Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sudden Death (1975)

1975 – Sudden Death (Topar Films/Caruth C. Byrd Pictures Inc/Hemisphere Pictures [Philippines])

[American co-production with Eddie Romero’s Hemisphere Pictures, filmed in English; released in Mexico as “Muerte Violenta”, and in Finland as “Tuhoojat”]

Director/Philippines Producer Eddie Romero Writer Oscar Williams Producers J. Skeet Wilson, John Ashley Executive Producer Caruth C. Byrd Associate Producers Chuck Courtney, Harry Kohoyda Jr Cinematography Justo Paulino Music Johnny Pate Editors Edward Mann, [uncredited] Monte Hellman Associate Director Eddie Garcia

Unlisted on US credits: 1st Assistant Editor Soly Bina Music Editor Ving Hershon Production Co-Ordinator Harry Kohovda Jr Production Manager Mario David Script Supervisor Boots Wilson Fernandez 2nd Assistant Rodolfo Dabao Jr Production Secretary Lolita Abesamis Assistant to the Producers Harriet Bergere Production Designer Roberto A. Formoso Decor Francisco Balanque Special Effects Supervisor Teofilo Hilario Stunt Co-Ordinator Chuck Courtney Makeup Supervisor Tony Artieda Wardrobe Supervisors Romme Valencia, Beth Heyres Propmaster David Delina Ordinance Denis V. Juban Stills Carl Kuntze Post-Production Supervisor Eric Jeffrey Haims Production Sound Mixer Rustie Castro 2nd Unit Cameramen Proceso Lazaro, Edmund Cupcupin, Jess Masangkay Post-Production Recording Cinesound Music Supervisor J. Skeet Wilson  

Cast Robert Conrad (Harrison “Duke” Smith), Don Stroud (Dominic Elba), Felton Perry (Wyatt Spain), John Ashley (John Shaw), Thayer David (Hauser), Alina Samson, Larry Manetti, Caruth C. Byrd, Chuck Courtney, Ken Metcalfe (Edward Neilsen), Jenny Green, Jess Barker, Nancy Conrad (Melissa Smith), Angelo Ventura, Eddie Garcia (Raoul Hidalgo), Conrad Poe (Brownhats Leader), Tony Gonsalvez, Rocco Montalban (Reuben Gasca), Robert Rivera, Angie Ferro, Joanna Ignatius, [uncredited] Vic Diaz (Carnival Barker), Romy Nario (Bar Goon) [Also listed on the IMDB but not on credits: Bill Raymond, Ron Vawter]

Robert Conrad on Sudden Death:

"Don Stroud broke 3 of my ribs kicking me in the last picture, Sudden Death. I'll explain the picture in one word: Violence! We kill 13 people, no, 14, including three children under 10. Stroud is a great actor but I think he broke my ribs intentionally. Not that he admitted it. Don Stroud is a maniac!" (Galveston Daily News 27/06/75, p.11)

Mini-review by Andrew Leavold:

It’s a supreme joy to watch two of the the great 70s tough guys, Robert Conrad and Don Stroud, pound each other into bloodied mince in a Manila meat works in Eddie Romero’s bleak, black and breathtakingly suave B pic. An international sugar company’s left-leaning President (Ken Metcalfe) watches helplessly as he is shot and his family massacred in the film’s distinctly unsettling opening, and tries to enlist the help of retired CIA man and now beach bum “Duke” Smith (Conrad) before his car in blown to smithereens. The firm’s go-to man (John Ashley) sets up the local anti-corporate activist Brownhats (led by Fernando Poe Jr’s half-brother Conrad) to take the fall, but Duke and his former CIA cohort Wyatt (Blaxploitation regular Felton Perry) decide to take on the company in an all-out war. The two-thirds mark signals Stroud’s entrance as Dominic Elba, a dandy top-dollar assassin and Duke’s respected adversary, and the film subsequently hurtles from one bloodied squib to endless shotgun blasts and its ultimately dour ending with a ferociously assured hand. Romero’s gallows humour from Savage Sisters (1974) is on display (see the brothel scene where a judge is caught with a sheep!) within his characteristically literate and imaginative camera frame; the leads are uniformly excellent, as is Eddie Garcia (also “Associate Director”) as the company’s local Machiavellian representative, Thayer David as the slimy Teutonic chairman and child molester, and the late great Vic Diaz as an uncredited carnival barker.  Also missing from the credits is Monte Hellman, Romero’s associate on Flight To Fury (1963), as co-editor.

Review from the Mondo Digital website:

Legendary for driving TV censors into fits with his wardrobe choices on the classic show The Wild Wild West, Robert Conrad isn't really known as a movie star. Granted, his occasional big screen career had a few highlights, most notably his turn as John Dillinger in the Roger Corman favorite The Lady in Red, but a few years earlier he also appeared in a pair of exotic action films designed to fall somewhere between the family-friendly violence of James Bond and the sadistic exceSudden Deathsses of Dirty Harry. Both became regular TV and VHS mainstays, though in the DVD age they became far more difficult to see until this double feature release.

