Film Review – BLACK GUNN (1972)

BLACK GUNN (1972, USA/UK) **½
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); pr co. Champion Production Company; d. Robert Hartford-Davis; w. Franklin Coen (based on an original screenplay by Robert Shearer and an original story by Robert Hartford-Davis); pr. John Heyman, Norman Priggen; ph. Richard H. Kline (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); m. Tony Osborne; ed. Pat Somerset; ad. Jack De Shields; rel. 20 December 1972 (USA); BBFC cert: 18; r/t. 96m.
cast: Jim Brown (Gunn), Martin Landau (Capelli), Brenda Sykes (Judith), Luciana Paluzzi (Toni), Vida Blue (Sam Green), Stephen McNally (Laurento), Keefe Brasselle (Winman), Timothy Brown (Larry), William Campbell (Rico), Bernie Casey (Seth), Gary Conway (Adams), Chuck Daniel (Mel), Tommy Davis (Webb), Rick Ferrell (Jimpy), Bruce Glover (Ray Kriley), Toni Holt Kramer (Betty), Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Scott Gunn), Jay Montgomery (Junkie), Mark Tapscott (Cassidy), Gene Washington (Elmo).
One of the many black action thrillers that followed on the coattails of SHAFT (1971) but lacked the class of that production. It is a fast-paced, but unevenly handled, action vehicle for Brown in which a black militant group robs a Mafia bookie joint and steals incriminating ledgers which, in turn, prompts retaliation from the mob. When the group’s leader, who happens to be nightclub owner Brown’s brother, is killed Brown hunts down the perpetrators. Brown is a physically effective lead but otherwise, his performance lacks charisma. Sykes brings some charm to her role as Brown’s loyal girlfriend. Landau and Paluzzi (as key mob members) are underused in a strong supporting cast. Glover, however, enjoys himself as the mob’s chief henchman. The plot is overly familiar, and the earthy dialogue is heavy on themes of the struggles of black Americans. British director Hartford-Davis’ handling of the material is occasionally unfocused with jarring camerawork hampering some otherwise bloody and lively action sequences.

TV Movie Review – COLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (1973)

Adrian CarsiniCOLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (TV) (1973, USA) ****
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Leo Penn; w. Stanley Ralph Ross (based on a story by Larry Cohen); pr. Robert F. O’Neill; ph. Harry L. Wolf (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Dick DeBenedictis; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Larry Lester, Buddy Small; ad. Archie J. Bacon; set d. John M. Dwyer; cos. Grady Hunt; sd. David H. Moriarty (Mono); rel. 7 October 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.

cast: Peter Falk (Columbo), Donald Pleasence (Adrian Carsini), Joyce Jillson (Joan Stacey), Gary Conway (Enrico Guiseppe Carsini), Dana Elcar (Falcon), Julie Harris (Karen Fielding), Vito Scotti (Maitre d’), Robert Donner (The Drunk), Robert Ellenstein (Stein), Robert Walden (Billy Fine), Regis Cordic (Lewis), Reid Smith (Andy Stevens), John McCann (Officer), George Gaynes (Frenchman), Monte Landis (Steward), Walker Edmiston (Auctioneer), Pamela Campbell (Cassie Marlowe).

Adrian Carsini (Pleasence) runs a California winery owned by his younger half-brother (Conway) who reveals he’s about to sell it. This enrages the older wine connoisseur who knocks the young playboy out cold and ties him up in the wine cellar. Soon Carsini has committed a murder and makes it look like a scuba diving accident. The rumpled Lt. Columbo (Falk) is on the case and is willing to harass everyone – even Carsini’s cold but devoted secretary (Harris) – until he’s discovered the truth. One of the most entertaining of the Columbo mystery movies and one of the few where the rumpled detective has a liking for the killer. The winery setting and Pleasence’s delightfully snobbish performance give this episode a playfully novel feel. Whilst the murder is hardly perfect, the way Falk unravels the case is sublime. The finale in the expensive restaurant and on the cliffs overlooking the sea are neatly staged and the final scene where the detective and the murderer share a last bottle is nicely played. The production values are standard for 1970s TV, but the light, humorous touch and the lead performances make this well worth a look.