With two Dr. Who features already under his belt (DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS and DALEKS' INVASION EARTH: 2150 A.D), the late 1960s/early 1970s would see Gordon Flemyng once again briefly venture away from episodic television where he had and would continue to flourish as a director, to tackle a trio of feature films. They included the crime drama THE SPLIT, GREAT CATHERINE staring Peter O'Toole and THE LAST GRENADE, a tale of revenge between two men, both trained to kill, both stubborn as the day is long. Struggling under the eyes of a red sun, they match wits and ammo to see who will be the last man standing and who has the better mustache.
Major Harry Grigsby’s (Stanley Baker, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE)
men are behind enemy lines and in desperate need of extraction. Called in to
help the Major and his men is Kip Thompson (Alex Cord, UNINVITED), who arrives
by helicopter, swooping in like a giant metal angel. Positioning himself per
the Major’s orders, Kip awaits the first wave of soldiers to break from
their cover before shocking everyone by turning his gun on his own fellow soldiers
and mowing each one down in a steady rain of ammunition. Surviving the tragic
and humiliating incident, Grigsby returns to a hospital where he is being treated
for TB. Resting in far less hostile territory, Grigsby is approached with an
offer. It seems that Kip is causing headaches up and down China’s border
and the British government is looking for someone to take care of such a problem,
off the books. Jumping at the chance to get even with his former teammate, Grigsby
compiles a small team of mercenaries to accompany him to Hong Kong, where no
man or woman (OK, maybe a woman) will stop him from taking out Kip Thompson,
once and for all.
Renegade military man Kip Thompson, played manically by Alex Cord, ambushing his fellow soldiers provides THE LAST GRENADE with a shoot of adrenaline straight out of the gate. Unfortunately the rush tapers off rather quickly as testosterone is traded for estrogen. About an hour in, the film's plot essentially veers from an action picture into daytime soap opera territory and in doing so lessens the impact of later action scenes, including its ending. After arriving in Hong Kong, Grigsby can't help but take notice of Mrs. Katherine Whiteley (Honor Blackman, Pussy Galore in GOLDFINGER), wife of General Charles Whiteley (Richard Attenborough), his boss. Of course the two at first lock horns, as Katherine sees Grigsby as nothing more than bully, but underneath the gruff exterior and the expertly quaffed mustache she begins to see another side to the very sick man and eventually the two begin an affair. Given that his character's thirst for revenge seemed to be the only thing keeping him alive, I found it hard to believe that Grigsby would be so distracted from, let alone abandon his mission in favor of a dame. Such a melodramatic side trip did little in retaining my interest and even less in helping to keep my suspension of disbelief from faltering. Of course GRENADE has much bigger holes to fill in such a respect.
How Grigsby’s is able to survive as long as he does is by itself a bit of a stretch. He might be determined, at least initially, but he is by no means in the best physical (or mental) shape. Early on in the picture Grigsby and a mercenary played by Rafer Johnson (SOUL SOLDIER) are caught pretty quickly by Kip and his crew, which isn’t surprising given that they are traveling through terrain that Thompson would clearly have had a more familiar knowledge of. Of course trekking through the jungle wearing a red hat and a pink muscle shirt probably didn’t help conceal their arrival much either. After killing his companion, Kip takes Grigsby back to his hideout where he manages to keep the Major confined for all of about eight minutes. Escaping from Kip's jungle camp, Grigsby makes a break for the foliage, getting only a few paces before his getaway is noticed. Chased through the jungle, Grigsby finds himself at the top of a steep hill lined by a barbwire fence. Rather than jumping over the fence like any sane man being chased by terrorists with guns would do, Grigsby stops to beat the fence with the butt of his gun until he is able to step casually over it, after which he tumbles down the hill like Cary Elwes in THE PRINCESS BRIDE until he lands with a thud in friendly territory. While his poor health is repeatedly touched upon throughout the picture, not once did I think Grigsby actually had the upper hand on Kip. I'm usually one to root for the underdog but in the case, the underdog may have been better off put out of his misery.
For its DVD premiere, Scorpion Releasing presents THE LAST GRENADE in anamorphic widescreen maintaining its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Dirt and debris are kept to a minimum with coloring suffering from a handful of instances in which the contrast dips down a level before balancing back out. Such faults are however few and far between. The English mono audio track fares well enough though there is at least one instance in which the score is dropped suddenly that is rather jarring. Special features include the film's original Cinerama theatrical trailer as well as trailers for VOYAGER, POWER PLAY, THE FARMER and THE INTERNECINE PROJECT. (Jason McElreath)
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