Man of Violence/The Big Switch [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - 88 Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (26th June 2024).
The Film

Man of Violence: When gangster Hunt (Snake Dancer's Kenneth Hendel) smashes up one of a handful of dive clubs on London's West End recently bought up by "respectable" businessman Sam Bryant (The Wicked Lady's Derek Francis), he suspects his partner Charles Grayson (Die! Die! My Darling!'s Maurice Kaufmann) from his past days of dodgier dealings of being behind it. Rather than expose his past to the public, Bryant has his right-hand man Nixon (Come Play with Me's Derek Aylward) hire the titular "man of violence" Moon (A Man for All Seasons' Michael Latimer) to get Grayson off his back, either by bribing, framing, or murder.

What Bryant does not know is that Grayson had already hired Moon to discover the source of Bryant's sudden influx of wealth. Moon suspects that both men are being evasive about what is really going on and he does not like that especially when strangers make attempts on his life with no apparent motive and he suspects that he could make substantially more for himself than his fee. His government contact in gay deputy minister Alec Powell (Petersen's Syd Conabere) proves just as evasive apart from warning him that Nixon is "bland as butter and twice as slippery," but when he winds up murdered, Moon knows that he is on the right track. When he breaks into Powell's flat looking for information, he is nearly beaten to death but rescued by Angel (The Devil's Men's Luan Peters), a young woman who seemingly has ties to both Grayson and Bryant who reveals that both men are after the gold reserves of the African republic of Manteba that went missing in the chaos of a coup d'etat. Moon agrees to help her find the gold in order to vindicate an official suspected to its theft who has gone into hiding, but Angel soon starts to wonder whether she can trust the man of violence to be so noble.

Made after the disc's co-feature The Big Switch which utilized a byzantine mystery plot as a vehicle for copious nudity, Man of Violence was an attempt at a more organic combining of sex and violence in a conventional thriller plot at more of a feature-length. Co-written by Brian Comport who also penned the British genre films Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly, Beware My Brethren, and The Asphyx the plot hinges on twist after twist to the point where the viewer may no longer care who is who and what is what by the climax despite the final downbeat, cynical notes. For the most part, Latimer manages to make his flat action-man relatively engaging despite some racist remarks which seem not so much of the time given otherwise adoring Angel's reaction to them, and surprisingly he not only frequents a gay nightclub for information but also beds a man. In the extras, Walker states that he did intend Moon to be bisexual and, despite his other qualities, this aspect along with Powell's description of his relationship with a man who tries to kill Moon early on provide a bit of balance to the otherwise more negative association of queer characters and villainy including Grayson's flamboyant wardrobe, Hunt joining in on a bit of pseudo-sadism involving a restrained young woman played by Terry Graham a veteran of Walker's 16mm-lensed, sold-under-the-counter Super 8 nudie shorts the shared giddiness of Nixon and Hunt as they watch a victim slowly crushed to death in a garage, and secondary villain Virginia Wetherell (The Curse of the Crimson Altar) taking part in a flesh interrogation of captured Angel.

Although she shows off plenty of skin, Peters has a bit more character to work with than her sexpot roles in other British horror and exploitation films including Walker's subsequent The Flesh and Blood Show while Aylward is the only remotely interesting of the villains even if he has to remain more ambiguous out of necessity. Much less interesting are subplots that go nowhere involving Bryan's daughter in a relationship with the lead singer of a pop band financed by her father as a means of trafficking contraband disguised as instruments for their tour, and an obvious red herring (The Horror of Frankenstein's George Belbin) following their every move, while a third act visit to Marrakesh provides some lovely production value thanks to cinematographer Norman Langley who would shoot Walker's first and last horror films Die Screaming Marianne and House of the Long Shadows so much so that Moon and Angel have time for a romantic montage strolling around between plot developments before they rush back to England for the resolution in a dingy building site. Man of Violence is overlong and provides little actual excitement but is not without interest in terms of Walker's growing film vocabulary and style.
image

The Big Switch: At the "ripe old age of thirty," advertising executive John Carter (The Night Digger's Sebastian Breaks) is a bit of a "misfit" among London's permissive society, frequenting the night clubs for one night hookups. He thinks he has scored a hot one with foreign model Samantha (Tam Lin's Erika Raffael) who invites him back to her place only to discover that she has been gunned down in her bathroom while he was out getting cigarettes. John thinks twice about calling the police and tries to go on with his life only to be mysteriously fired despite being an expert at selling sex under the guise of consumer products. He also returns home to a beating by strip poker-playing gangsters who insist he owes a substantial sum of money and give him limited time to pay it back.

Fortuitously, club owner Mendez (Derek Aylward again) offers him a change to get away with a job by the seaside in Brighton. When John refuses after rightfully guessing that Mendez has engineered the recent upsets in his personal life, Mendez reveals that he is willing to blackmail John for the murder of Samantha with false evidence. John reluctantly escorts model Karen (Virginia Wetherell) along with him to Mendez's Brighton pad where they are roughly photographed in compromising positions by Mendez's men Al (Roy Sone) and Jerry (Dangerous Liaisons' Nicholas Hawtrey) with comely acid heads Sally (Nightbirds' Julie Shaw) and Cathy (Zeta One's Gilly Grant). When Al and Gerry prevent them from leaving at gunpoint, John suspects that Mendez has more murderous plans for the pair of them.

