Angelo (Massimo Ranieri) would like to make the big time in the gangland world, but at the moment he had been relegated to small time business at a Naples race track, seeing to it that he can get the right horses to win for the right people, by fair means or foul. Today he has helped this gang boss win big there, but as he goes to collect his money something unexpected occurs as a couple of gunmen arrive and shoot the criminal dead, though not before he manages to get off a few shots and kill one of them in return. This brings in Peter Marciani (Yul Brynner), a retired hitman with a score to settle...
Death Rage, known under a variety of titles including its original, Con la rabbia agli occhi, was practically the last Yul Brynner film ever to be released, as he just had this and a cameo in Futureworld to go before he spent the rest of his career raking in the cash in a touring version of The King and I. Although there are rumours that he had become so difficult to work with that nobody really wanted to make movies with him anymore, he remained a strong and charismatic presence to the end, something which might have been the saving grace of this effort had it not come across as so hackneyed and uninspired.
Although it begins as some kind of Godfather tribute with its grumbling Mafioso types, what it actually winds up being is a rerun of the Charles Bronson flick The Mechanic: Bronson was still a huge draw in Europe, but it was slightly dispiriting to see an original like Brynner following in his footsteps. Angelo, played by pop star turned actor Ranieri, is the pupil, asking Marciani to teach him all he knows, yet what Marciani is more interested in is getting revenge for his brother's murder by the hoods of Gennaro Gallo (Giancarlo Sbragia), which he has regular flashbacks to, represented by the screen having a bloodsoaked image of his memories - usually his sibling or the assassins - oozing down.
Understandably, Peter seeks help for this affliction and the doctor suggests eyedrops. But when he gets them, they turn out to have acid in the bottle! Someone is obviously out to finish the job that they began on his brother, but he is not without allies, as Angelo is very keen on teaming up with the hitman, who in a cliche that would make one groan even in 1976, has emerged from retirement to do one last job. Also backing him up is one of the strippers in the nightclub Angelo runs, and she is Anny, played by Barbara Bouchet, a familiar, and familiarly naked, fixture of Italian exploitation exercises of the period.
Not that this really comes across as exploitation because there's not much all that outrageous going on here, with even those eyedrops poured down the bathroom sink and never used. Probably just as well or it would be a shorter movie, but once you have the measure of the plot Death Rage really drags. Appearing in support is Martin Balsam as the police inspector who is trying to sort all this out, but not trying very hard and only offering police protection to Peter and Anny when things start to heat up. "Heating up" being a loose description of a film whose tension, what there is of it, feels very second hand, but you cannot say that director Antonio Margheriti was unprofessional, as it all hangs together even if it does not drum up much in the way of intrigue. This cast might lead you to expect some entertainment, but this is pretty colourless stuff. Music by Guido De Angelis and Maurizio De Angelis.