Director: Jean-Marie Pallardy
Script: Edward John Francis
Cast: Robert Ginty, Fred Williamson, Belinda Mayne, Jess Hahn, Mirella Banti, Diana Goodman, Gordon Mitchell
Running time: 102 minutes
White Fire has already been reviewed within this esteemed website by fellow scribe, David Brook (http://blueprintreview.co.uk/2011/04/weekend-of-trash-v/), with Dave finishing of his review by saying: “Maybe the uncut version would have had more to recommend as it is supposed to be rather brutal and contain some sort of chainsaw duel, but little of this was left. What we were left with was utter crap from beginning to end and pretty damn hard to sit through. I can’t imagine a few more scenes of exploitation would have changed our opinions that much.”
What the last comment indicated was that we’d been unfortunate enough to sit through the cut version of this action-drama, and we suspected that we’d been denied the ‘good bits’ by an overly zealous mid-eighties censor! So, was this true? Is the film radically improved with all the blood and gore still in place? Well…
White Fire starts with an intriguing opening with a family running through a forest being chased by bored-looking Russian soldiers. As they approach a beach the father (played by the director) tells his wife and two children, (a teenage boy and a younger girl), to run to the beach and he’ll draw off the soldiers. His plan goes badly awry, however, and he’s quickly flame-throwered to death in quite a nasty scene, which actually caused the director (who performed the fire stunt himself) to get his hair and beard badly burned! The mother gets killed on the beach by the chasing soldiers, but the kids are saved by a rescue party who take them across to Turkey.
Cut to Turkey 20 years later and the children are now grown up into Bo (Ginty) and Ingrid (Mayne), who seem to have a rather strange, almost incestuous, relationship with each other. I know adversity brings people closer together but this is ridiculous!
Ingrid works at a diamond mine and is in cahoots with the mine supervisor (Mitchell) to smuggle some of the diamonds out to sell on the black market and make some extra moolah for themselves. And her brother helps transport the diamonds across the desert to waiting buyers. Unfortunately, this tidy little arrangement is ruined by another smuggling gang trying to muscle in on their patch (or something like that), resulting in some unsavoury deaths and a rather bizarre dock-side fight, which includes a melee involving Ginty wielding a chainsaw in a manner less threatening than Miss Marple at a Bingo parlour.
It all gets unnecessarily complicated and silly, with changes of identity, pseudo incestuous love-making, and Fred Williamson playing Russian Roulette with a befuddled-looking man, as he looks for Ingrid look-a-like, Olga, who Bo falls for, especially once he persuades her to have plastic surgery to look even more like his now deceased sister so she can steal a near-mythical, and huge, diamond called ‘White Fire’, which can burn people’s skin on contact, and later explodes, for some unknown reason. Phew! And, if the plot sounds crazy, that’s because it is…
I’m not quite sure why Arrow Video has unearthed this film, when there are so many better movies out there to share with cineastes like ourselves. I can only think that the film was part of some kind of fire-sale and they got the rights to it in a bundle with some better films, for next to nothing.
Director Pallardy, who wrote the initial story this was based on, takes what could have been an interesting Vertigo-like idea and runs with it, but in the wrong direction, and in the wrong way. Not only is the plot a bit of a mess, but so is the direction, the editing and the acting. No one in White Fire, apart, perhaps, from Fred Williamson and Belinda Mayne’s body, come out of this looking good. Robert Ginty can’t seem to decide how to play his character so ends up giving a really strange performance, and the rest of the cast are pretty awful.
Fred Williamson is by far the best actor in the film and he sadly doesn’t appear until halfway through the film. He’s still very charismatic, but fails to ignite the fire in the others around him so is a bit wasted here. Apparently he directed his own scenes, especially the action ones, and it has to be said these are generally better than the rest of the film. Unfortunately, this tends to emphasise the uneven tone of the film, making it even more laughable.
I have to say though, that with the additional gore and mayhem, and accidental humour, White Fire is more entertaining than I remembered it to be, but mostly for the wrong reasons. I think all film students should be made to watch some bad films too, so they can appreciate what can go wrong on a shot (crap acting) and just as importantly in the edit.
Arrow seemed to have sourced a print under the fim’s original title, namely Vivre pour Survivre, which seems to be badly dubbed, which kind of adds to the hilarity, along with the atrocious delivery of lines, shots being held for way too long, and some of the weirdest punch-ups ever committed to celluloid. Oh, and Fred Williamson clearly has a new ability in this film of being able to say stuff without actually moving his lips – incredible!
On the plus side, there are some very cool locations used in this film, Turkey looks amazing at times, and some of the music, by Jon Lord, that accompanies the film is actually okay, although the main theme song ‘White Fire’ by the band Limelight is fun initially but then turns into an earworm and you’ll be finding yourself replaying it in your head for weeks afterwards – agghh!!
Arrow Video is distributing White Fire on Blu-Ray. There are a number of special features including:
An audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor of Diabolique magazine
Enter the Hammer (11.5 mins) – An insightful interview with Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson who explains how he first got involved with the project, what it was like on the shoot (he was a little scared due to the heavy Soviet presence everywhere in Turkey at the time) and describes White Fire as being “a bad film that’s good”!
Surviving the fire (22.5 mins) – An interview with director and writer Jean-Marie Pallardy who explains how he assembled most of the cast by meeting up with them at World Gym, and how he loves Fred who let him stay at his house in LA, rent free, when he was really struggling for money. He also reveals that his assistant on the film was kidnapped by a biker gang at one point during the shoot!
Diamond Cutter (21 mins) – An informative interview with editor Bruno Zincone who talks about how he got into the film industry (mostly by sheer chance) and that he’s worked with the same director now for 50 years, on and off.
2020 Reissue trailer (2 mins) – A good trailer for a bad film; much better than it deserves!