Fri 18 Jan 2013
THE CORRUPT ONES. Warner Brothers, 1965. Robert Stack, Elke Sommer and Nancy Kwan. Screenplay by Harald Bloom, Arp Brown, Brian Clemens, Georges Farrel and Ladislas Fodor. Directed by James Hill and Frank Winterstein.
A splashy Technicolor B-movie without a single deep thought in any of its 87 minutes — and great fun if you’re in the mood.
This stars Robert Stack and Elke Sommer, with support from Nancy Kwan, so right away you know it ain’t gonna get any awards for acting, but then you don’t come to a film like this expecting to see Laurence Olivier; you come for action, and Corrupt Ones has plenty.
The film opens with scenes of a few score uniformed Red Chinese soldiers guarding about a half dozen women working in a rice paddy, with Robert Stack hiding nearby snapping pictures. I thought at first this must be some super-secret scientific project — atomic rice taking over the world or something — but it turns out it’s just how the filmmakers thought things were like in Red China: peasants toiling and hordes of gun-toting goons keeping them in line, so it turns out Robert Stack is merely a free-lance photographer working out of Hong Kong, getting all this for a magazine. Well a chase ensues and Stack is rescued by a guy who dies, but before he goes he passes on a medallion that bears the key to a lost treasure.
So you’ve got your lost treasure, and your hero, and pretty soon you get your stacked heroine, Elke (who else?) Sommer and a gangster played by Christian Marquand and a dragon-lady played by Nancy Kwan.
Having walked onstage, the four of them proceed to chase each other around, shooting, fighting, kidnapping, fighting some more, torturing, chasing some more, and generally filing the screen with mindless carnage for eighty minutes. Yeah, Stack’s character is supposed to be a photographer, but he’s so handy with his fists that when Elke gets kidnapped (again) he thinks nothing of walking into the local den of heavily-armed thieves and setting about the blighters single-handed.
Nancy Kwan looks suitably imperious in her jade palace filled with S/M goodies, and Christian Marquand — well, his job here is to supply a lot of thugs to be knocked about and he performs this undemanding task reliably. Likewise, Elke Sommer has little to do but look good, which she does quite nicely, thank you.
Director James Hill (his credits include Born Free and A Study in Terror) handles all this in appropriately slap-dash fashion, with no discernible artistry, but never so clumsy as to be noticeable, and always fastfastfast. The photography is similarly loud, unfussy and colorful enough to distract the viewer from the inane things the characters say and the dumb stuff they do. Mostly.
What got me wondering though was the title of the piece: The Corrupt Ones. I mean, the bad guys in this are mean and nasty, but they’re pretty forthright about being bad guys; there’s a bent cop in the mix, but just one. So who are the corrupt ones? Then I took a closer look at the credits; it took two men to direct this bit of gaudy fluff and five to write it. Five. To write this?!?! What the hell were they doing for their money? Or perhaps when they titled it, they were talking about themselves….