RIP William Smith…His “Darker Than Amber” Cult Thriller! Most Realistic Fight Scene Ever!

RIP William Smith…

He was one of the great character Actors of cult cinema…

William Smith, the iconic tough-guy actor in “Hawaii Five-O” and “Laredo,” died Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA. He was 88.

The cause of death is unknown.

Smith was best known for his portrayal of Falconetti in 1976’s miniseries “Rich Man, Poor Man.” The actor also fought in two of the most memorable brawls in cinematic history, going up against Clint Eastwood in 1980’s “Any Which Way You Can” and Rod Taylor in 1970’s “Darker Than Amber.”

The Cult Classic “Darker Than Amber!”

If you like great film noir, moody crime thrillers and brutal, tightly directed action scenes, then this is the movie for you!

As you can see from the poster, Actress Suzy Kendall was prominently featured in the advertising, because of her popularity, and of course for some of the scenes in the film…

Here’s a bit of trivia about the origins of the film.

The late Author John D. MacDonald wrote many bestsellers, but he was also known for his iconic detective, Travis McGee and his “color-title” series – every book had a color in the title.

Rod Taylor was cast as McGee – he was, at the time, a well-known Actor, having been in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, and was a rising star…and he and Kendall had great chemistry in the movie.

Also, the film was directed by Robert Clouse, who went on to helm the classic Bruce Lee action movie “Enter The Dragon”…all signs pointed to a big big hit…


Perhaps “Too” Dark?

“Darker Than Amber” received strong reviews, but to no avail: this movie bombed at the box office – killing any chance for a series. What was called at the time a “brutal gem” might have been the cause of its undoing…

“Darker Than Amber” is a moody, well-acted thriller. It is brutal…and is known for its legendary fight sequence. But while that sequence is lauded as one of the most brutal and “real” fights on screen, that “rawness” may have contributed to the film’s demise…

“Darker than Amber” was sold, as you can see by the various posters, as a brutal fight movie – but it’s much more than that…still, the advertising sold one thing only, and that “brutality” just didn’t resonate with audiences at the time…and Kendall wasn’t promoted as heavily as she should have been, since she was a popular sex symbol at the time…

“Darker than Amber” was the last film made by actress Jane Russell, who plays a neighboring boat owner who likes to party…a funny little role for this screen legend, and another example of the layers within the film that made it more than just an action thriller…

“Darker Than Amber” is almost impossible to find: I got a copy from a website that specializes in obscure films…

Darker Than Amber

One last fact: movie “tough guy” William Smith co-starred in the film, and Smith’s physical brawn plays into the movie’s climactic finale…Smith had a long career in film as a character Actor, taking advantage of his size and charisma…which is on full display here…

darker than amber

Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!

Back to the legendary fight scene. William Smith attacks Travis McGee on a cruise ship. According to the film’s mythology, with the cameras rolling, one actor accidentally struck the other (no one has ever revealed who struck the first real blow), the second threw a retaliatory punch, and a staged fight scene became a real fight, with real wounds, real lost teeth, and real blood all over their clothing. That’s right, this is real, as you are about to see…

As you can see from the poster above, they really pushed the “reality” of the bloody fight in the advertising…

Thanks to youtube, here is the climactic fight scene! It begins with the fight in the bedroom on the cruse ship, as McGee enters Suzy’s stateroom to check up on her – only to be ambushed by Smith…that fight is followed by Smith’s rampage when he sees the girl he thought he had already killed earlier in the film waiting for him…and he doesn’t take it well…

That’s an incredible fight scene, but perhaps a bit more Suzy would have helped the box office…and here’s one last bit of Kendall trivia: her first husband was Actor/Comedian Dudley Moore…

If you are interested in more classic British “sex kittens”, how about Vanessa Howard…

Yes, Vanessa was “Girly”, a very campy horror film from that era, but she was in so much more! You can see more of her 70’s work by clicking on my story here:

RIP William Smith, a legend in cult cinema…

Categories: 70's Films, Artsploitation, Classic Action Films, Cult Classics, Exploitation Films, Grindhouse, JRsploitation, Nudity, Talent / Celebrites, Uncategorized

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8 replies

  1. A solid film. Why is it many of the most interesting movies of the era are almost impossible to see? (“Dark of the Sun” anyone?) My favorite Suzy Kendall film, just for its sheer weirdness, is “The Penthouse”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For some reason, I never rated Suzy as an actress. And because I also didn’t care for Rod Taylor, I never watched this film.
    More recently, Suzy featured in the marvellous ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ (2012), but for me her best performance was in the classic British film, ‘Up The Junction’ (1968).
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. Such good articles . Have you thought of Carol White ?

    Liked by 1 person


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