PIC of the Week – The Challenge
Article series by Ray Schillaci
Let’s get this right out in the open, director John Frankenheimer, (The Manchurian Candidate, Black Sunday, The Train) writer John Sayles (Return of the Secaucus Seven, Eight Men Out), actors Scott Glenn (The Right Stuff, Urban Cowboy, Silverado), and Toshirô Mifune (Seven Samurai, Hell in the Pacific, Yojimbo) are badasses. Get them together in an action “B” movie of the highest caliber and you are bound to have a good time. And, thanks to Kino Lorber we now have a worthy Blu-ray of the West meets East action flick, The Challenge.
Scott Glenn plays Rick, an American boxer who gets mixed up in a Japanese family feud over an ancient sword. Toshirô Mifune is Yoshida, the master samurai that will teach Rick the ancient ways of the martial arts and the culture so he may help him against his evil industrialist brother. It’s not back-to-back action, but the film has Frankenheimer’s machismo signature complete with sly humor all over it. When the action does take place, it’s a complete joy to watch.
John Sayles, who proved so adept in making this kind of film a real jaunt as he did with Alligator, Piranha, and The Howling, shows how much fun this kind of film can be. Although, Sayles shared duties with Richard Maxwell who was primarily a TV writer, and known for Wes Craven’s Serpent and the Rainbow, Sayles style shines throughout the film. Having Scott Glenn and Toshirô Mifune as the stars ups the ante on the drama, action, and fun. Both are exciting to watch even though the film is not typical of what they are more famous for.
Add to all this a dynamic Jerry Goldsmith (Patton, Chinatown, Alien) score that rocks, especially when the ultra violence hits the screen, and you’re in for one exciting time. In fact, one cannot help but wonder how the producers were able to get all this remarkable talent for what could have been a simple “B” picture. Looking back, the picture as a whole is elevated with the talent behind it, making The Challenge one movie you do not want to miss.
Sadly, Kino Lorber only supplies us with a 1080p picture, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 sound, and no extras. I’m sure somewhere there’s a making of this movie or some interviews, and it would have been gold to some of us if we had the chance to see the staging of some of the fight sequences, especially the last one. That climax is hard to forget.