1976 - High Velocity (First Asian Films Of
Director Remi Kramer Screenplay Remi Kramer, Mike Parsons [as Michael J. Parsons] Producers Mike Parsons [as Michael J. Parsons], Takashi Ohashi Executive Producer Joseph Wolf Cinematography Robert Paynter Music Jerry Goldsmith Orchestrator [uncredited, listed on IMDB] Arthur Morton Editor David Bretherton Production Manager Peter Samuelson Art Director Robert Mitchell Casting Director Hoyt Bowers First Assistant Director Peter Macgregor-Scott Assistant Directors Nick Miranda, Hernan Robles Location Managers Gener Sulit, “Joe”/Jose Dagumboy Script Supervisor Tom Moore Camera Operator Derek [V.] Browne Focus Puller Paul Hennessy Camera Assistant David Burr Key Grip Dante Javier Gaffer Alan Martin Best Boy Peter Clarson Assistant Film Editor David Ramirez Wardrobe Supervisor Llandys Williams Special Effects Teofilo Hilario Construction Manager Evaristo Dalistan Stunt Coordinator Clem Parsons Second Unit Director “Joe”/Jose Dagumboy Second Unit Cinematographer Nonong Rasca [Second Unit] Assistant Camera George Rosales Technical Advisor William Darrow Executive Assistant Vincent Pavis Sound Mixer William [B.] Kaplan Boom Operator Earl Sampson Sound Editors Gordon Daniel, “Gil”/Gilbert D. Marchant Music Editor Ken Hall Re-Recording Mixer Robert Knudson
Cast Ben Gazzara (“Bummer” aka Clifford Baumgartner), Britt Ekland (Marie Anderson), Paul Winfield (“Woody” Watson), Keenan Wynn (William Anderson), Alejandro Rey (Alejandro Martel), Victoria Racimo (Dolores), Joonee Gamboa (Commander Habagat), Rita Gomez (Nancy), Joe Andrade (Manong), Liam Dunn (Bennett), Richard O'Brien (Beaumont), Stacy Keach Sr (Carter), James Bacon (Monroe), Jojo Juan (Celia), Kim Ramos (Tigerstripe Officer), Bruno Punzalan (Old Bodyguard), Hernan Robles (Jail Guard)
Taut, unexpectedly gripping mid-shelf thriller stars Ben Gazzara as Baumgartner, ex-Ranger Captain from the Vietnam War and now semi-retired crop duster in an unnamed, corruption-riddled military junta. He’s trying to eke out his own little patch of paradise but the powers-that-be won’t let him, as he’s blackmailed by corporate snake Alejandro Martel (Alejandro Rey) into rescuing his company’s repellent American CEO Anderson (Keenan Wynn) from a guerrilla stronghold in rebel-held territory. Killing’s a business for Baumgartner and he’s reluctantly back on the payroll, as his ex-Nam buddy, the equally jaded African-American Woody, and they both don the camouflage warpaint and head up the river -literally and figuratively - with a small arsenal of crossbows and explosives. Unfortunately for Anderson his head’s full of corporate secrets, and Martel instructs Baumgartner to leave Anderson for dead rather than bring problems back home for him and his mistress, Anderson’s listless wife Marie (Britt Ekland).
I call High Velocity “mid-shelf” as it appears to exist somewhere between an A and a B feature, with Gazzara (in Cassavette’s Killing Of A Chinese Bookie the same year) giving his role class and grit in equal measures, and with the usually dependable Ekland, here little more than window dressing, providing the glamour. Eddie Romero’s long-time collaborator Mike Parsons – as actor, co-producer and screenwriter throughout the Sixties – adds local flavour to director Remi Kramer’s script, lending the film an authenticity: the cockfight, the drunken machismo, the omnipresent military (this WAS filmed during Martial Law, remember), and the requisite titty bar loaded on stage and off with doomed white expatriate faces. The character names are Filipino, the unsubtitled dialogue’s Tagalog, and-the-army versus rebels backdrop (for the so-called “Gang of 45”, read the Philippines’ communist NPA) is all too familiar to a Filipino audience.
It’s an interesting smart-pulp improvement on the familiar “mercenaries rescue kidnapped Westerner from enemy territory” scenario, and not just because of Gazzara’s gnarled, laconic delivery, and enjoyable dynamic and snappy banter between him and the as-gnarled Woody. For starters, our sympathies certainly don’t lie with the Ugly American Anderson, played as a barking brutarian, vainglorious and vein-popping popinjay by an over-the-top Wynn, nor with his multi-national corporation, whose conspicuous extravagances are proudly on display. The opening polo match, from which Anderson is snatched, hammers the point home to perfection: polo-playing royalty inside their palatial walls, watched by their resentful, threadbare subjects through the gate’s cell-like bars.
