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Before we start, let’s get one thing clear: this is a double-feature disc. You don’t get just a single gorgeous slice of sixties suspense, but you get two Pete Walker thrillers for the price of one. Welcome to the British grindhouse on Blu-ray, and BFI Flipside remind you to retain your ticket to stay for both features.

Man of Violence



Feature


The sixties was an era when men had to become ever more masculine in order to stay ahead of the changing times, which were mutating the traditional sexual roles. Nothing typified this more than the impact the Bond movies had, where after watching them ‘men walked six inches taller’ on their way out cinemas. With both these factors and the box-office appeal of the man's-man, any producer with a few quid to rub together was going to cut themselves a slice of the takings.

Indeed, sixties’ Britain was a very strange time for the tough-guy genre. The classic chic of Mickey Spillaine’s hard-boiled characters were not only looking old hat, but they just didn’t translate when trying them out with British accents. In the seventies, shows like The Sweeny and The Professionals gave two-fisted he-men their own national identity, but the closest the sixties came was Jeff Randall, still working with his (deceased) partner, Marty Hopkirk. When exploitation filmmaker Pete Walker decided to crank out his own brand of Bond-age, the results were never going to be boring.

Man of Violence
While we all know of the Italian efforts, with none other than Lucio Fulci directing a couple of the ‘OSS’ film, and who can forget Sean’s brother Neil Connery (along with Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee and Adolfo Celli!) in Operation Kid Brother? When remembering the British exploitation of the Bond franchise, most only stop at No1 of the Secret Service and the like. However, may we introduce you to a Man of Violence

Moon is a suave ‘pants-man’, a nattily dressed tough-guy who doesn’t mind who is paying the bills for his smartly decorated London flat. He’s never short of a bit of ‘spare’, but when a gorgeous woman—Angel—turns up wanting his help to liberate thirty million (in old money!) of gold bullion from a recently liberated African country, things are going to get more complicated than even he can handle.

You see, Moon has been hired by two property developers, each paying him to spy on the other. Whilst he is happy to play along, his two employers are gangland bosses scrabbling to made legitimate investments, but when both are out to get the disputed gold reserves, Moon realises that being piggy-in-the-middle between two gangland villains isn’t the most stable of environments in which to work, and is better to be a lone wolf than a dog with two masters. Among brutal bashings, violent killings and copious sex, Moon sets his sights on Africa with Angel in tow, and the race is on across three continents (so the trailer says) to reach it first.

It’s important to point out that Man of Violence (AKA Moon) is not a carbon-copy of the celebrated spy series, rather it uses the template of a debonair tough-guy who likes the finer things and isn’t afraid to use his both his fist and gun when things turn nasty and goes its own way. Connery’s Bond might have just left the series, but Moon was ready to kick down doors around the world in a whirlwind of international intrigue. Sure, the similarities to 007 are there, but Moon owes more to the detective antiheroes of the previous couple of decades than just Fleming. OK, so at the start of the movie, Moon is established as a man who doesn’t need to try too hard to get lucky. This opening sequence is clearly Walker’s answer to the beginning to every Bond film, and this sets the loose route the rest of the story takes, but things veer off just when you least expect them.

While it might seem like another tough-guy without-a-gun-thriller, our man Moon shows the audience that he means business early when he is double-crossed at an arranged rendezvous. Spotting that he is being followed, Moon ducks for cover as a figure pulls out a shooter. Just when punters think he’s going to merely spring up and deck him, our antihero pulls out a pistol and promptly blows him away, in a manoeuvre which would make 007 proud. In spite of trying to avoid Mr. Bond, is it any wonder that that not long afterwards, Moon is accompanied by a sting/strum on a guitar which sounds suspiciously like the works of Monty Norman?

The villains are both interesting and brimming with a genuine sense of menace. No one is more dangerous than a crook trying to claw together some respectability, and the two here ring true because both are based on notorious sixties figures. Sam Bryant is based on the infamous John Poulson, an unqualified architect who bribed senior MPs to land lucrative contracts based on his shoddy planning. Out-debonairing Moon comes Charles Grayson, a brutal man enamoured of all the fluffs and refinements which come with wealth. Grayson is certainly based on John ‘Biffo’ Bindon, on the surface an actor (Get Carter) and bodyguard to the stars, but was more than mildly affiliated with the London underworld—including the Krays and the infamous Richardson Gang, who allowed Bindon to control the West End. With characters like these to draw from, there is no doubt Man of Violence has antagonists to treasure.

