The desert mine belonging to an international diamond syndicate is the setting for violence, intrigue, and double-dealings. Tough, desperate men vie for immense riches. Sourced from a BRAND NEW HD SCAN.
“Thank you very much gentlemen, but I prefer to join the girl scouts.”
Our hero is attempting to smuggle a diamond through a security checkpoint. Armed guards stop him at the gate. After he submits to a thorough search, the film cuts back to him leaving the checkpoint and driving off diamond in hand without any explanation. Such is the case too often in Val Guest’s 1976 action film ‘Killer Force’ with the audience constantly waiting for missing story elements to reappear. You hope for the payoff to a scene later on, but it never shows up. How did he get that diamond out? Thankfully there is enough explosions, stunts, and groan-worthy zingers to make you forget all about the “story”. Who needs that anyway?
Starring Telly Savalas, Peter Fonda, Christopher Lee, and O.J. SImpson ‘Killer Force’ is a “paycheck” movie of the highest degree. Filled with talented character actors in exotic locales with a first draft script, it’s clear that this nobody’s passion project. However, like most people I am a complete sucker for films with a ragtag band of misfits bent on taking down The Man. If that man is Telly Savalas, then I’m gonna pop in the Blu-ray and enjoy it one way or another!
The film opens on the Syndicated Diamond Corporation’s massive operation in South Africa. Piercing the barren landscape is a bright yellow Land Rover racing through the dunes. In the passenger seat is bearded hippie Mike Bradley (Peter Fonda) the mine’s security officer. He’s been ordered to take out an airborne intruder last seen on radar. The rogue aircraft lands. Two men jump out and start digging in the sand. When they easily uncover a bag of diamonds in the sand it’s clear that they were planted for a pickup. Enroute to the plane Mike tries his best to be funny, but his jokes land flatter than pancakes. It’s clear that Fonda is trying to say the lines hidden behind his bushy beard and sunglasses with as little effort as possible.
With great fanfare a car races into frame only to reveal SDC’s head of security Harry Webb (Telly Savalas) is here on a surprise inspection. Harry suspects a diamond buyer inside the operation is making cash because so few employees are caught stealing. His list of suspects includes even the manager’s supermodel daughter, Clare (Maud Adams). Clare is slung around the film as Mike’s long-distance girl but completely wasted otherwise. An awkward confrontation between her and Harry results in him ripping her skirt off for no reason at all! This is where I started to see Telly losing focus on the performance and phoning it in. Savalas seems to be channeling his inner “Kojak”, but it's hard to tell because so much of the film is centered around his wardrobe. We see him unbutton his sleeves. Button his sleeves. Pull his collar. Fiddle with his watch. Good grief get on with the movie! With a clean HD transfer you see every fibre of his tailored shirts and snug fitting pants. For those interested in the costuming it’s great!
Mining security chief Ian (Victor Melleny) orders Mike to steal a diamond and attract the mercenaries he thinks are ready to pounce on the diamond reserves. Without Harry’s knowledge this could be the ticket to catching the mole inside the operation. Mike cleverly eludes Harry and his team with a diamond and a pocketful of groan worthy zingers. The diamond smugglers see Mike in action and contact him.The ex-Vietnam vet mercenaries are led by Lewis (Hugh O'Brian) with Paul (Michael Mayer), Chilton (Christopher Lee), and Alexander (O.J. Simpson). Seeing Christopher Lee and OJ Simpson together allows me to devise a killer round of “The Kevin Bacon Game”!
In most heist films this is the moment when the plan is set in motion and our players begin showcasing their talents. Unfortunately ‘Killer Force’ doesn’t take the lead and instead meanders around until we get some action notes to revive the audience. (See any scene with yellow Land Rovers.) Sure it’s fun to see Christopher Lee stab a hooker, but I can’t root for the underdogs if you don’t sell them to the audience! Director Val Guest injected lots of humor into the film but I found myself laughing at the film and not with it. Why was Telly’s shirt unbuttoned down to his pants? Why does he rip off Clare’s skirt? If you shake a gun hard enough will it fire bullets?
‘Killer Force’ isn’t necessarily a great movie. It’s a strange organization of scenes from a successful action-heist film with a killer cast and dangerous stunts. What drew me to this film was the onslaught of 70’s action cinema coming to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. There are some true gems out there believe me. ‘Killer Force’ isn’t one of them, but repeat viewings could yield better results. Even though the film is hard to understand it still provides enough entertainment to fill 102 minutes. I suggest pairing it with ‘Shadows in an Empty Room’ for a great Kino Lorber double bill!
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘Killer Force’ arrives on Region A Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing. The movie is pressed onto a BD50 disc housed in a standard blue keepcase. The disc opens to the logos for Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing before arriving at the Main Menu.
Presented in 1080p with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio ‘Killer Force’ looks tremendous given its patchwork assembly. At the start of the film is this message: “The film’s title on the elements that were provided to us from MGM’s vault to create a new high definition transfer. The on-screen title you will see on our presentation is called THE DIAMOND MERCENARIES, but it’s better known as KILLER FORCE.” From this point I expected a mishmash of pieces but instead I got a rather attractive transfer for an otherwise unremarkable film. Colors pop and detail is very fine during interior shots. You can almost see the threads on Telly’s shirt! There are some instances of dirt and noise, but when combined with the fine film grain it’s barely noticeable.
‘Killer Force’ is supplied with a 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix that is passable. Between audio quality changing drastically within a scene to the constant hiss behind dialogue you’re constantly fiddling with the volume button. Georges Garvarentz’s upbeat chase music is heard loud and clear when it’s present. Unfortunately there isn’t enough musical scoring in this film to give it high marks. The listening experience isn’t terrible, but not up to the standard set by the visual presentation.
Alternate Ending (HD) (1:25) Without spoiling anything I’ll say that this alternate ending is the appropriate one for the film rather than the one used in the film.
Alternate Title Credit (HD) (3:10) Opening credits altered to remove AIP’s involvement with the picture amongst other changes.
Original Trailers (HD) (2:35) You get two trailers: One is a wonderfully edited AIP trailer with THE BEST voice over for Killer Force. The second trailer is a crappy UK VHS quality trailer for The Diamond Mercenaries.
Other Trailers (HD)
-The Passage (3:27)
-Blazing Magnum (3:33)
In my short time at High -Def Digest I’ve not come across a film that disappoints me until today. Make no mistake ‘Killer Force’ isn’t a bad movie (I’ve seen plenty of those) but with its cast, location, and action scenes there’s a hyper expectation that isn’t fulfilled. As your mom would say, “I’m not mad, just disappointed.” Sure, Telly is smooth as hell and that desert land rover chase is sublime for stunt fans but it isn’t enough. Uncommitted acting and a thin story derail this from a mindless action movie to an anti-climatic afternoon flick. ‘Killer Force’ isn’t the brilliant heist film it wants to be. That’s too bad. With some tinkering it could be one of the great comedy/action movies of the 70’s. With these factors in mind I’d say rent it for those curious to see Christopher Lee and OJ Simpson together on screen, but skip it for everyone else.