Based on a story by writer Frederick Forsyth, this tele film lands Rod Taylor a good role and he gives a performance to match as a man who loses his wife and children in a freak plane crash. Behind the crash is industrial espionage and the heavy, Nigel Davenport. Once Taylor discovers that his family were victims of an intentional bombing, his past green beret instincts take over and he wants his pound of flesh.
Yes, before Rambo, there was Rod. When it comes right down to it, Rod has that tough guy persona working for him when he so chooses and had the acting chops to match that in my eyes makes him a whole lot more menacing than Rambo if he so chooses. Having pointed that out, let’s not forget that Rod can be the exact opposite on screen and appear as charming and handsome as the ladies want him to be.
Having put his military years behind him and settled down to a business career, Taylor has a wife and two small children. Near the opening of the film in a scene straight out of a nightmare, Taylor is witness to a small plane crashing into their farmhouse resulting in a fireball that claims the lives of all those involved. Descending onto the scene is Cyril Cusack as a local police inspector giving it a very Barry Fitzgerald(ish) swagger as he goes about piecing together the evidence at the crash site.
Secondly is a lawyer played by James Bond regular Walter Gotell as a lawyer looking to have Taylor sign off on a legal document dissolving the company he represents of any wrong doing. It would appear as if there were some documents on the plane that were very valuable to competing chemical companies.
Once the news of the on board bomb reaches Taylor and he notices Gotell being tailed by some suspicious looking thugs, he along with a pretty news reporter (Joanna Pettet) out to expose the wealthy Davenport team up to take down the man responsible for the deaths of his family. As Taylor will tell his father played by the aging Alexander Knox, “I’ve got work to do.” In his favor is the fact that the briefcase on board the plane with the prized documents was found in his charred house and assumed to be his. Taylor now has a bargaining chip in bringing forth the bad guys to hand out his own brand of justice.
Always one step back over his shoulder is Cusack attempting to keep Taylor in line before handling anything with a vigilante’s intent. This role could almost be a whatever happened to Taylor’s character “Curry” in the must see 1968 mercenary flick, Dark of the Sun.
Considering this is a made for TV production the violence is toned down when Taylor begins his quest for vengeance. I’m sure we can safely assume it would have had a much more Death Wish feel to it had it been a big screen venture with a bigger box office attraction than Taylor was by this point in his career. As it is it works out just fine. Taylor fits the role neatly and delivers a worthy performance as a man torn apart by his heavy loss who falls back on his military instincts to score a victory over Davenport and company.
The film also handles the possible romance between Rod and Joanna with just the right balance. Here’s a man in mourning who meets an attractive woman who is available and obviously finds him attractive. Thankfully the script doesn’t toss them into bed as it just wouldn’t come off as believable and would undermine the seriousness of the story.
Born in Ontario, Canada, Alexander Knox was nearing the end of his long film career which began back in the 1930’s. Never a “star”, he did score the lead in the big budget 1944 film Wilson from 20th Century Fox and had one of those voices that was very distinct and easily identifiable. Playing Rod’s father here gave him a couple of splendid one on one scenes with the younger actor. Knox would go on to appear in a few more 80’s projects before retiring and passing on in 1995.
For those looking to find some of Taylor’s later starring efforts, I happened across this on a low budget DVD label that quickly found it’s rightful place here at Mike’s Take On the Movies shelving in the movie room.