Sporadic producer Wray Davis – Tom Gries’ Hell’s Horizon (1955), A Yank in Viet-Nam (1964), and John Derek’s Philippines-shot Once Before I Die (1966) – decided to become a director with Stoney, and the results are pretty disastrous. Based on James M. Fox’s novel Surabaya Conspiracy, one-time scribe Walter Anton White doodled a pretty straightforward plot in which a greedy team of crooks attempt to extract gold bullion hidden in a swimming pool in the Philippines.
Ostensibly a caper film, the film was mostly shot in the Philippines and makes great use of local cities, country roads and estates, but much of the story has Barbara Bouchet (Casino Royale, Black Belly of the Tarantula) going in and out of locations and cars wearing outfits are hairstyles that change with the slightly shift in temperature. She looks ravishing in clothes sparse or garish, but in spite of being a possibly double-timing con artist meant to foil partners Michael Preston (Mad Max 2) and Michael Rennie (Day the Earth Stood Still, Desiree [M]), there’s very little action or conflict, and the actual reclamation of said bullion is done in the same amateurish style as the rest of the film’s few action sequences: bad coverage, horrendously edited action scenes, and just plain daft direction which spent less time on necessary cutaways because they were apparently deemed frivolous by Davis.
Jules Brenner manages some effective nighttime shots – particularly the dusty truck convoy in the finale – and Charles Bernstein’s debut as film composer offers a great mix of Euro-styled orchestral lounge and electronica, but Davis has no idea how to implement either element. Bernstein’s cues are a little oft-repeated, and his source cues are recycled in multiple club scenes, as though there is only one lounge tune permitted in Surabaya, while Brenner’s footage must have include lots of travelling footage, which was cut down; most scene transitions leap from one place to another, and there’s a discontinuous scene where Bouchet tries on an outfit, emerges in totally different attire, then reappears scenes later in the prior outfit for a nightclub scene – perhaps a hint scenes were hastily re-shuffled before a fast sendoff to the neg cutter.
Bouchet and Preston have genuine chemistry, but it doesn’t help a limp narrative, and both Rennie and Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen, The Green Slime) have a handful of scenes in spite of major billing. The finale is rather unusual (not to mention the end credit footage), but it doesn’t make Davis a filmmaker. Needless to say, he disappeared from film soon after.
Presented as part of Code Red’s double-bill, the DVD features a widescreen transfer and straightforward mono sound, and includes a few additional trailers for other exploitation fodder in the label’s catalogue. Stoney is superior to the second feature, The Killer Likes Candy / Un killer per sua maestà [M] (1968)
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan