Thursday, 4 November 2021

Death Dimension

Get Sakata

Death Dimension
aka Freeze Bomb

USA 1978 Directed by Al Adamson
Severin Blu Ray Zone A

Warning: There’s a ‘villain reveal’ in here by way of a spoiler.

I’ve been wanting to watch Al Adamson’s Death Dimension for a while now... possibly since before I even knew who Al Adamson was. After the slightly cheap but immensely entertaining Jim Kelly vehicle Black Samurai that Adamson directed (and which I reviewed here) I was really up for watching this one. Alas, asides from a few silly points the film is, sadly, not a patch on Black Samurai and it would be a bit of an understatement to say it disappointed somewhat.

Asides from eschewing the flashier Adamson titles, the film starts off with credits over footage which, I guess, is actually quite impressive. A doctor cuts into the forehead of an actress in close up as she tries to keep still and implants a microdot in her. It actually looks like he’s doing it for real and all I can say is that it’s an impressive looking prosthetic to be able to do that. Similarly, when the thing comes out later in the film... it still doesn’t look fake.

The doctor finishes his surgery and tells the lady to run while he distracts his boss with the test of the new scientific invention which he’d created as a weather control device to end drought. However, the film’s primary villain is using it as a ‘freeze bomb’ and we see it being tested on his prisoners. It basically explodes and then, in the area around the prisoners, it starts snowing until they freeze to death. If that sounds pretty lame, let me assure you, it’s cheaply done and looks even lamer. Luckily, that’s the last time we see the freeze bomb in action because the doctor kills himself and destroys his lab, entrusting the woman at the start of the picture, Felicia (played by Patch Mackenzie) to get the microdot into safe hands.

So now it’s down to heroic cop Ash to find the girl before the villains do. Okay, the plot is set up and... I haven’t mentioned the cast yet, have I. Well, for starters, Ash is played by kung fu guru Jim Kelly but it's the addition of two other iconic actors which make the film so memorable... well, memorable in a way. In Black Samurai, Adamson had a lot of nods to the James Bond-like shenanigans of the main characters. I think it was obvious he liked the Bond films. So in this one he’s got two famous Bond actors on board too and, after seeing how this turned out I have to ask... what were they thinking?

So we have Ash’s police captain boss Gallagher played by George Lazenby, the man who played Bond himself in the greatest of the series, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (reviewed here). He doesn’t have a lot to do in this one but, when he later turns out to be a turncoat villain, he does have a fight scene at least, where he is electrocuted in a pool by Ash’s Chinese ally. I’ll get to him in a minute.

The main villain of the piece, known as The Pig, is played by none other than... and I’ll write it as he’s billed on the credits... Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata. Yep, the guy who played villainous henchman Odd Job in Goldfinger (reviewed here) is the main villain in this one, with a big talking role no less. That being said, he’s been overdubbed with the voice of James Hong for this movie. But to show that he’s just like a Bond villain, instead of stroking a cat throughout the film like Blofeld often did... here Sakata is constantly stroking his pet tortoise. So, yeah, a clever way for the director to highlight the similarities between the Bond films and... well this mess of a movie.

Aldo Ray also turns up in this one as a ‘buyer’ for The Pig’s freeze bomb (when he can get his hands back on the formula in Felicia’s head) and, last but not least, we have Ash’s Kung Fu buddy Li, played by Myron Lee. And, just to push the additional, obvious mood they’re going for, he’s credited here as Myron ‘Bruce’ Lee. He’s not terrible in this and he beats people up just as well as Jim Kelly but, yeah, this was his only movie role by the looks of it.

And it’s all the usual shenanigans. Curiously, just like in Black Samurai, the fight choreography seems to be better at the start of the picture with the end stuff being a bit underwhelming again. There’s not too much in the way of inventive camerawork during the film other than Adamson using that ‘fly’s eye’ lens again (I don’t know what it’s called) to effectively show Felicia’s state of paranoia as she walks the city streets and tries to find a safe haven. Also, the score which is credited to someone called Chuck Ransdell, who has this as his only soundtrack credit plus one credit as an actor in another film, sounds more like a needle drop assembly to me. I don’t know if he wrote the whole thing or just a cue here and there but, for the most part but it doesn’t quite seem to hang together. Most of it is wah wah but oddly generic funky action music but the more effective stuff at the start which is built around a continuous pulse sounds more like something Fabio Frizzi or John Carpenter might have come up with.

The film has some nice ideas for set pieces such as a speed boat chase and ‘on board’ fight but most of them are just not executed with any real flair it seems. And I know Adamson does have a certain style to his work (especially in some of his early crime pictures) so I don’t know what factors combined to give us this. That being said, the sequence where Jim Kelly is in a helicopter and having a shoot out with one of The Pig’s henchman, who is shooting back from a cable car, is a nice idea and it’s not too terrible. I mean, yeah, it’s pretty terrible but... not too terrible.

I’ll quickly mention that there’s a car chase which suddenly winds up in desert roads and, knowing Adamson, I was waiting for the car to go over the cliff in that same footage he favoured from previous films and, sure enough, that happened. Similarly, I knew just how The Pig would meet his end when I saw a light aircraft (probably piloted by Adamson’s sometimes acting and director friend John 'Bud' Cardos, I should think) coming to pick him up in the desert. I knew it would somehow explode with him in it and I knew the exact ‘stolen footage’ moment Adamson would once again cut to in an attempt to fool viewers into thinking the plane had actually exploded. I’ve seen this second or two of film so many times now as I make my way through this boxed edition from Severin, the Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection. Sadly, this is not one of the films in this set which would qualify as a masterpiece by anyone’s standard, I would have thought. This is not the entertaining thrill ride of a film I had hoped it would be but I’m really glad I have it in Blu Ray quality, at least. I now have five more of the 32 films in this box set to watch. Reviews will be coming soon.

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