by Jef Burnham
Now available on on-demand DVD from the MGM Limited Edition Collection.
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John Deray kills people— for a living. “He’s a very cautious man… When he works, he gets good money. He has many women— no one permanent. He lives alone. He drives fast cars.” And that’s how the character is introduced to us, described in voice over by Maurice Ronet (Elevator to the Gallows) as Deray tinkers with his turntable before returning to the gorgeous woman in his bedroom. Of course, a character this cool can only be played by the 1970s’ go-to bad-ass Brit, Michael Caine.
Were The Destructors devoted to Deray as Get Carter is Jack Carter, it might have been a much better film. As is, however, I should think its appeal will likely be limited by how much of a Michael Caine fan you are. Admittedly, the first half hour of the film is dynamite, as we follow Head of the DEA’s Paris Office, Steve Ventura (Anthony Quinn, La Strada), through his escalating conflict with prominent French citizen/drug lord, Jacques Brizard (James Mason, North by Northwest). Eventually, their stalemate inspires Steve to hire a hitman to end Brizard permanently, and Deray is called in. After this, the film meanders somewhat tediously toward the film’s conclusion, in which Caine and Quinn finally join forces to fight side-by-side.
The cause of this tedium is obviously the result of the constant shifting of protagonists from Steve to Deray throughout the greater portion of the film. Deray goes to work for Brizard for a spell (for reasons the film is not entirely sure of), while, separately, Steve continues to search for legal ways to take Brizard down. And really, either one of these threads would have sufficed. In the end, though, The Destructors is still a cool flick. You’ll find all the indulgent car chases hinted at in the description of Deray above, and the film’s intense score serves the action well.
Keeping in mind that this is an on-demand DVD-R format disc produced from the highest quality sources available, let’s turn to the quality of the release itself. At first, the image is a bit soft and the sound is noticeably grainy, but both elements sharpen up quickly. Of course, as I’ve mentioned in reviews of past releases of discs from the Limited Edition Collection, The Destructors might still have benefited from a bit more contrast in the image to sharpen things up generally. However, the original film elements themselves were obviously in considerably better condition than, say, those of Fort Massacre, making The Destructors perhaps the best of the five Limited Edition releases I’ve covered to date in terms of appearance.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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