Thursday, January 10, 2019

DARK OF THE SUN (1968) (WAC Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG
Duration: 101 Minutes
Audio: English DTS HD-MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Jack Cardiff
Cast: Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Jim Brown, Peter Carsten

In this bad-ass slice of late-60s action we have mercenary Bruce Curry (Rod Taylor, The Time Machine) taking on an assignment from the Congolese President Ubi (Calvin Lockhart, The Beast Must Die) to ostensibly rescue sixty white-skinned refugees trapped deep in Simbas rebel territory. However, the real reason for the mission is that the president has close ties to the diamond industry, and one of the whites they're rescuing is sitting on fifty-million dollars of blood-diamonds. Curry takes the job and assembles a mercenary team consisting of his right hand man Ruffo (Jim Brown, Mars Attacks!), an alcoholic named doctor named Wreid (Kenneth More, Where Time Began) and former Nazi named Henlein (Peter Carsten, A Study In Terror), plus an elite group of commandos for hire. They're told they have just three days to complete the mission, travelling deep into the Congo on an armed  train, and despite being told that the mission has been sanctioned by the U.N. the train soon comes under attack from a United Nations plane, strafing the train with machine fire. 

They survive the encounter but things turn sour when the ex-Nazi lets on he knows about the diamonds, a rift develops between Curry and Henlein, culminating in several violent altercations, with Curry nearly crushing the Nazi's skull beneath the wheels of the train and Henlein going after Curry with a huge chainsaw, that's right, Nazis with chainsaws! 

There are no real heroes in this movie, Curry and Ruffo might be anti-heroes, but Henlein is an unscrupulous Nazi, the kind of evil that guns down a pair of young Congolese kids, his actions painting the other men and more honorable if not heroic. The action onscreen here is gritty and the violence is pretty darn shocking considering the era in which the film was made, with depictions of child murder, loads of gunfire and war-themed violence, plus decapitations, disemboweling, and the implication of cannibalism and man-on-man rape, it's real savage stuff, this is not gonna be your average 'war is Hell' romp. A very bad ass and violent men on a mission movie, and a world class actioner all the way. 

About the only thing I didn't care for with this one was after a very satisfactory battle between Henlein and Curry there's a strange morality at play that didn't make sense to me, it didn't ruin it by any means, but I thought it was an odd moral maneuver that didn't seem to fit the film that I just watched, but that aside this is a real deal action/adventure film. 


Audio/Video: Dark of the Sun (1968) debuts on on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive with a new 2018 HD master, it looks absolutely awesome with well-managed film grain. The source is clean and free of any noticeable blemishes, the color grading looks good and the blacks are nice and deep. Audio comes by way of a English DTS HD-MA 2.0 mono track with optional English subtitles, dialogue is clean and well-balanced, the quirky score from Jacques Loussier sounds quite nice in the mix, a score Quentin Tarantino borrowed for his film Inglourious Basterds.

Warner Archive do something out of the ordinary for this release, they have included a brand new audio commentary with Trailers From Hell's Larry Karaszewski and Josh Olson, who are also joined by Brian Saur and Elric D. Kane of the Pure Cinema Podcast. It's a glorified fan commentary with lots of appreciation and some minor detraction aimed at the film, it's a bit of a busy track but it's a solid listen. WAC also offer up an HD  trailer for the film. I do hope that WAC will consider offering more new extras for their Blu-ray releases going forward, at least a new commentary like they have for this one, we movie fans do love our extras!

The single-disc releases comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original bad ass illustrated movie poster, that same key art is featured on the disc.  

Special Features: 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD 
- New Audio Commentary by Trailers From Hell's Larry Karaszewski and Josh Olson with Brian Saur and Elric D. Kane

Dark of the Sun (1968) is a film that does something quite rare, it lives up to it's badass illustrated movie poster, which is no easy task considering it features a chainsaw wielding Nazi! Warner Archive have done good work bringing this mercenary actioner to Blu-ray, a violent, gritty and cynical piece of pulp well-worth seeking out.


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