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The Diamond Mercenaries

***
1975

‘…a surprisingly zestful actioneer in a sub-Alistair MacLean style…’

‘They’re mercenaries, not idiots’ is a telling line from The Diamond Mercenaries aka Killer Force, but the matter is very much up for discussion. Sure, if your idea of a good Saturday night romp is watching the late Peter Fonda suffering an intrusive rectal examination, then Val Guest’s 1975 thriller is likely to be exactly what you’re looking for. But Fonda’s indignities are only a small part of what’s on offer here, from Telly Savalas’s turtle-neck wardrobe to Christopher Lee in khaki; if you miss the simple virtues of a 1970’s potboiler, the Force assembled here is all Killer and no filler.

Savalas plays Harry Webb, somehow the real name of British singer Cliff Richard, but also the head of security at the “Syndicated Diamond Corporation’ which sounds like a trip-hop band and that vibe seems to have influenced Savalas to play Webb like a night-club owner complete with a garish wardrobe. The random picks for the opposition include OJ Simpson, Christopher Lee and Hugh O’Brian, while Bond girl Maud Adams slinks about on the side-lines as a glamorous tv reporter. Fonda was coming to the end of his leading-man status, his bankability drained by the vogue for anti-heroes having ebbed by the mid70’s, and he gives a strange, reluctant performance hidden behind a Seth Rogen beard and mega-shades.

Having excoriated Amazon Prime for some of their awful prints, I should note that The Diamond Mercenaries looks crisp and the desert scenes are rather beautiful to look at. As are, in a different way, the 1975 interiors, which have a luridness worth catching. And it’s worth appreciating that the South African setting allows for a certain largess in terms of action, which many bullets and explosions in a frantic half hour.

For Guest, late in his career and sandwiched between Confessions of a Window Cleaner and the  unforgettable Cannon and Ball vehicle The Boys in Blue, this is a surprisingly zestful actioneer in a sub-Alistair MacLean style. The bright yellow jeeps may well be the most memorable thing here, but redicovery via streaming is probably the best shot that this largely forgotten movie has of any kind of redemption.

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  1. Was Savalas considered an action star? He’d aged out by the time I came to movies and I don’t have the oomph to go looking through the dustbins to find one or two good ones.
    (that’s what you’re for after all)

  2. Glad to see that Hollywood hadn’t dropped its standards back in the day. Because nothing says Hollywood like blowing up a helicopter with one shot from a rifle 😀

    • Is the correct answer. It’s tempting to base your understanding of life and physics from a film like this, but that would be a mistake.

  3. Well, seeing Savalas dropping the binoculars and revealing that he had his shades on even while he was looking through them was worth a chuckle anyway. The trailer is about as close as I’ll get to watching this.

    • You have to take the simple pleasures in life where you can get them. Christopher Lee in a full khaki outfit did it for me.

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