavily implied that it was. Therefore the film was suggested to be a wild laugh-filled action-stunt fest – in the Bond tradition. So that is why I was excited about the Destroyer movie – it was a surrogate Bond movie.

The reality is that it was directed by Guy Hamilton, who directed Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun. And it was written for the screen by Christopher Wood who had scribed The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. So the Bond ‘maker’ claims are true, but stretched to imply the whole production team was behind the intended Remo franchise, which was not the case.

Whether that was some deliberate misinformation by a marketeer or some clumsy reportage in a magazine or newspaper is probably lost to the sands of time now. Ultimately though, it is not important. Remo didn’t do well and a series was never launched.

However the film wasn’t all bad. In fact it was rather enjoyable in its way, and I have watched it a few times in the passing years – the latest being only a few weeks ago. It still holds up okay except for some annoyingly ’80s music.

As I said at the top though, I had never read a Destroyer novel, and upon watching it again and enjoying the interaction between Remo Williams (Fred Ward) and his Korean master, Chiun (Joel Grey), I wondered if what was presented up the screen was an accurate reflection of the characters or a liberty taken by Hollywood. There was only one way to find out and that was to read some Destroyer novels.

From my local second hand bookshop, the oldest entry in the series I could find was The Head Men, which was No. 31 in the series, and published in 1977 – about eight years before the film. And I am pleased to say that the repartee between Remo and Chiun is as colourful as the film.

This story is rather simple. An unknown group (or person) makes a death threat against the President of the United States. Of course, the President receives many death threats, but most of them are cranks. But what gives weight to this threat is that a man named Walgreen, who used to work for the Secret Service is killed by the same people making the threat against the President. And Walgreen was given advanced warning and went into hiding with the aid of a specialist security company called Paldor. Paldor’s security measures are even more comprehensive than those employed on the President, and therefore Walgreen’s assassination is a powerful message.

Chiun, the reigning master of the ancient and deadly martial art of Sinanju, and his pupil Remo Willians are assigned by Dr. Harold W. Smith, the leader of CURE (an ultra secret – illegal – law enforcement agency) to protect the President from the threat.

The thing I didn’t expect from the book was the large amount of cynical black comedy. The villain is a leering crippled dwarf who spends most of his time on a mechanical platform that raises and lowers so he can look down on people. The heroine of the piece is a ditzy, busty blonde named Viola Poombs, who used to work in a massage parlour, but after allowing herself to be seduced by a Senator is now an investigator for the House Committee on Assassination Conspiracies and Attempts.

At one point she says, “I am an employee of the federal government of the United States of America and I would only take off my clothes only upon a direct order of a duly elected representative of the America people.” The Poombs character would upset most feminists, (or anybody who craves flesh and blood characters in their stories and not simply cardboard stereotypes) and she has no purpose in the story apart from being a source of scorn and ridicule (behind her back), and to be leered at by the majority of male characters in the story.

As a comedy, The Head Men almost works (with the exception of the aforementioned blatant sexism). But as an action adventure novel, and this disappointed me, it fails rather miserably. There are only two real passages of action in the whole book. One, when Remo rips into a car after some assassins have attempted to kill him and Chiun. And of course at the climax, which I won’t spoil. The rest of the time is devoted to our two heroes bickering – which while presenting a modicum of amusement, does become tedious after about 100 pages.

As an introduction to the Destroyer (in written form), I found The Head Men to be rather disappointing, expecting a somewhat more physical adventure. But what I failed to mention earlier was that while I was in that second hand book shop I also managed to snap up another Destroyer book from 2003, which appears to be quite different in style. I’ll have a review up on the site soon.

The Destroyer: The Head Men

The Dead Man: Face of Evil

Authors: Lee Goldberg, William Rabkin
Publisher: Adventures in Television
Published: February 2011
Book No: 1

This novella is not a spy story, but the story has its roots in the ‘Men of Action’ stories that were popular in the ’70s and ’80s – and many of them were spy stories. But first, I want to talk to you about ‘Dirty Harry’. When I was growing up I was a big fan of Dirty Harry. In fact I discovered Harry twice. The first time was when I was a young teenager, then later as an old teenager.

The first instance was before video really took off in Australia. Back in the early 1980’s television censorship Down Under was very severe. We had what they called AO MOD TV movies – standing for Adults Only Modified for Television. Well the censors worked overtime on Dirty Harry, cutting out whole scenes and great chunks on dialogue. It is a testament to the strength of the movie that despite the removal of the violence and swearing, it was still a bloody good film. The cuts obviously diluted Dirty Harry from how it was originally intended to be seen, but in others ways opened up the film to a new youthful audience.

Four or five years later and I finally got to see an uncut version of Dirty Harry, and if you’ll forgive the Harryesque wordplay, I was blown away. But between that time I actually encountered Harry again. Not the filmic Harry as portrayed by Clint Eastwood, but the ‘Men of Action’ book series written by Dane Hartman (I think my first was one of the latter ones in the series Dealer of Death). I bring up the fact that my first filmic encounter with Harry was cut, because the books were extremely graphic, which delighted me no end. I do believe they were the series that taught me the word ‘viscera’. With the hindsight of twenty-five plus years, I realise the Dirty Harry series was trash…but I enjoyed it so. They were my ‘Men of Action’ series…the one I latched onto.