So do we cheer for the left-wing guerrillas led by Commander Habagat (Joonee Gamboa), themselves white-anted by corruption and desire for power, and all too eager to commit the ghastliest of deeds so long as they’re sanctified by the noblest of motives? Or does High Velocity labour under the right-wing libertarian notion that the individual, and not the power structures that hold his true spirit in chains, can triumph? Certainly Baumgartner is only too happy to blast apart the rebels’ huts to save his and his wife’s skins, and doing the corporation's dirty work in the process; in High Velocity’s unmarked hellhole, life is cheap, if not instantly disposable, and is ultimately measured by how strongly one feels the survival urge. Subsequently, there are no cheats nor sappy clichéd resolutions as the film hurtles towards its sour conclusion. Grim, satisfying stuff.
Reviews from the Internet Movie Database:
This movie is completely un-reviewed, and the first time I saw it was on late night TV about fifteen years ago. The reason it is so unknown is because it just has too much to say about capitalism and economic exploitation of the third world. The movie opens with Keenan Wynn enjoying the fruits of his servants labor in an unnamed third world country, though the movie was apparently shot in the Philippines. Being a highly visible wealthy foreigner, he is kidnapped by a local guerrilla group, who soon demand a large ransom. Gazarra plays the man called out of mercenary retirement to go rescue him. I can't give any more away, but what transpires turns the entire good buy/bad guy Hollywood plot sequence on its head, and there are lots of emotional moments as the best laid plans go awry. This movie says much along the way about masters, their servants and what colonial capitalism does to everyone involved. it also has a lot to say about mercenaries. I love this film, and it is REALLY hard to see or rent. Thinking hard, I really can't find anything wrong with this film, and the acting is superb, with, as you can see, a lot of big name stars of the time. Don't believe bad reviews, this is the real deal.
This movie is completely un-reviewed, and the first time I saw it was on late night TV about fifteen years ago. The reason it is so unknown is because it just has too much to say about capitalism and economic exploitation of the third world. The movie opens with Keenan Wynn enjoying the fruits of his servants labor in an unnamed third world country, though the movie was apparently shot in the Phillipines. Being a highly visible wealthy foreigner, he is kidnapped by a local guerrilla group, who soon demand a large ransom. Gazarra plays the man called out of mercenary retirement to go rescue him. I can't give any more away, but what transpires turns the entire good buy/bad guy Hollywood plot sequence on its head, and there are lots of emotional moments as the best laid plans go awry. This movie says much along the way about masters, their servants and what colonial capitalism does to everyone involved. it also has a lot to say about mercenaries. I love this film, and it is REALLY hard to see or rent. Thinking hard, I really can't find anything wrong with this film, and the acting is superb, with, as you can see, a lot of big name stars of the time. Don't believe bad reviews, this is the real deal. (Martin Onassis)
I too stumbled on High Velocity years ago, at a drive-in triple bill or on late night TV, I don't remember which. What I do remember was thinking, "What the heck!!!?"
Lately I hunted down a VHS copy of this movie on e-bay and viewed it again. Perhaps my politics, or the times we live in, have changed sufficiently, because the plot doesn't seem quite so outrageous now as it did when I first saw this movie. Or maybe I've seen more films from Hong Kong,
As a Viet Nam veteran, I found High Velocity, which is set in the Philippines in the early 1970s, to be a better, truer picture about Americans fighting in SE Asia than Camino's "The Deer Hunter", Cappola's "Apocalypse Now" or Spottiswoode's "Air America" (gag!). If you like mercenaries/war movies about spooks killing and carrying on, check this one out. (Denis Wheary)
High Velocity is a solid adventure tale of retired mercenary Clifford Baumgartner(Ben Gazzara) forced back into the trade and hired to rescue a wealthy businessman(Keenan Wynn) from a group of rebels who have kidnapped the abrasive old codger. The businessman's trophy wife and their lawyer coerce Baumgartner into accepting the job, so its off to the jungle for the merc and old associate/fellow merc Watson (Paul Winfield). Filmed in the Phillipines on a low budget the film manages to present an interesting social commentary of the contrast between the haves and the have nots. Of course there is enough combat in the film to warrant its promotion as an action themed film. The real appeal of High Velocity though is the chemistry between Ben Gazzara and Paul Winfield as the two man merc team who sign up for the job of assaulting the rebel group at their jungle base. Both actors were seasoned film veterans by the time this 1976 film was made, and their ease with each other on screen is apparent. Though their characters are comfortable working together at their trade, each feels different about their profession. Gazzara as Baumgartner is tired of the work and only takes the job after he and his family are threatened. Winfield as Watson is more comfortable with the mercenary lifestyle, taking a little too much pleasure in his job as a soldier of fortune. Though High Velocity is low budget and little seen, it remains a nice addition to the small group of films that make up the merc genre, such as Dark of the Sun, Dogs of War, and the Wild Geese. (actionfilm-2)