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Movies From the Black Lagoon: Three the Hard Way
Movies From the Black Lagoon
Three the Hard Way - 1974, Rated R
By Tom Doty
The director of "Super Fly" and a trio of African American action stars join forces in this time capsule from the super-cool seventies.
This one hits the ground running with an opening sequence that charts the escape of a man, named House, from a paramilitary camp. House is wounded during his flight to freedom but he manages to elude his captors by hitching a ride with a hippie couple. They get him to L.A. where his best friend, Jimmy Lait, runs a recording studio. Jimmy is a handy guy to know, as he is huge, fearless, and packs a handgun big enough to qualify as a portable cannon.
House turns out to be incoherent so Jimmy opts to attend a recording session while his girlfriend, Wendy, babysits his friend. Meanwhile we meet the people at eh camp and they are not at home to letting an escapee interfere with their cock-eyed plan to exterminate non-Caucasians. They are led by the rich, and decidedly tiny, Mr. Feather. He has gone out on a wing and hired a private army to guard his compound while a loopy scientist develops a poison that only kills African Americans.
Feather sends some of his goons to shut down house but they make the mistake of kidnapping Wendy. This action does not endear them to Jimmy who retaliates by enlisting two tough friends to help him find Wendy. Jagger is touch and well dressed. Lait drops in on Jagger by hiding in his office and jumping him when Jagger shows up. Turns out that Jagger's reflexes are still sharp and that's to the good as Feather's goon squad promptly attacks them. This leads to the first of several action set pieces that rely heavily on gunplay and exploding objects. This first one is also the best and takes maximum advantage of an arcade setting.
The men then journey to New York and pick up friend number two, Mister Keyes. Yes, his first name is actually Mister though no one remains conscious around him long enough to make fun of his moniker. This guy has forgotten more Kung Fu than Chuck Norris will ever know. The three soon grab a goon as a hostage. Soon they are well aware of Feather's insidious plan to test his poison on the water supplies of three major cities. They must split up to stop Feather's army but they can do that-and do it hard (just check the title). What follows are three decent sequences that find our heroes facing down a dozen bad guys each. It appears that Feather allotted more of his budget to uniforms (each goon rocks an fatigues and red arm bands) than training.
This is fun stuff and it benefits from the assured direction of Gordon Parks, Jr. He gets all the star power he needs from his high profile cats, which includes two ex-footballers (Jim Brown and Fred Williamson) as Lait and Jagger. Jim Kelly steps in as Keyes and was fresh from his debut opposite Bruce Lee in the classic 'Enter the Dragon." The stunts are the selling point here and they are well orchestrated thanks to Hal Needham (who would go on to direct films like 'The Cannonball Run."
The film also benefits from a higher budget than was normally allotted to African American action flicks of the period. Unfortunately the film cycle was on the decline when this was released so a sequel never happened, though the cast was reunited for a spaghetti western the next year.
This is also a fun film for those of you who love spotting errors. There are a couple of beauties here. One is simply a trio of female motorcyclists (that are obviously men in the riding shots). My favorite is the first Jim Kelly fight scene. He is wearing dress shoes and rocking enough leather for a "Fonzie" convention when the battle starts but it's obvious that he found shoes too cumbersome for leg kicks as his feet are clad in sneakers once the high kicks start.
Best Line: " If you need a machine to score then you need to hang it up."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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