The thing is, if you grew up in that era, without all the video games, computer, ipods etc., then most likely to escape you read, and adolescent males read ‘Men of Action’ books. And there were heaps of them to chose from, Mack Bolan as The Executioner, Remo Williams as The Destroyer, The Black Samurai, The Specialist, The Hunter, The Penetrator and many many others. I am sure many of you have your favourite. You could always tell a ‘Men of Action’ book by the number on the cover – they were always numbered, hoping you’d keep along with the series.

Men of Action
‘Men of Action’ books

The old ‘Men of Action’ books are all but extinct now – of course you can find them in second hand shops, but possibly younger generations have replaced them with video games, which provide them with more immediately thrills. I for one, kind of miss them. But it seems that I am not alone. Thankfully, a group of talented authors are coming together in a project aimed at reviving the spirit of the ‘Men of Action’ books in a new e-book series. The series is called The Dead Man, and the first book is Face of Evil written by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin. But this new series isn’t just retreading old ground, or presenting more of the same. The story tellers have added a paranormal, horror element into the mix. So Face of Evil presents a story in a style that you may be familiar with, but mixed with some other elements to bring the reader something new.

However, here’s my first little gib, and I know it’s an e-book, but in keeping with the ‘Men of Action’ ethos, it should have a big No. 1 on the cover to signify that it is the first in the series. Oh, and a guy with a gun… and maybe a girl in bikini. They don’t need to be in the story… heaven knows most of the old series promised more with their cover artwork than we actually got!

I know I am being superficial, but hey, I’m a traditionalist! The story concerns Matthew Cahill, who has been a widower for many years, and works in a saw mill. After many years on his own, Cahill looks like he is about to enter into a new relationship with a co-worker named Rachel. But this budding relationship is cut short, when one afternoon as they are skiing, an avalanche takes Cahill’s life. Or does it? After three months of being buried in the snow, his body is found and taken to the morgue. But as the coroner attempts to perform his autopsy he notices a very strange thing. As he cuts into the corpse, he notices that it is bleeding. Dead men don’t bleed.

So how does Matthew Cahill stand up as a ‘Men of Action’ hero? I think the jury still has to be out on that. Cahill has the potential to be a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining hero. He is in this story. But Face of Evil is somewhat of a ‘Beginnings’ story, which charts how Cahill becomes ‘The Dead Man’ and suggests the path that he is going to take. And I must admit I am eager to see where this path leads. So is he a great ‘Men of Action’ hero? He could be. Time will tell.

If there is a weakness to the story, it was in the horror aspects to the story. By nature I am squeamish kind of fellow, but the horror elements here didn’t have me chewing my nails, or have my heart racing. However, the thriller, and comedy – very dark comedy I will add – is first rate. I found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions (which is always embarrassing when you’re on a train).

Here’s the spiel about The Dead Man series:

Matthew Cahill is an ordinary man leading a simple life…until a shocking accident changes everything. Now he can see a nightmarish netherworld of unspeakable evil and horrific violence that nobody else does…

For Cahill, each day is a journey into a dark world he knows nothing about…a quest for the answers to who he is and what he has become…and a fight to save us, and his soul, from the clutches of pure evil.

FACE OF EVIL, the first book in the series, was written by Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin and will be released on February 20th, to be followed in coming months by more all-new adventures of THE DEAD MAN by some of the most talented and successful mystery, western, horror and scifi authors out there today, including Bill CriderJames Reasoner, Matt Witten, Joel Goldman, James Daniels, Burl Barer and David McAfee.

Face of Evil
Faux Cover - 'Face of Evil' as a retro style 'Men of Action' book

Please forgive the clumsy faux cover art (right) I have created for Face of Evil. The simple fact is I was just having a bit of fun. So too, I think that the authors who have come together for The Dead Man project are having a bit of fun (although on the strength of Face of Evil, I would suggest their story telling ability is stronger than my artistic aspirations). The enjoyment, most evident in the in-jokes, is palpable when reading the story. Of course, I cannot know exactly what the authors were thinking when they wrote this story, but a part of me expects that it may not have seemed like work at all. The story races by at a brisk rate of knots, each twist and turn, and shift in time providing another revelation as the story moves towards its… well, I was going to say ‘end’, but that really is misleading. For now I will say ‘close’, but sure to be picked up in book two.

Face of Evil is only a novella, around 80 pages, which creates its own little duel edged sword. In many ways, I was happy that it was short, as the twists had me eager to know whats happens next. Therefore, I could finish the book in one sitting, rather than pressing on into the wee small hours and turning up to work bleary eyed the next morning. On the flip slide, I was enjoying it so much, I didn’t want it to end so abruptly. I guess I have to wait for the next installment in The Dead Man series.

The Dead Man: Face of Evil