Following a series of Super 8 nudie films, a longer theatrical short sex comedy For Men Only, Pete Walker took a stab at a crime film while still keeping his eye on the sexploitation market. The film takes advantage of opportunities for nudity as women change clothes, pose for deodorant ads in sheer gowns, Cathy and Sally romp around in the bathtub and paw at both Karen and John, while the export version included more cutaways, some graphic alternate takes, and an entire opening five-and-a-half-minute striptease in place of the original two minute title sequence. In spite of this aspect, the attempt to keep the audience as much in the dark as the hero is more annoying than suspenseful, and the third act revelations hardly make up for it. What does work in its favor is the climactic action including a shootout on a snowy Brighton pier in which Walker deliberately left in a shot of a gunman slipping in the show as he rushes into frame firing on a victim and a chase through a ghost train ride that, as lensed by Norman Langley, would not be out of place as a setting for a killing in one of Walker's later horror films. Although lantern-jawed actor Patrick Allen usually found leading roles in British exploitation like The Night of the Big Heat and The Body Stealers, he was better known in the mainstream as a voice artist and here provides the opening ironic narration.
image

Video

Man of Violence was not released theatrically in the U.K. until 1971 and not at all in the United States while The Big Switch also waited a year until theatrical release in the U.K. and two years before a U.S. release in its export as "Strip Poker". Both films were hard to see on video until 2009 when BFI released the pair on Blu-ray (and later Blu-ray/DVD combo) as part of their "Flipside" line, and the same HD masters appeared stateside as a bonus disc exclusive to the otherwise separately-available titles comprising Kino Lorber's The Pete Walker Collection Volume 2.

88 Films' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen transfers are also derived from the same BFI masters and, as such, look pretty much the same as the earlier edition. Given a slightly larger budget and lensed by Langley with ultrasharp Zeiss prime lenses and the occasional zoom, Man of Violence for the most part boasts healthier details in facial features, hair, wardrobe, and the cooler gritty urban London and sunstruck Moroccan locations are both spiked with some richly-saturated reds and blues. The animated, optical credits are grainier along with some transitions. The Big Switch features separate 080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen transfers of the British version (68:35) and the export version (76:46). The body of the export version is the same restoration of the British version while the export sequences have been composited from separate materials. For the most part, the nude inserts look pretty much the same quality-wise as the surrounding footage, so the grainier, somewhat murkier opening striptease probably has a much to do with the optical overlays as the original underlit shoot. Bright scenes are best and saturated colors can pop, but some scenes in Mendez's apartment look softer than the probably could due to a combination of practical window lighting and zoom lens coverage.
image

Audio

Both films feature 24-bit English LPCM 2.0 mono tracks in which dialogue, music, and effects are generally clean and clear although the original recording reveals its limitations occasionally with some production dialogue that sounds lower than the surrounding lines including ones uttered by the same character and a few bits that are unclear due to accents. Optional English SDH subtitles are included for both films (and both cuts of The Big Switch), but the Man of Violence subtitles appear to have not been property proofed as there are a couple lines during the coffee shop scene between Moon and Angel where there is a notation of "[unclear]" while another offers what seems to be a suggestion as the surrounding brackets were not removed. We have not seen the BFI edition so we cannot tell if this was also an issue with that editions' subtitles (or why they did not use the same track if it was available).
image

Extras

Extras for Man of Violence start off with "Sex & Violence - Pete Walker's Austerity Films" (9:54) in which Walker discusses how the British film industry got lazy in the sixties propped up by American financing which started to dry up towards the end of the decade. He describes both films as his "sex and violence" films with the former as the primary audience draw and an issue with censors and the press which usually meant publicity. He briefly discusses Man of Violence, noting that "Moon" was the working title for lack of a better one at the time.

In "Noir in Colour" (7:45), director of photography Langley recalls meeting Walker and describes the film as "more of a movie" that what Walker had done before. He also discusses his shooting methods for working with Walker, and how Walker got around shooting in cramped locations by using the unblimped, wild camera and then re-recording the dialogue separately afterwards and having his editor recut it to fit the image.

What is listed as the "Moon" title sequence (0:06) is actually the "Man of Violence" once as "Moon" is what appears on the feature presentation. The disc also includes the theatrical trailer (2:59).

Apart from the aforementioned export version, the only other extra for The Big Switch is the film's theatrical trailer (3:05).
image

Packaging

The discs are housed in two Amaray cases with an outer double walled slipcase featuring new artwork by Ben Turner.

Overall

88 Films' Blu-ray set of Man of Violence and The Big Switch takes Pete Walker's sex and violence austerity films out of BFI's Flipside and into 88 Films' grindhouse just in time to accompany their mega set of his "flesh and blood show" films.

 


Rewind DVDCompare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, amazon.de, amazon.it and amazon.es . As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.