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The Human Factor (1975)
14th Nov 06
Terrorists kill Nato man Kennedy's family in Naples. Nato man Kennedy goes out for blood in Naples. Terrorists die. In Naples.
Remember that line in Get Carter, ”You’re a big man but you’re in bad shape…”? The same can be said for screen legend George Kennedy in Edward Dmytryk’s clunky 1975 revenge drama, The Human Factor, a film which places gravitas on the emotional effects of losing loved ones. Kennedy is a big man. Very big. And from what we can see here, he looks like he’s in need of medical attention when pursuing the terrorists who slaughtered his family in cold blood.
A NATO computer expert living in Naples, Kennedy’s John Kinsdale is a peaceful man who minds his own business, loves his family, but perhaps doesn’t go to the gym as much as he ought to. His life is thrown into turmoil when a terrorist group pick out his family at random (their being American is enough to warrant targeting), break into their home under false pretences, massacring each and every one of them. Kinsdale, a broken man, throws himself back into work against the advice of his colleagues, especially his friend Mike (John Mills), but it’s not the job that keeps him there, more the information that he gleans from some kind of fantasically dated 70’s style super computer. With Mike’s help, he manages to locate and ritualistically hunt down the killers while thwarting another attack on an unsuspecting American family (though they don’t seem to appreciate his help). Various bloody incidents ensue and local police attempt to persuade Kinsdale to help them in their enquiries, but he wants to settle this his own way, and in doing so dispenses his own brand of justice in a final battle with his family’s killers when they attempt to take hostages in an American supermarket.
This is a pretty straightforward revenge story. Perhaps that’s why I liked it so much when I was a kid: bad guys kill Kennedy’s family, Kennedy tracks them down while saving other families from butchery, Kennedy kills the lot of them. There is some material that Dmytryk might’ve been wise to omit, such as the confusing computer sequences with tiny, unreadable green characters on the monitor (you have to take these guys at their word that they understand what this all means), but this is mostly a well-handled affair, ripe for a very welcome DVD release after all these years. I’ve had to make do with a big-box video I won on eBay for a while, but thanks to the guys at Dark Sky Films, we can now see it as intended and with the added bonus of a great George Kennedy interview called (get this) The Kennedy Factor. I’ll bet you that came at a price. Of course, he’s getting on a bit by the time of this interview but he remains loveably large, lucid and insightful. Hey, was George Kennedy ever young? This man is a legend; quality always shines and when you’re chunky George Kennedy, that’s just part of the deal – from playing ladies’ man and general aeronautic expert Joe Patroni in Jennings Lang’s Airport series, to Mr Doctor Graves in the so-silly-it’s-gotta-be-good Wacko (”Just mowing the lawn, dear!”), George simply doesn’t know how to turn in a bad performance. Here, he’s fuelled by hell bent, single minded, purposeful revenge – it’s all consuming, eating him up inside, and we see this written all over his face as he brutally bashes one of the killers to death with a huge chain.
Although the movie seems fairly well handled from a directorial point of view, it doesn’t feel like it’s being driven by someone with Edward (The Caine Mutiny) Dmytryk’s reputation. This makes some kind of sense given that it was one of the last movies he completed during a very difficult stage in his life as a result of testifying against Hollywood leftists for the House Un-American Activities Committee (he, himself a Communist, had previously been imprisoned for refusing to co-operate with the HUAC, only to change his mind later).
History lessons aside, The Human Factor is interesting in that once justice has been dealt, you get the impression that no-one will be better off; there’s no real solution to the world’s problems but in Kindsdale’s mind there is a job to be done, and he’ll see it through even if it does mean getting a little out of breath. He certainly doesn’t appear to be a complex character – he’s quite two-dimensional – but this simplicity works in an acceptable format of a gritty 70’s revenge movie, complete with a strong score by the legendary genius Ennio Morricone. What more do you need?
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