Sleeve Design : Graffiti Productions Limited

DVD Availability : |


Mitch Brown | USA | 1973


From little acorns mighty oaks do grow, a turn of phrase demonstrated perfectly via this impressive University of Illinois student production, made in and around Illinois for $15,000 — the profits collected from weekend cinema screenings at the university! Amazingly, sound mixer Tomlinson Holman went on to develop Lucasfilm’s THX system (an acronym for Tomlinson Holman “crossover”), whilst co-star Charles Russell later directed A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors in 1987.  Not to be outdone, producer Nate Kohn's next job was Zulu Dawn.

Written, co-edited and directed by cinema devotee Mitch Brown, the meandering storyline has a definite patchwork feel about it, but this is more than countered by Rod Adrian’s authentic street-level cinematic verisimilitude of a wintery Illinois. The lead villain, portrayed with sardonic/sadistic glee by the charismatic Frank Himes, stands out from the rest of the cast, whilst the soundtrack (“Used by special arrangement with Polydor, Inc.”) features cuts from Area Code 615’s 1972 album Trip in the Country — most notably Stone Fox Chase, better known as the theme tune for the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test.

Urban crime-stoppers and immoral detective double act Ross and Wilson (Richard C Watt, Charles Russell) patrol the grubby and grey depressed city streets of Illinois, dispensing out justice more in the style of "Popeye" Doyle and "Cloudy" Russo than Starsky and Hutch. On the opposite side of the same coin is local tealeaf, drug smuggler and overall thug Blasi (Himes), the leader of a band of scruffy delinquents: Sammy (Jay Brett), Mickey (James Hinton) and Stiller (Neil Lifton).

After busting middle-man drug peddler Danny Ravelli, Ross and Wilson persuade Ravelli’s live-in girlfriend Sheila (Margaret Uhlarik) to work undercover for them, in order to relay back vital intelligence about Blasi’s drug smuggling operation. The film ends with a causality strewn finale as the two sides square off in the bleachers and racetracks of the Illinois State Fairground.



For a film which sank without trace shortly after its release, it’s quite frankly astounding that the film somehow made its way onto home video in the mid 1980s.

Xtasy’s uncut ‘18’ release from around April of 1987, featured rather unimaginative and sloppy sleeve artwork from the usually reliable Graffiti Productions Limited. The synopsis is totally misleading, and actor Neil Lifton's surname is incorrectly spelled Liffon. Having no available promotion material, a still from Eloy de la Iglesia’s Cannibal Man was used for the front panel image — a film Graffiti had designed the artwork to twice previously for distributor Intervision!


aka : Death Shot

cast : Frank Himes, Charles Russell, Richard C Watt, Margaret Uharik, Jay Brett, Neil Lifton, James Hinton, Lynn Sweet, Denise Sondei, Fred Rubin, Charles 'Harpo' Adkins