Monday, 23 March 2015

The Manhunt


Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman)
Screenplay: Fabrizio De Angelis & Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: Ethan Wayne, Henry Silva, Raimund Harmstorf, Bo Svenson & Ernest Borgnine

The Manhunt sees The Duke’s very own son, John Ethan Wayne, having a go at leading man duties in this little seen American shot, Italian produced slice of action schlock. Much like director Fabrizio De Angelis’ Thunder series of films (his riffs on the First Blood formula where Native American cop Mark Gregory is accused of all sorts of things he didn’t do leading him to go up against the corrupt cops who set him up), The Manhunt features a wronged hero (Wayne) being accused of something he didn’t do (stealing a couple of horses) and thrown in the slammer run by a nasty Sherriff/warden (Silva). So after the obligatory humiliation at the hands of the Sherriff and his goons, some sweaty chain gang work, and befriending one of the inmates (who is no doubt  gonna wind up dead the minute he befriends the hero!),Wayne attempts to escape, outrun the pursuing dirty cops and reclaim the horses that are rightfully his. 

Now the concept of a would be hero attempting to clear his name and get his two horses back may not sound like a recipe for an exciting prison/action flick and in many ways one would be right. Wayne is so determined to get his damn horses back it all seems a bit daft: especially when he keeps repeating the line “It’s about principle” when virtually every other character tells him to forget it about it. To be fair, it kinda is about the principle (he bought those horses fair and square damnit!) and really the stealing of the horses is just an excuse to set in motion Silva’s sadistic Sherriff and an ever increasing amount of dangerous car stunts. Tracking similar territory to the Thunder films (wrongly accused hero, desert locations, nasty cops, lots of vehicular destruction in slow motion), The Manhunt plays like a slightly watered down version of those flicks. It’s a got a modern Western vibe going for it (complete with twangy score) and while the film isn’t as excessively violent as a lot of other Italian action flicks from  the era there is still plenty of insane car stunts (including a cool chase utilising a stolen prison bus) and plenty of shotgun blasting action. 

It’s all quite low key and Fabrizio takes a while to get to the action but once good ole John Wayne Jr is on the run proceeding heat up considerably. It’s got that vintage 80s Italian feel to it (not quite sure how to pinpoint it but if you’re a fan of these films, you’ll know the feel!) and a who’s-who of cool bad guy supporting characters. Silva is at his mad dog, shotgun wielding best along with fellow corrupt cop Raimund Harmstorf (Thunder 2); always good to see Ernest Borgnine acting everyone else off screen, even if his character does a complete out-of-nowhere 180 in his motivations in persecuting/helping Wayne’s character (!); Bo Svenson (also Thunder 2) pops up for all of five minutes; and Wayne, well, he doesn’t exactly have the screen charisma of his famous father but makes for a decent silent hero.

It may be a bit slow to get going for those looking for fast and violent action and it’s all so slight (even by 80s Italian action schlock standards) some may turn off before all the cool car stunt action kicks in but The Manhunt (if you can hunt down a copy: sorry!) is a neat little Italian action oddity that gets by on some cool location photography, a nostalgic Italian movie vibe and lots of cars being flipped. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I certainly know what you mean by 'Italian Action vibe', goodly sir! I appreciate your write-up, and I look forward with interest to viewing said feature very soon.