Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Secret Agent Stuntmen: "Deathcheaters" (1976)

Steve (John Hargreaves) and Rod (Grant Page) are two Australian stuntmen. They are hired by the mysterious Culpepper (Noel Ferrier) to infiltrate a power plant in the Philippines to steal some important papers.

A slight film deserves a slight plot summary. Trenchard-Smith is an old hand at the Australian action pic, and this '70's relic is not badly directed. Trenchard-Smith's story, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired.

The film makers may have scored some points if they had turned this into a heist picture. Instead, the first third of the film sets up the fact that Steve and Rod are stuntmen, and they get set up by Culpepper in a fake bank robber chase. The audience is let in on this right away, so we must sit back and revel in some good but mild stuntwork from the two leads. Culpepper is a bumbling guy who is supposed to be this film's equivalent to James Bond's M. The supporting cast is nothing you have not seen before- Steve has worrywart wife Julia (Margaret Gerard) and Rod has a basset hound he talks to when not trying to bed women.

The main set piece, at the Filipino plant, is a tedious exercise in safety. The characters make it clear that they do not want to kill anyone, so everybody shoots guns and blows things up, nobody gets hurt, and the papers the duo are after are never revealed to contain anything of importance. The final punchline of the film is kind of flaky.

"Deathcheaters" also contains a disco theme song that will rob you of many hours of sleep. The old Vestron Video box cover of this film makes it sound a whole lot more dangerous and better than it is. What it really is is a pointless resume reel for stuntman and stunt coordinator Grant Page. There are some laughs here and there, the stunts are well executed, but in actuality "Deathcheaters" does not cheat death, but its audience. (*) out of five stars.