First up is 1977's bloody, foul-mouthed Sudden Death, one of the many, many exploitation films churned out in the Philippines from director Eddie Romero. In fact, this turned out to be the last stab at a big international production for Romero, who also gave the world The Twilight People, Savage Sisters, Mad Doctor Of Blood Island, and many others, before settling back into local filmmaking. Things start off with a bang as an afternoon barbecue for a couple and their two young sons turns bloody in a hail of bullets. The father, an American businessman named Nielson, manages to survive and is approached by a sleazy, moustached agent (Ashley, weirdly dubbed) who offers to take care of the situation. Instead Nielson goes off to mercenary buddy Duke Smith (Conrad), who prefers to lounge around in a hammock by the beach with his lady friend but changes his mind when Nielson gets blown to bits. Back in business, Duke teams up with his friend Wyatt (RoboCop's Perry) and manages to beat up and intimidate enough people to trace the criminal ring to a foundation in Texas run by ruthless businessmen trying to drain the region dry. However, these unscrupulous millionaires get wind of Duke's snooping and fly in a Dominic Digaldo (Stroud), a smirking assassin in a white suit with a personal grudge against Duke.

Grimy, brutal, and wildly entertaining, Sudden Death is prime '70s drive-in trash in the best sense. The opening scene is astonishing enough, complete with a couple of tykes getting riddled with bullets next to the family pool, but the surprises just keep on coming. A few highlights: shootings, stabbings, beatings, a German child molester with a gun-toting Filipino boy toy named Alfred, and dialogue like "You want poppy?" "You mean pussy, lady, and I wouldn't touch it with your husband's thang!" Of course, the real highlight here is seeing Conrad paired up with the scene-stealing Stroud, whom he first appeared with in the 1971 made-for-TV movie D.A.: Conspiracy to Kill. A fun screen presence from films like Bloody Mama, Death Weekend, and Coogan's Bluff (before he went on to look baffled as a priest opposite Rod Steiger in The Amityville Horror), Stroud enters the film well past the halfway point but gives it a huge injection of energy, strutting around in the highest hat you've ever seen and duking it out with Conrad in an ice plant for the lively (and surprisingly gory) finale. There's even a sick twist ending, too.

Rod Lott’s review from the Oklahoma Gazette 01/10/12:

One of dozens of Filipino director Eddie Romero’s dirt-cheap thrillers lensed in his homeland, Sudden Death is handily the more entertaining of the two. Conrad is kickin’ back and livin’ the easy island life, complete with a female slave, as former CIA spook Duke Smith. He’s reluctantly drawn back into the bam-bam-pow-pow game when an entire American family is gunned down. (It’s the kind of hit ordered by one of those ’70s movie villains — you know the kind: photographed only below the neck so his identity is concealed. Initially, our clues are that he wears a robe and strokes a cat. Until he hurls the pussy into the air.)

This film is Conrad’s Dirty Harry. He acts tougher than tough, and Duke’s hobbies appear to be cursing (“Shit, woman”) and cold-blooded shooting. At one point, he orders a local, “Go spit in his face and kick him in the balls.” Later, he tells another guy, “Son, if you lie to me, I”m gonna spit in your face and kick you in the balls.” So at least the guy is consistent.

It’s a hoot, full of dialogue that’s not only offensive, but doesn’t make a lick of sense now, and probably didn’t then, i.e. “Wow. Look at those Salvation Army faggots.” In one party scene, an older gentleman is caught romancing a sheep. You won’t believe the ending. Or maybe you will. Suffice to say, it spits in your face and kicks you in the balls. While playing circus music.

Review from the Blog Critics website:

These days, the kind of movies that once were made quickly and cheaply for the drive-in circuit are given big budgets and A-list stars. It no longer seems strange that an actor of Liam Neeson's stature is turning up in something like Taken 2, a formulaic action-revenge movie. But back in the heyday of drive-in exploitation, these movies were populated by people like Fred Williamson, Joe Don Baker and Tamara Dobson, and as often as not they were shot in the American South or the Philippines.

In a new double-feature disk from Inception Media Group, we get two disposable movies from the mid-'70s starring Robert Conrad, best known for his TV work on such series as The Wild Wild West (1965-69) and Baa Baa Black Sheep (1976-78). He made few features, but here – paired with the hulking Don Stroud, who makes Conrad look pretty small on screen – he turns in efficient generic performances which hold the movies together without ever raising them above their exploitation roots.