One of the real surprises comes at seeing a face not known to the great unwashed performing so well in a part which opposes their usual stuff. In this case, it’s that of Derrick Francis, and after years of seeing him in numerous Carry On movies—signature line from Carry On Camping being ‘I’ll kill you!’—and is so very refreshing to see Francis getting his teeth into a meaty villain’s role. As Bryant, he exudes the qualities you would expect from a megalomaniacal hood using the bodies of those who stand in his way as stepping-stones to respectability. Bryant also demonstrates very original thinking, as who would suspect that someone as gruff and crusty as he would use a pop-group named Flossie and The Crunch as a cover for their smuggling activities?

Man of Violence
In what we presume was a very deliberate choice, opposing bad-guy Grayson’s a very different character to the northern thug he is deadly rivals with. Grayson is sophisticated, cultured and refined, as though some fusion of Noel Coward and Joseph Wiseman. For Bryant, business is about succeeding over others, the kudos of triumph. To Grayson, it is clearly a means of maintaining an expensive lifestyle to which he has become addicted. Maurice Kaufmann essays the conflicting sides of silken smoking jackets and brutal thuggery so precisely that you all other thesps who could have possibly played the role are banished from the mind before the end of the first reel. Establishing his ruthless credentials early on, he kills Moon’s gay contact in the Ministry of Defence, crushing him under a hydraulic garage lift, both sending the authorities a message and also giving a definitive answer to that old joke ‘what do you call a man with a car on his head?’

Then we come to our hero, if such a description for a man so cynical could be employed. There has been a lot of discussion among fans of Walkers’ films that the choice of Michael Latimer was not the best of casting decisions. While he looks the part, and exudes a smooth charm, there is something about him which his somewhat distant. You could argue that the movie was made the year before homosexuality was legalised, and the character of Moon lived a life of keeping his emotions and feelings to himself—only Walker and Latimer know for sure.

There is a very pleasing feel to the whole production, and that is of being a seedier version of and ITC entertainment show. Whilst there are shades of others, the one which pops in there most strongly is Return of the Saint, where the Lew Grade actually filmed in places like Rome and the like instead of just using a back-lot. When Moon heads for Africa, the crew went over there and it opens up the entire scope of the film, making sure they use the footage to economically tell the story rather than just using it as travelogue. There is no doubt that location shooting in the actual places in the script to add a saleable element to worldwide distributors, and this is no bad thing, as it stops Man of Violence from feeling boxed in.

Man of Violence conforms to Pete Walker's general look, sporting similar lighting, stock and—in particular—the combination of camera angles and lenses. This was in an era where there were few UK directors from whom you could pick their work out just on aesthetic value, but Walker was certainly one of them. We got to see Frightmare on the big screen at a festival in nineties (with Walker as guest of honour) and once you have seen his work projected so large, you will never mistake is signature style again. You could argue that his art is dictated by working around a lack of money, lighting and equipment, but there are few in the UK able to rise above such circumstances and have it become indicative of their work.

Walker shows his knowledge of film and demonstrates his ability to manipulate them in one curious shot. Moon is escaping his enemies under the hot, desert sun, desperate to get into his van and burn rubber. The camera is looking through the windscreen of said van, and tracks Moon as he enters. We just assume that this is a hand-held shot used to create energy in the shot, but nope. The next shot shows that we were witnessing Angel’s POV, and she duly starts the engine and pulls away to get them out of trouble. Interesting touches like this separate Man of Violence from its peers.

With sexual elements dominating the movie, one of the most striking sees an early shot when the navel of one of Moon’s conquests is film in such a way and in vivid close-up that it looks uncannily like a vagina—shortly mixing violence by squirting tomato ketchup into said recess. Some might argue that the scene where Angel is interrogated in the buff by a bullish beauty and semi-naked thug pushes the boundaries of taste, but this is pretty mild when compared to some of the ‘roughies’ being made by low-budget producers up until then.

Along with numerous instances of sexism throughout the movie, and a generally poor attitude to anything other than WASP/male, there are a few more distasteful elements from a less enlightened time on display. Most (im)pertinently comes the instance where Moon unblinkingly spits out: ‘a wog?!?’ at mention of a black person. It’s just a sign of the times. Where Disney had Uncle Remus, Pete Walker had Moon.

As if to cement that Man of Violence was filmed during times long gone, a branch of Moss Bros looming large in the streets. The movie comes complete with a time-capsule of sixties’ London, and a viewing of it goes a long way to putting the overblown, synthetic melange of images in the Austin Powers movies into context. One of our favourites was the lovely Turborg ashtray, and we guarantee that it’ll have those of a certain age feeling so very nostalgic.

