Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Assault on Paradise (1977)

          Some intrepid soul could write an entire treatise on film distribution by analyzing the way this drab thriller was sold to the public. Not only has the picture been issued under several titles—Maniac!, The Ransom, The Town That Cried Terror—but the most prevalent poster art, extrapolated from the opening scene, suggests a serial-killer saga echoing Son of Sam, Zodiac, and other human monsters who prowled the streets of America’s cities during the ’70s. In truth, Assault on Paradise is quite different. The story concerns a deranged Native American who terrorizes the wealthiest residents of a resort community in Arizona, demanding payment as punishment for, presumably, the residents’ mistreatment of tribal land. Although the story includes a number of murders, only one fits the urban-psycho paradigm, because most of the killings involve a bow and arrow. What’s more, Assault on Paradise isn’t some grim character study of a sociopath. The protagonist is a tough-talking mercenary hired by the wealthy residents to kill the sociopath. Accordingly, most of the picture involves a chase across desert lands, with helicopters and Jeeps and motorcycles. Hardly what people were promised by sensationalistic advertising.
          The setting is Paradise, a small town where rich guys including William Whitaker (Stuart Whitman) lord over municipal employees. After an Indian named Victor (Paul Koslo) kills several people, he issues a demand for $1 million and threatens more carnage if he is not paid. Whitaker hires Nick McCormick (Oliver Reed) to find and terminate Victor. Nick then recruits a local tracker (Jim Mitchum) to guide him through rough terrain. The story also involves a TV reporter, Cindy (Deborah Raffin), who becomes romantically involved with Nick.
          Thanks to a genuinely terrible screenplay, long stretches of the movie are deadly boring, and virtually none of the onscreen behavior makes sense. Nick is supposed to be the height of cold-blooded efficiency, but he spends a lot of time drinking, hanging out, and screwing. The tracker is supposed to know the terrain perfectly, but he often throws up his hands and says he doesn’t know where to look next for Victor. And Victor is played by the decidedly Caucasian actor Paul Koslo—who, by the way, is blond. Directed with zero story sense by Richard Compton, who spent most of his career making second-rate television, Assault on Paradise is a slog to get through, despite the colorful cast and violent premise. The picture gets better in its second half, once the action gets going, and props are due to Don Ellis for the energy of his frenetic disco/jazz/rock score, but the number of scenes that simply don’t work is startling. Which begins to explain, perhaps, why desperate methods were employed to hype the picture.

Assault on Paradise: FUNKY


Unknown said...

Say, Peter, the credit for producer got me to thinking "James V. Hart ... James V. Hart ... where have I heard that before?" One might expect a few hundred James Harts in the world, but "James V. Hart" sounded special -- and I was right. Long after this, he went on to become producer of "Hook," the Gary Oldman Dracula and the Robert De Niro Frankenstein. Next he wrote for "Contact" (1997) and "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life." Yet again we find the strange obscure beginning of an eventually successful career.

Unknown said...

PS -- In other detective work, this can be traced as an early effort from producer Arnold Kopelson (his name is right there on the poster), yet it appears nowhere in his IMDb file.

Cindylover1969 said...

Nick is supposed to be the height of cold-blooded efficiency, but he spends a lot of time drinking, hanging out, and screwing.

Well, he is played by Oliver Reed...