First up is Sudden Death (1977), directed in the Philippines by Eddie Romero, best known in the West for the Blood Island series of horror films he made with producer-star John Ashley (who co-produced here and turns up in a supporting role), although just a couple of years after this potboiler he went on to write and direct the great Filipino national epic Aguila (1980). The script was often of secondary importance in this genre and Sudden Death is no exception. Things like character motivation and story logic take a back seat to the exotic locale and a series of violent encounters and occasional bits of nudity.

The movie opens with the kind of shocking scene Hollywood tends to shy away from, with a group of masked armed men gunning down an American family, including two young children, in their sunny backyard. The father, Ed Neilson, is the manager of a sugar company run by a multi-national board which includes an ex-Nazi, an Arab sheik, and various other stereotypes. It quickly turns out that the board is behind the hit because they don't like the way Neilson favours the rights of local labour over their own profits.

Neilson, who survived the attack partially crippled, goes to ex-CIA agent Duke Smith (Conrad) to ask his help in tracking down his family's killers. But Smith is retired, living a comfortable life on the beach with his daughter, his girlfriend, and an old comrade from his spying days. He turns Neilson down, much to the disappointment of his daughter, but when Neilson is soon killed by a car bomb, his conscience prods him into action.

With his old CIA buddy Wyatt Spain (Felton Perry along for blaxsploitation cred), Smith starts poking around in sugar company business, eventually triggering the release of famed hitman Dominic Digaldo (Don Stroud, showing up half way through the movie), turning the story into a personal fight between the two old antagonists. Bodies pile up in squib-exploding profusion, leading to a very '70s downbeat ending.

Woodyander’s review from the Internet Movie Database:

Some movies bowl you over with an unusually complex and gripping story. Other movies knock you flat on your keister because they are exceptionally well made. Still other films grab you by the scruff of the neck and squeeze until you're gasping for air due to a seriously smoking cast. This terrifically twisty and twisted 70's conspiracy action thriller scores strongly in all three areas, taking the viewer on the kind of wonderfully wicked descent into total nihilism and anti-heroism which could have only been done in a raw, skull-shredding, no-holds-barred in-your-face fashion back in the glorious 70's. Yep, this one's the authentic gnarly article -- and pretty brutal, too.

The always great Robert Conrad rules the day as a gruff, rough'n'tumble soldier of fortune who, assisted by his groovy soul bro partner Felton Perry, winds up knee deep in some heavy, highly illegal and extremely convoluted big business s**t when he decides to investigate a series of murders committed by a shady group of greedy, immoral, anything-for-the-money millionaires who include a disgusting, overweight homosexual pedophile and John Ashley (who also co-produced the film) as an untrustworthy undercover government agent. Conrad, Perry and Ashley all turn in top-notch work, but the guy who easily makes off with the entire picture is consummate celluloid creepo specialist Don Stroud, who gives a sterling performance as a ruthless, long-haired, ice cold professional hit-man who's first seen tossing a cat into the air, has an old score to settle with Conrad, and desperately longs to make a pile of cash so he can successfully bury his embarrassing past as a dirt poor slob kid from the slums.

Director Eddie Romero really lets 'er rip with this fast-paced, darkly amoral, and frequently very violent tale which starts out nasty (a family are graphically blown away while frolicking in a pool!) and gets even nastier as the whole intricate story unfolds, concluding with a devastatingly grim surprise ending that hits the unsuspecting viewer with all the ferocity of a sucker punch to the solar plexus. Further enhanced by Johnny Pate's brassy, funky, wah-wah guitar driven score, uniformly cool'n'cruel characters, a fiercely protracted knock-down, drag-out barroom brawl, several unflinchingly vicious chopsocky fights (Conrad hits countless guys in the groin and engages in an intensely cooking climactic slow motion martial arts face-off with Stroud), splashy, generously squibbed gun shots, and a nice cameo by an uncredited Vic Diaz as a carnival barker, Sudden Death hits hard and takes no prisoners, thereby rating highly as a definite must-see 70's Filipino exploitation gem.

Alan Dorkin’s review from the Internet Movie Database:

I found this film on VHS tape yesterday from a flea market. I had never heard of this before. I watched it today and liked it very much! The film is located in the Philippines, which I found very interesting. Usually these kind of movies take place in the east coast (New York) or west coast (San Francisco or Los Angeles) in the USA. This film is a rare exception of this.

The movie begins with some gangsters killing a family, a scene which reminds me of similar scene in Once Upon A Time In The West. The father of the family survives. After a while two long-time friends got to fight against the bad guys in many ways and several different places. The story is very confusing, mainly because the characters got very little introducing. But that's not so important in action movies...