Similarly, with it being the late sixties, music for films—mirroring the culture—was in middle of a strange, transitional period in the UK. James Bernard was still cranking out his bombastic scores for Hammer, with only variations from others in the lower-budget end of the industry. Around this time, the jazz/swing combo sound was just on the way out, but was still favoured due to its cost-effectiveness. Anyone who watched Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD will agree that said choice of soundtrack both aged the dated the film and seemed utterly inappropriate for the material. Man of Violence has musical arrangements in this same style, but the dynamic nature of the story is able to overcome the melodic cards it was dealt.

There is a certain age-group who might be deluded enough to think that Tarantino singlehandedly created the concept of the Mexican standoff, not knowing the origins of it or even the movies(s) which he ‘borrowed’ the idea from, but when it came to employing the concept in a contemporary thriller, Man of Violence got there first. Moon is at gunpoint from all of his adversaries, their cronies and a corrupt police officer, all wanting the deposed loot, and the whole situation can only in a manner which won’t please all involved.

Moon’s choice of car is an obvious one, given the genre which he (coincidently…) seems to emulate: an Aston Martin DB6. Bond had the luxury of having an ejector-seat to get rid of a threatening passenger, but Moon has to be a little more creative when set upon by a heavy in his own motor. Unlike the invading goon, he has his seatbelt on, and hits the accelerator before jamming the breaks on, sending the intruder’s head smashing into the dashboard. Not content on just once, he does it a number of times for good measure. Very cool, and a good indicator as to why authorities in the UK insist on recessed instruments on dashes over here. By the way, George Lazenby was driving around as Bond that same year in the more exclusive Aston Martin DBS.

Man of Violence
Although not employing a car as weapon of choice, another sequence of inventive pain hit that Dario Argento was inspired by Man of Violence, displaying dental-horror just as squirm-inducing as the teeth/piano sequence in Profondo Rosso. A vital McGuffin is stuck in the mouth of a dead thug, and the only way to retrieve it from the oral death-grip is to smash out the teeth! This is violence a little too ghoulish for studio produced fare, and would only be a filmmaker like Walker and his independence which would allow him to get it on the screen.

An element almost subconsciously ported over from the Fleming novels is that the protagonist is rather easy for his enemies to knock-out. Indeed, the words ‘…after he regained consciousness…’ are commonplace in Bond, and find the hero in dire straights upon waking up. While Bond got his (deserved) whack over the head for slagging off the Beatles in Goldfinger, Moon seems to get a blow to the head so often that he should seriously book an appointment for a scan.

Whilst making sly money off the back of the Bond series, Walker clearly enjoys giving the franchise a simultaneous ribbing. Whilst the opening establishes that Moon is a lady’s man, the revelation about our man is one which must have brought about much gnashing of teeth at the time. Moon learns of a guy who has vital information, and he tracks him down to a gay club in London. We cut to Moon waking up in bed—seemingly alone—as he starts getting dressed. He camera pans over to see that he has just been literally pumping the guy in question in order to get the info he needs—and all under a ‘Boys in the Band’ poster. Moon the Bisexual Bond? While Rupert Everett has lobbied to be cast as this kind of 007, it’s interesting to know that JB was educated at Eton, so he was probably half way there anyway.

On a personal note, we know that any true movie fan will be delighted to see that the legendary Michael Balfour turns up as the proprietor of a café. Michael who? Jesus, didn’t you ever see no Orchids for Miss Blandish? What about his brief cameo in Tim Burton’s Batman? Not even The Revenge of Billy the Kid?? His work is always something worth seeking out.

There is a lot to enjoy with Man of Violence, from tight direction, efficient fight-scenes and entertaining performances. The locales are terrific, the dubious sexual content liable to cause trouser-arousal and the whole package is one which was crying out not only for a sequel, but maybe an entire franchise. We’d have like to have seen Moon hired by Arthur Scargill in the seventies to fight Ted Heath’s anti-miner government. Anyway, Man of Violence is a Hell of a lot of fun, and there’s little more you could ask for in a night in front of the ol’ Blu-Ray player. But enough of the movie itself, how does it look?

Video


Man of Violence was tested on an LCD TV, a plasma monitor and a DLP projector, and in all three instances, it looked superb. For reference, the 1.33:1 transfer (using the alternate title of Moon) is every bit as good—if not better—than the BFI’s releases of London in the Raw and Primitive London. Colours are exceptionally pure, the image contains more detail than the combined footnotes for all three Lord of the Rings novels. If we really had to be picky, there is an instance where a curious strobing effect occurs in on the tartan-lined walls of a gay-bar. We initially thought it might be one of our monitors not handling the closely spaced plaid lines too well, but it was the same on all three systems. This appears to be some form of print damage which makes one strip of tartan seem to judder, but it really isn’t a problem. Not unsurprisingly, a couple of the darker scenes look grainier than usual, along with the blacks being crushed, but it seems churlish to nitpick such minor flaws on such a well-handled Blu-ray release.

