Billed as the second and last half of Hammer Films' co-production deal with Hong Kong's Shaw brothers, "Shatter" is an obvious commercial fusion of elements from various popular styles at the time: a revenge formula, patterned after "Point Blank;" the karate film; and the urban feel of a blaxploitation movie, using a pop-jazz soundtrack and groovin' theme.
As detailed on the disc's fairly concise commentary track, "Shatter" was ideally designed to be the lead-in to a TV series for Stuart Whitman - a classic journeyman actor who has made a career delivering solid performances in film and television projects around the globe. (Best-known as the lead for "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines," Whitman's career highlight remains his Oscar-Nominated role as a child molester released from prison, in the 1961 British film "The Mark.")
As the "Shatter" co-director Monte Hellman relates, various problems slowed down the production until he was fired for slipping way behind schedule. Call it the Sweet Revenge commentary, where the ousted director can finally explain what happened (the production shared crew members with two other projects, resulting in sets/props/locations not available when scheduled); what footage was directed by co-producer Michael Carreras; and the many difficulties of international co-productions.
Moderator Norman Hill asks the right questions, and besides "Shatter" details, Hellman recalls working at ABC as an apprentice editor, his involvement with director Sam Peckinpah, and starting out with Roger Corman (who had co-invested in a theatre unit Hellman had been working with before joining Corman's film company).
Stuart Whitman's contributions to the track are very small. Recorded shortly after the actor's 70th birthday and being awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Whitman is a man of few words, though he mentions his own 3-day sit-down, designed to protest Hellman's dismissal (an act he previously employed on the 1960 film "Murder Inc." where director Stuart Rosenberg was replaced by Burt Balaban). There's also an amusing story regarding Whitman's fleeting connection with a certain Hawaiian TV project.
Much of Whitman's recollections (recorded separately) are intercut between Hellman's passages, and are regrettably negligible; rather disappointing, since his work has involved some stellar directors and colourful actors in his fifty-year career. The Whitman segments are sonically a bit muddy, something that could have been fixed to unify the bass levels between the three participating commentators.
Anchor Bay's transfer uses a fairly decent print, and given three cinematographers worked on the project, any differences in grain and colour schemes are understandable. The real stars of the film are the Hong Kong locations and scenic views which show off a city before the level of construction obliterated more greenery and rare open plots. In dealing with a hit man on the run, we're treated to a lots of grungy, often decaying, apartment buildings and clogged streets with food stands and angry traffic. The kung fu scenes are average, though fans of "A Better Tomorrow" will find it a treat to see a much leaner Ti Lung.
The disc's other extras include a theatrical trailer (in very nice condition), two fuzzy but watchable TV spots (which borrow the 'Mr. Tibbs' tagline "Call him Mr. Shatter"), and an episode of the "World of Hammer." The short special from 1990 (incorrectly titled on the box and menu as "Thriller") features a montage of sequences from various Hammer productions (with spoilers); each film includes intro narration from Oliver Reed, and about 3 minutes of "Shatter" clips appear at the (15:19) mark. Quality of the clips - from the 1950s to the 1970s - are quite good, and merely whet the appetites of fans hungry for more classic British thrillers.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan