Monday, June 28, 2010

'Shatter': Peter Cushing's Worst?

Peter Cushing reportedly stated that "Blood Beast Terror" was the worst movie he ever did. I beg to differ. While I haven't seen every film he has made--but I'm working to rectify that!--I doubt any can be as bad as "Shatter," one of two co-productions that Hammer Films made with Hong Kong-based Shaw Bros.

I believe this is the only film with Cushing in it that I have ever assigned a One Rating to.

Shatter (aka "Call Him Mr. Shatter") (1974)
Starring: Stuart Whitman, Lung Ti, Lily Li, Anton Diffring, and Peter Cushing
Directors: Michael Carreras and Monte Hellman
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Shatter (Whitman) is one of the world's top assassins. After killing an African dictator, he travels to Hong Kong to collect his fee, but instead finds himself a hunted man. Shatter hates being screwed out of his hard-earned cash, so he sets about getting revenge against the crimelord who crossed him (Diffring). Along the way, he gains a young martial artist as an ally (Ti), hooks up with a sexy Chinese mama (Li), and annoys a British Intelligence officer (Cushing). Everything basically unfolds at random, puntuated with gun-battles, explosions, and car chases.

From beginning to end, this movie makes no sense. I fancy myself pretty smart, but, despite the fact that the movie is populated with characters who are clearly just taking actions dictated by the plot, I can't figure out what the plot is. Why does Shatter go to Hong Kong, other than the fact that the company that co-produced this travesty with a failing Hammer Films, is based there? Since those who contracted his services were planning on killing him, why wait until he was in their backyard? Why didn't Shatter arrange to be paid in a way of his choosing--it can't be surprising that criminals would want to weasel out of paying him, now could it? What is Peter Cushing's character doing in the film anyway?

"Shatter" attempts to be a poor man's James Bond, but it comes across as the DT-riddled bum's James Bond. Even Peter Cushing's being featured doesn't make this one worth the time you'd spend opening the DVD case, let alone watching it.


  1. Yes, but those two dummies falling from the window make it all worthwhile! :-)

  2. You do have a point there. That IS a perfect "Mystery Science Theater 3000" scene. :)

  3. great review, Steve. The audio commentary for the Region 1 Anchor Bay DVD of "Shatter" cleared up quite a bit of confusion for me. The director Monte Hellman was fired during production in Hong Kong by producer Michael Carreras. Primarily because the film had lagged behind schedule (I presume). Surprisingly, the quality of the film cannot solely be pinned on Carreras who then replaced Hellman as director. More than half of what appears in the film was shot by Hellman (as he reveals on the AC track). He talks mainly about working in HK and the less-than-humane conditions nearly most of the Chinese actors were forced to live and work in under the all-seeing eye of Shaw Brothers warlord, Run Run Shaw (who apparently did not get on with Hellman at all and even barred him from his fancy hotel and parties). Then the priceless Stuart Whitman chimes in with his own recollections of the film. His words of wisdom must be heard to be believed. One of my favorite little nuggets is when he is talking about being completely hammered (no pun intended) before a particular scene and his musings on Hellman's "delicious-looking" wife who came to visit the set that day. It's not surprising to me that Cushing, who was sooo devoted to Hammer, would agree to be in this crap-ball. Then again, I doubt any of them could dream the creative forces behind not only "Two-Lane Blacktop" (Hellman) but also some of the more interesting Hammer features (Carreras) and such classic kung fu/martial arts flicks (Shaw) would ever intentionally churn out something as mind-numbingly bad as this. Sadly enough, it's probably not even the worst film Cushing ever appeared in. "Sword of the Valiant" is far worse than "Hitler's Son" and Land of the Minotaur" in my opinion. "At the Earth's Core" has it's low-budget charms but I'd be damned if I could say I have ever enjoyed watching it (even with Caroline Munro in that cavegirl get-up). "Mystery on Monster Island" is also quite tedious and then there's "Black Jack" which might be worth a view if you can track it down. The Seventies were certainly hit-or-miss for Cushing. "Shock Waves" is an incredibly enjoyable low-budget flick. Tyburn's "The Ghoul" and "Legend of the Werewolf" (both released in 1974) are also two of the most underrated and perennially dismissed of all Sir's films. Which brings me to my entry in the absolute worst Peter Cushing movie contest: "Tendre Dracula". This movie was filmed in France and released there as "La Grand Trouille". No discussion of Sir's *worst films* could ever be complete without a mention of this baby. In fact, nothing about it, save for Sir himself, can be said is good. It's so abysmally bad, one wonders how or why they are even watching it at all. I'm sure the over-abundance of French farcical nonsense doesn't help any, but by the end it becomes such a tedious chore that you may want to consider a long nap immediately following it or a frontal lobe lobotomy. The choice is yours. Cushing was reduced to rewriting most of his own dialog (a task not uncommon to him by then that would persist throughout all of his films including "Star Wars"). Of course, it goes without saying that Sir never gave a bad performance in his entire life but his choice of roles in certain projects has always remained slightly dubious at times.

  4. I must say I rather enjoy reading some of the comments on this blog, but what the heck is that gibberish above? No offense, but what language is that?

  5. Great blog! I've passed along the Versatile Blogger Award because of your great work. I'll visit often:)

  6. Dan: It's Chinese. They're spamming the blog with porn ads. I may have to change my comments settings. :(

    BTW, Dan, that was a great follow-up you did. The commentary on the Anchor Bay "Shatter" DVD is indeed very informative.

    Iw as also unaware the Cushing wrote some (all?) of his lines in "Star Wars." That explains why they are so perfect. :)

    Alex: Thank you! I only post about once a month to this blog, but I'm glad you appreciate it. I hope to see you again in the future!