Color, 1978, 101m.
Directed by Martyn Burke
Starring Peter O’Toole, Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings, Barry Morse, George Touliatos, Alberta Watson
Scorpion (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

This modest, entertaining actioner came at the height of international productions awash in intrigue and affordable rosters of familiar actors willing to cash a paycheck while dodging enemy spies and explosions. Anyone old enough to remember catching fare like The Wild Geese, Escape to Athena, or Bear Island should have a fair idea of what to expect here, whose only huge surprise is the fact that Roger Moore wasn’t also around for an appearance. The plot basically involves a bunch of disgruntled professionals and military men who decide to get together and form their own militia, way before that kind of activity became a notable, even commonplace presence in America. Disgusted with the corrupt current regime, Col. Narriman (Hemmings) leads the effort along with Dr. Rousseau (Morse) and Colonel Zellar (O’Toole) to acquire enough force, namely tanks, to stage a revolution against their government (which is conveniently never named). When the government gets wind of this plot, secret police chief Blair (Pleasence) springs into sadistic action in a testosterone-fueled face-off involving espionage and violent force.

The idea of men discussing political machinations might not sound like the makings of a great thriller, but Power Play comes off far better than it should thanks to a sterling cast who make the most of their material. Hemmings in particular offers another in his roster of excellent, frequently undervalued performances, anchoring the proceedings with a complex mixture of anger, tenacity, frustration, and melancholy. Pleasence comes in a close second as the antagonist of the story, offering a menacing yet fascinating characterization that makes the stakes mean far more when the action eventually kicks in.

Scorpion’s DVD of this seldom-seen political thriller features a solid anamorphic transfer that handily outclasses prior washed-out TV and video editions. The presentation is attractive and film-like throughout with solid colors and enough natural film grain to look like an excellent theatrical print rather than a scrubbed-over digital overhaul. Extras include an interview and audio commentary with director Burke, an interview with Touliatos, and the theatrical trailer, along with additional promos including The Farmer, Skateboard, The Last Grenade, Voyager, and The Girl in Blue.

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