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"Back in the 70's, England's Hammer Studios contracted with the famous Shaw Brothers to produce a few movies in Hong Kong. Only two ever came from the union, this tepid movie and the much better Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1979). I think the idea behind this movie was to combine the action of kung fu, whose popularity was in full swing thanks to Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon (1973) and the grittiness of Mario Puzo's The Godfather (1972). This hybrid fell short of this lofty goal. Actually, it didn't even come close to the mark, as this movie really sucked rotten eggs. I hesitate to mention this movie with those two, truly wonderful achievements in cinema history, but I wanted to give you an idea of what you're in for here.
Craggy faced actor Stuart Whitman, probably best known for his television work from the early 50's through the 70's, stars as Shatter, a hit man contracted to kill an African dictator. He completes his assignment, returns to Hong Kong to collect his fee, only to discover the double cross is on and finds himself in the position of being a marked man. It turns out he was hired through his normal channels, but only by someone who intended on using Shatter as a patsy, and now he is wanted by various governments and mafias. As Shatter tries to sort out the mess, he meets a master martial artist Tai Pah (Lung Ti). Shatter makes a deal with Tai Pah, promising him half the money he intends to collect for his services render if martial artist will help keep Shatter alive long enough to get the money. This offers the showing of much martial artistry, and while interesting; it didn't really seem to be on par with some of the other Shaw Brothers' releases.
I do give credit where credit is due, as the plot, while fairly complicated, seemed well laid out, and also, the movie did follow it pretty much all the way until the end. Also, as the film was shot on location in Hong Kong, providing a sense of claustrophobia while in the city, but also giving some really beautiful views in and around Hong Kong. The biggest problem, in my opinion, with the movie was that it was just boring more often than not. The action would pick up, and then die out, making for a sense of herky jerkiness (stop, start, stop, start) kind of like driving a car with new brakes. While Stuart Whitman was a serviceable actor, I felt nothing for the character, cared not if he lived or died. The star power in this movie comes from veteran actor Peter Cushing and Anton Diffring, Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and Circus of Horrors (1960), although neither actor appears for any great length of time in this film, but fans of Cushing might find interest here if they're looking to complete a collection.
I commend Anchor Bay on their release, as the movie looks really good in this wide screen format, and there are even some real extras, like a commentary track, a trailer, and a couple of TV spots. There is also a featurette about various Hammer releases, which I've seen included on other Anchor Bay releases of Hammer films. Even with the extras, the best I could give this film would be 2 ½ stars, as it was just a difficult and uninteresting release to sit through. Oh yeah, listen for Shatter's own personal theme music, in that 'wak ki cha' style of the 70's. Nowhere near as entertaining as John Shaft's theme music, but somewhat interesting.
Birthe Jrgensen | Odense, Denmark | 03/01/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Everybody trashes this movie it seems, even its own director (Carreras) hated it. But how anyone can hate a movie blessed with the presence of Cushing is a tall question indeed. -He's wonderful in a rather small part, one I understand he even did more or less as a favor to Hammer boss Carreras. The action scenes involving gun-fights and car-chases are nice to watch, but because the Shaw Brothers co-produced we sadly have to endure some martial arts stuff as well. Not only is this a Hammer film with the great sir Peter, but two other faves of mine are also featured; Stuart Whitman and Anton Diffring. By no means a great movie, but most certainly not the terrible mess some would have you believe, either."
Pretty good action fare, for non-discriminating fans.
Kevin Nickelson | San Jose, California USA | 12/27/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you are looking for a prime example of a film that's surprisingly decent in spite of itself, this is it! I've heard all the negative comments regarding "Shatter", from the low budget to the casting of Stuart Whitman. The low budget does show at times, but this film still has a better look than many of the martial arts opuses of the 70's. Whitman has had a history of these kind of tough guy roles, usually in westerns like "The Commancheros" and "Rio Conchos", and does solid work here. And Cushing and Anton Diffring add the expected Hammer polish to the works. The action scenes move at a nice clip, which cannot be said for many films of the era. This is not "Enter The Dragon", but it's better than some of the others."
Quite good for fans of Stuart Whitman.
Trevor William Douglas | Gorokan, NSW Australia | 07/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The print is excellent but what makes this DVD worth purchasing is the audio commentary. The uncredited director Monte Hellman offers some insight into the trouble bound production. Stuart Whitman's commentary is recorded in a hotel room and is not as clear as I would have liked,though his stories are fascinating."
BIZARRE, LAUGHABLE COMMENTARY + HORRIBLE FILM = GUILTY PLEAS
Heather L. Parisi | St. Augustine, FL USA | 09/09/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Everything is great on this DVD except the film. The transfer is crisp and the widescreen is perfectly set. Stuart Whitman just wasn't right in the part and frankly the whole movie was sloppily produced on many levels and they all show. Whatever gets past us, however, will be shouted to us by the uncredited director of about half the movie [only the good scenes, Hellman says], should we choose to hear the audio commentary.
Okay, many films are awful. What makes this film worth commenting on? That's it exactly. The commentary by Monte Hellman and Stuart Whitman is a hoot. Whitman is alone making his audio track in a hotel room and is trying to recall the movie, now some 3 decades behind him, with obvious difficulty. Meanwhile, the uncredited director [by choice, no doubt] is explaining to the moderator how awful the film was and which scenes he did, because he claims after he quit things just got worse. Stuart Whitman's audio is added in here and there as though he were with them. However, after a few minutes, you realize that these guys are not on the same page or even at the same place. Also, Hellman rants about how they had to shoot the scenes as early as possible, "before Whitman had too much to drink". Hellman also goes on to explain how many of the martial-arts actors and production people asked him why Whitman was on the picture. To this he answers, "Whitman was attached to the project before I got started". All the time in the background, Whitman's comments are pouring in a little blurb here and there, like, "there I am in action again". Obviously he had no clue that he was being ridiculed rather cruelly.
After 30 minutes of intermittent audio distractions by the commentators, I had no idea what was going on in the movie and had to start the DVD all over again. Again, I got lost in the commentary. Finally I just had to give up as there was not much to see on the film and I honestly felt very bad for Stuart Whitman being ridiculed and a little guilty for enjoying it a first. This "fun" was entirely at Whitman's expense, so fans might not like to see it. I know I wouldn't. You may, of course, view the film without the commentary. That is your choice, but then all you have is the film -- a very bad film."