A mysterious figure or organization going by the name of War on Crime is apparently engaged in just that in the streets of Soweto. Known drug dealers are being gunned down. On the case is Lt. Deel (Nigel Davenport). Caught up in the case is newspaperman Chaka (Ken Gampu), who is contacted by War on Crime and given tips as to when the next attack will take place. Deel and Chaka are friends of long standing, but their friendship is challenged by the fact that the police captain now views Chaka as a possible accomplice in the vigilante killings. The question, too, is whether there is more to these killings than meets the eye.
Now this is an interesting artifact: a South African grindhouse epic from the 70s (and thus the Apartheid era). The case boasts that this is a blaxploitation effort, and while this is only 100% accurate, as a fair amount of screen time is spent with Deel, and ditto a white killer working for War on Crime, it’s certainly close enough for government work. The story is a bit meandering, given that there isn’t really that much plot (and so we can take time out to watch Chaka eat lunch and feed ducks). But the moments of tedium are made up for by the over-the-top slow-motion violence, not to mention the entertainment value of the hilariously clunky post-synchronization. And the editor, it seems, was having to work while being subjected to random electrical shocks. All in all, a most fascinating oddity.
Let me put it this way: the picture quality in no way disrupts the grindhouse atmosphere of the film. In other words, the print is a long, long way from perfect, but I’m not sure I would want it any other way. The grain, the damage, the soft picture, the murky, muddy colours – all that’s missing is the sticky floor and scary patrons. While I can’t give a high star rating to such a grimy-looking product, it’s pretty clear that the picture quality is a function of the source material, not the transfer, and I’d be astonished if it turned out that an actually good print of this film exists anywhere in the known universe. The aspect ratio is 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, which does mean that there will be some loss at the top and bottom on 16×9 screens.
Very much in line with the picture quality. As mentioned above, the dubbing is wonky in the extreme, every sound effect is so obviously placed that there isn’t a natural sound in the film. There is plenty of distortion going on, and the static is pretty bad. Thank goodness the sound choices are limited to the original mono: this sort of thing remixed into stereo would be an unconscionable assault on the ears.
Weird, grotty stuff. For the exploitation connoisseur, this is not to be missed. Some features establishing the film’s context would have been nice, though.