• Cabo Blanco

    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: September 27th, 2016.
    Director: J. Lee Thompson
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, Dominique Sanda, Fernando Rey, Gilbert Roland
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    One of those films that never had a DVD release and now goes straight from VHS to Blu-ray, J. Lee Thompson’s 1980 picture Cabo Blanco is, despite an excellent cast, a strong score and some gorgeous location photography, a bit of a mess. But at least it’s a really interesting mess.

    The story is set in 1948 and takes place on a small island off the coast of Peru in a town called Cabo Blanco. Here a prostitute loving police captain named Terredo (Fernando Rey) keeps things reasonably orderly, often times at the behest of a former Nazi named Gunther Beckdorff (Jason Robards). An American named Giff Hoyt (Charles Bronson) runs a bar in the middle of town. He lives a simple life until a beautiful woman named Marie Claire Allesandri (Dominique Sanda) comes strolling into his joint. She needs his help to find her missing fame, but he’s got other ideas.

    Meanwhile, a British treasure hunter named Lewis Clarkson (Simon MacCorkindale) is exploring the waters off the coast of the island hoping to find the wreck of a ship named The Brittany rumored to hold some loot within its hull. As Giff starts poking about trying to figure out what happened to Marie’s beloved, the two start to fall for one another but also learn the hard way just how corrupt the cops in Cabo Blanco are. Tensions rise as Giff and Beckdorff find themselves at odds with one another.

    Clearly inspired by Casablanca, this picture is really nicely shot and makes excellent use of some fantastic Mexican locations. There’s an exotic look to much of the film that helps to keep it easy on the eyes, and some of the buildings used for the shoot are impressive and interesting looking. The movie starts off with a pretty exciting scene wherein a pair of frogmen sabotages a mission to find the sunken ship, but from there… it gets messy. To be fair, the film was seemingly chopped to pieces before it wound up in the version we see here (more on that below when we talk about the extras) but it is what it is and what it is, well, it’s a choppy, illogical misfire. The story is disjointed and convoluted, the ending feels tacked on and ham-fisted and character motivations are sketchy at best. Much of this likely has to do with the fact that there are about a zillion people credited with writing the picture and that it was started without a proper ending having been written but the haphazard editing employed here is also to blame.

    If you’re a Bronson, fan, however, this is worth seeing. He gets a lot of screen time here and he’s in fine form. He and the lovely Ms. Sanda are almost completely lacking in on screen chemistry and he’s clearly much older then she is, but he handles himself well in the film’s minor action scenes and it’s fun to see him acting alongside Once Upon A Time In The West co-star Jason Robards. Robards and veteran Spanish actor Fernando Rey are enjoyable to watch as the bad guys, they’re both fairly well cast here and handle themselves fine. McCorkindale is underused but amusing enough.

    Ultimately we’re left with a movie that never comes particularly close to meeting its potential – but it’s interesting to see Thompson and company try. On top of that, Jerry Goldsmith contributes a really solid score. So yeah, ultimately in this form Cabo Blanco isn’t very good, it is an odd film in the Bronson filmography in that it focuses more on drama and hefty doses of romance than it does on action. The problems with the film are many, but none of the reasons it’s clunky like it is stem back to its leading man.


    Kino's AVC encoded 1080p high definition 2.37.1 widescreen transfer of Cabo Blanco offers an okay picture on a 50GB disc. The transfer shows reasonably solid detail for the most part, and good texture as well, though colors can look a bit flat at times. Skin tones look a little pale in spots as well. There’s some minor banding but not problems with compression artifacts. Given how much of this movie takes place in some awesome seaside locations you’d figure the colors would pop a bit more than they do. This looks to be how the movie was shot, however. Kino’s packaging states that this was remasterd in HD but doesn’t note the source. Given the film’s history it’s possible this was taken from a print rather than a negative or IP source. Either way, this is perfectly serviceable and clearly a proper high definition presentation, but it is a few steps short of reference quality.

    The English soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono format, is unfortunately riddled with some fairly constant hiss. Dialogue is discernable enough but not as clear as most are going to want it to be. Oddly enough, Jerry Goldsmith’s score sounds pretty solid here despite all of this. The levels are well balanced but a little bit of clean up would have gone a long way here as the hiss is pretty hard to ignore.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with Paul Talbot, the man who wrote Bronson’s Loose and Bronson’s Loose Again and it’s clear from the get go that the guy knows his stuff. Right off the bat he starts talking about the film’s checkered history, filling us in on how it originally ran a half an hour longer than it does on this disc and how that cut was trimmed down to ninety minutes for its U.S . release (it only played full strength in France where Bronson and Sanda were both immensely popular at the time). Even though that full length cut would appear to be lost to the sands of time, Talbot is able to fill us in on what’s missing using an original script as his source and it makes for some pretty interesting stuff. The film was originally intended to be much more action-centric than it turned out to be, and there were quite a few subplots and scenes taken out, including one early on involving a giant squid! As the track plays out, Talbot also talks about how Bronson was ‘chummy’ with Robards on set – which was rare for the introverted star – and about the different Mexican locations that stand in for Peru. He talks about Thompson’s directing style here as well, noting the scope and size of the picture compared to a lot of his other films. He also does a great job of filling us in on the history of a lot of the other actors that pop up in the movie, like Fernando Rey, Robards, Sanda and a lot of the Mexican character actors that populate the picture (including one who was a former wrestler who went toe to toe with El Santo in the ring!). It’s a pretty engaging track that really does a very good job of explaining how and why Cabo Blanco turned out the way it did, as well as letting us in on just how much potential the movie had but failed to really capitalize on in this version.

    Kino have also dug up a great twenty-seven minute vintage documentary called The Making Of Cabo Blanco that is quite a bit more engaging and valuable than the typical EPK style piece you might expect it to be. Here we get some great interview clips with Thompson who speaks about the shooting and production schedule and about his experiences shooting in Mexico. We also get some great behind the scenes footage with Bronson, Robards and a few of the other cast members. Lots of the footage here was shot on the set during the production and as such, it’s a pretty valuable document of the film’s history.

    Producer Lance Hool gets in front of the camera for a newly shot interview that runs sixteen minutes. Here he speaks about how the movie was almost made up as they went along in that they didn’t have a proper finished script before they started shooting. He also talks about courting a few other actors to play the lead before getting Bronson on board, working with Thompson who wasn’t really all that enthused about the movie, Bronson’s difficulties on set and more.

    Rounding out the extras is a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Bronson titles available on Blu-ray from Kino. Static menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    The Final Word:

    Cabo Blanco has a great cast and some fantastic locations. It’s also got a wonderful score from Jerry Goldsmith and some dazzling camerawork in a few spots. The story, however, is a big, sloppy mess from the poor character development and motivations to the tacked on happy ending that really just doesn’t work. Now having said that, the history behind the movie is fascinating and Bronson is great in the lead. Kino have released an interesting disc here. The audio isn’t very good but the transfer is reasonably fine and the extras thorough and engaging. This is recommended, but more for the Bronson completists out there, those of us who want and/or need to own even his more esoteric, lesser films.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!