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HBO presents
Good Guys Wear Black (1978)

Margaret: Any enemies out there?
John T. Booker: I'm worried about the enemies within.

- Anne Archer, Chuck Norris

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 05, 2001

Stars: Chuck Norris, Anne Archer
Other Stars: James Franciscus, Lloyd Haynes, Dana Andrews, Jim Backus
Director: Ted Post

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence and mild language)
Run Time: 01h:35m:27s
Release Date: October 30, 2001
UPC: 026359061127
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ C-C-C+ D

DVD Review

Chuck Norris would probably admit he's not the world's best actor. He owes his career to being a world class karate champion, and the endless string of action films he has starred in were generally loose canopies to showcase his talents. After appearing mostly in a string of early 1970s mediocre chop-socky martial arts titles featuring the legendary Bruce Lee, Norris earned a little more street credibility. In 1978 he starred in the Ted Post-directed Good Guys Wear Black, which mingled elements of government cover-ups and questionable alliances coming out of the war in Vietnam, and which paved the way for some of Norris' bigger, noisier war-themed flicks (like Delta Force and Invasion U.S.A.).

In this one Norris is John T. Booker, the former leader of a covert CIA assault team known as The Black Tigers (named, we learn, because they like to wear black). In their prime, during the final days of the Vietnam war, the Black Tigers had been sent behind enemy lines to rescue a group of POWs, but instead found themselves fighting for their lives, victims of an apparent set-up. Jump forward a few years, and Booker is approached by a mysterious woman named Margaret (Anne Archer) who seems to know some highly confidential information about that particular failed Black Tiger rescue mission. Why are members of the Black Tigers being killed? What's the connection with future Secretary of State Conrad Morgan (James Franciscus)? It's up to Booker, Margaret and CIA guy Murray Saunders (Lloyd Hanes) to tie all the loose ends together.

Ted Post, who directed big screen gems like Beneath The Planet Of The Apes and Magnum Force, went on to do a lot of television work (Baretta, Cagney & Lacey) later in his career. If anything, Good Guys Wear Black, which I realize doesn't feature any detectives, plays out like a typical cop show from that era. Take away some of blood squibs, remove a couple of minor swear words, and BOOM, this sucker would fit right in right along side Starsky & Hutch and Hawaii Five-O.

Norris spends most of his time grimacing stoically, arriving just moments before another member of the Black Tigers is shot down before his eyes. He does plenty of kicking and chopping, as well as a fair share of shooting. The film's signature shot, that of Norris doing a flying kick through the windshield of a moving car, seems tame in this Matrix-era, but it's still a pretty hip stunt sequence.

Anne Archer gets to spout some hokey come-on lines to Norris before instantly falling into his bed, but in general she's the most natural actor in the bunch. Her character at least sounds like she's speaking, and not reciting scripted dialogue.

The rest of the cast is full of familiar faces. Lloyd Hanes (Room 222, Ice Station Zebra), James Franciscus (Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Longstreet), and even Dana Andrews (In Harm's Way, Wing And A Prayer) all give flat, one-dimensional portrayals of flat, one-dimensional characters. A weird cameo by Jim Backus (Gilligan's Island) as a bumbling doorman seems not only completely out of place, but distracting.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: HBO's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is not without it's inherent faults. The overall print quality is fairly grainy, and is cursed with an excessive amount of white specks, which are especially annoying during the night time jungle raid scene. Colors have that faded, mid-1970s look, with the exception of flesh tones that tend to run a little too pink. Daylight scenes (such as the Squaw Valley ski sequence) look more natural, and have a slightly richer color pallet than some of the poorly lit interiors.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Don't expect too many aural treats with Good Guys Wear Black. Presented in the film's original mono, the sound quality on this disc is comparable to any mid-1970s cop show, from it's laughably dated wah-wah, porno-lite score to the squealing tires. I guess in all honesty the mono track doesn't detract from the film, it just makes it seem all the more dated.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Good guys might wear black, but their DVD's don't necessarily come with any type of supplements. Cast and crew bios, subtitles (English, French, Spanish), and 16 chapter stops are all you will find here.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A potentially engaging conspiracy story is buried in bad acting and lots of guys getting kicked in the face. Only true Norris fans will be able to mine any enjoyment out of this elderly relic.


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