Project : Kill (1976)
Just four years short of having a major change in the direction of his career, Leslie Nielsen, takes a trip to the Philippines in this piece of exploitation fare along with Gary Lockwood and Nancy Kwan. As this is a filmed in the Philippines production, the requisite appearance of character player and all round screen heavy Vic Diaz is a must. Here he’ll dazzle us with some evil tidings while decked out in an all white suit.
“Just remember John, you can’t forget the past.”
That’s exactly what Leslie playing John intends to do. He’s some sort of a special forces agent now training young men to become perfect killing machines on behalf of their government. During the opening training session, the students sit in on a film that features ninja like warriors attempting an assassination against the occupant of a long black limousine bearing Canadian flags. Since when does anyone here in Canadian politics warrant an assassination attempt? Perhaps it’s just a nod to Leslie’s heritage as one of Canada’s best known sons who made a name for himself in the picture business.
Suffering from some sort of mental issues that are never quite thoroughly explored, Leslie goes AWOL and his one time buddy Gary Lockwood has been activated to bring Leslie back into the fold or if need be, to eliminate him. Permanently. It seems that Leslie as a veteran is far too knowledgeable in what has been going on in political circles and may hold secrets that could be profitable to those like Diaz who wants Leslie captured.
Leslie finds himself going underground and vacationing in the Philippines. Here he’ll meet and romance the lovely Miss Kwan. It’s a throwaway role for the former leading lady of The World of Suzie Wong that proved her film debut netting her a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer of 1960. She easily falls for the big tough guy from Canada who at one point in the film nearly decapitates her when coming out of a deep sleep to find her standing over him. Leslie is a lethal weapon. His hands are deadly and he’ll get a chance to prove it in a poorly choreographed bit against a couple of thugs. My two sons, Ethan and Kirk who are third degree black belts in Karate didn’t think too much of Leslie’s skills in the fine arts of self defence when I called them in to get a look at Leslie taking on two men with his bare hands.
Hot on his tail is Lockwood who is working with local police to track Leslie. They’ll continue to be two steps behind. It’s Diaz who is closing in and killing all of Leslie’s former pals as he tortures one and all for information that will lead him to the prize. All parties will converge in a violent confrontation that will see Leslie have to face off against Lockwood. Winner take all in another less than stellar display of hand speed and lethal intentions.
Easily forgotten, Project : Kill was directed by the late William Girdler who was killed in a helicopter crash at the age of 30. His best known feature is likely the 1976 Jaws knock-off, Grizzly, a feature I’ve always championed as an above average “B”.
Never out of work, Leslie’s movie career that had begun in the1956 standard, Forbidden Planet seemed to be floating along in movies like Viva Knievel or appearances on TV in both The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. I mean anyone who wasn’t a box-office draw or was past their best before date was in both of those TV shows. Of course things were about to change when he took on the role of Dr. Rumack in the 1980 classic comedy, Airplane! and subsequent role as Lieutenant Frank Drebin of The Naked Gun series in what is likely his most well known role.
“Surely” you’ve seen these iconic Leslie roles ………….. and your response to that one should be……….?
For me Gary Lockwood is a great example of my identifying an actor in a role that isn’t even close to the one nine out of ten people will proudly point to. I never saw Kubrick’s 2001 as a youngster and it wasn’t until the VHS tape came into our home that allowed me to see it. No it’s his role as a cocky gunslinger in the movie Firecreek that is the one I always point to when recalling the actor. That western played regularly on TV when I was a kid and I never missed the chance to see Jimmy Stewart face down the baddies led by Henry Fonda that included Lockwood, Elam, Best and Woodward. Western regulars one and all.
Girdler’s film should be easy to locate in most any bargain bin if you’d like to catch up with this bit of exploitation filmmaking starring some well known faces and an eventual comedic legend.