The fighting and shooting scenes are very cool with a lot of shot-gun action and slow-motion camera. The actors are good, the dialogue is wonderfully explicit, editing works fine and the scenes are set up almost perfectly. I really enjoyed this and recommend it to anyone interested of good old action, instead of wire tricks and computer effects in modern actionfilms. The music made a great atmosphere with all those wah-wah guitar and minimoog sounds.

George Pacheco’s review from The Examiner 07/10/12:

Freshly released by Inception Media Group, this 'tough guy' double feature spotlights Hollywood veteran Robert Conrad in two films which showcase the actor's charismatic screen presence and impressive physicality.

Opening the release with a proverbial 'bang,' 1977's Sudden Death is a violent, no frills action flick which evokes fond memories of sleazy, grindhouse drive in fare, as well as the shot-for-cheap Philippines pictures of Roger Corman, such as Too Hot To Handle and Firecracker.

Conrad stars as a former CIA operative who reluctantly becomes involved with a corrupt board of corporate executives, after they ruthlessly murder the family of one of their public face patsies who has become a bit too 'soft' and understanding of their burdened Filipino workers.

Conrad's character of Duke Smith teams up with his old battle buddies to bring the syndicate to justice, all the while trying to keep his wife and daughter out of retaliatory harm's way. Don Stroud co-stars as the syndicate's merciless hitman Dominic Digaldo, who is hired to ensure the demise of Conrad and his buddies, by any possible means.

Sudden Death is capably directed by The Twilight People's Eddie Romero, who keeps the action going at a fast 'n furious pace throughout the film's brisk eighty-seven minutes. Most of the acting is admittedly wooden-particularly from Conrad's daughter Nancy, whose main purpose here is served as a pretty face in a bikini-yet in the end, this doesn't really matter much, as the film isn't here to win any Academy Awards.

No, instead Sudden Death delivers exactly as promised: a rough 'n ready revenge flick with plenty of explosive action, righteous Seventies fashion and a downbeat ending twist which, although expected, retains quite a bit of its original shock value.

Chuck Conry’s review from the Zombies Don’t Run website:

When Ed Neilson’s entire family is viciously murdered, he pleads with retired CIA operative Duke Smith (Conrad) to investigate. He refuses, but relents after Neilson too meets an explosive death. Deception, international intrigue and a ruthless “syndicate of businessmen” intent on raping a South Pacific Islands nation of its resources keep the pace fast. But when the executives hire a treacherous assassin (Stroud), the two are thrown head-to-head in a predestined match of cunning, wit and brute force. Only one will survive. For the other … it’s Sudden Death.

For me Sudden Death was the meat of this meat and potatoes package. This film is packed with cool guys saying cool things and kicking a whole lot of ass. 70s style all around with cheesy 70s style one-liners to boot. The story is a can of worms in a way, but you will only love it that much more when the pace picks up and the body count keeps going up. Making things even harder to swallow from an interest point of view is the real kick the gut the ending gives us. If you dig 70s style violence and exploitation you will need to see this movie.

Fred Adelman's mini-review from his Critical Condition Online website:

Robert Conrad stars as an ex-operative who is forced to return to his killing ways in this Filipino actioner, directed by Eddie Romero (TWILIGHT PEOPLE, WOMAN HUNT - both 1972, WHITE FORCE - 1988). Conrad must find the murderers of the president (and his family) of a huge corporation. Together with his partner (Felton Perry of WALKING TALL), Conrad rages war on the board of directors and the assassin (Don Stroud of THE DIVINE ENFORCER) sent out to kill him. Lots of fights and explosions, although they are rather sloppily filmed. Still, it holds your attention and has a really downbeat conclusion. Co-starring John Ashley (who also co-produced), Larry Manetti (of MAGNUM P.I.) and Filipino staple Vic Diaz in a bit part. From Media Entertainment. Rated R.

Michael Weldon's review in Psychotronic Magazine #32 (2000) p.72

Hemisphere planned to release this Philippines action movie, but apparently never did. Macho former Army man Duke (Robert Wild Wild West Conrad) lives on an island paradise with his blonde daughter (Nancy Conrad), native girlfriend (Aline Samson) and his local mentor (Eddie Garcia). After a suburban bloodbath, a black karate school owner (Felton Perry) arrives from LA to help Duke reluctantly battle revolutionaries. First the old friends spend time at a whorehouse and Duke advises a kickboxer to aim for his opponent's balls. The real bad guys are evil international businessmen, led by a shipping magnet (T'hayer David) who likes young boys. He hires bad guy Ashley (with a 70's Elvis look) who eventually hires a mercenary (Don Stroud). With explosions, a flaming man, many squib shots and a slo-mo ice house battle. Also with Ken Metcalfe and Vic Diaz. Ashley and Garcia were producers. Black American Williams, who directed The Final Comedown (1972), must have been responsible for the addition of symbols of racism (blackface stars, pickinniny dolls...) in the background.

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