I was about to watch another Jim Brown film when I came across this Fred Williamson flick on YouTube and thought I would give it a go. Right from the beginning it was obvious this was going to be a weird nonsensical and possibly terrible film. Freddo directed it.
It started off with Fred’s character Johnny doing some army training at an army base in California. Johnny, a captain or something, was doing some mine field training with some soldiers, explaining that the mines in the field are fake. He then steps on a mine and somehow instantly recognises that it is in fact a real mine. As he keeps pressure on it another officer comes along, he is obviously a racist and tells Johnny that all he has to do is replace the pin to defuse it, but in a racist manner. Johnny puts a pin in, but for some reason he asks his trainees to put their flak jackets around the mine, then he leaps away and it explodes, hurting no one. He then punches the officer’s lights out. He is discharged from the army. This is all important later in the film.
Next, we see Johnny in L.A., looking down and out in dirty clothes, and roaming the streets looking for work. He goes into a restaurant and the owner (and a mob family member) offers him work as a hitman, right there and then. To cut the story short, Johnny finally accepts the job as hitman about two-thirds of the film in after trying to find honest work, and working at a petrol station with a mean old dude, so goes about wasting some dudes from another mob family, and gets involved with a pretty blond who turns out to be a kind of Juliet of one mob family, with the Romeo being a son in the other mob family (played by Roddy McDowall), who Johnny also kills by slicing his leg open and telling him to jump into the sea from a boat (I presume sharks ate him, even though it was at a dock in the harbour, we didn’t actually see him die).
This brings us to the bizarre end. An assassin is hired to rub out Johnny, we don’t get to see his face until the final fight scene where they meet after a boring car chase, do some lame kung-fu on each other, and Johnny finally kills him with a ninja star to the head (it kills the assassin despite only barely piercing his forehead). It turns out the assassin was the officer Johnny punched out at the beginning of the film!
The very final scene is even more bizarre with Johnny taking the blond to a piece of land he was promised by the mob boss for the hits, along with a lot of money. He had fallen in love with her, and he didn’t know she was in cahoots with the rival mob bosses’ son. As he is asking her to shack up with him he moves in for a kiss but is shot by her in the stomach. She is pissed that he killed Romeo you see. She plugs him a few more times, then turns around and walks a few steps, and then realises she has stepped on a live mine, looks surprised at him for a few seconds, looks down, then is blown to bits. Johnny is still alive despite the shots. Quite an ending!
The film freeze frames on the explosion and the following text is displayed:
Everything in between in the mines is very slow moving. There is a story, but it just plods along until Johnny finally decides to take the hitman job, way too late in the story. The action is sparse and not really all that well done, along with pretty much everything else.
There is one bizarro scene near the beginning involving Elliot Gould. His character, a smooth-talking ex-professor dressed in fancy duds comes up to Johnny just as Johnny is about to take a hotdog out of a trashcan, he is that hungry. Gould’s character convinces Johnny to leave it and to go to a soup kitchen. On the way they go up to some random dude eating a hot dog and drinking a root beer, where Elliot smooth talks him into letting them have a bite and swig. The guy silently lets them and smiles and becomes instant chums with them. It was all very random, but as it turns out it was actually all random…
Star Fred Williamson’s M*A*S*H (1972) co-star Elliott Gould came in for a half-hour’s work to help out his friend. Gould completely improvised his part on the spot.
That explains a lot.
Fred, like Jim Brown, was an American Rugby player-turned actor, and he also dabbled in directing and producing. Fred and Jim actually worked together in various films as well as television. And according to Wikipedia he has black belts in Kenpō, Shotokan karate and taekwondo.
So this was quite a mess, with the only real good stuff involving exploding mines, and Elliot Gould’s weird cameo. The two Slaughter films did this kind of film a lot better by concentrating on the action and less on the story.
Film count 2018: 64