Project: Kill (1976)

Director: William Girdler
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Gary Lockwood, Nancy Kwan, Vic Silayan, Vic Diaz, Galen Thompson, Maurice Downs)
Music: Robert O. Ragland
Song: ‘The Lonely World’ performed by Pilita Corrales

On numerous occasions I have said that I watch all the crap films, so you guys don’t have to. Well get out a big black texta colour and cross Project: Kill off your list. It is absolutely dreadful. Project: Kill is one of a myriad of craps film that Leslie Nielsen made before he found an audience as a comedic actor. Here he stars as John Trevor who works for a covert intelligence group, much like the C.I.A. He used to be one of their best field agents, but now he works as a trainer. The films begins with a group of new recruits watching a training film presented by Trevor. The footage shows an assassination attempt being foiled by an ‘interdiction’ agent. When I heard this in the film, I didn’t know what ‘interdiction’ meant, so I looked it up in the dictionary. The word seems to have a few meanings, but the one that made the most sense to me was : authoritative prohibition. So I’d guess, relating it to the training film, an interdiction agent has the power and authority to stop an assassination attempt. Let’s move on shall we?

Trevor goes on to state:

’The only effective method of combating political assassination – by the interception and destruction of the assassin himself.’

So the so-called ‘authoritive prohibition’ actually means ‘killing’. These agents are killers. You could say, theses agents have ‘Permission To Kill’ (sorry about that!) Next Trevor goes on to explain how these new recruits will become highly trained killing machines. He says:

”YOU will be given vitamins to increase your stamina – chemical injections to expand your mental capabilities – injections to assist you in both physical and mental control. You’ll be programmed to respond instantaneously to any hidden stimulus. YOU will become a reflex – a highly directed unit of force. YOU will be taught how to use everyday objects as weapons – everything from a toe nail clipping to a briefcase…”

I don’t know about you, but if these guys were being trained to protect me, I’d hope they were armed with more than a nail clipping!

After the briefing Trevor and his number two man, Frank Lassiter (Gary Lockwood) head into an office. Trevor has a headache. He has had enough of the drugs, and enough of the mind control. He wants to quit. He expresses this to Lassiter. Lassiter responds by picking up the phone and ordering a medical detail to come and assess Trevor. Trevor doesn’t want to be assessed – he want’s out! So he clocks Lassiter over the head while his back is turned, and then breaks out of the facility and goes on the lam.

When we next meet Trevor, he has arrived in Manilla in the Philippines. This provides an opportunity for some piss-poor travelogue footage. Next, he makes his way to a villa owned by to friends from the old days. One of the men is Wagner (Galen Thompson); the other is Hook (Maurice Downs). Both men used to work for the ‘agency’, but Wagner lost his legs in an operation. Wagner and Hook provide shelter for the night, and provide money and transport for Trevor to move on.

Meanwhile, a rival oriental agency, headed by Alok Lee (Vic Diaz) know that Trevor is in the Philippines. As Trevor has been a part of the program for so long, they figure he is carrying a lot of valuable information around inside of his head. Lee orders his henchmen to capture Trevor alive. Complicating matters further, the agency that Trevor worked for has sent Frank Lassiter to also bring him in before the headaches and other withdrawal symptoms cause him to become too violent. The film does have it’s violent moments courtesy of some poorly choreography martial arts sequences. These scenes are accompanied by equally poor sound effects.

These days, it is hard to take Nielsen seriously, even when watching an older film before his comedy turns. As a comedian, his delivery is usually dry and straight faced. So when he gets lumbered with some ridiculous dialogue, like in Project: Kill it is almost instinctive to think that this is a joke. But it isn’t – mores the pity.

The music by Robert O. Ragland is, in places, overly melodramatic, but generally it is better than this production deserves. The song, ‘The Lonely World’ is a pretty forgettable lounge number with flute accompaniment.

It’s a shame this film is such a stinker, because there may be a good idea hiding under all the crap. When you think about the plot, of chemically controlled assassins, who work for covert agencies controlled by the government, it’s hard not to compare it to the recent film The Bourne Ultimatum. Obviously The Bourne Ultimatum was good, whereas this is crap, but there is an interesting seed at the centre of this film. But one good idea, does not make a good film. You can safely skip over Project: Kill.

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