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Good Guys Wear Black
Ted Post's 1978 film, Good Guys Wear Black, was Chuck Norris' second starring vehicle, made shortly his debut in Breaker, Breaker!. In this film, Norris plays a retired special forces operative named John T. Booker who is now finishing up his time at grad school and working here and there as a stunt car driver. Back in The 'Nam, however, he was in charge of The Black Tigers, an elite military group that was ambushed by enemy combatants and left there by the American government, one that claimed it would do all it could to rescue prisoners of war. It was a rescue mission gone very wrong, leaving only Booker and a handful of other men still breathing.
Five years after putting his feet back down on American soil, Booker meets Margaret (Anne Archer), a reporter who asks him about not only his current job, but his time working for the special forces overseas, specifically some very classified missions she shouldn't even know existed in the first place. Around this time, members of The Black Tigers start getting killed off, leading Booker to start investigating things on his own. As he starts putting together the pieces of the puzzle with only lovely Margaret to help him, he starts to wonder if he hasn't uncovered something that goes all the way to the top, with sleazy Secretary Of State Conrad Morgan (James Franciscus) behind it all.
If Good Guys Wear Black is a bit on the clichéd side, it's still an entertaining seventies action movie with some fun conspiracy-laden overtones and some solid action set pieces, all of which are highlighted by Norris' genuinely solid abilities in this arena. While no one would ever consider him to be the greatest actor to ever hit the silver screen, especially this early in his career where he's pretty wooden, he's got a really strong fighting style on display throughout pretty much every one of the movie's fight sequences. Norris moves well, he's fast but he's also pretty big and it's a winning combination, making his John T. Booker a believable bad ass and the type of guy that you just wouldn't want to cross.
The supporting cast all do better acting than Norris, but don't have as much to do during the action set pieces. Anne Archer looks great here and delivers a pretty decent turn as the nosy reporter/love interest for the hero. Her character isn't especially well-written but she handles the material well enough and she's likeable in the part. James Franciscus chews a little bit of scenery as the corrupt politician type we all love to hate, making him pretty fun to watch in the role and a good choice to play the main villain in the film. Dana Andrews also has a small part in the film as does Chuck Norris' brother, Aaron Norris, who also handled some of the stunt work and, along with Chuck, coordinated the movie's fight choreography.
Post paces the movie well. By this point he had plenty of experience under his belt, directing lots of television and film projects and while the direction in this picture isn't especially flashy, it's plenty effective. The movie gets a decent score from composer Craig Safan (who was the composer for everything from Cheers to The Last Starfighter to Roller Boogie!) and benefits from good cinematography from Robert Steadman. Overall, the production values are decent here, even if this was made without the benefit of a huge studio backing it.
Kino brings Good Guys Wear Black to region A Blu-ray on a 25GB disc with the ninety-four minute feature taking up just under 30.8GBs of space on the 50GB disc and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Generally speaking, this is a pretty nice transfer. Detail is quite strong, easily improving over the previous DVD editions that have come out over the years in a pretty big way. Colors look nice and natural and there's some pretty nice depth noticeable in the image. The elements used for the transfer were clearly in good shape, there's very little print damage here, though the film's natural grain is retained and there are some small white specks noticeable here and there, nothing major, just very minor stuff. Compression artifacts, noise reduction and edge enhancement are a never an issue. We get pretty strong shadow detail here as well. Overall, the transfer is a strong one.
The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only. The track is clean, clear and nicely balanced and for an older mono mix for a low budget film from the early seventies, it sounds pretty solid. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the dialogue is always clean and easy to hear.
Extras kick off with a commentary track that comes courtesy of action film historians Brandon Bentley and Mike Leader. Like the other tracks that these guys have done for recent Kino Chuck Norris movies, it's a very enthusiastic discussion that starts off going over the oddball, abstract opening title sequence, the use of music in the film, Norris' own thoughts on the movie and taking this to do a more story-driven movie, the way that Norris plays his character in the film, Norris taking cues from Steve McQueen early in his career after training him, some of the themes and political ideas that the movie deals with, details on the shooting locations used, the intensity of the action scenes in teh movie and how well executed they are, how 'remakable' the movie is. They also cover the different cast and crew members that worked on the picture, Chuck Norris' manly qualities in the film (he only has an egg and some sardines in his kitchen!), they very seventies look of the film, the 'Chuck Norris facts' jokes that have been so popular over the years, Ted Post's career, Aaron Norris' involvement in this and a bunch of other Chuck Norris films and how Norris kind of looks like a cat when he's wet. There is an odd scene just past the twenty-five minute mark where the track cuts out, making you wonder if something was cut here or if it was an audio error.
The Making Of Good Guys Wear Black is a nine minute archival making of featurette that features some interview footage with Post talking about casting and working with Norris, how the success of the movie boosted his own career and more.
Additionally we get a twenty minute archival interview with the film's director, Ted Post. This piece runs for twenty minutes and it sees the director talking about the making of this movie and of Go Tell The Spartans, what it was like working with Chuck Norris, some of the themes that both movies explore and other details regarding the making of the movie.
Finishing up the extra features on the disc are a TV spot, radio spot and trailer for the feature, a few bonus trailers (for the Chuck Norris starring A Force Of One, The Octagon, An Eye For An Eye, Code Of Silence, Hero And The Terror and Narrow Margin), menus and chapter selection options.
It's also worth pointing out that this release comes packaged with a slipcover.
Good Guys Wear Black is a solid seventies action thriller that does a nice job of letting Norris show off his skills in the action department and which surrounds him with a pretty decent supporting cast. It might deal in clichés here and there but it's a fun watch with some pretty great action set pieces. Kino's Blu-ray looks and sounds very nice and has some decent supplements included on it as well. Recommended.
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.