Quantcast
Channel: Good Efficient Butchery
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

Retro Review: SHATTER (1974)

0
0

SHATTER
aka CALL HIM MR. SHATTER
(UK/Hong Kong  - 1974; US release 1975)

Directed by Michael Carreras. Written by Don Houghton. Cast: Stuart Whitman, Peter Cushing, Ti Lung, Anton Diffring, Lily Li, Yemi Ajibade, Huang Pei Chi, Lo Wei, Chiang Han, Liu Ka Yong, Liu Ya Ying, James Ma, Kao Hsiung. (R, 90 mins)

Following the success of 1973's ENTER THE DRAGON and the subsequent explosion of kung-fu movies coming out of Hong Kong, Hammer, England's legendary house of horror, tried to get a piece of the action with a pair of co-productions with Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers. Both turned out to be critical and commercial failures, starting with 1974's horror/martial-arts hybrid THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES, which bombed in the UK and wasn't even released in the US until 1979, drastically and disastrously re-edited as THE 7 BROTHERS MEET DRACULA. Since becoming widely available in its original, uncut form in the early days of DVD, the very entertaining LEGEND has found a strong cult following and is today held in higher regard by fans. The other was the international actioner SHATTER, which remains the ill-conceived dud that it was decades ago. Just out on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory (because physical media is dead), SHATTER was a troubled production from the start, with Hammer hiring the unlikely Monte Hellman to direct. A Roger Corman protege, Hellman enjoyed some critical success with a pair of low-key mid '60s westerns with Jack Nicholson and Millie Perkins (RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND, which Nicholson also wrote, and THE SHOOTING), and found a place in the post-EASY RIDER New Hollywood movement with 1971's existential road movie TWO-LANE BLACKTOP.







Despite his reputation as an American cult auteur, Hellman was never above a hired gun gig if he had bills to pay. He finished 1979's AVALANCHE EXPRESS without credit when director Mark Robson died during production, and he would later helm 1989's killer Santa sequel SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 3: BETTER WATCH OUT. But it's hard to imagine why anyone thought he was the right guy for a Hammer/Shaw Brothers hit man/kung-fu movie, so it's little surprise that he immediately clashed with producer and studio exec Michael Carreras. Carreras stepped in to finish directing 1971's BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB when Seth Holt died of a heart attack on the set, and he would step in again here after firing Hellman three weeks into production. While Holt remained credited on BLOOD (it was about 90% done when he died), Carreras took Hellman's name off of SHATTER and is the sole credited director, even though all involved parties have said that most of the film was Hellman's work. In its finished form, it's a hodgepodge of ideas and trends that never quite gel, and experienced cinephiles with a sense for behind-the-scenes chaos will see a major red flag in the opening credits that list three cinematographers. It has hints of the themes of existential melancholy inherent in Hellman's films of that period, but it's also required to have some martial arts action, political intrigue (haphazardly represented by grainy, mismatched stock footage pilfered from TV news broadcasts), and some splatter and a little T&A for the exploitation crowd. It's a confused, compromised mess that feels more thrown-together and abandoned than finished.


Stuart Whitman had a pretty good run as a Hollywood leading man in the '60s, even earning a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as a just-paroled child molester in 1961's THE MARK (he lost to Maximilian Schell in JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG). He would end up doing guest spots on TV and appearing in some truly dreadful movies by the 1980s, but here, in 1974, he's definitely finding a niche in drive-in exploitation as Shatter, a freelance international assassin hired to kill Ansabi M'Goya (Yemi Ajibade), a brutal East African dictator. When he goes to Hong Kong to collect his payment from bank executive Hans Leber (Anton Diffring), the representative of his unnamed client, he's told that he won't be paid and if he makes any trouble, he'll be arrested for M'Goya's murder. This understandably sets Shatter off, especially since he's got people taking shots at him, plus Rattwood (Peter Cushing, attempting what sounds at times like a Southern American accent), a cynical agent from the government's "security division" having him roughed up and telling him to get out of town. Shatter finds a love interest in masseuse Mai-Mee (Lily Li) and eventually teams up with her martial-arts expert brother Tai Pah (Ti Lung) to take on the assassins coming after him and help him get his money from Leber, who represents not the CIA or British intelligence, as Shatter assumed, but rather a cabal of international syndicate heads who wanted M'Goya rubbed out because he stood in the way of their lucrative global opium pipeline.

Stuart Whitman (1928-2020)
Released on the US grindhouse and drive-in circuit in 1975 and into 1976 by Avco Embassy as CALL HIM MR. SHATTER, SHATTER does boast an admittedly awesome score by David Lindup, filled with gratuitous waka jawaka, vibraslap, and shrieked "Shatter!"s. And it comes alive on a few occasions, usually during some kung-fu beatdowns by Lung, who had a long career starting in Shaolin movies from that period and is still active today, but is perhaps best known for starring with Chow Yun-Fat in a pre-fame John Woo's A BETTER TOMORROW (1986) and A BETTER TOMORROW II (1987). Whitman and Diffring look like they're just in it for the free Hong Kong and Macao vacation, but Cushing, in his last appearance in a Hammer production, manages to bring a spark to his small but unusual role as a tough-talking intelligence agent, usually capping off his smartass bon mots by popping a piece of candy in his mouth (Shatter: "Rattwood, you're a real bastard." Rattwood: "Yes I am, aren't I?"). Carreras initially had some half-baked notion of SHATTER being spun-off into a TV series with Whitman and Cushing, but it obviously never panned out. Hammer was suffering from multiple identity crises in their waning days of the 1970s as established horror trends were completely upended by the likes of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, ROSEMARY'S BABY, and THE EXORCIST, and their short-lived dalliance with the Shaw Brothers is just another example of them throwing anything at the wall to see what stuck. It was a nice idea, but SHATTER is a dull, dreary misfire plagued by a problematic shoot, and feeling a lot longer than 90 minutes. Whitman eventually retired from acting in 2000, and SHATTER's Blu-ray release was already announced when he died in March 2020 at the age of 92.


Michael Carreras, Peter Cushing, Sir Run Run Shaw,
and Stuart Whitman on the set of SHATTER

Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

Latest Images

Trending Articles





Latest Images