Man of Violence

Audio


The audio is presented in 2.0 PCM (48K/24-bit) and faithfully reproduces the original mono soundtrack. The score sounds fine, dialogue is perfectly clear, and everything sounds as it was mixed. Like the image, if we had to be picky, there is one thing we would mention. For a couple of minutes towards the end of the movie, there is a minor instance of sibilance to the dialogue, but this really doesn’t hamper your enjoyment of the film one bit—or twenty-four of them.

It’s rather fitting that the opening titles look like pop-up menus for a Blu-ray release, as this is exactly how the interface is presented. It’s clear and easy to navigate, and complements a superb-looking film very nicely.

Extras


Then we come to the extras. Extras? They class this as merely an ‘extra’?? To quote the aforementioned Lew Grade: ‘It’s a Goddamn feature!!’ As such, we’ll review The Big Switch as a separate film. Here comes the longest review of an ‘extra feature’ you’re likely to come across:

The Big Switch



Feature


As we said earlier, in what is effectively a double-bill, Man of Violence comes with Pete Walker’s earlier movie, The Big Switch. Containing plenty of sex and violence, The Big Switch is a crime caper with a bizarre twist as a youngish man (the age of thirty—woo!) is drawn into a world of corruption and degradation.
 
John Carter (Sebastian Breaks) is a suave guy who takes a girl back to his ‘pad’, only to find that she has been apparently murdered and he is the prime suspect. He loses his job and is recruited by gangster Mendez (Derek Aylward) to go down to Brighton and help him take care of a little business. Whilst in that haven on the south coast, Carter realises that things are bigger and more internationally serious than he realises and things pretty soon begin to spiral out of control.
 
The Big Switch (which also travelled under the moniker Strip Poker) is effectively a colour version of the sort of films that Britain’s infamous Butcher’s Studios used to pump out on a regular basis; all of the principle ingredients are there—a hero who finds himself out of his depth, a shady London gangster, sex, violence and international intrigue. There is a even a moment close to the end when the action takes place at an airport where a light aircraft touches down carrying the character equivalent of a Maguffin as the film nears its climax. The only way that this really deviates from the films of Butcher’s is the amount of sex and violence, plus the somewhat bizarre reason for the whole story. The only thing missing from this to make it seem like an authentic Butcher’s movie is the presence of Roger Delgado as a suspicious-looking ‘foreigner’ type.
 
The performances in the movie aren’t exactly top drawer, with Breaks being somewhat wooden and befuddled in the lead, but there are enough old pros in the supporting cast to prop him up. Speaking of wooden performances, The Big Switch contains one of the most ghastly performances we have seen in quite a while—the perpetrator of which is an uncredited actress, who plays with-it club-frequenter Bunny, who delivers her lines with such remarkable indifference that she nearly capsizes the whole thing a few minutes into the movie. Cameo fans will appreciate the brief appearance of future Eastenders star Derek Martin as a thug—British exploitation fans will remember him as the Floor Manager in the wonderful satire Eskimo Nell.
 
The end of the movie makes for in interesting contrast to the one in Man of Violence, in that the police act in a completely different manner; we won’t give away what happens at the end of either movie, but let’s just say that one leaves the door open for a possible sequel while the other certainly doesn’t…
 
It could be argued that if you view The Big Switch as the supporting feature and Man of Violence being the main feature, then a similar thing that quite often used to have in the days of double-bills happens in that the ‘B’ picture is more riotously entertaining than the ‘A’ pic. Whereas Man of Violence is a little on the long side, The Big Switch doesn’t outstay its welcome, clocking in at around minutes shorter than the main feature (or more than that if you watch the domestic version).
 
Those lovely folks at the BFI are spoiling us by giving the option of watching either the original version of The Big Switch, or the ‘export version’, which runs eight minutes longer and contains more nudity and violence than the one that played in UK cinemas. The whole point was to shoot something that wouldn’t be allowed by the British censors, but would be the sort of thing that would be lapped up in the US. The practise of shooting two versions of a movie (the more risqué one was often referred to as the ‘continental version’) was fairly standard at the time, with the best example being the two different copies of Witchfinder General. The main differences between the two copies of The Big Switch are that some scenes that have actresses partly undressed in some scenes in the standard have them completely nude in ‘export version’ and there’s an gratuitous opening title sequence clocking in at around five-and-a-half minutes consisting of a black stripper very slowly taking most of her clothes off—the opening titles of the standard version run for around two minutes, making the ‘export version’ opening painfully dragged out (unless of course you particularly like watching strippers taking their clothes off that slowly…). The definitive cut of this movie would be to have the ‘export version’ with the opening titles of the standard version.
 
