Taking center stage in this well cast 70’s crime drama is Billy Dee Williams. He’s got a new job “killing people” as he aptly describes his new position on a flight from San Francisco to New Mexico while in conversation with the chatty guy sitting next to him.
He isn’t kidding either. He’s been enlisted by Police Chief Eddie Albert to join his local force to help rid his NM city of mob influenced drug runners led by Vic Morrow. No sooner will Billy be met by fellow officer Albert Salmi at the airport when a violent gun battle breaks out at the local courthouse where John Davis Chandler (who never plays nice) is leading a small group of hoods and mob soldiers in a daring daylight raid that goes bad when Salmi and Williams arrive on scene.
Let’s just say Chandler who at one time played the lead in a 1961 gangster flick, Mad Dog Coll, and was a fringe member of the Peckinpah stock company has limited screen time once he crosses paths with Williams.
After a brief meeting with Eddie, Williams, is off to pay a visit to a one time flame, Tracy Reed, which gives us some background details to his character. She wants nothing to do with him but Vic Morrow does when Williams makes visiting the local mobster his second stop. Vic puts him on the payroll or rather “The Take” if you prefer. Embarrassment kicks in when Salmi also turns up for his cash filled envelope at the same time. All to the amusement of Morrow who issues some not so thinly veiled threats at Williams when telling him he had better “play ball.”
It’s at this point in the film from director Robert Hartford-Davis that we get somewhat of a surprise appearance from Frankie Avalon as a small time hood. I must admit to chuckling at where Williams and Salmi track him down. He’s swimming in the pool of a local hotel. Typecasting? Maybe, but seriously if Frankie isn’t hanging out on a beach than a pool is surely the second place I’m going to look. Sadly Annette was nowhere in sight. Neither was a surfboard that Frankie could have used to get away on. Williams roughs him up and turns him into a personal stoolie in his quest to crackdown on local drug pushers.
While Police Chief Albert may not approve of Williams tactics he’s liking the results but mob boss Morrow isn’t happy following a drug bust and lets loose his top dog, James Luisi, to lay a beating on Williams. It’s to serve as a reminder that he’s paid to look the other way in all matters that may involve Morrow’s drug operation. The always entertaining Luisi seems to excel when playing low life characters and makes movies a little bit better in the bargain.
All of which begs the question. Is Williams really on the take or just playing dirty to get close to Morrow and his operation? And what the hell is Sorrell (Boss Hogg) Booke really doing here as William’s personal accountant handling all of the payoff’s that Morrow has been handing off to our leading actor?
Perhaps the most noticeable thing while watching this Columbia release that clocks in at 92 minutes is that aside from one line directed at Williams via an angry Salmi, the film never once comes off as an entry in the genre of blaxploitation that were so popular in the early 1970’s. I just assumed going in that this was going to be another genre entry prior to pressing play on the blu ray release from Mill Creek Entertainment that paired The Take with Jim Brown’s Black Gunn. A title that definitely sounds like it was made for blaxploitation fans as were Blacula and Black Samson among so many others.
Both films on the blu ray edition were directed by Hartford-Davis. These were the final two films of his career. He passed away in 1977 at 53 years of age. Cult and horror fans may be familiar with some of earlier releases including 1964’s The Black Torment and more specifically a rather bloody Peter Cushing affair from 1968, Corruption.
I suppose Williams will always be associated with the Star Wars universe but take the time to look up some of his work from the 70’s. Hit!, Lady Sings the Blues and The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings come to mind. He’d already appeared alongside Vic Morrow in a superior TV film called The Glass House which hit the small screen in 1972 that cast Alan Alda in the featured role.
Vic Morrow’s story and untimely death is I’m sure well known to film buffs so I won’t go into it here aside from pointing out I’m always a big fan and supporter of his many roles in both movies and television.
The Take was Frankie Avalon’s first appearance on screen since 1969’s Horror House and aside from TV shows he’d turn up just once more in movie houses during the decade in the ever popular Grease in 1978. The fanfare surrounding Back to the Beach and his reuniting with Annette Funicello was still a number of years off finally hitting screens in 1987.
Both Eddie Albert and Albert Salmi never seemed to be out of work. Albert going back to his contract days at Warner right though his Green Acres era into the 70’s as a character actor in movies and TV. He was in a trio of entertaining films in 1974. The Take, John Wayne’s McQ and the smash hit The Longest Yard as the warden opposite Burt Reynolds’ rebellious inmate. Salmi made his film debut in 1958’s The Brothers Karamazov and like Eddie would remain busy up until he sadly took his own life in 1990. Eddie retired in 1997 and passed in 2005 at just 99 years of age.
Filmed on location in New Mexico I can’t say this was all that memorable but I love that 70’s flavor and there’s always something authentic about watching real cars chasing each other and crashing into barriers and off bridges. A lost art in today’s world of CGI rollercoasters that audiences seem to demand nowadays of their car chase films.