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  Brass Target Gold Standard
Year: 1978
Director: John Hough
Stars: Sophia Loren, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn, Patrick McGoohan, Bruce Davison, Edward Herrmann, Max von Sydow, Ed Bishop, Lee Montague, Alan Tilvern, Hal Galili, Bernard Horsfall, John Junkin, Sigfrit Steiner, Heinz Bennent, Brad Harris
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1945, and two hundred and fifty million dollars in Nazi gold captured by the Allies is being transported across Europe to be distributed among the victors, but as it is going through a tunnel in the Alps, suddenly the train carrying it is struck by a carriage heading the other way - it is sabotage! Not only that, but it is a military-style operation carried out with pin sharp precision, as dozens of soldiers are killed by a gas attack and the resulting explosion to get the trucks carrying the gold open, whereupon the raiders make off with the loot. Fingers are pointed throughout the land at who the culprits might be, but nobody is collared: US Major Joe De Lucca (John Cassavetes) among them...

By the point Brass Target was released, the war movie was beginning to show signs of fatigue, and what was once a certainty at the box office found that the ageing fans of such things were fading away and the younger generation were not quite as engaged with the subject as their elders. The genre has never gone away, and enjoys periodic revivals as another hit is wrangled from military matters but around this time the likes of A Bridge Too Far and Steven Spielberg's 1941, wildly different films, were not able to secure an audience. This little item slotted in with the more fanciful war movies like The Eagle Has Landed, which invented scenarios with a glancing acknowledgement of facts.

Really, it was a conspiracy movie based on a book by Frederick Nolan of the same name which posited a reason behind the death of General Patton a few months after the end of the Second World War, where in real life, as far as we were told, he died after sustaining injuries in a car crash. If you knew the details of this incident, it would be grimly amusing to see them restaged here as an assassination, the backstory invented by Nolan crowbarring in various bits to lead up to the official version of the facts, but there was a lot more to this than that - it was not even the end of the film, as it played out. Indeed, so digressive was this that it is little wonder many found it far too difficult to follow.

In effect, it's not so much impenetrable as overstuffed with incident and characters who seem to have tangential at best connections to each other, yet who we are prompted to muse over with a sagely, chin-stroking consideration about what they represent. That would be all very well if Brass Target were a serious experience, but the cast for one were having trouble acting sincerely, with Cassavetes behaving as if his hero role and the overall conspiracy were beneath contempt, so we would be perfectly clear he was doing this one for the money. Elsewhere, on the other hand, you had such lunacies as Patrick McGoohan's entire performance which was pitched somewhere between extreme camp and downright bizarre posturing, with an accent that was all over the place and going for laughs with a script that refused to play along.

As if that were not enough, Robert Vaughn essayed the role of the investigating Colonel with frequent asides designed to illustrate how successful he was at getting other men into bed with him, fair enough if this had been an issue movie, but completely irrelevant to the matter in hand. Sophia Loren was top-billed as a refugee who used her body to survive in a harsh world of men to be manipulated, again that would have made for an intriguing film in itself, yet here had almost nothing to do with anything else, and her presence was utterly superfluous. George Kennedy emerged with a little dignity as the bullish Patton, though probably better behaved than the man he portrayed, but as the assassin, Max von Sydow was the real surprise as he was the only one who seemed to have a handle on how preposterous this was and tailored his performance accordingly with a real twinkle in his eye, whether sporting brown contact lenses or not. He just about made Brass Target worth watching through sheer acting ability, but it was terminally daft all the same. Music by Laurence Rosenthal.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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John Hough  (1941 - )

British director who began work as a director for 60s TV show The Avengers. Directed a wide variety of mostly genre movies over the last 30 years, the most notable being Hammer's Twins of Evil, The Legend of Hell House, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Brass Target, Incubus and Biggles. Also turned in Disney pictures Escape to Witch Mountain and The Watcher in the Woods, plus straight-to-video turkey Howling IV.

 
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