• Black Gunn / The Take (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: April 16th, 2019.
    Director: Robert Hartford-Davies
    Cast: Jim Brown, Martin Landau, Herb Jefferson Jr., Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Albert, Frankie Avalon, Vic Morrow
    Year: 1972/1974
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    Black Gunn / The Take – Movie Review:

    Mill Creek Entertainment offers up a double dose of seventies blaxploitation pictures directed by Robert Hartford-Davies from the Columbia Tri/Star vaults!

    Black Gunn:

    With a tagline like 'For every drop of black blood spilled…. A white man pays!' you'd expect Robert Hartford-Davies' 1972 Jim Brown vehicle Black Gunn to deliver non-stop action, with the ex-pro football star busting 'The Man's' head at every opportunity, and making time for the ladies when the occasion calls for it or the mood hits him. And that's more or less what you get in this fast paced and entertaining violent 'blaxploitation' film.

    The story, basic as it is, goes a little like this – a group of black militants known as B. A. G. (Black Action Group) rob an illegal gambling house run by some white mobsters. In the process, one of the thugs, Scott Gunn (Herb Jefferson Jr. who I remember as Lt. Boomer from Battlestar Galactica!), grabs some books that detail just what political figures around town have been paid off. Obviously, the mob is none too happy about this information falling into the wrong hands, and they send out a goon squad put together by a mob boss named Capelli (played by Martin 'Bela Lugosi' Landau) who sells used cars on the side.

    Scott takes the cash and the books and hides them away in the safe at the swank night club, The Gunn Club, run by his brother (Jim Brown of the Slaughter films from AIP). Eventaully, Scott gets mowed down by the mob, and the surviving Gunn takes it upon himself to take on the mob and avoid the local cops who are keeping a close eye on him after he gives them some attitude.

    And as I said, along the way three's plenty of violence, explosions, shoot outs and tough talk – but never so much that Gunn can't make time for the lovely ladies who he seems to have a steady supply of courtesy of his successful night club operation.

    Black Gunn is a rather predictable effort but it's well directed and Brown shows no small amount of charisma on the screen, deftly kicking honkey ass as easily as he loves the foxy females (Brenda Sykes of Cleopatra Jones plays the main love interest). And it's ultimately Brown's charisma and ability to make a convincing action star/night club owner hybrid hero that makes the film work as well as it does. Landau delivers a good turn as the slimy car salesman come Mafioso type, grimacing his way through the film and never hesitating to sic his thugs on Gunn and his crew.

    Director Hartford-Davis keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, and the script, supplied by Hartford-Davis and co-writers Franklin Coen and Robert Shearer provides enough classic tough guy jive talkin' to fill an aircraft carrier. These attributes lend to the film a nice seventies feel that, in addition to it's action and love scenes, makes the movie enjoyable and a lot of fun, even if ultimately we all know where it's going to end up.

    The Take:

    The second film, made in 1974, stars Billy Dee Williams as a cop named Terry Sneed. He makes a paltry $15,000 a year at his job, and he’s good at his job, willing to put his life on the line when the need arises – but he’s also on the take. He’s got a bit of a rep for ripping off many of the same criminals that he winds up bringing in.

    When Sneed does this to a mobster named Manso (Vic Morrow), things go south. Barrigan (Eddie Albert), the top cop on the force and Sneed’s superior, knows that Sneed tends to bend the rules and he suspects that he might be on the take, but he doesn’t know for sure. Tension develops between the two cops and this allows Manso to exploit things. It gets complicated from there on out…

    Less a blaxploitation picture and more of a traditional cop thriller, The Take is decent but far from a classic. Williams is almost too cool in the role, sometimes coming across as uninterested and almost aloof. He looks the part and there are moments where he handles himself well in the action scenes but there are moments in the film where he almost seems bored by all of this. Thankfully, supporting work from Eddie Albert and Vic Morrow help to save the picture. Morrow in particular is awesome here, chewing a fair bit of scenery as the hot-tempered mob boss. He’s just a lot of fun to watch. Frankie Avalon and Sorrell Booke (yep, Boss Hogg from The Dukes Of Hazzard) also both show up here in supporting roles, which adds to the entertainment value.

    The movie is fast paced and if offers up some decent action and tension. The script doesn’t do as much as it could and should have to really exploit the duality of Sneed’s character – when it does, it’s interesting, when it doesn’t, it’s a fairly standard 70’s cop movie. That’s not a bad thing, it just means the film isn’t as memorable as it should have been.

    Black Gunn / The Take – Blu-ray Review:

    Both films are presented on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded high definition. Black Gunn is presented in 1080i, for some reason, and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. The whole 1080i issue notwithstanding, the transfer is quite good. The elements used were clearly in very nice shape, with only the occasional white speck showing up now and then as far as print damage goes. There are no noticeable compression problems to note nor are there any issues with edge enhancement or noise reduction problems. Colors look quite good and the image has lots of nice, natural film grain as well as plenty of nice detail and texture.

    The Take, which is in proper 1080p and framed at 1.85.1, doesn’t fare quite as well. The image is similarly clean (well, maybe not quite as clean, you will spot the occasional scratch here and there) and filmic with decent detail and texture but there are obvious and frequent compression artifacts visible throughout the presentation. Colors are also puzzlingly flat.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 tracks offered up for each film are pretty decent. There are no alternate language options of subtitles of any kind provided here. Again, Black Gunn fares a bit better than the take, it’s a little cleaner sounding with better fidelity all around. Either way, dialogue is clear enough for both films, levels are fine and there aren’t really any problems with any hiss or distortion to discuss.

    There are no extras on the disc at all, just menus and chapter selection.

    Black Gunn / The Take – The Final Word:

    Mill Creek Entertainment’s double feature Blu-ray release of Black Gunn / The Take gives the first film a better presentation than the second in terms of presentation. The barebones disc is priced right, however, and both movies provide a lot of fun, seventies style entertainment.

    Click on the images below for full sized Black Gunn / The Take Blu-ray screen caps!