From its high-pitched wails as the opening credits crawl over some uninspired background shots of mountains, audiences will have no choice but to stare and clutch at their ears as Death Hunt opens. Its score is poor and that should not matter to any action feature until it becomes an unavoidable focus. But what else would there be to focus on in the great Canadian outback, eh? Just like the score gives way to bold and recognisable actors, the direction of Peter Dick eventually secedes away from snowy background shots and into the real meat and bones of this early-1980s action flick. Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson are steady hands to have on board, but from Death Hunt, it would seem their days in the spotlight are numbered.
Action heroes have a habit of losing their loved ones to kidnappers and villains whose aims are either domination of some small district, money, or both. Cold Sweat is a pioneer of the action tropes and is in safe hands when pooling its worth with Charles Bronson and Liv Ullmann. Who better to helm it than Terence Young? His best efforts on the James Bond series were notable not just for their catapulting of Sean Connery but their stern action and the ease Young appeared to have in crafting great setpieces. But that all landed on the shoulders of interesting characters, and Young must have broken out into a cold sweat of his own upon seeing this script.
Few westerns are wholly original. They borrow, grab and steal from those around them. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Tell that to Sergio Leone, who flatters all he can with Once Upon a Time in the West, yet another epic spaghetti western that finds comfort in the films that laid the foundations of the genre. Nothing wrong with being inspired or moved by art, if anything, Leone applies these works to his film because he is infatuated with the influence they have and the hold these Hollywood westerns have on his mind. He pulls Henry Fonda into the spaghetti genre, reverses the typical meanings of the strongest John Ford or Howard Hawks films, and fashions out a film equally respectful and filled with venom for the glory days of the popular western genre.
A famed rip on the brilliance of Seven Samurai, the pangs of the western genre found the allure of hired heroes helping villages fend off against a mighty threat too much to push back against. Thus, The Magnificent Seven was born. It is more than just a preference of samurai or western that will guide audiences to the former or latter. Sad it may be to see that there are different marks of quality and incompetency within either piece, the general, core concept is there and displayed with relative merit. Director John Sturges is no stranger to the western genre, but the isolationism and behind-the-times community found in Bad Day at Black Rock is very different to the heroes and villains found in the ensemble that put together The Magnificent Seven.
A daring grasp at freedom sees a band of unlikely comrades put together a plan to escape a prisoner of war camp. The Great Escape offers up dastardly Germans, heroic heroes draped in red, white and blue, and a collection of characters who in any other circumstance would be butting heads with one another. A rather cliché look at the war, but forgivable in a time of such upheaval. Hollywood cash-ins on the tragedies of life are inevitable. The tidal wave of films set during the Second World War soon began drawing bigger names, and larger budgets. The Great Escape is likely one of the more consistent and narratively compelling of these war films, especially those released a mere twenty years after the end of such a harrowing war.
Twisted artists and nauseating muses are no oddity to cinema. Creative minds verging on and often pushing over into insanity are trite, stale, ideas that we as a collective audience have sat through time and time before. Trust in House of Wax. For those mired and tired by the reams of chilling, uneventful features where dab hands plunge themselves into madness, Vincent Price will lead us once more to original ground. His offering from 1953 in collaboration with André De Toth will provide unnerving situations. Hellbent on offering the public something fresh and invigorating, House of Wax showcases a New York sculptor drumming up profits for his museum with the help of a manic business partner.