Sudden Death (1977)- * * *
Directed by: Eddie Romero
Starring: Robert Conrad, Don Stroud, Felton Perry, Larry Manetti, Ken Metcalfe, Angelo Ventura, and John Ashley,
"I'll eat my shoes if that chump ain't fuzz" - Wyatt Spain
Somewhere in the Philippines, a cabal of evil businessmen intends to plunder the local sugar cane crops. Bands of local mercenaries are fighting back, and when "good businessman" Ed Neilson's (Metcalfe) family is slaughtered, he turns to his buddy Duke Smith (Conrad), an ex-Special Ops CIA agent, to find out who committed the atrocity. Smith then calls friend/associate Wyatt Spain (Perry) and they link up with local contact Buffalo Tinker (Ventura). Yes, Buffalo Tinker is involved. The three men then proceed to blast around the Philippines busting heads and attempting to get answers. But our heroes face fierce resistance in the forms of John Shaw (Ashley) and his goon Dominic Aldo (Stroud). Who will come out alive, and who will face...SUDDEN DEATH?
Not to be confused with Sudden Death (1985) or Sudden Death (1995), this, the first of the Sudden Deaths (it seems that about every decade or so a movie comes out called Sudden Death), is well worth seeking out. If you're a fan of 70's drive-in style actioners, complete with large-collared, loud-patterned shirts, gigantic cars, and un-PC dialogue, this is a fine exemplar of that. Underlining the 70's vibe is the pacing and even the downbeat ending, which is the sort of thing that era specialized in and that you don't see today.
On a more uplifting note, quite literally, is the fantastic score by the great Johnny Pate. His opening song is tremendous and his music is uniformly fine throughout. Two of his other scores include Shaft in Africa and the little-seen Brother on the Run AKA Black Force 2 (both 1973). Whenever we see his name pop up in the credits, it's a rare treat. As of this writing, there is no CD or vinyl release for the Sudden Death score, but that needs to happen.
It was fantastic to see Robert Conrad in the role of head badass. Freed from the constraints of television, he can swear and beat up baddies with the best of 'em. He and Felton Perry make a winning team. We thought Perry was very likable here and he gets a lot of great lines. Who better than them to unravel the corporate intrigue and get into some barfights and warehouse fights along the way? While both men are charismatic, only Robert Conrad is man enough to wear tight pink shorts and a necklace and still come off as 100% man.
The legendary John Ashley is very cool here, and his voice is a joy to listen to. He'd be perfect for a 70's radio DJ: it's easy to hear him saying such things as "And now, next up in the hit parade, The Doobie Brothers with China Grove..." or some such thing. No wonder he was chosen to do the opening narration for The A-Team. In fact, there is a certain A-Team vibe going on here, but, rather than be sanitized for TV, it's melded into the Philippine action style we all know and love, with additional hints of The Retrievers (1982) or The G.I. Executioner (1971) (though rest assured it's far better than the latter).
A terrific cast of familiar faces, funktastic music and 70's style to spare - and it all wraps up in a scant 82 minutes! There's a lot to love with Sudden Death. Released on VHS on the classic Media label, this is a recommended film and in dire need of a restoration.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty