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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Tough to Kill
Tough to Kill
Ventura // R // May 17, 2005
List Price: $9.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted May 6, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Movie:

Late, great Italian filmmaker Joe D'Amato (a.k.a. Aristide Massaccesi) is best known to North American audiences and in fact cult movie fans around the world for his sleazy sex and gore epics like Emanuelle In America, Anthropophagous (better known as The Grim Reaper) and Beyond The Darkness but there was nary a sub-genre or cash in craze that old Joe didn't touch and one of those crazes was the jungle adventure film popular in the late seventies and the early eighties. His signature entry in that arena? That'd have to be Tough To Kill.

The premise for this one isn't going to convince anyone that D'Amato and co-writer Sergio Donati (who pitched in on Sergio Leone's Duck, You Sucker!) were the most original of script writers as the movie borrows from a few other films (including one of Sam Peckinpah's later films) but it works as a nice skeleton to hang the sleazy action on. Basically, Luc Merenda (of The Violent Professionals) plays Martin, a contract killer who has to infiltrate a band of mercenaries run by Major Hagerty (Donald O'Brien of Lucio Fulci's The New Gladiators). After a few rough spots, Martin makes it into the fold and soon enough it's time to earn their pay and Hagerty's got them all signed up on a suicide mission into enemy territory. Who these enemies are is never made clear, but that doesn't really matter.

Once they're out in the jungle, Martin's intentions become clearer. He's not really interested in being part of a gang of mercenaries at all but instead is intent on bringing in a known assassin in the group who carries a one million dollar bounty on his head. It doesn't take long before Martin figures out that his fellow freedom fighters are on to him. As a few of the soldiers get killed in action, it eventually winds down to only four of them left, and neither of them can trust the other.

Full of some fantastic tough guy dialogue and macho posturing, Tough To Kill ranks up there with other manly b-movie classics like Armed Response and The Last Hunter. As the gang is whittled down to the final four, each of the characters' personalities begin to shine through a little more and as we (and they) learn more about one another, the film gets more interesting. It does take about twenty minutes for it to really get going – the scenes were Martin is trying to fit in with the mercenaries at the camp and going through training scene after training scene are a little slow – but once they men hit the jungle there's plenty of action, violence, backstabbing, plot twisting and snarling and spitting of venomous dialogue. If that weren't enough, there's also the added bonus of seeing Donald O'Brien running around in the jungle in nothing but a purple speedo. Sexy? No. But it does add some amusing comedy to the film, even if it wasn't supposed to.

D'Amato did his own cinematography on this one, and as such, the movie is framed quite nicely. He makes great use of the jungle settings and really make us feel the intense dirt and heat in the area that the film takes place in. The action scenes are also handled nicely, and with the exception of a really obvious and silly looking stock footage insert of a wild animal towards the end of the film, the editing is quite tight and well paced too. It isn't overly flashy and it isn't overly fancy but it's quite effective in its own grimy little way and if it's macho entertainment you want, then this one should fit the bill nicely.

The DVD

Video:

While the feature might be worthwhile, it's really quite hampered by the substandard video quality on this DVD. Obviously taken from a VHS source, Tough To Kill suffers from very faded colors, tape rolls throughout the film, plenty of dirt, debris and print damage, and to top it all off, the non anamorphic 1.85.1 image is noticeably cropped. The mattes on the top and bottom of the image don't even match, with the bottom matte appearing larger than the top one. It's obvious that no effort was put into improving the picture quality and to make matters worse, this transfer also exhibits evidence of a poor PAL to NTSC conversion as it's fuzzy and blurry looking whenever there's movement on the screen. Yuck.

Sound:

The English dubbed Dolby Digital Mono mix doesn't fare much better than the video transfer does. Again, obviously taken from a VHS source this track is flat, dull, and ripe with hiss throughout. To add insult to injury, Stelvio Cipriani's terrific disco jazz score, a fan favorite, here sounds lifeless and dead thanks to muffled audio and an overall lack of quality.

Extras:

The only special feature on this DVD is chapter selection, which really isn't very special at all.

Final Thoughts:

Tough To Kill is a fun Italian jungle adventure with enough testosterone in it to put hair on your chest and sweat on your brow. It's stylishly directed and the performances are suitably over the top. Sadly, this DVD from Italian Stallion/Ventura doesn't cut it. It looks awful, it sounds awful, and it has no extra features at all which is quite a shame. The movie deserves better than this. Despite an enjoyable feature, I've got to slap this one with the dreaded 'skip it' rating based only on the quality of the disc.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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