Two adrenaline junkies Rod and Steve (Grant Page, John Hargreaves) accept a suicide mission from the Australian secret service's Mr Culpepper (Noel Ferrier) to infiltrate and destroy the fortress of a notorious Filipino racketeer, Agostino Fernandez. But first, they have to complete some training ...
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The action starts at one second into the movie and doesn't stop; the first stunts involve a medieval battle - which is a film within the film, being directed by Drew Forsythe's larger than life monocled German character - an early indicator of the filmmaker's addiction to fun. Looking back on the 70s Ozploitation flicks, it seems like breath of fresh escapist air, as John Hargreaves - one of the most intelligent, sophisticated, respected, liked and honoured thespians of the era - joins stunt wizard Grant Page in an escapade that is simply a wonderful joyride. Australian filmmakers haven't had so much fun since - nor audiences.
The film is notable for a couple of things: after his debut as a camera operator in 1973 on Alvin Purple and assistant camera on the 1975 The Man From Hong Kong (also a Brian Trenchard Smith film), Oscar winning (The English Patient) cinematographer John Seale made his debut as fully fledged Director of Photography on Deathcheaters. Seale's innovative, can-do approach, combined with his natural talent for framing and economical visual communication, are all evident here. Another is how Trenchard Smith manages to include a visit to the Art Gallery of NSW for newly married Steve (John Hargreaves) and Julia (Margaret Gerard).
But it's not so much about the pictures as about the stunts - not surprisingly in a film that announces itself so completely with the title. This was the mid 70s, and the stunts are 'what you see is what you get': nobody in their right minds would do it again, not with real actors - not even with stuntment. So if it's screen thrills (and laughs, eg stolen leg of lamb as a weapon) you want, Deathcheaters is unmissable. You might need to fortify yourself with some hard liquor along the way ... Perhaps when Noel Ferrier's wonderfully entertaining, dryly cynical and shadowy public servant, Culpepper, shouts the two ex-commando heroes a rink at the Vaucluse Bowling Club as a precursor to the start of the main action. Ferrier revels in this role and he's terrific.
Deathcheaters had a budget of $153,000 and quickly went into profit - and continued to pay dividends to its investors for a decade or more.
On the commentary track, Trenchard Smith is joined by Exec Producer Richard Brennan and his wife Margaret Gerard, his wife, who plays Julia in the film. The threesome are interesting and informative in a nicely informal manner. It adds enormously to a deeper appreciation of the film and the filmmaking of the time. There are also a few personal asides to spice it up.
The 2nd disc in this release carries a bonus feature (90 minutes) devoted to stuntwork in general and Grant Page in particular, written by Trenchard Smith. It's a montage of all kinds of stunts, on land, water and in the air, providing a glimpse of the risks and thrills, but also trying to understand why Grant and others do this for a living.
This double disc edition should be in every collection of Australian film.
Published tba, 2009
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DEATHCHEATERS: DVD (M)
CAST: Grant Page, John Hargreaves, Margaret Gerard, Noel Ferrier, Judith Woodroffe, Ralph Cotterill, John Krummel, Drew Forsythe, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Roger Ward, Chris Haywood, Peter Collingwood
PRODUCER: Brian Trenchard Smith
DIRECTOR: Brian Trenchard Smith
SCRIPT: Michael Cove (story by Trenchard Smith)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Seale
EDITOR: Ron Williams
MUSIC: Peter Martin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Darrell Lass
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9; DD 2.0
SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: Audio commentary with Brian Trenchard Smith, Executive Producer Richard Brennan, actress Margaret Gerard; Disc 2:bonus feature: Dangerfreaks - 100 stunts by Grant Page; stills gallery
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: December 3, 2008