Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Spud Wiser?

Hot Potato 1976 US
Directed by
Oscar Williams
Warner Brothers
DVD Region 1

Ok... when I first sat down to watch Hot Potato I sat down thinking... this is going to be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. But you know what... it wasn’t. There are worse movies around than this mess of a movie... but this one is still pretty terrible, all the same.

Hot Potato is a sequel, of sorts, using the title character from Black Belt Jones. I wasn’t 100% sure of that at first because it seems to bear no relation to the previous film (to the point where Jim Kelly’s character is only referred to as Jones in this movie) and it makes absolutely no mention of the “previous adventure” in the main text of the film that I can see... but credit is given to the creators in a “based on a character created by” card which sites two of the original movie’s writers so it’s pretty much a sure thing.

Now I didn’t really like Black Belt Jones in all honesty (see my review here) and it didn’t really measure up to some of the other blaxploitation and kung-fu-sploitation movies I’ve seen... so it would be fair to say that Hot Potato isn’t a whole lot more dreadful than the first film... but it is certainly quite dreadful.

The plot involves Jones and some “colleagues” he picks up on the way, snatching back a kidnapped VIPs daughter from a group of fighty, chasey, bad people (you can tell I was really paying attention here by this point can’t you). There is a bit of an attempt at a twist with the heroes snatching a fake double of said daughter to throw them off the scent but, honestly, we really didn’t need this bit of fakery because there’s no real payoff or consequence to this... it all seems merely padding.

I’m guessing that this movie had a troubled production. Sound dubs are quite bad in some places. In other places, like the opening credit sequence, the soundtrack deliberately swamps the dialogue... presumably because the dialogue was so terrible and boring that they needed to distract you from it. It’s like some bizarre Altmanesque sound experiment gone wrong. There are shots in there with Jones and one of his buddies walking through hundreds of extras with lips moving and no sound coming out that I swear must be stolen shots. They probably weren’t dubbed back in because nobody could remember what was being said on the day.

This really is a bit of a train wreck. Just a string of fights with occasional really monotonous cuts back to the villain of the piece being quite boring and “you-have-failed-me” shouty with his henchmen! And the sensibilities of the movie seem to me to be like a film which has been put together in a rush because somebody in production really liked watching Terence Hill/Bud Spencer movies (that’s okay, they can be fun) and tried to tap into that without understanding anything about the character chemistry and how a fight should best be staged and edited. All of Jones mates act crazy and one of them, Rhino, is definitely supposed to be the Bud Spencer part of the equation. But with a little less charm.

Added to this is an unsatisfying score which is an absolute rip-off of the main theme from Kelley’s breakout movie Enter The Dragon, (augmented very occasionally by the base line of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme). Seriously, I’m amazed that Lalo Schifrin didn’t sue the producers of this movie... it’s that close... but a bit hollow sounding.

I know this is a short blog again but there’s probably not much more I can say about this one. I think I’ll just add one more comment which should sum up nicely how bad this movie is. In 1978 there was a third film in the series made called... Black Belt Jones 2. Yep. Hot Potato is so bad that it seems they wanted people to forget that it was the “original” follow up to Black Belt Jones.

That just says it all about these three... the hard way.

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