Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Saturday, February 10, 2007

That Man Bolt

When I was in high school, the A-V department used to get these thick, phone book-sized catalogs for 16mm rental films. Along with the expected the "educational" variety of cinema, there were hundreds of entertainment features included, many of the listings illustrated with the original newspaper ad slicks. Since the school usually discarded these catalogs, I snagged them whenever I could. For an embryonic film buff in the pre-video era, these catalogs were far more educational and exhaustive than most available reference books, listing movies across the broad spectrum of cinema – everything from foreign art house fare to Hollywood "classics" to the most obscure drive-in programmers. It was in one of these catalogs that I first saw the listing for That Man Bolt, (along with the ad art above) and became obsessed with seeing it.

It only took close to thirty years...!

That Man Bolt (1973) begins with international freelance courier Jefferson Bolt (Fred Williamson, Hell Up In Harlem, Hammer, Bucktown, Three The Hard Way) practicing martial arts in a Macao prison cell. Soon, he's visited by a "government" operative (the nation involved is never named, but the agent certainly appears to be British), who offers him a job carrying a cool million in American currency from Hong Kong to Mexico City, via Los Angeles.

The suave, well-dressed Bolt never makes it to Mexico, though, as he's waylaid in L.A. by mobsters that seem intent on snagging his briefcase full of cash. Soon, neither Bolt nor the audience is sure whether the money is real or counterfeit (and you know, I'm still not quite sure how it turned out), people are dying left and right, and Bolt's on his way back to the orient for a kung fu confrontation in Hong Kong.

I love this movie. Can't even begin to figure out the story, but I love the movie anyway. Fred Williamson's always been my favorite Blaxploitation lead, and Jefferson Bolt is clearly his attempt at creating a more general-audience, mass market hero along the lines of James Bond. Bolt is a former captain of U.S. Special Forces, graduate of Cal Tech and M.I.T. with a master's degree in physics, and a black belt in karate. He's got nice suits, several cool apartments around the world, telescopic sunglasses, and an upscale persona right out of the Ian Fleming playbook. Even the sex scenes are handled tastefully off-screen, as in the early Bond films.

The pacing is fast, the Hong Kong photography is beautiful, the funky score is great, and the unbeatable combination of Williamson's sideburns, Alpha male machismo and cigar-chewing charisma carry the film, even as the plot continues to deteriorate with each additional minute of running time.

That Man Bolt is available on a "Soul Showcase" DVD from Universal, which presents the film in a beautiful, crisp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with clear, Dolby Stereo sound.
There are no extras included.

A great Saturday afternoon time-killer.


Christopher Mills said...

No Fred Williamson fans?

Glen said...

Da Hamma's great, but I've never actually seen That Man Bolt. Ask me about Foxtrap or Three The Hard Way or One Down, Two To Go.