Thursday, 30 September 2021

The Dynamite Brothers

TNT Smacks On

The Dynamite Brothers
aka Stud Brown

USA 1974 Directed by Al Adamson
IIP/Severin Blu Ray Zone A/B/C

Warning: This one’s got some major spoilerage in it.
There is a genuinely cool twist in the tail of this
movie which I didn’t see coming.

Well this Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection really is a rollercoaster ride in terms of just how good or, typically, how terrible some of the films in this collection are going to be. Because I’m watching and writing these films up in the order they’ve been packaged into the box, as opposed to the release or production dates (both of which are completely different things anyway), my previous review of an Adamson film was Black Heat (reviewed here), which utilised one of the same leading men as in this one, in a shot at catching some cash from the blaxploitation market. You’ll also remember I didn’t think much of it.

This film, however, is absolutely marvellous. It’s a greatly entertaining flick that I could happily rewatch every seven years or so. The Dynamite Brothers is basically a mash up of two genres which were still just about a big thing at the time this was released... blaxploitation and kung fu movies. It made some money and Adamson was able to re-release the film targeted at just the blaxploitation market a year later, by excising the kung-fu part of the trailer and re-christening it Stud Brown.

After a kung fu training session to show how lethal some of the bad guy’s henchmen are, we meet the main antagonist of the film himself and... it’s James Hong! I love the fact that James Hong turns up in an Adamson movie. He plays ‘over the top but sophisticated Asian villain’ really well, it has to be said. That’s the pre-credits sequence of the movie out of the way, leading to an animated title sequence featuring the two leads, Alan Tang and Timothy Brown... and a load of kung fu people, with Charles Earland’s kick ass score playing out over the titles. Actually, this is the only Al Adamson film I’ve found to date, other than his Dracula VS Frankenstein (reviewed here), which has had a CD soundtrack release so, that’s something.

After this, film starts off proper... with martial arts star Alan Tang as Larry Chin. He is illegally entering the country on a boat but, as he jumps off the ship, a bunch of Hong’s henchmen are waiting for him to persuade him to go back to Japan (under the watchful eye of ‘bent copper in the pay of the bad guys’ Burke, played by Aldo Ray). So straight away we have a big chase/kung fu fight on the harbour which establishes how outclassed the bad guys are compared to Larry, who leaves a trail of unconscious bodies in his wake as he runs off to... to what? Well, it turns out he’s come to America to find his lost brother. There are also hints of a back story in some, it has to be said, shoddily timed little flashbacks to a dead woman at various moments in the film. I'll get to that later.

Meanwhile, Burke is escorting the newly arrested Stud Brown (Timothy Brown) in a police car, to be charged for ‘unimportant and never really made clear’ crimes. However, he also finds Larry Chin and so he handcuffs him together with Stud. Of course, the two of them together are presumably spiritually sympathetic so, you know, in a daring escape they presumably become... The Dynamite Brothers... of the title. Anyway, there must be some spiritual connection because, after freeing themselves from handcuffs, the two stay together for absolutely no reason at all. Larry is headed to San Fransisco and Stud takes him to work for his boss, a mobster called Smilin’ Man, played by Don Oliver, so he can support himself while he looks for his brother.

And, of course, this is a blaxploitation movie of the 1970s... so there are evil, bad mobsters like James Hong’s kung fu crew... contrasted with ‘good mobsters’ like Smilin’ Man’s mob, who don’t want any drugs coming into their territory because ‘drugs are bad’ and people shouldn’t do them. Right on brother! It’s here that, in another ‘character with a strange quirk in a 1970s movie moment’, Stud meets a mute lady on Similin’ Man’s payroll called Sarah, played by the title role actress from black exorcist movie Abby... Carol Speed. She becomes Stud’s gal. There’s also a potential girlfriend for Larry when he meets an Asian lady who helps him find a lead to his brother but, she kinda just drops out of the movie once Larry is told that his brother is dead.

So the rest of the movie is about both how Larry’s missing brother and the mob war is all connected and there are various shoot outs and kung fu fights and... the whole thing is a pretty entertaining and surprisingly coherent movie (for Al Adamson) which entertains a lot. Although, it’s a shame that Carol Speed’s character is killed by having her face horribly slashed up by the bad guys to give Stud even extra motivation to end the violent mob reign of her killers.

It all leads to a big fight in Hong’s mansion where we finally find out that those flashbacks were him remembering his wife, who was killed by Hong for rejecting his lustful advances before fleeing to America. Not only that but, in a twist I didn’t see coming, somehow, it turns out that not only is Larry’s brother not dead... but James Hong’s character is also his brother. So, anyway, all the good guys and bad guys converge on the house and a big battle royale ensues while the Hongster makes a break for it in his open topped car, with Larry pursuing on a motor bike. As soon as I saw it was an open topped car I realised that I was once again going to have to watch, possibly from a different angle, that same scene of the open topped car rolling off a cliff edge and killing the driver that I’ve seen now in, it has to be said, a fair few of Adamson’s movies. I honestly can’t be watching this footage again in another movie... but saying that, it’ll probably be coming back to haunt me again before this boxed set is finished, I would imagine. There’s also a stunt fall in this movie, during a gun battle on the streets (surprisingly, there were no Adamson rooftop chases in this picture, he must have had a bigger budget) which I’m pretty sure he recycled into Black Heat but, it certainly packs more power here.

And it’s a fairly joyful film to watch, it has to be said. There are some great fights which use some hand held stuff and some frenetic pacing... but not so much so that you can’t see that Alan Tang can actually do all the stunt fighting himself (unlike a lot of modern American movies where they sometimes have to cut around the actors to hide the fact that they can’t really do the physical stuff that well). Actually, I noticed that in some of the fight scenes, Alan Tang seems to be mouthing a lot of words that are just not coming out on the soundtrack at all. I can only conclude that, like Bruce Lee in the fight scenes in Enter The Dragon, he was probably making a lot of silly, whoop and wahaaah noises but, on hearing the results, the producers decided to cut that audio element for whatever reason (like it sounded totally silly, perhaps).

Added to this we have a good cast of actors doing their thing with a script that really isn’t all that bad and, also, the good guys and gals all have good on-screen chemistry and are pretty likeable. There are even some nicely creative shots in here, where Adamson and the cinematographer use the negative shapes created by various elements of the environment overhanging the foreground of the camera to shoot the action through, which gives the film a more creative edge than a fair few of the films I’ve reviewed from this boxed set here. Add to this a totally redundant snake scene and a silly but underwhelming ‘death by acupuncture’ moment and The Dynamite Brothers comes up trumps when it comes to excelling in explosive excitement. Definitely something I’d recommend for lovers of blaxploitation, kung fu movies and, you know, those rare times both elements come together in the same film. One of Adamson’s best movies, I think.

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