In some perverse way, The Big Switch can be seen as an important historical document, in that the climax of the movie takes place on Brighton’s now destroyed West pier, where all manner of sixties amusements are shown, including penny arcades and a ghost train, the latter of which serves as the vehicle for the chase between Carter and the hoods. It is this climax that features the most ridiculously forced piece of hastily-included dubbing in cinema history; as the West pier comes into view, it begins to snow quite heavily and just before the first shot featuring the white stuff, a line has been shoehorned in to try and explain the distinct flaw in continuity between the coming shots and the comparatively bright sunlight in the previous shots of the chase. Ed Wood writing out Bela Lugosi from Plan 9 from Outer Space was more convincing than this attempt to paper over the battle between freak meteorological conditions and low-budget filmmaking.

Video


The transfer of The Big Switch is just beautiful; the film was shot in Eastman Colour and looks wonderful, with the garish neon signs that bookend the film looking remarkably fresh and vibrant. The BFI have put as much love into the restoration of this supporting feature as they have into the main film, and the results are fabulous—the clarity and the freshness of the image makes it look like it was filmed yesterday, with only the odd very minor piece of print damage to speak of; one scene set in a club relatively early on shows some damage—these are in the form of three black vertical lines, but they can barely been seen and it wouldn’t surprise us if this was damage on the original negative. Fortunately, these lines can only really be seen whenever there are close-ups of the garish red tartan décor in the club—with such tastelessness on view, you will be distracted from the print damage. All-in-all, The Big Switch looks wonderful.
 

Audio


The PCM mono (48k/24-bit) soundtrack for The Big Switch sounds just fine—‘nuff said, really.
 
The Big Switch is arguably even more enjoyable than the main feature on this disc—it’s breezier and more involving, not to mention the fact that taut pacing really works in its favour. OK, the main thrust of the story barely makes a lick of sense and it is revealed in an ineffectual manner too close to the end of the film, but the fact that it feels like the sort of movie that Butchers Studios would have been making if they had stayed in business all adds to the charm.

Now for the proper extras:

We get the trailer for Man of Violence, which does an effective job of selling seats, and should be viewed first to get you in the mood for some prime 60s Britsploitation—is that a word? Can we copyright it? Entertaining stuff, and just what you’d expect.

Seeing as The Big Switch is really just an additional feature in itself, you really shouldn’t be expecting anything to go with it, but the BFI, bless ‘em, have thrown in the original theatrical trailer for your viewing pleasure—good fun it is, too!

A curious addition is the alternative title-card for the main feature, under the title of Moon: Man of Violence. This is exactly as it says, as it merely displays the title Moon before adding Man of Violence over it. It all lasts just a few seconds before going back to the menu.

We’ve already covered that you get both the domestic and export cuts of The Big Switch, and tasty additions they are too.

As with London in the Raw and Primitive London, you get a fabulously-produced book to accompany the disc. This is a superb compliment to the movie(s), looking at both Man of Violence and The Big Switch in depth from the pens of a couple of esteemed writers, an examination of the British exploitation industry, and with enough room for Walker to pen his reminisces about the two films contained on the disc. The twenty-six page booklet is full-colour, and highly illustrated. Anyway, who could resist an article by David ‘…soft porn was suddenly b-o-o-ming…’ McGillivray? Another excellent inclusion by BFI Flipside.

When discussing extras, and should those lovely folks at BFI Flipside be reading, we would suggest that the only way to make a future release such as this even more enjoyable would be to take the approach that Image Entertainment do with their ‘Let’s go to the drive-in’ feature. Just dig up some vintage cinema materials, intermission cards, adverts for ‘Fab’ lollies, etc and some appropriate trailers and put them all in sequential order to replicate a double-bill night at ‘the pictures’.

Overall


In closing, we have to say that this is one hell of a package. The disc sheepishly counts The Big Switch as merely an extra (as well as the export print) but is really a double bill of two damned entertaining movies. The transfers are just spectacular, and proof of what can be done when you give older films the proper treatment. BFI Flipside deserve your support for not only reviving lost gems of decades past, but for bringing them to a format which can truly do them justice. Demonstrate your appreciation by getting yourself a slice of sixties coolness and something to show off your beloved AV system at the same time. A must-have.

Our sincerest thanks to Gary Tooze from www.dvdbeaver.com for the screen-captures!


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