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  Death Cheaters Dynamic DuoBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Stars: John Hargreaves, Grant Page, Margaret Gerard, Noel Ferrier, Judith Woodroffe, Ralph Cotterill, Drew Forsythe, John Krummel, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Annie Semler, Roger Ward, Wallas Eaton, Michael Aitkens, Chris Haywood, Reg Evans, Peter Collingwood
Genre: Comedy, Action, Adventure
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Steve Hall (John Hargreaves) and Rod Cann (Grant Page) earn a living as stuntmen in Australia, their current jobs on a shoot in a medieval action setup with clashing swords, flying arrows, horses galloping and things being set on fire - including the stuntmen. They are used to demanding director and doing the most hazardous of activities for their "art", but given their daredevil status, they are not averse to stepping in to be the hero if need be. Take today, when a gang of armed robbers take off in a car, dodging the police: they would have to be very adept getaway drivers to escape from Steve and Rod, and sure enough after a high-speed chase, they do not...

Director Brian Trenchard-Smith was well aware what audiences wanted in their movies in the nineteen-seventies, and that was action and lots of it. Okay, they may have wanted sex as well, but in efforts such as The Man from Hong Kong, his best-known work from this decade, he was more adept at persuading his cast members into perilous acts of physicality, from staged fistfights to car chases to dodging the explosions that littered his pictures. He would continue in this vein into the eighties and beyond, but for some that down and dirty, gritty and goofy, not to say grotty tone to his seventies adventures was prime entertainment from a homegrown industry finding its feet.

Finding its feet booting some other hapless chap in the bollocks, more often than not, and that was very much the approach in Death Cheaters, one of a number of vehicles built around the talents of actual stuntman Grant Page. He was a legend in the Aussie film landscape for his willingness to risk life and limb all for the sake of getting his performances just right, and thanks to Trenchard-Smith had graduated from the standing in for the star when things got too hairy (this was the seventies, so as you can imagine that was very hairy indeed) to taking the lead in a bunch of low budget items all constructed around his talent for mayhem (and also his talent for not dying during said mayhem).

He was an incredibly impressive bloke when indulging in his action sequences, and as this era was perhaps more than any most enamoured with the careers of stuntmen, it was only natural that he should take over from the established actors to become a star himself. Of course, aside from this particular director, almost every one of the others were more intent on keeping him in danger mode for other performers, since he appeared to not know the meaning of the word "fear", Page was the real deal and while Burt Reynolds could play a stuntman in Hooper, here was an authentic example of what in real life was as Australian as it was possible to get. He took his profession very seriously, yet as you could see here, he had a sense of humour and here that was applied to a roguish charm to match Hargreaves.

He was best known for his acting rather than flinging himself about, but he was popular with local audiences, which made his premature death something of a shock (though he did not die from a stunt going wrong, rest assured). The plot here was some sub-James Bond nonsense about the pair of stuntmen's past as Vietnam War veterans coming back to haunt them when the mysterious, codenamed Culpepper (Noel Ferrier) recruits them in absurd manner to carry out a raid to get some MacGuffin or other, it didn't really matter. Page and Hargreaves had been hired to do the stunts, and tell the jokes in between them, which they could do more than adequately, and the irreverence that was noticeable throughout indicated this was a romp not to be taken seriously (as did the pet Basset hound which for some reason never barks when the doorbell is sounded). It wasn't great unless you liked compilations of, well, stunts, but it contained a breezy, ridiculous attitude that would not tax any viewer. Music (with theme song) by Peter Martin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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