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Hit Man (1972)

It’s been suggested to me that this George Armitage tale makes a great double feature with yesterday’s viewing of Trouble Man, both of which were released in the same year. I can’t argue with that though this story line is much more somber in tone featuring Bernie Casey. It’s going to be a slow burn culminating in a raging fire once Casey takes on the role of the vigilante slayer looking for his families justice.

hit man half sheet

Casey flies into L.A. donning a classic 70’s outfit looking for who killed his brother and why. What he finds is a world of prostitution and the underground world of pornography. The first half hour is slower paced than one might expect for the genre as Casey renews contacts, meets a few old friends and throws his intimidating presence in the face of some underworld thugs fronting for the money man who runs the local porn business, Don Diamond.

hit man3

Fishing for answers as to the supposed suicide of his brother, Casey finds himself in the company of kingpin Diamond and getting a first hand glimpse of the film’s number one fox, Pam Grier. Note in the credits she’s billed as Pamela. Flirtations quickly follow but the two will have to wait till a bit later in the film to crank up the heat. A verbal exchange ensues between Casey and Diamond setting the tone for what’s to come. Diamond wants Casey out of town and begins to send his boys out to put Casey on the first plane back to Oakland.

When one of Casey’s old pals played by Sam Laws gets roughed up by default and his hotel room sacked, he finds himself cornered by a couple of gun toting hoods but thankfully Pam in her oversized afro shows up allowing the two to speed away in her sporty convertible. Bedroom action to follow with more than a fair bit of nudity involved.

HIT MAN2

The raging fire within Casey is about to let loose when Pam decides to take Casey to a porn theater to let him have a look at her in action on the big screen. The key to the murder mystery unfolds before him unbeknownst to Pam. She’s inadvertently let loose the vigilante who’s going to take down the local porn industry and all those associated with the adult feature he’s been exposed to.

He even uses a little touch of Yojimbo to get it done.

hitmanlobbycard

The violence explodes over the last twenty minutes as only an early 1970’s feature can do. It’s swift and bloody with little room for sympathy. Bernie Casey’s presence on screen has always been one of strength and power so he fits the role of the executioner perfectly when he finally takes it upon himself to dole out the justice.

There’s much more nudity on screen than most of the Blaxploitation genre efforts and I would use the term raunchy as well when commenting on the sexual content involved here. One thing that is prevalent as always are the racial slurs that occur throughout the screenplay which was also penned by director Armitage based on the book Jack’s Return Home.

Gene Corman served as the producer and as the director of photography is a young Andrew Davis. Davis would go on to direct features including box office hits The Fugitive and Under Siege.

hitman lobby2

An interesting revenge flick that isn’t as comical in tone as some of the other films of the era but perhaps more violent and serious in nature by the time the final reel unspools itself.

Another above average flick featuring a solid leading man and the Queen of the genre in an earlier role before she herself would become the avenging angel that local crime lords would have to own up to.

And if you’ve seen the British gangster film, Get Carter then it’s hard not to see where this gangland flick takes it’s inspiration from.

3 Comments »

  1. Nice review! I still think this makes for a funnier film than it intends to be because of the overboard use of er, “colorful” language, the outbursts of violence (Casey beating up that convertible full of thugs is a hoot) and the way a few characters meet their demises (lady, meet tiger!).

    Then again, my personal benchmark for SUPER serious and dead-end bleak is the brilliant Across 110th Street which takes every second of running time seriously. It can’t even properly be described as a “blaxploitation” film because it’s just a solid (and mean as hell) crime drama with a mixed cast.

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