FIREPOWER (1979) Blu-ray
Director: Michael Winner
Scorpion Releasing

James Coburn and Sophia Loren spark up the screen in Michael Winner's FIREPOWER, another 1970s ITC production brought to Blu-ray by Scorpion Releasing.

After her chemist husband is murdered by mail bomb and her brother-in-law retaliates by gunning down a mobster suspected of the crime, Adele Tasca (Sophia Loren, BLOOD FEUD) finds her life in danger. Both the government and agents of pharmaceutical executive Karl Stegner offer her protection, but Adele suspects that her husband's murder was ordered by Stegner after he discovered that Stegner's company had knowingly distributed contaminated cancer drugs years ago. Adele delivers the evidence to government agent Frank Hull (Vincent Gardenia, THE HUSTLER) but Stegner is untouchable out of the country in Antigua, the government of which refuses extradition requests. The only man capable of touching Stegner is former mercenary turned gardener Jerry Fannon (James Coburn, OUR MAN FLINT), but bringing him out of retirement requires the government to make a deal with crooked Sal Hyman (Eli Wallach, THE SENTINEL) giving him immunity from prosecution.

Fannon is given the intelligence on Stegner, which is not much since no one knows what he looks like no photographs exist of the man. Adele accepts Stegner's offer of protection and travels to Antigua under the scrutiny of Stegner's security officer Leo Gelhorn (George Grizzard, COMES A HORSEMAN) and personal secretary Paul Halpin (Fred Stuthman, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ). Fannon has some tricks up his sleeve, sending lookalike Eddie (also Coburn) to Antigua ahead of him while he reconnects with fellow merc-turned-safecracker Catlett (O.J. Simpson, THE NAKED GUN) and arrives in the country secretly with the help of local wheeler-dealer Manley Reckford (Frank Singuineau, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON). Fannon and Catlett gather more intelligence on the Stegner while Adele plots with Gelhorn, possibly playing both sides. When Fannon becomes convinced that Stegner may not even be residing in his impenetrable fortress villa, he decides that determining the whereabouts of Stegner's personal physician Charles Felix (Anthony Franciosa, TENEBRAE) may be the key to capturing him.

FIREPOWER is yet another of Sir Lew Grade's 1970s international productions showcasing international all-star casts of A-list (or A-list-adjacent) and character actors picking up paychecks in exotic locations, one of two helmed by Michael Winner (the other being an adaptation of THE BIG SLEEP with Robert Mitchum). Screen time is evenly divided between Coburn's and Simpson's action set-pieces and scenes of glamorous Loren wandering around picturesque backdrops, but the film still does have a couple twists to keep the audience interested when the film at first appears to be reaching its conclusion at a relatively early point. Production value is sub-007 of the same era but the settings are scenic and the action suitably expansive. Loren and Coburn get by on their charisma while the rest of the cast do their usual professional turns (the supporting cast includes bit by boxer Jake LaMotta, his buddy Peter Savage, PROM NIGHT's George Touliatos, and THE ROBE's Victor Mature).

Released theatrically by Associated Film Distributors (a partnership by British companies ITC and EMI for distribution of their product in the US and Canada) and on VHS by CBS/Fox, FIREPOWER comes to Blu-ray in a clean and colorful 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer that is free from blemishes apart from the usual reel change marks. Colors are occasionally bold, including Loren's wardrobe and the Caribbean greenery but this still is very much a moderately budgeted film of the 1970s with occasional murk in the shadows in the sunny exteriors and night-for-night shots that is not evident in the moody interiors where the lighting is more controlled even on location. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is clean with the score, gunfire, and explosions coming through as clearly as any studio film from the period. There are no extras apart from the film's theatrical trailer (2:16) and previews for GO TELL THE SPARTANS, THE OCTAGON, THE GIRL HUNTERS, as well as the ITC productions KILLER FISH and ST. JACK. The Blu-ray of FIREPOWER is a limited edition coded for Region A playback only. (Eric Cotenas)