DVD Review: Man of Violence (aka Moon) 1970
The second wave of BFI/Flipside movie releases is upon us, including this intriguing Pete Walker gangster flick - Man of Violence.
Also known as Moon (after the central character), Man of Violence is a strange, often confusing movie, but one I'm pretty certain anyone with any interest in Brit flicks of the 60s and early 70s will love. Set in a (just) swinging London, Man of Violence is essentially the tale of two warring northern property developers, Sam Bryant (Derek Francis) and Charles Grayson (Maurice Kaufmann). Both hire private eye / gun for hire / man about town Moon to spy on the other, demanding to know what big scheme the other is planning. It's actually the same scheme, something involving gun running, gold and oil rights in a post-revolutionary Arab state, one doing the deal, the other chasing the goods. So who does Moon (Michael Latimer) bat for? Simple - himself, aided by a blonde called Angel (Luan Peters), who has some vague contacts and a lot of knowledge about it all.
Which sets off a typically ridiculous 60s-style crime caper which throws in hard-hitting violence, a good amount of sanitised nudity, some cracking one-liners, a tour of swinging London, a Manchester-based psych band (the bizarrely-named Flossie and the Crunch) and even a jaunt over to north Africa. All of which adds some meat to the bones of a plot that's quite simply a dash to get find and claim some dodgy gold. Who gets there first? The property developers? Moon? The Law? The mysterious Burgess? or someone else? You'll have to watch it to find out, although the ending (without giving anything away) is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the whole movie.
But don't let that put you off. Man of Violence was Pete Walker's first 'proper' film (with some serious technical people available) and he carries the thing off with some style. Although not half as much style as Moon himself. Moon is never short of a sharp suit, a fast car (Aston Martin DB6 generally) and an attractive girl to fix to his arm. He's also fast with a gun and equally fast at dropping his trousers, whether that's with a female or with a male (the sight of Moon in bed with another man probably gave the censors cold sweats in 1970).
Don't expect a classic, but do expect some great, very un-PC, very British, very 1960s entertainment which never takes itself too seriously. The plot at times seems a little bloated and confusing, the ending disappointing, but if you like the premise of Man of Violence, I'm almost certain you'll love the end product. Lovely transfer too from the original 35mm negative - we are reviewing the DVD, but I suspect the Blu-ray really brings 60s London back to life.
Is that all? Of course not, this is a Flipside release. So aside from the trailers and some very interesting background features (including some words in print from Walker himself), you get another Pete Walker crime flick that pre-dates Man of Violence by a couple of years, The Big Switch from 1968.
A distinctly budget feature, The Big Switch opens with some very interesting shots of London 'back in the day' (Carnaby Street, the Bag O' Nails club, Lord John etc etc), it focuses on man about town John Carter (Sebastian Breaks), a successful ad man who is described by the voiceover as being '30-years-old' and 'too old for this scene'. But his luck is in tonight. He meets a young woman and heads straight back to her place. But after a detour for cigarettes, he finds her dead on the floor and flees. The next day he loses his job without warning, then he's chased for a huge gambling debt. One man (Karl Mendez, played by Derek Aylward) wants to help - and offers Carter a large amount of money to go to Brighton for a 'job'. That job is to disappear, so a gangster can return, plastic surgeons using Carter's face to give the crime boss a new life. Carter needs to escape - but time is running out before 'the Big Switch'.
The plot is excellent (no surprise, it was 'borrowed' from a 1952 noir flick, 'His Kind of Woman'), but a lack of budget and a fairly abrupt end to proceedings limits its overall appeal. Not that's it's worth dismissing completely, far from it. Personally, I loved the period settings, the tension that slowly builds in the early part of the movie and the fairly exciting climax, a shoout-out on Brighton Pier, not to mention some all-too-short footage of 60s beat combo Timebox in the club footage. And remember, this is a bonus feature, so you're effectively getting it free anyway.
Another top-notch release by the BFI and Flipside and for fans of Walker or the era, something of a must-buy. I'm sure there will be a slightly duff Flipside release at some point, but right now, there's thankfully no sign of such a thing on the horizon.